What movies would you show aliens to show we are friendly? [closed]

Here is an idea that I wanted to play around with but unfortunately hit a brick wall with. Human explorers have found a less advanced intelligent technological species on a faraway planet. For the most part, we have established a peaceful relationship, engaged in trade, education, exploration of the local landscape and biosphere, learned each others languages, and they understand that the tools we use are not magic but science that is merely several centuries ahead of them. Now one human on the planet decides to have a movie night to improve the morale of the humans who are all a long way from home and act as a kind of cultural exchange with the locals. Since the locals put on a couple of plays for humans, they are fascinated by this opportunity.

Only one problem.

Most of the sci-fi that revolves around non-human aliens and humans interacting with them...might have some subtle specist undertones that we as humans might not be aware of. I remember from the novel "The Killing Star" when a species that bombed our home planet and set out on a system-wide hunt to find and eliminate any survivors, said that they watched Star Trek and came away with the implication that humans would only treat other sentient life as equals if they happened to resemble us, and towards anything else we are genocidal maniacs with phasers at the ready. And that was Star Trek the sci fi utopian ideal that other cultures from other worlds might one day all get along.

So I an now feeling sorry for the person looking through their personal media files trying to find something that won't cause an interspecies diplomatic incident.

So here in lies my question: What movies would you show to our alien friends that will show them that we are genuine in our attempts to be friendly to them?

Edit note: Alright since many comments have asked for clarifying details about these aliens in question (and I don’t want this question closed) I have decided to provide a couple of helpful details. First thing to note is they have a similar psychology to us. They feel similar emotions to us, they have stories and heroes of their own, they have a sense of humor and they have a concept of right and wrong. Second they are not humanoid, they have bilateral symmetry, they have arms and legs, they have a head with eyes, they have the same senses we do (plus or minus a few extra) but that is about where the similarities end. And finally while they understand reproduction is a fact of life, they don’t feel it is proper to show it off to everyone.

• why are we trying to appear genuine to a lesser race? Human history is full of 'Take us at face value, or die' What is different here? – Kilisi Sep 6 '20 at 7:09
• Do we have to show films? Can we wait a couple of centuries till we are so interdependent that a simple misunderstanding would not cause a space war? On a more serious note, it is not possible to answer this question accurately without knowing about the aliens and their culture. Are aliens humanoid? What are their cultural values? How do they procreate? Do they tolerate violence? How familiar are they with our cultures? Do they understand humour? I can easily imagine a situation where a pure and innocent, from our POV, film is seen as something abhorrent by the aliens. – Otkin Sep 6 '20 at 8:42
• This is completely 100% story based. You could show them the trashiest anti alien horror flick, if you're good at what you do, you can work with that. I know instantly how. You can show them the worst rom com and still make it work. Pick a film close to your heart and go with it – Raditz_35 Sep 6 '20 at 9:42
• does selfmade movie acceptable? in my opinion just make your own propaganda movie to fit your criteria. – Li Jun Sep 6 '20 at 17:18
• You haven't told us nearly enough about the psychology, demography, and culture of the aliens to answer this question. For all I know, Debbie Does Dallas is the best answer and you've provided nothing to suggest it's not. Is there a Universal Translator? Otherwise, how would your aliens enjoy Tuntematon Sotilas or 七人の侍? VTC:Needs Details and that only because I think it's more salvageable than @Raditz_35. – JBH Sep 6 '20 at 19:22

Honestly, given what's at stake if aliens think we're not worth befriending (or need to be preemptively wiped out), we're better off putting some of our military budget into "Propaganda" movies, which show just how friendly we are to aliens.

One F-35 fighter costs ~\$80 million, that's about the cost of a mid-range Hollywood movie. We should just crank out "We love alien" propaganda movies like WW2 propaganda. It would also help encourage people to actually be nice to aliens.

The best ones I thought of were mostly science / mystery based ones. Where the bulk of the movie is spent learning to communicate with them. Lots of accurate maths and physics, less flying a F-18 into charging mega weapon. This is what I've got:

• Arrival (2016)
• Contact (1997)
• The day the earth stood still, 1950's version (Aliens are powerful, and we agree to be nice to each other)
• ET. The remastered version with guns replaced with walky talkies.
• Superman (the 1970). We made an alien child a superhero.
• Close encounters of the third kind.
• All right, I will say I definitely like the idea of an interspecies cooperation propaganda department who make films showing humans and our alien allies getting along. I just had an imaged of old grainy black and white World War II style PSA’s about how peaceful collaboration between species is possible, easy and fun. – Jacob Badger Sep 6 '20 at 8:14
• If I was an alien and you showed me arrival, I'd think the species has no intellectual capacity to work with. I might nuke earth tbo. Just to show you, this is story based and not something that can be answered. Any pick can work or be potentially hazardous on its own – Raditz_35 Sep 6 '20 at 9:44
• I would vote to add Interstellar to that list. I mean, the whole movie is sorta about how "love transcends space and time." – BMF Sep 7 '20 at 1:10
• In Arrival they threatened and tried to blow up the aliens and possibly almost started a war. The protagonist is much more accepting of aliens, but if you're looking at humanity as a whole in the movie, the overall message might not be that great. I can't remember of the specifics of the others, but that might be a theme among such movies (wasn't E.T. chased by the police?). – NotThatGuy Sep 7 '20 at 3:44
• @NotThatGuy all of these movies have human violence in them. Maybe we should show them some of the classic Star Trek franchises instead. – BMF Sep 7 '20 at 21:01

Bit of a frame challenge here: Assuming the natives aren't stupid, deliberately curating the human movie library might be a bad idea.

For example, what if the natives find out that the humans have been keeping a large part of their movie library hidden from them? What if they find out the movies that were kept hidden are blatantly spiecist? To maintain good relations, honestly and transparency are good guidelines and with how human history is, it might be prudent to give the natives a head's up about who they're dealing with.

• Huh, that is actually a good point that I hadn’t thought about. Maybe for all those films that portray humans and aliens as blood thirsty monsters there could be a little introduction like they do on some of those old cartoons that...let’s say haven’t aged well in regards to political correctness. – Jacob Badger Sep 6 '20 at 8:09
• Yes and no. The question mentions a "movie night" / specifically showing them some movies, which is far from "here is a library of all movies we've ever made, or a fair representation of it" (unless that's the theme / goal of the movie night, of course). In fact, a little bit of contextualising (and possibly also providing access to all movies) would likely go a long way towards avoiding them thinking we are hiding things. There are upwards of hundreds of thousands of movies, of course it would be deliberately curated for a movie night (this also happens in the real world). – NotThatGuy Sep 6 '20 at 21:40

The contents of the Golden Record

When Voyager I was launched, they put a golden record aboard. On that record, they put an explanation of humanity that was designed, sort of, to portray us in a positive light. There was an attempt to make the record "self explanatory" in such a way that an alien civilization would be able to learn how to decode it without any common language between their language and ours.

The choice of what to put on that record was a matter of considerable discussion.

You can look up the record contents.

• This here is the right answer, and the one that I came to post if it would not be here already. – dotancohen Sep 6 '20 at 17:29
• This answer could be improved by listing the contents here. Right now it's little more than a link. Although it only contains images, music, sounds and greetings, so it arguably doesn't answer the question, which is specifically asking for movies (but then again movie recommendations is really stretching the scope of the site). Beyond that, how useful the contents would be goes down sharply from first-contact onwards. – NotThatGuy Sep 7 '20 at 4:55

Really hard to get a good set for aliens that would misinterpret Star Trek. But let's give it a go.

1. Milo and Otis. We made this, look what we value.

2. Skylark.

3. Trouble along the way. They need to see what humanity is really like.

4. Hatchet. This one is extremely subtle. I want them to see human ingenuity and get the idea that we are only as dangerous as we need to be. See though he kills mother bear he tends to raising the bear cubs. But I can't actually tell them this.

5. One of the Jesus films. Among other things, they need to see that we are dual natured, knowing good and evil.

6. The Martian. Good drama. No bad guy.

7. People will Talk.

8. Finding Nemo. Yes, we made a movie where humans are the bad guys.

I am disappointed that I can't give them even the old movie version of Wrinkle of Time because if they missed Star Trek they'll miss this too. It's probably not dangerous but it's too hard on them.

There's a generalized theme here. I'm not going to show them rubber-head aliens but rather things that we can go look at the real examples thereof. I want to show them the hopes and fears and drive of humanity.

• The film adaptation of the Hatchet novel is called A Cry in the Wild. Hatchet is a slasher movie. – NotThatGuy Sep 7 '20 at 4:43
• @NotThatGuy: I swear I saw that one on TV under the name Hatchet. Maybe the TV channel guide was just dumb though. – Joshua Sep 7 '20 at 18:04

Galaxy Quest

In this cult movie, humans help good aliens who are under attack from bad aliens. It's a great movie and apart from comedy, it has action, moving moments and a great premise.

The ... cast of a space opera television series have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help. However, they also have to defend both Earth and the alien race from a reptilian warlord.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0177789/

Galaxy Quest - Trailer

The Aliens are already smart. Perhaps, much smarter than us. They have also known us for a very long time. Therefore, we cannot lie.

The Aliens have been around for a lot longer than us. They are far more advanced. They in fact, already know everything about us.

The worst we can do is to issue propaganda. This would demonstrate to them we are lying. The only real way forward is to be truthful, because they would always know the truth.

Therefore I put forth: Baraka. It is an honest portrayal of our planet and our wide and varied culture.

It is a simple, understandable series of scenes of our cities, our jungles, our worst parts and our best, our hopes and our despair. Without filter, and without prejudice, and without fear.

For an alien species, being open and honest is the only way forward. Anything else would be a lie, easily exposed, and a signal we should continue to not be trusted.

• The Aliens have been around for a lot longer than us. They are far more advanced. I think it was explicitly stated that we're the advanced ones here, and that the aliens are actually a few centuries behind us. – Vilx- Sep 7 '20 at 7:47

Humanity's racist tendencies stem from survival traits. We're hardwired at a subconscious level to distrust or fear that which is different from us because it helped keep our distant ancestors alive. Similar behaviors can be seen in many animals as well. This, in turn, means that it's reasonable to assume that any sapient species that has not managed to transcend it's 'animal' origins is likely to exhibit similar behavior, including the aliens in your story.

Given this, I contend that the best way to help further a positive relationship with these aliens is not to show them stuff about humans being good, it's to show them stuff focused around humans overcoming their racist tendencies and fears of the unknown or different, and better yet movies that highlight that not all humans are bad, and not all humans are good. The goal here is to show that while we may be unethical or immoral at times, many people actively try to overcome those tendencies and fight back against those who choose to succumb to them.

Unfortunately, I can't really come up with any great examples that fit this as I'm not much of a movie person myself (though I'm sure others can come up with some good examples).

The aliens also have plays, movies, or stories that feature monsters or other types of aliens as the enemy.

So they don't particularly find our treatment of aliens in movies to be objectionable unless the movie features someone from their own race.

• Many alien movies are very much "us versus them". While it usually doesn't paint us in an explicitly bad light (they started it), it would be questionable at best to show that at an event meant to celebrate unity between species. – NotThatGuy Sep 7 '20 at 1:33

I think you can do TV. Granted that Star Trek TOS had major issues. So...

Star Trek TNG

They learnt from the flaws of TOS, oh boy did they. Picard is the antithesis of Kirk. He'll bend over backwards, risking himself and his crew, to save people who deserve it. Even when some of his people have been killed, he tries to empathize with the other side. And yet he's tough enough that the warrior Klingons appoint him as an independent arbiter who can't be browbeaten.

His crew are also relatively diverse species-wise. So you can have the conversation about how the different species are over-the-top representations of human traits. And yet you can also in many cases have the conversation about how human assumptions cause problems.

And if you did want to show TOS, the difference between "this is humans in 1965" and "this is humans in 1985" shows how we learn to do better.

• Just don’t follow up with Star Trek: Picard, or you risk undoing some of the ‘look how far we came in twenty years’ vibe. – Joe Bloggs Sep 6 '20 at 19:47

a faraway planet

Most of the sci-fi that revolves around non-human aliens and humans interacting with them...might have some subtle specist undertones that we as humans might not be aware of.

If we are advanced enough to visit faraway planets, we won't be watching ancient 20th and 21st century movies on a flat screen. Only movie buffs will be interested in that old stuff. Just as the silent movies are a specialist interest nowadays.

Even if we don't have holodecks, we will surely do better than that.

If we are already trading with various other planets, there will be plenty of much more realistic sci-fi around.

Wildlife and pet movies written for children

If this is the first species we have met then show them how we love wildlife and our pets (i.e. different species) and rescue them from difficult situations. Or they (like Lassie) help us to find little Johnny who is trapped down a well.

Slasher movies

If the aliens respect power, violence and strength above all else, then show just how tough we can be when dealing with "weaklings". Also show how easily just one hero can defeat a horde of aliens just with the help of his girlfriend with only a stolen helicopter.

• Slight frame challenge to this answer: The question doesn't say it's far future. For all we know, the OP could be dealing with a case of near future where we happened to have discovered some loophole in physics that allows for trivially easy interstellar travel. If it ends up being a case of distant future though, I do agree that 20th-21st century stuff is not likely to be super popular (possibly barring some true 'classics', kind of like how some literature from centuries ago is still very popular today). – Austin Hemmelgarn Sep 6 '20 at 21:26

What do you think about the movie pay it forward ? It is very feel good and shows what humans can do if they help eachother. However it is also a bit cheesy. I used to love it, but its been so long that I have seen it :)

• Is this reasoning sound though? Because obviously humans would help other humans, right? I mean...what kind of monsters would they be if they did wrong to their own kind? Am I right? A person's character can't really be judged by well they treat on of their own, although it can be judged be how poorly they treat one of their own. – DKNguyen Sep 6 '20 at 21:31
• With that reasoning, I think a Dolphin Tale might be more suitable because that is a group of humans trying to help a member of another species, Winter the dolphin, who tragically became an amputee and shows humans trying to help her, even going so far as to create a prosthetic limb specifically for her. – Jacob Badger Sep 6 '20 at 23:23
• Is it that obvious ? If I peeked at earth now I would think the people seem to care about their best pictures and etc. :D Maybe the Aliens learn to work together. They might be so smart as individuals they never needed one another. And they can even become stronger by working together. I never saw Dolphin Tale but I am very curious now :) – Codelly Sep 8 '20 at 17:14

Movies you could show to illustrate human compassion

• Singin in the rain
• I'm dreamin of a white christmas
• 2001
• Not "Independence Day" or "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"? – Walter Mitty Sep 6 '20 at 18:37
• @WalterMitty As bad as those are, they are actually not that bad since humans are defending themselves against aggressors (at worst it would show how much people might perceive aliens). Something like District 9 or Avatar where people are the aggressors going around taking advantage of peace-loving aliens would probably come off worse. Or any war movie: "If that's what they're willing to do to each other, what are they willing to do to us?!" – DKNguyen Sep 6 '20 at 21:35

Documentary about the planet in question.

The aliens will like to see themselves. There will be movies about this planet. I envision something narrated by the alien David Attenborough, describing the peoples of this world and their culture, or the animals, or the history of the human / alien interaction.

These will be fine films, and ideally made from an appreciative and enlightened perspective.

There was one of the Star Wars books where Han and Chewie were on a desert planet, making a little money by showing the natives a travelogue they had - something like "Horm, World of Water". They felt bad that they only had the one movie to show even though more and more of the aliens showed up each night to watch. Finally they got something else and put it on. There was a riot and the Falcon had to leave in a hurry. "World of Water" had attained quasi-religious significance with these desert aliens.

These aliens might appreciate seeing documentaries of worlds other than their own. Be sure to mix it up each night.

since no one mention it yet, as far as i read the answer.

i think MIB or Men in Black is a nice choice, it have alien diversity and culture that not resemble human while also take place in human main planet to represent what earth look like to them, and sure they did shoot alien here and there, even showing alien Gore and turn life human into a skin suit, so probably not fit for alien kids but hey its PG-13! according to google, beside they are usually criminal or dangerous illegal immigrant so it justified to shoot them according to earth law (as far as i remember).

and the best scene is when will smith shoot the girl instead of the other alien image and explain it to the others regarding their misunderstanding or interpretations, and clear the test. that can help the alien to know theres some people out there that is not nice or simply has misunderstanding due to cultural difference and the government wipe their memory because they are not ready or fit yet to interact with other extraterrestrial, while also make them know theres also exist human that is genuinely friendly and they are the chosen people "the best of the best of the best" to interact with them, which is what the human government want or attempt to, base from the movie they watch.

so with that, the alien at least know human also has flaws but that movie also represent that human also try to fix it, rather than leave it hanging which has possibility for the alien end up goes paranoid if we just simply or blatantly show what human truly are without represent that human also try to fix their flaws, and in my opinion the humor can help ease the tension if the alien understood the humor too.

I'm not quite sure why everyone is so focused on showing movies with aliens in them. The question states:

Now one human on the planet decides to have a movie night to improve the morale of the humans who are all a long way from home and act as a kind of cultural exchange with the locals. Since the locals put on a couple of plays for humans, they are fascinated by this opportunity.

Given this I'd guess that the aliens are actually far more interested about life back on our own home planet. So show them that. There are plenty of good movies that don't have any aliens or fantasy in them but which rather show the "human" side of humans. Romance, dramas, comedies, action movies - take a pick. And it will be much better for improving morale too.

I don't see why you won't throw East Block science fiction into the mix. Socialistic realism tended to avoid violence, or at least justify it very carefully.

This one where humans help alien Niiya save her planet.

And throw in a Kin-Dza-Dza.