If an alien lands on the Earth and there’s no attempt by the government to cover it up, is it really interesting? Apparently not, because in these six documentaries, extraterrestrials and conspiracy theories go hand in hand.
“Not to burst your bubble, but the Earth is not the center of the universe—at least not anymore.” That opening line alone lets viewers know they’re in for a treat with Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers. Scientist Bob Lazar is the original whistleblower on the infamous Area 51, which has resulted in him being one of the most controversial individuals in the UFO community. Lazar not only details the extraterrestrial technology he worked with, but also delves into the repercussions and meanings behind all of it—if it’s true, that is. With a bit of unneeded dramatization, the Jeremy Corbell-directed documentary is nowhere close to being Oscar worthy, but if the things Lazar says are even somewhat true, it’s a documentary that’s worth a watch. —Molly Schramm
The good news is that UFOs: It Has Begun is narrated by Rod Serling, which automatically makes it cooler, if not necessarily more credible, than other documentaries about aliens. The bad news is that Serling died in 1975. Originally released in 1974 as UFOs: Past, Present and Future, this documentary was rereleased under its new name in 1976 and 1979; you have to watch it on YouTube. But the film’s strength (besides Serling) is its complete reliance on source material from NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense, which adds instant gravitas to an often over-the-top subject. —Allison Gorman
This made-for-TV documentary is narrated by actor Peter Coyote. Pulling a respected actor onto the project was a smart move for James Fox, the young filmmaker, especially since he was plumbing a subject famous for attracting nutcases, and ridicule. Out of the Blue acknowledges that dynamic; in an interview, Fox has admitted he “dismissed … as a crackpot” the friend who first told him about Area 51, only to have his own UFO experience there and face similar skepticism from his own family. In this film, he and co-filmmakers Tim Coleman and Boris Zubov counter the skeptics with some big-name witnesses, including American presidents and astronauts. —Allison Gorman
James Fox is back, and this time he brought an army (or air force). The maker of Out of the Blue, who incorporated some of that documentary into this one, organized a 2007 forum at the National Press Club, bringing in government and military officials from several countries to offer personal testimony supporting the theory of alien life and high-level coverups. Their accounts, which form the bulk of this film, are left to stand on their own merits—or, more accurately, on the merits of the speakers’ credibility. That said, some are pretty far out, but they’re worth a listen for entertainment value alone. —Allison Gorman
The Day Before Disclosure puts forth the idea that decades of flying saucer sightings by pilots, military personnel and ordinary citizens, plus supposed evidence of alien life on Earth going back thousands of years or more, are finally coming to a head. Through video footage of UFOs and interviews with eyewitnesses, including some who claim to have been abducted by aliens, Norwegian filmmaker Terje Toftenes asserts that the U.S. and other governments have been suppressing what they know about extraterrestrials—but with much of that information now publically available, their secret won’t be safe for long. —Allison Gorman
A British documentary based on Mark Pilkington’s book by the same name, Mirage Men takes the standard conspiracy theory about extraterrestrials and doubles it back on itself. Rather than asserting that the government has been trying to cover up evidence of alien life, it sets out to prove that the U.S. Air force and intelligence services have been pushing ET/UFO mythology—“weapons of mass deception”—to make believers look crazy, and to deflect attention from its own high-tech doings. Maybe it’s all hooey, but in our new world of alternative facts, this four-year-old film suddenly seems rather timely. —Allison Gorman