Our favorite Martians: 10 memorable versions of Mars (and Martians) on the screen

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Mars may be the fourth planet from the sun, but it’s at the top of the list when it comes to Hollywood’s interest in planets other than Earth.

The latest movie to set its sights on Mars is “John Carter,” Walt Disney Pictures’ big-screen adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ series of novels about a Civil War soldier who becomes the red planet’s greatest hero. In the film, the title character finds himself unexpectedly transported to Mars and caught in the midst of a massive war between the various native inhabitants, which include the humanoid Red Martians, the savage, four-armed Green Martians, and the massive White Apes.

Still, the wildly differing races represented in “John Carter” are far from the only memorable depictions of Mars’ residents to appear on the big screen.

Here are ten more Hollywood versions of Mars — or Martians — that are hard to forget.

“Cowboy Bebop” (1998-99, 2001)

One of the greatest anime series ever made, “Cowboy Bebop” spanned 26 episodes and a feature film (“Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”) released in 2001. Director Shinichirō Watanabe’s music-fueled, sci-fi masterpiece unfolded years after a scientific experiment caused the destruction of Earth’s moon, forcing humans to colonize the surrounding planets and their satellites. Over the course of the series and film, the bounty-hunting crew of the spaceship Bebop frequently found themselves returning to Mars, which had become the center of human civilization among the stars, where they chased fugitives within bustling cities built within massive craters.

“Invaders From Mars” (1953)

Billed as “A Nightmarish Answer to the Wizard of Oz,” this 1953 film was notable for telling its story from the perspective of a child who discovers the Martians’ evil plot. Fondly remembered for its use of moody music and surreal set pieces, the film featured not one but two versions of Martians that gave ’50s-era audiences nightmares: a group of humanoid, green-skinned, bug-eyed aliens and the Martian Mastermind, a creepy head with a tiny body and tentacles that’s encased in a floating sphere. The film was remade in 1986, but never quite captured the suspenseful tone and atmosphere of the original.

“Mars Attacks!” (1996)

One of the few films ever made that was based on a series of trading cards, Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks!” featured an all-star cast of actors attempting to stave off an invasion of Earth. The effects-driven comedy was notable for its depiction of the Martians as short, skeleton-faced beings with massive, green brains and an affinity for blasting everything in sight with their ray guns. Fortunately, the world eventually learned of their weakness: cowboy singer Slim Whitman’s yodeling version of the song “Indian Love Call.”

“The Martian Chronicles” (1980)

Based on Ray Bradbury’s collection of short stories about the colonization of Mars and the conflict between humans and the planet’s native inhabitants, this three-part television miniseries was written by prolific author Richard Matheson (“I Am Legend,” “The Twilight Zone”). While Bradbury himself found the series “just boring,” it’s widely regarded as one of the better adaptations of the famed sci-fi author’s works (which says more about the other adaptations than it does about “The Martian Chronicles”). As for the Martians, the story depicts them as rather similar to humans in many ways, with golden skin and telepathic powers.

“My Favorite Martian” (1963-66 & 1999)

This popular mid-’60s television series starring Ray Walston (pictured) as a Martian anthropologist stranded on Earth spawned both a 1973 cartoon and a feature-length comedy in 1999 starring Christopher Lloyd. The original series featured a take on Martians that had them looking almost entirely humanoid, save for a pair of retractable antennae and various abilities that allowed them to read minds, turn invisible, and move things telekinetically, among other traits. However, in Disney’s modern take on the TV series, the Martian only appeared humanoid, thanks to a shape-changing pill. His normal form had four arms, four legs, and three eyes.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.