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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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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…