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.