After a three-year hiatus, Jordan Peele is once again on everyone’s lips following the theatrical release of his much-anticipated UFO movie, ‘Nope’. The prolific writer, producer, director and actor has further cemented his reputation as one of the brightest talents working today with yet another thought-provoking summer spectacle that has already ignited a torrent of heated debates and in-depth analysis online and will surely become one of this year’s most discussed titles.
After heaping praise for his lethal one-two punch of iconoclast horror thrillers in ‘Get Out’ and ‘Us’, all eyes were on Peele to shatter expectations with yet another earth-shattering masterpiece for the ages. Only time will tell whether his third feature will be remembered with the same degree of adulation as its predecessors, but it’s safe to call his first foray into the sci-fi genre a runaway success so far.
Though ‘Nope’ is unlike anything we’ve seen unfold in the silver screen before, the film takes a cue from a large number of classics within the genre. From trashy ’80s B-movies, celebrated sci-fi staples, to modern masterpieces, we have assessed ten titles that will sate your appetite following Peele’s latest blockbuster, each of which are endorsed by the director himself.
1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Jordan Peele is probably not alone in citing Steven Spielberg’s stone-cold classic as a transformative experience that defined his childhood. For many generations since its release, ‘E.T.’ has captured the imagination of young moviegoers all across the globe, serving as an invaluable gateway to the wonders of cinema and the mystique of what lies beyond our galaxy. Nowadays, using the term ‘Spielbergian’ to describe a film often has negative connotations attached to it, but in ‘E.T.’, the legendary director found a miraculous marriage between his penchant for over-sentimental schmaltz and signature childlike wonder, delivering a timeless intergalactic adventure that can warm even the coldest of hearts.
During a recent interview, Peele credited the movie as a key touchstone in devising his own alien invasion movie. “The idea for ‘Nope’ probably started with ‘ET’, it was so formative and so different”, the director explained. “What Spielberg was able to do was take a sci-fi premise and bring magic to it and that’s something a few people have been able to do”. Though it is hardly the director’s crowning achievement, few of his films hit harder.
2. Under the Skin (2013)
Back in 2013, no one knew exactly what to make of Jonathan Glazer’s minimalist, and endlessly bewildering, sci-fi slasher. The initial marketing and promotional trailers couldn’t have prepared us for the existential rollercoaster and reserved observation of mankind at the crux of ‘Under the Skin’. Arguably a horror movie in sheep’s clothing, the film stars Scarlett Johansson as an Earth-wandering alien disguised as our own that spends its days roaming through Scotland preying on unsuspecting men.
Having earned a reputation for his bold flouting of genre conventions, it’s not a shocker to learn that the film struck a chord with Peele. The director sung its praises in a ‘March Madness’-like bracket where he had to choose between his favorite films of all time, with ‘Under the Skin’ making it all the way to the Final Four before being narrowly edged out by ‘The Shining’. “‘Under the Skin,’ for me, is a special film,” Peele revealed. “It has one of those aesthetics that as a filmmaker you watch and you’re like ‘how did Jonathan Glazer even do that?’ Everything looks so specific, the photography is so beautiful, that movie has a perfect score.”
3. Akira (1988)
No anime film has had a bigger and lasting impact in pop culture and the mainstream than Katsuhiro Motomo’s manga adaptation. ‘Akira’ not only pushed the boundaries of animation to new, previously undiscovered heights; it redefined an era altogether and influenced multiple generations of films with its cyberpunk aesthetics, dystopian story and trippy visuals. ‘Nope’ became the last in a long list of movies and shows (from Batman: The Animated Series to Teenage Mutant Turtles to Star Wars) to tip its hat to the Japanese classic by recreating its iconic ‘Kaneda slide’ in one of its climactic scenes.
“I got to do it man! Oh my god, it felt so good, and it felt so — it’s a moment that’s been paid homage many times in animation, but I hadn’t seen it done like this,” Peele said. “Something about having a Black woman on a white motorcycle with, you know, having broken police tape do the ‘Akira slide,’ just felt like, “You know what Jordan? Go for it.”
Fun fact: not only has the director been vocal about his love for the film, naming it one of his favorites of all time, but he was briefly in talks to helm the upcoming live-action remake before ultimately passing on it. “There was a world where maybe I thought I should take that on, or something like that on,” Peele told Collider. “My conclusion was, I’ve got my own work to put forward, and Akira is perfect. It’s perfect. That’s where I am.”
4. The Stepford Wives (1975)
Few films have spurred a bigger wake-up call in their wake than ‘Get Out’ in 2017. Jordan Peele’s earth-shattering debut delivered a scathing indictment of racial relations in North America by pulling the rug from us to reveal the seedy underbelly hiding in plain sight within American suburbia. One of the aspects that make ‘Get Out’ so disturbingly horrifying is that, as to prove the film’s entire raison d’être, its social commentary still holds water to this very day.
Bryan Forbes’ 1975 film didn’t take over the zeitgeist quite like ‘Get Out’. But similarly, its message grows more depressingly pertinent with each passing year, and its influence on Peele’s debut is plain to see. Unfairly chastised upon release, ‘The Stepford Wives’ has seen a lot of attention in recent years, to the point of becoming somewhat reappraised as a misunderstood staple of the feminist lib movement.
You can count Peele as one of the film’s staunchest fans. “I love movies that expose the darker sides of seemingly harmless places and people. I set myself the goal of doing a thriller in the mold of ‘The Stepford Wives’, something with an overarching satirical commentary,” explained the director. “The fact that this movie works for me, a man, is proof to me that people from all backgrounds could experience the world through Chris’ eyes for an hour and a half [in ‘Get Out’]”.
5. Tremors (1990)
If ‘Nope’ just reignited your appetite for monster B-movies where some sort of bizarre, flesh-devouring cryptid terrorizes a small remote rural community, we got you covered. In an era that saw a constant influx of genre films that tried to deconstruct trends or reinvent the wheel, ‘Tremors’ hit a chord with audiences by playing it straight all the way and delivering all the gnarly thrills and blood-pumping action we deserved.
Ron Underwood’s cult desert-bound monster flick never takes itself too seriously, in fact, the film fully embraces its old-fashioned camp and wears its lowbrow absurdity as a badge of honor. The result is an infectiously funny 90-minute-long quest for survival full of colorful characters banding together to fight a 30-foot-long carnivorous sandworm. What’s not to love? Now’s as good a time as any to rediscover the trashy delights of ‘Tremors’, with the film having just received a new handsome home release courtesy of Arrow Films.