We already recommended Rim of the World, sight unseen, as our Netflix pick of the month for May. So, you’ve all watched it, right? I’ll be upfront and honest and say that I think it’s awful (despite its so-so Grizzly Man reference), mainly for all its cheap humor, but the McG-helmed alien invasion movie does appear to have its fans. Whatever you think of the kid-led sci-fi thriller, or even if you don’t plan on watching it, I’ve got some suggestions for what to watch next or instead.
Despite Rim of the World being marketed as The Goonies meets War of the Worlds, neither of those is on this week’s list. Even though the former is among my picks for what to watch after the wonderful yet underseen The Kid Who Would Be King (please, see it!) and I’m repeating myself with two other titles from that curation, I don’t think The Goonies is as precisely relevant. Most of these are instead similarly “The Goonies meets” something more specific.
The Mars Generation (2017)
Let’s start things off with this week’s documentary pick, one that also is a Netflix Original. The Mars Generation follows teens at the US Space Camp, which is the kind of camp where you’d expect the plot of Rim of the World to take place. Or at least the kind of camp you’d expect the movie’s main character, Alex (Jack Gore) to attend rather than a random, stereotypical, poorly managed outdoor summer camp. The kids in The Mars Generation (which Nonfics named one of the best docs about space travel) aren’t set on protecting us from an alien invasion, though, they’re hopeful future astronauts with dreams of being the first humans to invade Mars.
Attack the Block (2011)
When it comes to ’80s throwbacks involving a group of kids fighting off an alien invasion, you can’t top Attack the Block. So, why did they even try? Directed by Joe Cornish, who also helmed The Kid Who Would Be King, this sci-fi action horror comedy is centered on teens from a council estate in London as they deal with much scarier and much more original extraterrestrial creatures than those of Rim of the World. And it features early breakout appearances from Star Wars actor John Boyega and current titular Doctor Who lead Jodie Whittaker.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
The first act of Rim of the World seems to be wanting to be a camp movie parody. The counselors are ridiculously inappropriate to the point of being too inauthentic for even a movie this far from serious or realistic. I was partly reminded of the dumb adult characters in the Johnny Knoxville comedy Action Point but also of the intentionally exaggerated and outlandish counselors in the Wet Hot American Summer. There’s no alien invasion or any extraterrestrials at all (see Meatballs Part II for that) but there is a sequence where some kids have to save their camp from part of Skylab, which falls from its orbit in space.
Home Alone (1990)
There are three main kinds of invasion movies: alien invasion, foreign invasion, and home invasion. And all three have seen examples focused on kids being the defenders. The first one we covered with Attack the Block. Now it’s time for the home invasion subgenre, of which the most iconic, regardless of the age of the protagonist, is surely the original Home Alone. As inappropriate as Rim of the World seems at times in its language and sexual themes for looking like a family film, Home Alone is one of the top-grossing kids’ movies of all time and may be the most violent. But it’s depicted in a Looney Tunes sort of slapstick manner, so I guess that’s okay.
Now we begin our group of 1980s movie recommendations, most of which star one of the Phoenix boys. First up is Russkies, aka the movie I always confused with The Russians Are Coming! the Russians Are Coming! when I was a kid, since it similarly involves shipwrecked Soviet sailor showing up on US soil and the subsequent bond shared by him and a handful of Americans. But this time it’s only teens, including one played by Joaquin Phoenix (then known as Leaf Phoenix) and another played by A Christmas Story star Peter Billingsley. Rather than being a Cold War equivalent of a War of the Worlds type of film, the empathic story in Russkies is more like the E.T. of foreign invasion movies.