Tim Burton has always had a certain style and visual aesthetic, with the overwhelming majority of his output relying on Gothic imagery, tragedy, lavish production design and more than a hint of eccentricity. It’s a template that’s worked very well for him over the last four decades, but not every one of his movies has to be all about doom and gloom.
The best example of this is Mars Attacks!, and even 25 years later it remains the most unabashedly ludicrous and entertaining installment in Burton’s filmography, which now numbers nineteen features. A love letter to 1950s sci-fi, the director essentially creates exactly the sort of movie he’d have grown up watching, complete with intentionally ridiculous dialogue, archetypal characters and little green men in flying saucers.
It was viewed as something of a disappointment at the box office when it was first released back in December 1996, earning $101 million on a steep $70 million budget. However, Mars Attacks! instantly gained cult favorite status, and it was more than a little ironic that it arrived just a few months after Independence Day given that it’s the complete antithesis to Roland Emmerich’s version of the alien invasion epic in every way.
Mars Attacks! boasts arguably Burton’s most stacked cast ever with Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Natalie Portman, Tom Jones, Christina Applegate, Pam Grier, Jack Black and many more making an appearance, and it’s now streaming for free on YouTube Movies. For fans of both the director and cheesy sci-fi in general, the opportunity to watch the bonkers pic for no cost is surely an opportunity that can’t be passed up, even with constant ad interruptions.