Why do aliens always seem to attack New York City or Washington, DC?

According to my wonderfully-Aspbergian godson, New York City and Washington DC are two of the most popular strike points during Alien invasions.

I don’t keep much track of Alien invasions. But even I remember Marvel’s Avengers demolishing big chunks of NYC. And the aliens in Independence Day blasted Washington, D.C.

(A distraction: This article at VH1.com lists all the cities that Godzilla destroyed. NYC is #2 on the list.)

Let’s add some more cities, and other beings that seem to like to attack cities:

  • Los Angeles:

    • Attacked by Martians in all 3 of the War of the World movies

    • Attacked repeatedly by Terminators (being from Earth, they’re not aliens)

    • Destroyed by the Independence Day aliens

    • Attacked by aliens in Skyline

    • Attacked by Cylons in 1981’s Battlestar Galactica: Conquest of the Earth

  • Tokyo:

    • The favorite of Godzilla and her other monstrous accomplices/enemies

  • San Francisco:

    • Another of Godzilla’s targets (particularly the Golden Gate Bridge)

    • Attacked by aliens in Pacific Rim

Some other cities around the world destroyed by aliens: Rio De Janeiro, Toronto (Canada), Singapore, Beijing, Jerusalem, Tehran, Moscow, Rome, Berlin, London, Paris and many many others. (Thanks to this complete list of destroyed cities on Reddit.)

So why do movie makers seem obsessed with destroying or demolishing NYC and Washington, D.C.?

  • Movie makers want to appeal to the biggest audiences.

  • Movies are visual media.

  • Bad-ass aliens and monsters only really look bad-ass when they take down another bad-ass power.

Cities contain big audiences. 8.5 million in NYC. 6 million in Washington, D.C. 8.9 million in Mexico City, another city that’s been destroyed a lot in movies. 13 million in Rio De Janeiro, blasted by a meteor sent by the alien bugs in Starship Troopers.

But why NYC?

NYC is known world-wide. Set your movie there and most everyone in the world has heard of it.

Many people in the world see NYC as the symbol of American financial dominance. That was why Al-Qaida attacked the World Trade Center. According to the Institute for Global Analysis of Security, that cost $100 billion. Big impact for financiers.

Another reason to set alien invasion/monster movies in NYC is … skyscrapers.

The NYC skyline is nothing BUT skyscrapers. Destroying a skyscraper is an easy way to get the visual kicks movies require:

  • Chunks fly off to crash onto streets full of panicked, screaming people (and a traffic jam, of course).

  • Ignite one with your alien’s favorite flame weapon and watch the giant torch burn as terrified people jump to their deaths onto the streets full of panicked, screaming people (and a traffic jam, of course).

  • Have a giant monster topple one and trigger a domino cascade of building after building, toppling onto streets full of etc., etc., etc.

For low-budget film makers, there’s probably so much stock footage of NYC that you could make an entire movie using stock footage. Just film your alien/monster on a green screen, add stock background. (You’re welcome, if your next low-budget movie wins an Oscar.)

So since NYC is such a wonderful target, why target Washington, D.C.?

D.C. is chockful of politicians and lawyers, probably not very high on many people’s list of “Those who must be saved at all costs”. So destroying Washington, D.C., might be popular amongst some of the audience. But then, NYC is also chockful of lawyers, and something even worse: financiers. Many of us have not forgiven financiers for crashing the economy a few years ago.

I think we can really blame its popularity (as a target for destruction) on the USA itself.

The USA has been a world superpower since the end of World War Two. (Which it ended by inventing the ultimate bomb of all human war weapons, the atomic bomb.)

Washington, D.C., is THE symbol of American political power. also in the city is the Pentagon, THE iconic symbol of American military supremacy. Plus I’ve always loved the Washington Memorial: Tall, thin, just begging to be a target.

Want your city-destroying aliens to look like the ultimate bad-ass power? Have them destroy D.C. Specifically the White House and the Pentagon. Then topple the Washington Monument as a casual afterthought.

Or have your hero in his giant robot fighting suit grab it and spear the giant alien monster he’s fighting.

Have fun blasting movie cities!

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2 comments
  1. Probably searching for a kindred spirit… and have Donald Trump in their sight.

  2. I suppose give it a couple of years before movies come out in the Trump-term time. Although most any oppression of minorities move set in Nazi Germany might fit all too soon?

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