One Theory Is That Conspiracy Theory Movies Date Back to the 1950s

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Earlier this year, the British National Archives began releasing a file chock-full of UFO-related documents, dating from 1986 to 1992, that detail reported alien abductions, airport near-misses and other mysterious Close Encounters of the Third Kind-type events. These National Archives documents will be released over the course of the next few years, but it’s not the first government database of UFO sightings we know that exists: The U.S. government operated Project Grudge from 1949 to 1951. Grudge’s aim was to debunk all sightings, no matter how far-fetched their explanations were. Of course, one result of that operation was that the citizenship began to mistrust the government… and a genre of movies — the conspiracy thriller — was born.

Scifi flicks from the era are characterized by a mistrust of authority. In Beginning of the End (195 ), a reporter takes on the military who’s hiding the accidental creation of giant grasshoppers. In the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1957), the conspiracy theory manifests itself as aliens taken over human hosts. In It Came From Outer Space, a meteor with aliens also find a way to control mankind. Over the years, the conspiracy films have continued.

Government conspiracies abound in The Parallax View (a giant corporation manipulate the government), Enemy of the State (rogue NSA agents manipulate legislation) and Spartan (the President covers up his inadvertent involvement in his daughter’s kidnapping). Not to mention Conspiracy Theory, in which Mel Gibson plays a conspiracy-obsessed nut who turns out to be right about some of his suspicions. A government white-lie even has a place in the otherwise optimistic Close Encounters: The Army shuts down an area around the landing strip by reporting a train wreck has spilled dangerous toxins.

Click here for a complete schedule of Close Encounters of the Third Kind on AMC. Why not watch a movie that won’t make you paranoid.

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