In 1969, the Condon Report on the results of a two-year study of UFO files collected by Project Blue Book found that the project was not scientifically useful, and the Air Force shut it down. By then, however, the U.S. government’s official investigation of UFO sightings had inspired an increasing number of movies and other forms of pop culture depicting UFOs and alien invasions. Particularly memorable examples included “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951) and “The War of the Worlds” (1953). These movies undoubtedly reflected America’s involvement in the Cold War, and the wave of anti-communist hysteria sweeping the country at the time, stirred up by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAAC). The “aliens” portrayed on film during the 1950s were often thinly veiled stand-ins for communists, bent on destroying the capitalist world.
By the mid-1970s, UFOs and the surrounding subculture had not lost their momentum as a popular distraction; even President Jimmy Carter, elected in 1976, claimed to have seen a UFO. In 1977, Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” drew on “The UFO Experience” by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the scientific adviser to three UFO studies conducted by the U.S. Air Force. The film depicts many aspects of actual UFO incidents reported to Hynek, though many details and circumstances were manipulated for maximum dramatic effect. Government conspiracies surrounding UFOs and alien invasions–fueled by the enduring Roswell controversy–remained a popular culture touchstone in the following decades, as evidenced by the success of “The X-Files” TV series and movies such as “Independence Day” (1996), “Men in Black” (1997), and early 21st century remakes of the ’50s films “War of the Worlds” (2005) and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008).