The Sci-Fi Mega-Millions Flop That Became A Cult Classic Needs Saving

By Douglas Helm | Published

mars attacks
  • An epic sci-fi cult classic is completely absent from streaming or a 4K remaster.
  • Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! can’t be found on any subscription streaming services, and hasn’t been remastered to 4K.
  • The 1996 sci-fi B movie tribute features a massive ensemble cast including Pierce Brosnan, Glenn Close, Danny DeVito, Michael J, Fox, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Annette Bening, Natalie Portman, Lukas Haas, and Jack Nicholson in two separate roles.

One of the best things about streaming services is the ability to find old movies and easily watch them without having to go through great effort to track down a physical copy. But, the downside is that not every movie is on streaming services. One of the more egregious omissions from streaming services is Tim Burton’s classic 1996 B-movie tribute Mars Attacks!

No 4K Remaster For Mars Attacks!

The fact that Mars Attacks! isn’t on any streaming services wouldn’t sting as much if there was a definitive version of the film out there, but there hasn’t been a 4K remaster. Usually, smaller indie restoration companies and distributors will take it upon themselves to restore sci-fi cult classics like these, but it hasn’t happened yet. So, unless you buy a digital copy or the Blu-ray version of the film, you’re out of luck.

It’s a shame, too, because Mars Attacks! is an underrated gem from Tim Burton’s filmography. As the name suggests, the film follows Earth fighting an invasion of attacking Martians. It is based on the Topps trading card series of the same name and the screenplay was written by Jonathan Gems.

A Tribute To Ed Wood

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When Burton decided to make Mars Attacks!, he was busy working on one of his other underrated gems, Ed Wood. Burton’s time making the biopic clearly inspired him, and he saw Mars Attacks! as a great way to pay homage to the films of Ed Wood, like Plan 9 from Outer Space. The inspiration is evident, as Burton decided to make a black comedy sci-fi wrapped in a B-movie disaster movie package.

Those Who Didn’t Know Ed Wood Probably Didn’t Know What They Were Watching

Those watching Mars Attacks! without this knowledge may have been a bit confused by this Hollywood production with cheap-looking special effects. Of course, that was very much Burton’s intent, as he specifically wanted them to look cheap and fake. One look at the Martians in these movies shows that Burton definitely achieved his goal. 

Inspiration From the ’70s

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Tim Burton also drew inspiration from films like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno from Irwin Allen. Specifically, he wanted to mimic the tactic of hiring an A-list cast to star in a purposefully B-tier disaster film. He absolutely nailed it here, too, as Mars Attacks! features an eye-popping cast that includes (deep breath) Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Pam Grier, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Lisa Marie, and Sylvia Sidney.

Jack Did Double Duty

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Jack Nicholson was on board with the idea too, as he actually joked with Tim Burton that he wanted to play all the roles in the movie. Burton didn’t quite go that far, but he did cast Nicholson in two different roles, as the actor plays both Art Land and President Dale. Mars Attack!, unsurprisingly, ended up being a box office bomb with a box office haul of $101.37 million against a $100 million budget.

Mars Attacks! ended up becoming a classic over the years and remains a great watch. Unfortunately, there’s no streaming service that carries it. Hopefully, one of them will add it soon.