The 1990s Sci-Fi Alien Invasion Thriller With An Infamous A-List Star, Stream Right Now

By Brian Myers | Published

Science fiction fans can now enjoy a much-overlooked film from the 1990s that takes star Charlie Sheen out of his usual element and sets him as a hero struggling to expose an extraterrestrial plot to harm the Earth. The Arrival packs in plenty of action and suspense with its eerie, otherworldly antagonists to bring audiences a genre entry that mainstream audiences have almost criminally forgotten.

The Arrival Starring Charlie Sheen

Fortunately, its availability on multiple streaming platforms are giving it a second life among longtime fans and putting it front and center for a new generation of sci-fi aficionados.

The Arrival is the story of radio astronomer Zane Zaminsky, an employee of SETI. While monitoring equipment at SETI (a real-life organization that stands for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), Zane detects a radio signal from a distant star that appears to be alien communication directed at the Earth.

Zane reports his findings to SETI supervisor Phil Gordian, but finds his discovery to be rebuffed.

Searching The Skies

Soon after, Zane is terminated due to budget cuts to the program. To make matters worse, his reports of alien radio signals to Phil have led him to be shunned by the industry, making it impossible for him to find another job in his field.

Zane begins working for a cable satellite company to make ends meet and begins using equipment to build his own device to search the skies for the radio signal he recorded while at SETI.

Covering Up A Signal

the arrival

The Arrival takes a suspenseful turn when Zane discovers that a radio station in Mexico is covering up the distant signal, prompting him to investigate.

While there, he uncovers a twisted plot by alien invaders disguised as humans to transform the Earth into a planet more suited for their eventual takeover.

Good Storytelling

the arrival

The Arrival uses digital technology to create realistic (for the mid 1990s) alien life forms but relies on good old-fashioned storytelling and superb acting from co-stars Ron Silver and Richard Schiff to make this film a terrific watch.

A Box Office Disaster

the arrival

Despite having a decent set of critical reviews to propel the film, The Arrival was a box office disaster for Orion Pictures, the distributor. The meager budget of $25 million was far above and beyond the $14 million that was taken in at the box office. The failure had so much more to do with the ill timing of its release than it did with the film itself.

Within a month of The Arrival‘s May 31 release date, 20th Century Fox began a massive marketing campaign ahead of its own sci-fi blockbuster that was set for a wide release on July 3.

Streaming The Arrival

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The build-up for the film Independence Day far overshadowed Charlie Sheen’s foray into the genre, leading to the Will Smith feature making box office history with a whopping $817 million in ticket sales worldwide.

Had The Arrival been able to enjoy its run without a better-equipped competitor, it most likely would have been profitable.

You can stream The Arrival for free on Roku and Tubi, or rent it on Tubi and Prime.