We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.



“If they’re mortal, they must have mortal weaknesses,” the astrophysicist hero tells his girlfriend in The War of the Worlds (1953). “They’ll be stopped…somehow.” They—the Martians, on a mission to exterminate humanity—are, indeed, eventually foiled in this Oscar-winning adaptation of H.G. Wells’ fantasia of mass destruction, but not before a whole lotta Hollywood extras get atomized. Stilted dialogue aside, most everything in War—from its documentary-style opening to its final elegant image of deus ex machina salvation—works beautifully, including the film’s one sequence of undiluted horror: Trapped in a farmhouse with three manta-like Martian death machines hovering over them, the hero and his girl hide from the tentaclelike probe that’s searching the building for survivors. This game of cat-and-mouse, included by director Byron Haskin at producer George Pal’s suggestion, is both a show- and a heart-stopper. And it’s way scarier than anything in Independence Day. At 6:30 p.m. at the National Theatre’s Hayes Gallery, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. (202) 783-3372. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)