[[caption-width-right:350: Once they begin to move, no more news comes out of that area.]]

''Note: This is about the 1953 adaptation. For the 2005 one, see'' '''Film/WarOfTheWorlds'''''.''

The first of several film adaptations of H.G. Wells' seminal alien invasion novel, directed by Byron Haskin and produced by George Pal. It stars Gene Barry as the scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester and Ann Robinson as Sylvia Van Buren, as they must survive a full-scale invasion of Earth by Martian forces.

The film is a PragmaticAdaptation of the novel, taking only the premise and ending with little else from the source material. Nonetheless in an age of alien invasion films such as ''Film/EarthVsTheFlyingSaucers'', ''Invaders From Mars'' and ''Film/TheThingFromAnotherWorld'' this film is regarded as one of the best of that category.

Many years later the film would get a sequel in the form of a [[Series/TheWarOfTheWorlds television series]]. Due to ScienceMarchesOn, the series {{RetCon}}ned several aspects from the original film, namely the aliens coming from the planet Mor-Tax instead of Mars. Elements of the film would also inspire future science-fiction media, such as ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000'', ''WesternAnimation/TheIronGiant'' and ''Film/IndependenceDay''.

!!This film contains examples of:

* AWizardDidIt: Rather well put in-universe, actually. Dr. Forrester acknowledges that it doesn't matter if it's possible or not if it's happening right in front of you.
-->'''Major General Mann:''' Pattern-wise, one lands, then two, making groups of threes joined magnetically. Is that possible?
-->'''Dr Clayton Forrester:''' If they do it, it is.
* AmericaSavesTheDay: Downplayed in that God himself is the one that truly "saves the day", but America is the nation that spearheads the fight against the Martians, including being the ones leading the research and using the (strangely untouched) city of Washington D.C. as the location where all information regarding the Martians from around the world is pooled to try to determine the best strategy.
* ApocalypseAnarchy: While driving to a lab in the mountains, looters scamper aboard Dr. Forrester's truck, throw him out of the cabin, unload the research equipment and samples, and drives off with anyone able to hang on. When someone tries to bribe his way on board, he's thrown off while being told that [[MoneyIsNotPower his money's now worthless.]]
* ArtisticLicenseAstronomy: Apparently whomever revised the opening narration just plumb ''forgot'' the existence of Venus, in specifying why all other planets in the solar system except Earth are unsuitable for the Martians to migrate to.
* BehindTheBlack: When the police and Dr. Forrester arrive at the landing site to find the deputies have been vaporized, they [[RuleOfDrama fail to notice]] the eye stalk looming over them, which should have been in full view.
* BiologicalWeaponsSolveEverything: ZigZaggedTrope. The film maintains the original ending where the Martians die from regular Earth germs that humanity is immune to, but the emphasis here is that it's ''regular'' Earth germs. When nuking them does nothing, the military asks the scientist at Cal Tech to figure out a bio-warfare method to kill the Martians out of desperation... and the trucks carrying the equipment are robbed by desperate Angelenos trying to evacuate, destroying all of the equipment (in Forrester's words, "they sliced their own throats!"). The implication being that the bio-warfare attack ''would'' have worked, had the story not decided to stick to the original's ending and letting [[DeusExMachina God do the job]].
* ChekhovsGun: When Dr. Forrester brings a Martian probe with blood samples to a group of scientists, they see that the blood is highly anemic. This foreshadows how they were eventually killed by terrestrial bacteria.
* CoolPlane: A Northrop B-49 flying wing is used to drop the nuke on the Martians.
* DarkestHour: The film's final act. It's probably among the darkest and bleakest atmospheres put into a 50's alien invasion film; there's absolutely nothing left to hold on to and the protagonist's last remaining goal is to spend the next few minutes of his life with his loved one.
* DeflectorShields: The Martian war machines generate these and it makes them ImmuneToBullets as well as artillery and explosives, including the latest model of atomic bomb.
* DeusExMachina: [[Literature/WarOfTheWorlds Like the book that inspired it]], the Martians are defeated, not in a final battle against humanity, [[spoiler: but by germs.]]
* FunnyBackgroundEvent: As a fire watcher phones in a report his companion peeks at his playing cards.
* HellIsThatNoise: The sounds of the Martian fighting machines moving and the sound of the heat ray firing-[[StockSoundEffects a sound that is now oft-copied]] as a generic "energy weapon" noise in homage.
* IdiotBall: Uncle Matthew approaches the war machines in a misguided attempt to communicate with them. He says that no real attempt has been made to communicate with the Martians, even though they've fired unprovoked on people who come near the cylinder and there are reports of them leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
** Although, in fairness, Uncle Matthew is well aware that they may just decide to kill him. He recites [[Literature/BookofPsalms Psalm 23]] as he approaches the Martian War Machines.
* ManOnFire: One of the Marines takes a glancing bolt from a heat-ray.
* MoneyIsNotPower: As Los Angeles is being evacuated, people are rioting in the streets. One guy tries to buy his way onto a truck, only to be thrown off while being told "Money's no good anymore!"
* MonumentalDamage: The Eiffel Tower and The Taj Mahal. Oddly enough Washington went untouched.
* MythologyGag: The scene where the reporter's transmission is cut short during the plane observation by his equipment getting destroyed by the heat-ray is a deliberate reference to Carl Phillips' fate from the 1938 radio adaptation.
* NuclearCandle: When the lights go out at the square dance, one of these is lit - lighting the room far brighter than a candle should.
* NukeEm: The military tries to kill one of the tripods using a nuke, when all other weapons have been exhausted. When the shields of the Martians turns that into a NoSell, Forrester says that attacking the machines is of no use, and they need to focus on trying to kill the Martians themselves (through biological warfare).
* OmnidisciplinaryScientist: sort of; it's more of an omnidisciplinary lab group: Forester, an astrophysicist, is not only in the same department but actually shares the same lab space with an electrical engineer and a biochemist.
* PragmaticAdaptation
** The original novel took place in late 1800's England and the aliens piloted towering tripod walkers. This film takes place in 1950's California, and the aliens pilot hovering manta-ray/scorpion spacecraft.
** Originally the spacecrafts were meant to be tripods, but since a tripod effect was difficult to achieve the film instead states that the spacecraft hover via invisible tripod "stilts". In a few shots you can see vague outlines of the "stilts" along with sparks on the ground.
** In the novel the fighting machines were NOT ImmuneToBullets, they were just too agile for contemporary artillery to hit before being overwhelmed. This had to be changed to keep it believable that the 1950s army doesn't mop the floor with them immediately.
* ReligionIsWrong: Averted in a strange way. The source material (at least the second half) is a firm criticism of religion, and there are religious characters who eventually turn out unhinged and dangerous in the wake of the invasion. The film is almost the complete opposite - the main religious character is kind and righteous and is given a meaningful death (one that shows that the Martians are incapable of being approached in any peaceful fashion), and the closing narration comments on how the smallest creatures of God's kingdom defeated the invaders.
** Even in the original, despite his experience with the lunatic curate, the protagonist gives a prayer of gratitude for deliverance. And although it's far more leaning into the nature of a divine miracle in this story, the following is direct from the original story and is echoed in the movie's ending:
--> And scattered about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians--_dead_!--slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.
* StockFootage: The scenes of people listening to the radio, along with some of the destruction footage, were taken from Pal's previous film ''Film/WhenWorldsCollide''.
* TooDumbToLive: Yes, it's a noble thing Matthew did, but he apparently forgot three ''other'' people had already approached the machines with peaceful intentions and been ''summarily erased.'' Why exactly did he think it'd go any different for him?
* WarRoom: We're treated to a war room in the Pentagon, including a [[TheBigBoard map of the world]] with [[SpreadingDisasterMapGraphic small black triangles indicating areas that have been wiped out]] by the Martians.
* WashingtonDCInvasion: Averted and even lampshaded: the Martians never mobilize towards the city, for some odd reason, and so this provides the opportunity to utilize it as the headquarters for the world-wide effort to fight the Martians.
* WatchTheWorldDie: When it's clear nothing can stop the Martians from destroying the cities, a lot of people can be seen camping out in the hills just outside UsefulNotes/LosAngeles.
* WaveMotionGun: The secondary weapon of the machines, in the form of a DisintegratorRay - people, vehicles, even entire buildings vanish when they are hit by it, leaving no trace but an ashy silhouette.
* XRaySparks: The Marine commander gets hit by a Martian DisintegratorRay right in front of the camera. As the ray takes effect, his skeleton shows through his glowing silhouette before he vanishes into nothingness.