The Doctor: No, you look Time Lord. We came first.
When a creature from a planet other than Earth looks like a human, sounds like a human, acts somewhat like a human and gets confused for a human.
Their internal physiology may well be different, whether a little or a lot or just none, but otherwise they appear to be the genuine article.
In-story, this occasionally leads to a handwaving story about how all the races have some common ancestor. Other times, it gets justified by using a Transplanted Humans story. Out-of-story, this is often explained by the fact that there are remarkably few non-humanoids in the Screen Actors' Guild or Equity, and by the fact that believable-looking, wildly-different-in-appearance aliens are incompatible with low budgets. Other explanations include the idea that a humanoid form is the natural result of any evolutionary path (Humans Are Special on Evolutionary Levels).
In 1950s movies, this also could be used as an actual part of the theme of the story, as the idea that these sorts of aliens could pass completely for humans made a rather handy metaphor for Communism.
In stories involving alien cyborgs, the aliens are often human-looking in their original form, to emphasize that the conflict of the story is between their biological and cybernetic natures, and not mainly about the fact that they are aliens. Examples include the Kaleds who became the Daleks, the original Cybermen, the Galadorians from Rom Spaceknight, the Nebulans from The Transformers, the GoBots, and Star Trek's Borg.note
The bottom rung of the Alien ladder, below Rubber-Forehead Aliens and Intelligent Gerbils. Note that, for this trope, the alien must be visually indistinguishable from a human. "Human, but with blue (or purple, orange, green, etc.) skin" falls under Rubber-Forehead Aliens. Aliens with cultural rather than biological similarities fall under Inexplicable Cultural Ties.
Technically there could be another rung below this one on the Alien ladder: White Aliens. There are many fictional planets where the aliens not only look human, they are all white-looking. This is rife with Unfortunate Implications. The opposite situation, where the alien race is genuinely alien, but they are all African-looking, or Asian-looking, etc., is vanishingly rare (and would probably carry a different batch of Unfortunate Implications). Naturally, this varies by the location of production: Japanese science fiction has planets full of Japanese-looking aliens, Indian films have Indian-looking aliens, Doctor Who depicts an entire universe full of people with British accents, and so on.
Reasons for using this trope may vary. Sometimes it may make audience relate to the character better (because people aren't going to like a character who looks, you know, "different") or to have the character live among ordinary humans without undue complications, or to make a human-alien romance more plausible and less squicky. Or it might just be because they can't afford the makeup and rubber foreheads. Or sometimes, well...
Contrast with Starfish Aliens (where the aliens are nothing like humans), Humanoid Aliens (where aliens have a similar shape, but not quite human), Ambiguously Human (where it isn't made clear in-canon whether a culture are human-like aliens or human-descended), A Form You Are Comfortable With (when gods and other metaphysical beings take human form) and Human Subspecies (biologically "alien" yet related to humans). In the case one of them had been Raised by Humans, may lead to Human Alien Discovery. Hugh Mann is the Played for Laughs version when an obviously nonhuman creature still fools humans in a Paper-Thin Disguise. Not to be confused with Humanity Came From Space, which are actual alien humans from places other than Earth.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Film -- Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Western Animation
Gopal: Hey, why do you look like a human?
- The final episodes of the original series revealed that Fang was a Human Alien all along when his older brother paid a visit to Earth. Their only distinctions from humans are their red irises and raven-colored spiky hair. Gopal and Lahap lampshade this:
Lahap: Why do YOU look like an alien?
- BoBoiBoy Galaxy introduces more human aliens as the main gang take the fight to space. Some introduced in the first season alone are Sai, Shielda and Ramenman, who all appear just as human as Fang and work with the heroes.
- Happy Heroes: Certain inhabitants of planets Xing Xing, Gray, etc. (such as Doctor H., Miss Peach, and Big and Little M., to give some examples) look and act so much like humans that they could otherwise easily pass for them if not for the show's space setting.
- The sci-fi film Ark is set in the distant planet of Alcyeon, populated by two different alien races at war, the Ceveans and Storrians, but both races resembles humans, right down to having skin tones resembling earthlings.
- Metro Man from Megamind, being an expy of Superman, fits this trope perfectly.
- Disney's 1953 adaptation of Peter Pan apparently takes "second star to the right" literally, implying that Neverland is located in a completely different solar system. Despite this, the island is home to a number of groups who look totally to almost human: pirates, Indians, and mermaids (not human, but close enough). Of course - and for good reason - Disney never goes into detail regarding how mere mortals are able to fly to this land without becoming exhausted, dying from old age, or suffocating from lack of oxygen.
- The music video for Hot Chocolate's "No Doubt About It".
- Meghan Trainor invokes the trope in "Your Lips are moving" with lines like "I come from outer space", and "I can smell her on your collar"
- The fictionalised version of Rezz is a young alien from Neptune with the power of hypnosis through music
- Vitas has been known to invoke this trope in some of his music videos, particularly "Blessed Guru," and his more well known "Seventh Element."
- Technically, everyone except Flash and Dale in Flash Gordon qualify for this trope.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has several examples, most notably Ford and Zaphod's unnamed species from the Betelgeuse system (the latter's extra head and arm are due to surgery). The only known differences are biological incompatibility with humans and multi-centennial lifespans. This resemblance is explicitly only through human eyes; when the two are with Arthur (a human) other aliens can tell right away that he's a different race and usually assume that he's their pet monkey.
- The Asgoths of Kria (writers of the second worst poetry in the universe) are also likely to be this way on account of how precise Douglas Adams tends to be with his language - after all, their poet's small intestine throttled his brain in 'a desperate attempt to save humanity'. In the very next episode, Arthur compliments the 'humanity' of a Vogon poem, which Ford hastily corrects into 'Vogonity', decreasing the likelihood that this was a mistake.
- Possibly Justified by the reveal that Earthmen are a designed species created by aliens... and by the still later reveal that they are in fact descendants of Ancient Astronauts from Golgafrincham.
- Bulldogs! has the Arsubarans, who are humans with a greater variety of skin, hair and eye colours, and whose early discovery of space travel has led to them spreading across the galaxy faster than any other species.
- Call of Cthulhu. The secretive inhabitants of the subterranean city of K'n-Yan are almost completely indistinguishable from humans.
- Pathfinder. Humans, or something close enough to be called Human, apparently evolved on three different worlds, Golarion (the main world of the setting), Earth (visited in Reign of Winter), and Androffa ( the source of the spaceship which crashed in Numeria on Golarion millenia ago.)
- Ankur: Kingdom of the Gods. A scifi rpg based on Sumerian mythology. Ancient Astronauts visit Earth and create humans (and other subspecies) as slaves to mine for gold. The aliens look very similar to us because we share two-thirds their dna.
- Heroes Unlimited: You can easily create an alien superhero who looks indistinguishable from an ordinary human.
- In Marco and the Galaxy Dragon, Gargouille, Haqua and Pandagraph are aliens from three different species. All three of them look like humans apart from their exotic eye colours. Haquas a particularly odd case, as her father Astaroth is a Rubber-Forehead Alien and they both come from the Andromeda galaxy.
- Eerie Cuties: Jeffery, the groundskeeper at Charybdis Heights purposely tries to scare humans away and Layla does what she can to scare them off as well. Yet, no one finds it strange that there's a human science teacher working at their school... or is she? The cast page even list Proff. Twiggit's species as "(human?)", suggesting she may not be what she appears.
- In The End, most aliens are portrayed as being well and truly alien (huge six-eyed birdlike humanoids, Ugly Cute slug-people, etc.) The Ith, however, stand out.
Henri: Those are Ith? You said they were similar to us.
Ethma: Are they not?
Henri: No! They're exactly the same!
- The Narvans, and the Amazons Tripp & co. encounter in their first attempt to vortex-jump.
- In Sev Trek, the Enterprise is making First Contact with the Obscuricons. Kirk asks Spock what type of beings they might be. After long speculation on Starfish Aliens types, a human looking alien beams up instead.
Kirk: What were you saying, Spock?
Spock: I see; you visited this planet too.
- The Superman example is parodied in a (SFW) comic by Stjepan Sejic, when Lois Lane and Superman prepare to have sex. It's not shown to us, but apparently Kryptonian males aren't identical to human males everywhere.
- Almost all characters in Chaos Fighters are this. The exceptions are Irtial and Muranyl, who are from Earth.
- In Dad, It's heavily implied that Dad and his family came from space; not only does he mention he used to live under the "Kepler rays" note and claims that his family is several eons old. He also tells the viewers to "move [their] human limbs" in "Dad Is On", calls his audience "Earthlings" in "Dad Feels Good", and claims to have "left his planet" in "Dad Bod". ACT II PART I shows a younger Dad, in an astronaut suit, laying in the desert. In spite of this, they all look like ordinary humans, and even manage to pass as such while in public.
- Airani Iofifteen is described as a breed of aliens who enjoys drawing who entered a Virtual Communication and Designs school in a university on Earth. She resembles a human girl with paint splashes on her body.
- Nene Momosuzu is an alien from a planet named TaoTao who came to Earth to meet new people. She has the most humanlike design out of her generation, which has a snow elf with Pointy Ears, a succubus-in-training, a lion, and a fennec fox clown.
Aversions and subversions
- Prot in K-PAX explains this by saying that it is the most energy-efficient form to take on Earth. Of course, he may or may not be an alien.
- In the earlier film which might have inspired the novel, an Argentinian production called Hombre Mirando al Sudeste (Man Looking Southeast), Rantes explains to the doctor that though they came in a ship, he and the others are actually physical projections from a distant, doomed future on another planet, and that they naturally adapt to whatever the observer expects to see. Of course, he may not be an alien, either — though he does have Psychic Powers, and his equally-alien (?) female friend does leak blue liquid from her mouth when excited, and then again, he also claims to be a Messianic Archetype... yeah, it's one hell of a Mind Screw.
- Subverted with the Ultramen and Ultrawomen of Tsuburaya Productions' Ultra Series, and an interesting case given the amount of humanlike alien races encountered by the Ultras over the course of the series! In the lore of the franchise, the Ultras started out looking very much like humans, but after their star died and the Plasma Spark was activated, their species was transformed into the first Ultra Warriors. That being said, most Ultras can 'become' humanlike again via a host or human form, which is vital when operating on planets such as Earth where the atmosphere blocks out the cosmic rays needed to stay at full power.
- Both the Transformers & the Brave Series have a weird variation on this, wherein there are several planets besides Cybertron/whatever planet the heroes come from that are inhabited by intelligent Transforming Mecha. Sometimes explained as being colonies of the main characters' race, sometimes not. While it may be reasonable to assume that a sufficiently advanced civilization would discard their weak organic bodies for more durable mechanical ones, the whole transforming thing is pushing it. The weirdest example being the Japanese Beast Wars II series, where there is a planet of highly evolved Funny Animal-like aliens who have developed to the point of Trans-funnyanimalism, where they have upgraded themselves with cybernetics. This allows them to turn into humanoid robot forms that look uncannily like the Maximals & Predacons, despite having no prior contact with them, for no apparent reason other than Rule of Cool.
- Mostly averted in the Star Wars series. It does feature a few human-looking (possibly) aliens. In some cases those may just be human colonies. It also features plenty of Rubber-Forehead Aliens. The long history of humanity in the Star Wars galaxy allows for the possibility of so-called "near-human" races that are evolutionary descendants of mainstream humanity, but which have evolved to adapt to different planetary environments. Then there are also many species that are very non-human-looking. It's a richly diverse galaxy.
- Subverted in Galaxy Quest, as the aliens initially appear human, but are using technology to change their appearance because their true form is... unsettling.
- Subverted in the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008); Klaatu's human form is implied to have been grown inside his initial containment suit to allow him to be compatible with the Earth's environment. The opening shows a genetic sample being taken from a man (also played by Keanu Reeves), implying that Klaatu's earth form is a clone of that man.
- In Lifeforce, when the astronauts explore the vampire spaceship they are astonished to discover a humanoid crew in stasis pods. Subverted when it's discovered that they're actually shapeshifting monsters who assumed human form to more easily find and seduce human victims to snack on their Life Energy. Their real form is some sort of extraterrestrial, winged bat creature.
- Averted in the novel Quest by Andreas Eschbach, when it is explained that: 1.All human races originated on earth and just evolved differently due to different environments. 2.All of the galaxy's life originated on one planet and cells of it have been spread by comets.
- Averted in the novel Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday (a prequel to the film), where Starscream claims that any sufficiently advanced race would naturally build machines that were similar to Cybertronians, as the Decepticons believe that they are the most perfect lifeforms in the galaxy. However, he also may have been simply trying to explain away the fact that the human spaceship Ghost 1 seemed to be built using Cybertronian technology (i.e. that Megatron, the Decepticons' true leader, has been found).
- Conspicuously and consciously avoided in Wayne D. Barlowe's illustrated sci-fi novel Expedition. Barlowe, a noted fantastic fiction illustrator who darn well knows his biology, openly despises this trope and so he invented an alien race who is very like humankind in their attitude and culture - but they look a bit like a cross between a hot air balloon and an airborne octopus.
- In Larry Niven's Ringworld series, and the prequel, Protector, there are various humanoid races who all turn out to be descended from the Pak, the same race of Precursors who are the ancestors of Earth humans.
- The Martians and Venusians of S.M. Stirling's The Lords of Creation novels look human because they are (more or less); the eponymous beings, in prehistoric times, Terraformed Mars and Venus and seeded them with Earth life (repeating the process several times, so that on Venus you have humans sharing the planet with dinosaurs and mammalian megafauna).
- The aliens in Robert Zubrin's The Holy Land consider themselves the humans, and the Earthlings merely 'proto-humans'. Given their superior senses, telepathic ability, superior physiques, and superlative hygiene, they're probably right. However, they themselves originated on Earth, about twenty thousand years ago.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a subversion in the book version with Trillian. When she's introduced, she's built up to be one of these. She's from Earth. There's also a Running Gag that Ford Prefect looks exactly like a human to humans, but to other aliens the species are different enough that his human friend Arthur Dent is repeatedly mistaken for his pet monkey. Golgafrinchans are so close to humans that their colony displacing the cavemen in 2 million BC went unnoticed, even by the higher-dimension beings running the planet.
- In the Young Wizards series, two of the four alien species involved in the wizardly cultural exchange program look human. And there's a guest appearance by a Time Lord. A few of the Mooks are Rubber-Forehead Aliens. All the rest of the aliens are definetly not human, with a few of them being Starfish Aliens.
- An inversion as well as Roahaun, the human alien staying at the Callahan house states that he is actually the human and the humans are humanoids.
- Some of the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novels have the Doctor come across as mildly not-so-human, to generally creepy effect. Anji seems to be particularly prone to noticing this. In one scene, when he does strike her as a convincing human, she considers him "a fake" and refers to him as "the alien" and "it" before she remembers he is, after all, her friend and a nice guy. In another scene, they'd have really run up the special effects budget if it were TV, just to make people go "Ewwww" at the protagonist:
In Hugos arms, the Doctor hung bonelessly limp, as if he might suddenly flow to the floor in a puddle. Anji had never seen a human body sag like that; no human being had that sort of muscular-skeletal frame. For a frightened instant, she felt more kinship with the man with no limbsnote than she did with the Doctor.
- Played with in the Sector General series. Sure, they have one species of Human Alien, but they have seventy species total, so that is to be expected eventually. There are also species which look nothing like humans but look a lot like each other, inverting the trope. On a more interesting note, every species' language uses a word equivalent to "human" as the species' name for itself, meaning actual Homo sapiens have to specify "Earth-human" (or their body shape and chemistry classification DBDG, which they share with at least two species of Rubber-Forehead Aliens).
- Animorphs pointedly averts this trope. The most humanoid alien ever mentioned in the series is a species of amphibious monkey. Also, the Hork-Bajir feature basically the same head/two arms/two legs body shape, but otherwise go even beyond Rubber-Forehead Aliens (in fact, they more closely resemble dinosaurs). The torsos of Andalites look fairly humanoid, and the head has a Rubber-Forehead Alien quality to it, but otherwise they are very different (having a basic body structure like a Centaur). Aside from those three, none of the alien races/species portrayed or mentioned in the books look anything even remotely human. Some of them even stray into Starfish Aliens territory. Elfangor reflects that humans are the only bipedal species he's ever seen or heard of that can balance without a tail.
- Played straight with the Inspector. He is a Yeerk Controller whose host body looks exactly like an Andalite, except it has no tail blade, and moves extremely quickly.
- In one book, Aximili lampshades the trope, complaining that Star Trek aliens are completely unrealistic and make no sense. He's particularly confused by Worf (they apparently saw Star Trek: Generations), whom he says resembles an Ongachic female.
- Discussed and Averted in H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds. The narrator, as well as most others present when the Martians first emerged from their vessel, expected to see "a man", or something near like it, not the Tentacled Terror they got.
- In Many Waters, Sandy and Dennys spend the first 100 or so pages assuming that they've been teleported to a desert planet with inhabitants who look exactly like Ambiguously Brown humans, save that they're only about four feet tall. Eventually they realize that they're still on Earth, but shortly before the Biblical flood.
- Parodied in the Captain Kremmen radio spoof, when Kremmen first encounters the Thargoids.
Kremmen: Except for their large transparent heads, three lips and sixteen nostrils, they looked just like you or I!
- Subverted in CthulhuTech. The Nazzadi look like Rubber-Forehead Aliens, but that is because they are actually genetically engineered from humans by the very alien Migou.
- Traveller Role-Playing Game both uses and subverts this; there are humans and humanoids spread by mysterious Precursors, and there are Starfish Aliens, some of them very alien.
- Eldar from Warhammer 40,000 look like humans with pointed ears and angular features in art. However, it's made clear in descriptions that no-one would ever make that mistake in-universe due to the weird boneless way they move, their fingers being compared to writhing worms.
- Dead Space has an ironic subversion, since all the Necromorphs are made from human corpses and several of them look pretty damn close to a plain old human. In the third game, the remains of an alien civilization are discovered (along with some leftover Necromorphs from their civilization), and while they were humanoid, they didn't look remotely similar to humans at all. And that's not even getting into the Brethren Moons, the creators of the Necromorphs, who are closer to an Eldritch Abomination.
- Ascendancy not only does not have Human Aliens, it doesn't even have humans. All aliens in the game are Starfish Aliens. The most recognizable are the Chamachies, being a race of Lizard Folk with chameleon (i.e. turreted) eyes. Then there's a race whose people are made up mostly of a giant eyeball (unsurprisingly, they're called Oculons).
- The Last Federation, like Ascendancy above, does not have humans in it. Player character is a hydra looking alien, one alien race is a bug species, one looks like The Greys, two are robots, one we do not get a good look at all and one looks like a barn owl. The last one looks humanoid, but is red, seems to have a carapace and lacks visible mouth.
- Schizm: Mysterious Journey, being an FMV game, shows the people of Argilus as mostly speaking in their native language and bearing a triangular marking on their foreheads to show signs of not being human.
- The X-COM series have aliens that attempt to blend in with humans. The Snakemen in the original are...unconvincing, but the thin men are nearly perfect, and wear clothing specifically to cover the areas that don't look human (Specifically, their wrists and neck are greenish, and their eyes are clearly not human).
- Assassin's Creed has the Isu, a race of god-like beings that created advanced pieces of technology known as the Pieces of Eden. However, they are native to Earth and can interbreed with humans, but as revealed in Unity, they had triple helix DNA which made them a related but distinct species from their creations.
- In Earth Defense Force 5, the Colonist alien enemies are described as looking "almost exactly like humans", even though they clearly don't: they are building-sized Frog Men.
- Warframe has the Grineer, Tenno, and Corpus, all of whom are humans with minute differences, but with a subverted variant of the Transplaneted Humans justification, being that they all originated from actual humans long after our multi-planet civilization collapsed; genetically engineered slave races made by the now fallen solar-system spanning empire of the Orokin; the original humans. In fact, most of the scifi elements in universe are the result of the actions of interstellar humans. Even the Body Horror inducing zombie parasite Infested, breathable atmospheres on planets like Mars and Venus, and the Starfish Aliens from another solar system that are the Sentients are human creations. Everything in the setting originated from earth.
- The Man in the Wall may play it straight, though.
- Alien Dice has numerous examples of aliens who look similar to humans but with subtle differences, such as exotic Hair Colors or Cute Little Fangs. It also has a rather interesting subversion when it is revealed that the reason that the blueskinned Rishan look human is because they are human, having been created using genetic material taken from Earth humans generations ago.
- El Goonish Shive. Aliens and magical beings get around by wearing T-shirts that say "Human" or some such. (One person notices that his coworker is an alien. Her denying it is enough to convince the others, and she and this coworker wind up sending silly notes back and forth to each other about it.) Of course, Uryuoms being natural shapeshifters and the creators of Transformation Ray technology, they could hide by simply becoming human. Of course, that wouldn't be funny.
- Two of them hire Ted (seen in a flashback) to design human forms for them, and provide the technology for it - apparently there are legal/political/religious reasons why they can't do it themselves (because it requires the use of object-oriented programming), rather than an inability to do it themselves. Also, once they've been raygunned into humans, they can (implied) shift back and forth freely.
- It gets better. Uryuoms don't consider themselves actual aliens—as one of the pair who hired Tedd said, he's a natural-born American! Hence the above argument—the other characters knew she wasn't human, but she's not alien. Wonderful thing, jus soli, eh?
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!. Except for the cameo crossovers with Melonpool, Zortic, and Zeera the Space Pirate, all aliens depicted have been nonhumanoid in their true forms—although the Nemesites will typically disguise themselves as humans when dealing with Earthlings.
- The Darnathi in Isla Aukate modified themselves to look human in preparation for an infiltration-type invasion, their natural forms are more reptilian/amphibian. Unfortunately they crashed on an island populated by mythical creatures, so they kind of stand out.
- Inverted For Laughs in Invader Zim. Zim's species, the Irkens, are Humanoid Aliens at best, with solid-color eyes, green skin, antennae, and no nose or ears. But with a minimum of effort, nobody notices except for Dib.
- Captain Crandall of Teamo Supremo claims to be from another planet, despite the fact that he looks too much like his "Earth-mom" to possibly not be her child.
- Subverted in Monster Buster Club; Cathy seems like a Human Alien at first glance... but various lines indicate that this is just a human disguise like we see on other aliens in the series, and her true form hews closer to the Starfish Aliens trope.
- Star Trek: The Animated Series uses human aliens only for legacy species, illusion casters, and shapechangers. Otherwise, the aliens in the series are very alien indeed, taking full advantage of animation not requiring costly prosthetics or puppetry.
- Mostly averted in Men in Black with its Starfish Aliens, albeit some examples do exist including Jeebs unnamed species (identical to humans save for being green inside and be indestructible) and Aileens unnamed species (very similar to humans save for the dark blue skin and the tentacle-like retractile fingers).
- Darkwing Duck contains a planet called Mertz occupied by superpowered Homo sapiens. However, since Earth in this universe is occupied only by anthropomorphic animals, a visitor from that planet strikes Darkwing as a "bizarre-looking alien monstrosity."
- The Bortronians from Ready Jet Go! look like red-haired humans and can catch and fight off human diseases normally, implying their biology is similar as well.
- The SpacePOP girls are mostly human except for pointed ears and colorful skin, and Chamberlin and Captain Hansome look extremely human. While Geela has a more alien design, she also counts compared to other aliens who are clearly nonhuman.
- The Alteans in Voltron: Legendary Defender appear mostly human, though have a few differences, such as pointy elf ears, small marks of color next to their eyes, and sometimes white hair.
- Some conspiracy theorists believe that an alien/extradimensional evil race called the Reptilians take human appearance.