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Rubber-Forehead Aliens
aka: Rubber Forehead Alien

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This is the forehead that defeated countless enemies and charmed numerous women, but also got smacked down a lot.

"I'd buy a big prosthetic forehead
And wear it on my real head
Everybody wants prosthetic
Foreheads on their real heads"
They Might Be Giants, "We Want a Rock"

The tendency for several sci-fi alien species to merely be one or two facial features away from humanity.

Sometimes they're not even that far away. They look totally human and sound human. In some cases, this may well be a disguise or A Form You Are Comfortable With, but in others this appears to be their natural appearance. See Human Aliens.

You'd think that alien species would be radically different — insectoids, three-legged wombats, giant cats, etc. — but animal-cruelty laws tend to discourage fitting animals with prosthetics, and the effects budget only allows for latex and makeup, so we get humans with brow ridges, humans with extra nostrils, humans with Pointy Ears, humans with bony protrusions, and so on. (Of course, the makers of Star Wars found a way around this by building and operating startlingly lifelike puppets, making Humanoid Aliens and Starfish Aliens possible.) One odd consequence of this, however, is that in the Federation Council scenes in the Star Trek movies, you often see very strange, non-humanoid (or only partly humanoid) aliens, because the movies have the necessary additional budget for them. These additional races are, of course, never seen in the TV series at all.


Gene Roddenberry gave more reasons for this in an interview once. Budget constraints aside, if you try to make aliens look completely alien, you'll firstly make them look ridiculous (cf. Doctor Who), and secondly make it doubly hard for the actor playing the alien to do anything mildly resembling acting. This has actually been isolated to extremely specific requirements: if an audience can't see an actor's eyes or mouth, their ability to empathize with or emotionally invest in that character is significantly impaired. This is one reason why mooks, especially SF mooks like the Cylons or the Imperial Stormtroopers, are so often uniformed in face-obscuring helmets. Additionally, Roddenberry had always insisted that Star Trek was about human issues and that the aliens are intended as vehicles for social commentary. This required aliens that may have been scientifically implausible (humanoid appearance, ability to communicate in English and emote like humans, etc) but easy for the human characters to interact with and the audience to relate to in the narrative. Trek fans may assume that the pure hard SF adventures and alien encounters occur offscreen.


The anime equivalent is the alien with Pointy Ears, colorful facial markings, chromatic skin tones (sometimes hair too, if Humans are restricted to normal colors), or cutesy animal-like traits.

Rubber foreheads also tend to be paired up with Humans Are White for some reason, likely the fact that back in the 60s/70s it was easier to get a black, Latino, or Asian actor on TV by gluing something to their heads and claiming that they were raceless otherworldly beings instead. You will virtually never see a Caucasian-coloured Klingon, which means that the makeup department actually has to do a lot more work when a white actor plays one.

Another more scientific explanation of this is the theory that most advanced alien species will look roughly similar to humans due to the soap bubble theory that our physical layout is the most efficient one for an oxygen-breathing carbon-based life form. Indeed, Star Trek eventually stated that all of the human-like species in their universe originated from a common ancestor species that seeded life on other planets to encourage similar evolutionary roots, with an image of the ancestors being generally lacking in any notable features themselves.

The next step past Rubber Forehead Aliens (catlike or buglike or lizardlike aliens that can still sit in chairs and hold weapons) is Humanoid Aliens, possibly overlapping with Intelligent Gerbils. Contrast with Starfish Aliens. The Uncanny Valley can result if your RF Alien looks a little too human. Possible sister trope to Bizarre Alien Limbs, if the make-up crew opts for weird rubber hands instead of facial appliances.


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  • In UK advertising, the Tefal Eggheads.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Crest of the Stars: The Abh were distinguished by their blue hair though some of them also had pointy ears. This one does get justified, though, in that the Abh are in fact genetically altered humans, who even call their stellar nation the "Humankind Empire Abh" (or a variant, depending on how you translate it); the Abh see themselves as humans with a few different traits, while their (non-modded) enemies tend to see them as vile aliens, wholly different from humanity. One of the narrative thrusts of the work is examining just how human they really are - or aren't.
  • Outlaw Star: The C'tarl-C'tarl, are essentially Cat Girls(and boys of course) from space. Were-Catgirls, as we later found out.
  • UFO Robo Grendizer: The Vegans and other alien races have strangely-shaped heads or unusual skin or hair colours at the very least. Gandal has blue skin and his head looks cubic due to his very angular features, his wide forehead, and that the top of his head is nearly flat. Blackie has dark-purple skin, pointy ears and a very pointy, hairless head. Even the most human-looking aliens -like Rubina- have bluish or abnormally pale skin, black irises or green or aquamarine hair (keep in mind no human character in this anime is blue-haired).
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! does this with many inhabitants of the magic world; they look like normal people, but with horns or weird shaped ears or something. The rest are Petting Zoo People.
  • The Saiyans in Dragon Ball Z are just humans with tails in appearance; that turn into giant monkeys during a full moon. Dragon Ball Z is very bad about this. There's even a whole race of "humans but skin is different color"; the Brench-seijin, which Jeice and Salza belong to.
  • Practically all aliens in Leijiverse. Mazone, Illumidas, Tokarga... they're all humans with slightly different skin colour, even the Mazone who are plants. Miime's race is unrevealed, but she's also fully humanoid apart from not having visible mouth in most? story versions.
  • Cat Planet Cuties features Little Bit Beastly aliens like the Catians (cats) and Dogisians (dogs). Hilariously, the Catians originally called their home planet Earth and referred to themselves as Earthlings — they changed the name of their planet and species to Catia out of courtesy. A race of bunny girls is also briefly mentioned.
  • Macross has many examples, with the most notable being the Zentraedi; once you got past the whole size difference thing, they're nearly identical to humans, with the exception of skin and hair tones of varying offness to human norms. Later entries also tended to give pointy ears to Zentraedi (and humans with Zentraedi ancestry). This similarity is because both species' evolutions were heavily influenced by the Protoculture.
    • The Zolans in Macross 7 are another Protoculture-influenced species who appear mostly similar to humans, except for very Pointy Ears, two-toned brightly-colored hair, and prominent fur on the forearms of the men. They are also implied to be marsupials, like most of the lifeforms on their homeworld.
    • The Ragnans of Macross Delta basically look like dark-skinned humans who happen to have gills, webbing, and fins. There's also the Windermerians, who are physically indistinguishable from humans outside of having at least one antenna-like tentacle growing out of their hair, and the Voldorians, who are basically Little Bit Beastly Cat Folk. Like humanity, Zentraedi, and the Zolans, the natives of Ragna, Windermere, and Voldor are "children of the Protoculture".
  • One of the main characters in Ulysses 31 is Yumi, a young Zatrian girl. The Zatrians are a humanoid race with pale blue skin, orange eyes, light blond hair and pointed ears.
  • Digimon actually has this in the form of Agunimon, whose appearance is justified by him being the Human Spirit of Flame. He looks mostly human, except that he has '80s Hair, fangs, and red markings on his face. Oh, and his boots are designed to accommodate claws.

    Comic Books 
  • Elves in ElfQuest are humans with pointy ears and four fingers. This is because their shapeshifting alien ancestors deliberately took on a human-resembling form before landing (they even reshaped their spaceship to look like a palace). But even before that (flashbacks), said ancestors already looked fairly human in shape, and would have qualified as Humanoid Aliens at least.
  • Though technically Human Aliens, Viltrumites from Invincible are also Hairy Upper Lip Aliens. All Viltrumites have black hair, and all male Viltrumites have mustaches, which makes it pretty easy to tell them apart from humans. In fact, one character simply removed his fake beard, showing his Viltrumite mustache, in a pretty hilarious reveal.
  • Harry Vanderspeigle, the protagonist of Resident Alien, is one. He has a similar physique to a human but has characteristics like purple skin and pointed ears to set him apart.
  • Lampshaded in some Space Agent Valérian book. There are quite a few non-human aliens but also a multitude of practically humans, to the point where it's mentioned that "one head, two hands, two feet, two eyes, could be anyone".
  • The Kree, from Marvel Comics, are extraterrestrials with two main races: the blue-skinned (such as Ronan the Accuser), and others who seem completely human (such as Captain Mar-Vell and Marvel Boy). There's a little problem: the blue Krees are dominant in the Kree social hierarchy, and treat the others as worthless slaves. With such a background, Ronan's original opinion of us humans is nobody's surprise. He eventually got better, up to and including marrying the human-looking Inhuman princess Crystal and defending her and her kind against other blue Kree who called them 'pink-skinned lab apes', and later becoming an ally to the Guardians of the Galaxy, but the social attitude still persists in other Kree.
  • The Quardians, like Kaliber from Superboy and the Ravers and the Green Lantern foes the Weaponers of Qward, look like large pink hairless people wearing odd contacts.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The kreel, who are the ruling people of the Sangtee Empire, look like humans wearing red contacts, purple paint, fake pointy ears with incised helixes and some prosthetic makeup bits covering up their hair and giving them barbels and flattish hair substitutes.
  • The Graxians from the Supergirl story arc Red Daughter of Krypton are blue-skinned humanoids with flat noses and cow-like ears.
  • In Supergirl (Volume 2) issue #21, Superman and Supergirl come upon the Seeders, basically humanoid but with pink skin, blue-hair and vaguely-feline features.
  • The Warzoon from Superman story War World are red-skinned, fanged humanoid aliens.
  • The Czarnians (Lobo's species) were (or just barely are, since Lobo is the last one) basically human except for red eyes, pale gray skin, and huge '80s Hair (usually black).
  • The Atlantines in Dan Dare are human but with blue skin and a visible lump on the forehead. A nice subversion later reveals that they are actually human: the descendents of people kidnapped from Earth aeons ago, and their differences from Earth people are adaptations that evolved to enable them to survive on Venus.
  • While Les Mondes d'Aldébaran features a huge variety of alien species, the only sapient aliens encountered so far look very much like humans, except that they are entirely hairless and have a flat nose reminiscent of a cat's muzzle (an impression reinforced by their yellow eyes and slit pupils). They do have a semi-aquatic life cycle, much like the Mantrisses, who come from the same planet.
  • Most Martian civilizations in Warlord of Mars are indistinguishable from humans except for their unusual skin tone and laying eggs instead of giving birth. The First-Born are grey skinned, the Okarans have golden-skin and the Red Martians are reddish-copper toned. The Therns are the closest to Human Aliens and the Green Martians are on way another level.
  • The Psycogs and the Ethereals in Khaal: The Chronicles of a Galactic Emperor. The former are human beings with different colors and exotic head protrusions while the latter have three fingers and long tails.
  • Copperhead is home to a ridiculously diverse alien population. Some are distinguishable only by nonhuman skin color (Thaddeus) or unusual ears (Nestor and Zolo).
  • From DC Comics, the Thanagarians look exactly like humans save for the giant wings sprouting from their backs.
  • Tamaraneans such as Starfire of Teen Titans fame, are indistinguishable from humans, save the solid green eyes and gold/orange colored skin, yet are specifically stated to taxonomically be felines rather than apes. Anyway, Tamaranians look enough like humans that for a time, Starfire had a successful career as a fashion model.

    Fan Works 
  • Lampshaded slightly in A Changed World, based on Star Trek Online. Dr. Warragul Wirrpanda, USS Bajor's chief medical officer and a human, tells a time-shifted Bajoran that "the only significant difference between you and a female of my species is some uterine quirks. Now, Bolians, those are a real challenge."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This Island Earth's aliens were similar to humans except for huge foreheads and white hair.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the character of Dr. Lazarus from the Show Within The Show is played by Alexander Dane (who is in turn played by Alan Rickman) wearing a rubber forehead. The Thermians think he is a real alien, even though his rubber forehead begins to show damage and develop holes over the course of the adventure. The Thermians themselves are a subversion of this: on first appearance, they look like short-ish humans who have Vulcans for hair stylists, but it's later revealed that this is just A Form You Are Comfortable With.
  • The movie Trail of the Screaming Forehead takes this to the logical extreme. The aliens are foreheads that attach themselves to humans. The movie is pure, high quality B grade.
  • The Fifth Element has a variety of particularly tacky examples. The alien opera-singer sort of looked like a hybrid between an Asari, a Twi'lek and a Xenomorph. Mangalore warriors from the same movie appear to be this but were actually the products of CGI and animatronic costumes.
  • Battlefield Earth featured the Psychlos, whose main distinguishing features were that they were big, had eyebrows that joined their hair, high foreheads, and dreadlocks.
  • Prince of Space: the men of Krankor are rubber nose aliens. This might have been slightly more badass had the noses not had a silhouette much like a chicken beak.
  • Unlike Star Trek, Star Wars generally tries to avoid relying on this trope by striking a balance between Rubber Forehead Aliens and Starfish Aliens, making most alien species look like bizarrely tweaked, vaguely humanoid versions of non-primate animals. However, there are quite a few species that look almost human; the most famous example is probably the head-tentacled Twi'leks, who are often considered sexually appealing to Humans and can interbreed with them. Interestingly, the 1999-2005 prequels shifted the focus away from animal-like aliens and toward this trope (Zabraks, Togrutas, Cereans, etc.), presumably because the prequels were meant to be more serious in tone than the 1977-1983 originals, and too many Petting Zoo People could have made Anakin Skywalker's story too campy to take seriously.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy has multiple examples among its main cast, to say nothing of hundreds of extras:
    • Gamora, a Green-Skinned Space Babe with a few little markings on her face and no eyebrows, who otherwise looks human.
    • Drax, a large grey-skinned (but not a Grey) humanoid alien covered in red tattoos.
    • Ronan the Accuser, a blue-skinned Kree (see the comic book section above), albeit a sicklier, more greyish blue than his comic book counterpart, and with purple eyes and unevenly-shaped irises.
    • His chief henchman, Korath, is a Kree cyborg who otherwise looks like a human male with unusually pale blue eyes.
    • Nebula, Gamora's adoptive sister, an originally purple-skinned, bald alien woman, now a cyborg with extensive areas of blue grafted synthetic skin.
    • Carina, the Collector's pink-skinned Krylorian (in this universe, essentially a literally pink Kree) assistant.
    • The Collector himself might qualify, seeing as he has a handful of facial markings that could be natural or could be tattoos or makeup.
  • The Men in Black films have a mix of this and Starfish Aliens. The former is significantly more prominent in Men in Black 3, in the 1969 MIB headquarters, which is a deliberate nod to The '60s' sci-fi films.

  • Averted in Animorphs. Not only do all the other alien races look nothing like humans, but it turns out that humans are the only civilization in the universe that walks upright on two legs.
    • Well, Hork-Bajir have two legs, but they have their tails for balance, and generally look like dinosaurs.
    • Word of God is that Applegate originally intended to use these just in case the series got a Live-Action Adaptation. Then Scholastic rejected the idea and told Applegate to be more creative. So she did and made the aliens damn-near IMPOSSIBLE to adapt to live-action (at the time). Then the TV series was made and we all know how that turned out.
    • This trope is lampshaded and mocked countless times in the books. Due to the book's tendency to describe what the same aliens look like each book, the number of times the Animorphs have said something to the effect of "REAL aliens aren't just humans with rubber foreheads and putty on their faces" could fill an entire page on it's own.
    • That being said, it's mentioned once that the seldom-mentioned and never-seen Ongachic race resemble Klingons; specifically, Ax sees Worf in a movie and says that he's "clearly" an Ongachic female.
  • Played with in Alastair Reynolds novel House of Suns; All of the civilizations in the Milky Way originally came from Earth, but over millions years (the novel is in 6.3 million AD) they have diverged somewhat. One of the characters seen in the story has a elephant-like trunk, and other humans are mentioned as having scales or full body hair.
  • Star Wars has a lot of humanoid aliens, most of which find the nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere found on human-inhabited planets tolerable, if not comfortable (there are exceptions to this rule, such as the Kel Dor, who must wear goggles and breather masks at all times on human-habitable worlds). There are also, however, several non-humanoids, including a handful of insectoids, a lobster-like species, more than a few quadrapeds or hexapeds... and one that looks like nothing so much as a floating brain. The most human-like aliens are called near-human, and are considered to have descended from humans (the blue-skinned, red-eyed but otherwise human Chiss are a typical example).
    • New Jedi Order: The Yuuzhan Vong look like big, muscle-y humans with a few deliberate errors- their skin tones are varying shades of grey rather than brown, they have talons instead of fingernails, their foreheads are prominent and sloped, their eye-sockets droop like a basset hound's, and their hair is almost always black when they're not bald (which is more common among them than it is among humans). Artists also commonly depict them with pointed ears, though this is never described in the novels. Since they treat ritualized Body Horror as a mark of high status, the higher-ranked a Vong is, the less humanoid they usually look (for example, having "skull-faces" due to slicing off large sections of their noses).
    • The Noghri (Darth Vader's, Grand Admiral Thrawn's, and eventually Princess Leia's personal bodyguards) look basically like short, bald humans - but they also have claws, fangs, gray skin, large black eyes, and bony ridges on their skulls.
    • The Yevetha could pass for emaciated humans if not for their armor-plated skin, pure black eyes, gigantic claws, and six fingers on each hand.
  • The Psychlos in the book version of Battlefield Earth are vaguely-described, but come across as big, hairy humans, save for inexplicable "eyebones" and "mouthbones" instead of eyelids or lips.
  • Justified in Anathem: the Urnudans, Latierrans etc are humans from the universe next door.
  • The Classic Space Opera The Lensman Series had human, humanoid and utterly alien species. It also had a guiding sentient race that was controlling evolution on many different planets.
  • Justified in the early science fiction novels, Last and First Men. The varieties of human aliens are a result of original humanity escaping from a dying Earth. For two billion years, humanity evolves through nine different stages and splits off into a smaller set of subgroups.
  • Wicked Lovely tends to go this route with a lot of The Fair Folk. Niall, for example, is described as having "too-sheer skin, like parchment by a flame, and too many joints."
  • The aliens in Deathscent by Robin Jarvis are somewhere between this and Humanoid Aliens. While both races look quite like humans - enough that when one first arrives the human characters don't realise what he is until they see him in the light - their biology is very different. One of them perceives the world primarily through sense of smell, has four nostrils (one of which is in the forehead) and speaks a musical Starfish Language.
  • A large number of the Culture's alien species are near human. It was explained away as a convergent evolution thing. In fact, most of the books take place before humanity as we know it achieves spaceflight. Most of the Culture's citizens are Human Aliens and no distinction is made between them and us.
  • C. J. Cherryh's series Foreigner deals with the deceptively humanoid alien race known as the Atevi. While they look similar to us, they think very different then Humans.
  • Many of the land-dwelling races in the Books of the Raksura are human-looking, but with a trait such as fur, horns, oddly colored skin, or the like.
  • Subverted in David Brin's Uplift novel Brightness Reef. The Rothen, a human-like alien race trying to con human beings, wear artificial foreheads and other facial prosthetics to make themselves appear more human-like. The Tymbrimi are genuine Rubber Forehead Aliens, mostly-human looking though with different proportions and facial features, granted they're minor shapeshifters who can gradually change their features over time. All the other aliens in the series are Intelligent Gerbils or Starfish Aliens.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Star Beast, the Rargyllian Dr. Ftaeml is described as a Medusiod Alien, being a humanoid with tentacles on his head resembling snakes. There is also passing mention of exchange students from Procyon VII who are "cephalopods".
  • Older Than Feudalism: The very first "science fiction" novel, A True Story by the Ancient Roman author Lucian, has rubber forehead aliens living on the Moon... and the Sun and several stars. A Moon-person looks basically human but has one toe on each foot, a marsupial pouch in his belly, a leaf growing out of his butt, and leaves for ears. They do have a lot of Bizarre Alien Biology (removable eyes and genitals, hermaphroditic/all-male reproduction, the ability to grow people on trees, etc.)
  • The Catteni from Anne McCaffrey's Catteni quartet would be Human Aliens except for their grey skin. This is made fairly explicit when several human characters successfully disguise themselves as Catteni with face paint.
  • Wasp: The Sirians are very similar to humans, their most striking feature being their purple skin, a "bow-legged gait", and a number of other minor differences. This helps Mowry (a human) in passing as a Sirian without suspicions.
  • Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy could be considered one. He looks perfectly human except for his extra head. In the movie, the head is implied to be artificial just like his third arm, but it also introduces the idea that his species requires more than two sexual partners to reproduce: "He shares three of the same mothers as me." Not to mention that such an arrangement could result in one black kid and one white kid, meaning skin tone must work more like hair color does for humans.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alien Nation. They're bald and their foreheads look like Mikhail Gorbachev's turned Up to Eleven.
  • Babylon 5 is almost a case study on alien race-types on television. The Shadows and Vorlons were Starfish Aliens. Then, the League of Non-Aligned Worlds, the minor powers of the region, were a mix of this and Humanoid Aliens. The Minbari were Rubber-Back-of-the-Head Aliens, being bald humans with a bony crest covering the back of their skulls (which they apparently actually carved into the elaborate shapes we see much as humans cut hair), and the Narn were fairly elaborate Rubber Forehead Reptilians. The Centauri were a bit of an odd bird, since they were superficially Human Aliens (which was actually a part of their backstory, Centauri explorers/con artists almost convinced humanity we were a lost Centauri colony, until someone got hold of a Centauri DNA sample and figured out we have more genes in common with octopi), and their Bizarre Alien Biology was rarely shown outrightnote , but was frequently referenced and became a plot point fairly frequently.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel have a lot of demonic races that are essentially humans in various different colors of facepaint. However, this is justified because almost all demons that appear are possessing or have interbred or been contaminated by humans. The few Pure Demons that have appeared didn't look remotely human:
    The Mayor's final form, a giant insectoid serpent.
    The demon below the Hellgate, a mass of tentacles with a never seen "true face".
    Illyria, a metal-clad, taloned mass of tentacles.
  • The Martians in El Chapulín Colorado are normally actors (most commonly Rubén Aguirre who was very tall in real life (1,90 meters or around 6,23 feet) with a bold cap and heavy make-up.
  • Most of the demons on Charmed looked like humans decked out in heavy makeup, ear extensions and snaggle-teeth.
  • Multiple Votan species in Defiance look a lot like humans.
    • Irathients have bright red hair, red and white skin patterns, and a slightly more prominent forehead.
    • Castithans have very pale skin and white hair.
    • Indogenes have no hair and white (actual white) skin covered with hexagon patterns, justified as they are cyborgs.
    • Bio-men on the other hand are hulking, blue-skinned, and bald, but are actually human Super Soldiers.
    • Omec have purple skins with patterns, silver irises, and large canines.
  • Some of the aliens in Doctor Who fit in this category.
    • Thals are essentially no different from humans other than bleach-blonde hair (with makeup-like facial markings in the Cushing movies). The Kaleds, encountered later, are all black-haired humanoids (until they became Daleks, anyway).
    • Both the races in "The Space Museum" — Moroks have exaggerated hairlines, while Xerons have a second set of eyebrows and heavily shadowed eyelids.
    • The Drahvin in "Galaxy 4", who look like blond women except with dark spotted patterns in place of eyebrows.
    • The Teknix in "The Daleks' Master Plan", which look human but have no hair or eyebrows.
    • Dominators in "The Dominators" look like tall, dark-haired men, but all have sideburns, dark crags in their faces, and heavily red-rimmed eyes.
    • The Inter Minoran bureaucrats in "Carnival of Monsters" have grey skin and bald pates. (One slips off in the ending scene, if you're looking for it.) The Inter Minoran functionaries have snouts. The Lurmans have orange-toned skin.
    • Peladonians in "The Curse of Peladon" and "The Monster of Peladon" have naturally multi-toned hair — strawberry blond and white for aristos, kinky brown with blond stripes for the working class. The hairlines are lowered and join to the eyebrows over the temples for some characters.
    • Lampshaded in "Midnight", where two characters discuss meeting an alien with a large forehead.
    • According to The Writer's Tale, the aliens that were to become the Vinvocci were called the Prostheticons in the rough draft.
    • The Kahler from "A Town Called Mercy" look almost completely human except for a rune-like birthmark on one side of their forehead. The Doctor exploits this: knowing that the cyborg-assassin Anti-Villain is trying to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties, he paints the birthmark of his intended victim onto the faces of several humans and forces him to disable his auto-targeting software.
    • The Expanded Universe has offered an explanation; Rassilon, the founder of Time Lord society, was a bit of a racist and deliberately tinkered with evolution so that races resembling his own would be more likely to evolve. While it's uncertain if this is considered canon, the show has addressed that humans and Time Lords look almost identical.
      Amy: You look human.
      The Doctor: No, you look Time Lord. We were here first.
    • "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos": The only feature that distinguishes the Ux from humans are spiral-shaped, raised Facial Markings on their cheeks.
  • In spite of its subversions of this trope, Farscape has a few species of these floating around, albeit usually more a case of body painted and Anime Hair wig aliens than rubber-forehead.
    • Nebari look human except for their monotone grey skin and the fact that their hair colour depends entirely on their gender.
      • Subverted wonderfully in the 19th episode of season one, in which Chiana, a Nebari, dons utterly unconvincing magnolia-coloured pancake makeup and a black wig (which might count as cross-dressing for a Nebari woman). She does this in an attempt to pass for Sebacean, where Sebaceans look exactly like humans, but does nothing about her enormous aniridic pupils or grey lips. For some reason, it works for a while.
    • Delvians look like blue, scaly humans. The series' main Delvian is bald, but others have hair.
    • Khalish have intense blue-green eyes and a few transparent scales on their temples.
    • The Luxans have a fairly elaborate tentacle-featuring face prosthetic, but still count as an example of this trope.
    • Most Sebaceans look exactly like humans (justified, since they are Transplanted Humans with some genetic engineering thrown in), but we see several with skin and eye colors not seen on Earth which would qualify if the whole race shared them. There are also several individuals and cultures whose race is ambiguous; they may be Ethnicities or they may not. One episode had a race that the Sabations claim is a lost colony of a Sabation subspecies, although the locals deny any biological connection.
  • The early 1970s Roddenberry production Genesis II had post-humans with two navels as their "distinguishing characteristic". That was mostly a "screw you" towards the censors. For some reason, up until then navels were considered taboo.
  • A recurring sketch on Human Giant is an actor who plays one of these on a show called Battle Sector 17. Fed up with having to spend the time to apply the make-up he gets surgery to make it permanent... just before the show is canceled. He then spends several episodes trying to get work but no one will take him because of the make-up, not even for his old Battle Sector 17 character. When he finally gets a job he has to spend hours to get make-up to make him look human, it doesn't quite work.
  • Except for Yaliph (a sentient blop) most aliens we've seen until now in The Orville are rubber-forehead; this include the rigged-headed Moclans and the Xelayans that only have Pointy Ears and some marks over the eyebrows (probably in order to let Lt. Kitan to be an Alien Space Babe).
  • In the season finale of Other Space, an alien reveals that its insectoid appearance is actually a mask and that its true form is this.
  • Used in Power Rangers on those rare occasions when aliens aren't either people in full-body rubber suits or regular actors using a silly name. Aquitians, for example, have a purple... thing on their head (external braincase?), and Xybrians have green hair and a gem embedded in their forehead.
  • The Coneheads from Saturday Night Live were conceived as a parody of the '50s B-movie Rubber Forehead Alien.
  • Parodied by Bill Bailey in Space Cadets. Interlock fingers of both hands. Place palms on foreheads. Voila! Instant Klingon.
  • Space Precinct loves it some actors with rubber heads on. The sheer contrast between big rubber head and undisguised human body gives the whole thing a farcical charm.
  • Most "aliens" in the Stargate-verse are just humans, transported from Earth in antiquity. But of those that don't, some — particularly other species used as hosts by the Goa'uld — still fit this Trope.
  • In Star Trek, Klingons, Vulcans, Bajorans, Ferengi, and Cardassians, just to name a few. In fact, the majority of all races encountered in every Star Trek series has two arms, two legs, a head, and a general chest area. The exceptions are usually Monster of the Week types. Most common is a small latex prosthetic on the bridge of the nose or eyebrow. It's no wonder that Stargate SG-1 (Voyager's contemporary) gave up on all pretense and filled the universe with plain humans.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Chase" provides a tidy explanation (part retcon, part Lampshade Hanging) for the prevalence of these in the Star Trek universe. All the main races in the universe (humans included) were created from "seeds" placed in their respective worlds' primordial oceans by an even more ancient humanoid race.
    • There's another Lampshade Hanging when the Bajoran Ro Laren, who has something of a chip on her shoulder, refers to herself as "the token bumpy-forehead".
    • Another Lampshade Hanging occurs in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Chimera" in this conversation between two changelings, Odo and Laas:
      Laas: And humanoids are not very tolerant of difference.
      Odo: Some of them are. There are dozens of species on this station. They tolerate each other's differences very well.
      Laas: He has bumps on his forehead. She has a wrinkled nose. But they're basically alike. They're bipeds that eat, sleep, breathe. You and I are nothing like them.
    • For example, the Bajorans. Small ridges on the nose are the only visible differences between fully-clothed Bajorans and fully clothed Humans. There is a reason for this: the Bajoran makeup was designed the way it is specifically to make sure that the (numerous) Bajoran females who would appear in the franchise would all still be good-looking. The Bajorans were also planned from the outset to be refugees. The minimal makeup was convenient for costuming large crowds and child actors.
    • The producers tended to do a good job of giving the Bajorans distinctive (albeit uniform) features in other respects, though. Bajorans almost always have short hair, regardless of sex, and they are normally always short and of thin build. Clothing is pretty much always either burgundy red or light beige, and both sexes almost always wear elaborate earrings. This had to do with the religion of the Prophets; a Bajoran psychic could gain information about a person's "pagh," or soul, by holding onto their left ear. The earrings are also distinctive enough (apparently of a unique design for each individual) that they were once used to identify the skeletal remains of prisoners who died in a transport crash.
    • Parodied in this article from The Onion.
    • Klingons only gained their rubber foreheads when the movies' increased budget permitted it. Prior to the retcon, they were Entire Bottle of Bronzer and Upswept Eyebrows Aliens. In fact, until attention was called to it in Deep Space Nine, the Literary Agent Hypothesis was the official explanation: in-universe, they weren't considered to look exactly like humans. There just wasn't the budget to portray them as they actually looked. (There's actually an onscreen reference, sort of: a Klingon posing as a human was said to have been surgically altered to appear human. If we take what's onscreen at face value, it wouldn't take surgery, just a haircut.)
    • One of the most offensive Klingon insults is "Hab SoSlI' Quch!", which translates to "Your mother has a smooth forehead!"
    • The 2009 movie seems to be going out of its way to give us a new variation with the large eyed aliens.
      • It also makes the Romulans worse than the Klingons in the "where'd the foreheads come from?" department. They went from having ridges to to not having them to having them again to having lost them again. What? Also, while Klingons' gaining ridges after TOS has been referenced, and explained much later, there has never been any onscreen acknowledgment of the changes in Romulans. Some Expanded Universe stories pass it off as forehead ridges as just being something that some Romulans have and others don't, though this does nothing to explain why ridged and ridgeless Romulans have never been seen on-screen together. There's also never been an explanation for why Vulcans never have them, even though they're supposed to be different cultures of the same race.
      • The Klingons' appearance in a deleted scene of the movie is actually something of a Lampshade Hanging of this issue, as the Klingons we see have ridged... masks (as in what the characters are wearing). We don't actually see their faces.
      • Even more curiously, photos of Victor Garber with his Klingon helmet off show that he had been given a ridged nose... even though it would have not been visible onscreen.
    • The Star Trek franchise has racked up several nominations (and wins) for awards in makeup because of how often they have had to pull some crazy stunts with the rubber. One nomination, for instance, was for a Ferengi who put bigger earlobes over her own to look male. That's right, prosthetics on top of other prosthetics.
    • When a character disguises himself as alien from a different species, this usually happens within the story via super-advanced, easily reversible 24th century surgery. In Star Trek: Enterprise though, taking place in the less advanced 22nd century, the glued on rubber foreheads of disguised NX-01 crewmen are even really just glued on rubber foreheads in-universe!
    • Betazoids are notable in that their One Facial Feature is so subtle that they have an entry on the Human Aliens page: they have all-black irises.
    • All of this was parodied by the production staff on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: when they had a test printout of their episode script formatting and needed a fake episode title for it, they went with "ATTACK OF THE ALIENS WITH BUMPS ON THEIR FOREHEADS!"
  • The television series of the novel trilogy The Tripods averts this, just as the books do. The Masters were tripedal creatures that differed a bit from their book description, but it was still one of the first times a television series did not employ this trope.
  • The Twilight Zone
    • The episode titled "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up". The setting of this episode is a rural restaurant. During the 25 minute episode, we wonder which one among a group of people is the alien. It turns out, we were seeing the alien all along, and that there were two of them. One alien has an extra arm (this one is from Mars). The other one has a third eye (he's from Venus).
    • There are some hilarious rubber headed aliens in "Mr. Dingle, the Strong" which feature one race as two guys stuck together with metal antennas on their heads and another race as children with painted mustaches partially inflated balloons on their head and two bug-like antennas. Thankfully that episode was meant to be a comedy.
    • The infamous "To Serve Man" featured tall aliens with larger brains.
  • Kind of a given on the make up effects reality show Face/Off. Though there are a few challenges where they are forced to come up with more unique designs, like the Alien Zoo challenge and the Green Screen Alien challenge.

    Newspaper Comics 


    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The in-universe setting book Xenology references this. While the Eldar, the Tau, and (to a lesser extent) the Orks look outwardly humanoid, inside the races are nothing alike. The tech-priest doing the dissections is extremely confused by this, especially since his other subjects aren't remotely humanoid. What the tech-priest doesn't know that players and fans do is that many species were created by the Great Old Ones.
    • Speaking of which, the Eldar straddle the line between this and Humanoid Aliens. They are thin, graceful, pointy-eared (Elf expies In Space!), but their body structure is much more lithe and spindly.
    • Orkoids:
      • Orks look like, well, Orcs. They're humanoid, but green and have small eyes, exaggerated lantern jaws, large numbers of long, thick teeth with a pair of prominent tusks for their lower canines. The thing that starts to test the limits of this trope is the size of them, as Orks get bigger the older and more battle-hardened they become; the average Ork boy is the size of a large human athlete, but warbosses become inhumanly huge. There are even recorded, very rare instances of Orks who become the size of small buildings.
      • Grots and Snotlings, the Orks' smaller, goblinoid brethren are somewhat different. Grots could pass for this trope, since they are about the size of a child, being about 1 meter or so tall. Snotlings are visually similar, but even smaller.
      • Squigs avert this trope entirely, as they are animals. Even if you wanted to wrap this trope around the animal kingdom, most squigs don't really have a good analog, since most are egg-shaped critters that are basically rudimentary biological and locomotive systems wrapped around an enormous, fang-lined maw. Some squigs become more analogous to actual creatures, like sharks or mammoths.
    • Tau are much better fit to this trope, as they are humanoid, but are distinctive enough. They have hooves for feet, hands with four fingers apiece, have skin tones that vary between blue to grey, have solid red eyes, and have a single slit in their head for a nose. Certain castes have differing builds, but the only real outlier are the Ethereal caste, who have a bony protrusion on their forehead, and it's speculated to be related to why the other castes are so fanatically and blindly loyal to them. Oh, and despite what the countless pieces of fanart would tell you, female Tau aren't very attractive by human standards.
  • Space Munchkin the RPG parodies this trope with the "Bumpy Headed Alien" racial choice. You choose, among other things, your facial bumps, the concept your entire species is devoted to, and the one aspect of human culture your species doesn't understand ("we do not have a word for this thing you call 'hygiene'")
  • Teenagers from Outer Space divides aliens into one of three types: Near Humans (which tend to be either this trope or Human Aliens), Not Very Near Humans, and Real Weirdies.
  • In Pathfinder, elves are Ancient Astronauts from Castrovel who got to Golarion through long range portals. They still look basically like humans with pointy ears.

    Video Games 
  • The Split race in the X-Universe games are tall human-like aliens with very rough looking narrow faces, and odd colored skin.
  • The dominant race in the Jak and Daxter series are humans with excessively long pointy ears.
  • Subverted in Phantasy Star with Newmans/Numans, and later Beasts in Phantasy Star Universe. Sure, they look human enough, save for their ears and (in the case of Beasts) their harelips and eyes ... but they aren't actually aliens at all. They're actually genetically engineered humans. Played straight, though: The three planets' humanoid species are Parmanian/Palmanian (humans), Motavian (furred, beaked humanoids), and Dezolisian/Dezorisian (Rubber Forehead Aliens with green skin).
  • Mass Effect:
    • Asari fit the trope perfectly, being blue-skinned alien space babes. Although their tentacles are actually on the back of their heads, where a human would have hairnote . While they wear the same armor as humans in-game, every race sees them as their equivalent of blue-skinned alien space babes except possibly the Krogan, who still see them as attractive.
    • In Mass Effect 3, if a male Shepard romanced Tali and saved the quarian fleet, Tali will leave a photo of herself without mask or helmet on his nightstand. It turns out that were it not for the skin markings, the three-fingered hands, and the avian legs, she could pass for human. It helps that her "photo" is literally a photoshopped stock image of a model
    • On the technical side, the developers of Mass Effect admit that when it comes to fighting their alien designs were limited to bipeds with human proportions because of the Unreal engine's combat system. That's the reason you never see any of the more alien races such as the Elcor or Hanar in-combat; each race would require whole new skeleton rigs of their own.
  • In the Star Ocean games, Nedians and Expellians are identical to humans, while Roakians all have tails (and there are "Lesser Fellpool" who are more similar to cats, including cat ears. Interestingly, Roddick makes sure the Earthlings know that they're related to cats rather than monkeys, seeming to indicate that they descended from them. The third game introduced a bunch more alien species, some of which are humanoid dolphins, dwarves and such, others of which look practically identical to humans.
  • Miriam in Shining Force Feather might be a living Lampshade Hanging. She meets our protagonists and is immediately amazed, as she hasn't ever seen a human before. Never mind that Miriam is an elf, and that the only difference between her and Jin are her pointy ears, slanted eyes, and skinnier build. One scene later, she meets Alfin and is equally wowed, as she's never seen a Core Unit before, despite that Core Units are... Ridiculously Human Robots. Meanwhile, she meets all the varieties of Petting Zoo People with no more than chipper enthusiasm.
  • Stellar Santiago in Space Quest VI: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier (though this trope is otherwise mostly absent from the Space Quest series).
  • Most barbari races of Taming Dreams fit the description. Bold have a furry nose and a cleft upper lip and the Meek have doe ears and antlers on the males.
  • In The Sims franchise:
    • In The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, alien sims are just like human sims, except for the green skin and the completely black eyes.
    • In The Sims 4, alien sims remains not so physically different from human sims, except that they now have different sets of inhuman skintones (like blue and purple) and eyes.
  • On the initial release, Stellaris deliberately averted this; aside from humanity, the selection was a mixture of roughly Humanoid Aliens and truly bizarre forms. Eventually, by popular demand, an entire (relatively small) category for humans and very human-like aliens (include Space Elves and Klingon look-alikes) was added. The "Humanoids Species Pack" then added a few more, most of them being based on typical fantasy races, such as orcs, dwarves or cyclopses.

  • Ayuri: Dobeks, which are domesticated humanoids with the intelligence (and fashion sense) of a dog.
  • Inverted in a strip of Bogleech Comics, where the vast majority of aliens appear very similar to sharks.
  • Subverted in Freefall: Sam Starfall looks humanoid, but it's really a suit to let him operate in an Earth-like environment. We don't get to see his true appearance, but it involves tentacles, and humans apparently find it disgusting.
  • The trolls in Homestuck make reference to a lot of Bizarre Alien Biology endemic to their species, like "chitinous windholes", "auricular sponge clots", "porous cranial plates", and various colors of blood, but outwardly just look like grey-skinned humans with yellow-orange eyes, horns, and fangs.
    • Complicating this is the fact that some of the Bizarre Alien Biology seems actually more likely to be bizarre alien terminology, instead, or a very idiosyncratic translation convention if you presume they're not speaking English in the first place.
  • All the known nonhuman species in Terra fall here. The Azatoth would be Human Aliens but for a heavier brow ridge and a couple nodules on the sides of their noses; they also tend to be a foot taller than the average human. The Vareliens look like asari with longer, more flexible head-tentacles. The Shintari have swept-back conical heads and orange skin.
  • Zukahnaut's protagonist is a palette-swap and a new pair of ears away from looking like a passable (if ugly) human.
  • Davina Midwich, a telepathic alien classmate of the Scumthorpe triplets, in The Scumthorpe Files. Davina looks like a pre-teen human girl, barring her grey hair and glowing yellow eyes. Justified, in that she's half-human (and inspired by the children from Village of the Damned).
  • Utterly averted in Leaving the Cradle, despite it being Space Opera. None of the species of the galaxy resemble anything human except, well, humans.

    Web Originals 
  • The "Alienoids" of the Garnet and Gure short, Holiday Quickie-Toon resemble cheesy black-and-white style spacemen with over-long eyebrows.
  • The Pelkons from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe are humanoid, and have the right number of fingers and toes and such, but their eyes are pure milk-white, their hair is thicker and more brush-like, and they have spots like a leopard. on their forehead that run down the back of their necks and across their shoulders.
  • In the Homestar Runner episode "buried", Strong Bad unearths what he believes to be an alien artifact. He states that the earth was colonized by extraterrestrials, and that it explains "why all beings look the same except for slight differences of our foreheads!"
  • Due to non-professional special effects and costumes, Noah Antwiler (from The Spoony Experiment) portraying Terl from Battlefield Earth in some episodes of Channel Awesome's review shows and the fourth year anniversary To Boldly Flee looks much more human than the version portrayed by John Travolta. It also means most "rubberhead" effects could not be recreated. However, it's still clearly a Psychlo.
  • Earthling Cinema series of fictional reviews is hosted by alien Garax Wormuloid, who is just the creator with eyebrows significantly wider than his head.

    Western Animation 
  • Warhok and Warmonga, the Proud Warrior Race aliens who appear in season four of Kim Possible are an animated version of this. They're nine feet tall and have green skin.
  • In another animated example, the cast of Futurama is virtually all two-arms two-legs one-head humanoid (for most of the time). This is probably more to make it easier to animate jokes for them than anything else, as the show has otherwise shown a fair amount of ingenuity in depicting odd aliens (sentient nebulae, swarms of flies, etc). Subverted with Leela, who is revealed in an early season to be a human mutant who was raised to think she was a Last of Her Kind alien (and in one episode she briefly becomes a two-eyed creature instead of a cyclopoid).
  • Starlee from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward. Her race look almost exactly like humans, except for having blue skin and pointy ears.
  • Starfire of the Teen Titans has orange skin and Bizarre Alien Biology, but looks otherwise human enough to have a relationship with the resident Badass Normal. She also has superpowers.
  • A number of the extraterrestrial characters in Defenders of the Earth fit this trope:
    • The show's Big Bad, Ming the Merciless, has acid green skin and pointed ears, traits shared by his children, Kro-Tan and Castra. In the original "Flash Gordon" comic strips, Ming resembles an oriental warlord, but he was given a more obviously alien appearance in the Defendersverse to avoid any Unfortunate Implications.
    • Princess Astra from "The Revenge of Astra" has pointed ears, but otherwise looks human.
    • The Psychic Warriors from "The Evil of Doctor Dark" are humanoids with '80s Hair and antennae which they use to focus their powers above their eyes. Mara, the youngest of the trio, who defects to join forces with the Defenders, also appears in the sequel, where her skin (blue in the original episode) has a more human tone, though she retains her characteristic hair and antennae.
    • The title character in "The Starboy" is a humanoid child who appears to be a little younger than Kshin. He is hairless with white skin and the star which gives him his name on his forehead; this star changes from red to blue based on his mood.
  • The Gems in Steven Universe generally look like human women except for their skin tones, hair colors, hairstyle, and having a gemstone embedded somewhere in their bodies. That said, their figures are often drawn more exaggerated than humans, and the series increasingly shows types of gems that are still humanoid but with blatantly inhuman features (Nephrite is a Cyclops whose gem functions as an eye; Sapphires, Aquamarines, and Rutiles are The Noseless; many types are inhumanly large or small), and that's before getting into gem fusions (which are usually gigantic, frequently possess Extra Eyes and limbs, and sometimes only partially humanoid). Technically, their gemstones is their Heart Drive and actual form, while their bodies are a Hard Light projection.
  • The Alteans in Voltron: Legendary Defender look almost exactly like humans, but have a few differences, such as the small marks of color next to their eyes. However, the other alien species tend to look more...alien.
  • On Young Justice, Rannians are depicted this way, with pale yellow skin, pointed ears and, at least in Alanna's case, Purple Eyes. This is a change from the comic books, where they're Human Aliens.
  • The Bortronians from Ready Jet Go! resemble humans, but are all very stretchy, have thin faces, and wear space-suits.

Alternative Title(s): Rubber Forehead Alien


Example of: