In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Invasion of the Body Snatchers

  • Introduction
  • Book-Length Studies
  • Authorship
  • Horror and the Gothic
  • Science Fiction Approaches
  • Film Noir
  • Psychology, Science, and Medicine
  • Politics, Left and Right
  • Other Symptomatic Approaches to Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • Gender and Sexuality in Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • The Many Invasions: Adaptation and Remaking
  • Pods, Plants, and Pessimism

Cinema and Media Studies Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Murray Leeder
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0297


Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers was released in 1955, having been serialized in Collier’s magazine in 1954. It tells the story of a small California town where the people are being subtly and discretely replaced by aliens. Because the process is gradual, some still-human townsfolk appear to be suffering from the delusion that their friends and loved ones have been replaced by doubles, though they outwardly seem the same. Finney’s book was apparently written with film adaptation in mind and proved very adaptable indeed. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), directed by Don Siegel, was the first of four adaptations to date (the others being Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1978], directed by Philip Kaufman; Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers [1993]; and The Invasion [2007], directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel). Though it received little attention on its 1956 release, Invasion of the Body Snatchers would far outstrip the renown of many other contemporaneous films, becoming a cultural touchstone and an acknowledged masterpiece of several genres. A tight, well-crafted thriller, Invasion of the Body Snatchers builds its tension slowly and makes its high-concept science fiction elements plausible through grounding in the details of contemporary American life. Finney’s creation proved adaptable in another sense: its story of infiltration, subversion, and resistance was available to a host of different cultural readings. As such, the various iterations of Invasion of the Body Snatchers have inspired a massive body of scholarship. Finney’s book and all four films have been discussed in isolation from each other, but the 1956 film is the lynchpin, much more so than the novel, and is almost always included even when the broader “franchise” is under examination. The categories in this article cannot be neatly cleaved from each other: they frequently overlap, or to use the more appropriate metaphor, cross-fertilize.

Book-Length Studies

There have been several book-length treatments of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, of which the definitive single-author treatment is Grant 2010. Lavalley 1989 and Gorman and McCarthy 1999 are useful edited collections of essays on the film, and McGee 2012 is a making-of book for general interest reading.

  • Gorman, Ed, and Kevin McCarthy, eds. “They’re Here . . .”: Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Tribute. New York: Berkley Boulevard, 1999.

    A popular press book edited by novelist Gorman and actor McCarthy. Featuring essays by impressive contributors including Stephen King and Dean Koontz, it is a mix of appreciations, several pieces about Finney’s broader body of writing, and interviews with personnel from the then-three film versions.

  • Grant, Barry Keith. Invasion of the Body Snatchers. London: British Film Institute, 2010.

    Grant’s short book usefully surveys the existing literature and contains chapters focused on the film’s production and reception, its place in Siegel’s career, genre (especially film noir), politics, gender representation, and its sequels. Both incisive and expansive, it could slot into many of the categories in this article.

  • Lavalley, Al, ed. Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Don Siegel, Director. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989.

    Part of Rutgers University Press’s Films in Print series, this book reproduces the continuity script for the film and other production notes, contemporary reviews, and subsequent commentaries. Some of those, including those by Ernest G. Laura, Peter Biskind, and Michael Paul Rogin, are cited elsewhere in this article. Though certainly somewhat dated, it is still perhaps the best research tool available for the study of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

  • McGee, Mark Thomas. Invasion of the Body Snatchers: The Making of a Classic. Duncan, OK: BearManor Media, 2012.

    This making-of book chronicles the preproduction, production, marketing, and reception of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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