Most science-fiction considers humans a pack of morons floating on a rock to be sneered at by more intelligent planets. So the poor saps who choose to learn from us are particularly absurd. Here are seven aliens, cavemen and other beings who study our culture — or the closest thing we have to culture: our television shows.

Link, Encino Man

In Encino Man, Brendan Fraser plays a caveman who's thawed out in contemporary Encino, California. Of course, by "plays" I mean grunts and dances to punk rock, and by "contemporary" I mean the early '90s of a teen movie. This implies all sorts of period nods like roller coasters, skateboards, and an MTV-like channel surfing montage that teaches "Link" the ins and outs of how to be a human being. Or, more specifically, a person trying to survive a Pauly Shore movie (see: making weasel sounds and stuffing your face with burritos).




Wak, Explorers

This 1985 "Goonies in space" is not only notable for starring two child actors whose later careers were marked with tragedy: River Phoenix (death) and Ethan Hawke (feel-good Robin Williams movies). The film is also a perfect example with which to introduce sci-fi's "Creatures Educated By Pop-Culture" phenomenon. Wak, an extraterrestrial who's been soaking up our planet's daytime broadcasts, spends half the film shouting infomercial and game show lines. And yet the mercifully quiet creatures from Aliens are supposed to be the ones we fear?




The Autobots, Transformers

When Shia LaBeouf finally comes face to face with his Autobot protectors, they inform him their tendency to speak in catchphrases and recycled movie quotes is a result of learning to speak through Internet research. But based on the vernacular spoken by the heroes of Bay's other films (Armageddon, The Rock, Bad Boys), the real question isn't how Megatron and his squad learned to talk like spazzed-out kids, it's why Bay only didn't feel the need to explain why the dialog was so bad in all his movies.




Johnny 5, Short Circut

You might call Short Circuit's speed-reading robot Johnny 5 the Usain Bolt of pop-culture absorption, though most Short Circuit fanatics are probably too busy browsing the Steve Gutenberg message boards to keep up on Jamaican sporting new. Nevertheless, Johnny 5 paved the way for future "strange visitor" comedies with his barrage of John Wayne and Three Stooges impressions. He even coined a phrase that perfectly encapsulates what all the creatures on this list are soaking up: input.



"A Piece of the Action," Star Trek

For a show hailed as the quintessential space adventure, the original Star Trek loved to throw the Enterprise's finest out of space and into the Wild West, or Nazi-occupied Europe, or whichever time period matched the costumes lying around the Paramount backlot. In "A Piece of the Action," for example, Kirk and his men beam down to a people who have based their entire religion off a book from Earth titled Chicago Mobs of the Twenties. Ironically, Star Trek itself would have the same effect in the real world as the show's fanaticism grew into the pseudo-religious Trekkie empire, a coalition of TV-obsessed geeks far scarier than Al Capone.



Wiploc, Zebo and Mac, Earth Girls Are Easy

In case that scene where Pauly Shore rides a rollercoaster with a caveman didn't make it obvious, the late '80s and early '90s were the heyday of zany sci-fi. Hollywood during the Reagan-era was dually powered by Star Trek fandom and bikini fetishes. No film combined these better than Earth Girls Are Easy, in which horny extraterrestrials fly down to Earth to get better reception of our soft-core pornography. Issac Asimov it ain't, but it does feature multiple pointless musical interludes by Julie Brown.



Thermians, Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest is about a race of aliens who base their entire society on a decades-old Tim Allen series, like an intergalactic version of your Dad and Home Improvement. But unlike other movies on this list, which sees aliens' devotion to pop-culture as a charming quirk, Galaxy Quest, in which the aliens mistake the washed up stars of a Star Trek-like '80s show for real heroes, uses the shtick as a sharp criticism of celebrity worship and misguided fanaticism," even going so far as casting Justin Long as a Trekkie stereotype.