Devin Anders would regret his answer to this question for the rest of his short life: Where were you when the invaders first arrived?
Much to his shame, he was browsing Facebook while taking a dump in a public restroom. He couldn't have been the only one in the world in that situation, but he took it hard. The New York Times had gone live with smartphone video from one of its reporters. The camera had been pointed at the sky, at what unquestionably was a fleet of ships that could not have been of the Earth. Others would soon go live with similar footage.
If Devin hadn't already been on the toilet, he would have peed himself.
The ships, sharp triangles flying in formation, slowly descended from the heavens above the Washington Mall. They didn't land. Instead, they linked together to create a large projector, which then displayed the following message:
"BEINGS OF EARTH, WE THE FORCES OF GHETAKAN WILL DESTROY YOUR PLANET WITHIN 72 HOURS IF YOU DON'T MEET OUR SINGLE DEMAND."
A few strangling seconds passed as the next wave of text appeared.
"WE DEMAND THAT ALL OF THE PEOPLE OF EARTH CURATE A TOP FIVE LIST OF MOTION PICTURES. THIS LIST MUST HAVE UNANIMOUS APPROVAL OF EVERY INDIVIDUAL ON YOUR PLANET."
A brief hush descended on the internet.
Then, seemingly all at once, comments that included a variation of "WTF really???" hit Twitter and Facebook. Not even the arrival of alien invaders could change the banality of common internet discussions. News organizations ran headlines such as "Aliens Arrive on Earth and Demand List of Humanity's Top 5 Movies."
Not even a minute later, pretty much every person published their list of their favorite films. Some went with nerd favorites such as Star Wars and Back to the Future, but many differed on which entry of those series were the best. Some cheered for the simple charm of the first movies in both series, while others argued that the second films' maturity and dark themes clearly made them better -- and of course, the hoverboard. Barely anyone argued on behalf of the third entries in the trilogies. Others went with classics such as Citizen Kane, Casablanca and Rashomon, but amazingly, some were angered by references to Rosebud. A third group chose recent Oscar winners, such as La La Land.
People eventually caught on there would never be a consensus, so there were a few suggestions:
Create a brain trust of smart and trusted individuals. Talks about this went on for a few hours, but there wasn't wide agreement on who the members of the trust would be.
Let the president choose on behalf of the people. This was a non-starter for many, because half the country hated that guy.
Put it to an online poll. This emerged as a clear favorite. There would be a two-hour window in which people would vote via Facebook on their top five. Those who didn't want to vote online or didn't have access could handwrite or type their picks and bring it to their nearest post office, where workers would then enter the data online.
Finally, out of the thousands of thousands of movies, Americans' five favorites bubbled to the surface. Some film critics immediately became savage, taking their frustrations with the viewing public online. At least one jumped out of his office window, too proud to live a world with "such bad taste," he would write in a tweet.
Devin would be one of those stubborn nerds. He just couldn't accept, let alone understand, what the hell was wrong with everyone else.
But that wasn't important -- yet. Indeed, America needed to convince the rest of the world that its top five was the only one that mattered. The president immediately called a session with the rest of the members of the G20.
Many of its members were OK with the U.S. taking the lead, since that was seemingly the only way to stave off extinction by an advanced alien race. But the Japanese just couldn't accept Spirited Away not being included on the list. POTUS threatened a Godzilla style attack. The prime minister backed off.
It finally seemed like there was agreement among the world's population -- that is until Devin got off the toilet. Somehow, his anger over the bad timing of the invaders' arrival and lifelong obsession with cinema erupted into a fiery screed on social media that whipped up a nerd frenzy.
Fans of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, led by a passionate superfan who went by the name of Big Kahuna, were up in arms over its exclusion from the top five. Not even calls for calm from the director himself could cool the rising storm.
Yet within 20 hours, fans of the film had descended to the place where the aliens had issued their demand. They held signs such as, "We're on the path of the righteous," "No list is complete without a 'tasty beverage'" and "bitch, be cool!"
Devin, angered that his movement had been hijacked by others, held a counter-protest. He stood alone.
The demonstration went on for a whole day. Only hours remained until the invaders' timeline.
The insurgents were sure they were doing the right thing. After all, everyone loves Pulp Fiction.
Finally, the president and a few key leaders called Big Kahuna into a meeting. The leader demanded the meeting be held in a 1974 Chevrolet Nova, the same vehicle Samuel L. Jackson's character drove in Pulp Fiction. The officials acquiesced.
No one knows exactly what the conversation entailed, but almost everyone saw how it ended: in a scene where life imitated art, a gun went off in the car, and Big Kahuna's brains and blood splattered on the back windshield. Satisfied, his followers dispersed.
Devin looked on in cold relief.
A list of the top five movies were submitted to the invaders without any disagreement.
None of this really mattered though. While humanity spent its time arguing over what the top five movies were, the Ghetakans were hacking into nuclear weapons across the globe. They also copied all of the world's media.
As the time to the deadline ticked down, the same ships that appeared three days before descended to the same spot where they had landed before. It displayed this message:
"THANK YOU, HUMANS, FOR THE LIST. WE WILL NOW COMMENCE IN WIPING YOU OFF THE FACE OF THE PLANET. YOU CAN TAKE COMFORT IN KNOWING THAT WHILE YOU FACE EXTINCTION, YOUR ART WILL LIVE ON."
"In the next issue of EARTH CINEMA, read a retrospective on Devin Ander's compelling case for Pulp Fiction as the best human movie ever created."
Upon seeing this, Kuf scoffed. "What rancor crap. We all know that Return of the Jedi is the height of human film."
"What? Are you serious?" Urhm shouted a few stools down at the bar. "The one with the Ewoks?!? Empire is clearly better! But even it doesn't hold a candle to The Shawshank Redemption."