You are here. We are not.
—As seen on a directory map of Area 51-A, The Simpsons
A top-secret United States Air Force base in the Nevada desert.
In fiction, this is usually associated with the otherworldly and all manner of government conspiracies. The most popular theory is that aliens and spacecraft (particularly those recovered from Roswell, New Mexico) are being held and studied there. If any of this tech has seeped into common human use, the assertion may be made that ET Gave Us Wi-Fi. Characters will often out-right deny the existence of the base, despite its existence and uses prior to Roswell being relatively well-known and even documented.
In Real Life, Area 51 is an Air Force base of some kind (in the middle of another base's bombing range, no less), officially known as the US Air Force Flight Test Center, or Groom Lake (for the dry lakebed the runways are on), or Dreamland or Neverland. The more popular nickname stems from the naming system for areas involved in the Nevada atomic weapons testing; "Area-XX" was the default system for naming regions within or near the testing range and the base was located in "Area 51" according to this system. The location was chosen due to the lakebed, which made an ideal landing strip when Lockheed-Martin needed to relocate its Skunk Works; the base has the longest purpose-built runway in the world, though it appears to have been partially decommissioned following the U-2 spyplane project. It's been used in the past to test extremely secret experimental aircraft (it was part of AQUATONE, the U-2 spyplane program, OXCART, the early stages of the A-12 / SR-71 project, and HAVE BLUE, the project that ultimately created the F-117) which is probably the source of some of the rumors. What's going on there now (if anything) is way beyond your security clearance, and US maps as well as Google Maps (but not Google Earth, oddly enough) just show a big blank over the area. The closest anyone has gotten to revealing what goes on at Area 51 was a lawsuit brought by workers at the base due to unsafe conditions - apparently Area 51 has No OSHA Compliance - but the suit was thrown out by executive order.
The secrecy surrounding the base makes it a tempting subject for real-life conspiracy theorists and Speculative Fiction writers alike. Some stories make an important plot point of the true goings-on in Area 51, while others just allude to it as a Historical In-Joke. Proof of how evil and devious the complex is can be seen in how intruders are dealt with; using a system of buried motion sensors and guys in jeeps, they, um...Well, they call the Lincoln County Sheriff, who escorts the intruders back outside. Most likely the aliens thing is a cover story to disguise how amazingly boring government bases actually are.
There is also an "Area 52", the Tonopah Test Range. This was home to a now-declassified Cold War program called "Constant Peg", involving American pilots training against real MiGs, small numbers of which had been delivered by defectors.
Dulce Base, a similar underground government base, has begun to take the place of Area 51 in the conspiracy theorist/enthusiast circles. So far, it's presumed that Dulce is actually just an urban legend. Then again, Area 51 was thought to be an urban legend, right up until the Soviet Union released satellite taken photographs of it...
For the arcade game, see Area 51 (1995 video game).
- Lot 51 (Army Corps of Engineers Secret Base, Nevada) makes a brief appearance in the DC Comics Elseworld JLA: Age of Wonder, as an excuse for making Hal Jordan a test pilot when officially airplanes haven't been invented yet. And they do have an alien corpse there; the previous ringwielder, who looks more like a Grey than Abin Sur.
- The Elseworld Superman: Red Son also has Abin Sur's ship held in Area 51. And it was Sur who crashed in Roswell.
- Hellboy apparently spent his childhood there, but seems to have enjoyed it.
- The 39 Clues: Lucians have control of Area 51, and store the clue calcium carbonate there.
- In Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, Area 51 is said to have been made solely to cover for a senator who crashed a jet into a mountain.
Live Action TV
- In the Doctor Who episode "Day of the Moon", The Doctor is held in Area 51 after being captured by the secret service. Area 51 appears to have access to 'Dwarf Star Alloy', a very dense material used to create a prison to hold him.
- In Stargate SG-1, the Asgard are more or less the classic Grey aliens associated with the site. Furthermore, the base is referred to often as one of the USAF's primary R&D bases regarding captured/acquired alien technology.
- It does become a major plot point in some episodes. In the series finale of Stargate Atlantis the Wraith kamikaze Area 51 to keep humans from fighting back with the technology stored there.
- It is also implied that prior to the Stargate Program, Area 51 was simply a top secret Air Force R&D base.
- The The X-Files (more important place in the Myth Arc; also visited in episodes "Dreamland I & II", where we learn it's just a testing ground - "they build 'em up in Utah.")
- An episode of CSI has the agents uncovering what appears to be an alien corpse, later revealed to be a guy in a costume, buried in the desert just outside Area 51.
- On News Radio, Joe claimed that Area 51 was just a cover-up for the even-more-secret Area 52.
- In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "The Annoying Red Planet", UFO sightings in 19th century Toronto turn out to be an airship being constructed by the Canadian and American governments. At the end of the episode the characters conclude that the governments will move their experiments to somewhere more out of the way, probably somewhere in the US desert.
- On Eureka the surveillance balloon debacle is still something they never got over for the guys from Area 51. The Eureka bowling team mocks theirs about it.
- In the pilot, when Allison is taking Jack to Global Dynamics for the first time, he asks, jokingly, if she's taking him to Area 51. She laughs and tells him that Area 51 people wish they had GD security.
- On Leverage during an episode involving conspiracy theories, Eliot and Hardison convinces Parker that it is really Area 52, not Area 51. They also claim that it is a loch ness submarine.
- The Goblins run Area52 in World of Warcraft.
- Nevada State Route 375 is a random dusty road that runs near the base. The state playfully dubbed it "The Extraterrestrial Highway" and post signs to that effect.
- Alien Hominid had a row of buttons on an FBI spacecraft; Area 50, Area 51, Area 52, Area 53, etc...
- The Backyard Soccer series has a Dummied Out field called Area 51½ (also known as A Nameless Field).
- SimCity 4 gives us Area 5.1. Constructing the facility grants the player the ability to pilot an attack jet and UFO, in addition to a small monthly income.
- A pair of guys in the web comic Dragon Tails worked in Area 52 and complained of never getting anything interesting.
- In the Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well", when Truman is shown Zoidberg and the remains of Bender recovered from Roswell:
President Truman: Take this to Area 51.
- At the beginning of Liloand Stitch, one of the aliens mentions that Earth is in a region of space known as Quadrant 51.
- The Simpsons: Lisa Simpson, after accidentally getting on bus 22a instead of the 22, finds Area 51. Her excitement is squashed, however, when she's told it's actually Area 51-A.
- "You are here. We are not."
- In Logic: Mind Games, Area 51 is simply part of the NATO aerospace commission, which is known to the public due to providing technology for both the military and civilians.
- Independence Day, unbeknownst to the president for reasons of Plausible Deniability. He begins to reassure a conspiracy theorist that the government has never captured a UFO and really had no idea an invasion was coming, only to be told by his Secretary of Defense that "that's not entirely accurate".
- Thee was also a bit of Did Not Do the Research involved in that the President had no idea Area 51 existed... when every year the President is required to approve the facility's continued status as non-existent.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opens in Hanger 51, including mention of Roswell.
- Additionally, we find out that the Ark of the Covenant is also stored there. It turns out this was the same warehouse it was brought to at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- In the direct-to-TV William Shatner film Groom Lake, a government official arrives to Area 51 to shut down the facility after the end of the Cold War, laughing that their fake UFO rumors successfully prevented the Russians from discovering the secret aircraft testing that has been really going on there. He finds out, though that the base commander is hiding a real-life spaceship and an alien.
- "Crucial" is stretching it, but Animorphs has the Fictional Counterpart Zone 91. #14 revolves around the protagonists and the antagonists trying to figure out if the government is really trying to cover up evidence of an alien crash because the antagonists depend on the idea of an Alien Invasion being utterly unbelievable to the average guy on the street. The book is pure comedy, especially when Sixth Ranger Ax reveals that the piece of alien technology is just an Andalite toilet, but "only the most primitive model."
- Ice Station by Matthew Reilly mentions that UFO storage facilities have been built in the Nevada desert. They've remained completely empty.
- Robert Doherty's Area 51. Of course...
- In Seven Days, The Sphere operates out of Area 51 and is reverse-engineered from alien technology.
- They do have several alien bodies stored there, as well as one comatose alien, who was knocked out by a scared soldier. Turns out, he's a criminal who's pissed off at humans and in 2 episodes ends up causing The End of the World as We Know It. Luckily, Frank is there to fix things.
- Tracker had an episode called "Area 51" (aka "Roswell") that centered on breaking into Area 51.
- The "Little Green Men" episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where the Ferengis end up at Area 51 due to a time-travel mishap.
- War of the Worlds. Another piece of UFO conspiracy mythology, Hanger 18 at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, is referred to as military disinformation to cover up for the real hanger where Martian technology is kept.
- Featured in the Doctor Who episode "Day of the Moon".
- Area 52 shows up in The Wedding of River Song. Inside a pyramid.
- The song "Faaip De Oiad" by Tool features the real audio of a man who called the Art Bell radio show on Sept 11, 1997, claiming to be a former worker at Area 51, on the run because he wanted to expose the terrible secret held there. Curiously enough, the power at Art Bell's radio station was cut during the phone call, and someone claiming to be the caller called Art Bell two weeks later to declare that the call was a hoax.
- The same call audio appears in "It's Out There and It's Gonna Get You" by The Paper Chase.
- Megadeth, having Conspiracy Theorist leanings in their music, naturally references this in "Hangar 18."
- The final mission sequence of Deus Ex takes place in Area 51.
- Also it's alluded to that the so-called alien 'Greys' was being used to distract the conspiracy theorists from something even worse, although that does raise the question as to where they got the anti-matter reactor, if not the aliens...
- Tomb Raider 3 has a level where an artifact is stored in Area 51.
- Area 51 appears in the park known as "Witchyworld" in Banjo-Tooie.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had one mission where you had to steal a secret jetpack known as the Black Project by infiltrating a military base that is considered not to be on the map by a few people, known as Area 69. Before or after this mission, your warrant level would instantly shoot up to 5 stars if you wandered too close to the base. Try to do this by air and the base would shoot missiles at you.
- Hydro Thunder Hurricane features a level set in Area 51. A portion of the level involves racing through an alien world.
- Perfect Dark has three levels that take place at Area 51. In a genre shift from industrial espionage to straight-up sci-fi, you wind up rescuing a captured alien who's a friend of your boss, and proceed to escape in a captured UFO There's also a multiplayer left called Area 52 which is based on the single-player level.
- In Destroy All Humans!, the Majestic agents operate out of Area 42.
- Freelancer has a Fantasy Counterpart Culture Zone 21, which is also the subject of many conspiracy theories. It's a massive minefield that contains a jump gate to the Alaska System, which is where all the top-secret testing actually takes place. The Alaska system is visited once in the storyline.
- Area 51 is a field in Backyard Baseball. It actually belongs to the CIA!
- The arcade games Area 51 and Area 51: Site Four take place at - where else? - Area 51. (They also deal with an Alien Invasion that starts from the aforementioned location.)
- A 2005 first-person shooter, not to be confused with the above, was also titled Area 51.
- Adding an additional 15, Area 66 is MadWorld space theme level, featuring aliens, robots, spatial decompression, flash-freeze guns, and a bunch of Star Wars references.
- There's an Area 51 level in the fourth episode of Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition.
- In The Pandora Directive, Tex travels to Area 51 and infiltrates the underground facility, long since shut down. He finds dozens of bullet-ridden corpses there, indicating that the soldiers opened fire on the scientists. The corpses then get up and start chasing the detective. He barely makes it out without being killed or infected. Also, Area 51 is where the Roswell spaceship was reverse-engineered into some of the technology used in this world. Among these was anti-matter, which the military used to build bombs that they dropped on the Middle East, starting WWIII.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4, it is revealed that the Patriots stored Big Boss's comatose body in Area 51. The leader of the Patriots Zero was somewhat of a UFO enthusiast and even thought that he had been abducted by aliens at one point in his life, so storing his friend's body in such a top-secret place may be a subtle nod to this aspect of his character. Raiden eventually does break Big Boss's body out of Area 51 though is captured by the Patriots in the process and is subjected to cybernetic experiments that morph his body into the Cyborg Ninja we see him as in MGS4.
- Area 51 is one of the places you can visit in the desert in Champions Online, which has apparently been taken over by the terrorist organization VIPER.
- In Treyarch's continuity of the Call of Duty series Area 51 is talked about and even showcased a couple of times. The first mention of Area 51 comes in the Nazi Zombies mini-game where the various radio transmissions that expand upon the background story of the Zombies make a reference to a "remote base in Nevada." and even gives exact coordinates of where it would be located on a map. Later on in the storyline of Nazi Zombies in the map "Five" John F. Kennedy makes references to Groom Lake, which is talking about the lake that Area 51 is situated on, and the various technological achievements made there. Finally in the Nazi Zombies map "Moon" Area 51 is being assaulted by zombies and you have to escape them by teleporting to the surface of the Moon but you can come back later if you want though it won't contribute to ending your current round as all rounds can only be fought on the Moon. Beyond the Nazi Zombies universe Area 51 is also a multiplayer map called "Hanger 18" which is a reference to conspiracy theorists who believe that at Area 51 all of the most top-secret Military Air-Crafts are all tested there. Also, the Element 115 that is constantly referenced in the Nazi Zombies storyline is based on the account of a former Area 51 employee who is stated to have witnessed the substance in action and who said it had reality-warping qualities to it.
- Jix and Lauren in Jix travel to Area 51 to recover Ambis technology.
- In Escape from Terra the United World government hides a cloned neanderthal girl in Area 51, prompting a Belter raid to rescue her when she is scheduled to be terminated.
- Fine Structure: Not the Area 51, but the base where the Power experiments are carried out is certainly the next best thing.
A desolate air base smack in the North American heartland, surrounded by a sixty-kilometre ribbon of electric fence and razor wire hung with intimidating red, yellow and white signs warding off photographers, trespassers and enemies of the state respectively, plus incomprehensibly secret experiments going on within? It's a little greener, vegetation-wise, but Kuang Ching-Yu thinks you might as well call it Area 51 and save yourself five pages of description.
- Lisa believes she's found Area 51 in The Simpsons, only to be told it's Area 51a.
- An episode of The Nineties' Godzilla animated series, where it turned out that atomic weapons testing in the US desert had created a bunch of giant mutant, Godzilla-esque desert creatures that were being kept secret in Area 51, with the media having stories about aliens leaked out to cover it up.
- In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, the protagonists wander into a high-tech science lab through a portal in the desert, run by "Mother". When Bugs ask her if they're in Area 51, she says Area 51 is just a conspiracy theory, and that they are in fact in Area 52. Bugs promptly pulls out a "Screw Ball" rebus sign when her back is turned.
Mother: Don't quote me on that!
- Scooby Doo and the Alien Invaders centers around Area 51, or at least a spoof of it. Yes, there are aliens.
- Area 52 is where the monsters in Monsters vs. Aliens are being kept. It's not refered to as such in the film: Gen. Monger refers to it as "a place so secret the mere mention of it is a federal offence", and when one aide starts to say "Area Fifty..." he gets a tranquilizer dart to the neck.
- X-Men: Evolution features Area 51 as the area where the army hold the incapacitated mutants they kidnapped after the fight with the Sentinel in the season 2 finale.
- As the name suggests, the Doctor Who animation "Dreamland". (They don't have a grey corpse there - she's still alive.)
- In Unidentified Flying Mater, we get to see Parking Area 51.
- The animated film Planet 51 (the title is an obvious reference, though it is never referred as such in the story) shows the alien version, Base 9.
- In an episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Cindy, Sheen, Libby, and Carl are taken to "Area 86" after they develop superpowers from contact with space radiation.
- An episode of Megas XLR involved 'Area 50', an abandoned US military base near Las Vegas, in which an experimental battle robot was being developed.
- An episode of Kim Possible has Kim and Ron taken inside Area 51, and they are told that every story of UFOs and other unexplained phenomena was made by the government as part of a disinformation campaign - while every word was actually true.
- One episode of Total Drama World Tour has the contestants infiltrate Area 51, which was presented as a huge warehouse full of alien artifacts, most of which were broken. The fact that aliens were shown to be real caused surprisingly little reaction among the contestants.
- Johnny Test features Area 51.1.