Before I knew about Scientology, or who L. Ron Hubbard was, and long before I learned about UFO contact groups and contactees, Ancient Alien believers, etc., I watched "Battlefield Earth" (2000) like I did any other sci-fi film, and I loved it. Unironically, unequivocally, and unconditionally; I loved it.
It's the closest thing I have to a guilty pleasure, because if you know me and my tastes in just about anything, you'd know I don't really feel guilt for the pleasure I derive from my hobbies. To me, "Battlefield Earth", was just another weird sci-fi film no better or worse than any other high-concept sci-fi film. What made it to me though was how much more it was about really banal things, than it was about the science-fiction world-building stuff you'd expect from a Hollywood movie.
What I mean is, at least to me, "Battlefield Earth" is a sci-fi comedy. On one hand you have the humans, living in a post-invaded earth just trying to survive the invasion of 9-foot-tall aliens who see them as nothing more than scum. Meanwhile, those same 9-foot-tall aliens are dealing with stuff like office politics, middle-management, blackmail, and profit. So it's this weird mix of human survival and the lust for freedom, mixed with boring office tedium, and I really love the end result.
As I grew to understand this more as a product of the Church of Scientology however, it sort of spoiled my fun. I'm not sure how true the rumors are around the church, and I don't wish to speculate too much on that, but when I learned this movie was based on a pre-existing book it took a lot of the fun out of it to me. Spoiled the magic I guess. I originally though this was just the brainchild of John Travolta and some of his Hollywood pals just wanting to make a different sort of sci-fi movie. Then I was told it wasn't meant to be a "comedy" at all.
So for a really long time I was genuinely enjoying this film for what it was, then the truth had to come along and almost ruin it for me. I say "almost" because I still think it's great, and I am unapologetic about it. I even have a figure of the Psychlo, Terl (John Travolta's character).
After looking over the Wikipedia article for the original book, I was a little surprised to learn how much of the Church of Scientology's philosophy actually permeated the story within "Battlefield Earth". I guess it all really flew over my head when I first saw it as a teenager. I didn't even see it in theaters by the way, I saw it on VHS (one of the final VHS cassettes I ever rented).
So is this movie religious propaganda, like the dozens upon dozens Christian or Mormon film (for example)? I'm not sure. I don't want to accept "Battlefield Earth" in that context. In my heart, it will always remain that weird movie I rented one random weekend way back when the world was simpler.
Funny enough, there was a recent re-release of the book, and Galaxy Press (the Scientology owned publisher that keeps all of L. Ron Hubbard's sci-fi stories in publication) went all out and had a costume made of how Terl looks on the cover of the book, and it's goddamn amazing. There's a part of me that really wishes that this was the Terl we got in the movie. Whoever made the suit should be really proud, it really captures the cover design perfectly.
If you've never seen "Battlefield Earth", just try and see it the way I do and I think you'll have a fun time. It's a sci-fi/comedy. The book I feel would be drastically different, and more serious in tone, but maybe one day I'll give it a read.