Alien (film)

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For other films in this series, see Alien (franchise).

Alien is a 1979 science fiction film about the seven member crew of the commercial space tug Nostromo, as they are awakened from stasis by their ship's computer to investigate a possible SOS transmission from a nearby moon, only to discover they now carry a deadly stowaway.

Directed by Ridley Scott. Written by Dan O'Bannon. Story by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett.
Tagline: In space no one can hear you scream.
A word of warning …

Ellen Ripley

Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo. Third Officer reporting. The other members of the crew - Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash and Captain Dallas - are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.
  • You... are... my lucky star.
  • [After the Nostromo explodes, seemingly killing the Alien] I got son of a bitch.
  • [Last lines in the film] Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo. Third Officer reporting. The other members of the crew - Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash and Captain Dallas - are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off. [To Jones, the ship's cat] Come on, cat.


  • It's a robot! Ash is a goddamned robot!
  • Get ready to roll!


You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
Ripley: Ash, that transmission, MOTHER's deciphered part of it. It doesn't look like an S.O.S.
Ash: What is it, then?
Ripley: Well, it looks like a warning. I'm gonna go out after them.
Ash: What's the point? I mean, by the, the time it takes to get there, you'll, they'll know if it's a warning or not, yes?

Dallas: Okay, Ripley, we're clean. Let us in.
Ripley: What happened to Kane?
Dallas: Something's attached itself to him. We have to get him to the infirmary right away.
Ripley: What kind of thing? I need a clear definition.
Dallas: An organism. Open the hatch!
Ripley: Wait a minute. We let it in, the ship could be infected. You know the quarantine procedures: 24 hours for decontamination.
Dallas: He could die in 24 hours! Open the hatch.
Ripley: Listen to me. If we break quarantine, we could all die.
Lambert: Look! Would you open the goddamn hatch? We have to get him inside!
Ripley: No. And if you were in my position, you'd do the same.
Dallas: Ripley, this is an order. You open that hatch right now, you hear me?
Ripley: Yes.
Dallas: Ripley, that was an order! Do you hear me?!
Ripley: Yes, I read you. The answer is negative.
Ash: Inner hatch opened.

Dallas: All right! Ripley, when I give an order, I expect to be obeyed!
Ripley: Even if it's against the law?!
Parker: Well, now that she has a point, you know, who the hell knows what that thing is!

Dallas: [looks at a pen being dissolved by alien's body fluid] I haven't seen anything like that except molecular acid.
Brett: It must be using it for blood.
Parker: It's got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don't dare kill it.

Ripley: [watching Ash examine the creature] That's amazing. What is it?
Ash: Uh, yes, it is. Uh, I don't know yet. Did you want something?
Ripley: Yes, I, uh … have a little talk. How's Kane?
Ash: He's holding, no changes.
Ripley: And, uh...our guest?
Ash: Oh.
Ripley: Hm?
Ash: Well, as I said, I'm still...collating, actually. But I have confirmed that he's got an outer layer of protein polysaccharides. Has a funny habit of shedding his cells and replacing them with polarized silicon, which gives him a prolonged resistance to adverse environmental conditions. Is that enough?
Ripley: That's plenty. What does it mean? [bends down to look through the micro-scanner]
Ash: Please don't do that. Thank you.
Ripley: I'm sorry.
Ash: Well, it's an interesting combination of elements, making him a … tough little son-of-a-bitch.
Ripley: And you let him in.
Ash: I was obeying a direct order, remember?
Ripley: Ash. When Dallas and Kane are off the ship, I'm Senior Officer.
Ash: Oh yes, I forgot.
Ripley: You also forgot the Science Division's basic quarantine law.
Ash: No, that I didn't forget.
Ripley: Oh, I see. You just broke it, mmm?
Ash: Look, what would you have done with Kane? You know his only chance of survival was to get him in here.
Ripley: Unfortunately, by breaking quarantine, you risk everybody's life.
Ash: Maybe I should have left him outside. Maybe I've jeopardized the rest of us, but it was a risk I was willing to take.
Ripley: That's a pretty big risk for a Science Officer. It's not exactly out of the manual, is it?
Ash: I do take my responsibilities as seriously as you, you know. You do your job and let me do mine, yes?

Ash: Ripley, for God's sake, this is the first time that we've encountered a species like this. It has to go back, all sorts of tests have to be made.
Ripley: Ash, are you kidding? This thing bled acid, and who knows what it's gonna do when it's dead?
Ash: I think it's safe to assume it isn't a zombie. Dallas, it has to go back.
Dallas: Well, I'd soon as not...burn it at the stake, but you're the science officer; it's your decision, Ash.

Dallas: [to Kane] Do you remember anything about the planet? [Kane shakes his head]
Ripley: What's the last thing you do remember? Hmm?
Kane: I remember some...horrible dream about smothering...and, anyway, where are we?!
Ripley: Right here. We're on our way home.
Brett: Yeah. Back to the old freezerinos.

Parker: We found this laying there. No blood, no Dallas, nothing. How come I don't hear anybody say anything?
Ripley: I'm thinking! Unless somebody has got a better idea...we'll proceed with Dallas' plan.
Lambert: What? And end up like the others? No, no, you're out of your mind!
Ripley: You got a better idea?
Lambert: Yes! I say that we abandon this ship! We take the shuttle and just get the hell out of here! We take our chances and … and hope that somebody will pick us up!
Ripley: Lambert...the shuttle won't take four.
Lambert: Well, then why don't we draw straws and...
Parker: I'm not drawing any straws! I'm for killing that goddamn thing right now!
Ripley: Right. Well, let's talk about killing it. We know it's using the air shafts. Will you listen to me, Parker? Shut up!!
Parker: Let's hear it. Let's hear it.
Ripley: It's using the air shafts.
Parker: But we don't know that.
Ripley: That's the only way! We'll move in pairs. We'll go step by step and cut off every bulkhead and every vent until we have it cornered. And then we'll blow it the fuck out into space. Is that acceptable to you?
Parker: If you think it means killing it, yeah, that's acceptable to me.
Ripley: Obviously, it means killing it. But we have to stick together.

Ripley: Ash. Any suggestions from you or MOTHER?
Ash: No, we're still collating.
Ripley: [laughing in disbelief] What? You're still "collating"? I find that hard to believe.
Ash: What would you like me to do?
Ripley: Just what you've been doing, Ash – nothing. I've got access to MOTHER now, and I'll get my own answers, thank you.
Ash: All right.

Ripley: Ash, can you hear me? Ash?!
Ash: Yes, I can hear you.
Ripley: What was your special order?
Ash: You read it. I thought it was clear.
Ripley: What was it?
Ash: Bring back lifeform. Priority One. All other priorities rescinded.
Parker: The damn company. What about our lives, you son of a bitch?!
Ash: I repeat, all other priorities are rescinded.
Ripley: How do we kill it, Ash? There's got to be a way of killing it. How – how do we do it?
Ash: You can't.
Parker: That's bullshit.
Ash: You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
Lambert: You admire it.
Ash: I admire its purity. A survivor...unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.
Parker: Well, I don't. I've heard enough of this, and I'm asking you to pull the plug.
[Ripley moves to turn Ash off, but he interrupts]
Ash: Last words.
Ripley: What?
Ash: I can't lie to you about your chances, have my sympathies. [he smiles]
Ripley: [turns Ash off] We're gonna blow up the ship. We'll take our chances, and blow up the ship.

Ripley: And when we throw the switches, how long before the ship blows?
Parker: Ten minutes.
Ripley: No bullshit?
Parker: If we ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space!

[Ripley has tried in vain to disengage the Nostromo's self-destruct]
Ripley: MOTHER! I've turned the cooling unit back on. MOTHER!
MOTHER: The ship will automatically destruct in T-minus five minutes.
Ripley: [Enraged] YOU BITCH!!!
[She smashes the computer monitor with a flamethrower]


  • In space no one can hear you scream.
  • Sometimes the scariest things come from within.
  • There are things so terrifying, they only exist in a nightmare...or outer space.
  • A word of warning …
  • "Top Secret - Science Officer's Eyes Only...Bring back life form. Priority One. All other considerations secondary. Crew expendable."
  • "The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility...its purity. A survivor - unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality." ...Is there room enough in space for us and it?



About Alien (film)

No other horror or science-fiction film has captured the humdrum reality of doing a day’s work for a day’s pay with such accuracy. For that matter, perhaps no film of any genre has. There may be sitcoms that depict these everyday frustrations and interactions as deftly as Alien does. But in the cinema? The most authentic ever film about earning a living could well be the one with a giant, slimy, acid-blooded extra-terrestrial monster. ~ Nicholas Barber
Alien has proved an ideal text for academics, a deep well – or perhaps a totem pole – of Freudian allusion from which critics and theorists have drawn whatever they fancied.
Since it was first released, every frame of the film has been pored over for meaning. James Cameron’s excellent sequel, Aliens, has been studied too. (The other films in the series, not so much.) Most of this attention has been occupied by the character of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and the Swiss artist HR Giger’s terrifying design for the alien, or “xenomorph”. But the androids, the spaceship, the uniforms and even the ship’s cat have come in for analysis. In 2019, the rise of the Alien-academic complex shows few signs of slowing down. ~ Ed Cumming
I think ‘Alien’ captured our most primordial fears. It’s particularly special because it’s not gilded with any characterization other than what you see is what you get — minute by minute with these people. That’s really why a lot of people were scared to death. It’s because they are living in it, minute by minute, and eventually, second by second. ~ Ridley Scott
  • Alien is an expensively assembled science-fiction and horror shocker that’s being pushed hard by 20th Century Fox, and enough of it works on the gut-level of cheap thrills to justify the company’s high expectations. Alien has its problems [though]. Special effects and shock moments aside, Scott seems ponderous about getting through simple plot mechanics that one of the old science-fiction films could have tossed off with workmanlike abandon. But for those who like this kind of film, he’s produced — in 70mm and Dolby sound — something like the equivalent of every amusement park ride rolled into one.”
  • [The] plot is simple in the extreme. Alien has almost no wit, no depth of character, no complexity of plot, no subtext of meaning. In the long run, that might prevent it from being a truly classic horror film. For the moment, however, that won’t matter. The immediate sensation of Alien is nerve-shattering terror, and on that level it works masterfully.”
  • I’m going toattack [the audience] sexually… I’m going to attack the men. I am going to put in every image I can think of to make the men in the audience cross their legs.
    • Dan O’Bannon in Alien Saga (2002)
  • The sheer normality of these interstellar wage slaves is conveyed before we even see them. At the start of the film, the crew members of the Nostromo, a “commercial towing vehicle”, are snoozing in their suspended animation pods, but one of them has left a plastic drinking-bird ornament bobbing away on a table, and there is a coffee cup on a dashboard. Then, when the ship’s onboard computer wakes them, they don’t slip into form-fitting Starfleet uniforms and hurry to their posts: they shrug on their shapeless overalls, and then sit around eating and smoking while two blue-collar engineers, Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), grouse about “the bonus situation”.
  • Many, many years ago — back in 1985 — I wrote an episode of my comic strip where two women are talking to each other. They want to go see a movie and one woman says, "I'll only go to a movie if it satisfies three criteria."
    I have to confess, I stole this whole thing from a friend of mine at the time because I didn't have an idea for my strip. My friend Liz Wallace ... said, "I'll only see a movie if it has at least two women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man." That left very, very few movies in 1985. The only movie my friend could go see was Alien, because the two women talk to each other about the monster. But somehow young feminist film students found this old cartoon and resurrected it in the Internet era and now it's this weird thing. People actually use it to analyze films to see whether or not they pass that test. Still ... surprisingly few films actually pass it.
  • Alien is another triumph of technology over art. It is also a horror movie set in space — and it just doesn’t work…. Scott does make a concession to feminism by casting Sigourney Weaver as the hero but he couldn’t resist a sexist jab at the end when, with no motivation, she removes her trousers.”
  • Weaver begins the action looking girlish and serious, but changes into the toughly self-reliant woman who defined her subsequent roles. Her career evolves before our very eyes.
    Interestingly, the famous, heart-stopping moment where the alien embryo jumps out of the egg happens much more fleetingly than you might remember. Scott cuts away from it quickly, leaving the negative image impressed on our retina.
    Editors Terry Rawlings and Peter Weatherley cut the film so cleverly so that we never have a clear notion of what the alien actually looks like until the very last shots. The idea of it starting the size of a toad, then emerging the size of a bus with multiple rows of razor-teeth is skin-crawlingly horrible.
  • A GIGANTIC construction moves serenely through space where, though the night never ends, there's always enough light to see strange objects. This one looks like the main set of D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance". It's as if Babylon had been cut loose from earth to sail back through space to its own time. In actual fact, it's the cargo-ship Nostromo on its return to earth at the end of an extended voyage to the far end of the galaxy.
    When we go inside, the ship appears to have been as suddenly deserted as the Mary Celeste. We wander down empty corridors into abandoned living quarters, into engine rooms and, finally, into the command room where the computers are the only signs of life. The interior of the ship is vast. It contains the kind of waste space one seldom sees anymore except in some rare old Manhattan pile like the Dakota. Something decidedly eerie is going on.
  • The horror genre, in any period, is one that you like, or leave distantly alone. The violence in Alien is less ’real’ than the shark-infested waters of Jaws. But telling yourself that these galactic goings-on are improbable nonsense is less effective than it should be in unclenching your fists or making your heart stop pounding. Surrender at all to Scott’s extraterrestrial make-believe and you are in for jolts, shocks and some fairly gruesome and shuddering sights.
  • Much admiration is justly lavished on the exquisite Lovecraftian qualities of Giger’s designs, his creation of a monster whose various slime-dripping protuberances managed to be hideous, beautiful and unnervingly sexual all at once. It was Giger who gave “Alien” its vision. It was Scott, with just one feature (“The Duellists”) under his belt, who gave the movie its impact.
    To watch “Alien” now is to marvel at just how patient and stealthily elegant a picture it is, particularly in its first hour, with its creeping camera movements, hypnotic pacing and enveloping, womb-like sense of dread. Released today, it would no doubt feel like an art film among so many noisier, clunkier blockbusters. If “Alien” looks formally radical in retrospect, it was also thematically provocative in its moment: Here was a movie that turned on the audacious spectacle of a man being raped and impregnated and that gave us a (still) too-rare female action protagonist for the ages in Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley.
  • The gender politics of “Alien” have been grist for endless deconstruction, although “Memory” does examine a few fresh wrinkles. Philippe unpacks the feminist dimension that links the movie to other 1979 releases as different as “Manhattan” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Elsewhere, his subjects discuss the Alien’s stature as a Fury, an extraterrestrial manifestation of a figure from Greek mythology, exacting retributive violence on behalf of the repressed feminine.
    Pointedly, Philippe begins the film with a shot of the Temple of Apollo ruins at Delphi and a dramatization of the Furies, played by a trio of actresses with a few creepy Giger-esque visual enhancements. It may seem like a curious point of entry, but it reinforces that “Alien” is timeless, in part because it brilliantly cross-pollinated so many of our most ancient and enduring myths. Its abiding respect for the past is what gave such shattering force to its vision of the future.
  • Make no mistake about it — the gore, which is essential to this film’s effectiveness, is excessive enough to help earn the film the first ‘R’ rating given to any of the four recent sci-fi blockbusters. Any theater playing Alien may well consider building new wings on the restrooms to accommodate queasy patrons.”
  • The premise is simple: seven astronauts working on a battered cargo spacecraft, bring something back on to the ship after touching down on a strange planet, and the alien starts preying on them.
  • The film was nominated for Best Art Direction at the Oscar and won for best visual effects. Anyone who has ever seen the notorious "chestburster" scene – which was inspired by [[w:Francis Bacon|Francis Bacon's 1944 painting Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion – will understand why Scott's special effects team, headed by Brian Johnson and Nick Allder, deserved to win.
  • Ridley Scott’s 1979 thriller was greeted with no particular fanfare by the reviewers, and if there was a critical consensus it was that the film was at best watchable pabulum-reasonably professionally handled visually and enjoyably scary, but without significant nuance to qualify for discussion as art. Jack Kroll’s comment was typical: “It’s about time someone made a science fiction thriller that thrills, that has no truck with metaphysics, philosophy or theosophy and just boils everything down to the pure ravishingly vulgar essence of fright.”
    Aside from its manifest violence, the only aspect of “Alien” that attracted much critical fire was what one reviewer called its “gratuitous sexism.”True to a two hundred-year old tradition of gothic horror, the film relies for its most gut-wrenching effects on the spectacle of a helpless beautiful woman threatened with violence by an unspeakable, inhuman, but quintessentially masculine horror.
    Significantly, one scene repeatedly mentioned as a “gratuitous” injection of voyeurism involves Sigourney Weaver’s stripping down to her underwear just prior to a final attac by the alien and her subsequent blasting of the creature into space and, presumably, oblivion. The implication seems to be that “Alien” was overall good, clean, horrible but simple-minded fun, and shouldn’t have been compromised by random intrusions of irrelevant sex.
    A close look at “Alien”, however, reveals that not only is sexuality not occasionally intrusive in an otherwise prestine film, but that sexual symbolism and iconography of a singular kind are pervasive throughout the film and may actually be its “leitmotif”.
    What “Alien” is about is gestation and birth. The sexuality of the film has strong reproductive overtones that distinguish it from the kind of garden variety titillation of most thrillers. The centrality of the birth process to the film is not hard to demonstrate.
  • The 1979 film had married science fiction with horror in a way unseen since the ‘50s, reviving the monster genre, which had, for the most part, died out in the wake of Psycho’s ushering in of an era of more personal, intimate, human horror.
  • Alien has proved an ideal text for academics, a deep well – or perhaps a totem pole – of Freudian allusion from which critics and theorists have drawn whatever they fancied.
    Since it was first released, every frame of the film has been pored over for meaning. James Cameron’s excellent sequel, Aliens, has been studied too. (The other films in the series, not so much.) Most of this attention has been occupied by the character of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and the Swiss artist HR Giger’s terrifying design for the alien, or “xenomorph”. But the androids, the spaceship, the uniforms and even the ship’s cat have come in for analysis. In 2019, the rise of the Alien-academic complex shows few signs of slowing down.
  • In an interview looking back at the role, Weaver said: “The writers were especially smart in that they didn’t turn Ripley into a female character. She was just a character, a kind of Everyman, a young per-son who’s put in this extraordinary situation. Believe me, when we did [the sequels], I saw how hard it was to write a woman in a heroic, straight, unsentimental, authentic way.”
  • At its most fundamental level, "Alien" is a movie about things that can jump out of the dark and kill you. It shares a kinship with the shark in "Jaws," Michael Myers in " Halloween," and assorted spiders, snakes, tarantulas and stalkers. Its most obvious influence is Howard Hawks' "The Thing" (1951), which was also about a team in an isolated outpost who discover a long-dormant alien, bring it inside, and are picked off one by one as it haunts the corridors. Look at that movie, and you see "Alien" in embryo.
    In another way, Ridley Scott's 1979 movie is a great original. It builds on the seminal opening shot of "Star Wars" (1977), with its vast ship in lonely interstellar space, and sidesteps Lucas' space opera to tell a story in the genre of traditional "hard" science fiction; with its tough-talking crew members and their mercenary motives, the story would have found a home in John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction during its nuts-and-bolts period in the 1940s. Campbell loved stories in which engineers and scientists, not space jockeys and ray-gun blasters, dealt with outer space in logical ways.
  • One of the great strengths of "Alien" is its pacing. It takes its time. It waits. It allows silences (the majestic opening shots are underscored by Jerry Goldsmith with scarcely audible, far-off metallic chatterings). It suggests the enormity of the crew's discovery by building up to it with small steps: The interception of a signal (is it a warning or an SOS?). The descent to the extraterrestrial surface. The bitching by Brett and Parker, who are concerned only about collecting their shares. The masterstroke of the surface murk through which the crew members move, their helmet lights hardly penetrating the soup. The shadowy outline of the alien ship. The sight of the alien pilot, frozen in his command chair. The enormity of the discovery inside the ship ("It's full of ... leathery eggs ...").
  • "Alien" has been called the most influential of modern action pictures, and so it is, although "Halloween" also belongs on the list. Unfortunately, the films it influenced studied its thrills but not its thinking. We have now descended into a bog of Gotcha! movies in which various horrible beings spring on a series of victims, usually teenagers. The ultimate extension of the genre is the Geek Movie, illustrated by the remake of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which essentially sets the audience the same test as an old-time carnival geek show: Now that you've paid your money, can you keep your eyes open while we disgust you? A few more ambitious and serious sci-fi films have also followed in the footsteps of "Alien," notably the well-made "Aliens" (1986) and "Dark City" (1998). But the original still vibrates with a dark and frightening intensity.
  • It is easy to see that director Ridley Scott had hoped for a cast of Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty and Jim Brown, for the three principals, but settled for lookalikes Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt and Yaphet Kotto. With only about 20 pages of script, it’s understandable why everyone is sulking and biting, even being obscene enough to give the movie an R rating.
  • Although the spaceship models look like they were patched together with Super Glue in your brother's basement, the majority of the 24-year-old movie holds up well. The production design in "Alien" was always among the movie's strongest points, and the bulky details (a motion detector the size of a leaf blower; spaceship monitors that look like Radio Shack TRS-80 computer screens) seem more industrial than quaint.
    Even with its horrifying villain and scenes of bloody excess, "Alien" endures as a superior piece of filmmaking, with a pace that's like watching an art film when compared to the over-the-top space operas in recent years.
  • Time has been kind to Ridley’s Scott’s Alien since its release in 1979. What was initially regarded as a science fiction/horror genre work – albeit a superior one – now plays like an existential drama that just happens to take place in deep space.
    An example of what commercial cinema can aspire to, even on a limited budget, the film boasts an intelligent script, careful performances, clever special effects and well-crafted sets. The titular alien, which was designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, and is only partially glimpsed throughout, remains the most elegantly vile creature to ever grace cinema screens.
  • The film, of course, is loaded with innuendo; much has already been said about its phallic predilections, the reverse penetration, conflating consumption with food and sex. The crew of seven is hunted and devoured through air vents that open and close like orifices by a creature that is both biologically perverse yet undeniably industrial. There’s a very good reason why the final scare comes when Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley mistakes the alien for an innocuous wall of her escape shuttle. Teaming with artist H.R Giger and set decorator Ian Whittaker, Scott envelops viewers with a paralysing fear of replacement, becoming expendable in favour of soulless mutations of machine and matter.
  • This being my fourth or fifth viewing of Alien, I’m now able to communicate better what exactly it is that scares me about it so much. Moreso than awakening subconscious biological repulsions of the other, or inherently masculine sexual insecurities, the key is in realising that the most frightening sequence is the revelation that Ash (an uncanny early performance from Ian Holm that wipes the floor with Michael Fassbender’s David) is an android. Any initial fears of a ravenous, acid-blooded carnivore with the deadly efficiency of a slaughterhouse are immediately trumped by the slow, unsettling drip of milky blood from Ash’s forehead. The creature, the mesh of flesh and artifice driven by inhuman consciousness, was, of course, onboard the whole time.
  • Alien’s pairing of genuine, spine-tingling horror and thematic resonance put Ridley Scott on the map, and it’s frankly unfair that the masterful director was able to immediately follow-up with Blade Runner, another existential sci-fi classic. 40 years on, and it has remained one of his best, most invasive and obsessive films. It’s truly a testament that, despite Prometheus and Alien: Covenant’s irritating disposition to posit answers to questions never asked, every turned corner of that first nightmare invites mystery and intrigue. We still don’t really know where the aliens came from, and it’s for the best that we never find out.
  • The end of Alien (spoiler alert!) has Ripley facing down the monster aboard the escape shuttle she’s using to flee the doomed spaceship Nostromo. Her plan is to eject the parasite from an airlock, but before she does so, she risks her own life by first rescuing the ship’s pet cat, Jones.
    Author/screenwriter Blake Synder used this scene as a title and theme for his Save the Cat! series of manuals on successful screenplay structure. Snyder, who died in 2009, coined “save the cat” as the moment where a movie hero does something that wins audience affection and empathy. This could happen at any point in a movie. Saving the cat in Alien proved that Ripley had a heart, because she’s a steely cipher in the rest of the film.
  • “Alien” (1979): Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Sigourney Weaver and Tom Skerritt. It’s Friday night. The sold-out theater is so packed, I have to sit in the last seat available in the front row. My parents, who had no problems taking me to R-rated movies, have to sit elsewhere. Then there’s that stunning scene where John Hurt is eating breakfast with his spaceship crewmates and goes into convulsions. Unbeknownst to me, my mother has somehow sneaked up behind me. In a masterpiece of timing, just as the creature pops out of Hurt’s stomach, my mother grabs my shoulder and goes “Bah!” I still have flashbacks. It’s the most scared I’ve ever been at the movies. The film’s tagline: “In space, no one can hear you scream.” In that theater, everyone heard me.
  • [Alien] reached out, grabbed you, and squeezed your stomach it was more gripping than entertaining, but a lot of people didn’t mind. They thought it was terrific, because at least they’d felt something: they’d been brutalized.”
  • The austere minimalism of Ridley Scott’s Alien has kept it from becoming dated. Originally released in 1979, this “haunted house in outer space” scary movie still manages to spook audiences, though its infamous “chest bursting” scene plays somewhat comic now, with the crew looking on aghast like a bunch of stooges. Best known for creating an atmosphere of dread through production design and art direction (the cavernous ship looks like a sci-fi variation of a dilapidated car garage) and, of course, H.R. Giger’s creature (all limbs and shiny black skin and protruding jaws—watch those teeth!), Alien may be the most artfully directed and well-acted slasher movie of all time.
  • It was as stylish and thoughtful a space-horror film as has been made, a delightfully cerebral movie in which thrills and chills were accomplished less by the sight of evil than by its implication.
    The creature in Alien was an ugly little thing, to be sure, and had a disposition to match. But he never was able to dominate the film as he might possibly have one`s later dreams. In Alien, human beings--the ill-fated crew of the spaceship Nostromo--shared the front seat (and the driving) with special effects, and it was on that strength that the film became a memorable box-office smash.
  • "Alien" begins slowly, with a methodical, restrained pace and some self-conscious interplay among its cast, but once the alien itself is introduced the movie takes as firm a hold as the alien does on its victims.
  • This homicidal monster, which keeps changing shape, is designed to provoke nightmares, especially in one early scene in which it catapults itself into view, teeth bared. This scene should go down in the books as one of the most disgustingly horrifying moments in movies.
  • No film I have seen in the last year or so, excluding perhaps The Deer Hunter, emanates so strong a whiff of palpable, nerve-straining shock. It is, in fact, an audience reaction picture par excellence. Which explains, perhaps better than the colossal build-up, why everyone wants to see it. The public now seems to be sitting back in its seats and saying "Amaze me." Alien, above all others recently, can be relied upon to do just that.
    Yet it does so, oddly enough, with a story that is basically just a mixture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Outer Space. A dozen other 50s-sounding titles spring to mind – well, 60s at any rate. The point is the added 70s proficiency. You won't see anything very original anywhere in the film, other than in the actual making of it. There, no holds are barred. Scott, a recruit from advertising, where instant atmospherics has to be the order of the day, manipulates his audience in a far stronger fashion than he managed with The Duellists. His combination of space fiction and horror story is no great shakes as a work of art. Artifice, however, it has in profusion.
  • Some people call it a cruel, heartless and essentially exploitative opus. Something to gibber at, in fact. But Alien is not in the business of old-style family entertainment (which was, after all, often as warm and gooey as hot treacle, and about as nourishing). It bases its appeal on a different set of values. Not very enlightening ones, no doubt. But exactly in tune with much more cynical times. It deserves its success for gauging, and gorging, its audience so thoroughly. Technically a British film, it certainly shows how much talent we have in this country if only we had the courage to develop it ourselves. But that's another story, and a much less exciting one.
  • "Alien is a rape movie with male victims," explains David McIntee, author of the Alien study Beauti-ful Monsters. "And it also shows the consequences of that rape: the pregnancy and birth. It is a film that plays, very deliberately, with male fears of female reproduction."
    Does this make Alien a conservative film or a radical one? Over the years the debate has been teased out in either direction. In the opinion of the cultural critic Barbara Creed, for instance, Scott's film epitomised what she refers to as "the monstrous feminine". It trades in classic Freudian imagery (penis-shaped monsters; dark, womb-like interiors) and shudders at the bloody spectacle of childbirth. Here is a horror film made by men that exploits a particularly male fear of all that is female.
    Others beg to differ. Ripley, they argue, is the game-changer; the character that sends Alien (and its sequels) off in a bold new direction. "Ripley is pretty revolutionary," insists McIntee. "All of a sudden you have a horror film that has a younger female character who is a survivor and a heroine as opposed to a victim."
  • Ridley Scott's 1979 film "is not just about people trying not to get eaten by a drooling monstrous animal," film critic David McIntee writes in Beautiful Monsters: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to the Alien and Predator Films. "It's worse. It's about them trying not to get raped by a drooling monstrous animal."
  • 20th Century Fox was certainly not seeking intellectual respectability when it began production of Alien in the 1970s. Its executives simply wanted to replicate the massive commercial success of Star Wars and plumped on a science fiction script that writer Dan O’Bannon had been shopping round Hollywood. Scott agreed to direct.
    Crucial to his approach to the film was the creation of a sense of intense claustrophobia on Nostromo which, he decided, should appear as if it had been drifting around space for aeons. Its interior was constructed out of old plane parts while smoke was blown through the whole set to give the film a gritty appearance. Intellectual aspirations were never in his sights, Scott later recalled. All he wanted was to make “a straightforward riveting thriller”.
  • It has scared generations of filmgoers; triggered sequels, prequels, computer games and graphic novels; and made a star of Sigourney Weaver. But most of all, the film Alien – which is about to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its first screening – has spawned an academic industry unsurpassed by any other film.
    Over the past four decades, dozens of books, hundreds of journal articles and innumerable college courses have analysed, frame by frame, Ridley Scott’s story of a bloodthirsty creature stalking the crew of the spaceship Nostromo. No other film, not even The Godfather or Psycho, has generated quite that amount of attention.
  • “It is quite astonishing how much academic work ‘’Alien’’ has triggered and from such a wide range of approaches. For example, there are psychoanalytic analyses which stress the importance of the alien as a kind of all-consuming mother figure. The birth trauma of the alien erupting from Hurt’s innards also plays to Freudian interpretations of the film’s significance.”
    It is as good an example of Nietzsche’s idea of the will to power, the main driving force in existence – to survive and reproduce at all costs. ‘’Alien’’ is intriguing when viewed from that philosophical perspective.
  • The consensus about the first “Alien” was that no one had ever seen anything like it, except those of us who had. With its more lived-in, “2001: A Space Odyssey”-like attention to futuristic detail and S&M and bondage–inspired alien design by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, “Alien” was unique and an instant classic, adding the words “facehugger” and “chestburster” to the horror-movie lexicon.
    Scripted by Dan O’Bannon (“Dark Star”) and Ronald Shusett (“Aliens”), “Alien” tells the simple tale of a terrifying and deadly alien creature (played by slender, 7-foot-2-inch London design student Bolaji Badejo in an elaborate, tight-fitting suit) on the loose inside the outer-space “commercial towing vehicle” Nostromo. “Alien” was, like “Jaws” (1975) and “Star Wars” (1977), another case of a B-movie concept getting the A-list treatment from a visionary young director. Indeed, the “Alien” screenplay was pitched to studios as “‘Jaws’ in space.”
  • With its death’s head “face,” phallus–shaped skull and snapping, slavering jaws-within-jaws, the Giger-designed Alien was unlike anything the movie-going public had ever seen. Like the mummy, Frankenstein monster, King Kong and Godzilla, the “Alien” creature has long since been admitted into the pantheon of greatest movie monsters of all time.
  • Sci-fi classic Alien is really two movies. The first is a drama about work, labor issues, contracts, company rules, and so on; the second is just a horror film. In fact, one can see the unresolved management/labor problems in the first part of the film as being transmogrified into a monster that destroys the mining spaceship (the Nostromo) in the second part. From a wider historical perspective, the 1970s marked the end of an economic order that began at the end of the 1940s and witnessed the rise of unionized labor in the United States (this, in the film, is exemplified by the working-class characters on the spaceship factory—the late Harry Dean Stanton and the still kicking it Yaphet Kotto). The 1980s, on the other hand, marked the beginning of an economic order that transferred a massive amount of power to supermanagers. We have not left the 1980s to this day, which is why this film is still relevant.
  • When I was 10 years old, I read in a newspaper that a new film called Alien was so terrifying that people were not only fainting out of fear during screenings but also taken out of the theater on stretchers. I badly wanted to see this movie: one that was so terrifying it could send a person to the emergency room.
  • Yes, these films take place in outer space, so light is minimal. But “Alien” made distinct use of darkness, hiding its monster in the ship’s bowels, down dim corridors and inside caves. The original poster for “Alien” made the darkness a selling point, with a cracked egglike figure oozing green on a black background and the frightening tag line: “In space no one can hear you scream.” Much of “Alien: Covenant” is on the lowlight spectrum, too, with no way to know just where, or how many, threats lurk. Another film with “Alien” DNA referenced the darkness motif outright: “Pitch Black,” from (2000), which starred a rising Vin Diesel. After crashing, the passengers of a ship find themselves stranded on a planet full of E.T.s that attack in the dark. When an eclipse comes, so does terror.
  • Twentieth Century Fox has spent the annual budget of several emerging nations to fashion a zillion-dollar Tunnel of Screams where you ride through the dark, past various waxy things that leap out of the wall at regular intervals and boo! Or rather, bleah! In "Alien" you're never quite scared - just queasy.
    For nothing occurs between the Scary Parts but mumbly crew members chatting it up with that gabby control panel. Even an old ghost story has more than ghosts. "Alien" skips the story. There's nothing to lead you on, to try to trick you and make it seem like it's all happening to real people. The crew is just part of the hardware fright-meters who register shock; the warmest thing aboard is a cat.
    You can't imagine being stranded out there in space - helpless - the way you could in, say, that old haunted New York apartment in "Rosemary's Baby" or upstairs in a Georgetown brownstone in "The Exorcist," or in the ocean at Martha's Vineyard in "Jaws."
    A problem with "Alien" is that, out there in some vast dreary nth dimension, anything goes. It's too darn easy to haunt a cosmos.
  • Any amount of symbolism and sociological messages can easily be intellectualized in Alien. There is a whole routine about science, for instance, that is compelling and intriguing. But I leave such considerations to others for now and give fair warning: When going on intergalactic travel, always be sure to take a cat. It may prove a friend.”
  • When the first "Alien" came out in 1979, promising and delivering screams in space that no one could hear, more than a few critics and regular humans called it a relentless, hard-driving thrill machine. In retrospect it resembles a movie with the patience of Job, taking its sweet, stealthy time before arriving at one of the great moments in the history of extreme cinematic gore.
    You know the scene, probably. There's John Hurt, an actor whose face always seemed halfway to crestfallen even when he didn't have anything to worry about, sitting around the spacecraft galley, having a jolly meal with his crew aboard the Nostromo. He doesn't realize the steroidal tapeworm inside him, gestating, awaits the right moment to burst forth from Hurt's chest and commence the cat-and-mouse franchise spanning two centuries and counting.
    That monster has been chasing director Ridley Scott ever since.
  • Ridley Scott has given us a chilling and brilliantly rendered antidote to swashbuckling space heroes and amiable robots. This is the best horror film to reach the screen since ‘’The Omen’’ and a landmark piece of science fiction that looks back to the ’50s tradition of malevolent aliens.”
  • Mr. Scott said that when he first read the “Alien” script, by Dan O’Bannon, “it was frankly what I would call a very well-written B-movie. And we carried it out in an ‘A’ way with a terrific cast and a fantastic monster.”
  • Alien screenwriter Dan O'Bannon has gone on record to say he used Giger's design motifs to force male audience members to reflect on the effect of sexual violence; he wanted to force male audiences to understand and experience the visceral horror of rape and sexual assault.
  • On an intuitive level, Giger understood how humans express ourselves in sexual terms; how it's rarely far from our minds, and how we attribute all kinds of positive emotions with the enjoyment of sex and its capacity for new life. ‘’Alien’’ took something we're conditioned to view as wholly beautiful, joyous and celebratory—and twisted it into a nightmare.
  • Alien is mostly in the business of thrills, and on that level it did provide more than a few. I looked away from the screen during its most gory scenes. Even more enjoyable, though, was watching the film debut of an actress who should become a major star, Sigourney Weaver (she probably changed her name from Alice) makes an auspicious debut as one of the sturdiest crew members.”
  • When Academy Award-winning Swiss artist H.R. Giger passed away on Monday, he left behind, among his endless menagerie of horrors across a wide array of media, including painting, film, sculpture, and music, one of the most unique depictions of alien life ever put to screen. The titular alien, heretofore referred to as the Xenomorph, from Ridley Scott's 1979 science fiction horror classic, wasn't inspired by the stars. Instead it came from deep within mankind (sorry John Hurt) and somehow developed into something more alien and terrifying than anything from the unknown.
  • Famed science-fiction screenwriter Dan O'Bannon (Total Recall, Dark star) and Ronald Shusett, who wrote the original draft of Alien, wanted to make a movie about interspecies rape. The script called for a creature that, after impregnating one crew member on the space freighter, The Nostromo, would go on to force itself on the rest of the crew. For that, they needed a creature that reflected not the best that life in the known universe had to offer, but the worst.
  • It is quite astonishing how much academic work Alien has triggered and from such a wide range of approaches. For example, there are psychoanalytic analyses which stress the importance of the alien as a kind of all-consuming mother figure. The birth trauma of the alien erupting from Hurt’s innards also plays to Freudian interpretations of the film’s significance.
    It is as good an example of Nietzsche’s idea of the will to power, the main driving force in existence – to survive and reproduce at all costs. Alien is intriguing when viewed from that philosophical perspective.
  • Alien is only the second feature for director Ridley Scott, but it should establish the young Briton as a major film maker. And if there’s any justice, it will cause a scramble to book The Duellists, Scott’s over-looked first film.”
  • In the wake of the huge commercial success of Alien, almost all attention has perversely focused on the provenance of the script (was it a rip-off of It, the Terror from Beyond Space? Of Van Vogt's fiction? Was former John Carpenter collaborator Dan O'Bannon sold out by producers Walter Hill and David Giler's rewrites?). But the limited strengths of its staple sci-fi horrors - crew of commercial spacecraft menaced by stowaway monster - always derived from either the offhand organic/ Freudian resonances of its design or the purely (brilliantly) manipulative editing and pacing of its above-average shock quota. Intimations of a big-budget Dark Star fade early, and notions of Weaver as a Hawksian woman rarely develop beyond her resourceful reaction to jeopardy. At least Scott has no time to dawdle over redundant futuristic effects in the fashion that scuttles his later Blade Runner.
  • The price paid for the excitement, and it’s a small one, is very little involvement with the characters themselves. But it really doesn’t matter when the screaming starts.
    In contrast to the glamorous, adventurous outer-space life often depicted in sci-fi, Alien initially presents a mundane commercial spacecraft with crew members like Yaphet Kotto bitching and moaning about wages and working conditions.
  • For those unfamiliar with film, "Alien" follows the unlucky crew of the Nostromo, a space barge of sorts that picks up what seems to be a distress signal from a nearby planet. After investigating, the crew members find an otherworldly craft on the surface, and one poor fellow (John Hurt) picks up an alien parasite that attaches itself to his face, making him a host to something infinitely worse — a hostile beast that begins picking them off one by one.
  • Ridley Scott’s original, 1979’s Alien, is a deeply complex monster movie but it wasn’t the first movie to suggest multinational corporations were a danger to individuality. The late Ned Beat-ty’s explosive cameo in Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 nightmare-ish TV news satire Network is a memorable monologue about corporate power replacing the state. Even a hokey, if still entertaining, junk sci-fi flick like 1975’s Rollerball starring James Caan knew that the future belonged to fat cats, not presidents.
    These movies, all of them almost fifty years old, are also blatantly political. In Alien, the real monsters are the executives who see the humans who work for them as disposable. I don’t think there’s a better encapsulation of modern capitalism.
  • I was really lucky getting the part of Ripley because it took my career down a much less conventional route than I had thought I had wanted. I had dreamt of being mostly a stage actor, which was the kind of career my mother had. Shakespeare and all that. I think what helped was that I wasn't falling over backwards to get the role. I thought, 'Right, I'm going to be chased around the room by this big blob of Jell-O.' And there wasn't anything startling or original about the script. It's basically Ten Little Indians. Then I met Ridley and he was a mad man in a wonderful way. When I saw the set design I realised this was going to be fabulous.
  • Thirty-five years ago, when Weaver was cast in a sci-fi horror movie — with a little-known commercial director named Ridley Scott at the helm — Weaver would never have predicted that she'd be talking about the film in the far-flung future of 2014.
    "(Before I saw the designs,) I pictured this big blob of yellow gel rumbling around," she said. "At the first meeting with Ridley, he pulled out all these beautiful big drawings H.R. Giger had done. He's one of the main reasons we're still here talking about this film. ...I wanted to be part of whatever that was because I had never seen anything like that on the screen before.
  • It really is not the traditional kind of space adventure where you have a hero and a sidekick and a damsel in distress. In this case they’ve transformed that. I think in some ways that comes out of the moment in the 1970s when there is a turn toward the more dystopian.
  • The mother of all action heroines is Ellen Ripley, the character played by Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi classic "Alien." Ripley was no superwoman - just a capable crew member on a space barge that was invaded by a maternal monster who laid eggs inside humans.
    Ripley was a survivor, but in James Cameron's subsequent sequel, she morphed into an avenger, with more overtly violent tendencies and a surrogate daughter to protect.
  • The plot wasn't new even when the film was first released. With its hook of a seven-member, multicultural spaceship crew running afoul of a ravenous space alien who gets aboard their ship and kills them, one by one, it suggests a mix of Stanley Kubrick's "2001," Howard Hawks' "The Thing" and every monster movie since "Frankenstein." But the look of the film was new. Few science-fiction movies are as cold, as full of cavernous space, angst and horrific beings. The original "Alien" is a work of popular entertainment and movie art in which the makers took the "art' as seriously as the entertainment.
  • "Alien" was released a year after Carpenter's "Halloween" and it altered the landscape of high-budget studio horror as irrevocably as "Halloween" changed cheapo horror. "Alien" was a classy picture with classy people -- both Scott and Holm were later knighted -- but it was also gruesome, awful. "In space, no one can hear you scream," ran the original ad line; like Poole and Bowman in "2001," these astronauts are at the mercy of their ship, and even their computer, as well as the alien.
  • The look of "Alien" remains fabulous: a cross between the elegant austerity of "2001" and the raw funk of "Dark Star" and other low-budgeters. The sets are dazzling and macabre. The characters are both archetypal -- even slightly cliched -- and cipherlike. Being trapped on those sets, with those people, still imparts a creepy chill. There have been three other "Aliens" since, by directors James Cameron, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, but though all have their points, none is as relentless as this. Weaver was never quite as sexy, vulnerable or compelling. And though they kept trying and repeating, none had an alien this gruesomely, shatteringly awry and unexpected. When it jumped, or when it jumps now, so do we.

“Still Screaming in Space: Remembering “Alien” on its 40th Anniversary” (May 27, 2019)


Gary Arnold, The Washington Post; as qtd in “Still Screaming in Space: Remembering “Alien” on its 40th Anniversary”, by Michael Coate, The Digital Bits, (May 27, 2019)

  • "Alien" opens on a disarmingly restful note, with establishing shots of a majestic spaceship in which we first discover the seven crew members slumbering away the long voyage home in "hyper-sleep."
    But the serenity soon fades as British director Ridley Scott and his collaborators build and sustain a brilliant nightmarish tension. Crew and spectators alike are kept in a state of hyper-apprehension, anticipating the sudden, deadly reappearances of a monstrous alien organism-undoubtedly one of the most bizarre and vicious creatures ever to spring from the shadows of a movie set.
  • "Alien" is a stylish update on the tradition of '50s science-fiction monster thrillers like "The Thing" or "Forbidden Planet." "Alien" may seem no more ingenious or frightening than those films did at first sight, but it enhances their durable fear mechanisms with the latest refinements in special-effects artistry, space-age scenic design, sophisticated pictorial atmosphere, tantalization and dynamism. It is certain to take a respected place along the classics of cinematic suspense and horror.
  • The monster in "Alien" variously recalls the shark in "Jaws (film)," the demon in "The Exorcist," the pods in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and even the benign extraterrestrials of "Close Encounters." But the most terrifying adaptation is the mouth: as it grows in both size and ferocity, the infernal beast, conceived by Giger and realized by several special effects designers, flashes not only jaws but jaws within jaws.
    After the first shocking, snarling show of teeth, all that's necessary to provoke our self-torment is the buildup of suspense, which Scott orchestrates with masterful visual and rhythmic command-and the startling emergence of fragmentary features from some border or background of the image.
    "Alien" is scary enough to create a sensation and justify taking the "R" rating seriously, especially for young children. Yet, it is graphically restrained and subtly abstracted compared to the excesses of " The Exorcist " or "Dawn of the Dead." There are two spectacular gruesome passages, but even here the horror concept is at least as frightening as the depiction. Scott has opted for the minimum effective gruesomeness, given the circumstances and current standards in trick-effect traumatization.
  • I left Alien feeling contentedly manipulated, but not in an unparalleled entertaining panic. The monster’s one blood-spattered attack will probably become the most talked-about sequence in Alien. The climactic episodes are a rather more impressive cinematic achievement.”

“Influential ‘Alien’ probed culture’s darkest fears” (Oct. 29, 2003)


Lewis Beale “Influential ‘Alien’ probed culture’s darkest fears”, Los Angeles Times, (Oct. 29, 2003)

  • “Alien” is all about “the dark side of technology, of science,” says David J. Skal, author of “The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror.” “Despite all the things we’re told that will make the future a better place, what happens in ‘Alien’ is our worst nightmare.”
    That’s exactly what Dan O’Bannon was thinking when he set out to write what he calls “a scary spaceship movie” in the mid-1970s. Influenced by 1950s sci-fi films like “The Thing,” O’Bannon was determined to make a “monster thriller about a monster from outer space, done with the style and technology that had accumulated since the 1950s.”
    This merger of horror and science fiction proved extremely fortuitous. There had been plenty of monsters in movies before “Alien,” but mostly they had been of the “man in rubber suit” variety. Thanks to the creepy vision of Swiss artist H.R. Giger, the extraterrestrial monster in Scott’s film, with its insect-like body, acidic blood and knife-sharp teeth, was truly nightmarish.
  • “The H.R. Giger alien was like nothing you’d ever seen before,” says Gordon Van Gelder, editor of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine. “ ‘Alien’ was the first film that put the splatter element into a sci-fi context.”
    “The monster is skeletal, it’s mechanical, it’s insect-like,” Skal says. “It’s all of this stuff hitting you at once, and it’s bound to elicit a response from the viewer.”
    Thanks in part to an innovative marketing campaign -- the tagline “In space, no one can hear you scream” might be one the best ever devised -- that response translated into a $79-million domestic box-office gross (huge for the time), three sequels and stardom for Sigourney Weaver, whose sexy but no-nonsense Ripley became a template for all subsequent female action heroes.
    And the film itself became a model of sorts. Take a sexually and racially diverse crew; place them in an out-of-the-way space station, planet or underwater research facility; then have them menaced by a horrific creature until there is only one man, or woman, left standing -- “Leviathan,” “Deep Blue,” “Event Horizon,” “Pitch Black,” “Screamers,” the list of films seems to go on endlessly, and in a sense, that’s the problem.
  • “It’s an impossible nightmare, this fusion of technology and vermin, death and sex,” he says. “It goes back to what monsters are: They’re always a fusion of contradictory aspects. They’re things that don’t exist and can’t exist, but they work on a dream level; they capture our imaginations.”

“Alien at 40: In space no one can hear your plea for workers’ rights” (26 February 2019)


Charles Graham-Dixon, “Alien at 40: In space no one can hear your plea for workers’ rights”, (26 February 2019)

Alien’s pervading, gloomy atmosphere and sense of lonely terror ensure it remains a touchstone in haunted house cinema. As in other genuinely frightening films, less is more: by cutting his camera away early, Scott leaves much in the minds of audiences. We fill in the blanks by conjuring up nightmarish thoughts and images.
  • Forty years after its release, Ridley Scott’s 1979 chiller is rightly regarded as a sci-fi horror classic. It has aged beautifully – its industrial yet futuristic production aesthetic retains a cutting-edge realism, H.R Giger’s creature and ship designs are unsettling yet perversely beautiful and Dan O’Bannon’s naturalistic dialogue is memorably understated.
    Alien’s pervading, gloomy atmosphere and sense of lonely terror ensure it remains a touchstone in haunted house cinema. As in other genuinely frightening films, less is more: by cutting his camera away early, Scott leaves much in the minds of audiences. We fill in the blanks by conjuring up nightmarish thoughts and images.
    Much commentary on Scott’s film justifiably focuses on the film’s technical achievements – direction, cinematography, music and the fearsome alien creature. What’s less remarked upon is how its tension is amplified by Alien’s realism, its sense of everyday life turned upside down. Yes, this is science fiction and this is outer space, but Alien feels real.
  • Although we’re far into the future and far from Earth, the film feels palpably naturalistic and relatable, which makes the ensuing horror even more disturbing. By presenting engineers, technicians and navigators – regular, blue-collar workers complete with hierarchical and contractual disputes – audiences more easily engage with the story. This is something that Lachlan Walter argues in his article ‘Apocalypse Soon-Ish: Blue-Collar Science Fiction and the ‘Ordinary’ Worker As Hero’:
  • Impeccable directing, acting and music aside, Alien’s ‘look’ is perhaps its most memorable feature. While otherworldly, surrealistic art may seem a far cry from workers and realism, it’s worth emphasising again that were it not for Alien’s remarkable visual style and unshowy presentation of employment in space, the film’s impact and enduring qualities would be much diminished.
  • Responsible for designing the seductive yet deadly alien, the insectile ‘face-hugger’ creature and the forebodingly derelict alien ship was Swiss surrealist artist, Hans Ruedi (H.R) Giger. Much like in the ‘body horror’ films of David Cronenberg, such as Videodrome (1983) and The Fly (1986), Giger fuses human and machine, with his sleekly imagined biomechanical mash-ups of bone and metal resulting in images that take on a kind of disordered symmetry.
    Giger also designed the surface of LV-426, a sunless, boulder strewn, god-forsaken planet where brutal winds never stop blowing and jagged rocky outcrops, almost phallic in appearance, punctuate the landscape.
  • Alien’s visual centrepiece is the alien itself, inspired by Giger’s 1976 print Necronom IV. It’s a truly hideous creature, replete with a long, smooth phallic skull, a set of razor sharp teeth and a second set of pharyngeal jaws similar to those of an eel, which shoot out, stabbing and penetrating flesh.
    The creature also appears to have no eyes, but we know it sees, and its gender is never revealed, though it displays both male and female characteristics. The creature’s hands are monstrous and dragon-like, with long fingers and claws, but its body resembles the cross-section of some complex industrial machine, with human-like ribs lying externally over a mass of coils, springs and what look like hydraulic mechanisms.
  • Areas of the Nostromo are reminiscent of various blue-collar workplaces, a counterpoint to the sleek spaceships imagined in much science fiction before Alien. In his article ‘The set design of Ridley Scott’s Alien’, Christopher Aguiar explains that this approach had rarely been seen in science fiction before 1979, which adds to the quality of trepidation: “Fear is built largely from the camera prowling around the empty spaces of the Nostromo ship – a battered, truly ugly spacecraft, unlike the Death Star or USS Enterprise… instead of being outside and exploring the world as sci-fi often wants us to do, we’re largely stuck inside the rundown, twisted corridors of a ship. That immediately works as a way of Scott installing fear and uneasiness.”
  • Sci-fi cinema has a long history of ruthless and evil corporations, including the Tyrell Corporation in Scott’s subsequent Blade Runner (1982), Cyberdyne Systems in the Terminator films (1984-), Omni Consumer Products in RoboCop (1987) and the Soylent Corporation in Soylent Green (1973). The interests of these conglomerates, often inspired by real-life organisations, lie entirely in profit, operating with a total indifference towards the welfare of their employees. The companies at the heart of blue-collar science fiction such as Alien, Moon and Outland are similarly ruthless.
    Viewers watching Alien 40 years later may have little trouble recognising the practices of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation; the way it controls its poorer workers with unfair and dangerous working conditions. Grounded in Scott’s gritty, blue-collar vision, it all seems both credible and familiar. As in 1979, 2019 and so in 2122, money is the ultimate goal, not worker’s rights or their well being.

“The Scariest Thing About ‘Alien’ Is How Real It’s Become” (Oct 29, 2019)

It shows us that brute, mindless animal existence — a life concerned only with making more babies, no matter the cost — is hideous, horrifying, and destructive.

Jude Ellison S. Doyle, “The Scariest Thing About ‘Alien’ Is How Real It’s Become”, Medium, (Oct 29, 2019)

  • Its plot is a kind of nightmarish allegory for the socially conservative backlash, in which a gender-egalitarian and sexually liberated future is torn apart by a monster whose only concern is impregnating everyone against their will.
    The gender politics of Alien are shockingly progressive, even now.
  • Alien is a movie about the tyranny of the body over the self. Culture and technology allow us some degree of reproductive and sexual agency. Alien is about how terrifying it feels to have all that agency stripped away by something that defines you purely by your body — how it feels to be turned from an adult human being to a fleshy vessel that can be used to host and birth someone else’s young.
  • In 1979, we had the luxury of imagining the Xenomorph as something fundamentally estranged from humanity. It is, as Ash says, a being comprised of pure reproductive instinct, with no culture or intellect to get in the way of its drive to propagate the species: “A survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.” Yet today, it’s precisely those conservative “delusions of morality” that are forcing people to live in bodies and lives they haven’t chosen and don’t want.
  • Culture, technology, medicine — all the tools that help us to live in our bodies while retaining autonomy and agency over them — are not only necessary, they’re what make us human. Alien rings true for us, 40 years later, because it understands that truth. It shows us that brute, mindless animal existence — a life concerned only with making more babies, no matter the cost — is hideous, horrifying, and destructive.

“Forty years on, what can Ridley Scott’s Alien teach the #Metoo generation?” (March 5, 2019)


Imogen West-Knights, “Forty years on, what can Ridley Scott’s Alien teach the #Metoo generation?”, The New Statesman, (March 5, 2019)

When the BBFC were deciding how to rate the film in 1979, they gave it an X (18) certificate for depicting “a perverse view of sexual function” which runs “like a dark undercurrent” throughout. As we follow Ripley fleeing through the ship’s labyrinthine tunnels, we can imagine the alien’s desire.
  • What is it about Alien that gets under our skin? Scott’s film pursues an astronaut crew hunted by an alien life form aboard their spaceship. It’s interwoven with endlessly interpretable themes: artificial intelligence, desire, rape, fear of the unknown.
    But the alien’s ruthless biological imperative to reproduce is the film’s masterstroke.
  • On planet earth, predators hunt their prey to consume them. Alien deviates from this evolutionary food chain – the creature is more interested in impregnating humans as carriers for its biological spawn. Scott’s film evokes primal horror of violation and sexual perversion; it’s no accident that the alien itself is so phallic.
  • In the original script, characters’ genders were explicitly interchangeable. This was a distinctly unusual feature for a sci-fi script at the time, and meant that the lead Ellen Ripley, the now iconic female action hero played by Sigourney Weaver, was never initially conceived of as a woman at all.
    This might explain why her behaviour doesn’t conform to the sexist stereotypes rife in 1970s filmmaking. Weaver also told the Independent in 2012 that Ripley was an expression of 1970s feminist insurgency: “Women were agitating to be in the army, to work in warehouses and as truck drivers.”
    Other than making room for a powerful female lead for the film, the gender-neutral script underlines something crucial about Alien’s horror: all human life is at threat. Audiences were already familiar with women as the targets of sexual assault, but Alien brought a new horror into the mainstream, a truly inhuman sexual attacker indiscriminate about its targets.
  • When the BBFC were deciding how to rate the film in 1979, they gave it an X (18) certificate for depicting “a perverse view of sexual function” which runs “like a dark undercurrent” throughout. As we follow Ripley fleeing through the ship’s labyrinthine tunnels, we can imagine the alien’s desire.
  • The 40th anniversary reissue of Alien this month feels timely. While other sci-fi classics like Blade Runner or the Star Wars films showcase technological advances of a coming space age, the vision of the future seen in Alien is one focused on a primal fear that predates technology. The future, Alien asks us to imagine, might not look so different from the present: rape and sexual violence might be more of a threat, not less.
    Our contemporary cultural landscape is in-comparable to that of the 1970s, and today we are far more aware of the insidious nature of sexual violence. What enables Alien to endure 40 years on is how it suggests men, as well as women, should fear rape. Sexual assault is not limited to female bodies. If Alien makes one thing plain, it is that everybody, regardless of their gender, suffers if sexual violence is allowed to take place unopposed – a message that will be appreciated in 2019 perhaps more than ever.

“Chronicle review from 1979: 'Alien' is worth seeing” (May 24, 2019)


Jeff Millar “Chronicle review from 1979: 'Alien' is worth seeing”, Houston Chronicle, (May 24, 2019)

  • With no consideration given at this point to the ideas generated by the film's narrative, I assure anyone with the slightest affection for the SF genre that it's worth its admission price simply for the intelligence and audacity of its look.
  • It melds the American-pragmatic form-as-function look of "2001" with the European fantasist influence of artists whose work appears in the upscale-head-comic magazine Heavy Metal. The space ship in which most of the film takes place is a humble freighter, and it looks used. The crew has humanized it with toys, wind chimes, a cat, non-company-issued clothing. The outside of the space ship is standard-issue count-the-rivets "Star Wars." But the space suits are based upon 15th century Japanese samurai warriors. And the dead race which once lived within the alien planet upon which the ship lands created works of engineering which appear made of organic matter. The first half-hour of the film, before we settle in the space-freighter interior for the rest of the evening, is one breathtaking visual effect after another.
  • A warning: Despite the state-of-the-art special effects and Scott's remarkably comprehensive use of the syntax of film, Scott seeks to entertain you by the brutally primal tactic of reaching into your gut and squeezing your adrenal gland: There's an awful thingie there in the dark, and it gets people, and you have to watch it as it does.
    The filmmakers have come up with some images that are sheerest nightmare. The film earns its shudders honestly: Scott is too talented to need gratuitousness as an aid. We are repelled more by the idea of what's happening than by simple excess of repellent images. Still, even while you acknowledge that the filmmakers are scrupulous, sitting with your arms wrapped around your head because you can't watch the screen may not be your idea of a good time.
  • "Alien" is such a startlingly well-made film that it seems the height of something -- malcontentedness, I guess -- to complain even in low tones about its objectives. Inarguably, the filmmakers achieve their objective entirely -- they make us leave the theater reeling.
  • Is it critical overreaching to ask that Scott had been more ambitious? Probably. You never want more from bad films, though. You just want out. Good ones, as they satisfy appetites, often create fresh hungers.
    But the movie Scott wants to make -- as opposed to the one I'd preferred he made -- works. Wow, does it work. If you leave the theater with your nerves unjangled, you arrived in a coma.

“A Male Rape Movie in Space: Is Alien More Relevant Now Than in 1979?” (September 5, 2019)


Alexandre O. Philippe as quoted by Karl Quinn in “A Male Rape Movie in Space: Is Alien More Relevant Now Than in 1979?”, Sydney Morning Herald, (September 5, 2019)

  • Few scenes in cinema are as etched in the popular mind as the moment in Alien when a phallic-shaped metal-toothed creature bursts bloodily from the chest of Kane (John Hurt), a crewman aboard the intergalactic mining ship Nostromo, before scuttling off to lurk and grow and begin killing Kane’s crewmates one-by-one.
    For those who saw it at the cinema in 1979, the world was split in two: the time before the chest burster and the time after.
    Movies would never be the same. Science-fiction had found its darkest expression. Horror had a new name – the shape-shifting, acid-dripping, all-consuming creature that fans soon labelled the xenomorph, as far from the benign bug-eyed presence of ET as it was possible to imagine.
    The film spawned a franchise – three more Alien films, two Alien vs Predator spin-offs, and Ridley Scott’s more recent prequels, Prometheus and Alien Covenant – that have collectively earned more than $US1.5 billion ($A2.2 billion) at the box office, and a whole lot more on video, DVD, Blu-Ray and digital platforms. It has spawned PhD theses and endless discussion and riffs in popular culture. Earlier this year, it even spawned a high-school theatre version.
  • We live now in a culture saturated in filmed images, but very little of it ascends to the level of shared experience, says Philippe. Game of Thrones was an exception, “but there are very few now that have these moments – like the chest burster, like the Psycho shower scene – that completely traumatise a generation. They are very rare.”
    Philippe – who was born in Switzerland but moved to the US 26 years ago with dreams of becoming a professional golfer – is fascinated by these cut-through moments. His last film was 78/52, a forensic examination of the 78 seconds and 52 cuts that comprise the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. His next – which he was about to take to the Venice Film Festival when we spoke earlier this week – is a meditation on The Exorcist.
    What he sees in these films is an expression not just of their makers’ intentions and talents, but of something far greater – our collective unconscious at play.
    “There are certain movies that become phenomena because they express ideas that we need to see in our culture at a particular time,” he says. “And rarely are we actually conscious of the fact that we need to see those ideas being expressed.”
  • “I’m very interested in the idea of coincidence versus fate,” says Philippe. “The way I see it, nothing is ever completely coincidental and nothing is ever completely fated. Coincidence can become fate.
    “You could argue that it is audiences that willed Alien to life,” he continues. “Had Dan O’Bannon, Ridley Scott and HR Giger not been on the frequency for that myth, someone else would have had to be. When you look at the number of coincidences that happened for Alien to be Alien you have to wonder if there were greater forces at work.”
    The thing that most desperately needed to be expressed, he argues, was a challenge to the “patriarchal imbalance”. Kane’s “rape” by the alien – by the face hugger that latches onto his face and inserts its egg via a tube shoved down his throat – and the shocking experience of “birthing” the alien through his chest “jolted people into a feeling of unease”, he says.
    “There were things that happen to women that were suddenly transposed to Kane,” he continues. “I don’t think that was being processed consciously – I don’t think the studio was thinking, ‘Oh yeah, here’s $11 million, go make a male-rape movie in space’. I don’t believe O’Bannon, Giger and Scott were thinking along those lines either.”
    But they were images and ideas that we needed to see in order to deal with the underlying tensions in our culture, he believes.
    “What makes Alien so amazing is that it took 40 years for society to process and to start having a dialogue about those images and ideas,” he adds. “Alien is, in a way, much more contemporary today than it was 40 years ago.”

“Woman: The Other Alien in Alien” (June 6, 2012)


Tom Shone, “Woman: The Other Alien in Alien”, Slate, (June 06, 2012)

  • “The birth of the alien from Kane’s stomach plays on what Freud described as a common misunderstanding that many children have about birth, that is, that the mother is somehow impregnated through the mouth,” determined Barbara Creed, professor of Screen Studies at the University of Melbourne, in “Horror and the Monstrous Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection” (Screen, Vol. 27, 1986), just one of hundreds of academic theses spawned by Scott’s 1979 shocker and its sequels. Academics have always loved science fiction, of course. No film studies syllabus is complete without an invitation to parse alien-invasion B-movies from the ‘50s as fretful cold-war allegories. There was always something a little lordly about this kind of approach to pop-artifacts, as if the little dears couldn’t tell what made their hearts pitter-pat so until the redoubtable professor arrived with his chalkboard, duster, and special subtext X-ray specs.
    But the cottage industry of analysis that has sprung up around Alien is something else again. In 1980, the highly-respected academic journal Science Fiction Studies devoted an entire issue to the first Alien—an event that may, in time, come to rank alongside Cahiers du Cinema’s All-Hitchcock issue of 1956. Since then, there has been no looking back. We’ve had Alien as feminist allegory (“Woman: The Other Alien in Alien,” Women Worldwalkers: New Dimensions of Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1985), Alien as mothering fable (“Mommie Dearest: Aliens, Rosemary’s Baby, and Mothering,” Journal of Popular Culture, 1990), Alien as abortion parable (“Voices of Sexual Distortion: Rape, Birth, and Self-Annihilation Metaphors in the Aliens Trilogy,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 1995). Even Jones the cat got his own diagram, courtesy of James H. Kavenagh’s essay “Son of a Bitch: Feminism, Humanism, and Science in Alien” (October, No. 13, 1980), which sought to align the alien attack on humans with an Althusserian-Marxist takedown of humanism in general:
  • What is it about the Alien films? No other modern science-fiction film has inspired this level of termite-like deconstruction save perhaps Scott’s own Blade Runner, whose rain-soaked surfaces teem with postmodern theorists researching doctoral theses with titles like “American Excep-tionalism and the Complicit Postcolonialism of Blade Runner” and “Data and Dick’s Deckard: Cyborg as Problematic Signifier.” Which suggests that there is something about the rich, art-directed layer-cake of Ridley Scott productions that positively cries out for Greimasian semantic rectangles.
    “It has absolutely no message,” insisted Scott of the first Alien. “It works on a very visceral level and its only point is terror, and more terror.” Of all the things you can do with Scott’s alien beastie—be frightened by it, thrilled by it, repulsed by it—studying it seems the last thing on anybody’s mind, except of course Science Officer Ash, secretly eyeing it up for the company’s weapons division. When it comes to the burgeoning field of post-doctorate Alien study, Ash graduates summa cum lauda. Study is all he wants to do.
  • It’s one reason Alien scholars tend to be a little down on James Cameron, although they love the elevation of Ripley to post-feminist action figure—“get away from her you bitch!”—and approve of the fact that all the white males become dead white males at a faster rate than all the nonwhite males (see Greenberg, Harvey. “Fembo: Aliens’ Intentions”). Marxists, too, have clucked with approval at the series’ clear-eyed take on corporate malfeasance and outer-space worker rights. And Freudians, needless to say, have had a field day, at least with the first film. A movie more in need of a trip to the analyst would be harder to find.
  • For a brief moment in the early ‘80s, it looked as if the brave new world of Alien studies was going to splinter irreconcilably on the issue of Officer Ripley’s panties—the anti-panty camp ac-cusing the pro-panty wing of uncritical phallocentrism, the pro-panty caucus accusing the anti-panty wing of repressive and self-defeating assumptions about what constitutes sexism.
    It was left to Melbourne’s professor Creed to broker a tentative piece between the two camps. “Much has been written about the final scene, in which Ripley undresses before the camera, on the grounds that its voyeurism undermines her role as successful heroine,” she wrote with an air of weary summary in “Horror and the Monstrous Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection” Screen, Vol. 27, 1986. What if Ripley in her panties “signifies the ‘acceptable’ form and shape of wom-an. … The display of woman as reassuring and pleasurable sign.” It’s the system of signification, stupid! As for the sex of the alien “the alien is the mother’s phallus,” she determined, “but the alien is more than a phallus, it is also coded as a toothed vagina, the monstrous feminine as a cannibalistic mother.” Voilà, thanks to another of those toothed vaginas that seem to be all the rage on college campuses these days.
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