Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Nominee #20 - Alien (1979)
A spaceship crew responding to a distress call finds themselves trapped with a mysterious, hostile life form.
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Dan O'Bannon (story), Ronald Shusett (story)
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
The 70s is often considered one of Hollywood’s finest hours for horror. From The Exorcist (1973) to
scares and ghosts were becoming cliché, Hollywood needed something original and
something terrifying. In 1979, Ridley Scott stepped up to the challenge and knocked it out of
Alien (1979) remains one of the most original and terrifying ventures into the genre of science
fiction. It’s a film that has you white knuckled for every frame of its run time and leaves you
drooling for more as the credits roll. Alien gave audiences a new nightmare, it opened up
possibilities for the genre of science fiction that films today are still inspired by. Alien was
revolutionary both as a science fiction film and as a horror movie.
Alien has no intention of scaring you, it doesn’t try to make you jump in your seat it instead
gets under your skin. It tightens around you slowly till you’re gasping for air and it does this
with the help of its two most powerful weapons: character and tension.
Alien has no intention of scaring you [...] it instead gets under your skin. It tightens around you slowly till you’re gasping for air [...] Its two most powerful weapons: character and tension.
Alien builds characters before it introduces its horror. In fact, some of the most profound
sequences in the film are the conversations between characters, the arguments, the
decisions. Alien has 3 scenes where the crew of the Nostromo sit around a table, talk and
eat and while of course the third of these scenes gives us the iconic chest burster scene
which was an astounding accomplishment filmed entirely practically, the two sequences
prior build a gradual and heavy tension conveyed solely through expertly written dialogue.
The crew of the Nostromo are doomed, we as the audience watching a film called Alien
know that, but Ridley Scott’s genius emerges in his approach to convey that. The tension is
built through the silence, through the hum and whir of machinery, through the pauses
between sentences. With every scene, the film draws a breath, it absorbs you, you can feel
the tension creep to its peak, you know the release is approaching.
When it happens, when the object of their peril is finally revealed the film locks into fifth
gear. We are granted our first glimpse at the Xenomorph, one of, if not the most terrifying
movie Alien Hollywood has ever brought to life. At this point in the film we know our
characters, we care about Ellen Ripley, Dallas, Lambert, Brett and the rest of the crew.
When they are in danger, we want them to escape, the film’s gradual set up has paid off.
Alien is a terrifying, claustrophobic, tense science fiction experience that perfectly blends
the strongest aspects of both genres, science fiction and horror. The script blazes with
emotion, tension and character. The performances from Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, Ian
Holm, John Hurt and the rest of the cast are spot on. This is a film that never misses a step,
never loses focus and is guaranteed to have you reconsidering your space exploration