Alien (1979)
January 28, 2015 8:10 PM - Subscribe

Space truckers get in trouble. The commercial vessel Nostromo receives a distress call from an unexplored planet. After searching for survivors, the crew heads home only to realize that a deadly bioform has joined them. (imdb)

Alien is a 1979 science-fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. The film's title refers to a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature that stalks and kills the crew of a spaceship. Dan O'Bannon wrote the screenplay from a story he wrote with Ronald Shusett, drawing influence from previous works of science fiction and horror. The film was produced by Gordon Carroll, David Giler and Walter Hill through their Brandywine Productions and distributed by 20th Century Fox. Giler and Hill made revisions and additions to the script. Shusett was executive producer. The eponymous Alien and its accompanying elements were designed by Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger, while concept artists Ron Cobb and Chris Foss designed the human aspects of the film. Alien was the first film produced in the Alien franchise and is the second chronologically in the narratives, following Prometheus. (wikipedia)

Images for Alien (google)

Alien Trailer (youtube)

"After Star Wars, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, and others–1979's Alien suggested another view of space: It could suck." (Keith Phipps)
posted by valkane (24 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
This was the first real body horror movie that I saw. For most of the movie, I was thinking to myself "this is amazing and I WISH I WASN'T WATCHING THIS but it is so good maybe just a bit more".
posted by GrumpyDan at 9:05 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Regardless of it's other many merits, Alien taught me one unshakable rule of starship design: Every square inch of overhead, deck, and bulkhead in the entire ship should be painted white.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:01 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

Here's Jeremy's[1] liveblogged reactions to Alien.

The short version: "This movie is a tour de force of concentrated and relentless terror without escape. I'm quite sure of two things: that it's a cinematic accomplishment with few peers, and that I never want to see it ever again. Holy fuck this movie should go to hell."

[1] A pop culture-deprived young man whose first reactions to Star Wars were featured on Metafilter last year.
posted by martinrebas at 4:47 AM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

This has been running a lot on tv lately. I remember when I first saw it (after I saw Aliens, even though I owned Alien posters) - when Parker laughs at Brett for letting Jones go, I felt weird, because I didn't get it either. It was a cat. And then I was like "ohhh".

Another effect of watching Aliens first was the drawn out suspense seemed even more suffocatingly wonderful. It just takes its time in so many places, and it's something I love about The Thing as well. I'd seen Parker and Lambert's face in the "Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?" scene in Aliens, so I knew they were goners, but I was pleasantly surprised that they got to be memorable characters in Alien.

I love to listen to the instrument panels. I love how they gel as actors and it feels like a group of office mates trying to figure out why the printer is jammed more than it is a bunch of overdone performances, wild camera angles to spotlight characters, or opportunities to toss out tag lines. Even when Dallas is in grave danger, it feels like he's trying to figure out how to clock in without the boss seeing him, lest he get fired. Which is not to downplay how great the movie is, it's to say they made their feelings and expressions so real to me that it comes across as so familiar.

I always like to throw in the pop culture reference stuff in these threads, so Donald Glover - "Yaphet Kotto".
posted by cashman at 6:32 AM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Regardless of it's other many merits, Alien taught me one unshakable rule of starship design: Every square inch of overhead, deck, and bulkhead in the entire ship should be painted white.

That's all well and good until you're under attack by a white alien.
posted by sonascope at 6:51 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Saw this cold, no info at all other than the title was very science fictionish. Don't remember the beginning just that from a certain point I was white knuckle gripping the armrests, almost broke them off.
posted by sammyo at 7:01 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

My favorite factoid about this film (that I think I learned from Metafilter!): the original script for the film had no references to the gender of any of the characters. You can take it as progressive or as an excellent example of writing economy, but either way it's kind of cool.
posted by selfnoise at 10:03 AM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I saw this film before I ever saw it, in the sense that I heard every detail of it on the schoolyard, read the comic book, read the novelization, and saw images of the most terrifying scenes in Fangoria and the like. If any films could be ruined before you see a film, that was this for me.

And I was still stunned by it. It's an absolutely superlative piece of filmmaking, and it is a genuinely visionary work.

I have spent years trying to understand what is basically a monster in a haunted house movie in space could be so great. I credited Ridley Scott for a while, and I think Scott is a genuinely fine craftman, but he has repeatedly demonstrated that he's a piece of the gumbo, not the cook.

And I still give screenwriter Dan O'Bannon a lot of credit, although his work could likewise be inconsistent.

The documentary last year about the failed film version of Dune made me realize that much of the credit for the film actually goes to Alejandro Jodorowsky. I mean, the film was created by basically the same team that Jodorowsky assembled for Dune, and cannibalized some of the work that they had done for the film. It's as though a chef had set out to make a meal, assembled the ingredients, the meal had been cancelled, and then the ingredients went off and made their own meal.

It's certainly a unique accomplishment. I can't help but wonder what Dune would have been like, but I admire Jodorowsky's films more than I enjoy them. In the meanwhile, I love alien.
posted by maxsparber at 10:12 AM on January 29, 2015 [9 favorites]

Alien the first horror film I saw, on TV while sleeping over at my fiend Jason's house while his parents were in bed. I must have been 8 or 9. I can still vividly remember my reaction to certain scenes - even the opening credits freaked us out "What is it? Oh, it spells Alien!"

It was late at night (maybe even 11pm!) and we were pretty sleepy, but THAT scene woke us up. After that there was no way we were not going to see the end. We both thought Dallas was going to be the hero and were shocked when he bit the dust. Ripley talking to the computer, Ash's head, the self destruct sequence and the shuttle.

The walk from the living room up the stairs to the Jason's bedroom was very careful.

We thought all grown up films were going to this amazing. We were to be disappointed.
posted by AndrewStephens at 11:02 AM on January 29, 2015 [9 favorites]

I'm still glad that I had no opportunity to see this until I was an adult, because Karen Black and a crappy puppet Zuni fetish doll in a lousy made-for-TV thriller traumatized me enough that it made me set the house on fire. I'd have never been able to turn off a light switch again after Alien.
posted by sonascope at 11:16 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

"You won't come through a smoking fire and jello!"
posted by cashman at 11:23 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

There are so many reasons to love this movie but I will just say the characters are more fleshed out than counterparts in most horror movies.
posted by Monochrome at 4:15 PM on January 29, 2015

You can take it as progressive or as an excellent example of writing economy, but either way it's kind of cool.

The more I learn of Dan O'Bannon's writing style, the more I admire him. He said in an interview once that if he ever found he had written a scene where people explained things they both knew to one other, he scrapped the whole thing and started again.

He had a knack for economy of character. Any given character in Alien probably speaks fewer than five hundred words, and yet even if you have not seen it in years, you still can remember who was who and how they related to one another.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:07 PM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

The thing is, this was a sci-fi movie that just had people doing their job. That's why the space trucker thing is so important. The thing you're missing is that they are just people. Being screwed over by their job. That's what resonates. Because it seems we are all people being used by society to further something that we can't even grasp. Trickle down is about power, and the robot as Ash is the ultimate betrayal. It's a capitalist critique hidden within a horror film. And the production value is amazing. So you go, Oh My God! I get it!
posted by valkane at 8:12 PM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

11 years after 2001 and it's no less relatable that the powers that be fuck over the people out on the front lines with secrets and put them in front of undisclosed risks. The only differences being that the Dave Bowman is more aware of the risks - if not the exact ones - and in Aliens the face of betrayal looks human, even if everyone knows it's not.
posted by phearlez at 11:39 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Saw it the first time in the theater in 1979 and had an idea what was going to happen to poor John Hurt but had no idea how brutal the scene was going to be. I was only 15 and had conned my poor sister into taking me to it since it was 'R' and she had no idea what was coming and was not happy with me afterward. Thirty-five years later, she still brings it up.

I've seen it many times since, most recently about a year ago when I got the four movie blu-ray set and it really does hold up amazingly well for a film that old.
posted by octothorpe at 1:58 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Guardian review from 1979

Reassessing Alien: Sexuality and the Anxieties of Men

Deep Focus Review: Alien

(Thread resurrection because I was working on a post about the film for the 1979 film club, not realizing it had already been done. So, some links instead.)
posted by nubs at 2:24 PM on January 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Inspired by this week's Filmspotting Sacred Cow Review, I just watched it again and was blown away yet again.

Maybe because I just saw De Palma's Blow Out, it really struck me how this is so much more a 70s paranoid thriller than a horror film. The real plot is not the attack of the alien but the slow reveal to us and the crew that the corporation had set them up from start and were just using them as bait. It fits in much better with films like The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor than Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween.
posted by octothorpe at 8:33 AM on April 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Happy Birthday, Ripley: Alien at 40

In a film about body horror and paranoia and the “hell of other people,” Ripley is comfortable in her own skin. Watch “Alien” enough, and you realize she’s more of a leader than Dallas (Tom Skerritt), the captain who’s irritable and emotional in all the ways for which women often are criticized. No one can hear you scream in space, to tweak the film’s tagline, but no one listens to women, either, which would have saved the crew a lot of anguish. No one abandons exploring the alien craft when Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) wants to leave, and Ash (Ian Holm), the science officer, overrides Ripley when she wants the infected Kane (John Hurt) quarantined.

Ripley and “Alien” are perfect storms of happy accidents. The film largely holds up in the #MeToo era because the film was designed around discomfort, sexual assault and violation, thanks to screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and executive producer Ronald Shusett. (“The alien screws one of them,” Shusett said about getting the monster on board.) H.R. Giger’s creature design amplified these themes that pushed the audience’s buttons...

...Earlier this year, Weaver surprised the cast and crew at North Bergen High School in New Jersey when they staged “Alien” as a play, complete with costumes made from recyclables. One boy—playing Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) by the looks of the Hawaiian shirt—called out, “You’re my childhood hero,” and pushed through the crowd to give her a hug. I wonder when he saw the film in its entirety, if he’d ever been listening down the hall at first like me.

All I know is that I was a little girl scared of the dark, and I am still not the bravest of the brave. But I always come back to this woman who doesn’t give a damn if she’s disliked.

posted by nubs at 9:50 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

I just saw this in a theater and could make out maybe half the dialogue. Is it my aging ears, or is that how the movie is? I last saw it decades ago and don't remember if I could hear it properly then.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:42 AM on April 1, 2023

Can I just say that right now in April 2024 they're re-releasing Alien in theaters for its *sigh* 45th anniversary?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 3:29 PM on April 27

I mentioned in a recent thread how highly movie savvy our kiddo is.

Today, we went to the 45th anniversary re-release of this with some friends. After Dallas explained the plan, the other kid said, "Is this going to work?" Our kid said, stonefaced, "Totally. And then they spend the last 25 minutes of the movie high fiving."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:48 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]

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