Film / Alien

"In space no one can hear you scream."

Alien is the first film in the Alien franchise, released in 1979. It was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto.

In the year 2122, the crew of the commercial freighter spaceship Nostromo sidelines their trip back home to Earth when they pick up a Distress Call from an uncharted moon. While searching for the source of the signal on the moon, one of the crew members gets an alien organism attached to his face and falls into a coma. The next day, an alien embryo explodes from the crewman's chest — and rapidly matures into a savage monster. As the alien stalks through the ship, the crew desperately tries to find a way to fight back.

Screenwriter Dan O'Bannon based the film on a Black Comedy sequence from his previous film Dark Star, in which a beachball-shaped alien runs amok on a spaceship and tries to push an astronaut down an elevator shaft. O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett drafted a script called Star Beast — later changed to Alien — and sold it to Brandywine Productions, who had a distribution deal with 20th Century Fox. H. R. Giger designed the Alien, amongst other elements of the film; his sexualised biomechanical style influences science fiction movies to this day.

Alien contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Survivor: Ripley, who is only a terrified woman struggling to survive.
  • Admiring the Abomination: Science officer Ash acts like this toward the alien.
    Ash: The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
    Lambert: You admire it.
    Ash: I admire its purity.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Science Officer Ash is programmed to put his mission above the lives of his fellow crew members. He ends up going berserk when Ripley discovers the truth. It's played with in the sense that he's not really going rogue, and is perfectly following his given orders. They just come from the Company, not the rest of the crew.
    Parker: The damn company. What about our lives, you son of a bitch?!
    Ash the Android: I repeat, all other priorities are rescinded.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The monster actually uses the air ducts to move around the ship and ambush the protagonists.
  • All There in the Manual: A lot of information about the Nostromo's crewmembers exists only in supplementary media. Most people have no idea, for example, that Lambert was born male.
  • All Webbed Up: In a deleted scene, Ripley found Dallas and Brett completely cocooned, and slowly transforming into more Alien eggs.
  • Anyone Can Die: The characters died in more or less reverse order of how famous the actors playing them were (in 1979) - Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, and even Veronica Cartwright were all familiar to audiences, while Sigourney Weaver was the only entirely unknown actor in the cast, with just four minor credits. The deaths of the characters felt like a downward spiral, and Ripley's demise seemed inevitable. The tension of the last ten minutes (with the ship's computer voice counting them off) was almost unbearable. Ripley's survival was, for the era in which the film was made, shocking (a lot of 70s-era horror movies had downer endings), and until the end credits rolled, the audience still expected the alien to pop up somewhere. This was actually Ridley Scott's originally intended ending -the Alien was going to bite Ripley's head off in the shuttle and make the last log entry in her voice- but Executive Meddling insisted that the monster had to die, so Ripley was spared. Arguably another example of when Executive Meddling turns out for the better.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Ripley wants to get rid of the Face Hugger carcass, because they already know that the alien creature bleeds acid and have no clue what will happen after it's dead. Ash counters this by snarking at Ripley that it probably isn't a zombie. The truth is that he's just following his programmed orders to preserve the creature, and presumably the Facehugger's remains, and the crew's been marked expendable so he doesn't care what the corpse might do to them.
  • Artificial Gravity: The Nostromo features this.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • It is simply not possible for the creature to grow as rapidly as it did without consuming a massive amount of food, which is not shown at all.
    • Alan Dean Foster, an excellent writer who does his homework, wrote the novelization for the film and was well aware of this conundrum. He tried to address it as best as he could by having the crew comment that the creature must have been feeding on Kane, the man it was occupying as an embryo. This doesn't really work, as Kane would have died from internal bleeding alone well before it burst from his chest if it had been feeding on his organs. In addition, the creature did not consume anywhere near enough of Kane for even a fraction of the growth it displayed. Knowing this, Foster even tried to address it further by having one crew member hypothesize that the alien might be capable of metabolizing the air.
    • Foster added another scene in which the Alien eats its way through the foodstuffs in the galley's storage area.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: After Kane has just spent the last several hours in a coma with an alien creature on his face, he wakes up.
    Parker: How are you doing?
    Kane: Terrific. Next silly question.
  • Audience Surrogate: Lambert according to Word of God from Scott.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Not only a rarity for 70's horror movies, but a double whammy in that only Ripley survives and she is the one that no one in the audience expected to survive. Ripley kills the Alien by blowing it out the airlock of the escape shuttle- but is deeply affected by the loss of her friends and crew.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: A deleted scene shows Ripley finding a nest that the Alien created on the Nostromo and shows that Dallas and Brett have each been turned into some kind of alien egg. This implies that the Alien is capable of asexual reproduction which completely defeats the concept and purpose of the Alien Queen.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted, as Parker is among the last to be killed.
  • Book Ends: The film starts and ends with a spaceship silently drifting into space, with the crew in artificial sleep.
  • Broken Faceplate: The first thing the face-hugger form does is go for the helmet, secreting acid to melt through the faceplate to impregnate the host within.
  • Captain's Log: The final report Ripley records before returning to hibernation.
  • Catch Phrase: Brett's "Right."; Discussed by Ripley and Parker in one scene.
  • Cat Scare:
    • There's a couple before Brett's death.
    • There's a third when Ripley's trying to chase Jones down in the cockpit before her first attempt to get to the shuttle.
  • Chest Burster: The scene when the eponymous monster tears out of Kane's torso. If not the Trope Maker then unquestionably the Trope Codifier. It's still considered the definitive Chest Burster scene to this day.
  • Clothing Damage: Parker's shirt is ripped apart during the struggle with Ash.
  • Continuous Decompression: As part of the Final Battle, when the Alien is Thrown Out the Airlock by Ripley.
  • Cranial Processing Unit: After Ash the Android gets his head knocked off, the other crewmembers of the Nostromo plug his head into the proper equipment and are able to speak with him.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Kane's overzealous impulse to investigate the eggs leads to himself and then almost the entire crew being killed.
  • Dead Star Walking: Tom Skerritt received top billing over Sigourney Weaver. Ripley was never meant to be the main protagonist, merely the Final Girl.
  • Death by Transceiver:
    • Subverted while the crew are in the alien ship. Kane goes exploring by himself and finds the eggs, all the time talking to the other party members on his spacesuit radio. After the egg opens and a facehugger attacks him, his radio goes dead. However, the other crew members rescue him.
      Kane: The pit is completely enclosed. And it's full of leathery objects, like eggs or something. [...] It appears to be completely sealed. Wait a minute, there's movement. It seems to have life. Organic life.
    • Captain Dallas goes into the air ducts to try to drive the Alien into an airlock and blow it into space. He carries a radio with him to talk to the rest of the crew. They use a tracking device to let him know the alien is getting closer and closer, until it attacks and kills him.
      Move, Dallas. Get out! No! Not that way! The other way! Dallas? Dallas!
  • Death World: LV-426. Ash reads off all of the unpleasant gasses in the atmosphere and comments that it's "primordial."
  • Deer in the Headlights: Lambert suffers from this when facing the Alien.
  • Dilating Door: The sections of the air duct system on the starship Nostromo are seperated by dilating hatches.
  • Distress Call: The organic ship's signal which turned out to be a Warning Beacon.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: During Lambert's death, the Alien's sinewy tail can be sliding up between her legs. All that's known from her death are the strangely sexual grunts (of pain) heard by Ripley over her radio.
  • Double Entendre: Parker to Lambert.
    Lambert: [about the lousy food] You pound down the stuff like there's no tomorrow.
    Parker: I'd rather be eating something else, but right now I'm thinking food.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: A scene in the original script had Ripley casually stripping off in front of Captain Dallas saying "I need some release." Although the scene was used in the audition, it was never filmed.
  • Drone of Dread: The soundtrack composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
  • Dwindling Party: The Alien takes out one crew member after another.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: While all the films in the series have elements of horror in them, this was just a straight up horror flick.
  • Easy Amnesia: After Kane wakes up from having the Face Hugger attach itself to his face, he can't remember anything about the planet, and even seems confused where he is. All he can remember is a horrible dream about smothering. Nowadays, the implication would be that the facehugger, whilst rendering him comatose, injected Kane with something that interfered with the transfer of short-term memory to long-term memory. Interestingly, a lot of real-world anesthetics and sedative-hypnotics work in exactly this fashion.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: When Brett is looking for the cat, the Alien climbs down from the landing gear behind him.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The loss of the entire Nostromo crew leads Ripley to record a message at the end of the film concerning their fates and how she's the only one left.
  • Evil All Along: Ash is revealed to be a robot, working for The Company to bring an alien back, at the expense of the other crew members if necessary.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: When Jonesy the cat hisses for seemingly no reason, it's a warning that shit's about to go down.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: Tons of steam blast from leaky pipes at various points in the movie.
    • The escape shuttle even has buttons to release steam into the cabin. Ripley makes use of this when fighting the Alien. Expanded Universe material reveals that the shuttle has controls to release specific gasses into the cabin. Ripley actually blasts the alien with Nitrosyl Chloride, a highly toxic chemical.
    • Subverted a bit when a steam burst that is annoying Ripley is actually shown to be under Parker's control.
    • Partly justified after Ripley sets the Self-Destruct Mechanism, which involves turning off the cooling units of the ship's reactor. The ship's systems are automatically venting in an effort to cool itself. However, logic suggests there are better places for the coolant system to try and dump excess heat than into crew spaces.
  • Expositron 9000: The Nostromo ship computer, which tells Ripley the real goal of the mission.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong:
    • Kane gets his share of facehugging.
    • Brett and Parker are also both killed when the Alien's second mouth latches onto their faces.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Ripley failed her Spot Check at the end, as she sits down face to face with the alien in the shuttle, hidden amongst the pipes and valves on the walls she's facing.
  • Failsafe Failure: The Nostromo's self-destruct fail-safe mechanism is virtually impossible to initiate by accident, but it is just as fiendishly obtrusive to abort it. There is no quick reset button. It will not override without first manually disengaging safety interlocks and inserting the rods back in. If a last-minute-decision was ever made to abort, you're basically screwed. At least the instructions make it clear that there's a "point of no return".
  • Fanservice: Ripley strips down to her underwear after she detonates the Nostromo to prepare for hypersleep, however...
  • Fate Worse Than Death: In a deleted scene, Ripley found Dallas and Brett mutating into eggs.
  • Fetal Position Rebirth: The adult alien is in this position the very first time we see it, hanging among the chains above Brett, keeping it Hidden in Plain Sight.
  • Final Girl: Ripley is the lone survivor of the film, though she was not the strict star of the film.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: "The Eighth Passenger" in most languages.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Combines with Tempting Fate. Second officer Kane is the first crew member to die.
      Kane: Oh, I feel dead.
      Parker: Anybody ever tell you you look dead?
    • Dallas and Lambert note that the space jockey's ribs seem to have "exploded" from inside and wonder what could have caused it.
    • Ash never eats. The only thing he consumes is some milky-white fluid, although he is seen reaching for a box of cereal at one point. He's later revealed to be an android, with white liquid for blood.
    • "Where's the rest of the crew?" is a very good question that's never brought up again, but a deleted scene shows that the Alien has a habit of turning its victims into more eggs.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • Somebody clearly had fun with the rows of illuminated buttons in the self-destruction panel. There are numerous references to Central Asian religions, a pun on the Fly Agaric mushroom, and a misspelled Shout-Out to the Rohirrim from Lord of the Rings.
    • When the camera whips back and forth when Ripley dashes into the shuttle before the ship explodes, you can actually see the Alien already camouflaged against the wall. Unless you've seen the film at least once already, you probably won't be able to make it out.
  • Freud Was Right: Scores of essays have been written over the last three decades on the obvious sexual and maternal overtones. These are all intentional.
    • The alien egg which spawns the facehugger opens up with vulva-like flaps.note  The alien is put into a human body by the Facehugger, whose reproductive organ looks like a vulva with mandibles and a prehensile penis. Its spawn, the Chestburster, looks like an erection with teeth. And the long, eyeless head of an adult Alien is obviously phallic. The Alien was based on a painting by surrealist artist H. R. Giger, whose nightmarish work is very sexualized. Giger wanted the Alien to be the embodiment of the fear of rape.
    • A Deleted Scene in the first movie showed Dallas and Brett being "converted" into Chestburster eggs - they're double rapists; a man is disfigured into a feminine construct, and dies "giving birth" to something that does the same thing only quicker.
    • Maternal symbolism: the AI of the spaceship in Alien is called "Mother." The organic alien ship is entered through vulva-shaped doors.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Ash goes out with the infamous line, "I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies," and signs off with a smug smile.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Ripley uses one to send the Alien out the shuttle's airlock.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Dallas insists on being the one to go in the air vents to flush out the alien, even though Ripley volunteers.
    • Parker attacks the Alien in an attempt to save Lambert. It fails to work, as the Alien kills them both in quick succession.
  • Hollywood Acid: The Alien Blood eats through everything it comes into contact with.
  • Hypocrite: Ash. He's quite quick to remind the crew of the clause in their contract requiring all transmissions of alien-origin to be investigated, failure results in total forfeiture of shares. Yet as a Science Officer, he conveniently violates Science Division's basic quarantine laws to suit his own agenda. He's borderline Straw Hypocrite also. He disturbingly admires the Alien's hostility, unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality. As a self-aware android he hates the fact he's mostly held in check by programmed safeguards and adores how the alien is free to kill indiscriminately. However, given that he was actually ordered to deliver the alien by any means necessary, this is probably a subversion.
  • Hysterical Woman: Lambert (Veronica Cartwright). She's by far the most terrified and emotional member of the crew, and completely freezes up when the Alien confronts her.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Lambert could not avoid her death because the Alien is between her and the room's only exit. Parker yells at her to duck aside or hit the deck, so he can spray it with his flamethrower without hitting her. Unfortunately, she's frozen with fear. Parker bravely but foolishly charges the creature.
    • Ripley grabs hold of the ball when she abandons the shuttle to go find the cat. This allows the Alien to board the shuttle.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: Lambert has such a line when calculating the return time to Earth.
  • Instant Cooldown: Averted. The Nostromo's self-destruct reaches a point where it's too late to stop it from exploding even if the engine coolant is turned back on.
  • Irrevocable Order: Ripley sets the self-destruct for the Nostromo in order to destroy the alien when fairly certain that she can safely get to the escape shuttle. However, along the way, she finds that the alien is lurking in the only corridor to the shuttle. She tries to go back and shut down the self-destruct, but misses the "point of no return" time by scant seconds.
  • It Can Think: How did the alien know to hide in the sole working shuttle? Even more, it feinted Ripley back to try and abort the self-destruct and in that time it went into the shuttle and waited for Ripley there while she ran back to disarm the self destruct.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Dallas and Lambert demand to be let in, and Ash violates quarantine and opens the door. All three die as a result of this. Ripley, who didn't want to let them in, survives. Parker, in a deleted scene, says that maybe Ripley was right not to let them in, making him an aversion when he is killed.
  • Laser-Guided Tykebomb: The alien species is implied to be this, bred for the sole purpose of violence. Many thousands of eggs were preserved in the biomechanic derelict, and director Ridley Scott even said the derelict was a bomber - it was designed to bombard planets with Alien eggs.
  • Last Name Basis: All of the main characters are referred to by their last names. Apparently the original script didn't even list their genders. Even Jones the cat only has a last name!
  • Last Words: Ash the Android specifically asks for some final words before he is unplugged. He uses them to taunt the remaining heroes.
    Ash the Android: I can't lie to you about your chances... but you have my sympathies.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang:
    • After a Cat Scare Brett is told to catch Jones so it doesn't happen again. He wanders around going "Here kitty kitty" without the slightest apprehension, as at this stage the crew think the alien is no bigger than the ship's cat. He discovers otherwise.
    • Another example is when Lambert, Parker and Ripley decide to take their chances in the shuttle. They had to split up in order to prepare the shuttle for escape and retrieve coolant for the air filtration system. Of course, things went down hill fast.
  • Lock and Load Montage: When Ripley, Parker and Lambert prepare to evacuate the Nostromo, Ripley is shown pulling some gear together in preparation.
  • The Mole: Science Officer Ash, who was brought in by the Company to make sure their hidden agenda was carried out.
  • Mood Whiplash: The crew are sitting around, enjoying one final meal before going back to hyper sleep, joking with each other, when Kane starts gasping in pain....
  • Name of Cain: Played with. Second Officer Kane is a good guy, but he's the first to die and the person which the Alien births from.
  • The Needs of the Many: Ripley has a Sadistic Choice to make whether to A) immediately bring facehugged Kane back on board and risk the lives of all crew members or B) keep the away team in quarantine which might render Kane dead. She opts for choice B until Ash interferes.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: Ash does this to Captain Dallas twice.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer has glimpses of Ash malfunctioning. Before The Reveal, it looks as though he has a chestburster inside him.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • One of the escape shuttles is out of action and the other won't carry the entire crew.
    • Averted with the Self-Destruct Mechanism which is very difficult to activate. Labels on the self destruct system's instructions also have symbols to warn against trapping your fingers.
  • Not Quite Dead: Ash, after his head is torn off, gets his second wind and goes after Parker.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • The film focuses on the ever-present lurking threat of the eggs, chestburster, and adult alien rather than direct confrontations. The trailer for the film highlights the strategy, showing barely any of the alien and focusing on a terrifying montage of people reacting to what could be after them. The alien itself is only shown on-screen for less than four minutes total.
    • As a more specific example, Lambert's death. Nothing is seen of what happened, and even the aftermath is not seen clearly, we only hear it happening over the radio. It's probably the scariest death in the film. Given that the last thing we see of Lambert is the tip of the alien's tail moving up her leg towards her nether regions, this is probably just as well.
  • Not in My Contract: Parker points out that he's in a commercial ship and that replying to distress calls is not in his contract. He'll be happy to oblige if he's paid more money, but he is promptly reminded that ignoring a distress call voids the contract.
  • Numbered Homeworld: LV426. note 
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Subverted. Ripley quotes "24 hours for decontamination" regulations rather than allow Kane to enter the Nostromo for treatment. Of course, she turns out to be right, but by making her appear unsympathetic the movie conceals her eventual role as the heroine.
  • Oh Crap!: Brett is having this moment after he turns around to face the Alien behind him.
  • Only Sane Man: In spite of the anger it earned her from the rest of the crew for trying to enforce it, Ripley was absolutely right about the 24 hour quarantine. If everyone had listened to her, it's very possible she wouldn't have been the only survivor.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast:
    • The first scene inside the ship shows rusty orange floors and blue-lit walls.
    • The self-destruct sequence contrasts generally blue lighting with flashing orange warning lights.
    • And several other scenes in between.
  • Orifice Invasion: Done indirectly, but the facehugger plants the alien egg in Kane through his mouth via the tube on its body, thus the egg is the invader.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Ripley escaping the Nostromo's self-destruct in her shuttle.
  • Phallic Weapon: The filmmakers state that the rolled-up adult magazine that crew member Ash tries to suffocate Ripley with is meant to be a penis substitute, because as an android he doesn't have one himself.
  • Posters Always Lie: The large, cracking egg prominently displayed on the film poster and in the original trailer is not at all what the Alien really hatches from.
  • Recycled In Space:
    • Alien was originally billed as "Jaws IN SPACE!" to producers. Word of God says that it's The Thing from Another World ON A SPACESHIP, right down to the motion detector (a Geiger counter in the original film).
    • Ridley Scott told Harry Dean Stanton that it was basically Ten Little Indians in space to get him to agree to the part.
  • The Reveal: Several, but the two most significant ones are when Ripley finds out that the Company had planned the mission from the very start and considers the crew expendable, and when Ash is revealed to be a robot working for them.
    Ash the Android: There is an explanation for this, you know.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: No one knew that Ash was an android.
  • Robotic Reveal: Ash is revealed to be an android.
  • Rule of Scary: What if there was a creature that did to humans what wasps did to caterpillars?
  • Sapient Ship: Averted with "Mother", the Nostromo's ship computer. The most it can do is answer some questions. Frankly, Dallas would have had better luck with an 8-ball.
  • Screaming Woman:
    • Ripley is an aversion. The only time she screams is being startled when she discovers the Alien approaching her as she's preparing to hit the airlock near the end.
    • Lambert is the traditional version, most notably in her final scene when she's paralysed with fear as the alien advances on her.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: The Nostromo's engines can be used as a self-destruct mechanism with a ten minute delay before detonation ("We ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space."). If the cooling units are turned back on with at least five minutes left, the countdown will be aborted.
  • Send in the Search Team: Dallas and the crew of the Nostromo are sent to investigate a distress call from the uncharted moon.
  • Sensor Suspense: While Dallas is tracking the alien through the ventilation system. Unfortunately, the sensor doesn't take multiple floors into account.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The film being The Thing from Another World IN SPACE, it has a few shout outs to the 1951 film, including the motion detector.
    • The Nostromo is named after one of Joseph Conrad's novels, and the ship's escape shuttle, the Narcissus, draws its name from the title of another. The first reference is apt, since there are more than a few echoes between the title character's Working-Class Hero nature and Ripley's, the duplicity and corruption of the Company vs. the Gould Mining Concession, and the decision by Ripley/Nostromo to go against his/her employer, as well as his/her not being fully a hero (or not appearing to be so at first).
  • Sleeper Starship: The Nostromo crew get frozen during transit.
  • Sole Survivor: Ripley is the only crew member to survive. Jonesy the Cat survives as well, although he's not technically a crew member.
  • Space Is Noisy: A bit iffy. Some scenes show some sound in space, but others just have the music.
  • Space Trucker: The crew are towing ore.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: The alien bursts out of Kane's chest in the middle of a cordial dinner.
  • Survival Mantra: "You are my lucky star... Lucky star, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky."
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: At the end Ripley blows up the Nostromo, finally begins relaxing, and just as she's plotting the co-ordinates the titular monster's arm swings into her face. However, it is subverted in that she survives the encounter.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Ripley sets the ship on self-destruct and escapes in a shuttle. The Alien escapes onto the shuttle, but now it can't hide away anymore. She dumps it out the shuttle's airlock, shoots it with a grappling gun when it grabs the opening, and then fries it with the engines when the gun gets caught in the door and it tries to crawl back into the shuttle.
  • Those Two Guys: Brett and Parker are usually shown together and griping about their lower position in the crew.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock:
    • The Alien is disposed of by ejecting it into space.
    • What also the crew does with Kane's body, in an impromptu funeral.
  • Token Minority: Parker is the only minority on board.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Brett, while looking for Jones the Cat, finds a room with water raining down from the ceiling. He decides to take it easy and relax in the falling water which allows the alien to sneak up on him. And the whole reason he was looking for the cat was because he let it go when he, Ripley, and Parker were looking for the chest burster, surmising it was just the cat, not realizing until Parker tells him that if the cat is under control, they won't mistake it for the alien a second time.
  • Toughest Chick Always Dies: Interestingly enough, the trope is inverted in the first film (whereas it's played straight in the second, even being the current Trope Namer): the easily scared and very feminine ship navigator Lambert gets killed off in the film's climax (the original shooting script implied that the Alien actually raped her to death), while cynical, butch, chain-smoking Warrant Officer Ripley survives and becomes the lynchpin for the entire franchise. This is because in the original script none of the characters were given genders, just names. Any character could have been male or female.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: It's implied that the Aliens were bred to be living weapons but killed their creators, the ancient "Pilot creatures". This was later confirmed in Prometheus, for whatever that's worth. This makes the Company even more Too Dumb to Live, since they seem to be under the delusional impression that the unstoppable killing machine that leaves every encounter with a huge body count... can be trained. They also want to bring it to Earth.
  • Ultimate Life Form: Ash's opinion on the Alien, referring to it as a "perfect organism".
  • Uncertain Doom: The fate of Dallas, unless you see a deleted scene in which his body is found.
  • Unexpected Character: Ripley really was not set up to be "the hero" or even the focal character in the film, or at least not be indicative of such. Dallas (played by Tom Skerrit) would have been expected to be the main character.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: Ash expresses an admiration for the extra-terrestrial monster which is stalking and killing off the Nostromo's crew. He prizes it for being a remorseless predator who survives because it is "unclouded by delusions of morality".
  • We Have Reserves: Ripley learns from Special Order 937 that both ship and crew are completely expendable in the company's quest for the Alien.
  • Wham Shot: When Parker knocks Ash upside the head and Ash's head falls off, but hangs on his side thanks to his wires.
  • You Are in Command Now:
    • After Captain Dallas and Second Officer Kane both die, Ripley is forced to take command.
    • Earlier in the film, Ripley is also in command as both the Captain and Second Officer are with the away team. This is why she has the authority to order the away team quarantined, which Ash ignores.
  • You Have No Chance to Survive: Science Officer Ash's last words before being incinerated are "I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies."

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.
[to Jonesy the cat]
Ripley: Come on, cat.