"In space, no one can hear you scream."Alien
(1979) is the first film in the Alien
film series; it stars Sigourney Weaver
and was directed by Ridley Scott
The crew of a commercial freighter spaceship stop admist a trip back home to answer a Distress Call
from an uncharted moon; while searching for the source of the signal, one of the crew members gets an alien organism attached to his face and goes 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.
Writer 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.
The Alien Monster and several other elements were designed by H. R. Giger
, whose sexualised biomechanical
style influences science fiction movies to this day.
This film provides examples of:
- Action Survivor: Ripley, who is only a terrified woman struggling to survive.
- Admiring the Abomination: Science officer Ash acts like this toward the alien.
- 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Ash the Android: I repeat, all other priorities are rescinded.
- Ripley attempts to abort the self-destruct sequence, but the ship's computer 'Mother', refuses to acknowledge the cooling system has been activated in the nick of time, and is giving priority to the denotation sequence, she initiated.
- Air-Vent Passageway: The monster actually uses the air duct escape against the protagonists.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Still, if the alien was literally eating everything in Kane that it could sink its teeth into, he would have died from internal bleeding alone well before it burst from his chest. 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.
- 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.
- Clothing Damage: Parker's shirt is ripped apart during the struggle with Ash.
- Continuous Decompression: As part of the Final Battle, when the Xenomorph 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.
- Deadpan Snarker: Brett and Parker.
- 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 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 Xenomorph.
- 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.
- Dramatic Space Drifting: Kane's body.
- Drone of Dread: The soundtrack composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
- Dwindling Party: The Xenomorph 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.
- Enemy Rising Behind: When Brett is looking for the cat, the Xenomorph is rising 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 Cat: When Jonesy hisses for seemingly no reason, it's a warning that shit's about to go down.
- Excessive Steam Syndrome: Tons of steam blasts from leaky pipes.
- The escape shuttle even has buttons to release steam into the cabin. Ripley makes use of this when fighting the Xenomorph.
- The shuttle has controls to release specific gasses into the cabin. Ripley 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 Xenomorph'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.
- Fanservice: Ripley spends a number of scenes walking around in her underwear.
- 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, which makes no sense since the other seven were crew.
- It also ignores Jones the cat - the only real passenger on the ship. But titling the movie "The Second Passenger" would probably just make everybody even more confused.
- 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 xenomorph 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 Xenomorph 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 Xenomorph'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.
- 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.
- If My Calculations Are Correct: Ash 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Xenomorph 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/Never Trust a Trailer: 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.
[to Jonesy the cat]
Ripley: Come on, cat.