YMMV / Alien

Works with their own YMMV pages:

The franchise in general:

  • Contested Sequel:
    • Those who actually like the third and fourth films are still by far outnumbered by fans who think the series ended with Aliens.
    • There are some fans of the first film that feel the second film did away with the mystery of the original. This in turn has led to fans and critics alike disputing if the first or second film is superior or inferior, with some fans and critics championing the original film by director Ridley Scott as a supposedly more intelligent horror film while degrading the James Cameron sequel as nothing more than a big dumb action movie that just happens to feature alien monsters, while other fans and critics champion Cameron's sequel for fleshing out the lead character while offering a more emotionally complex story and scoff at the original film by Scott for its emotionally flat, vapid characters. And then you have the fans who only like the first two films who just watch this insanity from afar....
    • On the prequel end of things, Prometheus got hit with this too. It's either a refreshing spin on the franchise that adds more to the universe or a mess plagued with its characters being infected with the Idiot Ball and explains too little about the Space Jockey.
  • Fan-Disliked Explanation: Some fans of the Alien series are not happy with the backstory laid out by Prometheus, or lack thereof. Specifically, the Proto-Xenomorph is born from a seemingly random series of events, and can't be the first Xenomorph because it's too late in the timeline and a carving of the Alien Queen was already seen earlier. Also, neither of the ships seen is set up to be the ship from the first movie, making what happens in the film just unconnected events in the same universe. Also the reveal that the Space Jockeys are nothing more than large albino Rubber-Forehead Aliens in alien space-suits rather than Starfish Aliens didn't go down too well.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Some fans prefer to believe that the third and fourth films never existed, and that Hicks and Newt never died.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Paul McGann regenerates into John Hurt. Both actors have had roles in the franchise (McGann in the third movie, Hurt in the first).
  • I Am Not Shazam: The term "xenomorph" was originally just intended as a throwaway and deliberately cumbersome term for a generic alien life form (it literally means "foreign or alien form" in Greek). It was never intended as the name of the species itself; only to show up Gorman for being an officious twat. However, the name has proved easier for fans to use than "the aliens from Alien," and it's consequently been used in official marketing materials and semi-canon sources.
  • Iron Woobie: Ellen Ripley. In the first film, she's the sole survivor against a creature which killed her shipmates. In the second film, she gets demoted for destroying her ship in her attempt to destroy the creature, and in the extended cut, we learn her daughter grew up and died during her overextended time in cryo-sleep. When she's called back by her company to investigate the colony on the planet from the first film, she finds another Iron Woobie in Rebecca "Newt" Jorden, the sole child survivor of the colony's infestation. Ripley, Newt, Marine Cpl. Hicks, and the android Bishop are the only ones to survive and escape the Alien-infested colony, only for Ripley to be once again the sole survivor after they crash-land onto a prison planet in the third film; and having been impregnated with a Queen chestburster, her only option left is suicide.
  • Memetic Mutation: The Alien series has a number of famous quotes that are frequently used outside of the film's context. They can be found on the films' YMMV pages.
  • Misaimed Fandom: As with everything else, there are some fan communities that make Xenomorphs the prime example of "Xenophilia"—even so far as to give them even more sexual characteristics. What makes this Harsher in Hindsight (or Hilarious in Hindsight, where you sit may vary), however, is how O'Bannon intended to make them as frightening as possible with said sexuality.
  • Misaimed Marketing: The Alien is one of the creepiest, most disturbing and most sexual monsters ever invented and most of the films of the series contain enough gore and horror to scar kids for life. Yet, it hasn't stopped them from being merchandised, both as toys AND plush aliens and chestburster aliens. The Kenner toyline had such variations as Bull, Mantis, Crab and Jaguar aliens, making it one of the few toylines based distinctly around Bizarre Alien Biology.
  • Narm Charm: There were plans, believe it or not, to make an animated kid's cartoon about Aliens vs Predator. While it never went through, parts of it did make it into a comic book series made for the Kenner action figures, which had Ripley and most of the marines from the second film surviving Acheron, and subsequently going on GI-Joe style missions to battle Aliens throughout the galaxy, wearing brightly colored uniforms, sprouting endless one-liners note  and wielding goofy, cartoonish weapons (Ripley wields up a flamethrower that's bigger than she is). One predator even appears to be wearing nipple cannons. When compared to the dark and gritty terror of the film, the whole series is hilarious (read it here).
  • Nightmare Fuel: Ever-present in the series, even in the works that focus more on action than suspense.
  • Sequelitis: Notably avoided by Aliens, a great sequel which is widely considered to be as good as the first film. The third and fourth installments, and especially the AvP films, however, are considered a major step down. This is largely explained by the reasoning why the films were made. James Cameron was a fan of the original Alien and wrote the script to Aliens on spec. He was told that if The Terminator was successful he'd be allowed to direct the sequel he wanted to create, making it a labor of love. By Alien 3, however, the producers (who had meddled with the script of the first film) were making a sequel for the sake of the franchise. As such they burned through a bunch of different scripts and ended up with an amalgam of different attempts. Things didn't get any better from there. A number of people view that Resurrection might have been a pretty good film (a beloved screenwriter and a notable director with a solid grasp of visual style and atmosphere) if it hadn't been shoehorned into the Alien universe.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: The Aliens themselves, especially the Queen who is often called a "she" in the films. Technically, all members of the species are hermaphrodites (i.e. having both male and female sex organs) from a visual viewpoint, because H.R. Giger's design is neither male nor female but a disturbing combination of both sexes. From a reproductive viewpoint, the series tends to flip-flop between the Aliens being actual hermaphrodites (Giger's own original portrayal of the creature included human-like sexual organs, a scene deleted from the first movie had the alien being able to "convert" two humans into huge eggs with fully-grown aliens developing inside, the original design for the Newborn from Resurrection was that it was, like Giger's original model, possessed of a human-like vagina and penis) and the Aliens being asexual "drones" where selected individuals can mutate into/be hatched as parthenogenetically fertile female "queens".
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: In a cross with Misaimed Marketing: Kenner had huge profits with Star Wars, so they got the rights for licensed toys on the next Fox sci-fi movie. Ooh boy.

The first film:

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Ash:
    • He's a strong android with medical knowledge, so he could have killed Ripley in three seconds if he really wanted to. Instead, when he moves against her, he starts flipping his shit and acting all deranged. Many viewers take this as indication that he's suffering from a programming conflict: he's supposed to help humans but his orders are to sacrifice the crew if necessary. His later comment on the alien being free from "delusions of morality" takes on a new light, then: he wishes he didn't have any sort of morality chip at all. And his distaste for humans can seem understandable when you consider that he is a slave, like other androids in the Alien universe. Why should he be expected to care for them? He isn't given much of a choice, either, and is just as much a victim of the Company as the other characters.
    • The other idea is that he actually is malevolent, beyond that which he is programmed for. The idea being that, in part, he is fascinated by the alien and wants to emulate it (That being the reason behind his method of killing Ripley), and actually has motives of his own, beyond simply studying the beast, indicating a degree of A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
    • Jones the cat. Just look at the scene where he sits still and watches the guy getting eaten by the Alien. Keep in mind said guy was alone because he was looking for Jones. Also, his "MEOW!" causes Ripley to throw caution to the wind and try and save him amid the self-destruct blowing the ship up in the end—allowing the Alien to survive. Was Jones also The Mole, and working for the alien all along, was he evil in his own right, or —the craziest theory— was he just a cat?
  • Applicability: Ridley Scott said that there is no allegory, Freudian, feminist, Marxist, or otherwise to be found in this film. That has done nothing to stop decades of endless analysis of this film's use of H.R. Giger's excessively Freudian imagery and the role of Ripley as a feminist icon, among other things.
  • Chickification: Stephen King accuses Dan O'Bannon of this trope in his nonfiction book Danse Macabre. First, by detouring Ripley out of her Action Girl role to rescue Jonesy ("Enabling the males in the audience," he writes, "to relax, roll their eyes at each other, and say either aloud or telepathically, 'Isn’t that just like a woman?' It is a plot twist which depends upon a sexist idea for its believability, and we might well answer the question asked above by asking in turn, 'Isn’t that just like a male chauvinist pig of a Hollywood scriptwriter?'"). Second, by having Ripley strip down to her underwear before she's menaced by the Alien in the film's climax ("The point seems to be, 'The girl was okay until she got undressed'").
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Jones the cat. In the actual movie he barely has any screen time and when he does, all he does is hide, hiss and run away. (And constantly get the humans into trouble.) However the trailers and later TV Spots make it look like he's just as important as the Alien and Ripley.
  • Freud Was Right: The aliens, full stop. Also the Derelict ship, not to mention some scenes. It's H. R. Giger, what are you expecting?
    Dan O'Bannon: This is a movie of alien interspecies rape, that's it, that's scary, that scaring because it hits all of our buttons, all of our unresolved feelings about sexuality, all of them.
    • There is a lot of rape symbolism, such as Ash rolling up a porn magazine and forcing it down Ripley's throat, and Lambert's death, complete with offscreen noises that sound like violent orgasms.
    • And on top of that, the chestburster scene is all about a phallic creature bursting out of a man's stomach like a horrific self-induced C-section.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Ash assures Ripley that the dead Face-hugger isn't a Zombie. 6 years later, Dan O'Bannon goes off to write and direct The Return of the Living Dead.
  • It Was His Sled: Kane dies when an alien bursts out of his chest. Also, Ripley is the Final Girl.
  • Memetic Mutation: The tagline, "In space, no one can hear you scream," is one of the most famous taglines in film history, and is often parodied on other films' taglines.
  • Moral Event Horizon: "Special Order 937," the company's plan to bring aliens to Earth, at the expense of the crew's lives.
  • Narm:
    • Lambert's "Oh my god!" during the chestburster scene, which sounds more like she's reacting to a stain on the floor.
    • The Alien's head looks like a giant penis. To some, this makes them look more scary and disturbing, while others might simply find it downright hilarious.
    • The chestburster's reveal, which looks like a cheap plastic toy that "moves" by twisting side to side in a low-budget manner.
    • Ash's interrogation. Ian Holm looks like he just got finished being bukkaked.
    • Ripley getting into a fight with the ship's computer.
    • When Parker and Lambert desperately try to wrestle Ash off of Ripley, there is this awkward moment where Ash grabs Parker's chest. It has the effect of Ash giving Parker a killer purple-nurple, though it does show that Ash is stronger than most humans.
  • Nightmare Retardant: The "crab walk" scene, which was thankfully among the deleted material.
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny: When the film was released in 1979, there were reports of viewers running into the theater lobby to throw up. This seems strange in retrospect, because the scenes of Kane getting chestbursted and Ash getting his head knocked off are positively tame compared to the later Slasher Movie and Torture Porn genres, or the Body Horror achieved by Carpenter's The Thing (1982) or Cronenberg's The Fly (1986).
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • The cuts between Ash's separated head and the dummy version are quite jarring. So much so that in the RiffTrax commentary, they say "Seamless!" in between cuts.
    • There's a few instances when it's obvious that the alien is just a very tall man in a scary suit, particularly at the end when it's hanging outside of the ship and it's set against the white door and wall, giving the viewer a clear look at its complete outline.
    • The newborn chestburster scurrying across the table is either Special Effects Failure, Narm, or Narm Charm depending on your point of view. If you've seen Spaceballs, it's probably closer to the last.
    • Dallas getting grabbed. Part of it is that it ends one of the most tense sequences in cinema, and part of it is that it's one of the few sequences where the alien is in a well lit and quiet environment, but it can come off as hilarious by second time viewers. Maybe it's that the last thing we see is the alien making jazz hands?
  • Tear Jerker: Parker's reaction to Brett's death, especially in a deleted scene where he and Ripley show up only seconds too late to save him.
  • Uncanny Valley: Ash, when his identity is exposed, moves in a stiff, deliberate manner, while also making twitchy, jerking movements. He goes into spasms when struck, and his wide-open eyes combined with the body movements just scream this trope.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The alien. The creature is so well designed, at times, you have to remind yourself that it's actually a man in a costume.
  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Inverted in the case of H.R. Giger: he took drugs to forget the nightmares that inspired his artwork.
  • The Woobie: Lambert, especially if you add in the deleted scenes. While she somewhat comes across as a whining bitch, she has a few establishing moments in the deleted scenes that paint her as a notably more sympathetic (if not necessary more likable) character, which makes her tragic demise even more gut-wrenching.