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"You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? A perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility."

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 USCSS 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 is attacked by an alien organism which forcibly attaches to his face and puts him 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 eponymous creature, among other elements of the film; his sexualized biomechanical style influences science fiction movies to this day.

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In space, no one will hear you trope :


  • Action Survivor: Ripley, who is not a trained soldier or explorer, just a terrified space trucker struggling to survive.
  • Activation Sequence: The very first scenes in the movie are the starship Nostromo's computer and other electrical equipment coming to life in response to the alien signal.
  • Adapted Out: The novelization by Alan Dean Foster notably leaves out the Space Jockey from the crashed ship. What they find instead is the distress beacon itself, and Ash later gives Ripley, Lambert and Parker the background on the full meaning of the message and the motivations of those who left it.
  • 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 the crew, and he ends up going berserk when Ripley discovers the truth, but it's played with in the sense that he's not really going rogue and is instead doing nothing more than perfectly following his given orders since they just come from the Weyland-Yutani Coorporation instead of from the rest of the crew.
    Parker: The damn company. What about our lives, you son of a bitch?!
    Ash: 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.
  • Alien Blood: Famously introduced the alien creatures as having sickly yellowish Hollywood Acid blood. The crew attempts to cut one of the facehugger's legs to remove it from Kane, but the instant their scalpel touches it a jet of acid starts burning through the deck. Aside from the obvious danger to Kane, having the acid eat a hole in the hull would be a real problem on a sealed spaceship. The adult creature is never harmed enough in the course of the movie to show if it also has acid blood, but the sequels confirm that this is the case.
    Parker: It's got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don't dare kill it.
  • Alien Sky: Downplayed. There is a brief shot of the night skyline of LV-426 with a close-by planet surrounded by a Saturn-like ring.
  • all lowercase letters: In the opening credits, the production teams' roles. Also, the Nostromo's introductory text (apart from the ship's name).
  • All There in the Manual:
    • A lot of information about the Nostromo's crew members exists only in supplementary media. The novelisation also explains why the Company used the Nostromo to bring back the alien—as bringing a hostile alien organism to any inhabited world is strictly forbidden, it had to look like the Company had stumbled on it by accident.
    • A DVD bonus which shows the bios of the crew briefly glimpsed in Aliens, revealing a lot of background information about the crew that never comes up in the film. For example:
      • Lambert has been married and divorced twice and she was transitioned (born male, assigned female after "Despin Conversion" procedure) shortly after birth.
      • Dallas was dishonorably discharged from the military after losing his first command and he spent some time as a smuggler.
      • Ripley had a childnote  and won a lawsuit against the Company when they tried to fire her instead of granting her maternity leave.
      • Brett has reduced mental capacity as a result of a "cerebral detox" attempt at a Company medical facility to cure his alcoholism.
  • All Webbed Up: In a deleted scene restored in the director's cut, Ripley found Dallas and Brett completely cocooned, and slowly transforming into more Alien eggs.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Of the type that doesn't get involved with Earth's history (at least not until the prequel). Dallas, Kane and Lambert find the relic of the Space Jockey to be pretty old, old enough that the alien pilot's corpse looks fossilized. In turn it makes the Facehugger that infects Kane a Time Abyss.
  • 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 some critics even argued that horror movies had to have downer endings to be proper horror movies), 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.
  • Appetite Equals Health: Inverted. When Kane is sitting down to dinner with a hearty appetite, the reason isn't he's healthy, but (unbeknownst to the hapless victim) he's really eating for two... cue the Chest Burster.
  • 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: This is one of the few movies where they make a point of switching it off before they land on a planet.
  • Art Imitates Art: H. R. Giger's design for the Chestburster was originally based very strongly on Francis Bacon's Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.
  • Artistic License: The text crawl introduces the protagonists' ship as "towing vessel the Nostromo". Ship names don't work that way; she's simply the "towing vessel Nostromo". Otherwise it's akin to saying "USS The Enterprise".
  • 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. Alien: Covenant handwaves it by confirming a popular fan theory that the whole entire Xenomorph species is comprised of engineered bioweapons and they thusly probably do not need to eat, but this still doesn't explain where the biomass comes from.
    • An early draft of the script includes a scene where the crew investigates the ship's food stores, discovering them dangerously depleted as a result of the alien raiding the provisions, justifying its offscreen growth.
  • As You Know: Averted as far back as the scripting process. Dan O'Bannon agonized over how to include details such as what the ship was for and why it was where it was into the dialogue, with cringers like "Hey, aren't you glad we decided to buy our own ship and go mineral prospecting on asteroids now?" that are basically convoluted derivatives of "as you know." Finally, O'Bannon decided that anything that didn't fit naturally into the character's mouths was information the audience didn't need to know. Ridley Scott continued the trend into the film, with just a short text describing what the Nostromo is, where it's going, and (kind of) why, everything else is only discussed as it becomes relevant to the plot, like the existence of androids.
  • 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.
  • Bad Boss: The Company, made even more explicit in the novelization. Not only don't they provide funding to properly maintain the Nostromo, they had advance knowledge of the Distress Call and worked out in advance that it was a warning. Rather than send a fully-prepared research vessel which would not have been allowed to bring a hostile lifeform back to Earth, they arranged for the Nostromo to "accidentally" encounter the alien, which would then be "collected for safe-keeping" by Company representatives.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Ripley is initially presented in an unsympathetic manner by refusing to let Kane back on board when he badly needs medical attention, whereas Dallas is A Father to His Men and breaks protocol by doing so. The fact that the science fiction genre at the time suffered from a notorious lack of female protagonists also disguises Ripley's eventual role as The Hero. Dallas' cowboy attitude and disregard for rules when a crewman's life is in danger was also a common staple of sci-fi heroes at the time... Kirk would have handled things the exact same way Dallas does.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The alien terrorizing the crew and Ash, who's acting on behalf of the Company to ensure the alien is brought back alive, thus endangering the lives of the crew. The alien becomes the sole antagonistic force when Ash is destroyed before the climax.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Not only a rarity for '70s 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. She freezes herself in the hope that somebody will find her in the six weeks she estimates it will take to reach civilization... and isn't discovered for 57 years.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: A deleted scene restored in the director's cut shows Ripley finding a nest that the Alien created on the Nostromo and shows that some of its victims have each been turned into some kind of Alien egg. This implies that the Alien is capable of asexual reproduction, which somewhat defeats the concept and purpose of the Alien Queen from the sequel, though it might also supplement it by allowing an unaccompanied drone alien to engender a Queen facehugger egg that can then do a proper job of forming a colony.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted here, as Parker is actually the last man to die.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Parker during his death scene. Since the alien had just knocked this very large man through the air with a slap from its tail, it's likely due to internal bleeding.
  • Book Ends: The film starts and ends with a spaceship silently drifting into space, with the crew in artificial sleep.
  • Breast Attack: Parker tries to stop Ash from suffocating Ripley. Ash responds by putting his hand on Parker's chest and giving it a painful squeeze.
  • 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.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Of the Director's Cut sort. Since the Director's Cut was never used, James Cameron was able to do his own reproductive cycle for the aliens (Queen-Egg-Facehugger-Drone/Queen) instead of the original (Egg-Facehugger-Drone-Victim Becomes Egg).
  • Captain Obvious: When Ripley repeatedly points out to Lambert (the navigator) "That's not our system!", Lambert responds testily, "I know that!"
  • Captain's Log: The final report Ripley records before returning to hibernation sums up the movie in her own words.
  • Cassette Futurism: Possibly one of the most famous examples in history, with its hard, blocky and used décor, to the vector display computers and the analogue control systems. The Nostromo definitely looks like it was still constructed from the '70s. This may also be unintentional given the time period Alien was released, so it may also be a case of Zeerust.
  • Cat Scare:
    • After the chestburster scene, the movie ratchets up the tension as the crew detects movement that might be the alien... only for Jones the cat to jump out to scare the characters and the audience, and Brett dies while trying to catch the cat to stop any more false scares.
    • Jones jumps out and scares Ripley again before her first attempt to get to the shuttle.
    • James Cameron decided to leave Jones back on Earth the next time, specifically to avoid this trope. Enter Newt...
  • Character Catchphrase: Brett says "Right" a lot. Ripley and Parker rib him over it in one scene.
    Ripley: Whenever he says anything you say "right." Like a regular parrot.
    Brett: Right.
    Parker: Yeah, shape up, man. What are you, some kinda parrot?
    Brett: [clearly amused] Right.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Defied. The film was made cinema verite style. Very little is explained for the benefit of the audience, and it ignores typical screenwriting structure in favor of that documentary feel. Events that happen, like the damage the USCSS Nostromo sustains on landing, don't contribute much to the overall narrative besides the verisimilitude of life as a space trucker (though it's implied, and made explicit in the novelization, that things like "being blind on B and C decks" makes it harder for the crew to track the alien), and things that are important such as the existence of Androids, the ship's self-destruct system, etc. aren't mentioned at all until they're necessary for the plot. The characters just take these things for granted and don't spell them out for the audience's sake.
  • 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.
  • Closed Circle: Barring the exploration of the alien ship on the planet and discovering the space jockey, the film takes place entirely on the Nostromo. It's a fairly large mining ship, but it's also made clear they are ten months away from Earth, meaning help is not coming. The movie doesn't spell it out, but the novelization makes it clear that the ship is designed with the idea that the crew will spend the bulk of the journey in hypersleep, meaning they have to deal with the Alien quickly to avoid using consumables they'll need at the end of their journey, adding a present but not pressing time factor.
  • Clothing Damage:
    • The facehugger goes right through the faceplate on Kane's helmet, and the chestburster later goes right through his shirt.
    • Parker's shirt is ripped apart during the struggle with Science Officer Ash.
  • Conflict Killer: Before the birth of the Alien, the plot was mainly about a group of workers going home, exploring a derelict spaceship, and trying to sort out a suspected pay discrepancy. Once the creature arrives on the scene, those subplots stop dead.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Only one adult Xenomorph specimen ever appears throughout the whole entire film, only for him to later wipe every single member of a crew of seven "space truckers" except for one due to them easily being under-equipped for carrying out the task of taking on even just one single adult Xenomorph specimen.
  • Continuous Decompression: As part of the Final Battle, when the Alien is Thrown Out the Airlock by Ripley.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Screenwriter Dan O'Bannon cited At the Mountains of Madness as an inspiration for the story, and with the Space Isolation Horror environment, seemingly unstoppable Time Abyss Eldritch Abomination monster and Ash representing the worst aspects of humanity, Alien does paint a rather bleak vision of the universe and its hostile life forms that is rooted in Cosmic Horror.
  • Covers Always Lie: A downplayed example. The film poster and the original trailer implies that the Alien hatches directly from the large, cracking egg prominently displayed, but the egg is merely a part of the cycle (Egg->Facehugger->Host->Alien).
  • Cranial Processing Unit: After Ash gets his head knocked off, the other crew members of the USCSS 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. Also Ash, for his insistence on keeping the face-hugger for scientific study, until it's revealed that he knew exactly what it was and was prioritizing bringing it to Earth over saving the crew.
  • The Dead Have Names: At the movie's end, Ripley lists off the names of each and every one of the crew who have died over the course of the movie in the final log.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Brett and Parker form a two-man deadpan comedy duo, though with Brett a little more on the deadpan side.
  • 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.
    • Played straight when Captain Dallas goes into the air ducts to try to drive the Alien into an airlock and blow it into space as he carries a radio with him to talk to the rest of the crew, and they use a tracking device to let him know the Alien is getting closer and closer to him until it attacks and kills him off.
      Move, Dallas. Get out! No! Not that way! The other way! Dallas? Dallas!
    • Lambert and Parker are killed by the monster off-screen while being in radio contact with Ripley.
  • 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. It leads directly to Parker's death and consequently hers, as he can't use the flamethrower on it without killing her off.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Inverted. The alien nicknamed "Big Chap" or alternatively "Kane's Son" is McClane.
  • Dilating Door: The sections of the air duct system on the Nostromo are separated by dilating hatches. This makes sense assuming that their intended purpose is to regulate air flow through the ship and not to be pressure-tight in case of a hull breech. Ordinary hatches slide upward or sideways.
  • The Dissenter Is Always Right: Ripley at first seems harsh and wrong for refusing to let the crew in when a face-hugger attacked one of them, coldly citing quarantine procedures. In the end, it turns out she was entirely correct, and had they listened to her, she might not have been the only survivor.
  • Distress Call: The organic ship's signal which turned out to be a Warning Beacon.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Opening shot of the Nostromo cruising across the top of the screen.
    • During Lambert's death, the alien sinewy tail can be seen sliding up in between her legs, and all that's known from her death for now are the strange grunts (of pain) heard by Ripley over her radio.
    • 'The Company' is a well-known nickname for the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the targets of The '70s.
  • 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.
  • Double Take: Lambert, hastily loading oxygen cylinders, doesn't notice the familiar-shaped shadow that briefly eclipses the light she is in. Only when it's too close to escape does it catch her eye.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: Kane's body, hurtling away from the USCSS Nostromo. Also, at the end, the alien himself.
  • Drone of Dread: The soundtrack composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
  • Dwindling Party: The crew, little more than a group of glorified truckers with no real weapons and no training, start out with 8 members, and are picked off one by one by the lone alien.
  • Dying Smirk: 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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • While all the films in the series have elements of horror in them, this was just a straight-up horror flick.
    • Despite all the slick, cinematic entries this film would inspire, it makes some very cinema verite artistic choices marking it as a contemporary of the New Hollywood era. One example is that there is no dialogue for the first five minutes, focusing on the eerie music and setting the scene of the currently empty Nostromo. Then there is the roundtable scene where Ripley decides to blow up the ship, having main cast members out of focus in the background reciting barely audible lines of dialogue and not sweetening them in post-production would be considered amateurish nowadays. There's also a focus on naturalistic dialogue, to the point where major plot points like the existence of androids and the company's bioweapons division are completely unmentioned until they become relevantnote . Contrast with the sequel, which sets up plot points like the Power Loader early and knocks them over like dominoes.
    • The Alien's vocal effects are quite different to those used in future entries in the series, being much more electronically modulated and artificial-sounding. From the next film, a more natural collection of hissing sounds would instead be used.
    • The crew decide to take weapons when investigating the signal, and are shown with laser pistols slung at their sides. Fortunately they are not used or discussed, because the sequel would establish that Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better for a Used Future look.
    • The Alien itself moved much slower and took time to wait for human prey to come to it.
  • 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.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: The light flicker menacingly in the climax when Ripley finds herself trapped with the alien on the shuttle.
  • 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 Jones the cat hisses for seemingly no reason, it's a warning that shit's about to go down.
  • Evil Plan: Ash seeks to bring the alien to his bosses on Earth, regardless of who gets hurt.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: Tons of steam (carbon dioxide, on-set) blast from leaky pipes at various points in the movie.
    • The escape shuttle even has buttons to release various gases (visible on the control panels and buttons Ripley uses) into the cabin. Ripley makes use of this when fighting the Alien. Expanded Universe material explains this system more clearly: 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.
  • Explosive Decompression: Averted. The alien can survive in the vacuum of space with no ill effects whatsoever (though we only see it outside for a few seconds, so it could easily suffocate later; however, the novelization and future material plays this perfectly straight).
  • Explosive Instrumentation: When the Nostromo lands on the planet, the bridge equipment starts exploding in showers of sparks and minor fires. The bridge crew starts spraying the equipment with fire extinguishers to put out the fires.
  • Expositron 9000: The Nostromo ship computer, which tells Ripley the real goal of the mission.
  • Expospeak Gag: The gadget Ash makes to track the Alien detects "micro changes in air density". In other words, it's a microphone.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Kane being impregnated by the facehugger is the Trope Codifier.
  • 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 among the pipes and valves on the walls she's facing. Jones, on the other hand, seemed fully aware given the hissing and growling as Ripley was transferring him from the carrier to the cryo pod.
  • 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: In the film's opening, we see the entire main cast in their underwear as they wake up from hypersleep. Then, at the end, Ripley strips down to her underwear after she detonates the Nostromo to prepare for hypersleep.
  • Fate Worse than Death: In a deleted scene, Ripley found Dallas and Brett mutating into eggs.
  • Fetal Position Rebirth: In the Extended Cut the fully grown 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.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Brett finds a molted Alien skin. A minute later, he finds the hulking adult.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: The film was retitled "Alien: The Eighth Passenger" in many languages. This subtly foreshadows that Ash is an inanimate robot, as Jonesy the cat would make the alien the ninth passenger if not.
  • 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.
    • In one of the deleted scenes, Ripley comforts Lambert, and asks her if she's ever slept with Ash. Lambert replies in the negative, admitting that Ash never seemed that interested in sex, which is because he's a robot, and according to the creators, even if he wanted to, he couldn't. This would've been emphasized by another cut scene(s) which implied that members of the Nostromo crew tended to be promiscuous with each other. However Ridley Scott decided to get rid of this angle.
    • 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.
    • Ash is examining something on a screen and hastily turns it off when Ripley confronts him about the break in quarantine. It looks a lot like a developing embryo...
    • Similarly, during the subsequent breakfast scene, notice that Ash's attention is fixed on Kane. Initially, it seems like the ship's Doctor keeping an eye on his patient to be sure there was no lasting effects from Kane's ordeal. Ash's attention is really because he knows the embryo's gestating inside Kane's body and it's coming out sooner or later (based on his covert scans and the rate of gestation).
    • When the Chestburster kills Kane, Parker tries to stab it. Ash blocks him, frantically telling Parker not to touch the Xenomorph. Considering what happened with the Facehugger's acid blood earlier, it seems like a sensible precaution. In actuality, Ash isn't trying to protect Parker; he's trying to protect the Xenomorph, as his programmed Company directives are to preserve the alien lifeform at the expense of the crew.
  • 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 The 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.
    • Coupled with Rewatch Bonus, but when Ripley confronts Ash about violating quarantine, look closely at the screens behind him. The images look a lot like the embryo of the alien developing inside Kane.
  • The Future Is Noir: Averted with the crew quarters and the sickbay of the Nostromo which are brightly lit.
    • In the infirmary, this gives the audience good, long looks at the facehugger on Kane, showing off both its creepy design and the disturbing way it it is attached to him. After the facehugger has come off, the infirmary is much less brightly lit (apparently some kind of nighttime mode), making the hunt for the vanished critter much more suspenseful, but once it's been found and Ash begins poking at it, he does so a at a well-lit workspace, again letting the audience gaze at every icky detail.
    • Used to excellent effect for the infamous Chestbuster scene, subverting the conventions of monster movies and body horror. The first appearance or first attack/victim of the monster in most films will take place secretly in isolated, often dark places, preserving the in-universe mystery until later in the story. In Alien, the violent first appearance of the Alien takes place in a well-lit, group situation over dinner, violating what felt like a "safe" scene.
    • Played straight with the cargo hold and the engineering spaces, in manner familiar to anyone who's job often takes them to sub-basements or mechanical rooms, lit just enough to do the work required there and no more. The ship's bridge is fairly dark also, but that's a necessary concession to the fact that the pilot needs to be able to see out of the windows during takeoff and landing.


  • Good Wears White: In the ending Ripley dons a white spacesuit during the final confrontation with the Dark Is Evil alien monster. Another Light Is Good element is the Narcissus escape shuttle, being a clean white spacecraft (due to being kept in a shielded place within the dirty and worn out Nostromo) that also plays a key role in defeating the alien.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: With the infamous exception of poor, doomed Kane, all the other deaths are only shown as quick, momentary flashes of violence that don't dwell on the details. With Dallas and Lambert's death scenes, we don't even get to see the creature striking.
  • Go-to-Sleep Ending: The film ends with Ellen Ripley as the Sole Survivor of the Nostromo, recording her last mission log before going into hibernation.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Ripley uses one to send the Alien out the shuttle's airlock.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The alien is a monstrosity, but with the reveal of hidden protocols built into the AI "Mother" the characters understand that they were practically used as bait to bring samples back for weapons testing. Indeed, the Weyland-Yutani corporation remained a consistent presence throughout most of the franchise.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • In the Extended Cut, the Space Jockey's Distress Signal understandably creeps the characters out when they hear it.
    • The Hostile Weather on the planet where they find the alien ship has a constant banshee howling.
    • Lambert's bizarre huffing and final screech as the Alien attacks her.
  • 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.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ripley bursts into tears after reading Special Order 937 and witnessing Ash's sudden appearance. The revelation that the company set them all up and has no regard for their survival affects her deeply.
  • 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, with failure resulting 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 a 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—programmed—to deliver the Alien by any means necessary, this is probably a subversion.
  • Hysterical Woman: Lambert. 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: Lambert has such a line when calculating the return time to Earth: ten months. Nobody on the crew is happy with that answer, even though they're all going to be sleeping during the trip. The book notes that the mind operates on linear time, making ten months feel worse than say, six, and implies that the crew was looking forward to a summer holiday, which they would miss out on.
  • Implied Rape: Lambert's fate is one of the film's most ambiguous topics. Some claim she died of fright, but her dangling, unclothed, and blood-streaked leg suggests that the Alien realized what female humans were used as. Even the novelization is discreet:
    (Parker) ...went a little crazy when he saw what the alien was doing (to Lambert).
  • Informed Attribute: The book makes Lambert out to be a ravishing beauty, when she's rather plain in the movie.
  • 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.
  • In the End, You Are on Your Own: Mortally enforced when Parker and Lambert die. Not only does Ripley have to contend with the fact that her friends have died, but now she has to face the fact that she is alone with the Alien.
  • 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: Maybe:
    • Did the alien know it was escaping the ship by hiding in the shuttle, or did it just take refuge in the only part of the ship not currently filled with shrieking alarms and venting steam? Did it feint Ripley back to try and abort the self-destruct and then go into the shuttle to wait for Ripley there while she ran back to disarm the self destruct?
    • In the novelization, Ash says they could try communicating with the creature as it may be intelligent. When Ripley asks if Ash was able to do so, Ash replies ambiguously, "Let my grave hold some secrets."
    • In the final scene while in the shuttle with Ripley the alien seems content to lay still and do nothing while Ripley is moving around in the shuttle. This is in no way consistent with the behavior of any known real-world predator. A tiger or a snake is not going to ignore the presence of a large creature in its den, but will immediately attack. The alien doesn't do this. It may have realized that Ripley has nowhere to run, and doesn't regard her as a threat. It only reacts when she wanders too close, moving just enough to warn her off. She backs off, and the alien is perfectly content to remain where it is, leaving her alone until it gets hungry... or bored. Even when Ripley gets out of the locker wearing the spacesuit and sits at the controls, the alien still can't be bothered to investigate and she has to activate the steam vents to piss it off enough to come out into the open so she can blow it out the airlock. An alternate explanation, which was alluded to in earlier scripts, is that the adult alien has a short lifespan and that it was basically dying of old age by the time it reached the shuttle. It just wants to be left alone until Ripley provokes it enough to get it to attack her. Still another possibility is that the drones go into hibernation at a certain stage (perhaps on the way to becoming warriors), and it was already nearly asleep, thus why Ripley has to provoke it to make it move.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While it earned her the wrath of her crewmates (particularly Lambert), Ripley was absolutely correct that Kane should have not been let onto the ship for 24 hours, as per regulations. Had Ash not opened the airlock against her orders, the alien may have been contained in the airlock when the chestburster emerged, and chances are good that the rest of the crew would have all survived.
  • Jump Scare: There are probably more Cat Scares than actual jump scares in the movie, but the ones it does use are carefully done so that it is in these scares we get the clearest look at the alien before the climax. One moment is a literal Jump Scare when the facehugger attacking Kane jumps straight at the camera.
  • Kill It with Fire: Dallas, and later Parker, arm themselves with a jury-rigged flamethrower to take down the alien. Neither of them even get close to hitting the monster with it.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: One of the possible reasons Kane wasn't frozen was so that the rest of the crew would be killed by the escaped Alien.
  • 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 Tyke-Bomb: 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 specifically asks for some final words before he is unplugged. He uses them to taunt the remaining heroes.
    Ash: I can't lie to you about your chances... but you have my sympathies.
  • Layman's Terms: A slight example. When Ash is trying to figure out how to get the facehugger off Kane, he says something about moving one of the digitals. When Dallas asks "You're gonna do what?", Ash clarifies that he's going to try to move one of its fingers.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!:
    • When Parker and Brett stop to repair the burnt-out circuits in Twelve Module, Ripley starts to wander off with the tracker and creepy music starts playing... but Parker fixes the fault and the lights come on again.
    • When the crew goes to find the alien after it disappears into the ship, they split into two teams of three: Dallas, Ash and Lambert comprise one while Ripley, Parker, and Brett form the other.
    • 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 (justifiably) 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. Though, in a subversion, Ripley, who goes off by herself, is the one who lives through this sequence. The Parker/Lambert team gets killed by the alien.
  • Light Is Not Good: Ash wears a bright blue and white Science Officer suit, and turns out to be anything but a force of good. His very BLOOD is also white, as he's not a human at all, but an android.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: When Ripley, Parker and Lambert prepare to evacuate the Nostromo, Ripley is shown pulling some gear together in preparation.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    Ash: I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.
  • Minimalist Cast: Only eight crew members (seven humans and one pet cat), and to a lesser extent the Space Jockey, "Big Chap" (aka "Kane's Son") the lone Xenomorph Drone, and a computer voice by the name of "MOTHER" appear in the movie.
  • Mobile Factory:
    • The Nostromo is trailing a huge ore refinery that's automated enough to do its job on the journey back to Earth.
    • It's an oil refinery in the novelization and Comic-Book Adaptation.
  • The Mole: Science Officer Ash, who was brought in by the Company to make sure their hidden agenda was carried out.
  • Monster Delay: Heavily exaggerated in that even the Ovomorphs don't ever even show up at all until around forty-five minutes into the film with the Face Hugger and Chest Burster stages of the infamous Xenomorph life-cycle also not ever showing up until even later than that, and even after "Big Chap" a.k.a. "Kane's Son" becomes fully-grown, he's still not ever fully shown until during the film's Post-Climax Confrontation between him and Ellen Ripley mentioned below.
  • Mood Whiplash: The crew members are sitting around and enjoying one final meal before going back to hyper sleep while also randomly joking with each other all while Kane starts gasping in pain, and with that, cue the infamous Chest Burster scene.
  • Morton's Fork: Near the end of the movie, after failing to abort the Self-Destruct Mechanism by scant seconds, Ripley is left with the realization she has only five minutes to do one of two things: die certainly aboard the Nostromo in a fiery explosion, or take her chances with a horrific death by the alien on the way to the escape shuttle. She takes a moment to let out her frustrations on a nearby monitor, but ultimately chooses the option with at least a sliver of a chance for survival.
  • Name of Cain: Played with. Second Officer Kane is a good guy, but he's the first to die and also the one that the lone Xenomorph Drone 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 actually does this to Captain Dallas twice.
    • The first time, he reports a change in Kane's condition. Dallas asks if it's serious, and Ash replies "Interesting." The facehugger has detached itself from Kane and is not immediately visible in the medbay.
    • The second time, he reports another change in Kane's condition. When Dallas asks for specifics, Ash says "It's simpler if you just come down." Kane's awake and feeling remarkably okay.
    • In the novelisation, Dallas assures himself on the first occasion that Ash would have said something different if Kane was dead. On the second, poor Dallas is tormented by nightmarish images of what might have happened to Kane while rushing to the sickbay.
  • Never Recycle Your Schemes: A heroic Double Subversion. After Dallas is killed in the air shaft, Ripley decides to try Dallas's plan a second time. Lambert thinks Ripley is insane, but then Ripley reveals she's modifying the plan. It's actually a good plan, and it likely would have worked, except Ash turned out to be The Mole. After that reveal, Ripley abandons the plan; they don't have enough people to make it work, now that they're down to three the "abandon ship in the shuttle" plan is viable, and she's finally beginning to freak out from what's been going on.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The trailer has glimpses of Ash convulsing. Before The Reveal that he's an android malfunctioning, it looks as though he's in agony of having a chestburster coming out of him.
    • The original trailer shows something hatching from a chicken-like egg, which never appears in the actual film.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • One of the escape shuttles is out of action and the other can't carry the entire crew (and keep in mind, this is a skeleton crew of only about seven, eight if you counted Jonesy the cat).
    • 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.
    • Played straight in that the self-destruct sequence can't be shut off without reversing the extremely complicated sequence of steps in order, all while sirens are whooping and lights are flashing and steam is erupting all around as opposed to having a single, easily operated emergency cancellation option.
    • In-Universe in the novelization, where it's stated that the Company finds it cheaper to bribe the safety inspectors than spend money on maintaining the Nostromo properly.
    • Almost averted by Ripley, who tries to enforce quarantine laws and prevent Kane coming back aboard with the facehugger attached to him. Played straight by Dallas and Ash, who overrule her.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: The Alien in this movie is a terrifying monster, but the sequels and other future material will re-contextualize that it is actually an average Mook for the Xenomorphs' standards.
  • 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. The entire body of the alien is not seen until Ripley manages to blow it out the airlock, as otherwise all the focus was on its elongated head and how well it blends into the darkness.
    • Most of the deaths are merely implied rather than shown, with special attention made to Dallas' death. Nothing is seen of what happened after the Alien springs on him once it's illuminated by the flamethrower's light, and even the aftermath is unclear, only a burst of static and screeching before everything goes silent despite the crew's efforts to raise the victim. As Parker states, when they went inside there was no body, no blood, just the flamethrower. Even worse is 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. This seemed to be partially due to a cut subplot where the alien wasn't outright killing everyone, but fusing their bodies into some cocoon. Ripley came across this strange nest late in the movie.
  • 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.
  • Not Quite Dead: Ash, after his head is torn off, gets his second wind and goes after Parker.
  • Novelization: The film was novelised by Alan Dean Foster. More details here.
  • Numbered Homeworld: LV426. The planet actually doesn't receive this designation until Aliens. And in the novelization of that film, the colonists/terraformers call the planet Acheron.

  • 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.
  • Off with His Head!: Parker hits Ash in the head with a metal canister, tearing his head and neck off and exposing his internal mechanisms.
  • Oh, Crap!: Brett is having this moment after he turns around to face the Alien behind him.
  • One-Book Author: An acting variant. Bolaji Badejo, the guy in the Alien suit, apparently vanished into thin air after completing the 1979 film. Although considering he was found in a pub and only hired because he was massive and very thin, this is understandable. A 2016 CNN article revealed that after filming, he just simply returned to normal life in his hometown of Lagos and ran an art gallery there before passing away from complications of sickle cell anemia in 1992.
  • One-Word Title: The original script had the working title of Star Beast, which no one was happy with. Dan O'Bannon kept mulling over alternatives, each more pretentious than the last, before rereading the script and seeing how often the characters talk about "the alien," and that word jumped out at him. Alien. Both a noun and an adjective, describing something that cannot be described, because it is alien. And thus, one of the most famous one-word titles was born, telling you exactly what the film was about... by telling you nothing at all.
  • Only Sane Woman: 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.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: Particularly the "topographical scan" of the alien world's terrain, which literally looks like a bunch of zigzag scribble-lines. Then again, the Nostromo is a tugboat, not a survey ship.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Ripley escaping the Nostromo's self-destruct in her shuttle.
  • Phallic Weapon:
  • Plumber's Crack: In her infamous strip scene, Ripley's panties hang down a little low, which the camera focuses a little too long on.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: At first, Ripley seemingly escapes further harm aboard the Narcissus life-boat just as the Nostromo self-destructs, only for the alien to both suddenly and unexpectedly confront her one final time and also for her to have to throw him right out of the nearby airlock in order to be able to both save herself and also resolve the film's central conflict once and for all by doing so.
  • Post-Peak Oil: In the novelization, the Nostromo is hauling an oil refinery instead of an ore refinery, because Earth "burned every last drop." No oil means no plastics, and Earth "could do without energy sooner than it could do without plastics." Echoed by Arthur C. Clarke, who was fond of saying that, to paraphrase, petrochemicals are too precious to burn.
  • Puzzle Boss: The Xenomorph is easily a famous non-video-game and also even justified example. The horrifically ineffective nature of the few manmade weapons seen throughout the film necessitates the heavy usage of the general environment against it, ultimately culminating in Ripley throwing it out of the airlock seen aboard the Narcissus during the film's Post-Climax Confrontation.
  • Quit Your Whining: While walking to the derelict, Lambert complains about not being able to see. Kane tells her to quit griping, but Lambert responds "I like griping."
  • Quizzical Tilt: The alien does it while looking at Jones through the glass of his box.
  • Raster Vision: Seen on the Nostromo's various computer monitors.
  • Recycled In Space:
  • 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: There is an explanation for this, you know.
  • Rewatch Bonus: A lot of Ash's actions make much more sense in hindsight with The Reveal. For example, his attempt at brushing off Ripley's concerns about the translated Distress Call and dissuading her from going out to warn the away-crew is because he can't risk them not making contact and infection with the Xenomorph. He also shows plenty of reluctance to do anything that might harm the Xenomorph, be it directly or indirectly, and he's also even shown looking at images of the developing Xenomorph inside of Kane before the infamous dinner scene.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: No one knew that Ash was an android.
  • Robotic Reveal: The first sign that Ash isn't human is when a trickle of white liquid runs down his face as he's confronting Ripley after she learns about the Company's intentions. He then tosses her around like a rag doll, and as he's contemplating how to kill her, his eyes and hands are twitching and jerking as if he's having small seizures. The true reveal is when Parker decapitates him; he starts vomiting the white fluid and making a horrible screeching noise with the first blow, and then his head comes off with the second.
  • 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 a Magic 8-ball.
  • Scotty Time: Brett tells Parker that repairs will take 17 hours- Parker tells Ripley via intercom that they'll need at least 25. In Star Trek, Scotty at least partly owes his reputation as a miracle worker to inflating his estimates the same way Parker does.
  • Screaming Woman:
    • Ripley is an aversion. The only times she screams is being startled when she discovers the Alien approaching her as she's preparing to hit the airlock near the end. Or muffled screams when Ash tries to suffocate her with a rolled up magazine.
    • Lambert is the traditional version, most notably in her final scene when she's paralyzed with fear as the Xenomorph advances on her.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Subverted. Ash deliberately violates quarantine and lets a facehugged Kane in, claiming that he did out of concern for the latter, but it's later revealed that he had ulterior motives for doing this.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Lambert proposes they just abandon ship after Dallas' death, but Ripley has to remind her the shuttle can't support four. When Ripley, Parker and Lambert learn the truth about Ash's mission and about how they're all expendable to The Company if it means they get the Alien, they decide to activate the Nostromo's Self-Destruct Mechanism and blow it to kingdom come with the Alien while taking their chances in the escape shuttle with the three of them.
  • Security Cling: Used to great effect. As Ash, Dallas, and Ripley search for the facehugger in the infirmary after it has detached from Kane, the critter drops from the ceiling onto Ripley's shoulder in a classic Jump Scare. Ripley staggers back, throwing the thing away, ending up on her rear against the wall. Dallas rushes to her, putting himself between her and thing, holding his tiny flashlight like a weapon and stretching an arm protectively over Ripley's body, and Ripley wraps her arm around Dallas' chest. It effectively shows these intelligent, capable humans, astronauts and space truckers, reverting to their most atavistic instincts in the face of the unknown.
  • 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 an uncharted planet. Ripley realizes from reading the partially translated message however that's it's more likely a warning than a distress call.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Tragically made so with Parker and Lambert. When Lambert is cornered by the Alien and has frozen up in fear, Parker charges the Alien in a last ditch effort to save her. Then the Alien easily subdues him and pins him to a wall, and he screams for Lambert to run for it. The Alien then kills him, but Lambert still has not moved and ends up getting killed moments after Parker. In another way, crew expendable.
  • Sensor Suspense: While Dallas is tracking the alien through the ventilation system. Unfortunately, the sensor doesn't take multiple floors into account, since it's a jury rig Ash had to throw together in a rush, and only actually tracks micro disturbances in the air.
  • Shoulders of Doom: The spacesuit Ripley slips into at the end of the movie features pads on the shoulders.
  • 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 her/his employer, as well as her/his not being fully a hero (or not appearing to be so at first).
    • The film has a few nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey. When the Nostromo starts its descent to LV-426, Jerry Goldsmith's score becomes more grandiose which harkens back to the use of classical music during space vehicle scenes (not to mention Dallas listening to a Mozart piece while relaxing on the Narcissus), Kane's suit while dirtied is yellow (Dallas' is red while Lambert's blue) which is the same color of the spacesuit wore by Frank Poole before being killed, Ash turns out to be a robot following a secret order, although HAL 9000 kills due to a malfunction whereas the Company has given Ash an Evil Plan that consists in treating the crew as expendable to preserve the alien and the Nostromo's self-destruction creates a complex lightshow that resembles the Stargate sequence at certain points. The entire design aesthetic of the film was essentially "2001, but blue-collar," taking the idea of similar very practical-looking spaceship sets, models, and props, but dirtying them up, sticking duct tape over cracks in seats, and so on, creating the beat-up and run-down Nostromo to contrast with the fresh and pristine Discovery, and the grimy, grizzled space truckers to contrast with the well-groomed and fastidious astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole.
    • The famous chestbuster scene bears a remarkable resemblance to Walter Gilman's death in The Dreams in the Witch House.
  • Sinister Suffocation: Ash attempts to suffocate Ripley by pressing a rolled-up manual against her mouth. He wears a very creepy emotionless expression during this scene.
  • Slasher Movie: After the alien hatches from its embryo, the movie switches from a Sci-Fi mystery to a typical Slasher movie which just happens to be in space.
  • Slasher Smile: Invoked when the Alien bares its teeth at Parker before opening its jaws to kill him with the inner mouth.
  • Sleeper Starship: The opening scene shows the crew being woken up in sleeping pods, it takes a good several minutes of meal chatter before they learn they were woken up prematurely due to protocol demanding they respond to a distress call. At the end Ripley manages to escape in a shuttle that still had one functional sleeping pod.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: The monitor screen shows static when the connection to Dallas breaks off as he is attacked by the monster.
  • Sole Survivor: Ripley is the only crew member to survive. Jonesy the Cat survives as well, although he's not technically a crew member.
  • Sound-Only Death: Very notably Lambert's one, for the very creepy possibility that the Alien may have violated her in the process.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Jerry Goldsmith and Ridley Scott conflicted over the film's score. Goldsmith intended the score to begin with the more melodic "nautical" themes, which would shift into the alien, atonal motifs as the horror ramps up, before switching back to nautical motifs during Ripley's moment of victory. However, Scott took Goldsmith's cues and sprinkled them wherever he saw fit, resulting in not-especially-ominous scenes having a dark, brooding air of dread hanging over them—most notably, the intended opening credits are totally different to the theatrical cut's opening credits. Which soundtrack is the "dissonant" one will probably be a matter of personal taste; fortunately, most DVDs and Blu-rays have Goldsmith's intended score as an alternate track, so the viewer can judge for themselves.
  • Space Is Noisy: A bit iffy. Some scenes show some sound in space, but others just have the music. Its aversion is played with when it comes to the film's tagline though: "In space, no one can hear you scream."
  • Space Isolation Horror: The whole franchise is about people stuck in a Closed Circle courtesy of being far away in space with little to no chance of people coming to the rescue at all (and if they do, it will take them weeks to months to get to you) with the titular hostile species lurking on the dark and dreary corners of the ship or the planet trying to get you.
  • Space Trucker: The crew are towing ore and the refinery to process it.
  • Spy Speak: When Dallas asks Parker about repairs, Brett informs Parker that they'll take 17 hours. Presumably so he can get a raise, Parker says that repairs will take 25 hours.
  • Stock Sound Effects: One sound effect from The Star Wars Holiday Special is used; specifically, a recording of a lion eating a cow's head.
  • 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."
  • Tagline: One of the most famous in film history: "In space, no one can hear you scream"
  • 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.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: When Ripley queries Mother why Ash hasn't been able to neutralize the Alien, she reads that it's because of a secret special order for science officer's eyes only. After reading this answer and before knowing what the order's all about, she can however realize that Ash's apparent ineptitude is due to a nasty hidden agenda regarding the Alien and that further questions to Mother can yield no good news. At this point, you can tell by Ripley's facial expression that she's trying to hold back a nervous breakdown.
  • 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.
    • The crew does the same with Kane's body, in an impromptu funeral.
  • Token Minority: Parker is the only minority on board. Not out of keeping with when the film was made.
  • Trapped-with-Monster Plot: One of the most famous examples in cinema.
  • 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.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Ripley and Lambert are the only two women in the Nostromo's crew, which is otherwise composed of men (Dallas, Kane, Parker, Brett and the Team Pet Jonesy) and a masculine android, namely Ash.
  • 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.
  • Used Future: A Trope Codifier along with Star Wars two years prior, as the Nostromo is visibly a beaten-down vessel covered in industrial grime. Helps the protagonists are Space Truckers.
  • Vasquez 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 linchpin for the entire franchise, though when she learns of the sinister plan. This is because in the original script none of the characters were given genders, just names. Any character could have been male or female.
  • 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".
  • Weaponized Exhaust: After Ripley spaces the Alien and sees it crawling on the hull, she activates the engines to fry it.
  • 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 Line: An unusual one because rather than spoken, it's spelled by a computer at the end of its report:
  • Wham Shot: When Parker knocks Ash upside the head and Ash's head falls off, but hangs on his side thanks to his wires.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Brett and Dallas both disappear after encountering the alien. While they are presumed to have been killed, their bodies are never found. In a deleted scene, Ripley finds them in the alien's lair, cocooned and still alive, and slowly being transformed in alien eggs.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In a deleted scene, Lambert slaps Ripley and calls her a bitch for trying to leave Kane outside the ship.
  • White Shirt of Death: Kane is wearing a white shirt when the chestburster erupts. Likewise, the crew are wearing white or light blue clothing, especially Lambert who catches most of the blood splatter.
  • Worst Aid: When Kane goes into convulsions at dinner, Parker tries to force a piece of plastic flatware between his teeth. This would've done more harm than good even if Kane had merely been suffering from a grand mal seizure, as it's a myth that a seizing epileptic can "swallow their tongue".
  • 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: Ash's last words before being incinerated are "I can't lie to you about your chances, 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.


Video Example(s):


Kane's demise

Seemingly recovered from his face full of alien wing-wong, Kane wants something to eat before the crew returns to hypersleep. As last meals go, it's quite... unforgettable.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / ChestBurster

Media sources: