Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Nightmare Fuel / Alien

Go To

The Alien franchise has garnered a reputation for having some seriously nightmarish moments, mostly revolving around the animalistic and sexual horrors its alien antagonist unleashes on its unsuspecting victims.


  • The thought of extraterrestrial beings that invade your body, through another being that technically rapes you, then burst out of your chest when you least expect it.
  • For some reason the Aliens never managed to stick with a specific sound effect for their squeals and screeches throughout the movies, but the voices they've had over the years have always been unnerving and their screams in the second movie were arguably the scariest and most well known. For context, there's a shot during the hive attack where we see Hicks shooting something off-screen, and a Xenomorph lets out a human-like squeal. Listen here. Tellingly, their vocals in the second have been reused for most of their video game appearances and the second AVP movie.
    • Then there's the haunting wailing screech that the Queen Xenomorph can give. One part cursing, one part lamenting, and all parts make-your-spine-shudder.
    • The first movie had the Alien let out a scream that sounds very much like a monstrous baby when it scares Ripley near the end.
  • In-universe, Ellen Ripley herself... before and after she was cloned. Feared by both Aliens and some humans. YEP, you heard that right. Even the XENOMORPHS are afraid of this one human. It goes further in the AvP EU, with even Predators respecting and fearing her.
  • Advertisement:
  • Here's a fun fact for your dreams: the Xenomorphs will NEVER be stopped. No matter how many you take down with power loaders or nuke from orbit (the only way to be sure), they're going to crop up on some other planet and start it all over again. You can thank both the Predators and the various humans greedy/stupid/mind-controlled enough to help the Xenomorphs spread and survive.
  • The menus for the Alien Anthology blu-Ray set are quite eerie. To elaborate, they are framed as being a computer terminal that displays footage from the films along with information on key points from them. This is all accompanied by the eerie humming of the Nostromo's computer from the first film, which renders the menus a very creepy, clinical feel.
    • The menu for the 4K remaster of the original film continues the trend, featuring panning shots of the empty halls of the Nostromo accompanied by the very desolate wind sections of Jerry Goldsmith's score, occasionally broken by static and footage of the screaming victims of the Alien before ending on the snarling beast itself in a Jump Scare.


Alien (first film)
No one can hear you scream.
  • The original alien concept was made by the artist, H. R. Giger, who based his art style on his once frequent nightmares (ala the same one that caused H. P. Lovecraft to introduce the concept of the Eldritch Abomination). Despite the negative connotation of the word "nightmare", he apparently saw beauty in the creature.
    • What arguably makes it worse is that, atleast to some viewers, the Xenomorph IS beautiful in an alien, otherwordly sort of way. It has a sleek, symmetrical design that doesnt trigger a horror response when just seen as an image.
    • Just Bolaji Badejo moving around in the unedited test footage with a mocked-up Xenomorph head is very creepy. For that, we give him credit.
      • To expand: The guy's basically in his underwear, wandering around the set with a paper-mache alien head on his head, but still manages to create a sense of menace and alien surrealness that's quite unsettling.
  • Giger's unique design of both the Xenomorph and the sets. You can see the human skull that the alien's head is based around. Not to mention, the creature is so carefully designed to actually blend in with the rest of the environment. Meaning that these guys can and will appear everywhere. Made especially worse when you realize that the design of the Xeno often means you've been looking at it the whole damn time!
    • The first and probably the best example of this is when Ripley has just left the Nostromo and the Xeno to fry in the ship's explosion. So she relaxes and takes a load off, undressing, making sure the ship's working, until it reaches for her and reveals that it has been sitting right in front of her for the entire scene.
    • Theres another even earlier where Brett is in the area with dripping liquid and the camera pans across the ceiling as he looks around. The Alien is hanging docilely in the chains above, but theres no music sting and so you would be forgiven for not noticing it in your first watch.
    • Something that makes the scene before even more terrifying is the fact that the Xeno DOESN'T attack Ripley on the Narcissus. It makes its presence known just enough to get Ripley to back away, and then goes back to resting. And then we realize just how intelligent it is. It KNOWS that Ripley has nowhere left to run and it's perfectly happy to leave her alone until it gets bored.
  • The famous John Hurt chestburster sequence, the gory details of which weren't told to most of the cast before the scene was shot, only that the camera crew were all wearing plastic (the look of horror on Veronica Cartwright's face as she's sprayed by a jet of sheep's blood is genuine(she also fainted later). (Note to any amateur film makers reading that this kind of thing with bodily fluids quickly became a way to get hit with massive lawsuits or harassment charges after this event and would never be allowed on set today.)
    • The absolute worst part, which is a lot more obvious in the director's cut, is that Kane doesn't immediately die once the Chestburster emerges. He's still moving and twitching even after it's run off.
  • The incredibly eerie exploration of the derelict spacecraft, including a strange alien skeleton in a chair, with no explanation of what the ship is or to whom it belonged given.
  • There is a long, slow scene of Brett looking for Jonesy, finding him in a room with water dripping from the ceiling and chains hanging from the vents. This is before the adult alien has been seen at all and audiences are expecting it to still be tiny. In one brief shot of the ceiling, the alien is fully seen hanging from the chain above Brett, but from it blending in with the scenery the audience does not even notice it. They only realize they were looking right at it on a second watch, after it has lowered down to snatch Brett.
    • Brett's death is terrifying, as in the theatrical version, Brett stares at the Alien for a second before the Xeno kills him with its inner mouth. In the extended edition, the Alien pulls Brett towards him while using its tail to ensure he cant run, and lets Brett scream what is it and calling for help before he is killed. The Alien had the chance to kill Brett quickly, but instead let him stand there terrified. The Alien enjoyed watching Brett look terrified, indicating it can actually be sadistic and genuinely evil.
  • The scene with Dallas in the air vents, featuring one of the biggest Jump Scare moments in film history. Dallas appears to have climbed down a ladder to safety from the approaching alien, only to turn around and find the alien right in front of him, screeching and reaching out for him before the camera shorts out.
    • This scene is made worse by Lambert panicking on the radio screaming to move it and then screaming "Not that way!"instants before the Alien stretches its arms out towards him shrieking.
  • The absolutely nightmarish scene of Parker and Lambert's deaths, seeing Parker killed by the alien's "second mouth", and not even seeing what it did to Lambert (apart from moving its bladed tail up between her legs), only hearing her anguished death cries over the radio.
    • The book "Alien: Out of the Shadows" revealed what happened to Lambert: the Alien ripped a hole in her face.
  • The climax of the movie, following Ripley as she beelines for the escape pod, is one of the most intense chase scenes in film history even though the alien isn't actually chasing her, and is eventually revealed to have turned around and gone in the complete other direction.
    • During the entire movie, Ripley manages to take nearly everything pretty well, including finding Parker and Lambert's mutilated corpses and finding Dallas and Brett half-transformed into eggs, so seeing her lose her cool and almost break down while running through the Nostromo's claustrophobic hallways inspires a deep feeling of terror in one's heart.
  • The sight of the Alien/Xenomorph being jettisoned into the black, lonely void of deep space after getting blasted by the ship's engines.
  • In the director's cut of Alien, there is also the scene where Ripley finds Dallas and Brett in the process of being changed into alien eggs. It is not only revolting, but it's also Uncanny Valley.
  • The original trailer for the film is 120 seconds of condensed and highly efficient Nightmare Fuel. No bombastic score, no booming voiceovers, no stars' names blasting onto the screen; just quick flashes of the most disturbing scenes in the movie punctuated with a rapid Heartbeat Soundtrack and the intermittent sound of a frighteningly inhuman wail before the iconic tagline appears:
    In space, no one can hear you scream.
    • The ominous opening in particular really drives the horror of the film home, as a sequence of apparently random white bars appear at the top of the screen, slowly forming identifiable letters. It's only when the word, a word most of us would use quite casually without thinking about its connotations, is spelled out so slowly and menacingly that the true eeriness it conveys really occurs to us. Try saying it slowly out loud and listen to yourself carefully:
      A L I E N
  • In 1984, Argus Press Software released an Alien game for the C64, Amstrad, and ZX Spectrum. The crew of the Nostromo, following the gory birth of the Alien, must track it down and either kill it or space it (or activate the self-destruct sequence and abandon ship). Naturally, trailing the Alien puts you at risk of an encounter that you are unlikely to survive. Oh, and the poor sod who gets a facehugger clamped to their face isn't always Kane, nor is the traitorous android always Ash.
  • As noted above, there are several times throughout the film where the Xenomorph is so well camouflaged that it can be placed right in the plain sight in the frame and still not be seen until a second viewing like with Brett and Dallas's "death" scenes and the last jump scare in the escape pod. Even on a first watch, the audience eventually catches on to this, and it makes the dark, flashing corridors of the Nostromo even more terrifying: every single pipe, tube, or wall could be the Xenomorph.
  • Once Ash is revealed to be an android, his personality shifts dramatically. He immediately assaults Ripley, violently throwing her against the walls of the ship and then trying to suffocate her with a rolled-up magazine. The look of pure violent rage on his face is terrifying to behold after his previous calm demeanor. When Parker and Lambert come to rescue her, it takes their combined strength just to pull him off her, and his movements become more erratic until he is brutally decapitated by Parker, and still fights back until Lambert stabs him to death.
    • When they interrogate him, the sight of his decapitated head, covered in his own fluids, next to his torn-apart body, is deeply disturbing. Not helped by his completely calm, neutral demeanor, or his unsettling smile. Can't blame Parker for using a flamethrower to finish him off afterwards.

Expanded Universe

  • Alien: Isolation
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines
  • Alien vs. Predator
  • In the comic/novel Aliens: Labyrinth, a critical piece of backstory involves the story's Mad Scientist. When he was younger, he and his fellow colony members were captured by a colony of xenomorphs that was dying due to some sort of disease. Trapped in the hive, he only managed to survive by deliberately working with the aliens to nourish and care for the other captives. Among the horrors he sees is a former female friend of his who has had facehuggers implant her womb, causing her to swell up in an obscene parody of pregnancy before she is torn apart by three grotesque half-developed adult xenomorphs, still linked to her by umbilical cables. Eventually, he finds the source of the disease and uses it to poison the colony, but the colony tries to use him to breed with a female captive to create new hosts. He's presented with a woman who has had her limbs gnawed off and cauterized, driven quite insensible by her abuse at the hands of the xenomorphs. The woman is his mother. Driven mad by the realization, he gives her a Mercy Kill. For this, the queen has him implanted with the last surviving facehugger. When he wakes, he finds the plague has finished destroying the colony and the chestburster inside of him is stillborn. Then he has to escape from the hive and perform surgery on himself, without anesthetic to remove the embryo before it decays inside of him and gives him fatal blood poisoning. It's no wonder he's gone absolutely insane!
  • The early Aliens comics provide a truly horrific explanation for why humans constantly grab the Idiot Ball when it comes to looking for the Aliens and bringing them back to Earth. It's all part of the plan, orchestrated by the Queen Mother on the homeworld to propagate her species by using a whole planet. It's hard to decide which is the scarier part:
    • That the Queen Mother becomes the subject of her own maternal feelings, to the point of begging for a Facehugger.
    • That the humans, in essence, are the Sci-fi equivalent to Sex Slaves.
    • That the psychic signal is spread by a madman who sees the Aliens as gods.
    • That this is all simply part of the Aliens' life cycle and has no malice at the core.
    • That it's clear that this entire process has been played out on other planets before and will continue to play out until every Alien is dead... which is going to be very hard considering that the Predators have spread them throughout the galaxy, if not the universe, as yet another prey species of theirs.
  • The 2019 stage play adds a level of The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You, as the first proper appearance of the grown alien has it roar from behind the audience and then crawl down the aisle, with only its back spines visible to anyone not in an aisle seat. Sigourney Weaver herself stated that the show scared her, and she was constantly on the lookout for where it might be.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: