10 Best Alien Moments

Horror and science-fiction films have always gone hand in hand, but most of the time it has been at the very low budget end of the cinematic spectrum. Adaptations of “Frankenstein” may have been influential, and the 50s slew of cold-war allegories such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing from Another World were memorable in their own way, but when producers put these two genres in the same film, they usually didn’t throw a lot of money at the project. It was simple to make do with the Roger Corman pictures, which would ordinarily be made up of a model rocket ship against a black backdrop with pinholes shining light through it for stars, a wobbly set, and someone in a monster costume attacking our heroes as the central antagonist. On occasion, you might see Ray Harryhausen do some stop-motion flying saucers for these types of films, or project images of insects to make them massive, destroying a few cardboard city blocks along the way. The prevailing theory was that if your audience liked one of these films, they’d like most of them, and when all you’re after as a film producer is a quick sale to the drive-ins where teenagers can make out on the back seat with something on in the background, there’s little motivation to pursue much more.

But science-fiction was starting to change. Films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Solaris (1972) proved that you could do something interesting with decent sets, and when Star Wars came around in 1977, the whole game changed. Fox looked around for anything science-fiction they had on their desk to capitalise on the George Lucas boom, and they happened upon a script titled “Star Beast”. After gathering a cast and crew together, writer Dan O’Bannon (previous mastermind behind John Carpenter’s first film, Dark Star) changed the title to something much simpler: Alien.

In Alien, the crew of a mining ship are tasked with investigating a beacon from an unknown planet. On it, one of the crew is attacked by a strange crab-like creature, launching from an egg inside a derelict ship onto his face and attaching itself there. From here on in it only gets worse. Much, much worse.

The film, as director Ridley Scott once put it, was essentially a B movie with an A movie’s budget; a budget which the production crew had to scrap tooth and nail for all the way. Starring Sigourney Weaver in her breakout role, with a supplementary cast of John Hurt, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Skerritt, and Yaphet Kotto, the film instantly changed the landscape of genre filmmaking. Winning the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects per the guiding hand of influential artist H.R. Giger (who also designed the alien creature, named in later films as a xenomorph), the film launched several sequels and prequels, and even two crossovers with the Predator franchise. Evaluating its many valuable, influential and beloved moments, we at The Film Magazine look back at this indominable classic in this Movie List: the 10 Best Alien Moments.

10. Waking Up

When Alien was released back in 1979, there were certain things you could do with a film. One of them was to reveal information slowly, to give a gradual, atmospheric build to things. With the later threat to the crew being partially as a result of there being nobody to call for help or even a glimpse of a hope of rescue as they battle the creature onboard their ship, The Nostromo, director Ridley Scott takes the opportunity to give a sense of just how empty space is – how silent, how desolate, and how helpless you would be should anything go wrong.

In Alien, it’s clear there is nowhere to escape.

The opening few minutes of the film take a slow, wandering tour around the ship, which is ticking over in standby mode. The place is quiet and dark, and the alert to wake the crew appears in the reflection of an empty space helmet. It is an unconventional opening to a film, but it sets up everything we need to know. Aside from those now waking from the stasis pods, there’s nobody else here. Nobody to help. They’re on their own.

Recommended for you: Alien (1979) Review

9. Parker and Lambert

For a film with a good many deaths in it, it’s surprising how few of them are shown. This is what makes the deaths of Parker and Lambert so good – so much is left to the imagination. They’re in the midst of preparing supplies to escape in the shuttle, but an alien creature at the height of evolution has other ideas, and it’s going to take out two of its human prey at once.

This moment is also the only time in the film that we get to see the brute strength of the alien, which whips itself around to throw Parker against a wall before using its second mouth to kill him. Afterwards, it goes and brings its scorpion-like tail up between Lambert’s legs. The film abruptly cuts to Ripley hurrying down the corridor to their rescue before we see what happens to Lambert. Many have speculated exactly what the alien did that we don’t see; perhaps something along the lines of the cocooning that a deleted scene shows happening to Brett and Dallas. Regardless, the combination between the violent and the malevolent truly shows off the creature as a force of nature bordering on unstoppable, and makes the deaths of two likeable characters even more horrific.

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