A tense and thrilling horror film set in the depths of space, Alien features one of the creepiest and most lethal alien monsters of all time: an extraterrestrial larva that attacks and infects crew members, and, using the most gruesome of parasitic life cycles, completes its incubation and then picks off the small crew one by one.
Alien takes you on a funhouse ride, teasing you with the horrific and the unknown. On the frigid, inhospitable surface of an unknown planet, the crew boards the ancient wreck of an alien space ship. In an enormous chamber they find the skeleton of the ship’s captain: it is gigantic, repulsive and seductive to look at, as is the entire ship—filled with mysteriously alluring shapes and textures, but draped in dark shadows and menacing forms. Not unlike watching a car wreck, you are unable to turn away from the alien captain’s exposed rib cage and wonder, along with the crew, about what happened to its chest, as it seems to have burst outward from within.
A blockbuster upon its release, Alien launched the careers of director Ridley Scott and actress Sigourney Weaver. This was Weaver’s first leading role and she was cast right before filming began: the last puzzle piece in the ensemble of amazing actors that the director assembled to create a realistic and believable crew. In an interesting note, the original script was written with all generic characters, so the director and casting directors were free to make each character male or female and develop their personalities further.
Alien was director Ridley Scott’s second feature and he personally created extensive storyboards for the film. After presenting his unique vision to Twentieth Century Fox they agreed to double the budget to $8.4 million, hoping to replicate the success of previous hits like Star Wars. Additionally, Scott realized that adding a fourth act to the film would provide a hugely satisfying ending and procured an additional seven days of shooting to film the extended ending.
The alien itself was famously designed by the Swiss artist H.R. Giger. The writer, Dan O’Bannon, had been inspired by Giger’s ‘horrible beauty’ and presented the artwork to Ridley Scott. He loved it and Giger was commissioned to design the alien creature as well as the alien spacecraft—Giger took the work very seriously and personally airbrushed the alien set.
Alien was an enormous success and screened at Grauman’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood 24 hours a day—some people were so freaked out they supposedly had to run to the restrooms to throw up. It has become a well-regarded classic, having won an Oscar for Visual Effects, being named the seventh-best science fiction film by the AFI and having been added to the National Registry of Films. It spawned numerous sequels, Aliens, Alien3 and Alien: Resurrection—all starring Sigourney Weaver—as well as several spinoffs: Alien vs. Predator and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.