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A movie directed by Ridley Scott

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In the pantheon of cinematic masterpieces, one of the finest

  • Jun 11, 2007
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Someone once said, "There's a thin line between brilliance and absurdity." More than any other film, Ridley Scott's "Alien" supports that statement. It began as a low-budget project for notorious schlock producer Roger Corman, then titled "Star Beast," but somehow, along the way, everything just came together. If anyone but the great Mr. Scott had directed the film, if Sigourney Weaver had not received her breakthrough role as feminist icon Ellen Ripley, if the film had come together any other way, it might have been just what it began as: a turgid, $3-admission grindhouse flick. Instead, "Alien" wound up as one of the finest films in the history of cinema.

Released at the peak of audiences' fascination with sci-fi films at the end of the 70s, the plotline behind "Alien" is classic: a mining ship, drifting through space in the far future, reluctantly responds to an S.O.S. from a distant planet. They land on the planet and find a downed spacecraft, the fossilized body of a gigantic non-human lifeform, and within the spacecraft legions of what appear to be eggs. One foolish crew member decides to stick his face into one of the eggs, and so begins the horror of "Alien," as one-by-one the crew is picked off by an alien lifeform perfectly designed to kill. Most of the cast received their starmaking roles in this film, most notably Weaver, who is arguably the most iconic female in cinematic history. Ian Holm delivers a delectably devious performance as Ash, the ship's scientist, who isn't who he seems. The most menacing character nevers appear on-screen: the corporation for which the crew works, referred to simply as "the Company." (It appeared more prominently in the sequels, where it was given a name: Weyland-Yutani.)

Ridley Scott is the driving force behind the picture. He's made many great films, two which are among the best ever made (the other being his brilliant sci-fi neo-noir "Blade Runner"), but "Alien" is his greatest masterpiece. Through dark lighting, claustrophobic sets and camerawork, and seamless editing, not to mention some of the most realistic performances ever in a sci-fi film, Scott fashions what may well be the most suspenseful, horrific film ever made. That's why "Alien" stands above all its sequels: more than a sci-fi thriller, it's an artful, unsurpassably tense picture which captures fear like no other. It's a testament to the timelessness of the film that "Alien" remains so damned scary to this day, nearly thirty years after its release. To add the tension, there's not a lot of music in the film when compared to others like it. The score is composed by Jerry Goldsmith, and when it does appear in the film, Goldsmith's music is wonderful, at once in tune with the film and with a winningly classic sound to it.

Of course, the film wouldn't be anywhere near so scary if the titular alien was the most chilling, ghastly creature ever to grace the screen. It's truly an ingenious concoction, thanks to the brilliant and twisted mind of H.R. Giger, who designed the beast. The fact that it's simply a man in a suit doesn't matter at all - in fact, that makes it all the more frighteningly real. The final touch is the stunningly intricate, spotlessly designed, and flawlessly detailed production design by Michael Seymour.

Those who appreciate film and have put off watching "Alien," because it's a sci-fi movie, because it sounds silly, or for whatever other reason, are making an immense mistake. "Alien" is one of the great cinematic masterpieces, classic in style (one scene feels like it was taken straight out of a Hitchcock film) "and timeless in the pantheon of movie masterworks. Though its numerous are worth nothing as well (particularly James Cameron's "Aliens," a film which ranks just behind Scott's original), none rivaled the legendary original. The film is flawless and a classic, including at least two unforgettable scenes (the ending and the infamous "chestburster" scene) to match an unforgettable, truly remarkable film. In space, no one can hear you scream - a good thing for our astronauts, because Ridley Scott's masterpiece has garnered many a scream, and no doubt shall continue to do so for ages to come.

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More Alien reviews
review by . June 24, 2012
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review by . July 11, 2009
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review by . September 03, 2007
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Somehow, despite my intense interest in movies, and despite having seen the other three 1/2 films in this series, I had never, until today, seen the first movie.    It is good.    Watching this film I was really taken aback by how well it's aged. You know how sometimes you can watch a movie, and it doesn't matter when it takes place, you can still peg roughly when it was made? that's not the case here. This is a movie that's only slightly younger than I am, …
review by . February 16, 2007
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review by . October 18, 2004
I don't see what is so amazing about "Alien." I was convinced to watch this film after so many people bragged on it in the reviews of "Alien Vs. Predator." Perhaps it is the fact that I saw both of the "Predator" films before any of the "Alien" franchise, but I don't see where this particular series of films is much better than a lot of other moderately good sci-fi cinema. Honestly, I would much rather watch the original "Predator" film than either of the "Alien" movies I've watched(I've seen the …
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Tom Benton ()
Ranked #351
Aspiring high school English teacher with dreams of filmmaking and a strong taste for music.
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A landmark of science fiction and horror,Alienarrived in 1979 betweenStar WarsandThe Empire Strikes Backas a stylishly malevolent alternative to George Lucas's space fantasy. Partially inspired by 1958'sIt! The Terror from Beyond Space, this instant classic set a tone of its own, offering richly detailed sets, ominous atmosphere, relentless suspense, and a flawless ensemble cast as the crew of the space freighterNostromo, who fall prey to a vicious creature (designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger) that had gestatedinsideone of the ill-fated crew members. In a star-making role, Sigourney Weaver excels as sole survivor Ripley, becoming the screen's most popular heroine in a lucrative movie franchise. To measure the film's success, one need only recall the many images that have been burned into our collective psyche, including the "facehugger," the "chestburster," and Ripley's climactic encounter with the full-grown monster. Impeccably directed by Ridley Scott,Alienis one of the cinema's most unforgettable nightmares.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Ridley Scott
Genre: Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: 25 May 1979 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Runtime: 117 min
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