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"The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle." Stanley Kubrick

Classic Film Review: Alien

Title: Alien

Year: 1979

MPAA: Rated R for sci-fi violence/gore and language.

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

Synopsis: In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship, Nostromo, is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs and something from one of the eggs attaches itself to one of the crew.

Ridley Scott’s Alien is considered one of the greatest films of all time. It is just one of those films that does not age and will always remain timeless. To this day, most of the practical effects still look real. To think that people made movies this good without CGI and a green/blue screen is pretty impressive. It took a lot of hard work, but it sure payed off. This was the film that broke out Ridley Scott’s career, and it is still considered one of his best films. From the opening scene, viewers are just immersed in this dark world he has created, and even though most of the film takes place in a spaceship, it remains extremely dark, frightening, and chilling throughout. I cannot say enough good things about Scott’s directing in this film. He does a fantastic job of making the viewer feel uneasy. For example he will use smoke, flashing lights, or dripping water so the audience will never feel relaxed. Also he does a great job of never revealing anything too soon. He is very patient with his film, and it continues to build and build into the epic climax. This film has one of the best third acts of all time, which leads me into my next point of why Alien is so great.

Alien has a basic three act structure. A beginning, middle, and end. Although, it is used masterfully, and the movie continues to get more creepy and tense. This film used the three act structure better than most films I have seen. Another movie that uses this structure similarly and effectively is Die Hard. This film proves that you don’t need big set pieces and multiple locations to create an intense science fiction film. The fact that most of this film takes place in a limited setting is used as an advantage in this film. The claustrophobic feeling that this film brings is contagious and makes it even more nerve-wracking with the stakes that are involved.

This film was nominated for two Academy Awards for its visual effects and art direction. The fact that it was only nominated for two awards is a travesty! It should have been also nominated for best picture, director, sound, cinematography, and original score. It’s funny how the Academy Awards tend to steer away from the more horror-type films like this, but looking back on it, it’s crazy how it only had two nominations and just one win. The one win went to the visual effects and that was a no brainer, because this film has some of the best practical effects ever put to film. From the look of the alien to the actual spaceship, the practical effects are incredibly realistic to this day.

Out of all the great things I can say about this film, there are a few flaws I had with it that might bring the score down a little bit. First of all, the dialogue is very bland in this film. This film could honestly be in a different language, and a lot of people would get the same effect from it. In a way that’s a compliment, but the dialogue could have been a lot more interesting. Another problem I had involved an important scene involving the character, Ash, in the middle of the film. If you watch the film than you should know what I’m talking about, but it feels unfitting with the plot and kind of ruins the tone of the film. However, after that sequence, the film goes right back to being dark and scary. The last third of this film is one of the best third acts I have ever seen, kind of like the sequel Aliens. 

Overall, Alien is a must-see horror classic that belongs in the discussion of not only one of the best horror films of all time, but also one of the best science-fiction films. The influence that this film brought to other films that has followed is incredible. Alien really changed the game for science-fiction films and gave us a great protagonist in Ellen Ripley. Sigourney Weaver is fantastic in this film. Her performance is definitely the most memorable, and she really shines in this film that broke her out into a mainstream audience. Ridley Scott also broke out into a mainstream audience with this film, and he proves that horror is at its best in a closed-in, claustrophobic setting. Alien should not be missed by any movie lover and is not only very well made, but extremely memorable.


  1. Courtney Young

    This is one of my absolute favorites. Great review!

    1. Brendan Bellavia (Post author)

      Thanks! Do you prefer it over Aliens?

    2. Brendan Bellavia (Post author)

      Because I tend to go back and forth when deciding which one I like more.


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