In space, no one can hear you scream
Plot: After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, it’s landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.
Director: Ridley Scott
Released: September 1979
Just two years after Star Wars reinvented the sci-fi genre, Ridley Scott transported us to the Nostromo and made a different but just as influential space movie and one that finally made aliens and being alone in space as scary as it should be.
Taking inspiration from the campy B-movies of the ’50s and ’60s, Alien takes place onboard an interstellar towing vehicle who intercepts an S.O.S call and are obliged to check it out. But the derelict spacecraft they discover contains more than they bargained for in the form of a parasitic alien menace that rips its way through the crew, leaving Ripley (Weaver) the ultimate final-girl left to defeat the menace, or at the least escape alive.
Alien was groundbreaking in the way that it introduced a new breed of creature genre, one that went on to become one of the most iconic found in cinema, which is impressive given just how little screentime is devoted to it, instead, Scott leaves it up to the audience to create the monster in their mind, up until the moment it quite literally explodes onto the screen.
Unlike in Scott’s later films in the shared universe such as Prometheus, this time the small ship’s crew and wonderful mixture of close-ups and wind angle shots combine to produce a claustrophobic and suffocating atmosphere, while the wonderful mix of British and American talent, including Weaver in her breakout performance, make every scene a delight.
All the above makes Alien one of horrors most iconic films. One where the terror doesn’t stem from the alien so much but the atmosphere which so effectively gets under the viewer’s skin and leaves you thinking about it long after the credits roll in much the same way as John Carpenter managed when making The Thing and James Cameron built upon with Aliens.