While many horror films have entertained audiences over the years, few movies have captured imaginations quite as vividly or as gruesomely as Alien. Released in 1979 and directed by Ridley Scott, Alien kick-started a whole new genre of science-fiction horror. Scott's vivid and visceral depiction of a new "now you see it, now you don't" breed of monsters has gone on to become one of the most successful film franchises in cinematic history.
The crew of an intergalactic spaceship called the Nostromo is awoken from deep stasis by an interplanetary transmission. Acting upon instruction from their employers, the crew lands on the planet to investigate the source of the transmission. On the surface of the planet, they are unable to find any survivors, but with the discovery of the carcass of a large alien (that appears to have exploded from the inside out) and a chamber full of large eggs, they soon realize that something is wrong. The rest of the film follows the crew's attempts to stay alive as they gradually discover the nature of the alien that stalks the abandoned craft.
How Alien came to be
Dan O'Bannon wrote the screenplay for Alien. The initial screenplay for the film was titled Memory and encompassed a story that closely resembled the Nostromo's origins in the finished movie. However, it did not yet have a clear concept of the nature of the beast that the ship picks up on the planet's surface. O'Bannon's work took him to Paris, where he was due to work on a movie adaptation of Dune. Although that project fell through, O'Bannon was introduced to artist H. R. Giger, whose work inspired the creation of the alien monster. After multiple rewrites and wrangling with the studio, the studio eventually authorized the film with an initial budget of just over $4 million.
Franchise and legacy
The success of Alien inspired a whole franchise of movies. Following the release of Alien in 1979, a sequel followed seven years later when James Cameron directed Aliens. David Fincher took the helm for the 1992 film Alien 3. The franchise was extended five years later in Alien: Resurrection before two prequels were launched in 2004 and 2007 with the Alien vs. Predator crossover movies. In 2012, the story is set to come full circle with the new prequel, Prometheus, which looks at the events that took place prior to the Nostromo's arrival in the first Alien.
Alien remains one of the highest ranking horror films on the fan-based Internet Movie Database, remaining within the top 50 films of all time since the site was launched. The film won an Academy Award in 1980 for Best Visual Effects and won three Saturn awards the same year for Best Director, Best Science Fiction Film and Best Supporting Actress. The film also won two BAFTA awards for Best Production Design and Best Soundtrack. Alien remains a popular choice for critics, as it continues to crop up on countless "best of" lists.
One of the most memorable characters from the film was Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver. Ripley represented a significant change in the portrayal of female characters in movies and stayed with the franchise until Resurrection in 1997. The film's writers made a conscious effort to make the film's leading character female in a bid to contrast with the traditional conventions of a science fiction film. Not only was Alien Weaver's first leading role in a movie, she was also the last actor to be cast.