Alien is a 1979 film directed by Ridley Scott. It was co-produced by Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill, Ivor Powell and Ronald Shusett. Dan O’Bannon drew on previous works of science fiction and horror and wrote the screenplay from a story he co-authored with Ronald Shusett. Alien stars Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. It is the first movie in what became a the Alien franchise and launched Sigourney Weaver’s acting career, providing her with her first lead role.
The storyline is set in the year 2122, and follows the crew of the commercial towing vehicle Nostromo, heading back to Earth. While on route they intercept an SOS signal from a nearby moon, the crew are under obligation to investigate. After a bad landing on the moon, some crew members leave the ship to explore the area. At the same time as they discover a hive colony of an unknown creature, the ship’s computer deciphers the message to be a warning, not a call for help. When one of the eggs is disturbed, the crew realise that they are not alone on the spaceship and they must deal with the consequences.
Principle photography took place at Shepperton Studios near London, with model and miniature filming being completed at Bray Studios in Water Oakley, Berkshire. There were three principal sets constructed; the surface of the alien planetoid, and the interiors of the Nostromo and the derelict spacecraft. The 14 week production schedule was short due to the film’s low budget and pressure from 20th Century Fox to finish on time.
When Alien was released it initially received mixed reviews from the critics. Some critics who were not usually favourable towards science fiction, such as Barry Norman of the BBC’s Film series, were positive about the film’s merits. Others, however, were not; reviews by Variety, Sight and Sound, Vincent Canby and Leonard Maltin were mixed or negative. In a 1980s film review show, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were discussing science fiction films with both being critical of Alien. Roger Ebert called it “basically just an intergalactic haunted house thriller set inside a spaceship” and one of several science fiction pictures that were “real disappointments” compared to Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, though he did compliment the early scene of the Nostromo’s crew exploring the alien planet as showing “real imagination”.
On Rotten Tomatoes it holds a 97% rating with the consensus “A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole”.
Commercially, Alien was a huge box office success. Produced on an estimated production budget of $11m, it took $3,527,8818 in the US on its opening weekend. It went on to take $203,630,630 in total worldwide box office receipts.
Despite the initial critical reviews it proved very popular during the film awards season. Alien was nominated for; two Academy Awards, winning Best Effects, a Golden Globe for Best Original Score and seven BAFTA Awards, winning two for Best Production Design and Best Sound Track.
The commercial success of the film spawned a franchise of novels, comic books, video games, and toys. Ellen Ripley’s encounters with the Alien creatures became the thematic and narrative core of the sequels Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997). A crossover with the Predator franchise produced the Alien vs. Predator films, including Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007). A prequel series includes Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017).
Year of Film
Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto
Origin of Film
UK | USA
Genre(s) of Film
Horror | Sci-Fi
Budget: $11,000,000 (Estimated)
Opening Weekend: $3,527,881 (USA)
Gross: $203,630,630 (Worldwide)
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