Critics Consensus

A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole.



Total Count: 117


Audience Score

User Ratings: 459,059
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Movie Info

"In space, no one can hear you scream." A close encounter of the third kind becomes a Jaws-style nightmare when an alien invades a spacecraft in Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror classic. On the way home from a mission for the Company, the Nostromo's crew is woken up from hibernation by the ship's Mother computer to answer a distress signal from a nearby planet. Capt. Dallas's (Tom Skerritt) rescue team discovers a bizarre pod field, but things get even stranger when a face-hugging creature bursts out of a pod and attaches itself to Kane (John Hurt). Over the objections of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), science officer Ash (Ian Holm) lets Kane back on the ship. The acid-blooded incubus detaches itself from an apparently recovered Kane, but an alien erupts from Kane's stomach and escapes. The alien starts stalking the humans, pitting Dallas and his crew (and cat) against a malevolent killing machine that also has a protector in the nefarious Company. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

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News & Interviews for Alien

Critic Reviews for Alien

All Critics (117) | Top Critics (27)

  • The filmmakers have come up with some images that are sheerest nightmare. The film earns its shudders honestly: Scott is too talented to need gratuitousness as a aid.

    Aug 13, 2019 | Full Review…
  • After 40 years, this sci-fi horror masterpiece still feels lethally contemporary.

    Mar 1, 2019 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • This is a screamingly spooky sci-fi tale with more than a few echoes of "The Thing" but echoes which enhance rather than detract.

    May 25, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Seen again a quarter-century later, we marvel at how the filmmaker generates so much tension and sweat with a bare minimum of moving parts.

    Jun 30, 2015 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • If you want cinematic kicks, Ridley Scott's massively successful Alien will give you them in profusion.

    Aug 2, 2013 | Full Review…

    Derek Malcolm

    Top Critic
  • The limited strengths of its staple sci-fi horrors always derived from either the offhand organic/ Freudian resonances of its design or the purely (brilliantly) manipulative editing and pacing of its above-average shock quota.

    Nov 17, 2011 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Keith Uhlich

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Alien

  • May 19, 2017
    I don't think I have to make it obvious to you all out there that the horror genre is, probably, my favorite movie genre. There's really no other genre like it in terms of its dedicated fanbase, who will wade through oceans of shit in order to find a modern classic of the genre. The horror genre also has its opportunists trying to cash in on a dedicated fanbase, who will watch just about anything for their horror fix, and they purposely put out shitty movies knowing that, at least a few people out there in the world will give their film a shot because it's a horror flick. Superhero flicks are the closest thing possible to this in terms of rabid fanbases. But the one difference is the fact that hardcore superhero fans aren't seeking out low-budget, independent superhero flicks. If they were then that market would have been over-saturated by this point, as if it wasn't already saturated in the mainstream. The point that I'm trying to make is the fact that there are movies that every horror geek should watch, at least, once in their lifetime. It doesn't even matter if you end up liking the movie or not, but it's something that you must see. The Exorcist, Evil Dead 2, Carpenter's The Thing are on those list, if I were to compile my own. And many people would also say that that list wouldn't be complete without Alien. If I'm gonna be honest, I have absolutely no recollection of ever watching this movie in its entirety. I'm certain I have, but if I did then it must have been over 20 years ago. I'm 29 now, so I don't even wanna think of how far back I'd have to go if I actually did watch this movie. But Alien is just one of those movies that, even without watching it, you know of it by reputation. Alien is, after all, one of the more financially successful horror franchises in history. It might even be the most successful horror film franchise of all time, as, across six films, they've managed to gross $1.1 billion worldwide (and Alien Covenant just came out). Compare that to Friday the 13th which, they've grossed $465 million worldwide across TWELVE movies (Freddy vs Jason is included). Friday the 13th has twice as many movies as the Alien franchise and it has made less than half of the money. Honestly, I've been looking for this movie for months. I contemplated getting the Blu-Ray for this and Aliens, but I just can't afford it right now. So I had to settle for recording it on DVR off of IFC. IFC, sadly, has commercials, but they never edit movies for content or time, so this was as close as I was gonna get to watching the original cut without actually spending the money to buy it. What'd I think of the movie? I'll be straight up, I don't think I've seen a horror movie do so much with so little. And I don't mean that in derisive way. I think one of the benefits with this approach is that you can build so much dread out of showing very little of the actual alien itself. And that was by design, Ridley Scott made the movie this way, not like in Jaws where the shark not being shown until the end was done more out of necessity. Showing very little of the alien allows the audience to make up an image of what it looks like in their own mind, this adds more tension and suspense to the scene where the alien is actually shown. They're also very clever in that, almost, every instance where you see the creature, it has evolved in appearance from the previous scene it appeared in. First you see the facehugger, then in the next scene you might see it evolve the chestbuster. The final transformation, of course, is the full-grown xenomorph. Though you never get a full look at its body, just bits and pieces. This effect is, of course, lessened when everyone and their mother knows what traditional xenomorphs look like in today's era. That still doesn't mean that the thought process behind the design of the xenomorph, which is absolutely tremendous, very grotesque and completely reminiscent of its creator's (HR Giger) style. The other reason the film works so well is that the fact that it takes in such an enclosed spaceship. You have to deal with the fact that you don't know when this creature is gonna appear and where from, but you also have the claustrophobic setting to boot. These people are stuck in space with this thing (their shuttle can't carry all of them), so that certainly puts them all on edge. In terms of narrative, I don't wanna say the movie is empty, because it's not, but it's not the most important thing. There's clearly some hints here at a bigger picture type thing, like the xenomorph can be used as a weapon. Again, there's only hints here and I don't even know if Aliens explore these issues at length. This is a movie more about survival more than any deep existential exploration, as I'm sure Prometheus explored. They get the survival/space horror in this movie down pat, there's very few movies better than this of this genre. So, yea, I thought this was a pretty great movie. It's aged very well, particularly for a movie that turns FORTY years old in two years from now. It's still a visually intriguing movie, from the way it's shot, to the design of the ship, to the planet the crew explores, it is quite the movie to look at. And, again, that's even with the fact that it's showing its age in some areas. The cast is great, no complaints on that front. Sigourney Weaver is the ultimate badass and she always has been. She portrays Ripley as a headstrong, yet vulnerable character. She's not, at least in this movie, a straight-up ass kicker and that makes her a more interesting character than, say, a Rambo, who feels nothing but anger. I don't know what else I can say about this movie. Oh, the musical score is great as well. There's very little about this movie that I didn't like in all honesty. While I wish I would have watched this without commercials, since they killed some of the flow of the film, this is still a seminal piece of work and one that I would highly, HIGHLY recommend even if you're not a big horror fan. I think this is the type of movie that transcends the genre.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • May 16, 2017
    When you talk about the greatest science fiction films ever made, you have to at least include the original Alien in the conversation. It spawned an entire franchise, sure, but it also inspired an entire generation of filmmakers that still resonates throughout filmmaking today. It's often imitated, but never duplicated. I love going back and re-watching this film because it's one of the few horror films I can remember that isn't tarnished upon second viewing. It's always hard to make a film that is just as good the second time around, but it's particularly challenging with horror films. There's something about knowing when each scare is coming and knowing who gets killed off first that usually ruins the fun. However, 1979's Alien is quite the achievement in transcending the "trapped in a confined space" genre. The one thing that always shines through with Alien is Ridley Scott's vision. He's one of those directors that when he's on top of his game, there's no one better at displaying a singular vision for filmmaking. He was certainly inspired by a few sci-fi's that came before like 2001 or maybe even Forbidden Planet, but Alien is its own entity. And boy does it possess one particular entity that scared an entire generation. Much like the entire film around it, the Xenomorph is a fascinating piece of art. I love H.R. Giger's design. I love its origin. I love that its hidden for half the film. I love that there's actually a human underneath all that terrifying skin. Heck, I love that this thing has two mouths, both just as horrifying as the other. The Xenomorph is as much the star of this film as Sigourney Weaver is, and they both complement each other brilliantly, as strange as that sounds. But let's talk about Weaver & the crew. If there's ever a memorable crew in one of these space mission films, it's in Alien. And the crazy thing is, you don't necessarily get to know any of them in depth to care about their health and well-being. Most of the film is spent in silence, which makes it all the more powerful when the Alien does attack. Sometime less is more, huh? In its entirety, Alien is one of the greatest films ever made, and easily one of the most memorable. Whether it's the dinner scene, the cat, Weaver kicking a** in her underwear, the reveal with Ash, or just the endless amount of beautiful establishing shots and production design, Alien is a masterpiece. +Tension +Scott's vision +The production design & effects +Birth of the Xenomorph 10/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Jun 22, 2016
    This movie has suspense, action, and anything else you'd want from a film with a genre tag of "sci-fi/horror." Such a great film all around and of course the dinner scene is classic. If you love science fiction and haven't seen this movie...... well, then I guess you really don't love Sci-Fi.
    Patrick W Super Reviewer
  • May 02, 2016
    While Alien features some stylish concepts, it never soars beyond the highlights.
    Sean T Super Reviewer

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