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Alien (1979) More at IMDbPro »

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A note regarding spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Alien can be found here.

What is 'Alien' about?

When the deep space towing vessel Nostromo receives a mysterious signal from an unexplored planet, the seven crew members are awakened from hypersleep to investigate. Three of them -- Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt), and Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) -- form an exploration team and locate a derelict spaceship that contains a huge cavern full of eggs, while the other four crew members -- Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm), Chief Engineer Parker (Yaphet Kotto), and engineering technician Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) -- remain behind to decipher the nature of the distress signal and to make repairs to the Nostromo. Trouble begins when one of the eggs hatches and a spider-like creature attaches itself to Kane's face.

No. Alien was based on a screenplay by American screenwriter Dan O'Bannon with input from screenwriters Ronald Shusett, David Giler, and Walter Hill. The movie was subsequently novelized by Alan Dean Foster. It's been claimed that Alien borrowed heavily from two earlier movies: It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), and Terrore nello spazio (aka Planet of the Vampires, 1965). The success of Alien fostered three movie sequels: Aliens (1986), Alien³ (1992), Alien: Resurrection (1997), a prequel Prometheus (2012), as well as two spin off films AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004), and AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem (2007). Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection continue the story of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). Prometheus is set 30 years prior to Alien but features none of the same characters. AVP and AVPR were crossover films that pair the titular Alien against creatures from the film Predator (1987).

The laserdisc supplementary features (recently included on the Alien blu ray anthology) states that the mist was a "sort of biological alarm" meant to alert the slumbering facehuggers that potential incubators were in proximity.

Dallas and Lambert never went down to the area where the eggs were kept, never broke the blue mist, and never came in proximity to the eggs. They rescued Kane because he was attached to a winch cable. Once he lost consciousness, all they had to do was reel him in.

They knew because its beacon repeated every 12 seconds. The Company heard and deciphered the beacon some time prior to the Nostromo's voyage to ship fossil fuel from another planet back to Earth. Two days before the Nostromo departed on its voyage, the Company replaced the original science officer with Ash, an android whom they had preprogrammed to enact their plan of retrieving and protecting the alien life form on the return trip. They then re-routed the Nostromo to the area where the alien signal was coming from, knowing that the Nostromo would pick up the signal and, according to Company regulations, would be required to respond to it. Ash would be there to make sure that the mission was carried out. The 2012 prequel 'Prometheus' established that The Company had prior knowledge of and contact with both the Aliens and the Space Jockey race (they called the latter 'Engineers') involved in the distress call, making their actions much more logical, and the fact that an earlier ship picked up and deciphered the message quite plausible.

This is unexplained in the movie. The origin of the Alien is a complete mystery to the crew members who have not encountered this species before. One clue is in the early drafts of O'Bannon and Shusett's script. They write: "Certain clues in the wrecked ship lead them across the hostile surface of the planet to a primitive stone pyramid, the only remnant of a vanished civilization. Beneath this pyramid they find an ancient tomb full of fantastic artifacts. Lying dormant in the tomb are centuries-old spores, which are triggered into life by the men's presence. A parasite emerges and fastens itself to one of the men's faces -- and cannot be removed." It would appear that it was the scriptwriters' intention that the Alien(s) originated on the same planet where the derelict was found. However, as the pyramid was left out of the final script and movie, the only clue remaining is the derelict ship; it seemingly landed or crashed on the planet, indicating that both the ship and the eggs came from a very different, yet unknown place. Notes by designer H.R Giger also indicate that the Alien species may have been a bio-mechanical weapon created by the "space jockey" race. The derelict would therefore have been a military transport ship carrying a cargo of eggs, one of which presumably attacked the crew, causing the crash. This would explain the gun-turret construction aboard the derelict and the fully-grown xenomorph's mechanical mouth parts.

The film Prometheus (2012) elaborates as to how the Aliens came into existence.

Although such a rate of growth is quite unheard of in Earth's fauna, we should bear in mind that this particular life-form is extra-terrestrial, and therefore not necessarily subject to conventional wisdom about growth and development. Perhaps the Alien is a physiologically simple creature with all body structures present when it bursts out of its host, and all that is needed is that its cells quickly replicate and grow in size. The latter might be realized by drinking water and eating enormous amounts of nutrients for both energy and building blocks. Such rapid cell division would nevertheless require lots of energy, and this may account for its very short lifespan (the creators of Alien intended the creature to be aging very rapidly throughout the movie, becoming darker and finally dying at the end); the creature's body quickly invests all its energy into becoming functional, rather than into longevity, much like a butterfly. Think about the life cycle of houseflies & fruit flies, they age very rapidly and usually die in 24 hrs.

It was condensation. Down near Brett it appeared quite hot, as he was sweating. Since heat rises, it could have caused some frost or ice to melt high up on the ceiling. Also, the giant lights that Brett looked up at could have given off a lot of heat.

Although it is not clearly shown, it could possibly be that Ripley banged her nose when she first grabbed Ash by the lapels and began shaking him. It could also possibly be due to intense stress. Originally there was a scene where Parker and Ripley try to close the alien in the main air lock so they can blow it out into space. However the plan goes wrong and due to loss of pressure Ripley starts bleeding from her nose. This scene was only partially shot and never included in the movie. It was supposed to occur after Dallas' death and before she confronts Ash.

There is no explanation in the movie as no one has encountered this type of alien before. At the beginning of the movie, the Nostromo crew find the dead "Space Jockey" with a large hole in his chest. In what looks like a holding area, there are several egg-shaped containers covered in a blue mist. Kane falls into the mist, and one of the eggs starts to react when he comes close to it. The top of the egg slowly opens and as Kane looks inside, a spider-like creature leaps out and attaches itself to Kane's spacesuit helmet. Later, it is discovered that the creature has burned through Kane's helmet and attached itself to his face. It has inserted a long tube down Kane's throat and appears to be providing him with oxygen. Some hours later, the creature simply removed itself from Kane and dies. As Kane seems fine, and the crew decide to eat something before going back into hibernation. As Kane begins to eat, he begins having convulsions and his chest suddenly bursts open and a small creature bursts free. The creature then runs off before the stunned crew can stop it, but it grows at an incredible rate, shedding its skin, and reaches over 8 feet in height in a matter of hours. It then begins picking off the crew one by one. Near the end of the movie, Ripley finds that two of the crew members have been cocooned and are turning into eggs themselves (though this is only in the Director's Cut of the film and even director Ridley Scott has said it is not necessarily considered canon, as in the sequel, a Queen Alien is present to lay the eggs). In short, the simplest explanation as shown in the movie is that the Alien is hatched from an egg, incubates in the body of a living host, rips its way out of the host, quickly grows to adult form, and begins searching for other living hosts for future Aliens to spawn from.

The cocoon sequence, involving the transformation of Brett and Dallas into eggs, was filmed but was dropped from the final cut of the original release because director Ridley Scott felt that the sequence interrupted the pace of the film. He believed that the inclusion of this sequence interfered with Ripley's attempt to exit the ship, which would have unnecessarily slowed down the picture. The cutting of the cocoon sequence was an attempt by the director to keep tension in the final minutes of the film, not an attempt to alter the intended life cycle. However, Ridley Scott said that the Theatrical Cut is his "Director's cut" and any alternate versions are just special editions for fans. Therefore his intention was to leave this scene out. That scene is now available in the Director's cut.

No. There are several reasons for this: (1) The two ships look nothing alike; they have completely different shapes and designs, (2) The Predators look nothing like the dead alien creature ('Space Jockey') found inside the derelict. The dead creature is several times larger and lacks the typical Predator mandibles, (3) It is unlikely that the ship would also just happen to crash on LV-426, the planet from Alien where the derelict is found, (4) In the sequel AVPR, the Predator ship crashes on Earth, reducing chances to zero of it being the derelict from Alien, and (5) A still functional ship that looks exactly like the derelict is depicted in Prometheus (2012), which takes place on a different planet to Alien.

"Space Jockey" was the nickname the production designers gave to the dead alien found inside the derelict ship, who was envisioned as the pilot who flew the entire ship from his chair, and most of the crew felt it as a benevolent creature, in contrast to the Alien itself. The name may be derived from Robert A. Heinlein's short story of the same name, which is about a pilot of a commercial spacecraft. The name stuck among the crew, and the term is widely used in behind-the-scenes material, so it eventually became a sort of unofficial yet informally accepted name for the creature, even though it is never explicitly named as such in the movie. The origin and function of the Space Jockey was kept ambiguous in the movie. During production and for several years later, Ridley Scott considered the possibility that the ship had a military function, and could drop the Alien eggs as biological weapons onto hostile territory during war.

It seems mostly a combination of inexperience with such situations, panic and bad luck. After the Alien births from Kane, the crew split up into two groups of three. We follow Ripley, Parker and Brett as they search for the Alien. They come across Jones the cat who runs off. Parker tells Brett to go get Jones so they don't risk picking it up on the motion tracker again. This ultimately leads to Brett's death at the hands of the Alien. But keep in mind that the crew were still expecting to find the Alien when it was in its chestburster stage. They could not have anticipated the Alien growing to over 7 feet tall in a matter of hours.

Next, Dallas goes into the air ducts in order to try to bait/flush the Alien towards the airlock in order to suck it out into space, leading to his demise. This was likely because the air ducts were so small and cramped that having two or 3 people would slow them down greatly and cause more problems than it would solve, including making too much noise. Furthermore, there may have been only one functional flamethrower, and since they cannot use guns due to the risk of the Alien's blood burning a hole through the hull, sending in more people without a weapon would leave them defenseless against the Alien. And even if there were more flamethrowers, it would put them in danger of hitting each other. They may not have wanted to risk too many people against an unknown life form anyway. The idea wasn't bad, but unfortunately, Dallas understandably panicked and crawled right into the Alien without noticing it.

Finally, Parker and Lambert go on together to collect supplies, as Ripley goes after Jones the cat on her own. Ironically, it is not the solitary Ripley who is singled out by the Alien, but Lambert and Parker. They may have thought that, since the Alien had restricted its activity to the lower deck and places with access to the ducts, Ripley would be safe on the upper deck anyway; and since it always targeted people who were alone, Lambert and Parker would not be in danger in the supply room as long as they were together. Unfortunately, the Alien used the fact that they were extremely hurried and neither of both was keeping watch to its advantage, by sneaking up on Lambert; and its close proximity to Lambert prevent Parker from using a weapon.

How does the movie end?

Ripley, Lambert, and Parker prepare to take the shuttle in order to escape from the Alien aboard the Nostromo. Parker and Lambert are killed by the Alien while gathering supplies, so Ripley grabs Jones and boards the shuttle after setting the Nostromo to self-destruct. As they drift off into space, the Nostromo explodes. Ripley places Jones in the hypersleep chamber and prepares herself for sleep, too. Suddenly, she becomes aware that the Alien is also on board the shuttle in a semi-dormant state between some of the shuttle's control panels. She backs herself into a closet containing spacesuits, then has the idea that she can don a suit, decompress the shuttle and blow the Alien out into space. She buckles herself into her seat and, as the Alien rises and moves towards Ripley, she opens the main airlock hatch. All of the contents of the shuttle that are not fixed down, including the Alien, are blown out of the hatch, but the Alien grabs onto the sides of the hatchway as it tries to survive. Ripley then shoots it with a grappling gun which blows the Alien out into space but the hatchway door slams shut just before the grappling gun is blown out as well, therefore tethering the Alien to the shuttle. The Alien then tries to regain entry through the engine casing, but Ripley fires the engines and the Alien is blown away into space. In the final scene, Ripley and Jones enter hypersleep, hoping to reach the frontier in about six weeks.

Yes. The film was originally going to end with Ripley simply escaping in the shuttle and the Alien dying aboard the Nostromo as it self-destructed. However, Ridley Scott then conceived of a 'fourth act' in which Ripley had to face the Alien again, as it had managed to stow away aboard the shuttle. His intention was to end the movie on a dark note, with the Alien biting Ripley's head off, and then mimicking her voice as it made a final log entry. He convinced the studio to allow for extra budget and filming days. The studio agreed, but only on the condition that the Alien would still die at the end. That is how the current ending came about, which is similar to Shusett's and O'Banion's early script.

A sex scene between Dallas and Ripley was in the script, as a way to show how space truckers deal with long periods of abstinence during their long voyages, by simply having casual sex to fulfill their physical needs. This also explains a deleted scene between Ripley and Lambert where Ripley starts having doubts about Ash and asks Lambert if she ever had sex with him (this scene is on the special edition dvd). However, the Ripley-Dallas sex scene was not filmed. Subtle hints that Dallas has feelings for Ripley are shown throughout the film, as he is very protective of her. When Ripley, Ash, and Dallas are searching for the facehugger in the medical lab, it falls on Ripley's shoulder. Dallas immediately jumps to protect her and she clutches onto him. Also, when Ripley volunteered to go into the air ducts, Dallas insisted on taking her place.

Aside from the famous Airlock sequence and sex scene, there were scenes involving (1) 'The Flying Bedstead' (a short range craft Dallas and Parker use to repair the exterior of the ship), (2) a scene where they use the security cameras to spot the semi-molted alien that looks something like a cross between the chestburster and an egg with feet, (3) a scene at the end where the alien pulls Ripley out of the Narcissus with the harpoon cable and into space where she shoots it with a gun before getting back inside, and (4) Ridley Scott storyboarded a stowaway alien on the outside of the shuttle after the first is immolated.

This is left ambiguous in the film, but many of the original ideas behind the Alien had sexual undertones to make it much more unsettling. H.R. Giger's original design of the Alien was much more sexual, but eventually he altered the design and used his original ideas for the film "Species". Ronald Schussett, one of the writers of the Alien screenplay, had even stated the original idea of how to get the Alien onto the ship would be "the Alien fucks him!" and the whole idea behind the facehugger violating a man's mouth would add an extra layer of discomfort to male viewers. As for the "rape" scene, we see that Lambert is fully clothed when the Alien corners her. We see the Alien slowly creep its tail in between her legs and up to her back and although the scene then cuts away, we hear Lambert over the loud speaker as she gasps, convulses, and then give a final shriek of terror before silence. When Ripley finds the bodies of Parker and Lambert, we never see Lambert's full body but we see her legs dangling in the foreground, now undressed with blood running down them onto her feet, and her big toe has been broken and is bent out of shape. Exactly what the Alien did to Lambert is left to the imagination of the individual viewer.

Yes. One of O'Bannon and Shusett's early attempts at a screenplay can be found here. You can also view an Alien Enhanced Script Presention, with highlighted dialogue and screenshots in sync with the film's story line.

Ridley Scott stated that his original cut or "rough cut" was approximately 4 hours in length, but was so graphic and horrific that it was demanded that he cut it. However, Scott also stated that he never intended it to be that long, and that it was simply a version containing all the scenes from which he could start trimming the film. For the 25th anniversary of the movie, he created a new version (primarily by request of the producers and fans of the movie) which restores several deleted scenes, but also omits several minutes from the original cut to maintain the pacing of the movie. Even though this version was released as the Director's Cut, Scott has since been quoted as saying that the Theatrical Cut is the cut he intended.

In real time the films follow the chronology of (1) Alien, (2) Aliens, (3) Alien 3, (4) Alien; Resurrection, (5) Aliens vs Predator, (6) Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, and (7) Prometheus.

In terms of the timeline (and excepting Predator 2 which is set in 1997 and features an Alien skull glimpsed amongst the Predators hunting trophies) the timeline is (1) Alien vs Predator (2004), (2) Alien vs Predator: Requiem (2004), (3) Prometheus (2093), (4) Alien (2122), (5) Aliens (2179), (6) Alien 3 (2179), and (7) Alien; Resurrection (2380).

In 2003, a Director's Cut of the film received a limited release in theatres and was later released on DVD together with the original Theatrical Cut. Both versions feature material that the other one doesn't include. Ridley Scott has stated that the Director's Cut is a director's cut in name only, as he was satisfied with his original cut, and instead considers this newer version to be simply an alternate cut, rather than a preferred or definitive version. A detailed comparison between the theatrical cut and the unrated version can be found here.. A detailed comparison between the director's cut and the theatrical version can be found here.

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