Ridley Scott is a great director who has made many amazing films including BLADE RUNNER (1982), GLADIATOR (2000), BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001) and of course Alien which was only his second feature film.
The famous tagline for this movie was: “In space no one can hear you scream.” This was clever as well as a good solution to the horror isolation element. In horror movies there needs to be a reason why the victims can’t simply go to the police or get help. In space there is no help.
The alien is one of the greatest horror character designs of all time. It looks completely original, like no film alien which came before it. The Alien was designed off of the artwork of H.R. Geiger. Geiger does some cool stuff and his designs have been used in other movies and games. The art design for the entire movie looks fantastic. From the enormous detailed sets to the special effects like those creepy xenomorph eggs for example. I’ll take practical effects over CG any day.
Sigourney Weaver plays Ripley the main protagonist and this is the film that made her an icon. She has made many other films since but constantly returns to sci-fi for cameos (like Avatar). The rest of the cast is great as well. Alot of horror movies suffer from characters that you simply don’t care about, they just add to the body count, but in Alien all the characters have personality, which makes it more powerful when they are killed off.
These characters all have depth and even sub-stories aside from the main plot. One of the characters who you went through the movie with turns out to be an android. The android attacks Ripley and this causes a fear of robots in the sequels. ALIENS (1986) is known as one of the greatest sequels of all time, often claiming it’s better than the original. This time James Cameron takes over the director chair and we have a genre switch. The first “Alien” was a sci-fi/horror film, while the second is more of a sci-fi/action film.
James Cameron certainly knows how to make a sequel and the relationship between the Alien films and his Terminator films are quite similar. THE TERMINATOR (1984) in many ways is sci-fi meets horror/thriller (almost like a slasher) and the sequel TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1994) is more of an all out sci-fi/action movie (with the third film in both series being complete crap).
Ridley Scott’s Alien remains a sci-fi/horror classic and has some of the most memorable and often referenced scenes. Perhaps most famous is the chest burster scene because it is so instantly recognizable (it was later parodied in Mel Brooks’ SPACEBALLS). Many people found it horrifying but I found it hilarious. Not the bursting itself, but rather the way the baby alien slides across the table after. I guess most people are a little too freaked out to notice it.