Alien (1979)

You know, it says a lot about your movie when it’s the first thing to appear in search results. An “alien” is a thing, but you type it in, and this movie comes up in search results. That is the effect this film has had on popular culture.

It centers around the crew of the Nostromo, a ship that is headed back to Earth. The ship has gone off course, though, waking everyone up. There is a planet nearby that could have signs of life. They go to investigate it, and one of the crew comes back as an infected host. The parasite grows, bursts into existence, and then wreaks havoc on the entire crew, killing them off one-by-one. That monster is one of the most iconic in all of cinema.

It’s terrifying, a testament to its masterful composition. Director Ridley Scott, who crafted such varied masterpieces as Blade Runner and Thelma and Louise, creates an entirely convincing world. The Nostromo doesn’t feel like a film set, but like an actual ship, and the alien planet seems to be just that. As a writer, I will always believe that screenwriters don’t get enough credit, but this might not have been the same film without Ridley Scott.

Another factor in this film’s classic status is just how far ahead of its time it was. Here, the last three survivors are two women and a black guy, and one of those women is the heroine. That’s rare even now, 37 years later. A great majority of the timeless films have been ones that broke and reformed the mold of what could be done, and it doesn’t hurt that this one is so perfect.

Alien is one of the most original films of its time, and it set the standard for motion pictures that came after it. Still, even original films can be flawless, but I don’t see any flaws in this. Beat-by-beat, this is one of the most effective films ever made.

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Alien is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.

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