Top 5 Favorite Moments From: Alien
This is the eleventh installment of this editorial series, where I basically take a movie and pick my personal five favorite scenes from that movie. I'll talk about and analyse these scenes, dissecting them to figure out what exactly makes them so great and why they work so well in the context of the film. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in hype behind movies-- are the characters developed enough, how was the score, how does it fit into the larger universe-- that we forget to appreciate smaller things, such as an individual scene that can strike you in a certain way. After I've said my piece, please feel free to go into the comments section and say why you either agree or disagree with me. So after seeing Alien: Covenant (which you can read our review for here), I thought I'd talk about Alien and Aliens. Warning- there will be spoilers!
(Make sure to check out our other "Top 5 Favorite Moments From" for The Dark Knight Rises, The Matrix, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Avengers, The Shawshank Redemption, The Wolverine, Swingers, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Straight Outta Compton, and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope- all right here)
#5 Space Jockey
After finding the wreckage of a mysterious ship on LV-426, the crew of the Nostromo venture inside. Upon entering the craft, one of the first things they see is what would later be called the Space Jockey. Now, Prometheus would later (somewhat) explain what this Space Jockey actually was, but before then, it was just a random part of the film that didn't seem to tie into the series at all. Details on what the Space Jockey actually was didn't arise until the Aliens Omnibus graphic novels, which displayed them as an elephant-like species. Of course, Ridley Scott changed all of that in Prometheus, when he revealed them to be Engineers, and what everyone thought was an exoskeleton was actually a space suit. I think there were pros and cons to that twist, but I try to put that aside when I see the Space Jockey in Alien. It is a random moment in the film, which, in the hands of a less capable director, would have come across an entirely unnecessary. However, the Space Jockey is crucial in establishing a greater world outside of the Xenomorphs. This isn't just one alien; there's a lot that we don't know. And, until Prometheus, we never knew exactly what it was or what it meant. While I was re-watching this scene, I payed close attention to how Scott presented it. From what we see and hear, it sounded like Scott had no real idea what the Space Jockey was himself. First of all, when they're first approaching the Space Jockey, an elephant noise is heard, to which one of them responds "What the f*ck was that?" It was clearly an elephant, and it was deliberately placed moments before they find the Space Jockey. They then approach the Jockey, and they talk about how it has a tough exoskeleton. Now, it's reasonable that the crew members wouldn't immediately assume that it was a spacesuit, but it looks like fossilized. It looks organic. I'm sure that Scott didn't have the Engineers planned out when he was filming Alien. But, looking back on what Scott did with the mythology, it's interesting to see these tiny discrepancies in the movie.
#4 Looking For Jonsey
After splitting up with the group, Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) goes looking for the cat, Jonsey. There is about a five minute scene of him looking around everywhere for this cat. Then, the alien strikes! What's great about this scene is how seamlessly the Xenomorph blends into the ship. Everything looks like an alien, and this only adds to the rising tension. The entire time Brett is looking for the cat, you know he's going to die. Someway, somehow, the alien is going to kill him. It's not a question of if; it's a question of when. So throughout this whole scene, you're looking in every corner, wondering where the alien is hiding. In Ridley Scott's director's cut, we get a few more shots of the alien in this scene than we do in the theatrical. In the original, we don't get our first true look at the Xenomorph until the very end. But, in this cut, we get a pretty good look at it here. I'm not saying which version is better, but the shots of the alien in the director's cut are beautiful looking. The practical effects paired with the excellent directing makes it all incredibly scary! The shot of the alien camouflaged with the chains is terrifying, because it shows how strategic and smart it actually is. In Aliens, Hudson (Bill Paxton) yells the line "How did they cut the power? They're f*cking animals?" And while that movie does go out of its way to show that these creatures are not just mindless animals but actually intelligent, it's this scene specifically that first introduces the idea that there is more to these creatures than meets the eye.
#3 Don't Look into the Eggs
After stumbling onto the mysterious ship, Kane (John Hurt) happens upon a room full of mysterious eggs. As he tentatively walks towards them, we see some really fantastic shots adding to the suspense of what these things are. Black condensation seems to be dripping upwards. The egg is see-through a bit, and the outline of an organism can be seen moving about inside. When Kane looks down into the egg, a pink, pulpy blob looks back at him, before the facehugger lunges at his face! This moment is key for the film, obviously. It's really what kicks the movie into gear. The crew have seen the Space Jockey, but it's the eggs and, in turn, the facehugger, that is really the instigator for the entire film. And it's really a incredibly well-directed scene. The suspense continuously builds as Kane slowly approaches these eggs. And elements like the condensation dripping upwards, defying gravity, really sells this on being something quite out of the ordinary. You're watching the entire sequence wondering what exactly is going to happen. Even if you've seen the movie dozens of times already, you still jump in your seat when the facehugger leaps from the egg. That is just the sign of a brilliant scene.
#2 Airlock Struggle
After blowing up the Nostromo and everything seems to be fine and secure, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) strips to her underwear in preparation for going into hypersleep. However, at the last moment, the alien is revealed to have been hiding in the wall of the escape pod! After a tense few minutes of fighting off the Xenomorph, Ripley opens the airlock, and blasts the alien into space! This scene is one of the best in the movie because it is the finale. Sure, you have great individual scenes like Kane with the eggs or the Space Jockey, but this is what the entire movie has been building too. You're rooting for her to kill the alien, and she finally does it. You also have a false sense of security, when you believe that she already killed the alien when she blew up the ship. It was enough of an unsatisfying end to the Xenomorph that his return doesn't feel cheap. It heightens the suspense, and you're wondering whether Ripley will actually defeat it. Because of the fake-out, and because of how well Scott utilizes the Xenomorph in this scene, its demise is ultimately cathartic. You breathe a sigh of relief alongside Ripley, and you can finally be at ease. It's a great scene, and delivers excellently in order to be a satisfying ending for the movie.
Waking Up: It's a beautiful shot of all of the crew members waking up. It's perfectly symmetrical, and the shots fade into the other. It's just a really great and elegant sequence.
Synthetic Reveal: Ian Holm is revealed to actually be a synthetic, in a shocking turn of events. Going back, you can see little clues along the way that show us something is actually up with Ash.
Parker and Lambert Eat It: In the second most brutal scene of the film, Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) are killed by the alien, leaving only Ripley behind.
Strobe Light: As Ripley is trying to get to the escape pod, she is stuck in the hallway with the alien. The lights flicker, creating a strobe effect that enhance the suspense of the scene.
This is by far the most iconic scene of the entire film. After the facehugger removes itself from Kane's body and dies, he seems to be completely fine. That is, until they're all eating dinner. In a brutally gory scene, the alien bursts from Kane's chest, and scurries away. It's bloody, but it's brilliant! While filming, Scott didn't tell the cast exactly what would happen. They didn't know the chestburster was going to happen. So when they filmed the scene, the reactions of all the cast, especially Cartwright's, were all genuine. And that makes the scene even more gripping, because it feels totally real. When I re-watched this scene, I was surprised by how short it ultimately was. In all the times I've watched it before, it's felt a longer than it actually was. In truth, the scene only lasts about a minute. But because of how well directed it is, and all of the brilliant reactions from the cast, it feels a lot longer... in a good way. The fact that this one scene can have such an impact on the audience is a true testament to how good of a job the filmmakers did. And it's really the defining moment of the movie. Sure, the Space Jockey is iconic, and the look of the alien is famous. But what would Alien be without the chestbursting scene? That's what people think of when they think of this movie. And in every subsequent viewing, it always lives up to expectations and delivers on what you want it to do.
What do you think? Do you agree with my picks for the best scenes in Alien? Which would you have picked instead? Are you planning on seeing Alien: Covenant? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Written by: Nate
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