Alien was released in 1979 and today this seminal sci-fi horror film is still director Ridley Scott’s best. Picking up where 2001: A Space Odyssey left off in 1968, Scott’s film about the crew of the Nostromo spaceship who encounter an violent alien creature on their way back to Earth made sci-fi horror into serious cinema. It’s masterful pacing, moody cinematography and heady subtext (male rape?) added to Kubrick’s contribution to the genre nine years earlier, making a movie appealed to both pop and art film lovers.
The story behind the making of Alien is as impressive as the film, but what it comes down to is this: a smart writer, Dan O’Bannon, and a hungry up-and-coming director, Scott, were thrust together in a rare cinematic pairing. (Think Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky with Network.)
Ridley Scott, who would go on to direct Blade Runner and Legend, would never again work with a screenplay like O’Bannon’s. And O’Bannon, who would co-write Total Recall for Verhoeven and direct his own screenplay of The Return of the Living Dead, never had a director take his work as seriously as did Scott.
The film, along with Jaws and Halloween, had a monumental impact on subsequent horror pictures in the way action and suspense were constructed. As for science fiction films, it helped make the cynical mistrust of capitalism a staple of the genre, especially in the 1980s.