The 100 best horror films - Alien

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Number 5: Alien

By Derek Adams, Dave Calhoun, Cath Clarke, Sarah Cohen, Nigel Floyd and Tom Huddleston, with the generous support of everyone at FrightFest and Cine-Excess. Explore the individual top tens of every contributor.

| 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 |           | No 10 | No 9 | No 8 | No 7 | No 6 | No 5 | No 4 | No 3 | No 2 | No 1 |

5

Alien (1979)

Dir Ridley Scott (Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm)

The miracle of birth

‘Nothing happens for 45 minutes,’ a studio boss sniped to Ridley Scott about ‘Alien’, failing monumentally to get that its opening is menacing as hell. Aboard the commercial spaceship Nostromo, the crew answers a distress signal from a nearby planet. That it’s so natural – they drink coffee, bitch about overtime – only adds to the suspense. Of course, we’re all waiting for the ‘chestburster’, who makes his entrance at around the one-hour mark. Scott filmed the scene in one take, not telling his cast exactly what to expect as John Hurt thrashed about on the table, convulsing in spasms, about to give birth to HR Giger’s infant alien creation. ‘Alien’ had been pitched to the studio as ‘“Jaws” in Space’. Later writer Dan O’Bannon openly admitted, ‘I didn’t steal “Alien” from anybody. I stole it from everybody!’. Horror films have been paying ‘Alien’ the same compliment ever since. CC

What the experts said

  • ‘The perfect horror film. Tension tooled with the precision of a Swiss watch. A study in slow-burn suspense, in the values of silence. A film far greater than the sum of its parts, and what parts: Chestburster, Facehugger, Nostromo, Ash, Ripley...’

    James Watkins
  • ‘There's a badass monster. On a spaceship. And you're trapped with it. It's just so damn simple that it’s hard to explain why it works as well as it does, but “Alien” is one of those films I can't fault on any level.’

    Catherine Bray

Watch a documentary about 'Alien'

Check out this amazing, rare, feature-length documentary on HR Giger and the design of the Alien

| 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 |           | No 10 | No 9 | No 8 | No 7 | No 6 | No 5 | No 4 | No 3 | No 2 | No 1 |



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