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"Alien" (1979) is an Intergalactic Masterpiece

India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.

"Alien" (1979)

"Alien" (1979)

"You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility."

— "Alien," 1979

A horror fan who hasn’t seen Alien is the cinematic equivalent of someone living under a (space) rock. It may be old, but Ridley Scott’s masterpiece is a classic for a reason. Even if you aren’t a horror aficionado, the 1979 film is well worth the watch: featuring a badass protagonist, a terrifying monster, and enough action to keep you on the edge of your seat. Oh, and there’s also a cat.

Alien follows the crew of the starship Nostromo, who investigate another vessel after intercepting a distress signal. Of course, the crew soon discover that they should have stayed away. Led by Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), they race to destroy the creature which has infiltrated their ship before it is too late. Talk about a bad day at work . . .

A Formidable Foe

Aside from the cat, one the best things about Alien is that the titular monster—known as a xenomorph—is terrifying. Strong, fast, and highly adaptable, the alien is the ideal predator: meaning that, unlike many horror films, the characters’ fear and panic are understandable.

After all, the crew of the Nostromo aren’t facing a mask-wearing, knife-wielding human who can be riddled with bullets—I’m looking at you, Michael—but a monster which is virtually indestructible. To make matters worse, they’re trapped in outer space with said monster, so running isn’t an option. They really should have stayed home.

Who's the Real Monster Here?

As unsettling as the alien is, it is far from the only obstacle Ripley and her friends must face. You see, it turns out that their employer—a megacorporation known by the pithy moniker of Weyland-Yutani—is responsible for the crew’s predicament. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that our intrepid explorers wouldn’t be in such a tight spot if it weren’t for good, old-fashioned corporate greed.

Which begs the question: who’s the real monster here? Sure, the xenomorph is dangerous—but unlike the company executives, the alien is simply doing what it is programmed to do, obeying the mandates of evolution and its bloodthirsty instincts.

As Science Officer Ash puts it, the creature is “unclouded by conscience, remorse . . . [or] morality.” The alien has no awareness of its actions and no concept of right or wrong; it only knows that it is surrounded by potential prey and acts accordingly.

Meanwhile, the higher-ups at Weyland knew exactly what they were doing when they chose to put the crew’s lives at risk—they just didn’t care. In that sense, they are more monstrous than the alien ever will be.

The xenomorph's still pretty creepy, though.

The xenomorph's still pretty creepy, though.

Ripley is Out of This World

Unfortunately, horror movies aren’t well-known for featuring strong female protagonists (if you’re surprised by this, you need to get out more). Women usually spend most of their time onscreen screaming, running, and/or waiting for someone to save them. Luckily, Ripley’s here to smash that stereotype. For no matter how dire the situation becomes, she keeps her cool and does whatever it takes to stay alive.

Of course, that’s not to say Ripley isn’t scared—who wouldn’t be, when they’re battling an animal which bleeds acid and scuttles around in the air vents like a demented spider? But I read somewhere that courage is finding the strength to keep going when you’re afraid, and it is here where Alien’s protagonist excels.

Even as she watches her friends die, Ripley refuses to give up. It would be easier to throw up her hands and wait for death to claim her, but instead of playing the damsel in distress she kicks the alien’s ass and lives to tell the tale. If it weren't for Ripley, no one would know the truth of what happened on the Nostromo or the company's crimes.

Ash praises the alien as a survivor, but Ripley's the real survivor here. That’s why, if I had to pick someone with whom I'd fight an alien, she’d be my first choice.

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