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Alien

Year: 1979
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Dan O'Bannon
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Yaphett Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, Veronica Cartwright
The seminal horror film of the late 1970's. Not too scary by today's standards, but it was the one older cousins talked about when they had a friend of a friend see it and say it was the scariest movie they'd ever seen.

Also the most ripped off film in history, it became the template for a million horror thrillers in film history - where a small group of characters with distinctive personalities are hunted down one by one by some otherworldy or horrific beast.

It also overturned the science fiction Star Wars, all cute robots and groovy one man space fighters. This was a trucking convoy in space; it showed a roughneck crew who didn't act like it was a galaxy far, far away, running for their lives in a huge, dark, clanking cargo craft as a seemingly demonic monster picks them off one by one.

What's more, it contained so many of the icons of popular culture we all know – of the baby creature bursting from John Hurt's chest and the face huggers, for example. There are ever lesser cinematographic effects that immediately identify the film, like the computer monitors and readouts slowly flicking to life in the otherwise lifeless ship, reflected in spacesuit helmets and windows.

The crew of the Nostromo answers a distress call to an apparently uncharted planet, where the ship is rerouted to investigate (whipping up many a conspiracy that The Company knew all along that the aliens were on the surface – a fact expounded upon in Cameron's Aliens later – and that Ash (Holm) was there to make sure the alien lived to return to earth.

Once there, we're treated to some of the most memorable scenes in cinema, of the huge alien ship, the fossilised alien body at the helm, and the nesting ground of eggs.

When Kane (Hurt) peers too close to an open egg and a facehugger attaches itself to him, the crew return to the ship, trying anything to remove it. A few days later, they discover it gone. Kane wakes up apparently unhurt until the infamous hatching scene over dinner, and the horror starts.

Ash's intensions seem clear from the first when he warns Dallas not to try and kill the baby – was he protecting the crew from it, or it from them?

Searching through the enormous Nostromo for the animal's whereabouts, each crewmember meets a grisly end one by one until only Ripley (Weaver, in her most successful and well-known role) remains.

She escapes in the Narcissus, activating the self destruct on board the Nostromo with the alien on it (or so she thinks). When it turns up on the Narcissus, we treated to one of most unintentionally erotic scenes of movie lore as Ripley gets undressed to get into the spacesuit, where she lures the alien into the path of the ship's thrusters and blows it away.

Dark, industrial, the first of it's kind and still the best. Cameron wouldn't improve the premise seven years later, but expand the story.

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