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24. Alien

"In space, no one can hear you scream."

What a great line to market a sci-fi horror film. Alien is one of the greatest films ever made and definitely one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time. It has perhaps had more influence on the sci-fi horror genre than any other film has, and for good reason, it's d*mn brilliant.

To start, how can you not talk about the set design of the film. The Nostromo is one of the greatest designed settings in film history. Ridley Scott's great use of atmosphere is probably on display here more than in any other film, as the visuals of the film add so much to the suspenseful, slow burn nature of the film. The alien planet is also incredibly well designed as the downed spacecraft feels so alive. The design of the Xenomorph is incredible, one of the great monsters in film history.

The story itself is as simple as it is fascinating. It's the classic monster in the house tale, but in space, which is honestly one of the best strokes of genius ever. You have your monster, the xenomorph, and your house, the Nostromo. It is one of the most suspenseful films I've ever seen as it builds slowly to a tantalizing conclusion. When the crew of a cargo vessel stumbles upon a foreign planet, they find mysterious eggs on the planet, one of which hatches and the organism released attaches itself to a member of the crew. Brought back aboard, the creature essentially impregnates that crew member, and out of him spawns the xenomorph, an alien that is the perfect killer. Now stuck onboard with nowhere to go, the crew must find a way to survive.

This story also introduces us to one of the greatest female characters in film history, Ellen Ripley. She's smart, strong willed, yet still vulnerable and flawed and real. Ripley is one of my all-time favorite characters and while I think she gets more time to shine in Aliens than in this film, she still shows a lot in Alien.

More to the point, I like the characters in this film and the whole situation in this film more than I do in its sequel. They're just regular people, stuck in a terrifying situation. They don't have any skills that would make them equipped to deal with the xenomorph, which makes it even more horrifying when they are thrust into that situation. Also, I like the idea of one unbeatable monster than an entire horde of them, which are beatable in the sequel. They're beatable in the sequel because you're dealing with soldiers, not just regular people. That's not a knock against the sequel per se, it's still a great film, but I think this film was just that much more impressive.

There's a lot that has been said about the themes of this film by people better equipped to talk about them than I am, so I'm not going to go into that, but I definitely appreciate just how deep you can go into this film in terms of its thematic undertones. Ridley Scott really did a magnificent job with this film, and is a timeless classic in the science fiction genre.