I have previously ranked horror movies here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. It's that time of year when things turn scary, and we have a real classic this time! Last Saturday, my son and I watched Alien together. I know it was scary because when a scene is too tense, he likes to go hide on the stairs until it's over--and there was a lot of stair hiding this time. After the movie was done, though, he said he loved it.
Sort of like Jaws, I don't think I need to explain this one too much. The spaceship Nostromo, a mining vessel, is returning to Earth with a full cargo. However, the ship wakes the crew from hibernation early when its sensors detect a world with non-human life on it, as per the programming of the ship's computer. When the crew investigates, an insectoid alien attacks one of their members, Kane, and, unbeknownst to the others, lays an egg in his body.
When Kane returns to the ship, the alien hatches inside him while they're eating dinner in one of the most famous scenes in movie history. From there, the alien slowly hunts the crew members one by one, until only Sigourney Weaver is left (plus the ship's cat, which she manages to save).
I might add I hadn't seen this one since high school and it's even better than I remembered it.
Story/Plot/Characters--The dialogue is realistic and the performances fantastic, the plotline is taut, and the moment to moment pacing is perfect, starting slow and ominous and building to an almost breakneck pace. (4 points)
Special Effects--The movie applied the most advanced effects available for both horror and science fiction in 1979 and in my opinion they hold up quite well. (2 points)
Scariness--There may be a few movies scarier, but not many. (2 points)
Atmosphere/Freakiness--Spaceship and alien designs by Swiss surrealist painter H.R. Giger give this movie a unified, and very weird, aesthetic that's been enormously influential in the decades since. But so many freaky individual scenes: the windstorm on the planet's surface, coming across the giant skeletal corpse of an alien on the crashed spaceship, the steam vents and chains and weird industrial equipment in the vast ore storage chambers on the Nostromo, the cramped air shafts and utility spaces, all add up to perhaps the most atmospheric horror film ever. (2 poins)
Huh, the first perfect score. I wasn't expecting that before I saw the movie. But I found nothing to object to throughout, and nearly every moment had something to admire.
Here's the master list of horror movies I've rated so far, and let's also add to it the color ranking I use with the comic movies.
Green=excellent Blue=pretty good Black=Okay Red=avoid
Alien (1979)=10 points
Day of the Dead (1978)=9.5 points
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)=8.5 points
Frankenstein (1931)=8 points
King Kong (1933)=8 points
Village of the Damned (1960)=8 points
Night of the Living Dead (1968)=7.5 points
Jaws (1975)=7 points
Witch: A New England Folktale (2015)=6.5 points
Night Creatures (1962)=6.5 points
Phantom of the Opera (1962)=6.5 points
The Thing (1982)=6 points
Lady Frankenstein (1971)=4.5 points
Gremlins (1984)=4 points
Man-Thing (2005)=4 points
Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)=3.5 points
The Wolf Man (1941)=3 points