In case you weren't aware, Alien turns 40 years old this year! It's hard to believe that there was a time when the beloved sci-fi classic wasn't a part of our cinematic landscape. Since then, it has gone on to multiple sequels, spinoffs, comics, video games, and more, becoming a sizable franchise. In addition, the Xenomorph has become an iconic movie monster.
Directed by Ridley Scott, the original Alien still holds up remarkably well. So we thought it'd be a good time to rank the scariest moments of that film, and how they still manage to frighten audiences today.
10 Ash Turns on the Crew
One of the more frightening moments of Alien is when we finally discover the truth about why the Nostromo is in a dire situation: that it had all been orchestrated by science officer Ash, the android programmed to follow company orders. In this case, the order was to bring back an alien specimen, with all other considerations, including the life of the crew, being optional.
When Ripley discovers this, Ash is forced to take drastic measures in order to silence her. He beats her, throws her against the wall, and then attempts to suffocate her with a roll of paper, before finally being stopped by Parker. As Parker beats upon Ash, he literally starts to come apart, spewing a disgusting milky liquid as his body parts dismantle. It's a truly gruesome sight.
9 Parker and Lambert Face Off Against the Alien
With only three left standing—Parker, Lambert, and Ripley—they must work quickly in order to supply the shuttle with what they need to escape. As Ripley prepares the shuttle, Parker and Lambert gather supplies in a deck below. With the alien still loose, though, there's a threat around every corner.
Suddenly, Lambert's eyes widen, and Parker sees the alien lurking just behind her. He orders her to get out of the way, but she can't move, frozen in fear. The gigantic snarling creature rises up, intent on killing them both. Meanwhile, Ripley is still up above, and while she can hear what is happening, she is powerless to stop the oncoming threat. When she arrives, they have already disappeared. The fact that both of them were that easily overpowered while even armed with weapons just makes the creature that much more menacing.
8 The Alien Spacecraft
The spaceship from Alien is the reason they have come to moon LV-426, as they heard a transmission that interrupted their hypersleep. As the crew gazes on, the massive craft rises in the distance, partially submerged by mist. Three of the crew go to investigate: Dallas, Lambert, and Kane. Within the spaceship, they witness the frame of the ship, made up of eerie bone-like formations.
Perhaps the most frightening image, though, is of a giant humanoid creature strapped into a chair. Upon closer inspection, they see that his stomach had ruptured a hole, and even worse, that it pushes outward. This will foreshadow what is to come. Also amusingly, it's this brief image that inspired the prequel Prometheus, which delves into the origin of the humanoid sitting on that chair.
7 Kane Gets Facehugged
The initial sight of the alien spaceship may be a scary sight on its own, but it's Kane's first encounter that is the most horrific. As the crew searches the alien spacecraft for signs of life, they come to the aforementioned figure. Below this, they see that there is more to explore. Kane volunteers, and is hoisted down to investigate.
Here, we see the eggs for the first time, and little does Kane know what is about to happen. After looking closely, he sees that there is life moving within one of them, and seemingly after sensing him, the egg opens up. Kane, ever the curious one, looks even closer, and a spidery creature suddenly leaps out and attaches itself to his face, sealing his ultimate fate.
6 Rescue Attempts Are Made for Kane
After seeing a brief moment of Kane being attacked, his shipmates then show up at the Nostromo's door. After Ripley objects to letting Kane in due to quarantine procedures, Ash, who we now know was operating under secret procedures, lets him in. It's here that we finally see Kane's face, with the facehugger fully attached through his helmet.
The crew attempts to remove the facehugger, but it just holds on tighter. As they cut into one of its digits, acid spits out of it, leaking through the floor. It appears to be one of the creature's defense mechanisms, and at this point the crew helplessly gives up, hoping that Kane can someone make it through this.
5 Brett Looks For Jones
As the crew searches the ship for the alien, they use a movement tracker to attempt to find him. After seeing movement, they gather closely, ready to fight, only to see at the last minute that it was actually the ship's cat, Jones, who quickly darts off. Parker instructs Brett to go find him, though, realizing that if they didn't, he would set off their motion tracker again.
Brett then ensues on his search. Here, the remainder of the ship is quiet, and all we hear is Brett softly calling for Jones. It's the calm before the storm, though. After one close call, Brett almost catches Jones. But Jones looks behind him and hisses. The creature is suddenly revealed to be right behind him, and that's the end of Brett as we know him.
4 Dallas is Hunted
Dallas, the ship's captain, decides that the best way to get rid of the alien loose on their spaceship is to flush it into an airlock. So, he goes on a daring solo mission to slowly close up each of the air ducts on his way to track the alien. Using a motion tracker, the remainder of the crew stays in contact with him, ready to let Dallas know when there is any danger.
Here, the film cleverly builds tension through the motion tracker itself, as another dot appears on the map next to Dallas. We watch as it gets closer and closer to where Dallas is. But where could it be? He looks down and low for the creature which must be right on top of him at this point. And we finally see it, lit up by his flashlight. The monster snarls, and Dallas is, unfortunately, a goner.
3 The Nostromo Explodes
After we lose Parker and Lambert, it's just Ripley (and also Jones) left standing. She cautiously approaches the shuttle, intent on abandoning the Nostromo to the alien, all the while as Mother is counting down the time she has left. On the way out, though, the alien is blocking her path, so she realizes she has to stop the self-destruct countdown.
Rushing back, Ripley has seconds left before the self-destruct cannot be stopped, but she, unfortunately, doesn't make it in time. So she takes her chances once again, rushing to the shuttle and this time thankfully not running into the alien on the way. With only seconds to spare, she makes it into the shuttle and fires off, just about getting out of range before the ship explodes in a fiery ball of light. It's a tense few minutes, to say the least.
2 Ripley Fights the Alien
We think that Ripley is finally safe, as she settles into hypersleep. But then, as she is undressing, she witnesses something horrific: the alien! Thankfully not yet aware of her presence, it had somehow known exactly where to go in order not to get killed. Ripley runs off to hide, but soon realizes she has to face off against it before she can be safe.
What results is some of the tensest few moments put to film. Ripley puts on a full spacesuit, slowly comes back out to where the creature is, straps herself in, and then opens the airlock. She then shoots gas at the alien, angrily getting its attention. Next, she opens up the airlock, almost getting the creature out, but it hangs on. Ripley fires a hook at it, and it finally gets pushed outside, and with one last burst of the engine, it floats out into space. Her long and arduous escapade has finally concluded.
1 Chestburster Scene
It's one of the most iconic and terrifying moments put to screen: the first glimpse of the alien creature. What really works about this scene is just how suddenly it comes on. The crew is settling down to one more meal before going into hypersleep for the ride home. They are all in bright spirits because the facehugger appears to have abandoned Kane, and he seems just fine.
All of a sudden, though, he convulses, and as the crew holds him down, his chest suddenly starts to burst outward. As Kane screams in agony, and blood spurts out of his stomach, the creature's head emerges, and we see its frightening features for the first time.
So many things work about this scene, from the buildup to the disturbing imagery to the genuine reactions of the actors, who reportedly didn't know for sure what was to happen until it was being filmed. It deserves to be put down in history as not only the scariest moment of Alien, but one of the most nightmarish sequences ever put to film.