The Alien franchise has spanned nearly four decades and released seven films to date, with their eighth film, Alien: Covenant, set to hit theaters in less than a week. Early reviews have already called the film a worthy addition to the series that brings the story back to its 1979 horror roots.
Few franchises have brought so many distinctive directors into their fold and attracted some of the most accomplished actors of their time. But the glue that keeps the Alien films together is undoubtably its creatures. If the Alien movies succeed in any way, it’s by bringing the audience's darkest fears of what what could actually be waiting for us in outer space to life.
The sight of a xenomorph uncoiling from the darkness is sure to send a chill down anyone's spine, and since the filmmakers relied heavily on practical effects, the first few films in the series remain as scary now as they were at the time of their release.
There’s a long list of equally terrifying creatures that have been featured in the films aside beyond just the xenomorphs. And since the alien morphology is rather complex, and the origins of these monstrosities rather mysterious, we thought we’d take a closer look at all the creatures from the Alien films before the latest installment hits theaters.
Here is our Complete Guide To The Creatures From The Alien Films.
Let’s start where the typical alien’s life cycle begins: the queen. The queen alien first appeared in what many consider to be one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, the 1986 sequel to the original film: Aliens. James Cameron came up with the idea for the queen alien, and the enormous hydraulic puppet that appeared in the film was based off of the director's own design. In the film, the queen is the flip side of the coin to our female heroine, and just as Ripley will do anything to protect Newt, the queen will do the same to protect her eggs.
Just like a queen in the insect world, a queen alien is the largest of the entire colony, reaching a height of around fifteen feet. They also have a much larger tails and heads, along with an increased intelligence. In Aliens, we see that the queen can voluntarily detach from its ovipositor -- the organ by which the she deposits her many eggs -- in order to chase down her prey.
But before we ever knew about the queen, we watched the first sign of alien life spring forth out of an egg in the original film. In fact, in a deleted scene from Alien, human bodies were actually shown to turn into the eggs after they fell victim to the xenomorph. Since this never made it into the final cut of the film, the queen was invented for the sequel, which completed the final link in the chain of the alien’s life cycle.
The egg, also known as the ovomorph, can sense when a suitable host is nearby, as shown when Kane approaches one in Alien. The three-foot tall pod was originally designed to split open into two halves — mirroring a typical birth canal. This was changed to a four-flap opening when the filmmakers thought the appearance would be a little too much to stomach for some viewers.
Whether it’s a mother giving birth to a child or a chick emerging from its egg, birth is usually a slow and cumbersome process. This, however, is not the case for this particular alien species. Just blink and you're sure to miss this baby alien spring forth from the egg and attach itself to the face of its first victim. And once it’s attached, good luck trying to get this facehugger off.
This creature has one purpose and one purpose alone: to implant an embryo down its host’s throat. Instead of suffocating its victim to death, the facehugger will actually supply the host oxygen while it’s busy implanting. Trying to remove it before its job is done will result in the facehugger strangling its host with its tail, or bleeding highly acidic blood all over its victim.
The facehugger was originally designed to look more like a soft-tissues octopus, but the filmmaker eventually opted for a creature that resembled something closer to an arthropod instead.
Even if you favor the action-packed Aliens over the slow-burning horror original, you can’t deny that the chestburster scene in Alien is one of most iconic moments in all of cinema. Not only is this scene horrifying for first time viewers, it’s also the first look that audiences ever got of the Xenomorph XX121 species.
After the facehugger completes implantation, it detaches itself from its host, who may appear seemingly healthy at first-- despite the fact that an alien organism is quickly taking shape within their chest cavity. After the creature reaches a size at which it can survive outside its host, it violently bursts through the host’s chest, killing them in the process.
The chestburster usually has beige skin and razor sharp teeth, and since its arms are often underdeveloped during the time of its “birth,” it relies more heavily on its tail to move about.
At last, we arrive at the face of the Alien franchise: the xenomorph. Though, the chestburtser is indeed a xenomorph in its own right, there is far more to fear once the species reaches its adult form, which happens to all take place within a matter of hours. Though Ridley Scott may be the mastermind of the movie franchise, the xenomorph was actually designed by Swiss artist H.G. Giger, who worked side-by-side with Scott on both Alien and Prometheus.
An adult xenomorpoh typically stands abut seven feet tall and weighs around 300 pounds. Their blood remains acidic — able to burn through multiple floors of a spacecraft — and their secondary mouth can shoot out with enough force to impale a human skull. Interestingly, the appearance of the xenomorph will alter in accordance to its host. Thus, in Alien the xenomorph develops a bipedal stance like its human counterpart.
Much like insects, the xenomorphs are able to both hunt on their own or within a pack, and their dark skin and cold-blooded nature make them extremely difficult to track down.
Runner aliens are a popular breed of xenomorphs that result when a facehugger attaches itself to a non-human host (usually a four-legged creature). Much like its name implies, the runner is a faster moving xenomorph that usually lurks about on four legs, though it can take a bipedal stance when its not chasing prey.
The most notable runner in the series is the Dragon, which serves as the primary antagonist in Alien 3. Depending upon which cut of the film you’ve seen, the Dragon is either the result of a facehugger attaching itself to a dog or an ox. It is born almost fully developed (save for its smaller size) and it single-handedly takes out most of the prisoners and crew on Fiorina 161. This runner even survives a shower of molten metal before its eventually finished off by Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley.
Unfortunately, the “newborn” alien (along with all of Alien: Resurrection) leaves a huge blemish on an otherwise iconic film series. Not only is the entire story surrounding the newborn alien riddled with ridiculousness, but even the creatures bizarre design feels out of place within the greater Alien universe.
The newborn was created by combined human and xenomorph DNA following the cloning experiments carried out by the U.S. Military, which also ended up creating Ripley 8. Instead of coming out of an egg, the newborn emerges from a womb of the queen alien — though it actually comes to view Ripley 8 as its mother.
Even without a tail or a secondary jaw, the newborn is still a competent killing machine, but it is ultimately sucked into the vacuum of space through a small hole in the spaceship, never to be seen again in the series. And for that, we are thankful.
"What happens when a facehugger attaches itself to another extraterrestrial life form?" you ask. One that comes from a totally different sci-fi/horror franchise? Well, you get the "predalien", of course! Along with two totally unnecessary movies that make up the Alien vs. Predator series.
With Shane Black (Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys) bringing The Predator back to the big screen in 2018, we hope the writer/director can breath new life into the Predator franchise after the shameless crossover between these two iconic series, and we can only hope that the xenomorphs and the Yautja have settled their differences once and for all.
The predalien looks fairly similar to the xenemorphs that emerge from a human host, with the addition of lighter skin and the predator-like dreadlocks. It’s also worth noting that this xenomorph takes on the additional strength and size granted to it by the Yautja, making it one of the stronger (albeit, more ridiculous) creatures on this list.
Before the release of 2012’s Prometheus, the origins of the xenomorph species were largely speculative. With the series prequel, we finally learned that the engineers (AKA space jockeys) not only created the xenomorphs, but also created life on Earth.
For all intents and purposes, the engineers are synonymous with gods, though their origins remains shrouded in mystery. Genetically, they are identical to humans, though they appear to be a far more “perfect” race -- larger in stature and muscular build, complete with stark black eyes and hairless skin.
However, it appears that even the far more advanced engineers ran into some issues during one of their biological experiments. On LV-223, the engineers’ biological weapons seemed to get the better of their creators, leading to the planet being abandoned some 2,000 years ago. It also remains a mystery as to why the surviving engineer on LV-223 was extremely hostile with the humans who came searching for answers. Luckily, the filmmakers will continue to explore the fall of this advanced species in the upcoming Alien: Covenant.
6 Black Liquid
The black liquid, or black goo (also known as Agent A0-3959X.91 - 15 to the true Alien nerds out there), is a biological weapon that was manufactured by the engineers, which contains millions of micro-organisms meant to be used for one thing, and one thing only: planetary destruction.
The black liquid makes its first appearance in Prometheus, and is shown to have varying affects upon the different people that come into contact with it. While some are made sick by the black goo (as in the case of Holloway) others are show to become increasing hostile and resilient to bodily harm (as shown with Fifield).
The chemical weapon was stored in special cylinders that were meant to safely contain the volatile liquid. However, before the engineers could transport the weapon to Earth and wipe out the human race, they fell prey to their own horrific creation. And with the crew in Alien: Covenant landing on the engineer's home planet that has been ravaged by the black goo, we have a feeling that we’ll be seeing more of what this stuff is actually capable of.
Just as the black liquid can drastically affect humans, we’ve also seen a hint of what it can do to another, far less advanced species.
After the crew of the Prometheus stumbles upon the urns of liquid, they inadvertently bring a few worms that are indigenous to LV-223 into contact with the goo. This results in an extremely dramatic transformation, resulting in the creation of the hammerpede.
In one of the more criticized scenes of the entire movie, scientists Fifield and Milburn stumble upon a hammerpede and fawn over it -- as if it were an adorable kitten looking to cuddle. However, the mutated worm takes advantage of their idiocy and wraps itself around Milburn’s arm before it eventually slithers down his throat. It is also show that the hammerpede is able to regrow even its own head, and that much like the xenomorph, its blood is extremely acidic.
How the trilobite came into being in Prometheus is still a bit fuzzy. After Holloway consumes a droplet of the black liquid, he has sex with Shaw and “impregnates” her, despite the fact that she is known to be sterile; so it is unclear whether the black liquid mutated Holloway’s sex cells, or if the trilobite growing within Holloway simply transported itself into Shaw. Thankfully, before the trilobite ever has a chance to burst through its host’s belly, Shaw extracts the creature through a makeshift C-section and attempt to keep it quarantined in the med-pod.
Of course, the quickly-growing creature escapes and attaches itself to the Last Engineer. Much like a facehugger, the trilobite "impregnates" the engineer with an alien organism and dies shortly thereafter. It appears as though the makers of Prometheus drew from some of the abandoned ideas from Alien, as an initial design for the facehugger was meant to be more squid-like, similar to the trilobite's finalized design.
What bursts out of the Last Engineer was a quasi-xenomorph-like creature, which has been dubbed as the “Deacon Alien.” The new-born deacon is much larger than an adolescent xenomorph, which is likely a result of it being created from two much larger creatures, though it is unknown how large the deacon can become in its adult state-- since it is shown only momentarily in the final moments of Prometheus.
In an original draft of the script, the creature that bursts out of the Last Engineer was actually going to be the Jockey-Xenomorph that is discovered in the original Alien — which would have given audiences some more definitive answers in regards to the alien morphology. The Jockey-Xenomorph was even supposed to play a cat-and-mouse game with Shaw in the film’s third act, but this idea was eventually scrapped after some input from the studio. As far as we know, the deacon remains on LV-223 when Shaw and David take flight for the engineers' home planet.
There have been a number of androids (AKA synthetics) featured throughout the Alien franchise, each with a distinct personality and often a secret agenda.
In the first film, Ash is the android/science officer aboard the Nostromo. While the remainder of the crew believes Ash to be a human, he is in fact an undercover synthetic sent by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation to bring back a xenomorph specimen for study. When Ash’s intentions are finally revealed, Ripley develops an immense distrust in androids, as is seen when she encounters Bishop, a far more trustworthy android, in the follow-up film.
In Prometheus we were introduced to David 8, yet another android who is often working against the safety of his fellow crew members while he secretly gathers information for his master, Peter Weyland. In Alien: Covenant, Fassbender will reprise his role of David, while also appearing as an identical android named Walter, who arrives with the new crew aboard the Covenant.
After many fans were upset that the famed xenomorphs didn’t make an appearance in 2012's Prometheus, we've already seen them on full display in the trailers for Alien: Covenant. Though the film will also feature an entirely new brand of alien as well, already referred to as the neomorph.
From what we know so far, it looks like the neomorphs are a result of the black liquid reeking havoc on the engineers' home planet, and in the trailer we’ve already seen spores being released from an organic pod, where the enter through the ear canal of one of the crew members. Thus, a facehugger is no longer needed for implantation, which is sure to make them a far more insidious problem to deal with.
The term “backburster” has also already been coined, since the neomorphs are shown to break out of the spine of one of its hosts in a redband trailer for the film as well. Aside from knowing that they’ll be white-skinned, the opposite of their alien cousins, we’ll have to wait until Alien: Covenant hits theaters before we know what the neomorphs are actually capable of.
So which Alien creature creeps you out the most? Drop us a line in the comments!