best alien moments

In space, no one can hear you scream. Or make lists ranking the best moments from the Alien film series.

With Alien: Covenant hitting theaters this week, Jacob Hall and Jack Giroux revisited every movie featuring a xenomorph (yes, even the Alien vs. Predator movies) with one purpose: to watch for the scenes and beats and lines of dialogue that resonate the most. In this particular case, a “moment” is a malleable term. What stands out, really stands out, when we think back on these six movies?

We’ve included videos when available. And yes, there will be spoilers for the series from this point onward.

15. A Little Swim

Alien: Resurrection

This sequence was not a joy to shoot. Ron Perlman, whose nonchalant and prickly attitude is one of the shining bright spots of this movie (“Hey man, Ripley’s back.”), almost drowned filming the sequence, which doesn’t entirely hold up but is still one beautiful action scene. The CG Xenomorphs aren’t too convincing, but they’re convincing enough when they’re obscured, in particular by the bubbles when Hillard’s (Kim Flowers) body gets pulled away in one of the few moments when director Jean-Pierre Jeunet seems to take a pause. It’s a breathtaking shot.

We know Hillard is going to die, being the last one to jump in the water and how Jeunet focuses more on her in this scene, but it’s still intense watching her and everybody else try to swim to safety. The silence builds dread, and John Frizzell’s score helps create more panic. Then there’s the great, haunting shot of Hillard, followed by Sigourney Weaver’s unusual reaction. What also makes this scene stand out is how unrelenting it gets. As if xenomorphs chasing Ripley and everybody underwater isn’t enough, they then find themselves surrounded by eggs and facehuggers. It’s a cruel, funny joke played on Ripley and her new scrappy friends. (Jack Giroux)

14. Ripley’s Sacrifice

Alien 3

It probably should have ended here. After three films of fighting for her life and watching everyone she knows meet a vicious end, Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley finds herself in a worst case scenario: there is an alien queen inside of her. It’s a revelation that’s right in line with the rest of the movie, which goes out of its way to give our heroine a big middle finger at every turn. David Fincher’s nihilism, which would further blossom in movies like Se7en and Zodiac, is on full display in his first feature film. There is no escape for Ripley.

So when the corporation that diverted her crew on the doomed mission in the first place shows up to “rescue” her and claim the creature inside her, Ripley instead chooses to commit suicide, throwing herself into a pit of molten metal as the alien bursts out of her. Call it a grand sacrifice. Call it a noble gesture. In the end, Ripley is dead and her pain has ended. She has joined Newt and Hicks and everyone else in oblivion. After the events of Alien 3, death really does seem preferable to life in this particular universe. (Jacob Hall)

13. “Kill Me”

Alien: Resurrection

One could argue this scene is a problem with Alien: Ressurection in how far it’s veered from the series’ roots. The franchise began with a simple horror movie, and then three installments later, it brought its hero brought back to life as a clone…a clone faced with the previous failed attempts to resurrect her. It’s a horrific idea well-executed by Jeunet, the make-up department, and Sigourney Weaver.

Even the lesser installments in this franchise have some disturbing body horror. Sometimes it’s cold and emotionless, like in Alien 3, but not this scene. Ripley’s disbelief and horror when she witnesses what’s been done with her DNA makes the scene all the more bizarre and ghastly. The emotion that hits Ripley when she sees a failed experiment, asking her to “kill me,” is one surreal and freaky scene. Alien: Ressurection doesn’t have the old Ripley we all know, but even in this scene, and in a lesser sequel, we still find ourselves caring about the character. This franchise has its ups and downs, but the same cannot be said for Weaver’s consistent performance as Ripley. What could’ve been a ridiculous scene is made impactful by the emotional weight Weaver brings to it. (Jack Giroux)

12. Alone Time With David

Prometheus

Michael Fassbender is the best part of Prometheus, an Alien prequel that barely functions as an Alien prequel. Director Ridley Scott is clearly more enamored with David the android than he is with the humans or the aliens and this is made evident early on. While the rest of the crew slumbers during the two-year journey to find the extraterrestrials who may have created human life, David keeps an eye on the ship. He rides his bicycle. He plays basketball. He learns ancient languages. He watches Lawrence of Arabia and bleaches his hair to better match that of Peter O’Toole. It’s a quietly mesmerizing sequence, a glimpse into the day-to-day life of a being that is programmed to look and act human but couldn’t be further from it. (Jacob Hall)

11. The Backburster

Alien: Covenant

The first death in Ridley Scott’s prequel-sequel is a gnarly one. The crewmate’s skin is as pale as a corpse, his convulsing, and the sound of the baby Xenomorph tearing its way through his back to say hello to the crew of the Covenant, is all-around frightening. What makes the sequence as unsettling as it is isn’t the backburster, but the reactions from Maggie Farris (Amy Seimetz) and Karine Oram (Carmen Ejogo). Their sense of confusion, fear, and terror is so raw and piercing. They’re scared out of their minds, reacting like most people probably would in this situation. The Xenomorph is a scary design, but it’s at its scariest when it’s pulling genuine fear out of people. In this scene, Scott conjures up some terrific chaos and madness, but what gives it real bite is the work of Seimetz and Ejogo. It’s a visceral moment, in large part because of them. Not for a second do they feel like cardboard crew members destined to die from scene one. Their sheer, honest, and unrestrained fear helps ground the movie in this terrifying reality. (Jack Giroux)

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