10. Ash Loses His Head


Like with many of the best scenes in Alien, the revelation that Ash (Ian Holm) is actually android sent by the company to ensure that the Nostromo crew collects the creature at all costs (including their lives) has become a known thing. Just like the fate of Marion Crane in Psycho, everyone knows it’s coming. However, the reveal still provides a jolt each and every time you watch it. It’s all about the build-up: Ripley’s tense discovery at the ship’s computer, Ash’s quiet arrival, his cold and calculated murder attempt, and then Parker shows up and struggles with the science officer…and then literally knocks his block off. It’s a victory, but it’s instantly made hollow thanks to a brand new parade of horrors. Yes, Ripley is safe, and Ash is down, but he’s been a robot the entire time. There’s more to this nightmare than meets the eye. The suddenness of Ash’s decapitation, combined with his unpleasant and inhuman movements, further sell the sheer terror of the moment. These space truckers don’t even understand the half of what’s going on. (Jacob Hall)

prometheus surgery scene

9. An Emergency C-Section


Some fans didn’t as much alien action they were hoping for from Prometheus, but even those begrudging fans can appreciate the horror of the med pod sequence. When it was shown in Vickers’ quarters, director Ridley Scott was clearly telling us it’d come back in a relatively obvious way, but not in such a wonderfully disgusting fashion with what’s basically Elizabeth Shaw’s child, a facehugger, being removed from her abdomen.

Each shot of Shaw’s abdomen, whether when it’s about ready to burst or getting stapled, leaves a mark on the viewer. Each shot choice is so precise and perfect. Scott keeps the camera in the pod and doesn’t cut to the outside of it until close to the very end, never giving us a breather and forcing us to take it all in with Shaw. Within the tight space, Scott crafts such a fun, nasty, and point-of-view-driven body horror sequence. (Jack Giroux)

8. Captain Dallas in the Ducts


With two members of his crew down, Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) realizes that it’s time to take the fight to the alien. Armed with a flamethrower and a motion sensor device, he heads into the narrow, dark ducts of the Nostromo…and he never has a chance. Although the “twist” aspect of this scene may be lost on modern audiences who may not realize Skerritt was a much more well-known name than Sigourney Weaver at the time this movie was made, it’s still impeccable filmmaking and effective all on its own. Even as Dallas remains surprisingly calm throughout the whole scene, the desperate cries of Lambert over the radio provide a harrowing color commentary: the crew’s unflappable leader is completely and totally fucked. Ridley Scott emphasizes the darkness and claustrophobia of the scene – every shot that offers a glimpse of the captain’s perspective is dark and shallow and disorienting. His death is sudden, but it’s everything that happens before the kill that lingers. He’s alone in a maze, unable to see, unable to fight, and accompanied only by the distant screams of his friends. (Jacob Hall)

ripley in alien nest

7. Ripley Tilts Her Head


The entire encounter between Ripley and the alien queen in the hive is sublime filmmaking. Director James Cameron puts every element in place with that precision he’s come to be known for and the payoff is extraordinary. The journey to the nest is as frightening as anything else in the movie. The journey back to the catwalk with a rescued Newt is as thrilling as any other action scene. The actual meeting between Ripley and the source of the monsters that have been plaguing her existence is tense. However, let’s focus on a single moment. One single acting decision that sells the entire scene and transforms a great scene into a sublime one.

At one point during their showdown, Ripley looks the alien queen right in the face and tilts her head ever-so-slightly. It’s a tiny gesture, a small choice by Weaver, but it makes all the difference in the world. She has met her ultimate adversary (brought to life as one of the most impressive practical monsters of all time), and she will not be intimidated. Pretty soon, Ripley is unloading her weapons on the queen’s children, and that’s certainly cool. But that head tilt, that refusal to be afraid, is as explosive as the fireworks to come. (Jacob Hall)

6. “Game Over Man!”


A lot of screaming, whining, and sense comes out of Corporal Hudsn’s big mouth. Anybody can say “game over, man,” but few could make such a simple line of dialogue so iconic like the late Bill Paxton did. Over 30 years after the release of Aliens, the line “game over, man” still holds power. Of course, a part of its power comes from how funny it is. Aliens is a bleak action movie, where almost every character you like has their foot halfway in the grave from the start, but Paxton and “game over, man” gives it levity and helps make the experience of Aliens as a whole all the more fun. It’s a small moment that has a big impact, both on the film and its fans. No matter how many times you watch Aliens, it’s impossible not to smile when Hicks begins to throw his tantrum, knowing you’re only seconds away from hearing the sweet sounds of his iconic line. Making Hudson’s freak-out all the sweeter is the contrast of Ripley and Newt in the foreground, as they appear calm and composed and already thinking about their next move. (Jack Giroux)

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