5. “You’ve Been in My Life So Long…”

Alien 3

After learning that she’s been impregnated with an alien, Ripley slips away into the bowels of the prison colony Fury 161 with one goal: suicide by alien. At this point, it’s the only option. She will not bring another one of these creatures into this world. As she walks the darkened corridors, she holds a one-sided conversation with her arch-nemesis. “You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else,” she spits, a line of dialogue that, in its delivery, sums up everything that’s hypnotic (and divisive) about Alien 3. David Fincher’s film is a direct response to the hopeful optimism of James Cameron’s Aliens, which concluded with a newly built family unit and hope for the future. But Fincher pivots, taking the unsettling mysteries of the first movie and amping them up.

The universe isn’t just a cold and uncaring place where no one can hear you scream – it’s actively out to get you, to destroy you, to ruin you and your happiness. Nature doesn’t give a shit about your family unit. It eats, and it kills, and it procreates, and it chews through your precious human emotions. It doesn’t care about your despair. Ripley’s attempted suicide here (later given a more heroic turn in the final moments of the film) is Alien 3 in a nutshell. (Jacob Hall)

4. “Get Away From Her, You Bitch”

Aliens

James Cameron’s characters typically get straight to the point. In this instance, what else really needs to be said when Ripley takes on the big mamma alien? Absolutely nothing. Cameron’s dialogue sometimes gets criticized by his detractors, but he has a remarkable ear for one-liners. There’s nothing spectacular about this particular line on paper, but in the moment, and after everything Ripley has gone through, it’s pure magic. Cameron must’ve known, after two hours of the Marines and everybody getting their asses kicked, that this particular line would get audiences cheering and ready for a fight. The way the camera pans up, the light and smoke in the background, the clunky sound and movement of the suit, the look of determination on Ripley’s face, and the big close-up for the big line…it all just feels so right. Everything comes together to make the line a spectacular and classic crowd-pleasing moment. (Jack Giroux)

3. Kane Has Breakfast

Alien

It’s one of the most famous scenes in movie history and for a good reason. After the creature attached to his face simply falls off and dies, Kane (John Hurt) joins the rest of the crew for breakfast, happy that this ordeal is over. And then a baby alien bursts out of his chest, killing him and setting the rest of the crew up for their own horrible demises.

The legends surrounding this scene have grown more bombastic with time (“the cast didn’t know what was going to happen” is a great tale, albeit one that doesn’t really make a ton of sense), but there’s no denying that it’s one of the most unpleasant and gut-churning moments ever put on film. Hurt’s painful writhing…Veronica Cartwright’s traumatized moaning…the creature itself, with its eye-less (and therefore, emotionless) reaction to the violence it has wreaked… It’s haunting stuff. Decades later, few movies have come close to touching the visceral impact of this moment. What the imitators don’t realize is that it’s not the violence that sells the scene – it’s the reactions of the crew members, each of whom can’t believe what they’re seeing and choose to deal with it in their own way. The scene isn’t just about the death of Kane. It’s about how everyone else in the room will deal with this monster going forward. (Jacob Hall)

aliens marines

2. Escape From the Hive

Aliens

Here’s an equally horrific and thrilling action scene firing on all cylinders. There’s chaos, panic, and some fast cutting, but there’s never confusion over where the marines are, who’s being picked off like flies, and the horror of what they’re experiencing. Aliens is more action-heavy than Ridley Scott’s original, but at times, it’s every bit as scary. After Cameron cleverly turns up the heat by having the Marines lose their grenades and some heavy-duty weapons, the action and fear escalate quickly. It’s a great action scene in which the heroes have no clue what they’re up against, how to defeat them, or even how to escape. It’s all doom and gloom.

Ripley’s shock of seeing the xenomorph’s ugly mug again is as gut-turning as James Horner’s score, which supplies the action scene with a feeling of dread from the start. Cameron manages to keep intensifying that particular feeling as his characters try to combat the demons lurking in the shadows. Corporal Hicks, Private Hudson, and the squad find themselves outmatched in hell, and it’s Ripley who comes to get them out. (Jack Giroux)

1. Brett Has a Close Encounter

Alien

Allow us to break the fourth wall for a moment. When we sat down to compile this list, we decided it was important to make sure we weren’t running through a greatest hits collection of the most famous scenes in the Alien movies – this list was all about our favorite moments. And after some discussion, Jack and I both agreed that the death of Brett in the original Alien deserves to top this list.

While not as iconic as the first chestburster or as heart-pounding as any action scene in Aliens, Brett’s final moments really do sum up the dizzying terror of the first Alien and the creature itself. Ridley Scott hides his monster until the last possible moment, allowing it to literally emerge from out of nowhere. And when it does make its grand entrance, it’s presented in a series of close-ups that do little to even showcase the basic shape of this beast. Where do all of those parts go? What does this alien actually look like? We know the answer now because the xenomorph has become one of the most famous monsters in movie history, but Scott keeps it deliberately confusing here. Much like how H.P. Lovecraft described his interstellar horrors by barely describing them at all, Scott refuses to show off his alien. We see bits here and there, and our imagination is forced to fill in the awful blanks.

Like the other deaths in Alien, Brett goes down quickly – it’s all about the moments before his death. The dripping water. Those hanging chains. An uncooperative cat. And then, as he’s lifted to his demise, Scott turns his camera away from the victim and into the eyes of Jones the cat, who just…watches. It’s the greatest animal reaction shot in history, with that natural blankness underscoring everything that makes Alien so upsetting. In space, no one can hear you scream. Mostly because you’re too far away from anything or anyone who cares about you. (Jacob Hall)

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