It's A Bug Hunt: The 15 Best Moments From The 'Alien' Series

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


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)

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)

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 s*** 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"


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 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


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


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


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 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)