Classic Scenes #13: Alien (1979)

Having learned of the sad death of H.R. Giger on May 12th 2014, Top 10 Films celebrates one of the great sequences from Ridley Scott’s Alien in which Giger’s monstrous creation gets its time in the limelight…

H.R. Giger - 5th Feb 1940 - 12th May 2014

H.R. Giger – 5th Feb 1940 – 12th May 2014

H.R. Giger’s baffling, nightmarish dreamscapes exampled his interpretation of the dark and monstrous things he’d see when the lights go out. Unique and unsettling, his artistry began to be overwhelmed by what he would term “biomechanical” manifestations, the unusual, fascinating yet macabre fusion of human bodies and machines. Dan O’Bannon, the writer of 1979’s science-fiction-horror classic Alien, said he was so overwhelmed by Giger’s artwork he envisioned “his” monster as one of Giger’s monstrous characters. “His paintings had a profound effect on me,” said O’Bannon. “I had never seen anything that was quite as horrible and at the same time as beautiful as his work. And so I ended up writing a script about a Giger monster.”

It was Giger’s painting entitled Necronom IV that both O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott decided should form the basis of their monster. Scott knew prior to pre-production that unless the alien creature had the right aesthetic to accomplish his goal of frightening the audience and crucially making them believe in this futuristic story that the film would, regardless of other qualities in performance or set design, fall down around him. “The first second that Ridley saw Giger’s work, he knew that the biggest single design problem, maybe the biggest problem in the film, had been solved,” said producer Gordon Carroll.

Necronom IV, Giger's design that inspired the Alien creation

Necronom IV, Giger’s design that inspired the Alien creation

Giger would not only design the alien in all its forms – from infant to adult – he would also create the alien spacecraft and other elements such as the planetoid and alien eggs at Scott’s insistence. It was a masterstroke on the director’s part given the importance of Giger’s artistry. The alien creature itself has become one of the most iconic monsters in horror cinema but the alien spacecraft and, particularly, the “space jockey” who sits at the spaceship’s controls, are pivotal to the film’s appeal.

In this classic scene from the movie, the crew of the Nostromo decide they must capture and kill the creature that has already caused the deaths of two of their number. The ship’s captain – Dallas – instructs his four remaining crew to monitor the alien creature’s movements in the ship’s air duct system and report back to him via radio its whereabouts. Dallas, armed only with a flame-thrower, goes in search of the monster…

Before his brave endeavour, Dallas (Tom Skeritt) questions the ship’s computer about his chances of survival…


Dallas contemplates his dangerous mission. He is about to put his life on the line for his crew…


Dallas enters the Nostromo’s air duct system which he believes is the mechanism by which the alien is moving around the ship…


Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) try to tune into the creature’s movements to help Dallas track the monster…


With the alien’s movement’s appearing to show it closing in on Dallas’ position, he decides to abandon the task…


Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is unable to help her captain. She knows his fate…


In Dallas’ panicked stated, he walks straight into the creature. His screams are quickly muffled. The radio goes silent…


Written by Daniel Stephens

Find out more about Alien

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Dan O’Bannon / Ronald Shusett
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto
Released: 1979 / Genre: Science-fiction Horror / Country: USA / IMDB

See also our Top 10 Science-Fiction Horror Films

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply