If you haven’t guessed it by know, this weekend is all about the release of Prometheus. With Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to the genre where he got his beautifully executed start, the Alien franchise has been reborn with a prequel/side-story that is a clear beneficiary of modern visual technology. In short, Prometheus is a gorgeous film filled with all kinds of sci-fi visual pornography. It even looks great in 3D.
But to truly enjoy what has come to pass this weekend as 20th Century Fox rakes in the cash from Scott’s return to Alien, it’s important that we look back to where it all began — to a sci-fi/horror franchise so iconic that mere mention of its name drives nerds into fits of heated discussion. What were the greatest moments in the films by Scott, Cameron, Fincher and Jeunet? What are the great scenes from each of the Alien films? We sat our resident experts, Robert Fure and Rob Hunter, down in a room and refused them food and water until they emerged with the answer. In legit geek fashion, they emerged five minutes later. Because even with so many great moments in this franchise, the answers all seemed quite clear…
Obligatory Spoiler Warning: If you have not seen the entire Alien franchise and would rather not have these decades old films spoiled for you, do not read any further. Many of our favorite scenes are the likes that you should see within the context of the film the first time.
With a comparatively minuscule budget, Alien could never hope to achieve the grand visuals of Prometheus, and when wide open isn’t option, you go claustrophobic. The film that started it all teaches a master class in tension, perfect coupling dark, ominous visuals with a living, breathing score, deep in space. When you think Alien, you probably think chest burster, but for unrivaled suspense and the first great scare of the film, you can’t beat Dallas (Tom Skerritt) venturing into the duct system of the Nostromo. It’s dark and scary and soon something on the motion sensor is heading right towards him and then… Alien. - Robert Fure
James Cameron had the unenviable task of following up Ridley Scott’s nightmarish classic, and he wisely chose to take the series into an aggressively new direction. Instead of re-hashing the claustrophobic horror of the original Cameron created an adrenaline fueled, action packed sci-fi epic filled with deafening gunfire and unbridled testosterone. Front and center in the fighting is Ripley, and the scene we love comes at the end after an intense escape sequence with young Newt, a wounded Hicks and newly-proven android Bishop in tow. After returning to the big ship in space the group relaxes for the first time since the movie began… only to be interrupted when the massive queen spears Bishop though the chest with her tail and rips him in half with a twist. Newt hides and Ripley hops into a mechanical loader complete with pneumatic pincers to go toe to toe with the giant beast. The scene is tense, chaotic and crazy as Ripley opens an airlock to eject the creature and Newt starts sliding along with Bishop’s torso towards certain doom (and not even the glimpse of Lance Henriksen’s real body leaning out of a hole in the ground can ruin it). - Rob Hunter
David Fincher’s much maligned entry in the franchise is as much a shift from the action of Aliens as Cameron’s film was from the horror of Alien. It’s a drama, through and through, and the emotionally draining arc ends with the film’s greatest scene. (Arguably the film’s only great scene…) All of the prisoners, save one, have died at the claws, teeth and acid of the alien creature. Ripley, knowing that a queen embryo is growing within her and that the Weyland corporation will do anything to retrieve the specimen, is prepared to sacrifice her life for the safety of all mankind. She stands on scaffolding high above a churning pool of molten metal, holds her hands out to her sides, and falls backwards. As she drops towards the hellish liquid below the alien bursts from her chest and screams. She takes hold of it, presses it to her body, and mother and child disappear into the fire.
After three movies, Ripley’s death is a powerful finale. It may not have been the right finale, but that doesn’t diminish the emotional value inherent in her demise. Sure some of the special effects are shoddy, but the scene remains an affecting denouement for one of cinema’s greatest heroines. - Rob Hunter
A completely different beast than the films that preceded it, Alien: Resurrection is definitely a product of 1997. Abandoned is the tension of the first film and the overwhelming assault of the second, instead we’re given a fun, sometimes silly, chase movie about a band of misfits unlucky enough to come across the most dangerous pest in the universe. The most excellent sequence in the movie is a balls out chase that sees our protagonists on the run, errr, swim, away from the aliens, which prove to be just as adept at maneuvering through water as they do through cramped spaces. With some excellent CGI creatures that explode oh so nice, the crew eventually makes their way to a ladder and the chase continues. As they aliens climb up after them, Johner (Ron Perlman), the unrepentant asshole of the group shows why they keep him around as he hooks his legs through the ladder, lays back, and opens up dual-wield style with his space pistols and all was well in the world. - Robert Fure
More Scenes We Love, it’s what you need.