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10 gorgeous shots that prove Alien is a work of cinema art

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Few movies come more influential than Alien, Ridley Scott's nerve-shredding 1979 masterpiece that hatched an entire onslaught of inferior imitators.

The movie proved revolutionary in a whole host of ways, not least because Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley, the character audiences expected to be first for the chop, survived to become the defining feminist sci-fi icon of all time.

However it was also about the look: Scott drew on his extensive background in commercials and collaborated closely with Alien designer H.R. Giger to produce a visually luxurious, bio-mechanical vision of the future that was palpably, viscerally terrifying.

To celebrate the release of Alien: Covenant this Friday, we're presenting our 10 favourite shots from Alien that declare it not only as a classic of sci-fi horror cinema but a legitimate piece of eye-opening art in its own right.


1. The opening titles

A slow pan over an undisclosed planet. The eerie dissonance of Jerry Goldsmith's score. Bars slowly coalescing into the reveal of the title. Even the opening credits pack more menace and style than most other movies combined.


2. Hypersleep

Alien famously takes its time establishing the cavernous, grimy interiors of the Nostromo. The reveal of our central characters from hypersleep however almost strikes a spiritual, heavenly note, mirroring the dazed awakening process.


3. The landing

As the Nostromo approaches LV-426, a routine procedure by the crew's standards, Scott's turns it into an operatic feast for the senses, fully capturing the vastness of the unknown.


4. The space jockey

When it comes to moments of purely surreal weirdness, they don't come more, well, alien, than the reveal of the infamous creature whose origins were ultimately revealed in 2012 prequel Prometheus. The entire aesthetic of Alien can be summed up here.


5. Here, kitty...

As if more proof were need that Alien is the most beautifully designed horror movie of all time, the death of Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) surely takes some beating. The blending of blue and ochre hues, the cavernous, empty spaces and dread-filled tracking shots compel us to watch in awe even as we're vying to wrench our eyes away.


6. Dallas dies

Alien rarely gets more relentlessly terrifying than in the scene where brave captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) ventures into the air shafts to flush the now-grown Xenomorph out. Scott's juxtaposition of encroaching shadow with bursts of flamethrower is visual terror at its most masterful.


7. Mother

Although much of the technology in Alien now looks somewhat clunky, the retro style lends the film an oddness and texture that is disconcerting and brilliant. The enveloping interior of the room containing ship's computer 'Mother' is a fine example of this.


8. The cocoon sequence

A deleted scene from the movie but one that shows off the full horror of Giger's brilliant designs to full effect, as Ripley discovers the cocooned Dallas in the bowels of the Nostromo. Few horror films give as much depth to the lifecycle of their creature, let alone display it such visual opulence.


9. Self destruct activated

With Ripley left alone to confront the Xenomorph, Scott unleashes the full force of strobe lighting, steam and amber-coloured alarms to assault our senses. It's a perfect way of shredding our nerves during the movie's climax.


10. Ripley's last stand

Our hero's final dispatch of the Xenomorph sees Scott bathe the frame in pure white light, the monstrous creature ejected from the bottom of the escape shuttle by its rockets. It's an ecstatic, visually gorgeous way of bringing a chilling movie to a dramatic end.

Click here to book your tickets for Alien: Covenant, released on 12th May.

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