How ‘Alien’ shaped today’s films 

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Over the past 40 years, there are few films that can claim to have as much influence over a genre as “Alien” did to horror. Originally released on May 25, 1979, “Alien” follows seven members of a cargo ship in space as they investigate a signal coming from an unknown planet. They discover a life form unlike anything seen before which causes havoc on the ship. The film was a financial and critical success, making over $200 million and scoring an Oscar for best visual effects.  

Sigourney Weaver’s performance as Ellen Ripley helped redefine the action hero. No longer was the hero of a film just a good-looking guy, it could be anyone. In the years following “Alien,” movies featuring female protagonists gained popularity with filmgoers. Movies like “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” and “Gravity,” featuring female leads, have been some of the most popular films of the 21st century.  

It can also be argued that “Alien” helped shape today’s horror movies. Before 1979, movies involving space were seen as corny and cartoonish. After the release of “Alien,” however, space was made scary. So scary, in fact, that several “Alien” sequels were made to continue the legacy of space horror.  

The use of lighting and camerawork also made “Alien” a stand out film at the time of its release. Rather than focusing on the actual alien on the ship, the film centers around the fear of the alien and how the crew members react to it. The alien is rarely shown on screen, which many be seen as a trademark of the film. 

Many horror films like “Lights Out” and “Crawl” have dimly lit environments and avoid showing whatever the monster or enemy is to promote suspense. 

“Alien” also helped popularize the use of hand-held shots in horror films. Those scenes in which the camera was hand-held were all shot by Ridley Scott, who also directed the film. Thanks to Scott’s camerawork, found footage horror films found a place in Hollywood. With found footage films, the horror is close and unknown, the camera work is shaky and the stars of the film are usually not well known.  

Outside of movies, “Alien” has been a source of inspiration for different video game franchises like “Dead Space” and “Metroid.” The main villain in “Metroid” is even named Ripley after the main character in “Alien.” 

As “Alien” is one of the most successful horror films of all time, it is no wonder why so many people love the movie. With groundbreaking camera techniques, a strong performance from Sigourney Weaver and an amazing concept, “Alien” will be remembered for a long time to come. If you have yet to see the film, it is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and iTunes. It is worth checking out, given how it was deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress in 2002. 


Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at ian.ward@uconn.edu

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