Often imitated, NEVER duplicated. Paragraphs with the ** hold spoilers. Alien is one of those movies that damn near changes your life. I have seen the films dozens of times, and still to this day it terrifies me. Sometimes knowing what's going to happen is almost as bad as NOT knowing whats going to happen.
Alien is as suspenseful as it is creepy. For a film made in the late seventies, its insight into the future is more plausible than any other interpretation. Star Trek paints a pretty picture for humanity where I Am Legend (recently comes to mind) shows a more grim future. It's a group of workers aboard a space ship doing their job for the company, constantly bitching about money. Sound familiar? Well its basically what I do everyday, and what I'm guessing the majority of the population does. They work for a higher power. In this case they stumble across an unknown creature that quickly takes shape and kills most everyone aboard.
The settings in the film are amazing. If anyone has ever held glimpse to any kind of refinery or similar venture you'd know that it tends to be a creepy place. Not much room for sunshine and flowers when there's work to be done. The ship itself is built just the same. No lights or happy sayings on the wall to give anyone pleasure. Just steel grate floors and endless tubes that line the walls and ceiling. Except for where they eat, there's at least a hint of humanity in that room.
Now we come to the Alien itself. Simply put....the most terrifying thing you'll ever see. You show anyone in their pre-teens this film...guaranteed to give them nightmares...but its almost necessary as to desensitize them to the genre. I remember as a kid having horrible dreams about that creature. Still to this day I'm sure I'll have a dream or two regarding that thing. Its so perfect, and so scary that it just etches its way into your brain.
The only problem that I hold against this movie is the ending. One can hardly mock the special effects. Some of it does look pretty bad, like the scene with Ash's head, or the terribly outdated computer equipment, but you can hardly hold it against the film being it was made in the late 70s. I find it disturbingly accurate actually. I'm sure they were on a tight budget, but sometimes making something outta nothing is more precious then the opposite.
**Back to my rant on the ending....early on the film, Ripley was willing to sacrifice her coworker for the good of the rest of the crew, but in the midst of the most pivital time in the movie while they are trying to escape....she spends all her time looking for the damn cat. I have a cat myself, and I love her sooooo much....but if a 6-foot alien is on my ass, goodbye. Not only that, I really didn't understand why the alien just sat there in the bulkheads watching Ripley get dressed and slowly make her way to the console. I'd think that thing would've been all over her from the first time it heard her. Maybe it was full, or comfortable, I don't know....but I didn't like it.
All in all though, Alien is a film that every fan of horror needs to see. It put a massive stamp on the genre and created an entire SLEW of imitators. If you like the film in anyway, I recommend the entire series. Some argue that 3 really blows, but I actually think it's one of the better ones.