I am in no way objective about Alien. I love this movie - I love everything about this movie. I love the movie's tagline: "In space, no one can hear you scream." If this movie came over for dinner, I would serve it lobster and champagne - stuff that costs more than $7/bottle. I will watch this movie every chance I get and I never stop jumping at the jumpy parts. Alien is awesome.
But this is established, right? I don't need to be objective because it is a fact that Alien is a great movie. It's dark, moody, atmospheric, gorgeously shot. The cast is fabulous, every one of them going on to have solid movie/television careers: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto and Ian Holm. And the alien! The alien is magnificent, sleek and brutal, Oscar-winning (for visual effects), and never fully glimpsed, which just adds to its menace.
While the pace may seem to drag at times with the long, slow interior and exterior shots of the spaceship, this is done to reinforce the sense of isolation of these characters. The story itself is taut: the small crew of a commercial spaceship follows an emergency beacon to a seemingly uninhabited planet where, upon investigation, they come into contact with a horrific alien species. From the very start, suspence starts to build. Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto's characters have a great rapport, giving the audience a break from time to time to laugh. But after each of those brief moments, everything else (and Veronica Cartwright in particular - twitchy and bug-eyed and complaining and worried) brings the tension right back to where it was, and twists it a little tighter. Until the jumps start jumping and the blood starts flowing.
Alien is pretty close to what I would consider a perfect horror movie: dark and tense, with strong, sympathetic characters you are sorry to see die, and pockets of viciousness and blood that punctuate the mood, not drown it. Brilliant.
1 hour ago