Sir Ridley Scott, born 1937, directed Alien (1979) after several years of guest directing on various television shows, primarily on British television. But, after some frustration, he spent some time in advertising before pursuing feature film directing. His first feature film was the Duellists, which won several awards and was nominated for the Palm d'Or.
In the late seventies, due primarily to Star Wars' success, sci-fi seemed like a growing market, and so Scott agreed to direct Dan O'Bannon's Alien. The film featured literary elements from the horror genre, atop a futuristic, sci-fi backdrop.
While Scott was not the first choice to direct, once he agreed to the project, he immediately set out storyboarding the whole movie himself. His impressive artistic skills impressed the producers so much that they decided to double the production budget from $4.2 million to $8.4 million. For his inspiration, Scott drew upon his love of previously successful science fiction movies such as Star Wars, which inspired his whole concept of "truckers in space" and "dirty hardware", and 2001 Space Odyessy, whose real space accuracy impressed him enough to depict planetary approaches as accurately as possible.
The films fanatic success has been accredited to Scott's inventive, claustrophobic scenes and his effective use of jump-scares. Scott created several memorable scenes, including Kane's attack in the alien spacecraft, the Alien erupting from Kane's stomach in front of terrified crewmates, and the Alien's ambushing the Captain in the air shafts.
The success of this film created a new cinematic genre that would be replicated and copied (rather unsuccessfully) throughout the 80's. However, the popularity of this film would create a franchise that is still alive and well today that includes three more Alien sequels, two Alien vs Preditor spins offs, and the quasi-prequel Prometheus and it's upcoming trilogy also directed by Scott.
Scott's futuristic horror immediately set him on the map and help launched his already blooming career. He went on to direct Blade Runner, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down, returning to the futuristic thriller genre in 2011 to direct Prometheus.