Alien Literary Elements

Alien Literary Elements


Sir Ridley Scott

Leading Actors/Actresses

Sigourney Weaver

Supporting Actors/Actresses

Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm, John Hurt


Sci-Fi, Horror, Thriller




Oscar for Best Special Effects, '80 (et al nominations). Best original score, Golden Globes '80.

Date of Release

June 1979


Gordon Carroll

Setting and Context

2122 aboard a commercial vessel in deep outer space

Narrator and Point of View

Floating third-person focused primarily on protagonist, Ripley

Tone and Mood

Ominous and tense. The effects of the film are intense and sudden, including dark scenes, jump-cuts and a terrifying beast who lurks about attacking crew members. The sense of fear dominates much of the film.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist: Warrant Officer Ripley. Antagonists: Ash, revealed as antagonistic android. Alien, the primary threat of the film.

Major Conflict

A commercial space ship accidentally allows a dangerous alien life-form to board the ship, which then lurks about the ship killing crew members one by one. Meanwhile, the corporation who commissioned the voyage makes attempts to sacrifice the crew so that they can profit from the discover of this alien life.


The escape of Ripley which leaves her the only surviving member of the crew is the primary climax, although each death-scene is intense and revelatory. The climax is most intense when the Alien is attached to the escape vessel until Ripley sends it into outer space with her engines.


Ripley, back on board while three crew-members board the alien craft to investigate, remarks to Ash that she doesn't believe the distress signal was an S.O.S.

Ash is revealed to be an android and talks about how the aliens force was pure and beautiful, commenting that he was a lone survivor, foreshadowing to Ripley's own status as lone survivor.

Kane: "Oh, I feel dead."
Parker: "Anybody ever tell you you look dead, man?"

Ripley: "Listen to me, if we break quarantine, we could all die."


Brett: "This is the worst shit I've ever seen, man."
Parker: "What you say? You got any biscuits over there?"

Ripley: "What kind of thing? I need a clear definition."
Dallas: "An organism."

Ash: "Maybe I should have left him outside. Maybe I've jeopardized the rest of us, but it was a risk I was willing to take."

Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques

The use of enclosed tunnels with framed dark passages to hide a monster.

The chiarroscuro technique used to make the background seem looming or dangerous, often employed in scenes with multiple characters.

The framing of the alien-out-of-the-stomach scene with characters against a darker background.


"Kane's son," spoken by Ash could be a reference to Steinbeck's East of Eden, in which a character remarks that we are all sinful, and that we are all the sons of Cane.


The main conflict of the movie involves an "Alien" lifeform who is actually birthed from the body of a man, and spends the majority of his time executing crew members in very close quarters, never really being far away or distant from his prey at all. This raises questions about a metaphorical or allegorical subtext--maybe this terrifying evil is not remote from us at all. Maybe its native to our experience.


Ash regards the Alien as a survivor, a la Darwin, and then later, Ripley also emerges from her vessel as a lone surviror. Just as the Alien left its vessel alone, so also Ripley evacuated her own ship alone.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.