Tension rises as Ripley continues to search the cockpit for Jones, when suddenly Jones jumps out at her, causing her to scream. She grabs the cat and rushes out of the cockpit, putting it in its traveling container. Meanwhile, Lambert and Parker assemble supplies for their journey. All of a sudden, Lambert realizes that the alien has come into the room where they are. In the cockpit, Ripley hears Parker over the intercom, urging Lambert to “get out of the way!” Ripley rushes to the intercom as the scene shifts to show the alien approaching Lambert. Parker continues to tell Lambert to get out of the way, and in the cockpit, Ripley can hear her crying over the intercom. We see Parker being attacked by the alien, as Ripley rushes to try and help her companions. The alien’s terrifying jaws open to reveal a smaller mouth, which extends towards the screaming Parker. The creature’s tail then wraps around Lambert’s legs. Lambert whimpers in utter fear, as Ripley rushes down a dark hall to save them. She is too late, however, and all she can hear are Lambert’s screams as she is killed by the alien.
The hall is silent, and Ripley looks around for her companions. She shudders at the sight of their dead bodies and begins to wail and sob as she runs down the hall. She runs into the emergency room, where she initiates the self-destruct mechanism for the ship. Mother begins announcing that the “emergency destruct system is now activating. The ship will detonate in T minus 10 minutes.” Mother also announces that the option to cancel the detonation expires in 5 minutes. Ripley rushes through smoke and fog to get on the shuttle. We see her head emerging from a hatch, and frantically making her way down the hall, terrified of running into the alien. The lights blink and flicker around her. Suddenly she sees the alien moving around the corner of a nearby wall. Suspenseful music plays as she shuffles away from it, gasping. The scene abruptly shifts and we see the alien eyeing Jones in his compartment.
Ripley descends a ladder to the lower deck and runs down the hall frantically as an alarm goes off. Running through fog, Ripley covers her mouth for protection, as we hear Mother counting down the imminent self-destruction of the ship. Ripley touches a number of buttons on a board, attempting to override the detonation process, but she cannot figure out how to reverse it in time for the 5 minute expiration. She yells to Mother: “Turn the cooling unit back on!” but Mother does not seem to register her cries. Mother then announces that the ship will self destruct in 5 minutes, and Ripley yells at her, “You bitch!” and hits the motherboard angrily. She runs through the fog as the alarm continues to sound, down a dark hallway, yelling profanities and breathing heavily.
Ripley climbs out of a hatch, carrying a flamethrower and making her way down the dark, circuitous hallway, towards the shuttle, her only chance of escape. Ripley stops, peeking around the corner at the doorway to the escape shuttle, when she suddenly she sees Jones’ carrier on the ground nearby. It has been overturned, but Jones is alive. She picks up the carrier, before hearing the growls of the alien. Still carrying her flamethrower, she makes her way towards the escape shuttle. Fire begins to overtake the hallway she just came from, and Ripley cries out in fear, closing the hatches behind her. Mother announces that there is 1 minute left to abandon the ship, as Ripley climbs aboard the escape shuttle and makes her way to the cockpit. She starts the shuttle and takes off, leaving the Nostromo behind with just 30 seconds to spare. The shuttle speeds away just in time as the Nostromo bursts into a fiery explosion.
A bright white light floods the sky as the Nostromo explodes. Ripley is safe in her ship and says to herself, “I got you, you son of a bitch.” Ripley looks weary from her suspenseful escape, and pulls Jones out of his carrier, hugging him to her body. She then opens a sleeping pod and pets Jones, who hisses at her. She puts Jones in a sleeping pod and closes the lid on him. She then undresses down to a tank top and underwear as she prepares to sleep on the ship. Suddenly we hear the breathing of the alien, and a claw falls down, surprising Ripley, who screams in shock that the alien made it onto the escape shuttle. She runs into the area where the spacesuits are kept, hiding from the alien, which does not follow her . Breathing heavily, she plots what to do next, as she watches the alien retract its black claw. She discreetly climbs into a spacesuit as we see the menacing jaws of the alien extend.
Once in the spacesuit, Ripley carefully puts on a helmet and prepares a harpoon gun. She climbs out of the spacesuit area and straps herself into a nearby chair. There, she presses some buttons to wake up the alien, all the while singing to herself, “You Are My Lucky Star.” When she shoots steam towards the alien, it begins to shriek and make its way towards her through the strobe-lit dark. It approaches her from the side, extending its inner jaw to kill her, but she screams and opens a nearby hatch to send it out into space. It flies through the air towards the hatch, but grabs ahold of the sides of the door before flying out, determined to survive. Ripley shoots it with the harpoon gun and it goes flying out the hatch, taking the harpoon gun with it hanging out the door in space. As the alien attempts to climb back into the ship through a heat thruster, Ripley fires the engine, which burns the alien and sends it hurtling out into the abyss. Ripley is finally safe, as she watches the alien drift away.
Ripley records an entry in the log for the Nostromo. She reports that she is the third officer reporting, that all the other crew members are dead, that the cargo and ship is destroyed and that she will reach the frontier in 6 weeks. “This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo,” she says, before signing off and going into hypersleep in a sleeping pod. Ominous music plays as the camera zooms in on Ripley’s face as she sleeps, the scene shifts to outer space, and the credits roll.
The deaths of Parker and Lambert leave Ripley completely alone on the ship, and the film proves itself to be a true horror movie. A common trope in horror films is the depiction of a woman alone fighting against an evil force, often referred to as the “final girl.” Typically, in a slasher film, that character is the last character left alive who must confront a murderer alone, as in Friday the 13th, Halloween, Scream, and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Ripley is the “final girl” in Alien, even though the murderer happens not to be a slasher, but a giant, silent spider-like alien, with fangs and a constricting tail. From the start, the scenario is a horrific one: a giant ship in space with a humongous man-eating alien aboard. As more and more characters are ousted, the horrific scenario gets tenser and tenser, and one can see that Ripley can only rely on herself. One by one, characters are picked off, leaving only Ripley, who must problem-solve without any help, a common plot feature of the horror genre. Additionally, even when it seems that Ripley has escaped, she is still not safe, as the alien has followed her onto her only chance at escape. Having stripped down to her underwear, Ripley is at her most vulnerable when she realizes she is accompanied by the alien on the escape shuttle. Yet again, the horror of the film arises from the fact that the danger is always unexpectedly coming from within. The Nostromo was decimated, but the alien, as determined to survive as Ripley, found a way off.
The stakes of the ending on the Nostromo are apocalyptic. Alone on the ship, Ripley feels she has no choice but to schedule the ship’s self-destruction, and escape on the small shuttle. Not only that, but she has only 10 minutes to escape the claws of the alien and get to her vehicle. Ridley Scott makes the ending as suspenseful as he possibly can, pushing the character of Ripley to her absolute limit. With only three options—get eaten by an evil alien, die in the explosion of the ship’s destruction, or escape—tensions are high for Ripley, who curses, yells, and breathes heavily as she runs through the dark corridors of the Nostromo. The fact that Ripley’s only companion is a mischievous and anxious cat adds a humorous twist to the proceedings, which approach the cataclysmic.
The shots of Ripley as she runs through the ship are disorienting and add to the suspense. Hitherto the film’s pace has been plodding and leisurely, punctuated by moments of action and grotesque violence, but at the end, it becomes a true horror and action film, jam-packed and with a pulsing, relentless, high-action pace. The long hallways of the Nostromo, previously shot in long sweeping pans, are re-signified as a panic room for Ripley’s frantic escape. Lights blink and flicker, fog creeps everywhere, and Ripley is dirty and sweaty, side-stepping through the suicidal Nostromo with nothing but the light of a flame-thrower to guide her. The film’s tone and pace become frenetic and terrifying at this point, and the cinematography reflects this. The film often disorients the viewer, making it difficult to tell where we are in the ship—also also how close Ripley is to escaping. The strobe-effect of the lights, the relentless alarm, and the imminent self-destruction of the ship create an enormous sense of suspense in the film’s final moments.
At the very end, Ripley herself in some ways seems to fit the description of the alien that Ash gives; what separates them, however, is Ripley's intact moral center. Ash calls the alien “a survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse and delusions of morality.” Brandishing a flame-thrower and refusing to give up in the face of complete destruction, Ripley is certainly a survivor, and her conscience must take a backseat to her drive to survive. She does not give up, even in the face of monumental odds. Unlike the alien, however, Ripley’s drive to survive is not an amoral one, but a strictly moral one. Her reason for wanting to escape the ship is not simply to get away from the terrifying alien, but also to ensure that the alien does not make it to Earth and wreak havoc there. Her morality even extends to the rescue of the ship’s cat, Jones, who she goes all the way back into the ship to save. Indeed, Ripley is the most enduringly moral character in the film. While she had seemed heartless when she wanted so badly to stick to protocol and not let Kane into the ship after he was attacked, her reasons for doing so were about the good of all. With the clarity of hindsight, the viewer can see that Ripley’s instincts were right, and had she not let Kane onto the ship, they would have been able to escape safely.
The film seeks to make a conclusive distinction between the human and the non-human, a distinction which has a lot to do with morality and conscience. While Ash states that conscience creates cloudiness, in the case of Ripley, her conscience and her human determination to do the right thing allow her to escape from the ship safely and save the human race from alien invasion. Ripley’s conscience is markedly unclouded, giving her a decisive, strong will. Throughout, she maintains proportion of logic and ethics that allow her to succeed against all odds. While it had seemed that Ripley was the most by-the-book crew member, singleminded and clinical, her instincts were rooted in taking care of her companions and in morality. Ripley’s attention to protocol might have saved everyone from the violence that ended up befalling them, but instead they put their trust in the untrustworthy Ash and the impressionable Dallas. The film shows that Ripley is able to survive precisely because of her morality, and by extension, her humanness. The human race might be vulnerable in comparison to the cold-blooded and remorseless alien race, a species completely built for destruction, but the specific qualities of humanness that Ash describes—a conscience, a sense of remorse, and a rubric of morality—ultimately give Ripley the upper hand, and allow her to win out.