Lists are great. They inspire discussion, create arguments, and tend to spiral off into fun new lists. When you do a list about the “BEST” of anything it goes from being fun to becoming a hotbed for arguments. There’s no such thing as a definitive list but I’ve decided to pull from my rather extensive life of film watching and put it to good use.
This is not the “film critic’s top 100” list. There’s no guarantee Citizen Kane or The Bicycle Thief will be in the top echelon or even on the list. This is the 100 movies I would put my name on as my top 100. If I died tomorrow this would represent the 100 films I find most vital, special, or ones that bonded to whatever it is that makes me me. I’m not including documentaries, though that might make for a nice supplemental list.
The first 80 will be in no particular order. The last 20 will be in very particular order. One a day, you have my word.
#49 – Alien
Why is it here:
Alien and Aliens is one half of the franchise pairings in this article series. There is one more instance of two films from one franchise making the cut so that puts these films in rarefied air. I cheated a little yesterday, but I wanted to get a little anger boiling before I spilled. Many people forget that the first 80 films in this series are presented in no particular order, so it gives me a little leeway with how I share them. I don’t think the film that placed at #95 is worse than the film that placed at #55. In fact it’s much better, but for the sake of not losing my mind and to rewatch a lot of these as the series goes I chose not to kill myself and pin these all to such a strict list. The top 20 will certainly be accurate but this here is jazz.
I cheated yesterday because I could. Alien and Aliens are about as similar as apples and bananas. It’s unfair to lump them together because they share common characters. One is a horror film and one is an action film. They share DNA but it’s like separating twins and raising one in the Ivy League and one in the Ghetto. The DNA is strong so the twins will each rise to majestic heights but do it very differently. Because of that it’s impossible to choose which one is better. They each fulfill their own criteria.
Ridley Scott delivered an amazing film back in 1979. Tense, visionary, moody, scary, thought-provoking, socially aware, and genrebending are all words one could describe Alien. It shat on gender formula in film and in the process opened doors for characters and creators to really evolve the medium and at the right time. The 80’s were all about running wild within the genres of horror and science fiction. This film was severely instrumental in that and there are so many great moments that showcase it. The cast is perfect, the effects are timeless, and the film’s pacing is such a great example of the slow burn that it still works for impatient younger audiences today. Ridley Scott is a genius. Always has been, always will be. Sound familiar? So here’s the capper for you:
Praise Alien. It’s not easy to be better than Aliens and it utterly devastates Aliens.
Moments to savor:
John Hurt does not enjoy his meal. Tom Skerritt wraps early. Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto as a duo. Ash’s betrayal. The first time we see the Chestburster [spoiler: he bursts a chest]. The reveal of the Xenomorph. Ripley’s panties. Jonesy the indestructible cat. Crude graphics of eggs going down throats. Milky Android!
Massive. If for nothing else to remind us how we have no excuses when it comes to our expectations of event movies.
I got the companion photobook to this movie before I saw the movie. Because I was fucking 7. If I remember correctly there was a shot of Yaphet Kotto’s head bitten open in there. It did not dissuade that 7 year old not to see the movie, so I lucked out and was able to finagle my way into the the theater at way too young and I’m way too thrilled it happened that way.