5 Plot Point Breakdown: Alien (1979)

By Xiaofeng Chen · December 26, 2014

Screenplay Genre: Science Fiction / Horror 

Movie Time: 115 minutes


In the far future, a commercial starship named “The Nostromo” is en-route to earth with 20,000,000 tons of mineral ores. The crew wake up from hyper sleep by the automatic computer “Mother.” They find they are just in halfway and don’t know what is going on. “Mother” tells them it intercepted an unknown transmission from a nearly planet. It should be checked out. (11:33) Some of crew members don’t think it’s a good idea. Head of Science Ash (Ian Holm) insists it is their duty. At last, Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) decides to go onto the planet to investigate it.

When “The Nostromo” is landing on the stormy planet, she gets her footpads broken. So Dallas, Kane (John Hurt), and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) go out for the transmission. Ash, Ripley (Sigourney Weather), Brett ( Harry Dean Stanton) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) stay on the ship to back them up and fix the damages.

Dallas, Kane and Lambert track the signal up across the dark stormy surface of the planet and find the source is coming from a giant crashed alien spaceship. On “The Nostromo” Ripley analyzes the transmission and finds it is a warning. She wants to call the search team back, but is stopped by Ash.

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

Dallas, Kane and Lambert enter the spaceship. On the bridge, they find an unearthly intelligent creature dead in its chair: Its bones in the chest are broken and bending outwards. Seems something had broken out from the body. As they have no idea about it, Kane finds a corroded hole in the floor which leads to a sub level. He goes down along it, sees thousands of egg-like things laying on the floor and covered by some kind of blue rays. Kane closes in on one of them, sees something is still living inside. As he tries to get closer to see more. A “thing” beaks out of the egg, hits him at face and knocks him out. (35:15)


Dallas and Lambert take unconscious Kane back to the ship. At the airlock Ripley refuses to let them in because she’s concerned they will infect the whole ship. But Ash breaks the quarantine law to open the hatch. They put Kane in the medical study, see an arthropod creature attaching to his face, inserting a tube to his throat and infusing something into him. The crew tries to cut the thing off Kane’s face, but the creature bleeds a strong acid that eats through everything, even the ship hull. They have to stop it.

Brett and Parker have fixed the faults up. “The Nostromo” takes off again from the planet and reenters the space. Then the creature on Kane’s face gets off and dies, and Kane comes back to full consciousness.

As the crew celebrates that their bad luck is over, Kane suddenly feels sick and soon suffers great stomach pains. It looks like he is being tortured by something inside him. The crew panics and can’t help him. Kane dies and something breaks out of his body. The people see a small evil rise from the mess of broken bones, blood and flesh. It runs away and disappears before the crew sees what exactly it was. (57:33)

The crew is shocked and sad. They ship Kane out into space and set out to catch the small creature. Ripley, Parker and Brett search around the ship with an air density probe, electroshock stick and net. At a corner they see some echoes that tell something is in the cabinet. They close in on it nervously, set the net and raise the electroshock stick. The door opens, and little predator is howling and waving its pawls at them. It is Ripley’s pet cat Jones. Jones runs away in a flash.

Ripley lets Brett find the cat. She and Parker go on searching. Brett searches around the ship and finds Jones at the main air vent. As he is getting close to it. The cat sees something behind him and snarls strangely. Brett feels it and turns around. He sees a giant creature grinning at him with its double gums. Its inner gum pops out and strikes Brett in the face. Then the creature climbs up the air vent with Brett and disappears, killing him in the process.

People see that creature has grown as big as a man and is now using the air shaft. Dallas goes in the air shaft with a flamethrower and tries to drive the creature to the airlock so they can blow it into the space. But the creature moves so fast in the shafts that it gets Dallas before Dallas can get to it.

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

Ripley goes to the computer “Mother” for help. But “Mother” refuses to provide any help. It reveals the prime mission of this ship is taking back an alien creature for commercially-viable study. Anything else, including the crew is expendable. Ripley is telling this to Parker and Lambert. But Ash tries to kill her to keep the secret. We find out he is a robot that the company sent on the ship to protect valuable alien creatures. Parker and Lambert come and destroy Ash. They decide to abandon the ship and blow it up with the creature onboard.

Parker and Lambert are killed by the creature when they are carrying refrigerants for the sleeping pad on the life shuttle. Now Ripley is alone on the ship with the Alien. She shuts down the ship’s cooling system and the nuclear reactor to overheat it, gets on the shuttle with her cat Jones and separates from the starship, escaping from the fireball of exploding “Nostromo”(1:42:39)


The fireball finally goes out. Ripley puts Jones into the sleep pad and is going into it herself. She suddenly finds the Alien is onboard and sleeping in a slot in the wall. After a despaired panic, Ripley calms down and gets a plan. She sneaks into the tool lock, puts on a spacesuit and gets herself a spear gun. Then she noiselessly goes to the console, sits in the chair with her back facing the sleeping alien. She then presses the button to spray refrigerant at the creature to wake it up, and just prays it won’t see her through the spacesuit from the back.

Ripley twists her neck to take a glance back, sees the alien grinning its teeth at her and raising its claws! Ripley screams and punches the button to open the airlock. (1:50:56) An air storm blows the alien through the hatch. It snatches the hatch frame and tries to get inside again. Ripley shoots it with the spear gun. The Alien lets go and is blown out of the shuttle. Ripley runs to the hatch and sees the Alien trying to slip into the engine jet. She fires the rocket. The jet flow blows the Alien into space.

Now Ripley, the last survivor of “The Nostromo” is taking a long sleep on the voyage back to the earth – just hoping she will be picked up by the rescue team.

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