"How do we kill it?"
Seven crew members on the space vessel Nostromo are wakened prematurely by the ship's computer. They are to respond to a distress call (or warning) received from a nearby planet. Despite some grumbles, a team is sent to the surface, where crewman Kane discovers a nest of leathery eggs with some form of life inside. An embryo bursts out of one egg and attaches to the faceplate of Kane's helmet, and his teammates bring him back to the ship. Ripley, temporarily in command, halts them at the hatch; she is not willing to break regulations about possible contamination, even to save Kane's life. Ash, the deadpan science officer, lets them in, and the Alien is on board the Nostromo.
Watching this favorite on a fresh, clear DVD print with critical eyes only made me appreciate it more. It is the perfect blend of scifi and horror. I can't recall another horror movie with such brilliant pacing. The high quality of acting is further reinforced by the naturalism of the interactions among the crew. You have teasing and irritability and resentment of hierarchies. The sets, particularly on board the Nostromo, are SO believable. And then there's the Alien. 'Nuff said.
This viewing I perceived Ripley's search for Jonesy, toward the end of the movie, as a type of displacement for her mounting hysteria. She becomes fixated on saving the cat, possibly at the risk of losing her opportunity to escape. In this movie, Ripley is no superwoman; rather, she's functioning somehow despite her panic, which makes me like her more.
I had to give Alien five stars, because unlike "the Sixth Sense," I literally could not think of a way to make it better.