This paper is a discussion of the ways in which the extraterrestrial creatures in Ridley Scott's 1979 science fiction classic Alien are similar to and different from insects. Designed by H. R. Giger to be fearsome and horrific monsters, the creatures combine the characteristics of many different Earth-bound organisms, with fictional elements added to make them harder to kill and more terrifying to movie audiences. Examining the insect-like elements of these creatures provides a fascinating means of understanding what defines insects and separates them from other types of creatures, however similar. The monsters of Alien are a distinct breed, yet their morphology is insect-like in a number of very interesting ways.
Scott's film, using a screenplay written by Dan O'Bannon, introduces an alien life form that has now survived through four successful movies. Although each film has added additional information about these unnamed creatures, the original script lays out the basic characteristics of a ferocious predator, "a perfect organism" whose "structural perfection is matched only by its hostility" (Scott).
A starship, returning to Earth after a successful mining operation far from home, finds its journey interrupted when the ship's computers intercept a signal that the computers interpret as a distress call. Investigating the signal, one of the crew, Kane, finds a huge collection of what he considers to be eggs, a cache of leathery objects protected by a layer of bluish mist. As he examines one of the eggs, he begins to see movement inside. He realizes that the outer covering is somewhat translucent, and the embryo-like figure inside begins to move.
As he peers closer, the four flaps at the top of the egg suddenly open, revealing a pinkish, pulsating mass inside. This mass waits until he is within reach, then explodes, smashing through his face plate and attaching itself to his face. Returning him to the ship, his c...