43 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About 'Alien'

The wildly popular Alien film franchise is beloved by fans and a commonly held cultural icon, but what behind-the-scenes facts and Alien trivia might you not know? If you love the Alien movies, then you remember when the first Alien movie came out, way back in 1979, and did the near-impossible: it redefined both horror and space films in one movie. "In space no one can hear you scream," was instantly memorable and the film is generation-defining. 

Then along came Aliens in 1982 and accomplished another near-impossible feat: it changed genres entirely and was still an amazing movie. Somehow the action movie sequel to a horror/space thriller was as good (some say better) than its predecessor! The franchise continued in 1992 with Alien 3, a widely contested film that fell apart for a whole host of reasons but still brought fans David Fincher. His "Assembly Cut" is bold, dark, nihilistic, and shows the glory of Fincher starting to peek through. In 1997 there was Alien Resurrection, which was just a weird movie. It's hard to say whether it was good or bad but it was certainly different. 

Alien is one of the most successful, fan-favorite, and all-around best movie franchises of all time. To celebrate these great films, let's take a look back at the franchise and learn some fun facts about the Alien movies! From how they got Jones the cat to turn in a stellar performance, to Sigourney Weaver's basketball skills, check out the Alien trivia below and upvote the most interesting BTS facts, straight from the sets of these great films.

  • The First Alien Was A Graphic Artist

    The First Alien Was A Graphic Artist
    Photo: Alien / 20th Century Fox
    Bolaji Badejo, who plays the alien, was a graphic artist who was discovered at a pub by one of the casting directors. He was about seven feet tall with thin arms - just what they needed to fit into the alien costume, and beat out Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca in the Star Wars films) for the part. He was given tai chi and mime classes to learn how to slow down his movements and because he couldn't sit down in the alien suit (because of the tail), a special swing had to be constructed for him to sit in during filming.
  • 'Aliens' Set The Bar For Action Movies With The Academy

    Sigourney Weaver's 1987 Best Actress Oscar nomination for Aliens was the first ever for an actress playing a role in an action movie.
  • The Marine Sergeant In 'Aliens' Was A Real (And Noteworthy) Marine Sergeant

    Al Matthews, who plays Marine sergeant Apone in Aliens, was in real life the first Black Marine to be promoted to the rank of sergeant in the field during service in Vietnam.

  • They Scheduled 'Aliens' Around The Marines' On-Screen Relationship

    Like most films, the movie wasn't shot in sequence. But for added realism, James Cameron filmed the scene in which we first meet the Colonial Marines last, even though it's one of the earliest scenes in the film. This was so that the camaraderie of the Marines was realistic because the actors had spent months filming together before shooting the scene.
  • 'Alien' Was Written With Unisex Characters, But Ripley Wasn't Originally Thought Of As Female

    All of the names of the main characters were changed multiple times by Walter Hill and David Giler during revisions of the original script by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett. The O'Bannon/Shusett script also had a clause indicating that all of the characters were "unisex," meaning they could be cast with male or female actors. Consequently, all of the characters are only referred to by their last name (Dallas, Kane, Ripley, Ash, Lambert, Parker, and Brett), and the few gender-specific pronouns (he/she) were added after casting.

    Despite this, Shusett and O'Bannon never really thought of casting Ripley as a female character.

  • The Iconic Chest-Burster Scene Was Actually Terrifying

    The Iconic Chest-Burster Scene Was Actually Terrifying
    Photo: Alien / 20th Century Fox

    For the chest-burster sequence, John Hurt stuck his head, shoulders, and arms through a hole in the mess table, linking up with a mechanical torso that was packed with compressed air (to create the forceful exit of the alien) and lots of animal guts. The rest of the cast were not told that real guts were being used so as to provoke genuine reactions of shock and disgust. The scene was filmed in one take with four cameras.