The Alien sometimes referred to as a Xenomorph is a fictional endoparasitoid extraterrestrial species that is the primary antagonist of the Alien film series. The species made its debut in the 1979 film Alien, and reappeared in its sequels Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), Alien Resurrection (1997), as well as two crossovers Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), and finally in Ridley Scott's 2012 film Prometheus. It also appears in various literature and video game spin-offs from the series.
Unlike many other recurring enemy extraterrestrial races in science fiction, the Aliens are not an intelligent civilization, but predatory creatures with no higher goals than the propagation of their species and the destruction of life that could pose a threat. Like wasps or termites, Aliens are eusocial, with a single fertile queen breeding a caste of warriors. The Aliens' biological life cycle involves traumatic implantation of parasitic larvae inside living hosts, which mature before erupting from the host's chest. Their design deliberately evokes many sexual images, both male and female, to illustrate their blurring of human sexual dichotomy.
The Alien design is credited to Swiss surrealist and artist H. R. Giger, originating in a lithograph called Necronom IV and refined for the series' first film, Alien. The species' design and life cycle have been extensively added to throughout each film.
The eggs laid by the queen are ellipsoidal leathery objects between two to three feet high with a four-lobed opening at the top. As a potential host approaches, the egg's lobes unfold like flower petals, and the parasitic facehugger extracts itself from the egg and attaches itself to the potential host.
A facehugger is the second stage in the Alien's life cycle. It has eight long finger-like legs which allow it to crawl rapidly, and a long tail adapted for making great leaps. The facehugger is a parasitoid; its only purpose is to make contact with the host's mouth for the implantation process, by gripping its legs around the victim's head and wrapping its tail around the host's neck.
The chestburster was designed by Alien director Ridley Scott and constructed by special effects artist Roger Dicken.
When a chestburster erupts from the body of its host, it is less than 1 foot (30 cm) tall. However, it soon undergoes a dramatic growth spurt, reaching adult size in a matter of hours.
The "Dog Alien" (also jokingly referred to as the "Bambi burster", or "Runner Alien" in the expanded universe stories), was introduced in Alien 3. The creature itself shares the same basic physical conformation and instincts as the other Aliens shown in the previous films, although there are several differences due to the host it was spawned from (a dog in the theatrical cut, an ox in the DVD assembly cut).
In Alien Resurrection, due to significant genetic tampering in an attempt to recover DNA from the deceased Ellen Ripley and the Alien Queen within her, the resulting cloned Aliens show a number of minor human traits. The cloned Queen inherits a womb, and as a result it ceases to lay eggs and gives birth to a humanoid mutant.
This variation is the result of a facehugger impregnating a Predator.
- Main article: Deacon
Scott christened the creature the "Deacon" in reference to its oblong head, which resembles a bishop's mitre.
The design of the queen was created by Cameron in collaboration with special effects artist Stan Winston, based upon an initial painting Cameron had done at the start of the project.
- Main article: Deacon
Ridley Scott's 2012 film Prometheus, originally conceived as a direct prequel to Alien, ends with the birth of a creature noted for its similarity to those in the Alien franchise. Scott christened the creature the "Deacon" in reference to its oblong head, which resembles a bishop's mitre. Designer Neal Scanlan said that the Deacon's appearance had to reflect its complex genetic heritage: "It came from Shaw and Holloway, which then produced the Trilobite, which impregnated the Engineer, which then mixed its DNA with the Trilobite. We tried to hold on to some of Shaw, some femininity since it was born of a female before being born of a male." According to Scanlan, the Deacon "represented the beginning of Giger's Alien, although it did not directly resemble that creature." The designers based the Deacon's skin on horse placenta, in an effort to give it an iridescent quality "between horrific and beautiful". Its pharyngeal jaw was inspired by that of the goblin shark.