As Ian Holm told the crew of the Nostromo before sputtering out of juice, the Alien is the "perfect organism." As was, I would argue, Ridley Scott's 1979 space horror of the same name: a perfect storm of talents. Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett crafted a brilliant screenplay, Derek Vanlint provided perfect moody cinematography, Jerry Goldsmith gave us a haunting score, Brian Johnson made us all scream at his special effects, and the cast expertly carried us through the immersive sci-fi movie.
What are all those cast members up to now? Let's see how scarred they were left after that Chestburster scene. (After I saw it, I sat in my seat with a dumbfounded look on my face for the rest movie, and when the movie ended I went outside and puked. So...)
Sigourney Weaver, Ellen Ripley
Weaver was all but unknown as a film actress when she auditioned for the role of Ripley - and the last of the principal stars to be cast. After appearing in Alien, though, she bagged herself roles in Ghostbusters I and II, Avatar, and is now probably the most lucrative cast member of the lot. I guess it was worth the offensive, almost-mullet hairdo, after all...
Tom Skerritt, Dallas
I'll never forget Dallas crawling through those ventilation shafts and meeting his untimely end. The Alien attacked with two hands upraised when Dallas turned and shined his light onto it, while the monitor screen ended its transmission with static and a very high-pitched whine, as Ripley screamed his name into her headphone... Luckily, that wasn't the end for Tom Skerritt, though. He's featured in more than 50 flicks - his other cult credentials include The Dead Zone, a Poltergeist movie, and TV roles in Bonanza, The Fugitive, and both incarnations of The Twilight Zone. Well played!
Veronica Cartwright, Lambert
At a young age, Cartwright was already one hell of an impressive actress, having appeared in Hitchcock's The Birds. But when she read for a part in Alien, she didn't realize she was to play Lambert (not, in fact, Ridley) until she turned up at costume fittings. Still, she hasn't had such a raw deal; her distinctive look has landed her roles in tons of horror flicks, as well as HBO's Six Feet Under...and she's still going strong!
Harry Dean Stanton, Brett
Harry Dean Stanton must've learnt more aboard the USCSS Nostromo than how to perfect his engineering technician skills, because after the movie he went on to become a singer, touring the U.S. with a male voice choir. He also bagged roles in Pretty In Pink, Wild At Heart, and most recently can be identified for having one of the best lines in The Avengers.
Ian Holm, Ash
Ash, which proved a breakthrough role for Ian Holm after 20 previous movies, was not initially supposed to be an android. The idea of making him a robot came from producers at the last minute. Still, I bet he was glad of that decision; Holm has since gone on to hit Hollywood hard, and has appeared in blockbusters like The Fifth Element, Lord of the Rings, and Ratatouille.
John Hurt, Kane
Ridley's 1979 sci-fi horror featured one of cinema's most memorable death scenes as the unfortunate Kane fell victim to a pretty nasty Chestburster parasite. That acting opportunity certainly paid off for Hurt, though, who is now recognized as having transatlantic talent and has scored roles in everything from V for Vendetta, to The Elephant Man, to Hellboy - a long way from having your belly ripped open and plastered in bloody scraps from the fishmonger.
Yaphet Kotto, Parker
Poor Parker. After witnessing the Alien dragging Brett's corpse away, he devoted all of his skills and determination to killing the creature... Shortly before being pinned to the wall by it and perishing with a nasty bite to the head. Yaphet's done alright out of it, though. He followed Alien with a role in prison drama Brubaker, appeared in The A-Team, another sci-fi movie called The Running Man, and - among other feats - he's written two books AND has a Bay Area hardcore punk band named after him!