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Is the Director’s Cut of Alien Better Than the Theatrical Cut?

March 23, 2024 - Movies

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Summary

  • The Director’s Cut of
    Alien
    adds chilling scenes like a mysterious transmission, deepening the dread and atmosphere.
  • The inclusion of the terrifying deleted cocoon scene in Director’s Cut reveals the gruesome fate of crew members, offering a new perspective.
  • While the Theatrical Cut remains a classic, the Director’s Cut enhances the film and is a must-see for die-hard
    Alien
    fans.



When the groundbreaking science-fiction horror film Alien was first released in 1979, director Ridley Scott believed that the theatrical cut was perfect. In the ensuing decades, Scott has variously reiterated his opinion that the theatrical cut of Alien is the best version of the film in existence.

In 2003, when 20th Century Fox was in the process of preparing the nine-disc Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set, which includes Alien and its three sequels, Fox approached Scott to see if Scott would be willing to restore several deleted scenes from Alien for inclusion in an expanded version of the film. While Scott felt that the expanded cut was overlong and poorly paced, Scott nonetheless agreed to re-cut the expanded version for the purpose of giving audiences a new viewing experience with Alien.


Ultimately, Scott’s Alien director’s cut restored approximately four minutes of deleted footage while trimming approximately five minutes of material from the theatrical cut, resulting in a director’s cut that is approximately one minute shorter than the theatrical cut.

While most of the changes contained within the director’s cut are minor, with added sound effects and the trimming of certain scenes to give the film a faster pace, the director’s cut is nonetheless highlighted by the inclusion of one of the most revelatory and shocking scenes, deleted or otherwise, in the history of the Alien franchise.


The Director’s Cut Brings a New Perspective to Alien

Alien

Alien

Release Date
May 25, 1979

Runtime
117


The first notable addition within the Alien director’s cut involves the mysterious transmission that compels the crew members of the commercial space tug Nostromo to investigate the transmission’s origin on a nearby moon, after the ship’s computer, Mother, detected the transmission and subsequently awakened the crew members from stasis.

While the transmission isn’t heard in the theatrical cut, the transmission is heard in the director’s cut and sounds chilling and indecipherable. This scene is effective in establishing a sense of dread regarding the exploration of the transmission’s origin on the moon, where crew members Dallas, Kane, and Lambert trace the origin to an alien derelict ship.

Related: Alien’s Most Unforgettable Scenes From the Original Movie


In the director’s cut, Kane is seen wielding a blaster weapon while investigating the ship’s egg chamber. Kane is subsequently attacked by an alien creature, which attaches itself to Kane’s face. The appearance of the blaster is effective because it demonstrates that Kane wasn’t entirely reckless when exploring the egg chamber and establishes that the crew members of the Nostromo had additional weapons, beyond the flamethrower that Dallas, Parker, and Ripley wield later in the film.

The director’s cut highlights the fact that Ripley was willing to let the infected Kane die in strict observance of quarantine protocol. After Kane is allowed back onto the ship by science officer Ash, in defiance of quarantine protocol, the director’s cut includes a deleted scene in which Lambert slaps Ripley’s face over Ripley’s refusal to allow Kane inside the ship. This scene is dramatically effective and especially significant in retrospect, given the horrific repercussions that Kane’s infection has for the rest of the ship.


The Holy Grail of Alien Deleted Scenes

Alien 1
20th Century Fox

The most prominent aspect of the Alien director’s cut is the inclusion of the infamous deleted cocoon scene, in which last surviving Nostromo crew member Ripley discovers the alien nest, where Ripley finds the gruesomely cocooned bodies of abducted crew members Brett and Captain Dallas, both of whom are revealed to be in the process of becoming alien eggs. An agonized Dallas implores Ripley to kill him with her flamethrower.

The legendary cocoon scene is absolutely horrifying. Moreover, it’s extremely revealing in terms of revealing what the alien creature does to its human victims after they’ve been cocooned. While James Cameron tried to explain the existence of alien eggs through the appearance of the alien queen in Aliens, the alien queen probably wouldn’t have been created if Scott had included the cocoon scene in the theatrical cut of Alien.


While Scott obviously excluded the cocoon scene from the theatrical cut because of pacing, given that the cocoon scene happens amid Ripley’s frenzied attempt to escape the self-destructing Nostromo by boarding an escape shuttle, the cocoon scene is so disturbing and emotionally powerful and revealing that it should have been included in the theatrical cut.

Related: Why Alien Is Still the Greatest Sci-Fi Horror Movie of All Time

The Director’s Cut Is For Die-Hard Alien Fans

A close, objective comparison between the theatrical cut of Alien and the director’s cut reveals that while Ridley Scott is entirely correct in believing that the 1979 theatrical vision is perfect just the way it is, the director’s cut is nonetheless entertaining and useful and indeed includes several deleted scenes, primarily the cocoon scene, which Scott probably should have included in the theatrical cut.


If the director’s cut of Alien had been released in place of the theatrical cut in 1979, Alien would still be regarded as being one of the greatest and most terrifying films ever made. The director’s cut has brought added context and visceral realization to concepts and scenes that Scott wisely felt were best left to the imagination in 1979. For Alien fans, it’s the best of both worlds.

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