Watching the movies in the Alien franchise, it’s easy to forget that the titular monster is actually a man in a suit. The slick, onyx-colored skin of the Xenomorph, the spindly, whip-like limbs, the dome-shaped head—these features seem so inhuman that it’s hard to imagine the creature being anything but another species from an unknown planet. However, this creature was man-made, dreamt up in industrial nightmare by artist H.R. Giger. Over the course of the main four films in the series, Giger and fellow designers tweaked and modified the Xenomorph, evolving the creature little-by-little. This infographic shows you the changes made in each film, from its original appearance in 1979 through Alien: Resurrection in 1997.
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Perfect Organism: The Alien from 1979-1997 Transcript
- Designed By: H.R. Giger, Carlo Rambaldi (head effects)
- Performed By: Bolaji Badejo, Eddie Powell (stunts), Roy Scammell (stunts)
Originally illustrated with large eyes, Giger decided to remove them, believing the Alien would look more frightening with empty sockets in its skull.
A translucent version of the Alien was produced, but abandoned; the material proved too fragile.
- Designed By: James Cameron, Stan Winston, Richard Landon (puppetry)
Initially adhering to Giger's original design, Director James Cameron decided to remove the Alien's domed carapace for durability reasons.
To allow for less restricted movement, performers sore black latex body suits selectively covered with polyform appliances. Strobe lighting and quick edits compensated for the lack of detail on the suits. In total, 12 suits were created for the film.
Alien 3 (1992)
- Designed By: H.R. Giger, Tom Woodruff Jr., Alec Gillis
- Performed By: Tom Woodruff Jr., Laine Liska (puppetry)
Redesigned as a quadruped, the Alien was streamlined by removing the back pipes and elongating the limbs and ribcage.
Screen tests were conducted using a small dog (a Whippet) dressed as the Alien Chestburster. The idea was discarded in favor of a rod puppet.
Alien Resurrection (1997)
The Cloned Xenomorph
- Designed By: Chris Cunningham, Jordu Schell, Sylvain Despretz
- Performed By: Tom Woodruff Jr., Blue Sky Studios (CGI)
Reflecting their nature as clones tainted with human DNA, the Aliens were redesigned as more biological than biomechanical, with sharpened and elongated features that appeared more sinister and allowed for underwater movement.
This is the first film in the series to feature a computer-generated Alien.
Sources: The Alien Archive: The Ultimate Guide to the Classic Movies by Mark Salisbury, Strange Shapes (Wordpress), MonsterLegacy.net
Is it weird to say that we think the Xenomorph is beautiful? Ok. Sorry. (But, we still think it!) Which is your favorite version of the Alien? Are you counting down the days until Alien: Covenant, coming out next summer? Let us know in the comments! In the meantime, browsing our horror movie costumes might tide you over until then!
Design and Research Credit: Jacob Kuddes