Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Alien Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Dated but still extremely scary. Not for younger kids.
  • R
  • 1979
  • 124 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 70 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 261 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A bloodthirsty alien, devoid of remorse or conscience, kills off crew members of a deep-space mining ship. But Ripley conveys the strong message to never give up and to do eveything you can to try to save your friends and co-workers. 


Positive Role Models & Representations

Courageous female crew member Ripley shows tremendous resolve and presence of mind during a traumatic event. She even takes the time to rescue the ship's cat as surviving crew members attempt to escape the ship. 



A character sitting down to dinner with fellow crew members falls into convulsions, then dies a bloody death as an alien burrows out of his chest. One by one, characters are killed by the alien. While their deaths aren't always shown, gruesome deaths are strongly implied. Characters shoot a flamethrower and fire a cattle prod while trying to defend themselves against the alien. Horror movie suspense of the "What's that around the corner?" variety abounds. 



Toward the end, a character takes off her space uniform, stripping down to a half-shirt and panties. In one of the pods, there are pictures of naked women, breasts shown. 


Expletives when faced with alien outbreak: "f--k off," "son of a bitch," "horses--t," "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Early in the film, a character is never shown without a cigarette in his mouth. At a celebratory dinner, a character is shown drinking from a can of beer, but does not act intoxicated. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Alien is a classic of sci-fi horror, and while not as gory as most horror films, it's too intense for younger viewers. In its most iconic scene, a character is killed after an alien burrows out of his chest, shooting blood everywhere. Unrelenting suspense permeates every scene after the first 15 minutes. While the deaths of the characters aren't always shown, gruesome killing at the hands (actually, tentacles) of the alien is strongly implied. One of the characters smokes, and all of them in their panicked states use profanity, including "f--k," "s--t," and "bitch."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8-year-old Written bypyrate December 22, 2018

Common sense but know your kids

We recently watched Alien with our 9 year old daughter - it has been brewing for some time - my dad, myself and my boss are all Alien nuts, all affected by its... Continue reading
Parent of a 4-year-old Written bytonyhutchins July 18, 2015

Not a particularly scary horror film, but thoughtful and well-paced

Alien was probably terrifying when audiences first watched it in the 1970's. And even today, in a dark theater, with the music blaring and the lighting ju... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old November 22, 2017


Kid, 11 years old April 14, 2017

Alien is here

I do not think that alien was very scary, the atmosphere of the film makes you feel like something very scary is going to happen, but it is actually not scary a... Continue reading

What's the story?

In ALIEN, the Nostromo, a cavernous and ill-lit interstellar mining ship, is manned by a miniscule crew of seven. They are awakened out of hibernation by an order from faraway Earth to investigate a mysterious distress signal on a dark and stormy planet. There the miners find a huge, grounded spaceship from an unknown civilization, with a long-dead alien pilot. A parasite, apparently the same type that took down the other craft, affixes to the face of a Nostromo crewman. After the crewman seems to recover, a hostile newborn alien bursts out of the doomed man's chest in front of the rest of the crew. The crew struggles to kill the fast-moving, fast-growing, unwelcome visitor before it gets them.

Is it any good?

Kids like scary movies, and this one definitely succeeds; small kids are better off with E.T., though teens can take this movie for the thrill ride it is. Being scary, in new and disturbing ways that hadn't been done before, was the mission of Alien. For a generation of moviegoers, Alien was a state-of-the-art shocker, even though it basically has a second-hand monster plot and characters that behave like cliched horror-movie victims, wandering alone in the dark or waiting like sitting ducks to be picked off. Alien did defy stereotypes of its time in the brilliant move of making the ultimate survivor a vulnerable-looking young woman, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who courageously fights back against the alien marauder.

The 25th-annivesary DVD of Alien includes a few minutes of restored footage of what the alien does with captured prey -- considered too grim for 1979, but no surprise for anyone who saw the sequel, Aliens, or any of the later followups. Most of the violence here, in fact, is suggested in quick edits rather than directly shown, just like the skittering, skeletal/serpentine alien parasite itself. While this once-shadowy monster species has been exposed in inferior sequels, video games, and comic books (even Superman battled them!), some of the best minds in cinema tried to ensure this movie would be a nightmare-inducer, and parents should keep that in mind.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Alien was so effective in evoking fear.

  • How do you think Alien compares with other futuristic outer space movies featuring aliens? 

  • How do you think the alien in Alien compares with other movie aliens? Do you imagine aliens as friendly or deadly-scary?  

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction and aliens

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate