Features and Columns · Movies

A Brief, Messy History of Who Wrote 1979’s ‘Alien’

In space, no one can hear your screenplay.
Alien Nostromo Jacket
By  · Published on March 3rd, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores why there are so many differences between Dan O’Bannon’s script for 1979’s Alien and the final film.

Who wrote the script for the sci-fi horror film Alien? Well, Dan O’Bannon, right? What is this, some kind of trick question?

Why yes, dear reader. Yes, it is. Unless you are eyelash-deep in the production lore behind Ridley Scott’s 1979 film, you might not even know that there is any controversy over Alien‘s byline. And who could blame you, the opening credits say “screenplay by Dan O’Bannon” and “story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett.” How were you supposed to know that there was anything spicy going on behind the scenes?

Well, as the video essay below keenly underlines, most things in film are a collaborative effort. And that’s not a bad thing. Far from it. Sometimes you need a kitchen full of cooks to turn a Roger Corman-esque B-picture into a capital-b Blockbuster. The cooks in question? The aforementioned O’Bannon and Shusett, along with two members of Brandywine Productions: Walter Hill and David Giler.

If you and your corkboard get tied up in red string while watching this video, don’t worry. Most things that trigger Writer’s Guild of America arbitrations aren’t exactly simple. Remember: in space, no one can hear your screenwriting credit.

Watch “The Hidden Brains Behind Alien (1979)”

Who made this?

This video essay on who actually wrote Alien is by CinemaTyler. The Brooklyn-based creator has been providing some of the most in-depth analyses of auteur-driven cinema on YouTube for some time now. You can check out their YouTube channel here. CinemaTyler’s scholarship on Stanley Kubrick, particularly 2001: A Space Odyssey, is noteworthy and absolutely worth seeking out.

More videos like this

Related Topics: , ,

Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).