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Screenplay: Alien (1979) Deconstructed

   By: Kal Bishop

From our deconstruction of hundreds of Hollywood blockbusters....

The Hero's Journey is the template upon which the vast majority of successful stories and Hollywood blockbusters are based upon. In fact, ALL of the Hollywood movies we have deconstructed are based on this template.

Understanding this template is a priority for story or screenwriters.

The Hero's Journey:

a) Attempts to tap into unconscious expectations the audience has regarding what a story is and how it should be told.

b) Gives the writer more structural elements than simply three or four acts, plot points, mid point and so on.

c) Interpreted metaphorically, laterally and symbolically, allows an infinite number of varied stories to be created.

Sample Movie Deconstructed: Alien (1979)

• Context using text and visuals [we learn about the Nostromo].

• Introducing characters, motivations, status [Ripley et al wake up and eat].

• Call to Adventure [Mother tells Dallas they're on a detour].

• Hero's capabilities [Ripley knows it's not the right system].

• Refusal of the Call [Dallas tells the crew that they're on a detour; they don't like it; Hawks and Doves polarized].

• Journey to the First Threshold on the Magic Carpet is not smooth [to the planet on the Nostromo; the ship can just about make it; repairs needed after landing].

• Viewing the First Threshold from a distance [inside the ship]. Very unwelcoming, inhospitable. Hawks push for the adventure and Doves push against it [Kane wants to go in, Lambert not too thrilled].

• Preparing to enter the First Threshold.

• Entering the First Threshold. Dangerous. Completely different from the World they are familiar with [dark, windy, inhospitable].

• Hero meets Allies [Ripley argues with Parker, interacts with Ash and we meet Jones].

• Doves against the adventure, Hawks for it [Kane versus Lambert].

• Threshold Guardian [the ship and the fossilized skeleton].

• Hero resistant to the adventure. Pushed into it by the Shape Shifter.

• Into the depths. Kane proceeds down. No Way Back (1). Kane attacked by the alien pod.

• No Way Back (2) . Ripley resistant to letting them into the ship. Countered by the Shape Shifter.

• Road of Trials (1). Learning. We learn that the alien is keeping Kane alive and has acid for blood.

• Preparing for the physical separation [Brett and Parker repair the Nostromo].

• Polarization between the Hero and Shape Shifter developed [Ripley versus Ash].

• Trial. Conflict. [finding the dead alien in Kane's room].

• Hero Shape Shifter polarization developed. Ash, Dallas and Ripley examine the alien [Ripley wants to kill it, Ash wants to keep it].

• Hero and Ally relationship developed [Ripley and Dallas].

• Belly of the Whale [Nostromo takes off]. Characters developed.

• Marker of change. Alien explodes out of Kane's chest.

• Reaction to the change [Kane's burial].

• Road of Trials Ripley et al hunt for the Alien; Brett killed].

• Realizing the magnitude of the task [“that thing is huge.”] Preparing for next Trials.

• Foreshadow of the coming Ordeal [Dallas in the computer room].

• Road of Trials [Dallas dies in the shaft].

• Hero and Shape Sifter polarization.

• Seize the Sword. Ripley finds out that the specimen is to be collected.

• Woman as Temptress. Near death experience [Ash nearly kills Ripley; Ash dies].

• Atonement with the Father [Ripley faces the revived Ash].

• Apotheosis. They cannot kill the Alien.

• Ultimate Boon. They're going to blow up the ship.

• Refusal of the Return [Ripley et al prepare to escape].

• Rescue from Without. Ripley forced back in order to rescuer Parker and Lambert. Ripley triggers the nuke.

• Crossing the Return Threshold. Ripley tries to disarm the nuke.

• Magic Flight. Ripley makes a run for it. Escapes. Nostromo destroyed.

• Master of the Two Worlds. Hand-to-hand battle. Ripley throws it out into space.

• Freedom to Live. Jones put to sleep. Physical expressions of Joy: Ripley smiles.

Learn more…

The Complete 188 stage Hero's Journey and other story structure templates can be found at

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Kal Bishop, MBA


You are free to reproduce this article as long as no changes are made and the author's name and site URL are retained.

Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. His specialities include Knowledge Management and Creativity and Innovation Management. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached at

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