When Ridley Scott’s Alien was released in 1979, it re-defined the science fiction genre because it was for adult audiences instead of general audiences like the original Star Wars. While the film is extremely bloody, some censors in the UK felt that the film’s sexual sub-context was more problematic.
According to Blastr.com, the British Board of Film Classification gave Alien an “X” rating, meaning no one under the age of 18 could be admitted into the theater to watch it. It’s similar to the “NC-17” rating in the US as opposed to the “R” rating. The rating just below it in the UK is “AA” or “14+,” which means teenagers over the age of 14 could see it.
So why all this hullabaloo over facehuggers and chestbursters? Apparently, the UK censors felt Alien’s view of sex would confuse teenagers on how sex between people worked, because sex between people and aliens is always confusing. The UK censors had a problem with the scene involving Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt) entering a room full of alien eggs. When one of the eggs opens up, he looks inside, and a facehugger attacks him and impregnates him with an alien.
One of the censors wrote…
I feel uneasy about passing for 14-year-olds a film which uses sexual imagery in a horror context… The images are not always explicit but run like a dark undercurrent throughout suggesting a powerful, threatening, unnamed force. Occasionally the image is explicit as when the leathery egg opens up to reveal a glistening pulsating membrane which erupts into a squid-like creature.
At the time, UK censors could past judgment on a film based on its content and its artistic intent or interpretation. So if they felt the subtext of a film could raise eyebrows then they could censor accordingly. In the US, the MPAA gives rating based solely on content.
I don’t want to flash ideas like this to teenagers who might not have come to terms with the normal sexual functions… The early teens are a troublesome time with physical changes making terrific demands on emotional stability. I don’t myself want to pass for this age-group a film which might be disturbing in a non-specific way to a significant proportion of them.
If you’re learning about human sexuality from a movie called Alien then there’s a bigger issue at hand. Watch the alien “sex” scene below.