Aliens (1986 movie)

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Aliens is a 1986 science fiction horror movie starring Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Carrie Henn, Bill Paxton and Paul Reiser. It is a sequel to the 1979 Alien.



Directed by James Cameron from a story written by Cameron, David Giler, and Walter Hill, the film is more of a high-paced, action adventure film than the atmospheric sci-fi horror of the first film. It was tremedously successful, following Cameron's The Terminator in helping to establish him as a major action director. The film, like its predecessor, was shot in England on a budget of only about $18 million. The production was somewhat problematic, marred by several disputes between Cameron and the film crew, which eventually led to an all-out strike late in the production.


At the opening of the film, Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the only human survivor of the Nostromo, is rescued from space and revived after fifty-seven years in hypersleep. As she recovers, she is gradually informed of the changes that have occurred during her absence, and is dismayed to learn that a terraforming colony called Hadley's Hope has been founded on Planet LV-426 (where the Nostromo crew had its fatal first encounter with the alien). Ripley immediately fears the worst when she learns that contact with the colony has recently been lost. With her friends and family long dead, Ripley (now promoted to Lieutenant) reluctantly agrees to accompany a rescue mission sent by the all-powerful Company, acting as advisor to a squad of gung-ho Colonial Marines sent to rescue the colonists. They travel aboard the vessel Sulaco (like The Nostromo, the name is a nod to Joseph Conrad).

Arriving at LV-426, Ripley and her companions soon discover that the aliens have overrun the colony and that all the settlers are apparently dead. The rescue team soon find themselves trapped in the settlement, where they are hunted by swarming armies of aliens under the direction of their queen. Ripley eventually finds a single survivor, a young girl nicknamed "Newt", who has miraculously survived the massacre. Their mission is further complicated by Ripley's discovery that Burke (Paul Reiser), the Company representative along on the trip, is plotting to bring one of the aliens back to Earth at any cost. When Newt is captured by the aliens, Ripley must risk her own life to try and rescue the child and escape from the planet before the colony is "sterilized" by a nuclear explosion.

The story adds much to the overall mythos of the series, including Cameron's introduction of an insect-like social structure and life cycle, is notable for its portrayal of women in action roles, and also re-introduces the concept of an android character, however this time in a sympathetic role. This character, Bishop, is also the only character except Ripley (and her cat, Jones) to appear in more than one film in the series.


It has been pointed out by some critics that Aliens works as an allegory of the Vietnam War, in that an overly confident US military finds itself in a quagmire battling an unseen opponent they cannot comprehend. Certainly the squad sent to carry out the mission is modelled on a Vietnam-era unit in terms of appearance, hierarchy and dialog. Interestingly, in real life Al Matthews, who plays Sergeant Apone, was the first black marine to be promoted to the rank of gunnery sergeant while serving in the Vietnam War.

Sigourney Weaver, who holds strong views on gun control, has stated that she was deeply uncomfortable with the amount of gun violence in the movie, and that Ripley would be required to strap on heavy artillery herself. But she admitted she ended up enjoying the role and that the gunplay held a seductive appeal.

The film added an additional level of depth to Ripley's character by establishing a daughter who grew old and died while Ripley was lost in space (this scene was not included in the theatrical version but was seen in extended versions on TV and DVD). When Ripley discovers a little girl, Newt (Carrie Henn), hiding in the ruins of the colony, Newt becomes a surrogate daughter for Ripley, allowing Ripley to overcome her feelings of guilt and achieve closure.


Aliens was nominated for seven Academy Awards and ended up winning two (Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects). Sigourney Weaver received her first Academy Award nomination (Best Actress) for this film.

Another actor whose career benefited from Aliens was Bill Paxton; he plays the reluctant grunt, Hudson, who later defiantly battles to the death when swarmed by the aliens. Paxton also benefited from being given many of the film's most memorable one-liners.


The depiction of the female characters, especially Ripley and the ultra-macho Private Vasquez, as fearless warriors made a considerable impression in the North American perception of women in action films, particularly in futuristic science fiction. Since Aliens, it grew to be expected in futuristic stories that the female characters be as ready to bear arms and do battle on an equal basis with the male characters.

The film also continues a suggestion in the film that in the future sexual orientation and gender identity would be non-issues. The onscreen biographical reports on the missing crewmembers from the first film all include information on wheather or not they have had a sex change operation. Later on while the marines are eating in the mess hall, two of the marines joke about having sex with an alien being that might have been transgender.


The theatrical running time of Aliens was 137 minutes. Later, Cameron cut together a 154 minute Director's Cut that contained the daughter subplot as well as scenes of the colony before the alien infestation and extra battle scenes involving the marines' robot sentries.

Of the two versions, the theatrical cut is tighter, faster paced and more suspenseful. Take for example, when the Marines land at Hadley's Hope; in the theatrical cut, the viewer doesn't actually know what transpired there beforehand, and so shares the Marines' fear of the unknown. In the Director's Cut, however, the viewer has been tipped off in advance (even if the Marines haven't). In the Director's Cut's favour are the scenes where the Aliens attempt to get past the robot sentries; arguably, the most suspenseful scenes in the whole film. The daughter subplot helps explain Ripley's attitude towards Newt, albeit at the cost of slowing the film down a little.

One recommendation would be for first time viewers to watch the theatrical cut first, and then the Director's Cut thereafter.

This Director's Cut was first released on laserdisc and VHS in 1992 and in The Alien Legacy in 2001. Both versions of the film were released together for the first time in the 2003 Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set.


Alien Quadrilogy


Actor Role
Sigourney Weaver Lieutenant Ripley
Michael Biehn Corporal Hicks
Paul Reiser Carter J. Burke
Lance Henriksen Bishop
Carrie Henn Rebecca 'Newt' Jorden
Bill Paxton Private W. Hudson
William Hope Lieutenant Gorman
Jenette Goldstein Private J. Vasquez
Al Matthews Sergeant. Apone
Mark Rolston Private M. Drake
Colette Hiller Corporal Ferro
Daniel Kash Private D. Spunkmeyer
Cynthia Scott Corporal Dietrich
Ricco Ross Private R. Frost
Tip Tipping Private T. Crowe
Trevor Steedman Private T. Wierzbowski
Paul Maxwell Van Leuwen
Barbara Coles Cocooned Woman (aka Mary)


Who Position
James Cameron Director and Screenwriter
Gale Anne Hurd Producer
David Giler Executive Producer
Walter Hill Executive Producer
Gordon Carroll Exectutive Producer
Adrian Biddle Cinematographer (replaced Dick Bush)
Ray Lovejoy Editor
Stan Winston Creature SFX
James Horner Composer

External links


Alien movie series
Alien | Aliens | Alien | Alien: Resurrection
Alien vs. Predator
Relating to the Alien universe
Bishop | Ellen Ripley | LV-426 | Nostromo | United States Colonial Marines | Weyland-Yutani | Xenomorph | Yautja

de:Aliens – Die Rückkehr es:Aliens fr:Aliens le retour it:Aliens - scontro finale nl:Aliens pt:Aliens ja:エイリアン2 sv:Aliens


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