Aliens (film)

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Not to be confused with Alien (film).
Aliens poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Cameron
Produced by Gale Anne Hurd
Gordon Carroll
Walter Hill
David Giler
Screenplay by James Cameron
Story by
Based on Characters created 
by Dan O'Bannon
Ronald Shusett
Starring Sigourney Weaver
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Adrian Biddle
Edited by Ray Lovejoy
Brandywine Productions
SLM Production Group
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • July 18, 1986 (1986-07-18)
Running time 137 minutes[1]
154 minutes (1992 Special Edition)[2]
Country United States[3]
Language English
Budget $18.5 million[4]
Box office $180 million[5]

Aliens is a 1986 American science-fiction action horror film, the sequel to the 1979 film Alien and the second installment of the Alien franchise. It was written and directed by James Cameron, produced by his then-wife Gale Anne Hurd, and starred Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, William Hope, and Bill Paxton. The film follows Weaver's character Ellen Ripley as she returns to the planet where her crew encountered the hostile Alien creature, this time accompanied by a unit of space marines.

Brandywine Productions was interested in a follow-up to Alien as soon as its 1979 release, but the new management at 20th Century Fox postponed those plans until 1983. That year Brandywine picked Cameron to write after reading his script for The Terminator, and once that film became a hit in 1984, Fox greenlit Aliens, that would also be directed by Cameron, with a budget of approximately $18 million. The script was written with a war film tone strongly influenced by the Vietnam War to contrast the horror motifs of the original Alien. It was filmed in England at Pinewood Studios and at a decommissioned power plant in Acton, London.

Aliens was a critical and commercial success, with positive reviews that considered it an entertaining film that despite the tonal shift still served as a worthy sequel to Alien, and grossed $180 million worldwide. The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including a Best Actress nomination for Sigourney Weaver, winning both Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects. It won eight Saturn Awards, including Best Science Fiction Film, Best Actress for Weaver and Best Direction and Best Writing for Cameron. Aliens is frequently considered one of the best action films ever released.


In 2179, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the sole human survivor of the incident aboard Nostromo, is rescued and revived after drifting for 57 years in stasis. At an interview before a panel of executives from her employers, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, her testimony regarding the Alien is met with extreme skepticism as she has no physical evidence for the creature. Even though she knows that she is telling the truth and are covering their tracks, Ripley loses her space-flight license as a result of her "questionable judgment" and learns that LV-426, the planet where her crew first encountered the Alien eggs, is now named Acheron and is a home to a terraforming colony named Hadley's Hope.

Some time later, Ripley, now working as a cargo-loader, is visited by Weyland-Yutani representative Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) and Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) of the Colonial Marines, who inform her that contact has been lost with the colony on LV-426. The company decides to dispatch Burke and a unit of marines to investigate, and offers to restore Ripley's flight status and pick up her contract if she will accompany them as an advisor. Traumatized by her previous encounter with the Alien, Ripley initially refuses, but after recurring nightmares about the Alien and a promise from Burke that the team will not study any aliens they find but destroy them, she accepts. Aboard the warship U.S.S. Sulaco she is introduced to the Colonial Marines, including Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews), Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), privates Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) and Hudson (Bill Paxton), as well as the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen), toward whom Ripley is initially hostile due to her previous experience with the android Ash aboard the Nostromo.

The expedition descends to the surface of LV-426 via dropship, where they find the colony intact, but seemingly abandoned. Inside they find makeshift barricades and signs of a serious fight, but no bodies. Two living facehuggers are found in containment tanks in the medical lab. The only colonist found is a traumatized young girl nicknamed Newt (Carrie Henn). Meanwhile, the crew searches the colony's map computer to find traces of any of the colonists' Personal Data Transmitters (PDTs), which they all have had surgically implanted, but initially find no trace. After some searching, the marines determine that the colonists are all clustered underneath the fusion powered atmosphere processing station and head in to investigate. As the Marines near the colonists' location, Ripley and Burke inform Gorman that the colonists are all gathered underneath the cooling system for the facility's reactor, and the Marines risk triggering a nuclear explosion if they damage the machinery with weapons fire. Gorman reluctantly orders that the Marines to unload their weapons and proceed with flamethrowers only, but doesn't explain why. However, both Vasquez and Pvt. Drake (Mark Rolston) secretly reactivate their smartguns by inserting spare batteries.

Once the marines reach the center of the station, they find a large Alien nest filled with the cocooned colonists. The Aliens attack, causing Vasquez and Drake to open fire. In the resulting battle, several of the marines, including Apone and Drake, are killed or captured by the Aliens. Gorman panics, causing Ripley to take charge and drive the APC into the nest to rescue Hicks, Vasquez, and Hudson. With Gorman knocked unconscious during the rescue, Hicks assumes command and orders the dropship to recover the survivors, intending to return to the Sulaco and destroy the colony from orbit. A stowaway Alien kills the dropship pilots in flight, causing the vessel to crash into the processing station. The surviving humans barricade themselves inside the colony complex.

Ripley discovers that it was Burke who ordered the colonists to investigate the derelict spaceship where the Nostromo crew first encountered the Alien eggs, and that he hopes to return Alien specimens to the company laboratories, where he can profit from their use as biological weapons. She threatens to expose him, but Bishop soon informs the group of a greater danger: the damaged processing station has become volatile and will soon detonate with the force of a forty megaton thermonuclear weapon. He volunteers to crawl through several hundred meters of piping conduits to reach and use the colony's transmitter to pilot the Sulaco's remaining dropship to the surface by remote control so that the group can escape.

Ripley and Newt fall asleep in the medical laboratory, awakening to find themselves locked in the room with the two facehuggers, which have been released from their tanks. Ripley then activates a fire alarm to alert the marines, who rescue them and kill the creatures. Ripley accuses Burke of attempting to smuggle implanted Alien embryos past Earth's quarantine inside her and Newt, and of planning to kill the rest of the marines in hypersleep during the return trip so that no one could contradict his version of events. The electricity is suddenly cut off and numerous Aliens attack through the ceiling. after killing many Xenomorphs Hudson is eventually killed, Burke is ambushed while escaping, and Gorman and Vasquez are killed while Newt is captured by the Aliens.

Ellen Ripley in the Power Loader she uses to battle the Alien Queen.

Ripley and an injured Hicks reach Bishop and the second dropship, but Ripley refuses to leave Newt behind. She rescues Newt from the hive in the processing station, where the two encounter the Alien queen and her egg chamber. Ripley destroys most of the eggs, enraging the queen, who escapes by tearing free from her ovipositor. Closely pursued by the queen, Ripley and Newt rendezvous with Bishop and Hicks on the dropship and escape moments before the colony is consumed by the nuclear blast. Back on the Sulaco, Ripley and Bishop's relief at their escape is interrupted when the Alien queen, stowed away on the dropship's landing gear, impales Bishop and tears him in two. Ripley battles the queen using an exosuit cargo-loader, before expelling it into space through an airlock. Ripley, Newt, Hicks and the still-functioning Bishop then enter hypersleep for the return to Earth.

Interpretation and analysis[edit]

Philosopher Stephen Mulhall has remarked that the four Alien films represent an artistic rendering of the difficulties faced by the woman's "voice" to have itself heard in a masculinist society, as Ripley continually encounters males who try to silence her and to force her to submit to their desires. Mulhall sees this depicted in several events in Aliens, particularly the inquest scene in which Ripley's explanation for the deaths and destruction of the Nostromo, as well as her attempts to warn the board members of the Alien danger, are met with officious disdain. However, Mulhall believes that Ripley's relationship with Hicks illustrates that Aliens "is devoted ... to the possibility of modes of masculinity that seek not to stifle but rather to accommodate the female voice, and modes of femininity that can acknowledge and incorporate something more or other of masculinity than our worst nightmares of it."[6]

Several movie academics, including Barbara Creed, have remarked on the color and lighting symbolism in the Alien franchise, which offsets white, strongly lit environments (spaceships, corporate offices) against darker, dirtier, "corrupted" settings (derelict alien ship, abandoned industrial facilities). These black touches contrast or even attempt to take over the purity of the white elements.[7] Others, such as Kile M. Ortigo of Emory University, agree with this interpretation and point to the Sulaco with its "sterilized, white interior" as representing this element in the second film of the franchise.[8]

While some claim that the shape of the Sulaco was based on a submarine,[9] the design has most often been described as a "gun in space" resembling the rifles used in the movie.[10] Author Roz Kaveney called the opening shot of the ship traveling through space "fetishistic" and "shark-like", "an image of brutal strength and ingenious efficiency"—while the militarized interior of the Sulaco (designed by Ron Cobb) is contrasted to the organic interior of the Nostromo in the first movie (also designed by Cobb).[11] David McIntee noted the homage the scene pays to the opening tour through the Nostromo in Alien.[12]

The android character Bishop has been the subject of literary and philosophical analysis as a high-profile fictional android conforming to science fiction author Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics and as a model of a compliant, potentially self-aware machine.[13] His portrayal has been studied by writers for the University of Texas Press for its implications relating to how humans deal with the presence of an "Other",[14] as Ripley treats them with fear and suspicion after the android Ash tried to kill her in the original Alien movie, and a form of "hi-tech racism and android apartheid" is present throughout the series.[15] This is seen as part of a larger trend of technophobia in films prior to the 1990s, with Bishop's role being particularly significant as he proves his worth at the end of the film, thus confounding Ripley's expectations.[16]



David Giler declared that back in 1979 Brandywine Productions were intent on "immediately making a sequel" to Alien, having the full support of 20th Century Fox president Alan Ladd, Jr.. However, that year Ladd left amidst Fox's transition to new owners Marc Rich and Marvin Davis, and the new studio management had no interest in the sequel.[17] Giler accused new president Norman Levy of being the one that held the film's production, but Levy would later declare that "It was a movie I wanted to make," but he felt another Alien would prove too costly. In the meantime, Giler and partners Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll sued Fox regarding the disbursement of the Alien profits. By the time the lawsuit was settled, in 1983, Fox had new executives that got interested in continuing Alien.[18] Giler pitched the project to one of the executives as a cross between Hill's Southern Comfort and The Magnificent Seven.[17]

While the producers and development executive Larry Wilson sought a writer for Alien II, Wilson came across James Cameron's screenplay for The Terminator, and passed the script to Giler feeling Cameron was apt for the job.[18] Giler then approached Cameron, who was completing pre-production of The Terminator. A fan of the original Alien, Cameron was interested in crafting a sequel and entered a self-imposed seclusion to brainstorm a concept for Alien II.[19] After four days Cameron produced an initial 45-page treatment, although the Fox management put the film on hiatus, as some disliked the pitch and they felt that Alien had not generated enough profit to warrant a sequel.[18][19] A scheduling conflict with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger caused filming of The Terminator to be delayed by nine months (as Schwarzenegger was filming Conan the Destroyer), allowing Cameron additional time to write a script for Aliens. While filming The Terminator, Cameron wrote 90 pages for Aliens, and although the script was not finished, Fox's new president Larry Gordon was impressed and told him that if The Terminator was a success, he would be able to direct Aliens.[17][18] Cameron even declared that he spent production of The Terminator thinking on which elements of that film could "make a good dry run" for the Alien sequel.[20]

Following the success of The Terminator, Cameron and producing partner Gale Anne Hurd were given approval to direct and produce the sequel to Alien, scheduled for a 1986 release. Cameron was enticed by the opportunity to create a new world and opted not to follow the same formula as Alien, but to create a worthy combat sequel focusing "more on terror, less on horror".[2] Sigourney Weaver, who played Ellen Ripley in Alien, had doubts about the project, but after meeting Cameron she expressed interest in revisiting her character. 20th Century Fox, however, refused to sign a contract with Weaver over a payment dispute and asked Cameron to write a story excluding Ellen Ripley.[17] He refused on the grounds that Fox had indicated that Weaver had signed on when he began writing the script. With Cameron's persistence, Fox signed the contract and Weaver obtained a salary of $1 million, a sum 30 times what she was paid for the first film[21] (and equivalent to $2,200,000 in present-day terms). Weaver nicknamed her role in the Alien sequel "Rambolina", referring to John Rambo of the Rambo series, and stated that she approached the role as akin to the titular role in Henry V or women warriors in Chinese classical literature.[21]

Cameron drew inspiration for the Aliens story from the Vietnam War, a situation in which a technologically superior force was mired in a hostile foreign environment: "Their training and technology are inappropriate for the specifics, and that can be seen as analogous to the inability of superior American firepower to conquer the unseen enemy in Vietnam: a lot of firepower and very little wisdom, and it didn't work."[19][22] The attitude of the space marines was influenced by the Vietnam War; they are portrayed as cocky and confident of their inevitable victory, but when they find themselves facing a less technologically advanced but more determined enemy, the outcome is not what they expect.[2] Cameron listed Robert A. Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers as a major influence that lead to the incorporation of various themes and phrases, such as the terms "the drop" and "bug hunt", as well as the cargo-loader exoskeleton.[23]


For more details on individual characters, see List of Alien characters.

Cameron opted to hire actors who had, or could imitate, American accents. After over 3,000 individuals in the United Kingdom were unsuccessfully auditioned, American actors were chosen instead, including three who had previously worked with Cameron on The Terminator: Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Michael Biehn. Actors who played Marines were asked to read Starship Troopers and undergo military training, which included running, lifting weights, learning salutes, marches, deployments, and maneuvers, for two weeks. Cameron wanted the Marines to train together so that they would form bonds that would show on-screen. Sigourney Weaver, William Hope, and Paul Reiser were absent from training because of other obligations, but Cameron felt that this suited their characters as "outsiders" in the film.[24]

The principal cast members of Aliens are:

  • Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, reprising her role from Alien (received a Saturn Award for best actress for her performance and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, her first Academy Award nomination)[25]
  • Michael Biehn as Corporal Dwayne Hicks, one of the Colonial Marines' squad leaders; he was hastily cast a week after filming had commenced, and thus was not present for the military training that the other actors playing marines went through[24] (James Remar was originally cast as Hicks but left the picture because of artistic differences with Cameron)[26]
  • Jenette Goldstein as Private Jenette Vasquez, one of the marines' "smart gun" operators (received a Saturn Award for best supporting actress for her performance)[25]
  • Carrie Henn as Rebecca "Newt" Jorden, a child who is the only survivor of the colony on LV-426. According to the casting director, Newt was the most difficult role to cast: Schoolchildren were auditioned, but many of them had acted in commercials and were accustomed to smiling after saying their lines. Henn was chosen out of 500 children for the role, although she had no previous acting experience.[2][24] She received a Saturn Award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor,[25] but chose not to pursue an acting career, and became a teacher.[27]
  • Lance Henriksen as Bishop, the android executive officer of the Sulaco
  • William Hope as Lieutenant William Gorman, the marines' commanding officer
  • Al Matthews as Sergeant Al Apone; Matthews attributed his casting to his military experience
  • Bill Paxton as Private William Hudson, the Marine team's technician (received a Saturn Award for best supporting actor)[25]
  • Paul Reiser as Carter J. Burke, a representative from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation
  • Mark Rolston as Private Mark Drake, Vasquez's smart gun partner
  • Cynthia Dale Scott as Corporal Cynthia Dietrich, the marines' corpsman
  • Carl Toop as the Aliens and Alien Queen
  • Tip Tipping as Private Tim Crowe
  • Trevor Steedman as Private Trevor Wierzbowski
  • Colette Hiller as Corporal Collette Ferro
  • Daniel Kash as Private Daniel Spunkmeyer
  • Ricco Ross as Private Ricco Frost
  • Paul Maxwell as Van Leuwen, the head of the review board that revokes Ripley's flight license.
  • Barbara Coles as Mary, one of the colonists who was captured by the xenomorphs.


The producing team behind Aliens, James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd

Aliens was filmed on a budget of $18 million at Pinewood Studios in England, with production lasting ten months.[19] Production was affected by a number of personnel and cast disruptions. Shooting was said to be problematic because of cultural clashes between Cameron and the British crew, with the crew having what actor Bill Paxton called a "really indentured" way of working. Cameron, who was bound to a low budget with a release date set that he could not delay, found it difficult to adjust to working practices such as the regular tea breaks that brought production to a temporary halt. The crew were admirers of Ridley Scott, and many believed Cameron to be too young and inexperienced to be directing a film such as Aliens, despite Cameron's attempts to show them his previous film, The Terminator, which had not yet been released in the UK.[28]

Some scenes of the Alien nest were shot at the decommissioned Acton Lane Power Station in Acton, London. The crew thought it was a perfect place to film because of its grilled walkways and numerous corridors. Problems were encountered with rust and asbestos, however, and the crew was required to spend money to clean the asbestos.[29] The Alien nest set was not dismantled after filming, and was reused in 1989 as the Axis Chemicals set for Batman. When the crew of Batman entered the set, they found most of it intact.[30]

At one point the crew members mocked Cameron's wife, producer Gale Anne Hurd, by asking her who the producer was and insisting that she was only getting producer's credit because she was married to the director. A walkout occurred when Cameron clashed with the original director of photography, Dick Bush, who refused to light a scene the way Cameron wanted. The cameraman had lit the Alien nest set brightly, while Cameron insisted on his original vision of a dark, foreboding nest, relying on the lights from the Marines' armor. After the cameraman was fired, Hurd managed to coax the crew members into coming back to work, and Adrian Biddle was hired as Bush's replacement.[28]


Main article: Aliens (soundtrack)

Music composer James Horner felt he was not given enough time to create a musical score. Horner arrived in England and expected the film to be "locked" so he could write the score in six weeks, which he thought was a sufficient amount of time. Horner, however, discovered that filming and editing were still taking place, and he was unable to view the film. He visited the sets and editing rooms for three weeks and found that editor Ray Lovejoy was barely keeping up with the workload for reasons of time restrictions. Horner believed Cameron was preoccupied with sound effects, citing that Cameron spent two days with the sound engineer creating the sounds for the pulse rifles. He also complained that he was given an outdated recording studio; the score was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, a 30-year-old studio that was barely able to patch in synthesizers or use the electronic equipment that Horner required.[31]

Six weeks from theatrical release, no dubbing had taken place and the score had not been written, as Horner was unable to view the completed film. The final cue for the scene in which Ripley battles the Alien queen was written overnight. Cameron completely reworked the scene, leaving Horner to rewrite the music. As Gale Hurd did not have much music production experience, she and Cameron denied Horner's request to push the film back four weeks so he could finish the score. Horner felt that, given more time, he could get the score to 100% of his satisfaction, rather than the 80% he estimated he had been able to achieve. The score was recorded in roughly four days.[31] Despite his troubles, Horner received an Academy Award nomination (his first) for Best Original Score.

Horner stated that tensions between himself and Cameron were so high during post-production that he assumed they would never work together again. Horner believed that Cameron's film schedules were too short and stressful. The two parted ways until 1997 when Cameron, impressed with Horner's score for Braveheart, asked him to compose the score for Titanic.[31]


The AH-1 Cobra used in Vietnam served as inspiration for the design of the dropship.

Early concept art was created by Syd Mead, who had worked on Blade Runner, 2010 and Tron. One of the original designs for the spaceship Sulaco was spherical, but it was redesigned as the ship would be out of frame due to the film's aspect ratio. Cameron showed Mead his own concept art and the final result was described as a "rocket gun that carries stuff". Concept artists were asked to incorporate subliminal acknowledgments to the Vietnam War, which included designing the dropship as a combination of a F-4 Phantom II and AH-1 Cobra.[29]

The APC (armored personnel carrier) was built upon the chassis of a Hunslet ATT 77 Aircraft Towing Tractor.

British Airways was re-equipping several of its aircraft tug tractors, and the crew managed to purchase a 635 hp Hunslet ATT 77[32] tug to use as the armored personnel carrier. It initially weighed 70 short tons (64,000 kg), and although the crew removed 35 short tons (32,000 kg) of lead ballast, the power station floor had to be reinforced to support the weight. The crew used many "junk" items in the set designs, such as Ripley's toilet, which came from a Boeing 707. Lockers, helicopter engines, and vending machines were used as set elements in the opening hypersleep scene. Production designer Peter Lamont was asked to reduce the cost of several scenes, including the not-yet-filmed space marine hypersleep sequence. Gale Hurd wanted to cut the scene altogether, but Lamont and Cameron felt it was important to the sequence of the film. To save on cost, only four hypersleep chambers were created and a mirror was used to create the illusion that there were twelve in the scene. Instead of using hydraulics, the chambers were opened and closed by wires operated by puppeteers.[29]

Weapons used by the space marines were based on real, fully functional weapons. British armorers used guns they found to be the most reliable when firing blanks and those which looked futuristic. The 'pulse rifles' were created from a Thompson SMG, with an attached forend of a Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun and a Remington 12 Gauge Model 870P receiver with barrel. The 'smart guns' carried by Vasquez and Drake were based on the German MG-42 machine gun and were maneuvered with Steadicam-like harnesses created using old motorcycle parts. The crew found flamethrowers the most difficult weapon to create and use, as they were the heaviest and most dangerous.[33]

Aside from the Alien Queen, designed by Cameron himself, the Aliens still took inspiration off H. R. Giger's designs for the original.[34] The only change was removing the translucent dome that gave the creature's head its sleek shape in Alien, exposing the ridged, spined cranium beneath. Cameron felt the dome was too fragile for the practical effects,[35] and also felt that the cranium design was more visually interesting without it.[2]

Ripley meets the Alien Queen. The life-sized Queen mock-up required 14 puppeteers to be operated.

Visual effects[edit]

Brothers Robert and Dennis Skotak were hired to supervise the visual effects, having previously worked with Cameron on several Roger Corman movies. Two stages were used to construct the colony on LV-426, using miniature models that were on average six feet tall and three feet wide.[36] Filming the miniatures was difficult because of the weather; the wind would blow over the props, although it proved helpful to give the effect of weather on the planet. Cameron used these miniatures and several effects to make scenes look larger than they really were, including rear projection, mirrors, beam splitters, camera splits and foreground miniatures. Due to budget limits, Cameron said he had to pay for the robotic arm used to cut into Ripley's shuttle in the opening scene.[36][37] Practical effects supervisor John Richardson declared his biggest challenge was creating the forklift Power Loader exoskeletons, which required only three months of work and had Cameron complaining about visual details during construction. The model could not stand on its own, requiring either wires dangling from the shoulders or a pole through the back attached to a crane. While Sigourney Weaver was inside the power loadermodel, a stunt man standing behind it would move the arms and legs.[34]

The Alien suits were made more flexible and durable than the ones used in Alien, to expand on the creatures' movements and allow them to crawl and jump. Dancers, gymnasts, and stunt men were hired to portray the Aliens. Various 8 feet (2.4 m) tall mannequins were also created to make Aliens that stood in inhuman poses, and could have their bodies exploded to simulate gunshot wounds. Stan Winston's team created fully articulated Facehuggers that could move its fingers through wires hidden on the scenery or the actors' clothing. The one who walked towards Ripley had a mechanism akin to a pull toy, with pulleys that moved the fingers, and its jump combined three models shot separatedly: the walking Facehugger, a stationary model dangling on a table leg, and another model being pulled towards the camera.[35]

Scenes involving the Alien queen were the most difficult to film, according to production staff. A life-sized mock-up was created by Stan Winston's company in the United States to see how it would operate. Once the testing was complete, the crew working on the queen flew to England and began work creating the final version. Standing at 14 feet tall, it was operated using a mixture of puppeteers, control rods, hydraulics, cables, and a crane above to support it. Two puppeteers were inside the suit operating its arms, and sixteen were required to move it. All sequences involving the full size queen were filmed in-camera with no post-production manipulation.[36] Additionally, a miniature alien queen was used for certain shots.[38]


Box office[edit]

Eagerly anticipated by fans following the success of Alien,[39] Aliens was released in North America on July 18, 1986, and August 29 in the United Kingdom. In North America, the film opened in 1,437 theaters with an average opening gross of $6,995 and a weekend gross of $10,052,042. It was number one at the North American box office for four consecutive weeks, grossing $85.1 million. Aliens was the seventh highest-grossing film of 1986 in North America,[40] and remains the largest income of the core Alien films in North America. The only Alien-related film to surpass it is 2012 prequel Prometheus.[41] The film's worldwide total gross was $180 million, making Aliens one of the highest grossing R-rated films at the time.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Test and pre-screenings were unable to take place for Aliens due to the film not being completed until its week of release.[42] Once it was released in cinemas, critical reaction was generally positive. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4 and called it "painfully and unremittingly intense" and a "superb example of filmmaking craft." He also stated "when I walked out of the theater, there were knots in my stomach from the film's roller-coaster ride of violence."[43] Walter Goodman of The New York Times said it was a "flaming, flashing, crashing, crackling blow-'em-up show that keeps you popping from your seat despite your better instincts and the basically conventional scare tactics."[44] Time magazine featured the film on the cover of its July 28, 1986, issue, calling it the "summer's scariest movie". Time reviewer Richard Schickel declared the film "a sequel that exceeds its predecessor in the reach of its appeal while giving Weaver new emotional dimensions to explore."[19] The selection of Aliens for a Time cover was attributed to the successful reception of the film,[45][46] as well as its novel example of a science fiction action heroine.[47] Echoing Time's assessment, Dave Kehr of The Chicago Reader called the film "one sequel that surpasses the original."[48] Gene Siskel gave the film a negative review, describing Aliens as "one extremely violent, protracted attack on the senses" and that "toward the end, the film resorts to placing a young girl in jeopardy in a pathetic attempt to pander to who knows what audience. Some people have praised the technical excellence of Aliens. Well, the Eiffel Tower is technically impressive, but I wouldn't want to watch it fall apart on people for two hours."[49]

Sigourney Weaver's Academy Award nomination for Best Actress was considered a milestone at the time when the Academy gave little recognition to the science fiction genre.

Reviews of the film have remained mostly positive over the years. In a 1997 interview, Weaver stated that Aliens "made the first Alien look like a cucumber sandwich."[50] In a 2000 review, film critic James Berardinelli said "When it comes to the logical marriage of action, adventure, and science fiction, few films are as effective or accomplished as Aliens."[51] Austin Chronicle contributor Marjorie Baumgarten labeled the film in 2002 as "a non-stop action fest."[52] Based on 48 reviews, the film holds a "Certified Fresh" rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average critic score of 8.8 out of 10.[53] It also holds a score of 87 out of 100 ("universal acclaim") on the other major review aggregator, Metacritic.[54]


Aliens was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Music, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration. It won two awards for Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects. Sigourney Weaver received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and although she did not win, it was considered a landmark nomination for an actress to be considered for a science fiction/horror film, a genre which was given little recognition by the Academy in 1986.[2][42][55]

Aliens received four BAFTA award nominations and won in the category of Visual Effects.[56] It won eight Saturn Awards in the categories of best science fiction film, actress (Sigourney Weaver), supporting actor (Bill Paxton), supporting actress (Jenette Goldstein), performance by a younger actor (Carrie Henn), direction (James Cameron), writing (James Cameron), and special effects (Stan Winston and the L.A. Effects Group).[25]

Time magazine named Aliens in their Best of '86 list calling it a "technically awesome blend of the horror, sci-fi and service-comedy genres."[57] In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named Aliens as the second-best action movie of all time, behind Die Hard.[58] In a Rotten Tomatoes analysis of the top 100 science fiction films, Aliens ranks tenth among the best-reviewed films of the genre.[59] In 2004, Aliens was ranked 35th on Bravo's "100 Scariest Movie Moments" for the scene in which Ripley and Newt are attacked by facehuggers; the original Alien was ranked second for the chestburster scene.[60] IGN ranked it third in its "Top 25 Action Films of All-Time", stating that "there won't be an Alien movie as scary – or exciting – as this one made ever again."[61]

Home media[edit]

Star Michael Biehn signing a copy of the film's DVD cover during an August 23, 2012 appearance at Midtown Comics in Manhattan

Aliens was first released on VHS in 1987, finishing as the tenth best-selling title of the year.[62] A "Special Edition" of Aliens was released in 1992 on laserdisc and VHS that restored seventeen minutes of deleted footage. These additions include a segment showing Newt's family first encountering the derelict spacecraft on LV-426, Ripley learning that her daughter died during the years she was in hypersleep, a scene in the operations building in which the Marines use sentry guns against the Aliens, and several extended dialogue scenes between Ripley and the Marines.[2] These scenes had been deleted from the original theatrical release as 20th Century Fox representatives thought the film was showing "too much nothing" and spent an unnecessary amount of time building suspense.[2]

Most of the Special Edition's footage was first seen when the film made its broadcast television debut on CBS in 1989, but two additional sequences concerning Burke's transmission to the colony about the derelict, and the Jorden family's subsequent discovery of the same, were added to the initial Laserdisc release. According to Cameron, the visual effects for the scene were incomplete, so he went back to the Skotak brothers and had them finish the sequences. All currently available versions of the Special Edition contain these scenes.

The special edition was released as part of The Alien Legacy 20th Anniversary Edition DVD box set in 1999 along with Alien, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection. Both the theatrical version and the special edition were released again in 2003 as part of the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set along with similar versions of Alien, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection. A separate two-disc "Special Collector's Edition" DVD of Aliens was released on January 6, 2004, containing the same material as the two Aliens discs in the Quadrilogy set.[63] Additional content in these versions included an audio commentary for the special edition featuring director James Cameron, producer Gale Hurd, special effects artists and crew members. The second disc included special features relating to pre-production, production, and post-production.[64] The film was first made available on Blu-Ray in the 2010 box set Alien Anthology,[65] before receiving a stand-alone release the following year.[66]

Action figures[edit]

In 2013, NECA released the first wave of highly detailed human and alien action figures from the respective film. NECA's Reel Toys worked directly with actors from the Alien franchise to release realistic figures based on select characters they portrayed in the films. NECA has released 7-inch figures based on characters such as Corporal Hicks, Private Hudson and Bishop. During winter 2014, it was announced there would be multiple figures of Ripley, Sigourney Weaver’s character from the Alien films. NECA worked directly with Weaver to develop these action figures, which are the first to feature her actual likeness.[67]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Aliens". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Aliens: Special Edition audio commentary
  3. ^ "Aliens". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  4. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p260
  5. ^ a b "Titanic Production Notes" (Press release). 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures. 1997. Retrieved September 8, 2014. 
  6. ^ Stephen Mulhall, "In Space, No-One Can Hear You Scream: Acknowledging the Human Voice in the Alien Universe," in Film as Philosophy: Essays on Cinema After Wittgenstein and Cavell, editors Read, Rupert and Jerry Goodenough; Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, p. 60
  7. ^ Alien and the Monstrous-Feminine – Creed, Barbara; from Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema, Editor Kuhn, Annette; Verso, 1990, Page 129
  8. ^ Ripley and Alien – Ortigo, Kile M. in "I’m a Stranger Here Myself": Forced Individuation in Alien Resurrection, Department of Psychology, Emory University, Georgia, United States. Accessed 2008-05-20.
  9. ^ Alien[s] (from the '' website. Accessed 2008-05-20.)
  10. ^ Syd Mead's "Sulaco" ship from Aliens just a big gun Boing Boing Accessed 2008-05-18.
  11. ^ Alien to The Matrix: Reading Science Fiction Film – Kaveney, Roz; I.B. Tauris, 2005, Page 159
  12. ^ Beautiful Monsters: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to the Alien and Predator Movies – McIntee, David; Telos Publishing, 2005
  13. ^ Buttazzo, G (May 2000). "Can a Machine Ever Become Self-Aware?". In R. Aurich, W. Jacobsen and G. Jatho. Artificial Humans, an historical retrospective of the Berlin International Film Festival 2000. Goethe Institute, Los Angeles. pp. 45–49. 
  14. ^ Nishime, LeiLani (Winter 2005). "The Mulatto Cyborg: Imagining a Multiracial Future". Cinema Journal (University of Texas Press) 44 (2): 34–49. doi:10.1353/cj.2005.0011. 
  15. ^ Kozlovic, Anton Karl (Spring 2004). "HAL-o-phobia: Computer Horror in the Pre-1990 Popular Cinema". Sincronía. 
  16. ^ Kozlovic, Anton Karl (September 2003). "Technophobic themes in pre-1990 computer films". Science as Culture 12 (3): 341–373. doi:10.1080/09505430309008. 
  17. ^ a b c d 57 Years Later - Continuing the story, Superior Firepower. Alien Anthology Blu-Ray.
  18. ^ a b c d Friendly, David T. (July 24, 1986). "'Aliens': A Battle-scarred Trek Into Orbit". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  19. ^ a b c d e Schickel, Richard (1986-07-28). "Help! They're Back!". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  20. ^ Mathews, Jack (July 11, 1986). "'Aliens' Into Scary Space Once More". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 7, 2014. 
  21. ^ a b Corliss, Richard (1986-07-28). "The Years of Living Splendidly". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  22. ^ Shay, Don. "Aliens." Cinefex. Vol 27. August 1986.
  23. ^ Cameron, James (2001). "Mothers With Guns". In Sammon, Paul M. Aliens: The Illustrated Screenplay. Orion. p. 10-20. ISBN 0752831933. 
  24. ^ a b c Preparing for Battle - Casting and characterization, Superior Firepower
  25. ^ a b c d e "Saturn Award Winners". Saturn Awards. Archived from the original on 7 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
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  27. ^ Steptoe, Sonja (2001-08-13). "Down to Earth". People. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  28. ^ a b This Time It's War - Pinewood Studios, 1985, Superior Firepower
  29. ^ a b c Building Better Worlds - From concept to construction, Superior Firepower
  30. ^ Kemble, Gary (2005-12-02). "Movie Minutiae: Aliens". ABC. Archived from the original on 2007-12-22. Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  31. ^ a b c The Final Countdown – Music, editing and sound, Superior Firepower
  32. ^
  33. ^ The Risk Always Lives - Weapons and action, Superior Firepower
  34. ^ a b "Beauty and the Bitch: Power Loader vs. Alien Queen" Featurette. Alien Quadrilogy DVD Set, Disc 4 - Aliens Supplemental. 2003.
  35. ^ a b "Bug Hunt: Creature Design" Featurette. Alien Quadrilogy DVD Set, Disc 4 - Aliens Supplemental. 2003.
  36. ^ a b c The Power of Real Tech - Visual effects, Superior Firepower
  37. ^ "36 Things We Learned From the ‘Aliens’ Commentary" Film School Rejects
  38. ^ Prop Archives website listing for miniature alien queen.
  39. ^ Cosford, Bill. Let 'Aliens' Invade Your Peace of Mind. The Miami Herald, July 18, 1986, pg. 1D.
  40. ^ "Aliens box office results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  41. ^ "Movie Franchises: Alien". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  42. ^ a b Aliens Unleashed - Reaction to the film, Superior Firepower
  43. ^ Ebert, Roger (1986-07-18). "Aliens (review)". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  44. ^ Goodman, Walter (1986-07-18). "Movie Review: Aliens (1986) - Film: Sigourney Weaver in 'Aliens'". The New York Times. 
  45. ^ Kjolseth, Pablo. "Aliens - Special Event Archives". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  46. ^ Stuever, Hank. (1997-11-28) Ripley knows best - Men in `Alien' films just don't get it. Austin American-Statesman, p. E1
  47. ^ Desjardins, David (2007-03-10). "Movie Review: 300 (Aliens)". Blogcritics magazine. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-16. [dead link]
  48. ^ Kehr, Dave. "Aliens (review)". The Chicago Reader. 
  49. ^ Siskel, Gene (August 8, 1986). "Flick Of Week: `Vagabond` One Of Finest Films In Years". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
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  52. ^ Baumgarten, Marjorie (2002-06-07). "Aliens (review)". Austin Chronicle. 
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  54. ^ "Aliens Reviews, Ratings, and More...". Metacritic. Retrieved 2010-11-02. 
  55. ^ Career of living dangerously: Sigourney Weaver ready for next risk. New York Daily News, Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. March 21, 2001.
  56. ^ "Film nominations 1986". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Archived from the original on 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
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  58. ^ Bernardin, Marc. "The 25 Greatest Action Films Ever!". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
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  60. ^ "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments". Bravo. Archived from the original on 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2010-05-29.  (via Internet Archive)
  61. ^ "The Top 25 Action Films of All-Time". IGN. Archived from the original on 4 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  62. ^ Klain, Jane, ed. (1990). 1989 International Television and Video Almanac. Quigley. p. 25. ISBN 0900610409. 
  63. ^ "Aliens (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)". Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  64. ^ Patrizio, Andy. "Aliens - Collector's Widescreen Edition". IGN. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  65. ^ Shaffer, R.L. (2010-10-27). "Alien Anthology Blu-Ray Review". IGN. Retrieved 2014-03-09. 
  66. ^ Shaffer, R.L. (2011-05-10). "ALIENS, NO STRINGS, DIGIBOOKS AND TOP GUN". IGN. Retrieved 2014-03-09. 
  67. ^ Action Figure News website article about Aliens figures.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]