- "This time it's war."
- ―Aliens tagline
Aliens is a 1986 science fiction action film written and directed by James Cameron and starring Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Carrie Henn, Bill Paxton, William Hope, Ricco Ross and Al Matthews. A sequel to the 1979 film Alien, Aliens follows Weaver's character Ellen Ripley as she returns to the planet where her crew encountered the hostile Alien creature, which has since been colonized, this time accompanied by a unit of Colonial Marines.
Aliens' action-adventure tone was in contrast to the horror motifs of the original Alien. Following the success of The Terminator (1984), which helped establish Cameron as a major action director, 20th Century Fox greenlit Aliens with a budget of approximately $18 million. It was filmed in England at Pinewood Studios, and at the decommissioned Acton Lane Power Station in London.
Aliens grossed $86 million at the domestic box office during its 1986 theatrical release and $131 million internationally. The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including a Best Actress nomination for Sigourney Weaver. It won in the categories of Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects. It won eight Saturn Awards, including Best Science Fiction Film, Best Actress for Weaver and Best Direction for Cameron. It was followed by two further sequels, Alien3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997), and an official video game sequel, Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013).
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Development and Writing
- 4 Concept and Design
- 5 Casting
- 6 Filming
- 7 Special Effects
- 8 Music
- 9 Deleted Scenes
- 10 Release and Reception
- 11 Special Edition
- 12 Merchandising
- 13 Interpretation and Analysis
- 14 Trivia
- 15 Goofs
- 16 Gallery
- 17 See Also
- 18 References
- 19 Navigation
Following the incident aboard the Nostromo, sole survivor Ellen Ripley is rescued from her drifting shuttle and revived. Upon waking, she is devastated to learn she has been adrift in space for 57 years. At an inquest before a panel of executives, her testimony regarding the Alien and its role in the destruction of the Nostromo is met with extreme skepticism, as no physical evidence of the creature has been found. Ripley loses her spaceflight license and learns that LV-426, the planetoid where her crew first encountered the alien eggs, is now home to a terraforming colony.
Some time later, Ripley is visited by Carter Burke, a representative from her former employer Weyland-Yutani, and Lieutenant Gorman of the Colonial Marines, who inform her that contact has been lost with the colony on LV-426. The company intends 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 a consultant. Traumatized by her previous encounter with the Alien, Ripley initially refuses to become invovled, but changes her mind when Burke assures her there will be no attempt to study the Xenomorphs and that any creatures they encounter will be destroyed. Aboard the warship Sulaco, Ripley is introduced to the Colonial Marine squad, including Sergeant Apone, Corporal Hicks, and Privates Vasquez and Hudson. She also meets the team's android, Bishop, toward whom she is openly hostile due to her experiences with the murderous Ash aboard the Nostromo.
Reaching LV-426, the heavily armed expedition descends to the surface via dropship, where they find the colony damaged and seemingly abandoned. Two living Xenomorph Facehuggers are found in containment tanks in the medical lab, but the only colonist encountered is a traumatized young girl nicknamed Newt. The Marines determine that the rest of the colonists are clustered in the nearby atmosphere processing station; investigating, they find a large nest filled with the bodies of the colonists, who have been cocooned to the walls and used as hosts for more Xenomorphs. The creatures attack, killing or capturing most of the unit. Ripley commandeers the group's APC and is able 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 site from orbit. However, a stowaway Xenomorph kills the dropship crew in flight, causing the craft to crash into the atmosphere processor, destroying the ship, the APC and most of the Marines' equipment.
Stranded, the survivors barricade themselves inside the colony complex. Ripley discovers that Burke unintentionally triggered the destruction of the settlement when he ordered the colonists to investigate the derelict spaceship where the Nostromo crew first encountered the Xenomorph eggs, acting on the testimony she gave after being rescued. Confronting him, Burke reveals that he hopes to return Xenomorph specimens to the company laboratories where he can profit from their research. Ripley threatens to expose him, but Bishop soon informs the group of a greater danger: the damaged atmosphere processor has become unstable and will soon detonate with the force of a thermonuclear weapon. He volunteers to use the colony's transmitter to pilot the Sulaco's remaining dropship to the surface by remote control so that the group can escape.
As they await the dropship's arrival, Ripley and Newt fall asleep in the medical lab, waking to find themselves locked in the room with the two Facehuggers, which have been released from their tanks. Ripley is able to alert the Marines, who rescue them and kill the creatures. Ripley accuses Burke of being responsible, suggesting he was attempting to have her and Newt impregnated so that he could smuggle the implanted Xenomorph embryos past Earth's quarantine. The Marines elect to execute Burke for his treachery, but before they can act the electricity is suddenly cut off and multiple Xenomorphs attack through the ceiling. Gorman, Hudson, Vasquez and Burke are killed or captured during the battle; Ripley and Hicks briefly manage to escape with Newt, but the little girl is taken when they encounter more Xenomorphs, while Hicks is seriously wounded.
Ripley gets Hicks to the second dropship, but refuses to leave Newt behind. She assembles a Pulse Rifle/flamethrower combination weapon before heading into the hive in the processing station to rescue Newt. She finds her before she can be impregnated, but the two then encounter the huge Xenomorph Queen in her egg chamber. Ripley destroys the eggs, enraging the Queen, who tears herself loose from her enormous ovipositor and gives chase through the failing processor station. Ripley and Newt rendezvous with Bishop and Hicks in 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 narrow escape is interrupted when the Xenomorph Queen, stowed away in the dropship's landing gear, impales Bishop and tears him in half. The Queen advances on Newt, but Ripley intervenes and battles her using an exosuit cargo-loader. The two of them tumble into a large airlock, which Ripley then opens, expelling the Queen into space. Ripley barely clambers to safety, while Bishop saves Newt from being sucked out after the Queen, earning Ripley's admiration. Afterwards, Ripley helps Hicks and Bishop into hypersleep before she and Newt bed down for the return journey to Earth.
- Ripley .... Sigourney Weaver
- Newt .... Carrie Henn
- Corporal Hicks .... Michael Biehn
- Burke .... Paul Reiser
- Bishop .... Lance Henriksen
- Private Hudson .... Bill Paxton
- Lieutenant Gorman .... William Hope
- Private Vazquez .... Jenette Goldstein
- Sergeant Apone .... Al Matthews
- Private Drake .... Mark Rolston
- Private Frost .... Ricco Ross
- Corporal Ferro .... Colette Hiller
- Private Spunkmeyer .... Daniel Kash
- Corporal Dietrich .... Cynthia Scott
- Private Crowe .... Tip Tipping
- Private Wierzbowski .... Trevor Steedman
- Van Leuwen .... Paul Maxwell
- ECA Rep .... Valerie Colgan
- Insurance Man .... Alan Polonsky
- Med Tech .... Alibe Parsons
- Doctor .... Blain Fairman
- Cocooned Woman .... Barbara Coles
- Alien Warrior ....
- Power Loader Operator .... John Lees
- Newt's Mother .... Holly De Jong
- Newt's Brother .... Christopher Henn
- Newt's Father .... Jay Benedict
- Lydecker .... Bill Armstrong
- Simpson .... Mac McDonald
Development and Writing
- See also: Alien II (original treatment)
Following the release of Alien, the idea of a sequel was almost immediately proposed, the project chiefly endorsed by producer David Giler and 20th Century Fox president Alan Ladd, Jr. Story ideas suggested included having the Alien survive its apparent demise at the end of the first film and returning to Earth with Ripley; a second expedition becoming stranded on the planetoid and having to deal with multiple Aliens; a prequel telling the story of the Space Jockey; and, most radically, having the planetoid itself explode, flinging the Alien Eggs to Earth where an entire flock of the creatures subsequently runs rampant. However, the sale of Fox to new owners saw Ladd leave, and the studio's new management had little interest in creating a sequel, thus the project stalled.
While completing pre-production of The Terminator in 1983, James Cameron met with producers Giler and Walter Hill, who were keen to work with the director after having read his Terminator script. Cameron pitched several ideas, none of which the producers were especially receptive to. As he was leaving, however, Giler and Hill mentioned that they were thinking of making a sequel to Alien. A huge fan of the original film, Cameron was very interested in crafting the sequel. "All they said was, 'Ripley and soldiers,'" Cameron explained. "They didn't give me anything specific, just this idea of her getting together with some military types and having them all go back to the planet." The director entered a self-imposed seclusion to brainstorm a script. Much of the story he developed was based on an earlier script he had written, titled Mother. According to Cameron, "[Mother] featured a character very much like Ripley, had its own type of Alien Queen, and ended with a final battle between the protagonist and Mother while the main character was encased in what I'd later call a 'power-loader'." Other key concepts recycled from the script for Aliens included a company (Triworld Development Corporation, generally referred to as 'the Company') that funds inhabitation and resource-mining of other worlds, the term 'xenomorph', and a strong maternal theme. The screenplay was also influenced by Cameron's simultaneous work on the script for Rambo: First Blood Part II, in particular insight into the Vietnam War he had gained whilst researching that project.
After four days Cameron produced an initial 60-page treatment, then called Alien II, although the Fox management again put the film on hold, as they felt that Alien had not generated enough profit to warrant a sequel. 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 ninety pages for Aliens, and although the script was not finished, Fox was impressed and told him that if The Terminator was a success, he would be able to direct the Alien sequel.
Following the success of The Terminator, Cameron and 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".
Among the more obvious Vietnam War influences in the film is the manner in which the Colonial Marines, a technologically superior force, are 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." In the story of Aliens the Marines are hired to protect the business interests of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, corresponding to the belief that corporate interests were the reason that American troops were sent to South Vietnam. The attitude of the Marines was influenced by the Vietnam War; they are portrayed as cocky and confident of their inevitable victory before the mission, but when things go wrong and they find themselves facing a less technologically advanced but more determined enemy, the outcome is not what they expect.
Concept and Design
Concept art for the film was created by Syd Mead and Ron Cobb, the latter of whom was one of the few personnel to return from Alien, while a significant amount of design work was also carried out by Cameron himself. Similarly to the previous movie, the different aspects of the film's world were divided between different members of the design team in order to ensure distinct visual styles — Mead primarily dealt with the military technology, Cobb focused on the design of the human colony, while Gateway Station was designed by production designer Peter Lamont. The concept artists were asked to incorporate subliminal acknowledgments to the Vietnam War, which included designing the dropship as a combination of the F-4 Phantom II fighter jet, AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunship and UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" transport helicopter.
British Airways was re-equipping several of its aircraft tug tractors at the time of filming, and the crew managed to purchase a tug to use as the Marines' armored personnel carrier. The crew used many "junk" items in the set designs, such as Ripley's toilet, which was again purchased from British Airways and came from a Boeing 747. 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 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 six hypersleep chambers were created and a mirror was then 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.
Weapons used by the Marines were based on real, fully functional weapons. British movie armorers Bapty & Co. used guns they found to be the most reliable when firing blanks, whilst also seeking those that offered impressive muzzle flare. The Pulse Rifles were created from World War II-era M1A1 Thompson sub-machine guns, with a cut-down 12 gauge Remington Model 870 shotgun housed in a Franchi SPAS-12 shell for the grenade launcher. The Smartguns carried by Vasquez and Drake were based on German MG 42 machine guns, also from WWII, dressed up with old motorcycle parts and mounted on steadicam harnesses attached the the actors' waists. The crew found flamethrowers the most difficult weapons to create and use, as they were the heaviest and most dangerous. Unusually for a film production, military-grade liquid-fuelled flamethrowers were used in some scenes, alongside more common (and far safer) gas-fuelled models.
Casting for the film was a long and arduous process, largely thanks to British Actors Equity rules that meant the production was legally bound to test every American actor registered to the union before they could look at bringing in talent from overseas. Complications also surrounded the return of Sigourney Weaver, who was initially hesitant to sign on for the sequel. After meeting with Cameron, she was impressed by his vision of a movie very much centered around Ripley, exploring themes of motherhood and the effect the trauma of the first film's events has had on the character. However, contract negations with Fox broke down over Weaver's fee. As a result, the studio asked Cameron to rewrite his script and remove Ripley from the story. Horrified at the idea, Cameron, who was due to travel to Miami to marry partner (and Aliens producer) Gale Anne Hurd, responded that if Weaver was not signed on to the production by the time he returned, he would quit as director. Upon his arrival back in Los Angeles, he learned that a deal had still not be done; conscious of his ultimatum, he contacted the agent of his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger (who happened to work for the same company that represented Weaver) and told him that he was dropping Ripley from the Alien sequel. The bluff worked, and later that same day Weaver had signed a contract to appear in Aliens for $1 million, 30 times what she had received for Alien. Weaver nicknamed her role in the Alien sequel "Rambolina", referring to John Rambo of the Rambo series (the second film of which was originally written by Cameron), and stated that she approached the role as akin to the titular role in Henry V or women warriors in Chinese classical literature.
All of the cast who were to play the Marines were trained by the SAS (Special Air Service, Britain's elite special forces regiment) for two weeks before filming started; British actor Tip Tipping, who plays Private Crowe, was in fact a member of the SAS before becoming an actor and stuntman. Weaver was absent from the training due to prior commitments, while Paul Reiser and William Hope did not participate because director James Cameron felt it would help the actors create a sense of detachment between them and the Marines – the characters these three actors played were all outsiders to the squad, Ripley being a civilian advisor there simply to offer guidance, Burke being a corporate agent there for financial reasons and Gorman being a newly-promoted Lieutenant with less experience than the rest of the troops. The cast was also instructed to read Robert A. Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers, which is about future soldiers engaging in an interplanetary war with a race of insectoid aliens, as part of their preparations. Many of the marine actors remained in character in between filming. "When they were interacting," explained Cameron, "they would treat each other as their characters treated each other."
One major change to casting occurred after principal photography had begun — the character of Corporal Hicks was originally played by actor James Remar. However, Remar was caught in possession of controlled substances and was consequently fired from the production after two weeks of filming. Needing to recast the part as quickly as possible, Cameron turned to Michael Biehn, whom he had cast as the male lead Kyle Reese in his previous feature film, The Terminator. According to Biehn, he received a phone call on a Friday evening from producer Hurd asking him if his passport was in order, and the following Monday he was on set ready to start shooting.
Aliens was filmed on a budget of $18 million at Pinewood Studios, with production lasting ten months. Production was affected by a number of personnel and cast disruptions. Shooting was said to be problematic due to 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 is known to be a hard driving director and at the time 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.
Scenes inside the Atmosphere Processing Plant and the Xenomorph Hive were shot at the decommissioned Acton Lane Power Station in Acton, London. The crew thought it was a perfect place to film due to its grilled walkways and numerous corridors. Problems were encountered with rust and asbestos, however, and the crew was forced to spend a significant sum of money mitigating the latter. The Alien nest set was not dismantled after filming and was simply abandoned; the power station was reused in 1989 as the Axis Chemicals set for Batman, and when the crew of Batman entered the set, they found most of the Hive intact.
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 an uncooperative cameraman who refused to light a scene the way Cameron wanted. The cameraman had lit the Xenomorph Hive 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.
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. Filming the miniatures was difficult due to 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.
The Xenomorph 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 creatures. The head of the Xenomorphs was changed from the sleek shape used in Alien, as the crew thought that the original design would be liable to cracking and damage as a result of the increased mobility being asked of the actors. Ridges were added along the head to increase its durability during movements.
Scenes involving the Xenomorph Queen were the most difficult to film, according to production staff. A life-sized mock-up of the Queen 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 creating the final version. Standing at fourteen feet, 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, while sixteen others were required to move its various appendages. All sequences involving the Queen were filmed in-camera with no post-production manipulation, although some utilized a miniature model, most notably during the fight with the Power Loader.
- See: Aliens (soundtrack)
Release and Reception
Eagerly anticipated by fans following the success of Alien, Aliens was released in America on July 18, 1986, and September 26 in the United Kingdom. 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 United States box office for four consecutive weeks, grossing $85.1 million, and remains the highest-grossing Alien film at the U.S. box office when not adjusting for inflation. The film took a further $45.9 million outside of North America, for a total gross of $131 million.
Test and pre-screenings were unable to take place for Aliens due to the film not being completed until its week of release. Once it was released in cinemas, critical and audience reaction was very 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." 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." 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." The selection of Aliens for a Time cover was attributed to the successful reception of the film, as well as its novel example of a science fiction action heroine. Echoing Time's assessment, Dave Kehr of The Chicago Reader called the film "one sequel that surpasses the original."
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." 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." Austin Chronicle contributor Marjorie Baumgarten labeled the film in 2002 as "a non-stop action fest." Based on 58 reviews, the film holds a "Certified Fresh" rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average critic score of 8.9 out of 10. It also holds a score of 87 out of 100 ("universal acclaim") on the other major review aggregator, Metacritic.
One of the most common criticisms of Aliens from fans of the first movie concerns the Xenomorphs' perceived lack of self-preservation instincts in the sequel, particularly in scenes added to the extended Special Edition where the creatures relentlessly charge the sentry guns set up by the Colonial Marines. Some argue that, with scenes such as this, director James Cameron made the Xenomorphs appear stupid, weak and easily killable.
Cameron himself responded to these claims, stating that the changed behavior was simply an intelligent response to the differing prey the Xenomorphs faced in the two films; the Nostromo crew had no military training and were armed only with homemade flamethrowers, whereas the Marines in Aliens are hardened combat veterans with superior equipment. Therefore, the stealth tactics employed by the Drone in Alien would not have been a viable solution in Aliens — even if the creatures had initially succeeded in capturing or eliminating a few humans, the remaining military personnel would no doubt have quickly adjusted their tactics so that stealth attacks were rendered ineffective. As Cameron himself put it, "One crazed man with a knife can be the most terrifying thing you can imagine, if you happen to be unarmed and locked in a house alone with him. If you're with ten armed police officers, it's a different story." As a result, the Xenomorphs in Aliens employed their strength in superior numbers to overcome their prey.
Moreover, detractors of Cameron's presentation of the Xenomorph often overlook the fact that the creatures still employ the kind of intelligent stealth attacks attributed to the Alien in the original film — most notably, the Drone that snatches Corporal Dietrich ambushes her at the opportune moment, while the creatures that make the final assault on the operations center do so not with a full-frontal swarm, but by creeping in undetected through the ceiling.
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.
Aliens received four BAFTA award nominations and won in the category of Visual Effects. It won eight Saturn Awards in the categories of Best science fiction film, Best actress (Sigourney Weaver), Best supporting actor (Bill Paxton), Best supporting actress (Jenette Goldstein), Best performance by a younger actor (Carrie Henn), Best direction (James Cameron), Best writing (James Cameron), and Best special effects (Stan Winston and the L.A. Effects Group).
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." In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named Aliens as the second-best action movie of all time, behind Die Hard. In a Rotten Tomatoes analysis of the top 100 science fiction films, Aliens ranks tenth among the best-reviewed films of the genre. In 2004, Aliens was ranked thirty-fifth 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. 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."
Home video releases
Aliens was released in both pan-and-scan and widescreen formats on home video, while an extended Special Edition cut, containing several scenes originally dropped from the theatrical version of the film, was released on the Aliens: Special Collector's Edition LaserDisc in 1991; the Special Edition was initially said to be a limited-time offer that would never be seen again once its sales run had been completed, but this later proved to be false. In the UK, a limited edition Alien Trilogy VHS box set, containing Alien, the extended Special Edition of Aliens and Alien3, was released in a Facehugger-shaped case in 1993.
On December 2, 2003, Aliens was released as part of the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set, which featured both the theatrical release and a new alternate cut of each of the four films in the series, along with a host of bonus features. The Special Edition of the film, created in the early 1990s by James Cameron, was included along with a new commentary track featuring many of the film's actors and production staff, and a feature-length documentary entitled Superior Firepower: Making Aliens.
In 2010 both the theatrical version and Special Edition of Aliens were released on Blu-ray Disc as part of the Alien Anthology set.
A novelization of Aliens was written by Alan Dean Foster, who had previously written the novel adaptation of Alien. Starlog Press produced two promotional magazines for the film — Aliens: The Official Movie Magazine and Aliens: The Official Movie Book — which included articles on the production and interviews with the cast and crew, along with a wealth of behind the scenes images. The former also included its own text adaptation of the film. James Horner's soundtrack was released to the market in both vinyl and CD versions.
A first-person strategy video game based on the film was developed for various gaming consoles and home computer systems by Software Studios, while a second game, a fast-paced side-scrolling shooter, was released exclusively in Japan.
Another notable piece of Aliens merchandise is the comic adaptation Aliens: Newt's Tale by Dark Horse Comics, although this was not produced until 1992, some six years after the release of the film itself.
Interpretation and Analysis
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 Xenomorph 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."
Feminist Susan Faludi writes of Ripley in Backlash that, "The tough-talking space engineer who saves an orphan child in Aliens is sympathetically portrayed, but her willfulness, too, is maternal; she is protecting the child — who calls her 'Mommy' — from female monsters."
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. 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.
While some claim that the shape of the Sulaco was based on a submarine, the design has most often been described as a 'gun in space' resembling the rifles used in the movie. 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). David McIntee noted the homage the scene pays to the opening tour through the Nostromo in Alien.
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. 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", as Ripley treats them with fear and suspicion and a form of "hi-tech racism and android apartheid" is present throughout the series. 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.
- Aliens is not in fact the first Alien sequel to be made — in 1980 a low-budget, unofficial sequel titled Alien 2: On Earth was produced in Italy, directed by Ciro Ippolito. However, as an unauthorized sequel it has never been considered a part of the official Alien franchise and is typically viewed as a cheap rip-off rather than an actual sequel.
- The film also had an unlicensed comic book adaptation (long before Aliens: Newt's Tale was released by Dark Horse Comics) that was published in Hungary under the title A Bolygó Neve: Halál ("The Planet's Name: Death", the Hungarian title for Aliens). As an unofficial product, it has not been recognized by Dark Horse (or 20th Century Studios) in any way.
- The comic series Aliens: Outbreak from Dark Horse was originally a direct sequel to the film, continuing the stories of Corporal Hicks and Newt beyond the events of the movie. However, following the release of Alien3, in which Hicks and Newt die, the comic and its various adaptations were edited so that they still fit with the continuity of the film series, with Hicks becoming Wilks and Newt becoming Billie.
- Michael Biehn (Hicks), Lance Henriksen (Bishop) and Bill Paxton (Hudson) all appeared in director James Cameron's previous film, The Terminator. Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez) would later appear in the film's sequel, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, as would Biehn (although his role was cut from the theatrical release of the movie).
- As they approach the colony in the APC, Apone tells the Marines, "10 seconds, people, look sharp!" The boots of the first Marine out the door hit the ground exactly 10 seconds later. Similarly, near the end of the film, an automated voice issues a fifteen-minute countdown to the detonation of the Atmosphere Processor. The reactor actually does explode fifteen minutes later.
- At the end of the film's closing credits, the sound of a Facehugger scurrying across the screen can be heard.
- There was talk of bringing H. R. Giger back for the second movie to do more design work, but James Cameron decided against it because there was only one major design to be done, that of the Alien Queen, and Cameron had already done some preliminary sketches.
- Sigourney Weaver was furious when she discovered a subplot involving her deceased daughter had been removed from the theatrical release of the film, as she considered it to be crucial to her character's development in the movie. The scenes dealing with this were later reinstated in the extended Special Edition.
- The film's tagline, "This time it's war", is credited to James Cameron.
- The ending of the film, aboard the Sulaco, bears clear similarities to the sting-in-the-tail ending of Alien, to the point where it could be considered an obvious homage. In both cases, Ripley has apparently escaped the Alien menace — and an impending explosion — and finds herself on the safety of a departing ship heading for home, only to suddenly be confronted by a Xenomorph that has stowed away with her (the Alien in Alien, the Queen in Aliens). In both cases, she kills the creature by flushing it into space.
- The scene where the Marines are ambushed inside the Hive was later almost exactly replicated for the scene where Peter Keyes and his men are attacked by the City Hunter in Predator 2. In both cases, the person overseeing the operation (Lieutenant Gorman in Aliens, Garber in Predator 2) watches events on video screens in their command center away from the action and rapidly loses the ability to control the situation once things go wrong. Both sequences also end with somebody outside of the present command structure (Ripley in Aliens, Harrigan in Predator 2) taking it upon themselves to try and help the personnel under attack. Furthermore, the way the sequences are shot is also very similar, with the actual combat edited so as to be intentionally confusing and unclear.
- The seminal first-person shooter video game DOOM in fact began life as a licensed Aliens game, before developers id Software moved in an original direction to ensure greater creative freedom.
- Aliens is the only film where the term "Xenomorph" is used (although it also appears in the extended Special Edition of Alien3).
- With a running time of 137 minutes (theatrical version), this installment is the longest film in the franchise.
- See: Aliens goofs
- Aliens (novel) — The novelization of the film by Alan Dean Foster.
- Aliens: Newt's Tale — A comic book adaptation by Dark Horse Comics that tells the film's story from the point of view of Newt.
- Aliens (soundtrack) — The soundtrack to the film by James Horner.
- Aliens: The Computer Game — The first of two video games based on the film.
- Aliens: Alien 2 — The second video game based on the film.
- Superior Firepower: Making Aliens — An extensive documentary about the making of the film.
- Richard Meyers. The Officially Authorized Magazine of the Movie Alien, p. 61 (1979), Warren Publishing.
- Gale Anne Hurd, Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Stan Winston, John Richardson. Superior Firepower: Making Aliens (2003), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Stan Winston. Aliens audio commentary (2003), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- "Strange Shapes - Writing Aliens". Retrieved on 2016-02-18.
- Schickel, Richard (2007-07-16). "Help! They're Back!". Time Magazine. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
- Robert Greenberger, Kim Howard Johnson. Aliens: The Official Movie Book, p. 19 (1986), Starlog Press.
- Ian Nathan, Garth Pearce, David Hewitt. EMPIRE Classics #4, p. 33 (2018), Bauer Consumer Media.
- "AvPGalaxy - Alien Encounters Convention Cast Panel Video". Retrieved on 2013-05-23.
- Robert Greenberger, Kim Howard Johnson. Aliens: The Official Movie Book, p. 21 (1986), Starlog Press.
- "Strange Shapes - The Other Hicks: James Remar". Retrieved on 2013-05-13.
- "Weyland-Yutani Archives - James Cameron's Responses To Aliens Critics". Retrieved on 2013-07-01.
- "LaserDisc Database - Aliens: Special Widescreen Collector's Edition". Retrieved on 2018-03-01.
- Dave Hughes, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. Aliens, Vol. 2 #4, p. 15 (1993), Dark Horse International.
- "Hasslein Blog - In Hungary, No One Can Hear You Scream". Retrieved on 2015-07-09.
- John Hurt, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, David Giler, Sigourney Weaver. The Alien Saga (2002), Prometheus Entertainment [DVD].
- Aliens: Special Collector's Edition — Collector's Section (1991), 20th Century Fox [LaserDisc].