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We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostly.
― Newt

Aliens is a 1986 science fiction action horror film directed by James Cameron and starring Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, William Hope, and Bill Paxton. 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, 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 a decommissioned power plant.


Warning: this text contains details about the plot/ending of the film.

Ellen Ripley is rescued and revived after drifting for fifty-seven years in hypersleep. At an interview before a

panel of executives, her testimony regarding the Xenomorph 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 space flight license and learns that LV-426, the planet where her crew first encountered, has now housed to a terraforming colony.

Sometime 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 Colonial Marines to investigate, and offers to restore Ripley's flight status and pick up her contract if she will accompany them as a consultant. Shocked by her previous encounter with the original Xenomorph, Ripley initially refuses to join, but accepts after being promised that the team will destroy any Xenomorphs found and not attempt to study or collect them. On board the warship Sulaco, she is introduced to the Colonial Marines, including Sergeant Apone, Corporal Hicks, Privates Vasquez and Hudson and the android Bishop, toward whom Ripley is initially hostile due to her experience with Ash on board the Nostromo.

The heavily armed expedition descends to the surface of LV-426 via dropship, where they find the colony damaged and seemingly abandoned. Two living Facehuggers are found in containment tanks in the medical lab, and the only colonist encountered is a traumatized young girl nicknamed "Newt". The Marines determine that the rest of the colonists are clustered in the nuclear-powered atmosphere processing station, where they find a large Xenomorph nest filled with the bodies of the colonists, who have been cocooned to the walls as hosts for more Xenomorphs. Soon, the Xenomorphs attack and kill most of the unit before capturing Apone and Dietrich while Ripley 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 from orbit. However, a stowaway Xenomorph kills the dropship crew in flight, causing the vessel to crash into the atmosphere processor. Subsequently, 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 Xenomorph eggs, acting on the testimony she gave after being rescued, and that he hopes to return Xenomorph 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 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.

Ripley and Newt fall asleep in the medical laboratory, but awaken 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 blames Burke for 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. She goes on to suggest he would likely have killed the rest of the Marines in hypersleep during the return trip to keep the ruse secret. The Marines choose to execute Burke, but before they can act the electricity is suddenly cut off and multiple Xenomorphs attack through the ceiling. Hudson, Burke, Gorman and Vasquez are killed while Hicks is wounded and Newt is captured by the Xenomorphs.

Ripley and an injured Hicks reach Bishop and the second dropship, but Ripley refuses to leave Newt behind. She heavily arms herself with a Pulse Rifle/flamethrower combination weapon she assembled, travels into the hive and rescues Newt in the processing station. Before leaving, the two suddenly encounter the Xenomorph Queen in her chamber sitting on top of her huge egg sac. Facing the Queen alone and surrounded by her fellow Xenomorphs, Ripley "reasoned" with her and threatened to destroy all of her eggs if she and Newt were attacked. Apparently comprehending this, the Queen signals her Xenomorph troops to ignore them when she sensed Ripley had a weapon. However, when one of the eggs starts to hatch, Ripley incinerates most of them, enraging the Queen, who breaks free from her egg sac. Pursued by the Queen, Ripley and Newt reunite with Bishop and Hicks in the dropship and escape moments before the colony is destroyed by the nuclear blast.

Back on the Sulaco, Ripley and Bishop's relief at their narrow escape is interrupted when the Queen suddenly steps out from her hiding place in the dropship's landing gear, impales Bishop with her tail and tears him in half. The Queen turns her attention on Newt, but Ripley confronts her and engages the Queen in combat in an exosuit cargo-loader. After a brief fight, the two fall into a large airlock where Ripley opens it, flushing the Queen into deep space to her death. Ripley closes the hatch and clambers to safety before she along with Newt, Hicks and the still-functioning Bishop enter hypersleep for the return to Earth.

List of deaths

No. Name Cause of Death Killer On Screen Notes
1. Colonists of Alcheron (157) Impregnation by Xenomorphs Chestbursters No Only Newt survived it
2. Frost Burned accidentally with a flamethrower Dietrich Yes
3. Tim Crowe Explosion caused by flamethrower fire kills him Dietrich Yes
4. Wierzbowski Killed by Xenomorphs Xenomorph No His death was heard
5. Drake Killed by Xenomorph Jenette Vazquez Yes Acid blood of Xenomorph killed by Vazquez killed Drake
6. Spunkmeyer Killed by a Xenomorph Xenomorph No
7. Ferro Killed by a Xenomorph Xenomorph Yes
8. Dietrich Impregnation by Xenomorphs Chestburster No
9. Al Apone Impregnation by Xenomorphs Chestburster No
10. William Hudson Killed by a Xenomorph Xenomorph Yes
11. Carter J. Burke Killed by a Xenomorph Xenomorph Yes
12. William Gorman Blows himself up with a grenade Himself Yes Forced by Xenomorphs
13. Jeanette Vazquez Helps Gorman blowing himself up Herself Yes Forced by Xenomorphs



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 Aliensurvive 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 Bell 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 Ramboseries (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.

Special Effects

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, giving rise to what is now known as the Warriorcaste.

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.


  • A "Special Edition" of Aliens was released in 1992 on laserdisc and VHS, that restored seventeen minutes of deleted footage.
  • It is revealed in the deleted footage, that Ripley had a daughter, who died because of old age, which explains her deep motherly behavior towards Newt and the intact colony before the catastrophe can also be seen. It was also Newt´s family, who found the ship under Burke´s orders, which the colony had to carry out. This will also ignite the following disaster on the colony.
  • Two important actors from The Terminator (1984), Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen, together with James Cameron, also had roles in this movie.
  • The coming sequel Alien 5 is based upon this movie, too.


External links

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