Retro Review: Aliens (1986)

The text below the break is part of a DVD review originally published on June 29th, 2001.

Here are some updated thoughts:  This movie is just as good today as it was 30 years ago.  Unfortunately the franchise has been downhill ever since, and hit rock bottom with the Alien vs. Predator movies.  Utter shit.  I just pretend they don’t exist.  But there’s hope on the Alien horizon.  Ridley Scott is returning to this universe with the upcoming Alien: Covenant (Aug 2017) which has a small tie-in back to Prometheus.  Some people are skeptical given the polarizing Prometheus.  Next up in the queue, and currently on hiatus, will be Neill Blomkamp‘s Alien 5.

Could this be a revitalization of the franchise?  Perhaps.  But no matter how good these upcoming movies will be, in the eyes of fans they have to meet or exceed the bars set by Alien and Aliens.  High bars indeed.

What the hell? The whole gang here at [original website no longer in existence, redacted] should be taken out back and severely beaten for taking so long to review one of the coolest sci-fi movies ever made!  So, free copies of the DVD for everyone!!  Just kidding.

Aliens is shot in James Cameron‘s favorite aspect ratio of choice, Academy Flat.  This translates, for those not in the know, to an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.  The original Alien was filmed in a scope aspect ratio of 2.35:1.  I prefer the wider aspect of the original, but this movie is so damn cool I’m not going to hold it against Cameron . . . well, maybe Titanic.

Do I even need to write anything about the film itself?  I mean c’mon!  If you consider yourself a fan of movies or even a fan of the genre and you don’t like (or haven’t seen) this movie, you need to come out back and get a beating the same time we do!

This is one of the best sequels ever made, period.  James Cameron did a masterful job creating a completely different experience from the first installment.  Where Alien is a slow, tense, and suspenseful, Aliens is a pulse pounding thrill ride that is unique from the original.  They are completely different movies, and I love both of them.  After these two, the series falls off in the quality department dramatically and quickly.

The story brings back the character of Ripley from the original.  She’s found by a salvage crew in the lifeboat from Alien floating in deep space.  After she discovers she has been asleep for 57 years she is asked by the corporation to accompany a group of marines to LV-426 where communications has been lost with a group of terraformers.  LV-426?  Yes, the same hellhole where she first ran across the xenomorph.  To battle her inner demons, she reluctantly agrees to go with the gung-ho marines who think they are impervious bad-asses . . . they are shamefully proven wrong, and once again Ripley survives until another day.

Aliens PosterAfter floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley‘s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Ripley is enticed to return to LV-426 to investigate a colony that has gone silent.  Upon arriving at LV-426, Ripley and the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn).  But even these battle-hardened marines with all the latest weaponry are no match for the hundreds of aliens that have invaded the colony.  Ripley must once again rely on her own instincts to survive.

Aliens (1986)

Director:  James Cameron
Starring:  Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser
Genre:  Science Fiction
Media:  Film, 137 minutes (SE, 154 minutes)
Rating: R
Budget: $18.5 million
Box Office: $131 million, worldwide
Year: July 18, 1986
5 out of 5 stars

The performances are very good for this type of movie: pure action and bad-assery.  Michael Beihn plays his regular roll as the reluctant leader, Sigourney Weaver returns as the strong-willed Ripley, and Bill Paxton plays Private Hudson, probably the coolest and most well known minor character in sci-fi history.

Who can forget Hudson’s classic lines:
“Game over man, game over!”
“We’re in some real pretty shit now!”

Private Hudson: “Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?”
Private Vasquez: “No, have you?”

Classic stuff!

But at its heart, beneath all the action and acid bleeding, Aliens is a film about motherhood and the strength of the maternal bond.  Early in the film (Special Edition version only) [lightbox full=”” title=””]Ripley is shown sitting in a simulated park[/lightbox].  Burke shows up and we find out that Ripley has a 66 year old daughter who was 10ish at the time of the events in Alien.  Ripley is distraught that she’d promised she’d be home for Amanda’s 11th birthday.   It’s really unfortunate that they cut this scene from the theatrical version as it shows why Ripley made such a maternal connection to Newt later in the film.  After all, I don’t think any of us assumed Ripley has a maternal bone in her body while watching Alien.  Then they we get to start Alien 3 looking at the corpse of Newt.  (sigh)  It’s incomprehensible how many fundamentally bad creative decisions must be made in Hollywood ever day.

Later we’re introduced to the xenomorph queen, and the maternal showdown between it and Ripley.  The queen protects her brood, and Ripley protects her proxy child Newt.  This eventually leads us to the battle of badass mothers at the end.

The ending is spectacular. We’re introduced to an alien queen who’s pretty irked that Ripley fried all her eggs and destroyed her nest.  The fight between Ripley in the cargo walker and the alien queen is sci-fi filming at its best!  Is there anything bad I can say about this movie?  No . . . not really.  Is there anything I can say about the series after Aliens?  You bet!  But I’ll save that for another day.

Aliens is an instant classic, rife with memorable scenes, heat pounding action, and quotable one liners.  It transformed the stalking and sinister xenomorph into a Colonial Marine slaying monster.  If you don’t own it, go hide because you will be ridiculed by your fellow science fiction aficionados!

Words © 2001-2022, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
Images/videos cited © to their respective owner(s).


    1. No, not The Dissolve, and I’d not heard of that site until now. This review is 15 years old. The original site was semi-popular in the late 90s and is so long dead in internet years….it’s a fossil buried until layers of digital limestone. 🙂

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