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ALIENS (1986) - Illustrated Reference

Updated on September 28, 2016
James Cameron
James Cameron

Aliens was directed by James Cameron and premiered on 18th July 1986. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein and Carrie Henn. Screenplay by James Cameron. Music by James Horner. 137 mins.

Ripley, the only survivor of the commercial towing ship Nostromo, is found adrift and in hypersleep by a salvage vessel. She finds that she had been asleep for 57 years and everyone she knew is dead. She is asked to accompany a team of marines on a mission back to the planet where the alien species was first discovered. All contact with a terraforming colony on LV-426 has been lost.

Born in Ontario, Canada in 1954, James Cameron was a big fan of Ridley Scott’s Alien, which was a major success for 20th Century Fox in 1979. After Cameron had a hit with the sci-fi action movie The Terminator (1984), he discussed the possibility of a sequel to Alien with producer David Giler who was enthusiastic about the idea.

In 1985 James Cameron sent Fox studios a 90 page script treatment for Alien II, they liked it. He, and his wife at the time producer Gale Ann Hurd, were given approval to make the sequel, scheduled for release in 1986.

Ripley: Just tell me one thing, Burke. You're going out there to destroy them, right? Not to study. Not to bring back. But to wipe them out.
Burke: That's the plan. You have my word on it.

Sigourney Weaver (1949-) / Ellen Ripley.

Born in New York City, Sigourney Weaver received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Aliens, she also received a Best Actress nomination for Gorillas in the Mist (1988) and Best Supporting Actress nomination for Working Girl (1988).

Weaver's films include – Alien (1979), Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989), Alien 3 (1992), Alien Resurrection (1997), Galaxy Quest (1999) and Avatar (2009).

Michael Biehn (1956-) / Corporal Dwayne Hicks.

Born in Anniston, Alabama, Michael Biehn also starred in James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984) and The Abyss (1989) other films include – Navy Seals (1990), Tombstone (1993) and The Rock (1996).

Ripley: These people are here to protect you. They're soldiers.
Newt: It won't make any difference.

Carrie Henn (1976-) / Rebecca ‘Newt’ Jorden, survivor of the colony on LV-426.

Born in Panama City, Florida, Carrie Henn won a Saturn Award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Aliens.

Burke: Look, this is an emotional moment for all of us, okay? I know that. But, let's not make snap judgments, please. This is clearly an important species we're dealing with and I don't think that you or I, or anybody, has the right to arbitrarily exterminate them.
Ripley: Wrong!
Vasquez: Yeah. Watch us.

Paul Reiser (1957-) / Carter Burke, representative of Weyland-Yutani.

Born in New York City, Paul Reiser also appeared in Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and Crazy People (1990), starred in popular TV sitcom Mad About You (1992-1999).

Bishop: The A2s always were a bit twitchy. That could never happen now with our behavioral inhibitors. It is impossible for me to harm or by omission of action, allow to be harmed, a human being.

Lance Henricksen (1940-) / Bishop, an android and executive officer of the Sulaco.

Born in New York City, Lance Henricksen has appeared in over 100 films including – Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Damien Omen II (1978), The Terminator (1984), Near Dark (1987), Alien 3 (1992), Hard Target (1993), The Quick and the Dead (1995) and Alien vs Predator (2004). Starred in TV series Millennium (1996-1999).

Ripley: They cut the power.
Hudson: What do you mean, "They cut the power"? How could they cut the power, man? They're animals!

Bill Paxton (1955-) / Private Hudson

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Bill Paxton’s movies include – Streets of Fire (1984), Weird Science (1985), Near Dark (1987), Predator 2 (1990), Tombstone (1993), True Lies (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996), Titanic (1997), Mighty Joe Young (1998) and Frailty (2001).

Vasquez: Look, man. I only need to know one thing: where they are.
Drake: Go, Vasquez. Kick a$$.
Vasquez: Anytime, anywhere, man!
Hudson: Right, right. Somebody said "alien" she thought they said "illegal alien" and signed up!
Vasquez: F@ck you, man!
Hudson: Anytime, anywhere.

Jenette Goldstein (1960-) / Private Vasquez

Born in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Jenette Goldstein’s movies include – Near Dark (1987), Terminator 2 (1991), Star Trek Generations (1994) and Titanic (1997).

Mark Rolston (1956-) / Private Drake

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mark Rolston’s films include Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), Robocop 2 (1990), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Eraser (1996), Rush Hour (1998) and The Departed (2006).

William Hope (1955-) / Lieutenant Gorman, Marines commanding officer.

Born in Quebec, Canada, William Hope’s films include – Hellraiser II (1988), xXx (2002), Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Captain America – The First Avenger (2011).

Apone: Alright sweethearts, you heard the man and you know the drill. A$$holes and elbows! Hudson, come here, COME HERE!

Al Matthews (1942-) / Sergeant Apone, Marines senior officer.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Al Matthews films include – Ragtime (1981), Superman III (1983), The Fifth Element (1997) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

Rounding out the cast is Ricco Ross as Private Frost, Cynthia Scott as Corporal Dietrich, Daniel Kash as Private Spunkmeyer, Collette Hiller as Corporal Ferro, Tip Tipping as Private Crowe, Trevor Steedman as Private Wierzbowski and Paul Maxwell as Van Leuwen.

Newt: My mommy always said there were no monsters - no real ones - but there are.
Ripley: Yes, there are.

In early drafts of the script then titled Alien II, the android Bishop refused to land and save Ripley, Newt and Hicks at the climax because they might be impregnated with alien embryos and the risk was too great. Bishop radios Ripley and tells her “You were right about me all along” as he flies off without them. Ripley finds a shuttle and they escape the planet.

While negotiations were going on for Sigourney Weaver’s salary the studio asked James Cameron to have a script prepared which didn’t feature Ripley in case they couldn’t meet her pay demands. Cameron refused saying Ripley was central to the Alien series.

James Remar (The Warriors, 48hrs, The Cotton Club) was originally cast as Corporal Hicks, but he was replaced by Michael Biehn shortly after filming due to ‘artistic differences’ with James Cameron.

Aliens was filmed in England at Pinewood Studios, production lasted 10 months with filming starting in September 1985 and ending in February 1986.

The actors playing Marines were trained by the SAS (Special Air Service) a couple of weeks before filming started. James Cameron asked them to read Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers during training.

The Alien nest set was reused as the setting for the Axis Chemicals plant in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) which was also filmed at Pinewood Studios.

Due to budget constraints only 6 hypersleep chambers were created, mirrors were cleverly placed on set to make it look like 12 hypersleep chambers were being used.

Written in the script but not filmed, Bishop encounters an alien while crawling inside a tunnel near the finish.

A scene was shot where Ripley, looking for Newt, discovers Carter Burke cocooned and begging for help, she hands him a grenade and walks away. The scene didn’t make it to the Special Edition.

Conceptual designer Syd Mead designed the U.S.S. Sulaco, named after a fictional town in Joseph Conrad’s novel Nostromo, which was the name of the commercial towing ship in Alien (1979).

Ripley: Get away from her, you bitch!

In those pre-CGI days the Alien Queen was a huge hydraulic puppet operated by 14 men and designed by the late Stan Winston and James Cameron. A small puppet was used briefly at the climax when the Queen grapples with a miniature model of Ripley and her power-loader.

The Special Edition of Aliens was 17 minutes longer bringing the total running time to 154 minutes. Restored footage includes Newt’s family discovering the derelict spacecraft, Ripley finding out that her daughter had died of old age while she was in hypersleep and scenes of automatic sentry guns being used against the aliens. We also find out Ripley’s first name in the Special Edition.

The photo of Ripley’s daughter as an old woman, seen in the Special Edition, is that of Sigourney Weaver’s real mother Elizabeth Inglis, an English actress who had appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935).

James Horner (1953-) composed the score for Aliens, one of his best. He claimed that he was given little time to finish it and had to use a few themes from his other scores (something Horner was notorious for anyway) but it paid off in the end when Horner received his first Oscar nomination. His music for James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) won him an Oscar for Best Music.

Aliens was nominated for 7 Academy Awards – Nominated for Best Actress (Sigourney Weaver), Best Music Score (James Horner), Best Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Sound and Winning for Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects.

Aliens was also nominated for 11 Saturn Awards (The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films) and won 8 they are – Best Science Fiction Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Sigourney Weaver), Best Supporting Actor (Bill Paxton), Best Supporting Actress (Jenette Goldstein), Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Carrie Henn), Best Writing, Best Special Effects.

Aliens cost $18.5m to make and was a commercial success grossing $85m in the US and $131m worldwide in 1986. The first Alien movie, released in 1979, had cost $11m grossed $81m in the US and $105m worldwide.

Hudson: That's it man, game over man, game over! What the f@ck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?
Burke: Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that?

It would be 6 years before another Alien movie was released and it was a real downer too, Alien 3 (1992) was directed by David Fincher and again starred Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, she was killed off at the end of that film one of many aspects of the film that infuriated fans (Hicks, Bishop and Newt were killed off too).

But Alien 3 made money and the series continued with Alien Resurrection (1997) reviving Ripley thanks to the wonders of cloning. At least they gave Ellen Ripley a happier send off in this one.

Two more Alien films followed, this time they were set on present day Earth and pitted the lethal xenomorphs against another successful franchise the Predator in Alien vs Predator (2004) and Aliens vs Predator – Requiem (2007).

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is set in the Alien universe and was released in June 2012.

The Critics Wrote –

"Aliens proves a very worthy followup to Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi shocker, Alien. James Cameron's vault into the big time after scoring with the exploitation actioner The Terminator makes up for lack of surprise with sheer volume of thrills and chills - emphasis is decidedly on the plural aspect of the title." (Variety)

"For sheer intensity, the final forty-five minutes of Aliens is not likely to be matched by any movie soon. But the film is not merely a triumph of bravura action and masterfully slimy monsters. At its core is the ferociously urgent performance of Sigourney Weaver, who hurls herself into her warrior role with muscular grace and a sense of conviction that matches Cameron's step for step." (David Ansen, Newsweek)

“The special effects specialists are featured prominently in the credits that precede ''Aliens,'' and so they should be. Under the direction of James ''The Terminator'' Cameron, they have put together 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.” (New York Times)

“Suffers from a prolonged build-up which mistakes dragging things out for suspense, but after an initial encounter with the title character, Cameron switches to high gear and reverts back to the relentless action and suspense approach that helped make The Terminator such a massive hit." (Hollywood Reporter)

"The movie is so intense that it creates a problem for me as a reviewer: Do I praise its craftsmanship, or do I tell you it left me feeling wrung out and unhappy? It has been a week since I saw it, so the emotions have faded a little, leaving with me an appreciation of the movie's technical qualities. But when I walked out of the theater, there were knots in my stomach from the film's roller-coaster ride of violence. This is not the kind of movie where it means anything to say you "enjoyed" it." (Roger Ebert)


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    • Anthony Binks profile image

      Anthony Binks 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Can't thank you enough for that Steve, I can't wait to get watching that scene.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

      That scene of Burke cocooned can be seen on youtube, Cameron probably felt it slowed the pacing of the film at that point and removed it.

      I love both Alien and Aliens equally, it's certainly one of the best movie sequels ever made.

      Thanks for the comment Anthony.

    • Anthony Binks profile image

      Anthony Binks 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Fantastic, I would love to see the scene were Burke is cocooned.

      To me this is by far and above the best in the series, all the actors were perfect for their role and did an amazing job.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Hi Rob, I like them both pretty equally. I thought Cameron did a fantastic job and Aliens remains my favourite of his films.

      I also like The Abyss a lot and may do a hub on that one day. Still waiting for a Blu-ray on that, even the DVD was substandard and non-anamorphic.

      Thanks for posting!

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hi Steve; It seems like yesterday I was seeing this in the theater when it came out. My buddies liked this one better than the first "Alien" but I preferred the original.

      I met Michael Biehn once. I wrote about it in my "celebrity encounters" hub. He was a nice enough guy.

      Great selection of pictures. Nicely done hub,


    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      I love in jokes. Yes, I did notice.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Flora. did you notice how I managed to mention Hitchcock in a hub about Aliens? It wasn't easy but I managed it. :)

      I'll make it my goal to mention Hitchcock in each movie hub, if I can get away with it. Sort of like a signature (or injoke).

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Rain- I feel the same way about classic era films, but hey, everyone has their preference. I am indeed a person who has not seen any of Lord of The Rings films either as Steve says. Interesting though. I have seen Badlands several times as I am a fan of martin Sheen. It has a huge spider in it, but it is only one scene so I am able to spend the entire time looking at the ceiling. But I have not seen Duel once since the first time I saw it.

      It is quite true that I do not care for this type of movie. It has nothing to do with the quality of the film. It's the genre. There are some fabulous 5 stars films I have not seen. Meanwhile there are some really bad one star suspense films - B movies - that I have seen several times.

      Go figure.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks for commenting Rain Defence, our resident acrostics genius Flora isn't too keen on modern sci-fi or horror, not even sure she saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy [gasps] I'm pretty sure she hasn't there's a very large spider in one of them. :)

    • Rain Defence profile image

      Rain Defence 6 years ago from UK

      I'm amazed there is anyone in this world that hasn't seen this, you need to watch 1&2 immediately. I wouldn't bother with the sequels though.

      Nice write up. I have seen it too many times to be scared by it, but I was cacking it the first time!

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Cyndi10, Cogerson, Flora, thanks for the comments, they are very much appreciated.

      Cyndi, thank you I'm glad you liked the hub. Cameron did an excellent job and he wasn't just rehashing the same plot like they usually do with sequels.

      Bruce, thanks for the kudos amigo. I saw the documentary the British crew hated Cameron, he was a bit like Captain Bligh and even worse on the set of The Abyss, grown men were crying like babies during the filming of that. Ed Harris is just relieved he survived that film.

      When I published this hub a warning came up saying that all adverts would be disabled, and than I realised why, I left in some swear words in the movie quotes. I bleeped them out and the adverts came back. Lesson learned.

      It's worth using the preview function when working on a hub, a very valuable tool. I noticed there were no ad markers when I was previewing and thought it was just a glitch. Swearing is a no-no.

      Flora, thanks for popping in. Weaver is a great actress and back then was dubbed the female Rambo by the British press. In real life she hated guns and one of the conditions for appearing in the third Alien film is that there would be no guns at all in the film and they agreed, though there was one weapon fired at the very end.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Haven't seen this film (not likely when I haven't seen the first), but I do enjoy Sigorney weaver. Cheers.

    • Cogerson profile image

      UltimateMovieRankings 6 years ago from Virginia

      Another winning hub. I do not like horror movies at all, but my brother loved the first one, Alien and talked me into seeing Aliens. I was blown away by the story and the film. It proved to me that Cameron was a force to reckon with and not a one hit wonder.

      Micheal Biehn is a favorite actor of mine...I was surprised he did not become a bigger star but he has a nice resume.

      The documentary on the making of Aliens is worth checking out...Cameron did not get along with British crew at all....mutiny was in the air.

      Lots of great photos and information in your hub. I did not realize Burton reused the sets. I am still pissed that they killed Newt and Hicks in the third Alien movie. Voted up and awesome....job well done. Your hub has me motivated to check out my brand new copy of Aliens Blu-Ray that I got for Christmas.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for the info on one of the few films I can watch many times. I don't know why I didn't realize it was nominated in so many Oscar categories. I love both Aliens and Alien. Cameron did an awesome job with the sequel. Kudos to you for the work you put into bringing us this information.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks rabbit75, appreciate the comment and votes. Aliens is in that select group, Godfather II, Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek II where the sequel isn't inferior to the original.

    • rabbit75 profile image

      rabbit75 6 years ago

      One of the few sequels that were actually good. I love this movie and it stacks up to the original. It may even be better.

      Hudson's famous line, "Game over, man! Game over!" hahaha...I was bummed that right when he finally found his moxie...he got nabbed by an alien that came under the floor. I was really rooting for him to make it out alive.

      Great hub and full of interesting facts...voted up and labeled awesome! Great work!

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks tiagoz, it is appreciated.

    • tiagoz profile image

      tiagoz 6 years ago



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