Aliens   1986

Director: James Cameron

Main Characters/Players

Ripley: Sigourney Weaver
Lieutenant Gorman
Sergeant Apone
Corporal Hicks
Private Hudson
Private Vasquez
Carter Burke: Paul Reiser (Mad About You)

Plot Summary:

(The first paragraph summarizes the plot of the 1979 film Alien.)

Flight Officer Ripley and her crew were engaged in research on a planet known as LV426 when they encountered an alien spaceship. One of her crew members was infected ("impregnated") by the aliens, who use other species to host their eggs. When the alien eggs hatch, they burst out of the host, killing it in an especially gruesome fashion. Furthermore, the adult form of these aliens are extremely dangerous. The single alien that got on board Ripley's spaceship managed to kill all the crew but her. After she blew the creature out of the airlock, she detonated engines of the starship, got into a small escape pod, and put herself in suspended animation to complete the trip home.

For 57 years she drifted through space. Only by fortunate accident was she found before she drifted out of inhabited space altogether. In the opening scenes we learn that she has been rescued, and that she is living in Gateway Station, but that she still has nightmares about the aliens.

After she has been rescued, Ripley is called to a board meeting of the Company for which she worked. They want to hear why she didn't save the company ship on her first mission. Her story about strange and horrible aliens is laughed at: she is told that LV426 is now inhabited by colonists and there has never been any trouble. Since the colonists have been doing fine, her story is considered to be crazy.

After the board meeting, Ripley cannot get a job doing anything but loading crates in the cargo docks. Then Carter Burke, a Company representative calls on her: they have lost contact with the colonists on LV426, and they want her help. At first she refuses, but plagued by nightmares of the first mission, at last she agrees to go help. She requires that Burke promise she will not be in danger and that they will destroy, not study, the aliens. The Marines (Colonial Marine Corps) are sent with them to rescue the colonists.

On board the Sulaco, the ship which will take them to LV426, Ripley is introduced to the Marines with whom she is being sent. Among them is a robot named Bishop. Ripley reacts angrily: on her last mission the "artificial person" malfunctioned and caused a lot of trouble.

Ripley is asked to brief the Marines on what she knows about the aliens. She tells them a little bit about her previous encounter, and the soldiers are also told by Lieutenant Gorman that "a zenomorph" is involved; in other words, this mission will be, in Private Hudson's words, "a bug hunt." Although Ripley cannot help the Marines prepare their weapons, she does run a loader for them, having learned this skill at Gateway Station. Reaching LV426, the Marines board their transport, and the transport is loaded on the drop-ship.

When the drop-ship lands on the planet, none of the colonists are visible. (During the shuttle descent the troops learn that this is only the second actual combat mission Lieutenant Gorman has led.) The Marines are sent by Gorman to investigate a nearby building. They decide this area must have been a "last stand" for the colonists, since the doors have been welded shut and heavy furniture piled in the stairways. Nothing is found until they get to the Med Labs (Medical Laboratories). There they see several immature aliens encased in fluid, two of whom are still alive. Then, alerted by their motion-trackers, they find Newt, a little girl who has been hiding from the aliens ever since they attacked the colony. The Marines continue to search the buildings for the missing colonists while Newt and Ripley get acquainted.

Then the colonists--or at least, their Personal Data Transmitters (PDT's)--are found in the processing station, under the cooling towers. The Marines are sent in to see what has happened to the colonists, but are ordered not to use their pulse rifles, because they are searching underneath the cooling towers and may rupture the cooling system which protects the whole colony. (A thermo-nuclear explosion is possible if they rupture the cooling system.) The Marines are nearly destroyed by the aliens, who have dragged all the colonists's bodies there and are using them as hosts for their eggs. During the fight, Gorman's inexperience shows: the minute his troops start dying, he panics. Ripley, however, demonstrates greater presence of mind: when it is clear that the battle is hopeless, she takes the transport in to rescue the soldiers.

Over the objections of Burke, the survivors plan to take off in the drop-ship and "nuke" the site from orbit. But before this plan can be carried out, the aliens attack and destroy the drop-ship. Now the surviving Marines must hide, just as the colonists did before. With no way to communicate with the Sulaco above, they must wait until seventeen days have passed before a rescue squad will be sent. They retreat back to the first building that they explored, where Newt was found. They decide to blockade and defend just a few rooms, including the Med Labs. Ripley puts Newt to bed in the Med Labs, and tries to comfort her, but Newt has acquired both wisdom and stoicism beyond her years, and cannot be easily comforted.

While she sleeps, the adults are discussing what to do. It seems that Burke has been planning to take the two alien specimens left in the lab back to earth for study. A furious Ripley confronts him. Burke argues that an understanding of the alien anatomy and abilities would mean millions for her and himself if the Bioweapons Division of the Company can imitate or duplicate the alien's special defense-mechanisms. (They have concentrated acid for blood.) Ripley, by contrast, does not want to study the aliens at all. She only wants to know one thing about them--who or what is laying all the eggs they have seen?

She threatens to have Burke reported for his greedy and callous decision to send the colonists to investigate the alien ship—the ship which Ripley's crew found 57 years ago and which the colonists found (again) after they had been on the planet for a while. According to the colony log Burke allowed the colonists to investigate the alien ship, and although he was at the Company meeting where Ripley told her story, he didn't warn them of any possible danger. Ripley threats to have Burke "nailed right to the wall."

Then Bishop, the android, sees that the reactor core of the atmosphere processor is about to blow up because the crash of the drop-ship damaged the cooling towers. They have only four hours before their section of the planet will be destroyed. Bishop agrees to crawl through the airducts to the broken colony transmitter, try to repair the transmitter and call the Sulaco, and then autopilot the other drop-ship down to the surface. It is an extremely dangerous mission, but no one else is brave enough or qualified enough to do it.

Hicks shows Ripley how to use a rifle, and then sends her to get some sleep. She joins Newt, who is sleeping under the bed. In the meantime Burke, out for revenge, self-defense, and profit, attempts to kill Ripley and Newt by locking the Med Lab doors and setting loose the aliens imprisoned there. He plans to take their bodies, impregnated by the aliens, back to earth. (He can get through quarantine if he kills the others and suppresses the fact that Ripley and Newt are infected by aliens.) His plan nearly works, but Ripley's quick thinking and the Marines' skill save her and Newt. Just as Burke is about to be executed in revenge for his horrible plan, the power is cut off. The aliens have discovered how to penetrate their defenses. They come from above, through the roof. Hudson and Burke are killed.

Using Newt's escape routes, the Marines scramble through the air ducts. Bishop has succeeded in calling the other drop-ship, and ETA (estimated time of arrival) is 16 minutes. On route to the ship, Vasquez and Gorman are cut off, so they kill themselves and seal the duct by detonating a grenade. Newt, Ripley and Hicks are left. But Newt falls down a shaft and Hicks is badly burned by alien blood. Piloted by Bishop, the ship lands. Ripley gets Hicks to safety, and returns to look for Newt.

When Ripley finds Newt, her only question about the aliens is at last answered: she sees who (or what) is laying all the eggs. A huge Mother alien is ovulating in a disgusting egg-filled nest. Ripley shoots her way out of the nest, but the Mother alien chases her back to the ship. They leave the planet just as the whole station blows up.

On board the Sulaco, everything seems calm. Ripley is congratulating Bishop on a job well done when the Mother alien reappears: in those last moments she had climbed aboard the drop-ship. She attacks Bishop first. Being an android, Bishop doesn't die, but he is horribly mutilated. The alien goes for Newt next, but Newt uses her old trick of hiding beneath the floors. Then Ripley dons the loading gear and comes out to fight: "Get away from her you bitch!" she shouts. In an all-out battle of the species, Ripley proves which one is tougher. She opens up the airlock and sends the Mother alien tumbling into deep space. Bishop catches Newt and saves her from going out of the airlock as well.

Now at last all is secure. Bishop and Hicks are deep in suspended sleep, and Ripley and Newt join them, dreaming all the way home.


This is a science fiction film, but it is also the quintessential military action-adventure film. Notice the frequent use of hand-held cameras, the lighting-fast editing, the military jargon and military musical themes. Only a very few fades are used, in the beginning and ending. The special effects are spectacular--creating the aliens and making them seem convincingly frightening is undoubtedly difficult, but it is done in this film with the utmost success. Ripley's character is tough, conservative, and supremely self-reliant but also motherly and tender. Although made in 1986, Aliens gave Americans a vivid cultural image for the "90's" woman. Note the last tiny sound at the end of the credits. Having heard this noise, we know there will be (as indeed there was) a sequel called Aliens3.

Sequence Synopsis

Sequence One:

Ripley's spaceship escape pod is found by a salvage team.

Sequence Two:

Ripley "wakes up" in Gateway station. She is visited by Carter Burke, a company representative. He tells her she has been asleep 57 years. It seems she has been infected and an alien is about to burst out of her stomach. Ripley is having a nightmare, and wakes up again. The nurse asks her if she wants something to help her sleep.

Sequence Three:

Ripley is criticized at a Company meeting for destroying an M-class Star freighter. She tells the leaders what happened to her, but she isn't believed. She learns that LV426 now has 60 or 70 colonist families who are running an atmosphere processer, preparing the planet for habitation.

Sequence Four:

Carter Burke and Lieutenant Gorman ask Ripley to go with them to LV426 since they have lost contact with the colonists. Ripley refuses, but later, after more nightmares, accepts.

Sequence Five:

The Marines wake up from their suspended animation. They eat dinner and Ripley tells the android Bishop to stay away from her. The soldiers are briefed by Ripley and Lt. Gorman about the aliens. They are told to prepare themselves and their equipment as quickly as possible. Ripley drives a loader for the Marines.

Sequence Six:

The soldiers put on their gear and gather their weapons. They board a transport and the transport is driven into the drop-ship. The soldiers' cameras are checked. The ship lands on the planet.

Sequence Seven:

The drop-ship circles the atmosphere processer, and unloads the transport. Marines are sent out to investigate the complex. They enter a building, but see nothing. Gorman decides that the area is secure. Ripley, Burke and Gorman join the soldiers in the Med Labs, where they see alien specimens. Motion trackers pick up Newt, and the soldiers "rescue" her. She won't talk to Lt. Gorman, but she does begin to warm up to Ripley. Hudson looks for the colonist's PDT's using the computer. Bishop dissects an alien. The colonists's PDT's are found.

Sequence Eight:

The Marines are sent in to the main reactor where the PDTs ere located. They are forbidden to use their pulse rifles. They find the colonists's bodies, and also the aliens. The aliens decimate them. Ripley takes the transport in to rescue them. Gorman is injured and knocked out during the wild ride back out of the building.

Sequence Nine:

The Marines call the drop-ship to rescue them, and plan to "nuke" the site from orbit. But the drop-ship is destroyed by the aliens, and they are forced to go back to the first building.

Sequence Ten:

The Marines take stock of the weapons salvaged from the ATC and they seal off the entrances to the building. They think they must wait for seventeen days before another ship will be sent. Hicks gives Ripley a locater.

Sequence Eleven:

Ripley puts Newt to bed and gives her the locater. Bishop and Ripley talk about alien anatomy and she asks him who or what is laying all the eggs from which the immature parasite forms come. Then Burke and Ripley argue about preserving the aliens. She tells Burke that she will have him "nailed to the wall" for exposing the colonists to the danger of the aliens without warning them.

Sequence Twelve:

Bishop sees the emergency venting is activated, and shows the others his discovery: the whole complex will blow up in about four hours. Since their transmitter was on the destroyed ATC, he goes to call the other drop-ship using the colonist's transmitter. The few remaining Marines are sent to patrol. Hicks shows Ripley how to use a M41A pulse rifle. Ripley goes to the Med Lab to sleep, and finds Newt under the bed. She crawls under the bed with her.

Sequence Thirteen:

Bishop reaches the transmitter, and calls the drop-ship. Under the bed in the Med Lab, Ripley wakes up and sees the specimens have been let loose. She and Newt are attacked by the aliens. Burke tries to ensure they are not helped by turning off the Med Lab observation camera. Ripley turns on the fire alarm and the two are saved by the Marines. Burke is going to be killed by the Marines when the power is cut.

Sequence Fourteen:

The soldiers check the halls and find movement, so they all retreat to Operations. The aliens get into their area through the ceiling and the soldiers retreat again, trying to reach the Med Labs. Hudson is killed, and Burke is eaten. Hicks, Ripley, Gorman and Vasquez run through the air ducts. Vasquez covers the rear, and is hurt. Gorman goes back to save her. Without weapons, and cut off from retreat, they kill themselves and seal the duct by detonating a grenade.

Sequence Fifteen:

Newt is knocked down a vent by the blast of the grenade. Hicks and Ripley search for her, but she is captured by an alien. Hicks makes them go back to the ship. On the way back Hicks defends Ripley and is burned by alien blood. Bishop, Ripley and Hicks board the drop-ship. Ripley straps together two rifles and tells Bishop to wait while she searches for Newt.

Sequence Sixteen:

The locater leads Ripley to Newt, who is cocooned. On the way out, she and Newt stumble into the Mother alien. Ripley flames and bombs her nest. The Mother alien chases Ripley and Newt back up the elevators to the ship. Just in time, just before the reactor explodes, the ship takes off. However, it is held up long enough for the Mother alien to board. The site explodes.

Sequence Seventeen:

On board the Sulaco, Ripley is congratulating Bishop when the Mother Alien rips him in half. Newt is attacked, but hides beneath the floor. Wearing a loader, Ripley battles the Mother alien. She opens the airlock and sends the alien tumbling out into space. Bishop saves Newt from flying out into space as well.

Sequence Eighteen:

Bishop, and Hicks are put into suspended animation, and Ripley and Newt join them. At the very end of the credits, a little noise--an alien noise--is heard.