Film Review- Aliens (1986)

by Avery Gray

After the resounding reviews of Annihilation, it’s was time to look back and review a sci-fi classic. Alien is often considered to be one of the great science fiction and horror films. But Aliens went out in a different direction aiming for more action than scares. Did this new direction pay off? Did Aliens break the tradition of sequels being worse than the original?  The following review will be spoiler free.


Directed by: James Cameron

Written by: James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn, Laurence Henriksen, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser

After being adrift in space for 57 years in stasis, a newly awoken Ellen Ripley (Weaver) returns to LV-426 to investigate the disappearance of the colony stationed there. Joining her are a company of the Colonial Space Marines (Paxton, Beihn), the android Bishop (Henriksen), and Carter Burke (Reiser), a representative of Ripley’s employer the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Upon arriving on planet, they find the colony deserted except for a lone girl (Henn). Ripley soon finds the reason for the colonists’ disappearance is a nest of the same alien creature that killed her entire crew 57 years prior. Beset on all sides by practically unkillable monsters and with no hope of rescue, can Ripley and the others hope to survive?


image via The Daily Dot


After the incredible success of the first Alien film Giler’s production company Brandywine Productions declared that it was intent on creating a sequel. However, after a sudden reshuffle of the executives at 20th Century Fox, Brandywine found itself without support and in the middle of an intense legal battle over the distribution of profits from the original film. After several years of litigation and another executive shuffle, Fox finally settled the lawsuit and was open to pursuing a sequel.

Soon after Giler approached Cameron for the screenplay after seeing his script for The Terminator. Cameron accepted, being a fan of the first film, and began a self-imposed seclusion. After 4 days he reemerged with the first 45 pages of Alien II. However, Fox soon put the film on hiatus as they felt that Alien had not made enough to warrant a sequel. But, an executive told Cameron that if The Terminator was a success then they would green-light Alien II.

The Terminator obvioualy went on to become a huge hit and Cameron began filming on location in England. After firing the original director of photography, dealing with a walkout by the film crew (who were all fiercely loyal to Ridley Scott) and a soundtrack that was recorded and dubbed into the film less than six weeks before the theatrical release, Cameron finally completed the project after ten months. Aliens was released in July 1986 and still remains one of the highest grossing R-rated films of all time.

A Film that Feels Truly Alive

No matter how many times I see Aliens there is always one thing that manages to impress me. That is the fact that I always somehow manage to get drawn into the film and the world it creates. The futuristic society depicted on the screen feels like one that it is totally plausible, and all of the characters are surprisingly relatable. As the plot unfolds I find myself worrying along with the characters. Will the xenomorphs break in? Will we be able to holdout with such limited supplies? Are we even going to survive? The tension created throughout the film is incredible. It never lets up and you probably won’t feel relieved until the credits start to roll.


image via Rodger Ebert

Aliens: Terrifyingly Beautiful

One thing that you can say for certain about this film is that it is amazingly beautiful to look at. Every single shot of space filled me with awe as I watched spacecraft drift lazily through the frame. I truly felt that I was witnessing the majesty of space. And of course, you can’t talk about an Alien film without taking about the so-called stars, the aliens. Every single alien creature whether it be a face-hugger or a fully fledged xenomorph looks and feels terrifyingly real. All of their movements are incredibly life-like, so much so that sometimes it hard not to believe that what you are seeing on screen is not real.

The set itself is another matter entirely. Everything looks and feels like the crew shot the film on location. The blasted and barren landscape of LV-426 looks and feels like it is an uncharted rock out in the middle of space. The colony itself is claustrophobic, gritty, and incredibly lifelike. Every single prop used by the actors from the military dropship to the guns and weapons look like something that would actually exist in the future.

Tight Action and a Neat Pace

The runtime of Aliens clocks in at a little over two and half hours. But never at any point does it feel that long. The film is very well paced, and no scene really feels like it drags. On a different note, the action in the film is very well done. It does an excellent of depicting the frenzy of ambush or the tense moments of a firefight. Hell, even the drop onto the planet is really cool.


image via The Today Show

A Few Problems

If I had to pick out any sort of problems that I had with Aliens, I guess it would have to be the performances by the actors. A lot of the time the dialogue delivered by the characters feels incredibly stiff and forced. Weaver absolutely kills it as Ripley, but even she is not immune to this trend. Around midway through the film, the dialogue begins to sound more natural. But even then, the fact that it sounded so unnatural at the beginning kind of overshadows this fact. Another issue that is that while Ripley is an incredibly well-developed character. All of the others feel like cardboard cutouts by comparison.

Final Thoughts

Aliens is an incredibly well made, lifelike, and action-packed sequel that may even surpass the original in some respects. From its well manufactured tension to neat pace and beautifully shots, Aliens delivers on all fronts. Through it suffers from some forced dialogue and underdeveloped characters, the rest of the film make these flaws seem trivial.

Grade: A


image via Xenopedia

Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on Aliens? Do you think we missed any? Comment down below!

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M.R. Miller March 8, 2018 - 10:17 am

This normally isn’t my type of movie but I love this film, even today. I was in high school when it came out and didn’t watch it until it came out on video (yes, literally a VHS). I remember being completely blown away to see a woman in this kind of role. It was groundbreaking. Ripley was smart and tough. She wasn’t a sex object, just a little flirtation with Hicks, but she held her own with a group of Marines while maintaining her humanity. And she protected “her” kid like a badass without it becoming cartoonish or unbelievable. Ellen Ripley was (and still is) my hero.

Urban Fishing Pole Cigars March 7, 2018 - 8:55 pm

The best of the lot. I met Lance a couple of times but never asked him about his role in this picture

duellsfiction March 7, 2018 - 7:47 pm

Aliens is my personal favorite in the Alien franchise. Ripley became a truly iconic character in this one.

Michael Kleen March 7, 2018 - 6:51 pm


Erik McManus | Breakeven Books March 7, 2018 - 5:46 pm

Love the Alien series!! This one is my favorite of the series. You have really good points about it and I feel the same way about always being drawn in everytime ​I watch it.

Michael Seidel March 7, 2018 - 3:31 pm

With “A Wrinkle In Time” and “Ready Player One” (and “Fahrenheit 451”) coming out soon, how about a ranking of the top ten science fiction films based on books? “War of the Worlds,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Minority Report,” “I, Robot,” “Bladerunner,” etc. Or did you do that and I missed it?

Nick Kush March 7, 2018 - 2:32 pm

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