Classic Scenes #5: Aliens

Aliens is one of my favourite films. It arrived at a time – during the middle 1980s – when science-fiction was a huge box office attraction. Lucas had kicked it all off with “Star Wars”, with Ridley Scott’s “Alien” and Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T.” continuing the trend. “Aliens” was the perfect follow-up to “Alien” – bigger, more expansive, and equally as scary, it also benefitted from a fast-moving action-movie aesthetic that wryly mocked the war credentials of America’s military in Vietnam. Here was a crowd-pleaser and blockbusting spectacle that had depth, character, and intelligence. Cameron was buoyant after the success of “The Terminator” and it shows. Here he employs the skills of composer James Horner and director of photography Adrian Biddle to bring to life a frightening monster movie that befits the terrific work by Scott and Alien creator H.R. Giger on the first film. It culminates in science-fiction of the highest order. “Aliens” remains one of the finest action movies ever made, and as a sequel, there are few Part 2s that can boast comparable quality.

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Sigourney Weaver as Ripley: “You know, Burke, I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.”

Setting the scene:
Taking place half a century after the original film, the Nostromo space vessel’s only survivor Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) discovers that she has been drifting through deep space for 57 years. She begins her recovery on a space station orbiting earth’s atmosphere but is riddled with nightmares about her experience on the Nostromo. She is stripped of her status as a Warrant Officer. An independent board of review finds that she detonated the Nostromo’s self-destruct mechanism without proven cause, despite her defiance that an alien entity had killed the rest of the crew.

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She asks the board of review to investigate the alien ship and thus prove that the aliens exist. But she is told that while she was drifting through space for 57 years, terraformers have set up home on the planet and reported nothing out of the ordinary. But soon contact is lost with the terraformers and a rescue team is assembled. Ripley is asked to return to the planet where she first encountered the alien as an advisor to the rescue team. She of course doesn’t want to go. Even the promise of her company status being returned doesn’t persuade her. But the nightmares continue leaving Ripley little choice but to face her demons. She returns to the planet.

When the rescue team arrive they find the colony deserted. Eventually picking up on tracking beacons surgically implanted in each colony member, they discover hundreds of dead bodies in the sub-basements of the atmosphere processor. The team, consisting of a squad of highly armoured marines, are ambushed by hundreds of aliens. Most do not survive. When the drop-ship is destroyed after the pilot and co-pilot are killed by another alien, the team have no means of escape. They decide to repair the colonists man-made barricades in the central hub of the main colony building and defend for their lives.

A glimmer of hope comes in the form of artificial person Bishop (Lance Henrikson). He can remote pilot the drop-ship down to the planet and give the surviving members of the team a route to escape. But this takes some time – do the marines have enough ammunition to survive until the drop-ship arrives?

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Paul Reiser as Burke: “This is so nuts. Look at what you’re saying. It’s paranoid delusion. It’s really sad.”

The Scene:

aliens screenplay script james cameron

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Jenette Goldstein as Vasquez: “Hudson may be right…”

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Bill Paxton as Hudson: “It’s inside the complex.”

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From James Cameron’s screenplay written in the summer of 1985:

HICKS’ P.O.V.

A soul-wrenching nightmare image. Moving in the beam of
light are aliens. Lots of aliens. They are crawling
like bats, upside down, clinging to the pipes and beams
of the structural ceiling, not touching the flimsy
acoustic panels. They glisten hideously as they claw
their way forward in silence. They cover the ceiling
of the operations room. The inner sanctum is utterly
violated.

ON HICKS
blasted by fear

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From James Cameron’s screenplay written in the summer of 1985:

Hicks falls into the room just as the creatures detach
en masse from the handholds. THE CEILING EXPLODES,
raining debris. Nightmare shapes drop into the room.
Newt screams. Hudson opens fire. Vasquez grabs Hicks,
pulls him up, firing one handed with her flamethrower.
Ripley scoops up Newt and staggers back. Gorman turns
to fire and Burke bolts for the only remaining exit,
the corridor connecting to the med lab. In the
strobelike glare of the pulse-rifles we SEE flashes
of aliens, moving forward in the smoke from the
flamethrower fires. They move like nothing human…
leaping quick as insects at times or gliding with
powerful, balletic grace.

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From James Cameron’s screenplay written in the summer of 1985:

NEWT
Come on! This way.

She leads Ripley to an air vent set low in the wall and
expertly unlatches the grille, swinging it open. Newt
starts inside but Ripley pulls her back.

RIPLEY
Stay behind me.

aliens, ripley newt escape, ventilation shaft, james cameron,

From James Cameron’s screenplay written in the summer of 1985:

The kid moves like lightning, diving and dodging around
obstacles. If it wasn’t clear before it’s clear now
that we are on her turf, and she’s the ace. Running on
and on, their breathing loud and echoing…the walls
a directionless blur. Newt never hesitates.

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Jenette Goldstein as Vasquez: “You always were an asshole Gorman!”

aliens, james cameron, classic scenes, newt attacked,

From James Cameron’s screenplay written in the summer of 1985:

INT. SUBBASEMENT

Newt, standing waist deep in the water, watches sparks
shower blindingly as Hicks cuts. She bites her lip,
trembling. Cold and terrified. Silently a glistening
shape rises in one graceful motion from the water behind
her. It stands, dripping, dwarfing her tiny form. Newt
turns, sensing the movement…She SCREAMS as the
shadow engulfs her.

Click on an image for more script extracts:

Buy Aliens on DVD and Blu-ray:
Amazon.com – Alien Anthology box set on Blu-ray | Alien Quadrilogy box set on DVD | Aliens (Two-Disc Collector’s Edition) on DVD

Amazon.co.uk – Alien Anthology on Blu-ray | Alien Anthology on DVD | Aliens (Two Disc Special Edition) on DVD

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Rodney Reply

    Oh yeah…. that’s such a cool, powerful scene. Love it. Great use of Cameron’s script notes too, Dan! Well done.

  2. Castor Reply

    Great feature Dan! Love this scene, it is viscerally involving and brilliantly set up for maximum effect.

  3. Richard Reply

    This is a great idea for a feature, Dan! Love the way you put it together, and this is a brilliant scene to illustrate. Nice one. 😀

  4. Fitz Reply

    It’s hard to say which Alien is better: Alien or Aliens, but the sheer number of that many xenomorphs is scary as hell.

  5. Adam Reply

    Great shout. I love this scene. Alien is still my favourite though.
    Like how you’ve got cameron’s script notes btw. Good work

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