Violent Sci-Fi Thriller Classic On Max Inspired Decades Of Film

By Brian Myers | Updated

The 1986 film Aliens is a rare example of a film sequel that is arguably better than the original installment. The sci-fi megahit worked off a similar production budget as its 1979 predecessor (titled Alien) and managed to outperform it at the box office. The smashing success of Aliens set in motion a series of prequels and sequels that will see its ninth installment when the next film is released this summer.

Ripley Returns In Aliens

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Aliens takes place nearly 60 years after the conclusion of the first film. Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver), the lone survivor of the 1979 original, is awakened after spending 57 years in stasis aboard the escape pod she used after her former spaceship was destroyed.

Ripley is rescued and debriefed by her employer, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, where she details how the discovery of alien eggs aboard a crashed ship on a remote planet led to an alien slaughter of all her fellow crew members. Ripley consents to accompany another crew to the planet where Marines will be ordered to destroy the alien life.

More Terrifying Than The First

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Complicating matters is a colony that has been erected on the planet. The communication between the colonists and the Weyland-Yutani Corporation have been cut off, creating additional concerns for Ripley. When Ripley and the Marines land on the planet and enter the buildings that house the colony, they make a horrific discovery. Many of the colonists have been cocooned and are being used as human incubators for the aliens.

This sets up a sequence of violent encounters between the aliens and the Marines. Aliens is masterful in building terror from the perfect combination of gory kills and intense anticipation, cementing itself as a film that is every bit of a horror movie as it is a science fiction one. These elements carry forward in the six additional films in the Alien cinematic universe and will likely continue when the ninth film, Alien: Romulus, arrives in theaters in August.

The Cast

Alongside Weaver, Aliens stars comedian/actor Paul Reiser, Michael Biehn, and Lance Henriksen. It proved to be not only a vehicle for the franchise’s continued successes, but also for director James Cameron. Cameron’s career was launched after the successes of his second film, The Terminator, won him accolades two years before. Cameron is also credited with penning the screenplay for Aliens.

The Franchise

The later installments include Aliens 3 (1992), Aliens vs. Predator (2004), Prometheus (2012), and Alien: Covenant (2017). The 45 years’ worth of films in this franchise have story arcs that cross over centuries, blend in a nemesis from another science fiction series (Predator) and make their mark in history as the first motion pictures that succeeded in making space exploration a terrifying experience.

Alien: Romulus Releases This Year

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This August, Alien: Romulus will star Isabela Merced, Cailee Spaeny, Aileen Wu, and David Jonsson. The Fede Alvarez-directed film will be set on another planet, following a group of young adults as they battle against the creatures made popular decades earlier. Chronologically, it is said to take place in between Alien and Aliens.

Aliens can currently be streamed on Max.