The primary protagonist and hero—in fact, is ranked #8 on AFI's "Heroes" List—Ripley is probably the most famous character in the franchise aside from the titular xenomorph. Probably the most level-headed member of the crew, demonstrating an impressive amount of bravery and taking a few levels in badass when dealing with the xenomorph. De-facto leader of the crew on the basis of being the most proactive member.The sole human survivor of the Nostromo Incident and the only constant character in the franchise apart from the xenomorphs.Sole survivor of the Nostromo incident, Ripley is awakened from hypersleep 57 years later. She gets suspended by the Weyland-Yutani company for "questionable judgment" regarding the ship's self-destruction, finds out her daughter died a while ago (well, in the Director's Cut...) and that LV-426, the planet where they encountered the xenomorphs, is now colonized.Once the colony predictably loses contact with Earth, Ripley accompanies the Badass Crew of Space Marines as a civilian advisor, and finds herself as de facto leader alongside Corporal Hicks due to unforeseen consequences. In the resulting struggle with the xenomorphs, Ripley gains more levels in badass and becomes one of the most awesome Action Girls in cinema.For tropes relating to the Ripley 8 clone, see the character page for Alien: Resurrection.
Action Girl: One of the most important and revolutionary in all of cinema.
Action Mom: Ripley had a biological daughter, Amanda, who died during the 57-year timeskip between the 1st movie and 2nd, and who is also the protagonist of Alien: Isolation. Ripley later takes Newt in in Aliens... but it doesn't last.
Genre Savvy: Ripley picks up on the Mega Corp.'s intentions for the Xenomorphs rather quickly and actually takes charge of the military operation in Aliens as well as organizing the prison in 3 to defeat the creatures.
Guile Heroine: Ripley fights using her brain... and whatever weapons she can get her hands on.
Fantastic Racism: She's doesn't trust Bishop an inch once she finds out he's an android. She gets over it later.
Final Girl: She's the sole survivor of the Nostromo in Alien, as well as of the military expedition in Aliens.
Hate at First Sight: She instantly despises Bishop due to him being an android due to previous bad experience with artificial persons.
The Hero: Ripley is sarcastic and bitter, but she's a good person.
Heroic Sacrifice: Throws herself into the incinerator to keep the company from getting their hands on a Queen.
Honor Before Reason: Hive of monsters? Snarling Alien Queen? Imminent thermonuclear holocaust? Still not gonna stop Ripley from saving Newt.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She can come across as stiff and unlikable in the first movie due to her adherence to the rules, and she can be rather cynical in the sequels. However, there's never any doubt that she's a very heroic and selfless person.
Trauma Conga Line: Her crewmates are killed by a ravenous alien creature and a psychotic android and she learns the company she works for will stop at nothing to try to acquire said alien creatures for use as bioweapons; she winds up returning to the planet where said alien creature was discovered; her love interest and adopted daughter are killed during cryosleep; she's nearly gang-raped by a bunch of psychopaths; and she learns she's hosting a Queen embryo. Yeah... Ripley's had it rough.
You Are in Command Now: Ripley takes control of the military expedition in Aliens and the prison in 3 solely because she has prior experience fighting the Xenomorphs.
The Aliens / Xenomorphs
An Alien Queen and a Drone.
An Alien Drone close-up.
The primary antagonists of the series—the original one is #14 on AFI's "Villains" List—these parasitic extraterrestrials are predatory creatures with no higher goals than the propagation of their species and the destruction of life that could pose a threat. Aliens are vaguely bipedal in form, though they often adopt a more hunched, quadrupedal stance when walking or sprinting. In addition, they integrate the genetic material of their hosts into themselves and as such their adult form varies depending on their host. They have a skeletal, biomechanical appearance and are usually colored in muted shades of black, blue or bronze in the films; the toyline-exclusive Xenomorphs sported various colours. The films show the following Xenomorphs:
Always Chaotic Evil: They are extraterrestrial monsters that kill anything in sight. Later movies explain that this is because they are a bioweapon gone out of control.
Subverted in the "evil" aspect of the trope. They are extremely vicious, but that's mostly due out of predatory instinct rather than actual malicious intent. They're more akin to wild animals than the typical villainous aliens of science fiction.
Attack Animal: The Xenomorphs began as a bioweapon created by the Engineers before they ran amuck.
Ax-Crazy: The Newborn comes across as a sadistic freak, namely in his butchering of the Queen and morbid fascination at human blood literally plastered on his hand.
Batman Can Breathe in Space: They appear to be able to function just fine in a vacuum, and it is not clear if they even need to breath.
Beware My Stinger Tail: Xenomorphs possess long, segmented tails that resemble spinal columns, tipped by a blade-like stinger that is used to impale prey. Some adaptations, like the novelizations of the movies, also show that their stingers can inject a neurotoxin that paralyzes their victim, allowing them to be easily carried back to the hive for impregnation.
Blue and Orange Morality: Their sense of morality is basically like that of a colony of ants or bees. In other words, protect the queen and expand the colony.
Cain and Abel: Both the xenomorphs and the humans were created by the Engineers, thus making both species siblings in a weird kind of way. However, this trope is deliberately enforced as the engineers created the xenomorphs in order to wipe out the humans for reasons unknown.
Chest Burster: Trope Namer, as their larval stage incubates within a host's stomach before violently ejecting itself through the sternum.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: Every time the protagonists are confronted with a single Xenomorph drone (in the original and third movies), the beast prove basically unstoppable and murders them all one after the others. When confronted with an entire army of them (like in Aliens and Alien IV), on the other hand, they are usually able to take down several of them, forcing the Xenomorphs to rely on Zerg Rush. Then again, there are justification for this: the original movies and Alien 3 involve fighting the beast in a closed space where it can easily hide itself or ambush people, who are then lacking any modern weapon. Not to mention they are in a ship in the first movie, meaning any bleeding from the alien could doom everybody by damaging the ship. In the two other movies, the protagonists are using actual weapons, are more adapted to fight and are more numerous themselves.
Creepy Long Fingers: Depending on the specific design of whatever movie they're in their fingers can be terrifyingly long, emphasizing their non-humanness.
The Dreaded: They're feared (and with good reason) by everyone who has to face them, and Ripley suffers from Catapult Nightmares as a result of the encounter on the Nostromo and the shuttle.
Hermaphrodite: H.R Giger designed them so that they would be neither male nor female but rather a horrific blend of both sexes. Yes, this even includes the Queen herself.
The Newborn was originally going to have visible male and female reproductive organs. However, they were later digitally removed after the director decided they were "too much". Images of the uncensored model can still be found online, for anyone curious to look.
Hive Caste System: The Queen Alien is Large and in Charge, with the human-born Drone aliens doing the hunting and hive-building. The Ridged Drones, often referred to as Warriors, are the Elite Mooks of the hive, and in the EU a Praetorian caste pops up as well. Unique specimens such as the dog/ox-born Runner in 3 and the Predalien in Requiem (stated by Word of God to have been a young Queen to boot) fill in as needed.
Hive Mind: A bit differently than others. It's made apparent that they can sense one another, like hearing the screams of their Queen, and have some degree of intelligence and intuition, but they're mostly instinctual creatures. Ripley, who's part alien in Resurrection, can sense two of them killing another to escape from their containment.
It Can Think: Implied to be smarter than the mindless monsters everyone assumes they are.
Ripley: (Medical is plunged into darkness) They cut the power... Hudson: What do you mean they cut the power? How can they cut the power, man? They're animals!
The Predalien in Requiem is also the largest member of the hive that it controls, but combines this with Asskicking Equals Authority due to taking that role equally by virtue of being the most agressive and deadliest Xenomorph around.
LEGO Genetics: They incorporate the genetic material of their hosts into themselves. As such, the human-born drones are largely bipedal, but the dog/ox-born Runner was quadrupedal and lacked dorsal tubes, and the Predator-born Predalien had mandibles and fleshy dreadlocks.
The toylines take this Up to Eleven; the Xenomorphs in the toyline can come from anything; bulls, cougars, wild boar, rhinoceros, snakes, the list goes on.
Mama Bear: The Queen, nasty as she is, is very much like a real mother. She did not react well to the sight of her young getting killed.
Non-Malicious Monster: They are like animals, they kill and face-rape because it's how they survive and reproduce. Most especially in Aliens, where they are hunting for food and hosts, and trying to protect their nest and eggs.
Averted to hell and back by the Drone in the first movie, which likes to curiously toy with the fears of its prey, like a rapist in the dark.
Nothing Is Scarier: A large part of what made them so frightening was because of how subtle they were, especially in the mechanical/industrial backgrounds the movie took place in. Their manipulation of the environment allowed them to blend in with the dark corridors, making for ever Jump Scare a moment of Paranoia Fuel for both the characters and the audience.
Not So Different: "Get away from her, you bitch." Replace "her" with "them" and you'll get a pretty good idea of what the Queen was probably thinking when Ripley burned her eggs to save Newt.
Though to be fair, Ripley gave her a 'warning shot'. The Queen tried to have it both ways, and when one of the eggs opened, Ripley decided all bets were off. Though that's on the basis the Queen could/did command the egg to open: if it just did so because it sensed movement, the Queen was just SOL.
Primal Stance: The Runner alien - a Drone born from a dog - is quadrupedal and lacks dorsal spines. Other Xenomorphs will run on all fours as needed.
Spikes of Villainy: Their tails, claws, dorsal tubes, and the headdresses of the Queens and Praetorians.
To Serve Man: The Xenomorphs are blatantly predatory and carnivorous.
The Nostromo is a commercial towing vessel owned by the enormous Weyland-Yutani Corporation. It hauls a massive ore refinery along with 20 millions tons of raw ore. It also has a self destruct sequence and an escape shuttle, The Narcissus. It's manned by seven crew members... and one cat.
Warrant Officer Ripley
Engineering Technician Brett
Executive Officer Kane
Science Officer Ash
Chief Engineer Parker
Dallas Koblenz Arthur
"Standard procedure is to do what the hell they tell you to do!"
Played By: Tom Skerritt
The laid-back captain of the Nostromo; he has sole access to Mother, the on-board computer. Despite his nonchalant and casual-seeming attitude, his leadership and decision-making skills become increasingly evident.
Badass: He went into the vents by himself, armed with a flamethrower.
Decoy Protagonist: Tom Skerritt had the first name on the cast list (though he does lead the Jockey investigation), but Ripley's the main protagonist.
A Father to His Men: His absolute refusal to wait the necessary 24-hours before letting Kane in smacks of this.
Idiot Ball: The guy opts to go crawling about in dark, terrifying shafts in order to search for a creature they know absolutely nothing about and which killed one of his crew being born. And he does this by himself. He mainly does it because Ripley volunteered and he insisted to be the bait for the airlock trap. Dallas may also be trying to atone for his failure to stop the alien to this point, especially when he brought it into the ship rather than following proper quarantine procedures. Sure he knows its dangerous to go after the creature, but he is The Captain.
Wrong Genre Savvy: In most other sci-fi films, Dallas' would likely be vindicated in most of his decisions: his desire to leave the planet, the way he ignores standard procedure (Ripley comes across as a cold-hearted Obstructive Bureaucrat initially), his heroic volunteering to go into the vents...but he inhabits a much more cynical universe where ruthlessness is often rewarded. Dallas' attempts at heroism ultimately help nobody.
Joan Marie Lambert
"I say that we abandon this ship! We take the shuttle and just get the hell out of here!"
Played By: Veronica Cartwright
The navigator of the Nostromo. Disinclined to taking risks beyond the confines of her console, she resents being chosen as one of the team to explore the derelict, and later angry with Ripley for her decision to leave Kane, Dallas and herself outside of the ship when the facehugger was attached to Kane.
The Executive Officer aboard the Nostromo. During the investigation of the derelict space ship, he incautiously moves to get a closer look at one of the unusual 'pod' forms encountered and from this an unknown life-form (later known as an Ovomorph, or face-hugger) attaches itself to his face and (unknown to him and to the crew) impregnates him with an alien creature.
The Smart Guy: He was indicated to be this on his record screen on Aliens (it indicated he had multiple flight and science majors, but had to drop from one school due to medical treatment abuse). However, he doesn't get to use it to full effect.
The Nostromo's inscrutable science officer. He administers medical treatment, conducts biological research and is responsible for investigating any alien life forms the crew may encounter. It is at Ash's insistence that the crew investigates the mysterious signal emanating from LV-426.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Unless the Company programmed him to be so utterly sadistic towards his human comrades, he's got some serious malfunctions.
Artificial Human: Notably the rest of the crew is surprised that Ash in particular is a robot, but not surprised at the existence of human-appearing robots.
Big Bad Ensemble: At first he may simply seem like an Unwitting Instigatorof Doom with his actions on LV-426, but it later becomes clear he was manipulating from the beginning to ensure the alien would be born and the crew would be unable to fight it until it was too late. In this case, the Company serves as the Bigger Bad, planning to use the alien for their own purposes. He shares the role of Big Bad with the Alien, though considering they're both trying to wipe out the crew, they may qualify as a Big Bad Duumvirate.
Expy: As Alien was always inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, it stands to reason that Ash is this film's HAL 9000, being a seemingly benevolent machine secretly manipulating events to ensure the death of the crew. The difference between them is that HAL had just gone crazy, whereas Ash is more or less following orders.
Ken Doll Anatomy: Ridley Scott says in the DVD Commentary that his assault on Ripley was his attempt at emulating sex, as he lacked the equipment needed.
Logic Bomb: Once found out, Ash drops the facade of being human and starts behaving erratically. Some have theorized that the conflicting orders of "Do not kill" and "Bring back lifeform, all other priorities rescinded" proves too much for him.
Losing Your Head: His crewmates knock his head off, but it's still capable of spouting exposition if you hotwire it.
Mad Doctor: He seems more interested in his specimen than in general safety.
Ripley: You're still collating?!
Marionette Motion: After sustaining damage, he starts spinning like a top and making insane whirring noises.
The Mole: Ash was placed on the ship specificially to ensure Special Order 937 was carried out.
Remember the New Guy: Dallas told Ripley he went out with another Science Officer in five of his previous trips. Said officer was replaced with Ash two days before the Nostromo took off from Thedus (the planet the ship received the ore refinery from) on their trip to Earth.
Robotic Reveal: A milky substance from his forehead after Ripley throttles him.
"I'm not for drawing straws. I'm up for killing that god-damned thing right now."
Played By: Yaphet Kotto
The chief engineer aboard the ship, with Brett as his assistant. Assertive and acerbic, he is a dauntless complainer and, abetted by his sidekick Brett, demands more money for investigating the alien transmission. Occasionally at odds with Ripley, his respect for her resourcefulness and plans to combat the growing crisis prevails.
"You see, Mr. Parker and I feel that the bonus situation has never been on a-an equitable level."
An engineering technician on board the Nostromo and a good friend of his engineering chief, Parker. As a 'regular working Joe', he persistently angles for the increased pay and bonus awards he feels are due.
Butt Monkey: He's the lowest on the totem pole, as evidenced by the crew's dismissive treatment of him. He's also the one sent off all alone to chase the cat.
Sole Survivor: The only creature on the Nostromo to not die an eventual xenomorph-related death.
Team Pet: For the crew of the Nostromo. External materials say that Dallas had him officially exempted from the company's no-pet policy by registering him as needed for vermin control. However, since most vermin would be killed being outside of shielded cryopods during FTL translation, this was just an excuse to allow him.
What Happened to the Cat? - Doesn't show up anymore after the first arc of the second movie. Ripley tells him he's staying there while she leaves for the colony with the marines, so presumably she left him with someone else while she was away (she had expected to come back, after all). If so, then Jones has the happiest ending of any of the characters in either of the first two movies.