main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Film: Aliens
This time, it's war.

Ripley: Just tell me one thing, Burke. You're going out there to destroy them, right? Not to study. Not to bring back. But to wipe them out.
Burke: That's the plan. You have my word on it.
Ripley: All right, I'm in.

Aliens (1986) is the second film in the Alien film series. It was directed by James Cameron, and shifted the theme from horror to action.

Ripley wakes up from hypersleep 57 years after the events of Alien. Her former employers, the Weyland-Yutani company, disbelieve her claims about the alien and revoke her licenses. Soon after, contact is lost with the colony established on the world where Ripley's crew first encountered the alien. The company sends a unit of Space Marines to investigate and Ripley reluctantly accompanies them as an advisor. At the colony they discover a whole nest of aliens.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi, horror and action movies of all time, the film is chock full of awesome moments, iconic scenes and spawned a lot of the tropes that have greatly influence modern media. And it did so without the aid of computer graphics.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The first half of the movie mostly consists of Ripley struggling with Weyland-Yutani executives and Burke's attempts to get her to go, as well as the Marines clowning around. Later, we get Ripley putting Newt to bed and the aftermath of the dropship crashing.
  • Action Girl:
    • Ellen Ripley graduates to one. Although not possessing any particular combat skills, she has the guts and determination to survive.
    • Vasquez, one of the Marines who nearly makes it to the end. Also known for being more rough-and-tumble than the other Marines.
    Hudson: Hey, Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?
    Vasquez: No. Have you?
  • Actionized Sequel: Alien was a horror/suspense movie. Cameron thought Alien was so well done that he decided to carry on the story in a completely different way, so he added a few marines, some BFGs and a lot more Aliens.
  • Action Mom: Ripley essentially adopts Newt, and goes to enormous lengths to protect her. This is set up earlier in a deleted scene (included in the novelisation and the Special Edition) which reveals that her daughter had died of cancer in her old age while Ripley was lost in hypersleep, and Newt is the same age that her daughter was the last time she saw her.
  • Admiring the Abomination: Bishop displays this sort of behavior when studying a Facehugger carcass, implying that he'll turn bad by drawing parallels to how Ash, the other synthetic person that once came into contact with the Aliens, reacted to the creature. It's a Red Herring; Bishop remains a good guy.
  • And I Must Scream: The nightmarish ordeal endured by the 157 colonists after the attack. See Nightmare Fuel in the YMMV entry for more details, if you dare...
  • Anyone Can Die: You can count the survivors of this mission on a single hand.
  • Air Vent Passage Way: Ripley and the marines use ducts to escape the monsters (which likewise use the ducts to invade). The xenomorphs bypass the walls and doors by sneaking through the ceiling plenum à la The Breakfast Club, correctly using the structure to carry their weight and cross the lay-in-ceiling.
  • All Webbed Up: It briefly happens to Newt, before Ripley frees her. There was originally supposed to be a Xenomorph specifically bred for cocooning in Aliens, but it never made it past the concept art stage.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted. A splash of Alien blood does burn through Hicks' armor quickly (badly injuring him), but it's obvious the armor is the only reason he lived. Played straight the rest of the time, as a flamethrower explosion slays one Marine and another is too close to the Xenomorph and gets acid sprayed all over his face.
  • Artistic License - Gun Safety: The Marines use guns in a combat setting fairly professionally, but one example of horrendous gun safety stands out: when Vasquez and Ripley are helping Bishop into a conduit, Vasquez cocks a pistol and hands it to Bishop, who immediately puts his finger on the trigger. He then hands it to Ripley, finger still on the trigger and pointed straight at her. Ripley accepts it and sets it aside, thumb grazing the trigger while it's pointing at Vasquez. Bishop may be an android and thus incapable of unintentional twitches, but casually handing a loaded firearm to an untrained civilian is something a military android should be programmed to avoid.
  • Audience Surrogate: Hudson, according to Word of God from Cameron.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The Marine APC.
  • Badass Boast:
    • The Sulaco insignia: "Bugstomper. We endanger species."
    • Hudson attempts one that even uses the word "badass" as often as he can. He does not deal well with the loss of the high-tech gear that he describes in said boast. He does go down shooting while spitting out even more 'heat of battle' boasts, as well. An Alien has to ambush him from below to take him down.
  • Badass Crew: The Colonial Marines certainly fit the bill. Too bad they don't last long, since the Aliens are way more dangerous and numerous.
  • Bash Brother & Sister - Drake and Vasquez, the two M56 Smart Gun users.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed:
    • Ripley and Hicks promise each other that they will "take care of each other" if they were hopelessly cornered by the Aliens. It doesn't come to that, and they live through the entire film.
    • When they're trapped by xenomorphs, Vasquez and Gorman take out several aliens via grenade in the Hadley's Hope air ducts rather than be captured and impregnated.
  • Beware My Stinger Tail: In the novelization the xenomorphs have these, which are used to paralyze victims to be taken back to the hive for facehugger bait. Gorman gets stung during the escape in the APC after the hive raid goes pear-shaped. The scene was too expensive to film, so he gets knocked out by a container falling on his head instead.
  • BFG:
  • Big Damn Heroes: The moment when Ripley drives the Armored Personnel Carrier through the wall of the xenomorph hive to save the remaining Marines trying to escape is the biggest example of this in the main series.
    • It happens again at the end of the film, when Ripley and Newt are stranded on the atmosphere processor, out of ammo to protect themselves and out of time before the processor explodes, not to mention the fact that they have a furious Xenomorph Queen chasing after them. Just when all hope seems lost, Bishop suddenly appears with the second drop-ship and rescues them with only moments to spare.
  • Big "NO!": Vasquez gives one when Drake gets immolated.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Vasquez wrote on her armor "El riesgo siempre vive!", which means "The risk always survives!". note 
  • Black Dude Dies First: Played completely straight, as Private Frost gets a flamethrower to the face as soon as the squad gets ambushed and Sergeant Apone gets grabbed by aliens in the same scene (though his death is somewhat delayed).
  • Book Ends: The film starts and ends with a spaceship silently drifting into space, with the crew in artificial sleep - the same as the first film, in fact.
  • Brake Angrily: Ripley does this when a xenomorph attacks her from the roof of the APC.
  • Broken Bird: Ripley at the beginning of the movie. Newt is in obvious shellshock as well, at first.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Ripley's nightmare of having a chestburster rip out of her chest near the beginning doubles as an expository Flashback of when she first woke up in the hospital — but isn't quite a Flashback Nightmare or Daydream Surprise. She has another one later, in the Director's Cut, without the dream.
  • Cat Scare: Newt's first appearance, to the extent that Hicks has to knock Drake's smartgun off target so as not to kill her. The novel also uses this scene, but with Vasquez instead of Drake.
  • The Cavalry: Subverted. The marines are supposed to be the cavalry, but it doesn't go as planned.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Ripley shows that she knows how to use a Powerloader early on, and the scene is played for "Getting to know you" laughs. She later uses that same powerloader to fight the Alien Queen.
    • Sergeant Apone also orders the floor-mounted airlock sealed near the beginning of the mission. Near the end Ripley uses it to dispose of the alien queen.
      • In that same scene you briefly get a look at the second dropship.
    • The tracking device that Hicks gives to Ripley and she passes on to Newt. Which Ripley uses to track down Newt and save her.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: In the scenes with Newt and her family, she and her brother are being told off for playing in the air vents all the time. Newt is then able to guide the rest of the team to the landing bay when the aliens attack.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • The lessons Ripley got from Hicks on how to use the Marines' weapons, which she uses to great effect during her Mama Bear rampage.
    • It is established through dialogue in the apartment scene with Burke and Gorman that Ripley has a license to operate heavy vehicles at the docks. It comes in handy when she uses the APC to rescue the Marines fleeing the hive under the atmosphere processor.
    • Ripley had a job operating loading bots, which she shows to the marines, and it comes in handy in the final battle.
  • Cigar Chomper: Sergent Apone.
  • Climactic Elevator Ride: Ripley rides down an elevator deep into the soon-to-be-exploding atmosphere processor to rescue a little girl. She takes this time to ready all her weapons.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Ripley doesn't recognize the alien engineering inside the atmosphere processor. This is because she never went into the Derelict. The novelization has her recognizing something familiar about it, because the novelization of Alien included the Deleted Scene where she finds Dallas and Brett imprisoned in alien eggs.
    • Also in the novelization, the Captain's Log Ripley is dictating at the end of the first movie has been erased. At one point, Ripley accuses Burke of having done it to cover up the Company's involvement.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The LV-426 colony goes off-line just a year after Ripley is brought back. Turns out that's not a coincidence at all, as Burke ordered them to investigate the Derelict based on Ripley's debriefing.
    • Its also lamp-shaded in a deleted scene with operations manager Al Simpson and Lydecker. The company often tells them to look at random grid references, they look. Its gotten to the point where the colonists don't ask why anymore since the answer takes two weeks to reach them, and its always "Don't ask". The company have been trying to locate the Derelict ever since the Nostromo was destroyed.
  • Creepy Child: Newt starts as one due to the psychological effects of her traumatic experience. Her eerie delivery of the line, "They mostly come at night. Mostly," is often quoted.
  • Cryonics Failure: Discussed at length as part of Burke's plan to smuggle the xenomorph specimens back through quarantine.
  • Danger Deadpan: The Drop Ship pilot, Ferro. Delivered while wearing mirrored aviator shades, too.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: That's not Spunkmeyer coming up behind you, Ferro.
  • Darkest Hour: Ripley and Newt briefly embrace this, believing Bishop has abandoned them. Both are on the brink of a Despair Event Horizon while the atmosphere processor around them is on the verge of total destruction. The raging alien queen is also upon them. They're out of ammo and out of time. All hope is lost, until Bishop arrives in the second drop-ship.
  • Deadpan Snarker: PFC Hudson has a sarcastic remark for everything, the quips are often the way he copes with his panic.
  • Defiant to the End: "Fuck you! Fuck you! AND FUCK YOU TOO!!!!" Exit Hudson.
  • Deus Ex Nukina: The film kicks it up a notch. It was the only way to be sure.
  • Development Gag: Hudson teases Vasquez by saying "When they said 'alien', she thought they said 'illegal alien' and signed up." Vasquez' actress actually did make that mistake, and showed up to the auditions dressed as a migrant worker.
  • Disposable Pilot: Corporal Ferro.
  • Distress Call: There's a cessation of communications with LV426. Ripley later reveals that she checked the colony logs, and Burke was responsible for sending the colonists out to look for the alien ship from the first movie.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Bishop hands back the pistol he's given without comment and proceeds on his solo mission unarmed.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: The commentary track reveals that this trope was in play. When asked to do an Alien sequel, James Cameron wrote an outline for his thoughts on a film, which was actually based on something he wrote a few months earlier with the Alien characters dropped in.
  • Drop Ship: The two dropships; perhaps one of the first examples of this trope to appear on film. They were designed by Syd Mead who did design work for Blade Runner, and were based on the US helicopters from the Vietnam War. (And refined by Ron Cobb and then completely kitbashed by James Cameron, who was inspired by the Apache helicopter, depending on who you ask.)
  • Dumbass Has a Point:
    • Vasquez, about Hudson's belief that the aliens are inside the perimeter.
    • In the extended cut, Hudson is the one who first theorizes the possible existence of a xenomorph "queen".
    • He also, during a freakout, says they won't last 17 hours. Even with their precautions, the xenomorphs breach their defenses in less than that. Had they not figured out that they had limited time to escape before the processor exploded, it's doubtful anyone would have gotten away.
  • Dying Declaration Of Hate: "You always were an asshole, Gorman", although weirdly enough it's mixed with just a touch of grudging respect.
  • The End... Or Is It?: After the credits there is silence and a dark screen. Then the organic squelch of an egg opening can be heard...
    • Obviously, the xenomorphs on LV-426 are all destroyed, along with the colony. Until Alien 3 and the rest came of course. This however begs the question, where did these hostile life-forms originally come from?
      • The xenomorph in Alien3, judging from the intro sequence, seems to have originated from an egg the queen apparently laid after the arrival on the Sulaco, just before the final battle. This begs the question, however, how she could have laid that egg after her ovipositor had been destroyed by Ripley. As for the ultimate origin of the xenomorph species, Prometheus answers that.
  • Elevator Escape: Ripley and Hicks run for the elevator leading to the landing pad. They push the button and there's a moment of suspense when the doors don't close (it's not as if anyone's left alive to service them) then they start closing until an alien does a Deadly Lunge from the corridor outside, forcing the doors open again. Hicks fires at point black range, killing the alien but spraying acidic blood over his body armour. As a result Ripley has to go and rescue Newt alone, and there's another example when the Queen alien is pursuing them — Ripley barely gets into the service elevator in time, driving the Queen back with her flamethrower just as it's running out of fuel. The Queen is snarling in fury when a second elevator arrives, summoned by Ripley's frantic button pushing...
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Casey (Newt's disembodied doll head) floating in the water after she's taken by a xenomorph.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: The abduction of Newt and the xenomorph rising up behind Burke in Medical.
  • Ensign Newbie: Lt. Gorman.
    Ripley: How many drops is this for you, Lieutenant?
    Gorman: Thirty eight...simulated.
    Vasquez: How many combat drops?
    Gorman: Uh, two. Including this one.
  • Epic Fail: The Colonial Marines enter the atmosphere processor without realizing that the central cooling units can be pierced by conventional weaponry - which they only realize after they're knee-deep in the hive and Ripley points it out to them. Then, without giving a reasonable explanation why, Gorman orders the Marines to give up all their ammo (except for flame throwers) to one man, and said Marine happens to be the first casualty when the xenomorphs attack, because the aliens are hiding in the walls and don't show up on infrared. The only reason anyone escaped is because several of the soldiers kept spare magazines and/or carried backup weapons.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Applies to an entire species (depending on your interpretation of the term "Arcturian"), according to some dialogue:
    Frost: I sure wouldn't mind getting more of that Arcturian poontang. Remember that time?
    Spunkmeyer: Yeah, but the one you had was a male.
    Frost: It doesn't matter when it's Arcturian, baby!
    • Frost's armor is decorated with a heart-and-arrow, with the name "Heath" in it.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Only Ripley, Newt and a badly-injured Hicks survive (Bishop is still technically "operational", but he's a mess and is missing half his body).
  • Exact Time to Failure: Subverted. The Processor's computer systems continually announcing exactly how much time is left to reach minimum safe distance before meltdown. However with one overloading machine destroying another, its ceases to function after t-minus two minutes. Though at this point, the entire superstructure is a fiery inferno.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Hudson's spiked-up hair reflects his confidence. After the team is decimated and Hudson completely freaks out, his hair is flat. The front part of it goes up a bit when Ripley tells him to get a hold of himself. When he starts to regain his composure, his hair is more up but still wet and flat in places. When he's fully regained his confidence, it's spiked up again.
  • Explosive Overclocking: Essentially what the Weyland-Yutani Corporation does with atmosphere processors. Everything's fine so long as their cooling systems work. Compromise those however, and you're screwed. Whatever remains will work its guts out until it overloads, the entire station will go up in a cloud of vapour soon after that.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Burke.
  • Failed a Spot Check: One of the Marines is looking almost directly at an alien nested in the wall, but fails to see it amidst the mass of pipes and conduits on the walls and ceilings.
    • The xenomorphs cannot impregnate the android Bishop, doesn't stop them from trying though, as in deleted scenes they tried to pursue him in the shaft he was crawling through.
  • Famous Last Words: Vasquez.
    Vasquez: You always were an asshole, Gorman.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • This is apparently the fate of Apone and Dietrich, if the explosion of the atmospheric processing station didn't kill them first.
    • In the novelization, Ripley found Burke in the queen's nest, and left him with a primed grenade when he said that he could feel the chestburster moving inside him. The scene was restored for the Alien Anthology Blu-Ray release.
    • A similar scene with Ripley finding Dallas takes place in the Alien novelization, which had been based on a scene that was filmed but not ultimately used. (The scene is restored in Ridley Scott's 2003 'Director's Cut' of Alien.)
  • Final Solution: Ripley and later the Marines want to wipe out the xenomorphs entirely. This is well justified, since the xenomoprhs actually are Always Chaotic Evil monsters, instead of this just being the excuse of a genocidal bigot. Burke objects to this plan, but not because he thinks they have no right to do so (as he claims at first), but because he wants to collect a live specimen for the Company's bioweapons division and reap a big profit.
    • Technically speaking, Burke is mainly concerned about destroying the facility, not the Xenomorphs:
    Burke: "Hold on a second. This installation has a substantial dollar value attached to it."
    Ripley: "They can bill me!!!"
    (and then later)
    Burke: "Look. I'm not blind to what is going on, but I cannot authorize that kind of action. I'm sorry."
    Ripley: "Well, I believe that Corporal Hicks has authority here."
    Burke: "Corporal Hicks has...?"
    Ripley: "This operation is under military jurisdiction and Hicks is next in the chain of command. Am I right, Corporal?"
    Hicks: "Yeah... yeah, that's right."
    Burke: "Yeah... look, Ripley, this is a multi-million dollar installation. He can't make that kind of decision. He's just a grunt! Uh, no offense."
    Hicks: "None taken."
  • Five-Finger Fillet: Done by Bishop, leading to his Robotic Reveal.
  • Five-Man Band:
    The Hero: Ripley
    The Lancer: Hicks
    The Smart Guy: Bishop
    The Big Guy: Vasquez
    The Chick: Hudson
    Tag Along Kid: Newt
  • Flatline: Several Marines have their vital signs monitors flatline when they're killed by xenomorphs.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the Special Edition, the "bees and ants" conversation foreshadows the appearance of the Queen.
    Hudson: She's badass, man, I mean big.
    • Newt reckons the scenario will turn ugly again for the humans, despite the presence of the Space Marines.
    Ripley: Newt, these people are soldiers. They're here to protect you.
    Newt: It won't make any difference.
    • Ripley promises that she won't leave Newt, "cross my heart and hope to die". She gets a chance to prove that she means it when the xenomorphs capture Newt with only minutes before a nuclear detonation will occur.
    • Ripley suggests nuking the site from orbit and Hicks agrees. The site ends up nuking itself when the damaged power plant explodes.
    • Also in the Special Edition, when Commander Simpson is discussing claim rights for colony surveyors. In reference to Newt’s dad, “if he finds anything, it’s his”. Well, he certainly brings something back to Hadley’s Hope with him - and that particular "piece of salvage" does not stay his, but becomes a major problem for the entire colony very fast.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Ripley, from the Xenomorph's point-of-view.
  • Giving Them the Strip: Hicks must quickly shed his acid-blood-spattered body armor before the corrosive stuff can penetrate to his skin.
  • Going Critical: The fusion reactor of the Atmospheric Processor starts to go into meltdown when it's cooling system is damaged. Especially gratuitous, since a fusion reactor has no need of cooling; nor would it's core melt. However; if the magnetic containment were to fail...
    • We have to assume its not a conventional reactor, and what is essentially unfolding is Thermal runaway. After all, runaway nuclear fusion reactions occur within stars that can and do lead up to supernova explosions.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Ferro's blood spraying on the dropship window.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Vasquez and to a lesser extent Burke tend to mix some proper Spanish terms every now and then.
  • Handicapped Badass: Despite being torn in two by the Alien queen, Bishop manages to not only stop himself from being pulled into the vacuum of space, but saves Newt from being blown out the airlock as well.
  • Hand Signals: Both Lieutenant Gorman and Sergeant Apone use these multiple times.
  • Hands-On Approach: As Ripley learns how to use the pulse rifle from Hicks.
  • Happy Ending Override:
    • The "positive" ending (James Cameron intended Ripley, Newt and Hicks to go back to Earth and live as a family) is overridden by the following film, which has both of them die (offscreen) and Ripley later learning that You Can't Fight Fate. Though due to the fact that Cameron didn't work directly on the sequels, many fans don't consider them part of the first two films continuity.
    • Subverted with the canonical interquel video game, Aliens: Colonial Marines, in that Hicks is shown to have actually survived, and the body in his capsule was not his. It's still a downer because he witnesses Ripley's death while trying to rescue her.
  • Hellevator: "We're on an express elevator to Hell — going down!"
  • Hellish Copter: Poor Corporal Ferro.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Gorman, and at the worst time possible.
    • Newt, for a while, was so shell-shocked she couldn't speak.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gorman and Vasquez.
  • Homage: The film has several homages to the book Starship Troopers, such as asking if the mission was a "bug hunt", and the female dropship pilot. Additionally, all the actors playing the Marines were required to read the book before filming.
  • Honor Before Reason: When Ellen Ripley makes a promise, crosses her heart and hopes to die, you can bet your cocooned hide that no hive of monsters, snarling Alien Queen or imminent thermo-nuclear explosion will stop her from saving your life.
  • I Gave My Word:
    • Played straight. Ripley promised that she would not leave Newt behind, imminent thermo-nuclear holocaust or not.
    • Subverted with Burke: see the Opening Quote above, a ruse to trick Ripley into helping him.
  • Ignored Expert: Ripley tries to explain the events of the original movie and the xenomorph to the Marines, but is constantly interrupted with sarcastic questions, macho posturing, and ignoring the civvie. Once they actually encounter them, they're no longer laughing.
  • Impaled Palm: Averted with Bishop's Five-Finger Fillet with Hudson.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Bishop at the end. He gets impaled from behind by the Alien Queen who hid on the dropship.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Mecha: The loading bot Mini-Mecha is used in the final battle against the alien queen.
  • Insult Backfire:
    Hudson: Vasquez, you ever been mistaken for a man?
    Vasquez: No, have you?
  • Instant Cooldown: Averted. By the time they notice emergency venting from the atmospheric processing station it has already reached a point where it's too late to stop it from exploding even if the cooling systems are fixed.
  • Ironic Echo: Burke dismisses Hicks as a grunt incapable of making a major decision, but quickly adds, "No offense." Later, after Burke's treachery is revealed and the Marines intend to "waste him", Hicks coolly adds, "No offense."
  • It Can Think:
    • "What do you mean THEY cut the power? How can they cut the power — they're animals!"
    • The alien queen shows that she knows full well what Ripley means when she points the business end of a flamethrower at her eggs, and her tearing herself away from her egg sac and coming after Ripley is strongly implied to be out of rage for Ripley killing the eggs.
    • In the director's cut, the survivors watch as the sentry guns burn through almost all their ammo before the xenomorphs finally "fall back" to look for another way in. Hudson lampshades this by saying "Maybe they're demoralized..."
  • It Has Been an Honor: Vasquez gives Gorman the "power grip", her ritual for greeting and departure she only shared with the chosen few like Drake, before they detonate a grenade to avert being captured/killed by swarms of xenomorphs.
  • Jerkass Façade: What Hudson acts like before he breaks down.
  • Karmic Death: The traitorous Company executive, Burke abandons everyone to the aliens — presumably assuming that they really will kill him once they escape — only to run directly into a bloodthirsty xenomorph himself. In a deleted scene (and in the novelization), Burke becomes the host for a chestburster, the original fate he had planned for Newt and Ripley.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: The M41A Pulse Rifle says hello. Ditto the M56 Smart Gun wielded by Vasquez and Drake. Hudson talks about particle weapons in his Badass Boast, but no one gets to use them in the movie.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Carter Burke gets his.
  • Last Name Basis: Through most of the film. Ripley and Hicks eventually progress to First Name Basis near the end, just before Ripley assaults the Alien hive to rescue Newt.
    Ripley: See you, Hicks.
    Hicks: Dwayne. It's Dwayne.
    Ripley: [beat] Ellen.
    Hicks: Don't be gone long, Ellen.
  • Last Stand: Discussed and shown in the tie-in comic Aliens: Newt's Tale. The Hadley's Hope colonists hole up in a wing of the facility to try and make a last stand against the xenomorphs. It ends...badly.
  • Late to the Tragedy: Ripley and the Colonial Marines. The settlement on LV-426 has already been wiped out when they get there.
    Apone: Sir, this place is dead. Whatever happened here, I think we missed it.
  • Little "No": Uttered when Ripley thinks Bishop has abandoned them.
  • Lock and Load Montage: The film takes this to the next level (and is likely the defining example for the series) - Ripley tapes together a pulse rifle and a flame thrower, grabs as much ammo as she can carry, puts on a bandolier of grenades and stuffs a bunch of flares in her pocket during the dropship ride to the atmosphere processor. She then removes her long-shirt and preps her weaponry during the elevator ride down.
  • Mama Bear: The last half-hour deals with Ripley defending Newt from the xenomorphs and the Alien Queen defending her eggs from Ripley.
    Ripley: Get away from her, you bitch!
  • Manly Tears: Hicks briefly when they realise the rest of the marines are lost to the aliens. With Hudson, it's more like Inelegant Blubbering.
  • Meaningful Name: The noble, nonviolent and self-sacrificing android is called "Bishop."
  • Mercy Kill: Ripley comes across a cocooned Burke in the atmosphere processor begging for help. She gives him a grenade, though he whines as he obviously knows what this means for him. Though considering the fate of the other 157 colonists he damned (not including Newt), he got off easy.
  • Mildly Military: James Cameron has admitted that the Space Marines came off as a lot less disciplined than actual Marines; rather, they were more a reflection of Vietnam-era regular Army conscripts. Some specific examples:
    • During the infiltration of the reactor, Vasquez and Drake disobey direct orders from their commanding officer (Lieutenant Gorman) and 2nd in command (Sergeant Apone) and re-arm their smart guns.
    • During their first encounter with the xenomorphs, the Marines panic like a bunch of schoolgirls.
    • After it's become clear that something is seriously wrong at the colony and hostile xenomorphs may be responsible, Spunkmeyer exits the drop ship, leaving it wide open for any xenomorph that might want to get inside. Naturally one does. It kills both Spunkmeyer and Ferro, thus crashing (and destroying) the drop ship and marooning the rest of the team on the planet.
    • Failing to have any kind of backup crew on the Sulaco, in case of problems with the one and only dropship that everyone goes down to the planet on. You can't depend entirely on remote control to get a new one.
  • Militaries Are Useless: Newt predicts that the presence of the Colonial Marines "won't make any difference." When the aliens show up, the Marines get overpowered very quickly and become a Dwindling Party. This leaves Ripley —a civilian— doing most of the heavy lifting and calling the shots, together with Corporal Hicks.
  • Mini-Mecha: The powerloader, complete with welding torch, hydraulic pincers and docking bay controls.
  • More Dakka: The film is largely premised on the Colonial Marines attempting to bring heavy military firepower to bear on the xenomorphs. Due to various circumstances including incompetence, overconfident leadership, and deliberate sabotage, they fail to deliver the full extent of this promise. The best examples that get displayed in the film are the smartguns and the automated sentry guns.
  • Neck Lift: Ripley does this to the alien queen during their fight using the mechanical arm of the cargo loader she's strapped into.
  • The Neidermeyer: Lt. Gorman, who is unit commander In Name Only. Sergeant Apone is the real commander of the unit, and when he dies, Gorman completely freezes up. He gets better... but it's unfortunately just before his demise.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Ripley pointing out that the marines were under the cooling vents for the Atmospheric processor, leading to Gorman ordering Apone to remove all (needed) ammunition.
    • Vasquez and Gorman blowing themselves up was a good idea at the time, but only if they had waited about 30 seconds before Newt got up the ladder first.
    • The Alien Queen was suspended high and above the ground by a strange apparatus if only to allow her to use her ovipositor, however it rendered her immovable. Throwing the bandolier of grenades into the fire not only didn't hurt her, but it also destroyed the apparatus, allowing her to move freely once she tore free of her now shredded ovipositor.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Ripley and Burke's outfits scream 80's, with Sigourney Weaver's curly hair and Paul Reiser's bad perm getting special notice. Conversely, the business suits all have turned-up collars.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The Arcturians that the Marines talk about.
    • The suggestive "another bug hunt" ad-libbed line establishes that the Colonial Marines are no strangers to fights against non-human races.
  • No One Gets Left Behind
    • After the Colonial Marines learn that some of the ones left behind in the escape are still alive, Vasquez says "Then we go back in there and get them. We don't leave our people behind." Averted, since they don't in fact go back in after them.
    • Played straight again with Ripley going in after Newt.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Despite being more focused on action, the film gets in on this. The aliens aren't even seen until over an hour into the film; before that the Marines are exploring the deserted colony, waiting to encounter them at any moment.
  • Nuke 'em: This option is suggested by the characters to deal with the Aliens ("It's the only way to be sure"), but the plot does it a different way, as the colony's atmosphere processor counts down to a thermonuclear overload all on its own.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Board of Inquiry of the Weyland-Yutani Company interrogate Ripley for hours on end about the Nostromo incident but refuse to believe her story about the alien creature (because no such lifeform has ever been encountered on any other planet) or the inside orders that came from the company. This is used to mislead the audience, as the only member who expresses sympathy towards Ripley is Carter Burke, hiding his role as the villain.
  • Oh Crap: Hudson gets a lot of these moments.
    • Hudson's face while Bishop does his high-speed version of Five Finger Filet.
    • "Game over, man. Game over!"
    • "This is a big fucking signal...Ten meters...eight..." "That can't be, that's inside the room." ba-beep-beep "It's reading right, man!" "Then you're not reading it right!" BA-BEEP BEEP "Three meters...what the HELL?!?" *eyes go upwards to the drop ceiling*
  • One-Liner: Being a traditional 80's action film, it features quite a few:
    • "I like to keep this handy for close encounters."
    • "What the hell are we supposed to use, man? Harsh language?"
    • "Get away from her, you BITCH!"
    • "LET'S ROCK!"
    • "Eat this!"
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Carrie Henn, who played Newt, was living in the UK at the time of filming (one of her parents was British, the other American), and apparently picked up some of the accent. Near the end when the protagonists are escaping through the airducts, she suddenly slips into an English accent on this line:
    Newt: Up there! There's a shortcut across the roof!
    • And, of course her peculiar, now legendary pronunciation of "mostly."
  • Outrun the Fireball:
    • The dropship barely escaping the nuclear detonation on LV426.
    • They actually had plenty of time to escape. Twenty six minutes, but Ripley refuses to leave without Newt.
    • Also everyone running out of the way of the crashing dropship, which explodes into flame and rolls right between them.
  • Practical Effects: The power loader, the Alien Queen (and her giant egg sac), the chestbursters, Bishop's severed torso, all done without the aid of CGI. And it is glorious.
  • Parental Substitute: Part of what makes the film so touching is Ripley's 'adoption' of Newt. Ripley, being frozen for 50+ years, lost her daughter, and Newt's family were killed by the Xenomorphs, so the two fill the empty spaces in each other's lives. Newt actually calls Ripley "Mommy" by the end of the film.
  • Parenthetical Swearing: According to supplemental material, Colonial Marine Drill Sergeants are not allowed by regulation to swear at recruits... so they take Gosh Darn It to Heck! and make it sound as filthy and nasty as possible.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Drake's camera bash.
  • Poor Communication Kills: After being alerted to the risk of damaging the reactor coolant equipment with gunfire, Gorman orders the Marines to unload their weapons and give all of their ammo to one guy to carry, leaving them with flamethrowers only. Not being told why they were doing this, and having rather little faith in their commander's abilities, most of the Marines keep some ammo on them and end up shooting up the coolant equipment anyways as soon as the fighting starts.
  • Powered Armor: The Power Loader Ripley uses is an interesting example of one without the "armor" part of the trope, being mostly an open frame used for loading cargo like a wearable forklift. Outside film material implies that Colonial Marines sometimes used an actual armed and armored version of the same technology for special situations, though the marines in the film do not seem to have one in their armory.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Used with the Marines' helmet cams, linked with the APC to give the CO there a better situational awareness. It doesn't really help.
  • Product Placement: The Power Loaders are apparently manufactured by Caterpillar, but unfortunately they're not a real product. (Though both Caterpillar, and all the people who saw the movie and then called Caterpillar trying to buy one, probably would've liked them to be real.) Ripley is also seen wearing Reeboks.
  • Quizzical Tilt: Both Ripley and the Alien Queen do versions of this at different points.
  • Rated M for Manly
  • Real Robot: The Power Loader is a good example.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Subverted. Burke is the only authority figure to sympathize with Ripley and comes across as a fair and reasonable person...until The Reveal.
  • Recycled Title: Alien, and then Aliens. It makes sense. First there's one alien and now there's many aliens.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Gorman gets a small measure of redemption in keeping Vasquez and himself from being taken alive.
  • Red Herring: Ripley meets the android Bishop, who she's intensely distrustful of due to her experience with Ash in the first film, and is later seen examining some dead facehuggers. It looks as though Bishop will betray our heroes in the interests of acquiring a xenomorph for the company, just like Ash, but it turns out Burke is the one who really wants to bring in a xenomorph. Bishop was only following his initial orders.
  • Red Shirt: Easy way to determine Red Shirts: Are they named Ripley? No? They're boned. Frost, Crowe, Dietrich, Wierzbowski, Apone, Drake, Spunkmeyer, Ferro, in that order.
  • Reliable Traitor:
    • Carter Burke.
    • Subverted in the case of Bishop, who is foreshadowed to be one several times, playing on Ripley's prior bad experience, even potentially faking out the audience at one late point when a betrayal seemed the most obvious deduction. However, they are all Red Herrings, he turns out to be one of the most reliable members of the group, coming in at the last minute for a Gunship Rescue. No one is more surprised at this than Ripley.
  • Retirony: When the survivors are trapped on the planet's surface with little hope of rescue, Hudson wails that he has "four more weeks and out, now I'm gonna buy it on this rock". He's right.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Bishop may be synthetic, but he's not stupid.
  • Robotic Reveal: Bishop is revealed to be an android fairly early on.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Practically the entire platoon of Space Marines. The xenomorphs are against serious opposition this time and Ripley tries to reassure Newt by telling her she is now protected by soldiers, but as Newt predicts it doesn't make any difference.
  • Salvage Pirates: In the opening, Ripley's escape shuttle from the first movie is found by a deep-space salvage crew, who express disappointment at finding her alive, as "there goes our salvage, boys". Averted in that they don't consider killing her and salvaging the shuttle anyways.
  • Save the Villain: Ripley stops Hicks from killing Burke on the spot once his betrayal is exposed, saying "No, we need to take him back!" Presumably she hopes a public trial will expose the Company's role in the deaths of her crewmates on the Nostromo.
  • Screaming Woman:
    • Ripley screams as she falls into the gravity well with the Queen, and just before the Queen loses its hold on her during the airlock sequence.
    • And Newt — excusable though as she is just a little girl facing very real monsters. It also saves her life when she's cocooned awaiting the facehugger. Ripley has found her Tracking Device lying on the floor and breaks down in tears, thinking she's dead. Suddenly Ripley hears Newt scream and thus knows exactly which direction to go.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Ripley doesn't want any part of Burke's hopes to profit off the xenomorphs.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Averted. The atmosphere processor's fusion reactor is fully automated and a marvel of engineering, until after it's damaged in the dropship crash, causing it to go into a thermonuclear meltdown.
    • The station begins emergency venting and the remaining cooling systems work until they overload, but it still leaves the survivors little more than four hours until it goes critical.
  • Semper FI: The United States Colonial Marine Corps is the successor to the USMC. A proud and self-described "ultimate squad of state-of-the-art badasses". In line with the parallels to the Vietnam War evoked by Cameron, their superior technology is not enough against a hidden foe with a home turf advantage.
  • Send In The Search Team:
    • The salvage team that finds Ripley's shuttle.
    • The Colonial Marines sent to find out what happened to the colony on LV426 that has gone silent.
  • Sensor Suspense: Several scenes with the motion trackers, especially the "They're crawling through ceiling!" scene. And in the deleted sentry scene right before that, seeing the ammo count from the sentry guns decline rapidly.
  • Sentry Gun: A mini-plotline in the director's cut features the Marines barricading a main hallway and setting up four auto turrets at key locations in two pairs. The first pair fails to hold back the incoming waves of xenomorphs, but the second pair finally convinces them to look for another means to reach the humans within...after being drained to ten rounds in one gun.
  • Sergeant Rock: Sergeant Apone is one of the most famous examples of this trope.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Hicks likes to keep one handy. For close encounters.
  • Smug Snake: Carter Burke is the slimiest corporate bastard ever.
    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.
  • Space Marine: This film trades the civilian astronauts of the first movie for rough 'n ready space marines.
  • The Speechless: Newt is this until Ripley takes the time to get her some hot chocolate and clean her up.
  • Stealthy Colossus: The enormous Queen deserves some credit for sneaking in a not too big dropship and remaining undetected for the entire fly back to the Sulaco.
    • Pretty well justified though. The dropship is thrown sideways by a blast across the landing platform, right to where the Queen is. Bishop is too busy trying to stop them from crashing to see anything, while the others are in the back. The Queen hides inside the compartment that the landing legs retract into, and simply waits there for the chance to strike. Really, it's only problem would be available space, and we've seen the (albeit smaller) aliens fitting into some tight places.
  • Suit with Vested Interests: Burke puts a higher value on getting a sample of the creature than he does on the crew. As does Weyland-Yutani as a whole. If it was an experiment going awry or a single xenomorph attacking a beach resort, his behaviour would be more understandable but in the middle of an out of control situation involving thousands of the things, he's just a stupid bastard.
    • Burke was responsible for the loss of a valuable Company asset in LV-426. His career is over unless he can salvage something from the mess, hence his desire to get his hands on an alien specimen.
  • Surprise Vehicle: The dropship rising up behind Ripley and Newt during the escape sequence. It takes Newt looking at it and screaming it to Ripley to make her realize it's behind her. In fairness, the place is blowing up around her ears.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Averted. The alien queen hides on the dropship and suddenly impales Bishop with her tail. Though the dismemberment doesn't kill him, since he's android, he's no longer a threat to the stowaway queen.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: When Ripley, Newt and Bishop step off the dropship after escaping LV-426, Ripley takes a moment to thank the android for saving her and the young girl. Bishop replies that he did do good... and then he gets ripped in half by the xenomorph queen, who hitched a ride up with them.
  • Tastes Like Friendship: Ripley gets Newt to talk by giving her a glass of hot chocolate.
  • Terraform: The purpose of the Hadley's Hope colony, using massive fusion-powered atmospheric converters to do the job.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Ripley gets her listeners mildly squicked when she accuses Burke of intending to "impregnate" her. With an Alien, of course. (Which is bad! But at least it's not Paul Reiser.)
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Marines and Ripley decide to nuke LV-426 to make sure they wipe out all the Aliens. Averted because not only do the Aliens kill the pilot of the Drop Ship, but the huge reactor blows up in a thermonuclear explosion - making nuking the planet redundant.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: "Get away from her, you BITCH!"
  • This Is Unforgivable: The marines interrogate Burke's actions for trying to impregnate Ripley and Newt with chest-bursters. Hudson is disgusted, and wants to waste the scumbag. Hicks tries to hear out both accounts and cross-examine them before doing anything drastic. When Ripley reveals Burke's true motives, right down to how he planned to be the sole-survivor of this disaster he created, so no one else would be alive to contradict him, Hicks finally snaps.
  • Three-Laws Compliant: Bishop paraphrases the First Law as to why he would never kill people like Ash did in the first film.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: An aversion, as Ripley expresses gratitude and is simultaneously forced to admit she was wrong about Bishop all along, but their conversation is literally cut short as the Queen Alien impales and rips the android in two.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: The Alien Queen is disposed off by ejecting her into space.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Ripley starts out the film as a simple commercial freighter officer and ends up kicking ass.
    • Hudson qualifies somewhat as he's a nervous wreck for most of the movie but goes out with a bang.
  • Totally Radical: The dialogue of the marines is strewn with 1960's Vietnam War slang, despite taking place in the future.
  • Tracking Device: Corporal Hicks gives Ripley a wrist mounted tracking device. Ripley later gives it to Newt.
  • Trading Bars for Stripes: Drake and Vazquez.
  • Traitor Shot: Bishop gets one that looks like this when he talks with Spunkmeyer about the facehugger specimens kept in the medical wing. He later proves to be a capable support character who rescues Ripley and Newt at a pivotal moment.
  • Understatement: Burke tries to explain why he didn't warn the colonists what they were looking for: "I made a decision, and it was... wrong. It was a bad call, Ripley. It was a bad call." Ripley immediately calls him out on this.
    Ripley: Bad call? These people are DEAD Burke!
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • Hicks, the only surviving Marine, flirts with Ripley while teaching her to use a pulse rifle. There's also an earlier scene where Hicks gives Ripley one of the colonist's tracking devices, telling her it'll help him find her if they get separated and awkwardly trying to put it on her wrist. He defuses the situation by remarking that it doesn't mean they're engaged now, and Ripley puts it on herself.
    • When Ripley leaves an injured Hicks on the dropship to go get Newt they exchange first names.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: During the intense and turbulent drop through the atmosphere, Hicks is revealed to have fallen asleep. It's a hint that despite his low rank, he's a very experienced and competent soldier, as opposed to Gorman, who is in command, but is only making his second drop ever, and will freeze up when things start going to hell.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: This film is the Trope Namer. The chinup-pulling, smartgun-wielding Colonial Marine Vasquez dies, while the maternal, civilian Ripley lives. Several other female marines also die, but are given less characterization and attention. James Cameron likes his Action Girls, but they apparently need to be acting on maternal instincts.
  • Verbal Tic: Hudson wants ya to know that it's man, man!!
  • Video Phone: Burke leaves My Card in case Ripley changes her mind about going on the mission to find out what happened to the colony on LV426. After her next Catapult Nightmare, Ripley sticks the card in her videophone where it automatically connects her to a sleepy Burke.
  • Wall Crawl: The aliens are shown crawling a ceiling. This has been adapted in later movies and been made extensive use of in the Alien vs. Predator games, as alien players are able to change to wall-crawling mode and thus traverse any surface, no matter if vertical or even upside down by simply walking towards it.
  • Weld The Lock: The team welds the doors leading to Operations shut to keep out the Aliens. They come in through the ceiling instead.
  • We Will Wear Armour In The Future: The Colonial Marines have fairly realistic armour. It even saves Hicks' life (though not any of the other marines).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Did no one save those poor, innocent hamsters from nuclear vaporization at the end of the movie?
    • The last we see of Ripley's cat is when Ripley tells him she decided to take the mission. In the novelization, she left him on Earth (commenting that only she needed to go back into danger). Given what happens in the next movie, Jones the cat may have the happiest ending of any of the characters in this movie. Maybe even the entire series.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race:
    • Bishop uses a fantastic non-malicious version after Ripley disposes of the Alien Queen.
    Bishop: Not bad for a human.
  • You Are in Command Now:
    • Corporal Hicks becomes able to authorize a nuclear attack thanks to alien-caused attrition in the higher ranks, though the company lieutenant was only wounded, not killed, in an incident precipitated by his own ineptitude. When he's up and around again, Lt. Gorman seems to acknowledge his failure of command, allowing Hicks to continue calling the shots.
    • This also applies to Ripley, thanks to Hicks' low-key command style. The marines defer to Ripley because of her greater experience with the aliens and her more forceful personality compared to the inept Lt. Gorman. Hicks plays along because her orders make sense, quietly providing his own expertise and authority when needed. It's likely not a coincidence that Ripley's (civilian) rank was raised from Warrant Officer to Lieutenant First Class for this movie — more than one reviewer assumes that Hicks regards Ripley as his superior officer. Even the failure to resolve their UST plays into this.
  • You Leave Him Alone!: Again, "Get away from her, you bitch!" There's a lot of tropes in that one line.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Ripley rescues Newt from the Hive, they escape the planet along with Hicks and Bishop just before the fusion reactor explodes, and all seems well. Then it turns out that the Queen Alien hitched a ride.

Newt: Are we gonna sleep all the way home?
Ripley: All the way home.
Newt: Can I dream?
Ripley: Yes, honey. I think we both can.
[tucks Newt in]
Ripley: Sleep tight.
Newt: Aye-ffirmative.

Alien³Light Gun GameOperation Wolf
Cape Fear 100 Scariest Movie MomentsThe Hitcher
AlienCreator/ 20 th Century FoxAlien³
AlienFilms of the 1980sAmerican Ninja
AlienScience Fiction FilmsAlien³
AlienHorror FilmsAlien³
Rule of ScaryImageSource/Live-Action FilmsAwesome Personnel Carrier
AlienHugo AwardAlien³
AlienMilitary Science-FictionAlien: Resurrection
Zone of the EndersCreator/KonamiAnimaniacs

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy