Franchise / Alien

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In space, no one can hear you scream.

"You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? A perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility."
Ash, Alien (1979)

Alien is a 20th Century Fox multimedia film franchise created by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, that codified science fiction Body Horror. The franchise, which spans films, novels, comic books, and video games, helped to launch the careers of creators like Ridley Scott, James Cameron, and Sigourney Weaver.

The series revolves around the "Xenomorphs", alien monsters with acid blood that spawn by bursting out of other organisms' chests and try to kill anything that isn't them. Most works involve humans encountering the creatures, with horrific results. A wide array of Crossover works with Fox's other famous science fiction alien monster, the Predator, also exist. For more information on those, see the Alien vs. Predator page.

Main Series

Films

Comic Books
  • Fire and Stone (2014 - 2015)
    • Prometheus: Fire and Stone
    • Aliens: Fire and Stone
    • Alien vs. Predator: Fire and Stone
    • Predator: Fire and Stone
    • Prometheus: Fire and Stone—Omega
  • Life and Death (2016 - 2017)
    • Predator: Life and Death
    • Prometheus: Life and Death
    • Aliens: Life and Death
    • Alien vs. Predator: Life and Death
    • Prometheus: Life and Death One-Shot
  • Aliens: Defiance (2016)
  • Aliens: Dead Orbit (2017)

Literature
  • Out of the Shadows trilogy (2014)
    • Alien: Out of the Shadows
    • Alien: Sea of Sorrows
    • Alien: River of Pain (ties into the Fire and Stone comic saga)
  • The Weyland-Yutani Report (2014)
  • The Rage War (2015 - 2016)
    • Predator: Incursion
    • Alien: Invasion
    • Alien vs. Predator: Armageddon
  • Aliens: Bug Hunt - Anthology of 18 short stories. (2017)
  • Alien Covenant: Origins - Prequel to Alien: Covenant (2017)

Video Games

Non-Canon Series

Comic Books

Literature
  • Steve Perry trilogy
    • Earth Hive (1992)
    • Nightmare Asylum (1993)
    • The Female War (1993)
  • Genocide (1994)
  • Alien Harvest (1995)
  • Colonial Marines Technical Manual (1995)
  • Rogue (1995)
  • Labyrinth (1996)
  • Music of the Spears (1996)
  • Berserker (1998)
  • Original Sin (2005)
  • DNA War (2006)
  • Cauldron (2007)
  • Steel Egg (2007)
  • Criminal Enterprise (2008)
  • No Exit (2008)

Theme Park Attractions

Video Games
  • Alien (Atari) - 1982
  • Aliens: The Computer Game - 1986
  • Aliens: Alien 2 - 1987
  • Aliens - 1990
  • Alien 3 - 1992
  • Alien 3: The Gun - 1993
  • Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure - 1995
  • Alien Trilogy - 1996
  • Aliens Online - 1998
  • Alien: Resurrection - 2000
  • Aliens: Thanatos Encounter - 2001
  • Aliens: Unleashed - 2003
  • Aliens: Extermination - 2006
  • Aliens Infestation - 2011
  • Aliens: Armageddon - 2014
  • Mortal Kombat X - 2015


This franchise in general provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes A to G 
  • Action Girl: In the Dark Horse post-Aliens comic series, Newt becomes one hell of an action girl.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The comic series branches off from the movies after Aliens, and benefits greatly as a result.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Bishop in Aliens and Alien 3 averts this, explained as having stricter safeguards than the one that went against the crew in the first film. But by Alien: Resurrection, androids have been outlawed with orders to "destroy on sight" because some of them started to make "children".
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Both humans and Xenomorphs make good use of air vents to get around without the other side noticing. The Xenomorph in the first film moves around the spaceship using air vents. In the second film, Newt survives by hiding in the air vents, and the Marines make their escape through the same vents. Newt uses them for more aggressive purposes in the Dark Horse adaptation.
  • Alien Landmass: Planet LV-426 (aka Acheron) has rocky formations which are rounded at the top into smooth nubs. Offhand, the rocks greatly resemble bones.
  • Ambiguous Robots: This series has a whole spectrum of them. Tending toward the organic end, we have the Xenomorphs and on the probably-robotic end, we have the artificial persons. Right square in the middle is the Space Jockey (and by extension, his ship) from the first movie.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Actually a set of company protocols, but it sure resembles a cult searching for an Artifact of Doom they think will bring them power. From the 21st Century (possibly before) to the far future. Years, decades, centuries come and go and every time so much as a hint of a sign of a Xenomorph rears its head, they have a team ready to go, with moles, dupes and those they need for the moment all set to go.
  • And I Must Scream: In the comics, an adult Newt falls in love with a Colonial Marine, who turns out to be an Artificial Human with more advanced emotions. He makes a Heroic Sacrifice by staying behind on an infested ship to allow her to escape, but this leaves him trapped on a Ghost Ship (they leave him alone because he's useless to them for breeding) that can never return to civilization because of the risk.
  • Appropriated Title: Although the third, fourth, and fifth films all went under the original title, most spin-off merchandise is known under Aliens, which was the second movie.
  • Artificial Human: Ash, Bishop and Call (a bit of franchise-wide Theme Naming which Prometheus appears to have continued with David). Ash from the first movie is a particularly sinister example, since he secretly protects the Alien and betrays the other crew members.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: Deconstructed in several ways. The Nostromo in the first film, for instance, clearly had this look before the wear and tear set in. The colony in the second film, meanwhile, has a facade of this look over a greasy industrial substructure. The contrast between this trope, Used Future, and unsettling organic structures is a recurring theme throughout the franchise.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Subverted in the Newt's Tale comic series. During the colonist's final stand against the xenomorphs, Newt's mother picks up a gun and looks at her children (intending to put them out of their misery before turning the gun on herself). She gets ready to pull the trigger...and then Newt tells her there's another way, and leads them towards a ventilation grate during the attack. Not that it helps, considering that her mother and brother get ripped apart seconds later, forcing her to flee into the duct.
  • BFG: The combination gun Ripley is carrying at the end of Part 2 in the Dark Horse comic of Aliens has to be seen to be believed.
  • Broken Bird: Newt AKA Billie is one in the Dark Horse comic series.
  • Bug War: A small scale version. The first and third films center on a group of human noncombatants against a single Alien, while the second and fourth films feature groups of armed people against a horde of Aliens. The Alien vs. Predator series features a full-scale battle between the species in the second movie. The "war" part didn't happened until Aliens versus Predator 2.
  • Canon Discontinuity:
    • The Dark Horse comics totally ignore 3 and Resurrection because they were written before Alien 3 came along and killed everyone. In the novelizations, Newt and Hicks were replaced by Billie and Wilks and Ripley was revealed to be a artificial person with implanted memories.
    • The Out of the Shadows trilogy serves as a Continuity Reboot for the expanded universe, disregarding the comics and other novels, aside from a few Mythology Gags. The second book very nearly decanonized 3 and Resurrection as well, before Fox changed their mind and asked the author to include references to them.
    • Neil Blompkamp's film was suggested to ignore 3 (and Resurrection by extension) due to early concept art featuring an older version of Newt, who had a bridge dropped upon her in the opening of that film.note  Blomkamp clarified that his film would not be retconning them, while Sigourney Weaver indicated it would be set in an Alternate Timeline.
  • Captain Ersatz: The two main characters in the first two arcs of the comic series were Newt and Hicks. When Alien 3 killed the characters off, future printings of the comic changed their names to Billie and Wilks, though this seems an odd choice in retrospect, as their backstories remained identical and the comics had diverged so sharply from the movies by that point that keeping them in step with one another seems irrelevant.
  • Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: As everybody knows, Weyland-Yutani is a combination of rival motoring conglomerates British Leyland and Toyota.
  • Cold Sleep, Cold Future: The world seems to get a little bit grimmer each time Ripley wakes up. In the first film, the Company is willing to risk the lives of a ship's crew to get its hands on an Alien. In the second film, the Company (or at least Burke) is willing to sacrifice a whole colony to breed Aliens. In the third film, Ripley wakes up on a planet that is inhabited solely by a prison. In the fourth film, the megacorporations have given way to an even more irresponsible military that actually goes through with Alien genetic testing. The comic book canon is far worse than even this.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Occasionally (some deleted scenes in Aliens, the flashback in Alien Versus Predator and many times in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem), the Aliens abandon their stealth kill tactics for a Zerg Rush, which goes about as well for them as one might expect. It actually works pretty well in the first AVP film...until the Predator Self-Destruct Mechanism kicks in.
  • Continuous Decompression: Used in Part 1 and 2 during the Thrown Out the Airlock scenes. Part 4 has incredibly big Aliens blown out of incredibly small holes.
  • Continuity Reboot: The Fire and Stone comic series and the Out of the Shadows trilogy of novels serve as a reboot to the Alien and AVP franchises' expanded universes, while containing Continuity Nods to earlier entries.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: This is evidently humanity's hat in the Alien universe.
    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.
  • Crapsack World: The Dark Horse comic series is one hellish place to live. The Mega Corp. controls the world, all civil rights are essentially gone, the military kills civilians with impunity, and that's before the two killer alien species come knocking. The Aliens overrun Earth and more than one character wonders if we deserved it.
  • Crossover:
    • Famously so with the Predators in Alien vs. Predator.
    • A Xenomorph appears as a Guest Fighter in Mortal Kombat X, born out of the MK-specific Tarkata race. Coincidentally, a Predator also appears as a playable character, tying in with the above.
  • *Drool* Hello: The movies are pretty fond of this one. Whenever dripping saliva onto the victim won't signal a Xenomorph's presence, the warm air exhaled onto the victim's neck from behind will. And if that happens, it's already too late to run.
  • Dwindling Party: Across the films, if you see a main group of characters, expect only one or two survivors in the end
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Ellen Ripley was a normal human who Took a Level in Badass by the end of Aliens by destroying an entire Alien hive by herself, fighting against acid-bleeding parasitic Xenomorphs. Then by Alien: Resurrection her clone Ripley 8, who shares most of her memories, receives some Alien DNA as a result of a flaw in the cloning process. Ripley's own blood becomes slightly acidic, she gets a psychic connection with the Xenos, has reduced empathy and predatory instincts, and is able to shrug off being hit in the face with a loaded barbell.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: The motion trackers from Aliens, which often appeared in video game adaptations of the franchise.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: In the comic series Aliens: Newt's Tale, Newt is the only one to survive the colonists' last stand at LV-426, and is forced to go into hiding and foraging by herself after watching her mother and brother get massacred by the xenomorphs right in front of her.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: In the comics, a group of Marines is forced to go to the Aliens' homeworld to act as bait for facehuggers. One character sagely notes that, on other worlds, the Alien is a foreign creature which the locals are not used to dealing with. On its own planet it would have struck an ecological balance with other species, and it might not even be the dominant predator. The bait plan is completely misguided because unbeknownst even to themselves, all the Marines are androids.
  • Evil Is Visceral: In addition to creating many of the subtropes, the Alien eggs and the visual design of the Space Jockey are also this.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: Numerous examples across the entire main series and Crossover films. This includes the Nostromo, the Sulaco (in the third film as the alarms are triggered), the Auriga, the Betty and even the downed Predator ship from Requiem.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Giving "birth" to a Chestburster. This is highlighted by the iconic plea, "Kill... me!" spoken by impregnated Alien victims.
  • Fetus Terrible: Chestbursters are endoparasites intended to evoke this.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The films themselves are an odd non-character example in terms of their respective tones and atmospheres (and even in light of the personalities and resumes of their respective directors): Alien is phlegmatic, Aliens is choleric, Alien³ is melancholic and Alien: Resurrection is sanguine.
  • Gaia's Lament: Earth in the series. It has become an overpolluted slum.
  • Genre Blindness: Of all people, the CEO of Weyland-Yutani themselves. In their mad obsession to acquire the Xenomorph, they seem to keep forgetting that sending a bunch of "expendables" who are out of the loop to inadvertently bring the Alien back to Earth and planting a mole in the team always backfires on them when the protagonists inevitably figure out they were set up and then kill the Aliens themselves.
    • Though, it looks to have finally succeeded in Aliens: Colonial Marines.
  • Genre Shift: The first movie is "a haunted house in space'' while the second is intended to be "the Vietnam War in space." The third went back to being a sci-fi horror film while the fourth went back to being a sci-fi action film.

    Tropes H to M 
  • Humans Advance Swiftly: If you count the film Prometheus in, you may notice how the robots' personalities are becoming more human as the in-universe timeline moves on.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: In all the films except for Alien³, the Aliens are set loose due to human greed mixed with incompetence. Even in the third movie however the only reason the Company sends a rescue mission to Fiorina-161 is because they suspect Ripley is carrying a Xenomorph embryo. Otherwise they'd basically abandoned their Hellhole Prison planet because it was unprofitable.
    Ripley 8 (regarding Annalee Call revealing herself as an android in Resurrection): I should have known. No human being is that humane.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Any given character with a Alien fetus inside them: "Kill me... kill me..." Justified as usually the victim is cocooned and immobile, otherwise they'd surely do the job themselves.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Happens a few times, what with the Aliens having bladed tails. That said, Ripley turns the tables on the Alien in the first movie by impaling it with a harpoon in their final confrontation.
  • Just Following Orders: Ash in the first movie, and possibly Burke in the second movie (it's never clear whether he's operating on orders from the Company or he's in it for himself). David in Prometheus may count as well, although he may have let his feelings get in the way just a little.
  • Mad Scientist: Quite a few in the comics, perhaps most notably Church from Labyrinth.
  • Mainlining the Monster: Aliens produce Royal Jelly which has the same role for this species as it has for real-life bees. However, it is also an extremely valuable substance in human society, used as a powerful and mind-enhancing drug for wealthy individuals. Since the only source of Royal Jelly is often deep inside an Alien hive, collecting it can be very dangerous. The Hive mini-series details such an operation.
  • Mega Corp.: Weyland-Yutani is the very epitome of this trope. They control every Earth government and have colonized many star systems. Not only that, but they have a private army with a bioweapons division. They have prison planets as well, such as the one in the third movie. The fourth movie changes this up by referring to megacorps like Weyland-Yutani as a thing of the past, though the government that replaces them is just as bad, if not worse.
  • Mercy Kill: Often requested by victims of the Xenomorph's parasitic life cycle. Usually granted, if the opportunity is there.
  • Must Have Caffeine: The singular common vice shared by every adult-character with spoken lines of dialogue in this franchise, to accentuate how this is a story about "Blue Collar Working Nine To Five Joes and Janes."

    Tropes N to S 
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: You can see there's no consistency on the naming (which is why it's one of The Angry Video Game Nerd's targets here).
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Averted. The first two films are silent about religion, but
    • In Alien³ the inmates of the prison colony have got religion.
    • In Alien: Resurrection the space station has a chapel, and one character makes the Sign of the Cross upon entering, which is a typically Catholic observance and a somewhat old-fashioned one at that. This character is later revealed to be an android, and there is a mention of androids investigating religion for a morality which is chosen, rather than imposed through programming.
    • In Prometheus, Elizabeth Shaw is a Christian. Not much is made of this, but she clearly keeps her faith - her last act is to give the date, in the style "year of Our Lord."
  • The Quest: An evil corporate one at that; almost all of the films and most of the related media include references to Weyland-Yutani's attempts to acquire at any cost at least one of the Aliens.
  • Recursive Creators: In Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, the different species in the overall franchise are established to each be engineered by a preceding one. The known order is Engineers creating Humans, then Humans creating Androids, then Androids creating Xenomorphs.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: Ripley, particularly in the second film.
  • Robotic Reveal: When someone starts leaking milk-colored Symbolic Blood, you've got one of these.
  • Rule of Scary: There are plenty of rationalizations of the xenomorph's life cycle, the circumstances, and behavior of various characters, but in the end it all comes down to this.
  • Sequel Escalation: Alien has a single xenomorph preying on civilians. Aliens has a full colony of bugs pitted against a platoon of Space Marines. The third movie reverts back to the original scenario. The fourth movie escalates it to a whole hive of Aliens again.
  • Sleeper Starship: FTL travel apparently takes months so they use cryo.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Aside from the vice of Must Have Caffeine, every single heroic adult character (well, aside from the Dirty Coward Lambert) with spoken lines in the Alien Franchise is bound to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day like a chimney.
  • Sole Survivor: Newt in the Newt's Tale comic series
  • Space Clothes: Averted. The crew members wear normal clothes. People entering cryogenic sleep strip down to their underwear; otherwise, they usually walk around in civilian/military attire. In the opening scene of Alien, the clothes are distinctly reminiscent of diapers, as the lethargic crew are "born" from closed spaces into the white room controlled by the AI "Mother".
  • Space Is Noisy: There are some flight-cruising sounds, and in the fourth one, an explosion.
  • Space Marine: A platoon of Colonial Marines is dispatched to investigate a human colony that has gone silent. They find a xenomorph hive and are largely wiped out, destroying the hive and killing the Queen in turn.
  • Symbolic Blood: Androids have white blood and organs. Naturally, both the android in the first film and Bishop get torn apart so it sprays everywhere. In Alien, the insides of the android were made from milk, pasta, and glass marbles. Apparently Lance Henriksen got food poisoning from said milky blood while shooting that scene.

    Tropes T to Z 
  • Theme Naming: Each synthetic character has a name from the first three letters of the alphabet, in accordance with their order of appearance: Ash, Bishop and Call. Prometheus continues this trend with David.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Ripley's mutation from being a scientist to a badass Alien killer is a running theme through the franchise.
  • Trapped with Monster Plot: The first film is one of the most famous examples, and almost every entry in the franchise is also an example.
  • Trope Codifier:
  • United Space of America: It's all but explicitly stated that the US is still a superpower centuries in the future, complete with its own colonies. Also, the Colonial Marines are clearly shown as American.
  • Used Future: The first film in particular is a notable early example: the cold, underlit grungy ship looks like a run-down refinery ship. It's a big break from the sparkly white corridors and spandex jumpsuits.
  • Villain Ball: In the Dark Horse comic, a Company plant (and a psychopath) kills an officer to prove to his hostages how ruthless he is, while said officer is attempting to flat-out tell him that his plan to infect the marines will not work because they are all androids.
  • Villain-Based Franchise: The franchise in general is this, but not the movie series due to centering on Ripley.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: Quoted almost word for word by one of the Android Marines in the Dark Horse comic. This was the first major indicator that the marines were not what they believed themselves to be.
  • You Are in Command Now: In the Dark Horse comic series, at least at one point, it's Newt's turn to step up to the plate.
  • You Keep Using That Word: The Alien "Quadrilogy" DVD set. They invented that word for marketing purposes. It would actually be called a Tetralogy.
  • Zeerust: Spaceship electronics are based on bulky 1970s computers like the Apple II series which were considered cutting-edge at their time.
  • Zombie Infectee: Most people who know they're incubated by an Alien Facehugger, and its effects, choose to bite the bullet or die in a Heroic Sacrifice. One memorable scene from Alien: Resurrection involved an infectee bear-hugging the scientist responsible for his infection, forcing the Chestburster to go through his chest and the scientist's head, taking his murderer with him to the afterlife. This was actually done in the comic, many years before, but the artists had the creature enter the researcher's chest.

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