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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Burke.
    • Was Burke a squirrely sociopath all along, or was he backed into a corner by a woman determined to nail him to the wall over a genuine mistake? Likewise, was Ripley being fair to Burke when she accused him of killing the colonists, or was she just looking for a convenient scapegoat for an anonymous set of orders uploaded to the Nostromo long before Burke was born?
    • With the release of Alien: Isolation, was Burke lying to Ripley about the fate of her daughter Amanda?
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    • Was Burke truly on Ripley's side, at least to begin with, or was he a loyal company man through and through? Did he lie to her or was he just as unaware of the truth?
    • Did Burke direct the colonists to the derelict because he wanted to prove Ripley's story was true or was he ordered by someone higher up to direct the colonists to that ship because they wanted a specimen, no matter how much it would cost?
    • Did the company purposefully set up the Marines going to LV-426 to fail from the start? It seems unlikely that Burke would have wanted to accompany them on what amounts to a suicide mission, but he may have been considered expendable by his bosses.
  • Award Snub: Subverted in that Sigourney Weaver did get nominated for Best Actress, in an industry that even by 2016 doesn't reward science fiction movies outside of the technical categories like Visual Effects.
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  • Better on DVD: The extended cut restores Newt's backstory, where her father was the first colonist who was infected, and Ripley's subplot of her heartbreak over losing her daughter during hypersleep, thereby adding a much deeper dimension to her relationship with Newt. These additions do interfere with the film's pacing, however; it's up to the individual viewer's opinion as to whether or not the trade-off is worth it.
  • Broken Base:
    • This movie is either considered to be a worthy followup to the original or the inferior to the original, but critically it is considered better than anything after it. This is especially prominent on IMDB, where the user reviews range from the majority of very positive to the Vocal Minority of outright hate.
    • Fans are divided on Theatrical Cut vs Special Edition. The latter adds a number of deleted scenes that expand on plot points or are cool in their own right, but detract from the movie's pacing and tension. A common middle-ground is to recommend the Theatrical Cut for a first viewing and the Special Edition for rewatches.
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  • Discredited Meme: Carrie Henn, who played Newt, has said that she hates the line, "They mostly come at night. Mostly." Possibly because people spin it into the worst pickup line ever.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Hudson, having so many memorable lines.
    • Bishop, to the point that he's basically the second main character of the Alien franchise after Ripley.
    • Vasquez as well thanks to Jeanette Goldstein's iconic performance, to the point that she got a trope named after her.
    • Sergeant Apone, who influenced several other sergeant characters of his type such as Johnson of Halo fame. This is especially impressive considering he was one of the first people to die, which demonstrates just how much of an impact he left on viewers.
    • Ferro is pretty much the archetypical Drop Ship pilot for all subsequent fiction, to the extent that many of them end up quoting her lines.
    • And there is also Pvt Wierzbowski, who despite not having a single line in the movie has his own website.
  • Even Better Sequel: While the original Alien is a great movie - interesting characters, creepy and horrifying designs for the alien, it introduced the xenomorph life cycle to an unsuspecting populace, and so on - the second movie is widely (though not universally) regarded as a better film. It also benefited from a Genre Shift from straight up Horror to Action Horror, which meant that instead of suffering from Sequelitis, Aliens was able to do things its own way. In general, which film any individual viewer considers the better one usually comes down to which genre they prefer.
  • Fanon: It's left open what kind of relationship Vasquez and Drake have. Word of God is that they're childhood friends, but some fans like to interpret them as being lovers in some fashion.
  • Fandom Rivalry: There's a fairly serious intra-fandom rivalry between fans of this movie and supporters of Ridley Scott's prequel series, since Fox ended up cancelling Neill Blomkamp's Alien 5 (which would have brought back Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn and wiped Alien³ from existence) in favor of Alien: Covenant.
  • Fandom-Specific Plot: 95% of Alien Fix Fics follow the exact same plotline, where Mama Ripley, Papa Hicks, and their adopted daughter Rebecca return to Earth with Uncle Bishop and never so much as think the word "xenomorph" ever again. Any rumors that something bad happened to them afterwards are completely false and nothing more than mean-spirited conjecture.
  • Genre Turning Point:
    • In American futuristic SF, the role of women was changed forever because of this film. Afterward, there was no room for any Neutral Female or Damsel in Distress in the future for any major female character; now they are expected to grab a weapon and join the fighting as much as any man.
    • This was also the movie that made it stylish to have your future soldiers use high-tech kinetic firearms instead of "ray guns".
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In-universe, there's the early scene where Ripley has a nightmare about having a chestburster inside her, which actually happens in Alien³.
    • The dropship crash, after the film's composer James Horner's death crashing his plane in June 2015.
    • Inside the Atmosphere Processor, Ripley desperately mashes the call buttons for both elevators, summoning them both to her level and allowing the Alien Queen to board the Sulaco. At the time it seemed like an innocuous moment of panic, but that one single careless button press directly caused the heartbreaking events of the next film.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: James Cameron's original script would have had Ripley's daughter upset at her for seemingly abandoning her instead of already being dead by then. It's now strongly hinted that she passed away having a good idea about what her mother might have been through.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Vasquez asks Ferro about Ripley "Who's Snow White?" Ten years later Sigourney Weaver plays Snow White's stepmother in Snow White: A Tale of Terror. The line was also meant to use Snow White as a metaphor for 'weak female'. Then comes Snow White's Xenafication in the film Snow White and the Huntsman and the TV show Once Upon a Time.
    • We almost got two future Legend of Korra veterans in this movie. In addition to Bishop, who shares an actor with Amon's Lieutenant, James Remar (the future voice of Korra's father) almost got to play Corporal Hicks, but lost the role after being arrested on drug charges.
    • The Marines' jokes about a mission to rescue 'dumbass colonists' are hilariously prophetic when we consider everything the characters did wrong in Alien: Covenant.
    • One of the original ideas that ultimately got cut was that Weyland Yutani were bought out and shut down. In a deleted scene in Alien Resurrection, Ripley learns that Weyland Yutani was bought out by Walmart. The fact both scenes are deleted makes the whole thing hysterical.
  • Idiot Plot:
    • Invoked Trope, as Cameron was making a Vietnam war allegory, and 'Nam was known for its lax, confusing, and downright chaotic approach to military protocol. The Marines are bored, overconfident jocks led by an incompetent commander who think they're on a routine mission but find themselves wildly out of their depth. They were overconfident and failed to set up appropriate backup plans before being stranded on LV-426. Justified in that Burke was pulling strings to place an inexperienced lieutenant in command that he could boss around and wanted someone to get infected so he could sneak Alien embryos back to Earth.
    • Why a massive spaceship is sent out with two dropships and for some reason nobody stays behind (is there no Navy in charge of running the ship?), not even a second platoon in case of emergency, is never explained. Maybe that's Burke manipulations again?
    • The survivors plan their escape once they learn the facility will self-destruct in about four hours. The plan is to send Bishop to the relay transmitter to remote-pilot the remaining dropship to the top of the facility, with only a little bit of time to spare. However, their planning stops there, as there appear to be no discussions about how to reach the dropship once it's down and being prepared to leave to reach it in time. As a result, the survivors separate themselves all around the complex and Ripley & Newt take naps, allowing for Burke's scheme to infect the two with alien embryos. When the aliens attack, the survivors actually weld the doors shut, trapping them inside the facility that is about to explode. If it wasn't for Newt pointing out a surprise route to the relay transmitter using the ventilation shafts, the survivors would have all been blown to pieces even had they managed to hold off the Xenomorphs.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • The phrase, "Nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure," is often used. A minor alteration is to simply tag "It's the only way to be sure" to any drastic suggestion.
    • Imitating Hudson's line, "Game over, man! Game over!" Or just about anything Hudson says really.
    • "Queen takes Bishop", an obvious chess pun.
    • Keeping something handy "for close encounters."
    • "Stay Frosty"
    • "They mostly come at night. Mostly."
    • "Get away from her, you bitch!" along with the concept of the Power Loader/Alien Queen fight.
    • Bishop's knife trick predates this film by hundreds of years, but is likely only well-known today as a result of it.
    • Honestly, it would be easier to just call this movie a massive Fountain of Memes and be done with it. Almost every line of dialogue, every story beat, and every character name has entered pop culture.
  • Misaimed Fandom: It's remarkable that, given this movie is the launchpad for the modern Space Marine trope, the Colonial Marines depicted fare pretty badly despite their boastful bravado... since according to Word of God, that is the point. Cameron has related at length that the film is an allegory of The Vietnam War, and all of the military failures and senseless loss that conflict entailed. Unfortunately, audiences decided instead that it was awesome. He even had to go back and do the whole thing over again from the aliens' side to get the message across... Which also kinda backfired.
  • Moe: Newt for those who like her. Her most adorable moment comes when she puts on a helmet, imitates the soldiers saying "affirmative" and responds to one of Hudson's snarky comments with a deadpan salute.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Burke locking Ripley and Newt in a soundproof room with two facehuggers so he can smuggle the alien embryos back to Earth.
  • Most Wonderful Sound:
    • Fans love the high pitched shrieks and squeals the aliens make so much that there was outrage that it wasn't included in Aliens: Colonial Marines, even though they have been the preferred vocalisations used in all previous Aliens video games. The same goes with the sounds the Pulse Rifles and Smartguns make when they fire.
    • Vasquez shouting "Let's rock!" before firing her smartgun on the aliens. Sure it just makes things worse, but it's still pretty badass.
    • The beeping of the motion trackers, which help add to the sense of paranoia in some of the most intense scenes in the film.
  • Narm: Being operated by multiple puppeteers, the Alien Queen's movements look very awkward and unnatural, with her different appendages seemingly moving in an uncoordinated manner...
  • Narm Charm:...which actually works in the movie's favor, as her uncanny movements manage to make her appear unnatural and creepy, and thus more effectively frightening when seen in action.
  • One True Pairing: Many fans of this film ship Ripley and Hicks together. It helps that the chemistry between Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn is genuine, and Hicks is one of the few Marines to take Ripley's story seriously. The pulse rifle and tracker bracelet scenes definitely help in making them shippable. It's pretty telling that majority of fanfics feature these two as a couple, with Newt as their adoptive daughter too. Academics who have studied the film frequently call Hicks a symbolic love interest or husband.
  • Sci Fi Ghetto. Averted. Sigourney Weaver received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress as Ripley.
  • Sequelitis: The film avoided this by using a completely different genre. While Alien was more horror/suspense, Aliens was a pretty straightforward sci-fi action film with a few moments of suspense/horror. Everything after the first two movies tries to copy one of those two formulas.
  • Signature Scene: Ripley, via the Power Loader, vs the Alien Queen.
    "Get away from her, you BITCH!"
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • Towards the end of the movie, when "torn-in-half" Bishop stretches to stop Newt from being sucked out an airlock, the hole in the floor he's actually standing in and his lower body are clearly visible. The guys doing the technical commentary actually point it out on the DVD (one says he'd seen the film several times before he ever noticed it). This was fixed in the Blu-Ray release of the film.
    • More of an editing failure, but prior to the Blu-ray release there's a scene where Ripley takes a Pulse Rifle and Flamethrower off the rack and tapes them together over 4 shots. The failure is in the weapons swapping when she places them down. (She grabs a flamethrower and puts down a rifle, then vice versa). There's another small goof when she's putting together the weapon. When she first slaps in a magazine, the count on the rifle reads 95, but when she's on the elevator a moment later it reads 42 (like the rifle she was training with earlier).
    • The dropship suffers from some very obvious green screen matting at some points.
    • When Ripley and Newt are standing on the landing platform at the end, just before the Alien Queen exits the elevator, the rear-projection backdrop of the atmosphere processor is just awful, and the pieces of debris clearly being thrown by stagehands just off-screen make it look even worse.
    • When Ripley and Newt are trapped with the facehuggers and Newt tells Ripley to break the glass of the window, the "glass" rebounds from the chair just like plastic (though this could easily be explainable by it being a futuristic material that people just call "glass" for short).
    • When Bishop does his knife trick, Apone nodding his head in the background makes it very obvious that the footage was sped up.
    • While the Blu-ray release took the opportunity to fix the Bishop-standing-in-a-hole issue (see above), the general cleanup and de-grain of the movie has made some other FX fails more visible. A good example would be the wires holding up the tail and other appendages of the xenomorph that grabs Newt.
  • Spiritual Adaptation:
    • Halo takes a great deal of inspiration from Aliens, including the space marines, the flying dropships, kinetic weapons, battles with parasitic aliens, and Sergeant Johnson, who is basically just Apone with a different name.
    • The film is often referred to as a stealth adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers — and a far more faithful adaptation to the later officially-licensed film. And even though it was just one suit, Aliens even had more Powered Armor than the actual Starship Troopers film franchise (at least until the third, straight-to-DVD film).
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: Because of the incredible time pressure that James Horner was under when he composed the Aliens score, he borrows from his own Klingon theme from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as well as Khachaturian's Gayane Adagio. Horner could get away with using Khatchaturian's work (originally published in 1942) since at that time, Western nations only recognized copyrights in the Soviet Union dating from 1973.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Not the movie itself, but there are a few easily missed allusions to there being other alien life in the universe aside from the Xenomorphs and Yautja. Surprisingly, the Expanded Universe has not made use of this.
  • Tough Act to Follow: How most people feel about the follow-up, Alien³
  • Unpopular Popular Character: Bishop. He's feared and distrusted - if not outright hated - by his coworkers at worst, and treated as little more than a useful tool by them at best, but he's one of the most popular and iconic characters in the entire franchise.
    • Hudson is a brash, obnoxious loudmouth who his teammates respond to with little more than eye-rolling derision, but fans love him for his hilarious one-liners and Bill Paxton's gloriously annoying performance. He's arguably the most iconic Mauve Shirt in cinema history.
  • Values Dissonance: A deleted scene of pre-infestation Hadley's Hope has Newt's mother get her to settle down by threatening to spank her, something that would raise eyebrows today. More bizarrely, the novel claims smoking is okay due to lacking nicotine, whereas smoking in general has become frowned upon regardless of content. And the modern "safer" alternative to smoking, the electronic cigarette, eliminates the myriad harmful byproducts of inhaling burning plant matter. . . but more often than not still contains nicotine.
  • Values Resonance: This film depicts women as being Marines. West Point had only allowed female cadets ten years previously and it would still be several years before female military members would be allowed in direct combat. There isn't just a token female member; there are three female Marines, each with distinctive skills (Vasquez with assault, Dietrich as a medic and Ferro as a pilot) and their competency is never questioned. Any issue anybody has with questioning Ripley is not because of her gender, but because she's a civilian. And the final battle ultimately comes down to two badass mother figures fighting to protect their children, a plot point which even today few films have ever replicated.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome:
    • The Alien Queen designed by Stan Winston helped him win his first Special Effects Oscar. The same goes with the other Power Loader that fought it, which caused many companies to demand a real-life one.
    • The same goes with the Xenomorphs. Only a few full suits were built and yet every trick in the book was used to give the illusion of multiple aliens fighting the marines.
    • The best thing about it? They did all this on a 17 million dollars budget.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Gorman has decided to enact a rescue mission to find the surviving Hadley's Hope colonists under the LV-426 atmosphere processor. He sends everyone (save for himself, Ripley, Burke and Newt) to go into the processor with conventional weapons around sensitive and volatile machinery. Ripley points out several flaws in this plan to him.
      You'd Expect: That since he's a fairly inexperienced commander (who's only been on one other real combat drop) and he was one of the people who lobbied for Ripley to come onboard as a consultant (considering that she's apparently faced these creatures before and understands their behavior better than most), he'd either listen to her concerns or wait and draw up a better plan.
      Instead: He ignores her and continues on with the mission. It doesn't occur to him that the processor can be easily shot up; Ripley and Burke point it out to him, and by this time the Marines are knee-deep in the hive. He then has them give all their ammunition to one man (who's the first casualty when the xenos attack) with no explanation as to why (so two disobey him because they think he's being stupid), and when all hell breaks loose he tries to give long-winded orders in a steady tone to Apone, who couldn't hear him over all the shooting (and got captured anyway). He would have lost the whole platoon had Ripley not intervened. For his part, he does admit he screwed up later on.
    • Burke is trying to bring the facehugger embryos back to Earth to present them to Weyland-Yutani's bioweapons division. However, Ripley finds out and isn't going to allow that, and the Marines won't be keen on it either. He gets the idea to deliberately infect Ripley and Newt, then jettison any other survivors on the ride back to Earth. This shuts Ripley up and gives him a chance to take care of any other witnesses.
      You'd Expect: That since Burke seems to be a fairly smart guy and they're in a situation where they have to get out before the reactor goes critical, he'd realize the flaws in this plan. Even if he somehow manages to infect the pair before the reactor goes critical, they'll still be facehugged for a long period of time and will likely remain unable to travel or be moved anywhere. Someone is going to notice that they were infected.
      Instead: He releases the facehuggers in the room where Ripley and Newt are sleeping, which eventually alerts the surviving Marines, who kill the huggers and chew out Burke. The only reason he isn't iced then and there is because the xenomorphs attack just before Hicks shoots him.
    • The survivors discover that the cooling unit was damaged, and that the entire complex will be destroyed in a nuclear explosion in about four hours. They devise a plan to send Bishop up a very narrow pipe to the relay station so that he can remote pilot a dropship down to the station so they can escape. Estimating the time of each step, they realize that there's very little margin for error.
      You'd Expect: They would then come up with a plan to get the remaining seven survivors up to the relay station in time to escape. The plan would involve an escape route, estimated travel time, and possibly even contingencies for what to do if they're attacked en route. The next few hours would go by with everyone very conscientious of the ticking clock and preparing to escape.
      Instead: The remaining survivors almost entirely forget about the fact they're expecting an imminent nuclear explosion. They wander off to separate rooms, Ripley and Newt fall asleep, they discuss no known escape route, and then even welded the doors shut which lead out of their complex. Had Newt not pointed out the air shafts and that they could be used to escape, the group would have all died in the explosion even if they had survived the alien attack.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: Inverted. The film has some intentional parallels to the Vietnam War according to James Cameron.
  • The Woobie: Newt. She's been orphaned and traumatized by an alien attack and continues to be antagonized by the monsters throughout the movie. To make things worse, the happy ending with Ripley is undone by her death in the third.


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