Ten reasons why Aliens is the best film ever made.

Despite owning Aliens multiple times (ex-rental VHS, retail VHS, DVD boxsets, Blu-ray Anthology), I ended up watching it over the weekend because it was on television. The the thing is that, much like Big Trouble in Little China, when it starts you can’t look away. Even if it means enduring E4’s ridiculously frequent, and oddly preachy, advert breaks.

This was the first time I’d watched it since marathoning the Blu-ray and it occurred to me that that Aliens is the best film ever made. It’s always been in my top five (maybe three behind Repo Man and The Thing) but looking through more inquisitive eyes, I was amazed at how fucking great it really is.

Of course, the eternal question is ‘what’s the better film, Alien or Aliens?’ and, of course, they are both fantastic but if I’m committing myself to words written up here in pixels then I’m picking Aliens.  Yes, Alien is the better film.  It’s got the best cast, sumptuous cinematography and is dripping in tension and suspense but Aliens is more watchable and, dare I say it, more entertaining.  But both are great, so don’t get your company-issued knickers in a twist about it.


1. Sigourney Weaver acts her arse off in this film. The bit where she first enters the colony after Apone and Gorman agree the area is secured. She looks fucking terrified. Especially when someone accidentally makes her jump. Then she goes from abject terror to motherly concern to righteous fury and everything in between.  She’s had a fantastic career, of course, but she’ll always be Ellen Ripley to us.

Ripley considering reporting Hudson to HR.


2. Hudson. He’s whiny and oddly a bit of a macho arsehole for a guy who’s basically their IT techie but his despair and fear are palpable.

A stunning performance and a really entertaining character who dies a hero’s death. Has pretty much all the best lines too.

“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.”

“Well that’s a switch!”

Hudson being the opposite of Frosty.


 

3. That bit where Hicks looks above the false ceiling. Look we know. Yes. They just turned the camera upside down but the impact of seeing those xenomorphs crawling towards him upside down… Jesus. Literally terrifying and awesome.  This was pre-CGI and so you know it’s all done with puppets and rubber suits except NO, you don’t know that because it’s all in camera and so your brain entirely buys in.

Imagine that scene rendered in CGI like some sort of awful Marvel movie.  You don’t want that and neither do we.

aliens - hicks - ceiling

Hicks has more than asbestos to worry about in this ceiling.


4. The bit with the sentry guns. It wasn’t even in the theatrical cut but it’s completely fab.

“Next time they walk up and knock.”

“Yeah, but they don’t know that.”

The day the Director’s Cut was released, I was outside HMV waiting for it to open.  I then took that VHS tape back home and spent the next couple of years murdering it.  It’s true that this cut is a fair bit flabbier than the Theatrical Cut (a cut I’ve not watched since the ’90s) but we can’t imagine the film not having this scene (and it does help explain why the squad aren’t absolutely flooded with hundreds of aliens).

Hudson hoping that these sentry guns weren’t manufactured by Microsoft.


5. Burke. The complete embodiment of corporate bastardness. How do you not love Burke? Even if he is a “rat fuck son of a bitch.”

Alas, we didn’t get to see his true comeuppance but his face to face meeting with a snarling xenomorph doesn’t leave you guessing what’ll happen next.

That said, the book and a deleted scene both confirm that he ends up in the Queen’s maternity ward and is all out of pain medications.  Thankfully for him, Ripley strolls by and gives him a grenade to ease the pain with.

Ripley discusses percentages with Burke.


6. The battle under the primary heat exchangers. Absolutely terrifying chaos. Seeing each of the marines getting picked off one by one. When Apone buys it, it’s as shocking for the audience as it is for Gorman. “Apone? Talk to me.”

It’s one of the best scenes ever because of its clever use of space, lighting and those little shoulder cams.  The way it cuts from utter destruction to the hopelessness of Ripley and Gorman in the APC is perfect.

What’s really impactful is how the screen goes from a steely blue tone to being saturated in red and orange.  Well that and Hudson and Hicks visibly draining in confidence as soon as the aliens show up.

aliens - dietrich death

Only watched the film a few hundred times so it is reasonable that we never noticed the cocooned colonist in this shot.


7. The Power Loader. I don’t know how much of it is trickery but to me it looks like they built a proper Power Loader.

And it looks like Sigourney Weaver was capable of operating it. This all makes for a fab final battle with Queeny too. Although we probably shouldn’t focus too much on Ripley crawling out of the airlock with OPEN SPACE underneath her and a giant fucking alien hanging off of her ankle.

But why let physics and stuff spoil your enjoyment of one of the best fight scenes in history?

Not a woman you want to get in the way of during the school run.


8. Spunkmeyer. We barely got to know you, Private Daniel Spunkmeyer. But you had the best name.  Ever.  And you taught us to be wary when finding sticky patches on the floor.

I mean this has to be deliberate. Surely?


9. Corporal Ferro. Colette Ferro may well be our favourite character. Also she buys it from the same xenomorph as Spunky did but is there a cooler character than her when she’s bringing down the dropship from the Sulaco? No. While Hudson is hyperactively reeling off their arsenal, Ferro’s going on about being in the pipe. Five by five, Ferro. Whatever that means.

Coming around for a seven zero niner.


10. Most importantly.  Even now after watching this movie at least a hundred times, when the marines first go in I still feel like they are in charge and are going to make it.  It’s only when the dropship crashes that I remember they are all doomed.

That’s thanks in part to Vasquez and Drake who seem entirely invincible as the perform sweet dance moves with their M56 Smart Guns.

And, of course, Jenette Goldstein (playing Vasquez) is amazing.  We had the pleasure of interviewing her a few years ago and she was great (and completely loves watching the film).

Let’s rock.

Aliens is unfuckwittable, son.  It’s two hours of solid action and is possibly the last essential film in the series.  Sure, we like Alien3 and Resurrection a lot but Aliens is a solid ten out of ten.

27 thoughts on “Ten reasons why Aliens is the best film ever made.

  1. Mandy Cake

    And it’s a miracle James Cameron didn’t murder the British crew for taking so many tea breaks

    • ian kozelsky

      five by five, or 5×5 refers to “loud and clear” meaning the sound and visuals are good. I love the saying. I got you 5×5

      • ian kozelsky

        there is only one movie I would put up agains Aliens as the “best” and that would be: The Fifth Element

        • ian kozelsky

          quiz
          what does Vasques’ weapon say on it?
          What sit com did Burke star in?
          what does an incinerator fire?
          name another sci-fy movie in which Cpl Hicks stared..
          Who designed the original template for the alien artwork?
          What level rating does Ripley have to use the loader?
          When Hicks gives Ripley the tracker bracelet, does that mean they are engaged?

          • Hey there….

            I’m not going to wiki it.

            1. Adios (maybe)
            2. My Two Dads
            3. er… fire? Or napalm.
            4. Terminator, The Abyss. Unless you mean as Cpl Hicks?
            5. H.R. Giger
            6. “I have a class 4 rating” – this might be wrong!
            7. No. But I wish it did.

            🙂

        • David Goff

          I met Terry English at Wolverhampton MCM he designed Colonial Marines, what a lovely gentleman! I bought copies of his design drawings which he autographed and we chatted for about 30 minutes – he also had original M40a1 and Crows armour on display! Amazingly his armour was intact although it was sprayed with Xeno blood 🙂

        • C. J.

          “Outstanding! Now all we need is a deck of cards. “

  2. Hahah yeah I saw that on the Blu Ray extras. British union rules. 🙂

  3. Love this list and fucking love this film. I’m seriously loving the sound of those extras. Will have to grab the blu-ray release now, which is a shitter, but needs must. Also, Hicks is one of my fave sci-fi characters of all time. Had a big crush on Michael Biehn when I was younger. Between Hicks and Kyle Reese, he kicked serious eighties arse.

  4. Aaron Spaulding

    “In the pipe” refers to being on the glide slope…set up properly for approach…”5 by 5″ means “all is good” taken from the 25 (5X5..get it?) possible comm. signal variances..1X5 means farther from the transmitter, thus the signal to white noise/static ratio is 1 (almost in audible radio comms) to 5 (horrendous chatter)….so 5X5 means great comms to noise ratio.

    • Randy

      No, look at it from the angle of surfer lingo. The phrase “in the pipe” means surfing under the curl of the wave or “pipe lining”. When one is a very proficient surfer, you try to do certain tricks to impress people, like going up to the end of the board and “hanging five”, putting all five toes of one foot over the end of the board. To “hang ten” means both sets of toes, which would be really impressive, if one could ever do it! So if you were shooting the curl with all ten toes over the tip of the surf board, you could say that you were “in the pipe, 5 by 5”. The smug look on Ferro’s face and the tone of her voice means that she was bragging about how good her flying is! Why would she be making a comment about the quality of the communication, when there was no one transmitting to the drop ship??
      Hang Ten used to be the name of a swim suit company, I think they went out of business many years ago.

      Randy

    • David Goff

      I agree apart from watching on E4! I have multiple digital copies on different devices. With you on Big Trouble but also my other goto is Blade Runner. A remarkable feat to say no cgi

  5. JA

    Perfectly said. It’s been my #1 fav for about 25 years now. Since I saw it the first time.

    Came across this when searching for the meaning of Spunkmyers’ pilot jargon, which has baffled me forever. Still have no clue what she’s talking about and I’ve been a heli pilot for 15 years!!

  6. JA

    Well, what Aaron said makes sense although no one has ever had a need to say that in flight, especially on approach to a signal less destination. But what about the “Seven Zero Niner”??

    • Conor

      Seven zero niner would be a heading. As for best Characters, the best, and I would argue more badass than Ripley herself, is Pvt Vasquez. “Let’s rockkkkk!!!” Is the most memorable line in that movie. Going from calling Gorman a “bandejo jerkoff” to going out with him like a champ after he found his inner marine? Can’t beat it. But Ferro is sick, “apparently, she saw an alien once.” This list is quality, nice post. This has always been one of my top five favorite movies even though I was wayyyy too young to see it when I did for the first time, loved it anyway. You’re also right about Hudson having all the best lines. A line that used to always slip by me that I recently picked up is when Ripley lauds Newt for staying alive longer that that with no weapons/training: “why don’t you put her in charge!” Priceless. Any idea why the girl who played Newt never acted again? Chilling how when Ripley tells her these soldiers are here to protect them and Newt says “it won’t make any difference.” Brings Ripley back down to reality after playing mommy for a minute. She knows EXACTLY what Newt is talking about and you can read it all over her face.

      Anyone noticeCameron works with the same actors A LOT? Here’s a gem you might not know about because of the ridiculous physical change: Vasquez is the step mom from T2: Judgement Day.

      • I think the most memorable line in the movie is “put her in charge”!!! When Hudson refers to Newt after Ripley says she’s survived on no training.

        • Randy

          No, I say it’s “We’re in some real pretty shit now, Man!” Who wrote this stuff? It cracks me up every time I just think of it! Pure genius!!

          Randy

        • Dylan

          I personally think “Game Over, Man!” was Hudson’s most memorable line. Newt’s was “They mostly come at night… mostly.” And Ripley’s? You got it…. telling the Queen to “Get away from her, you Bitch!”

          • MARIANNE J DENNETT

            Years ago I saw Bill Paxton at ComicCon and he yelled out “Game over man, game over!” And there was a big yellow power loader that he sat in with an Alien on it. We all sat in it and tried to look terrified. I still have that picture.

  7. […] far as acting debuts go, Jenette Goldstein’s turn as Private Vasquez in Aliens is one of the most memorable.  Not only did her and the cast have to live up to the stunning […]

  8. suck

    nuke the site from orbit. it’s the only way to be sure

  9. Aaron Liddell

    Got the record it’s not Ferro, it’s Pharoh, the Egyptian word.

  10. Nostromo

    Alien (1978) is better

  11. plan

    What kind of neanderthal rates Cameron’s cheesy crap festival above Ridley Scott’s sublime original? Scott showed how it’s properly done, and Cameron came in and showed us how a 12-year-old boy would tell a story in the Alien universe.

    • Insulting people for innocuous articles they’ve written is worse than preferring Aliens to Alien. But on any given day I can find it impossible to choose between Alien and Aliens. Alien is indeed the ‘better’ film but Aliens is the more entertaining for me personally. I love them both.

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