From the chilling depths of deepest space, the Xenomorphs are back. As we gear up for Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, it looks like the horror of the Alien franchise is ready to chestburst back onto our screens. For the past 38 years, we have been stalked through air vents, witnessed Alien Queen births, and become accustomed to simply referring to characters by their surname. As a walking meme machine that has earned a place in many people’s hearts, the Alien franchise has become precious to horror fans worldwide, with aficionados rightly critical if it goes wrong.
From Dallas to Vasquez and from Ripley to Kane, the world of Xenomorphs, Neomorphs, and Space Jockeys has spun into eight films under six directors. There have been spin-off comics, novels, toys, and terrifying VR games, but nothing can compare to blasting off into space with Ripley and co. in tow. In space, no one can hear you scream, and that’s probably a good thing. With that in mind, reach for the flamethrower, because here are the 15 Most Horrifying Deaths From The Alien Franchise.
So, let’s kick off the horror with David Fincher’s maligned Alien3. While Fincher has gone on to some directorial greatness, the third film in the franchise is the butt of the joke among fans, including Fincher himself. Set on the grim prison planet of Fury 161, it is a lonely tale for Ripley, who finds herself friendless among a penal colony of testosterone-filled men. Largely missing from proceedings were Ripley’s fellow survivors from Aliens, although Lance Henriksen makes a (brief) return as helpful robot Bishop.
Following Ripley’s crash on the planet, Bishop is left out on the dump in several pieces, after being torn in half during the final scenes of Alien. Bringing what is left of Bishop online, Ripley uses his head to gain information on what happened to her escape pod. Bishop’s gargling return as a lump of regurgitated circuits was a tough watch; he may just be nuts and bolts, but seeing his desperate pleas to be “turned off” is no less poignant: “I could be reworked, but I’ll never be top of the line again. I’d rather be nothing.“
The franchise definitely moved in a different direction under the tutelage of James Cameron, leading to the great debate of which is better, Alien or Aliens? One thing Cameron certainly got right was expanding the cast of loveable rogues, giving Aliens one of the most memorable casts in movie history. As the epitome of wisecracking macho madness, Bill Paxton’s iconic role as Hudson goes down as one of the great action heroes. As a walking meme-machine, Hudson’s death was a needed, but detrimental, part of Aliens.
Hudson has final guy written all over him, leading some fans to hope there could be a Hudson-centric Alien3, however, fate intervened. Rightly worried that the animalistic aliens had the brainpower to cut the power, the remaining survivors gathered in the operations center and sealed themselves in. As the team of colonial marines were pinned down by a horde of Xenomorphs, Hudson single-handedly took on the approaching aliens with his typical sass, but was dragged into the sewers and taken away to be impregnated with a chestburster off-screen – “Game over, man. Game over!”
13. The Pregnant Waitress
2007’s Alien vs Predator: Requiem committed a big horror no-no and killed off an expectant mother. The AvP spin-off films may not be as memorable as the main Alien franchise, but that didn’t stop them packing their runtime with all the usual horror you would expect and some unique character deaths. With a backwater town overrun by hybrid creatures, as the film continues, the various Pred-Alien soldiers cause havoc around the town of Gunnison, and even the local ER isn’t safe from attack.
Alien: Resurrection had already tackled the issue of birth with mixed effect, while Requiem was even more critically panned. However, the second AvP film is rightly or wrongly remembered for its hospital scene, where the creature gives a pregnant waitress some serious tongue action before pumping her full of eggs. We all know the generic chestburster scenario, but Requiem reinvented it with a woman giving birth to a whole litter of Xenomorphs, rather than the baby in her stomach. Going for shock value rather than the classic tension builds of Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, Requiem demonstrated how much the series has had to switch-up its formula for a truly uncomfortable watch.
12. Hicks and Newt
In terms of tragic deaths, none are more devastating of Michael Biehn’s Corporal Hicks and Carrie Henn’s Newt in Alien3. After surviving the massacre of Aliens, the pair were alongside Ripley aboard the USS Sulaco, which was later illegally boarded by Weyland-Yutani corp. Stray gunfire and an electrical fire forced the cryo-sleep chambers to be jettisoned, where they crashed on Fury 161 and killed all survivors bar Ripley. The death of Hicks and Newt is made particularly horrifying by the fact that we never actually see it and it is only reported through Bishop’s creepy corpse.
As genuinely lovable characters in a universe filled with corrupt jackasses, losing Hicks and Newt was like Ripley losing her family and any ties to the past. The romantic tryst between Hicks and Ripley was never fully explored, and Newt’s adoption as her pseudo-daughter seemed like a happy ending. The decision is one of the franchise’s most maligned, and Biehn famously sued Fox for using his likeness in Alien3, demanding the full pay he would’ve received for actually being a part of it
Although there are plans to retcon their deaths in Alien 5, director Neill Blomkamp seems increasingly worried that the film will never come to be, and so are audiences. Let’s hope that one day Hicks and Newt get their proper send-off, but for now, they remain as just more corpses of Fury 161.
11. Dr. Gediman
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection expanded the world of Alien some 200 years into the future and focused on the Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s efforts to weaponize the Xenomorphs. Aboard the USM Auriga was a military contingent and a team of seven mad scientists, most notably the slimy Dr. Jonathan Gediman. Brad Dourif was wonderfully creepy as the aforementioned doctor, a man whose obsession with the Xenomorphs early-on tipped him for a quick demise. When the aliens burrowed into the bowels of the ship, Gediman was dragged to his fate after being outsmarted by the acid-blooded buggers while investigating their cell, but it didn’t end there!
Gediman was back for more during Ripley’s scene at the Alien Queen’s birth. Narrating the whole event, Gediman’s cocooned corpse wouldn’t shut up as we saw the Queen push out her albino offspring. The “Newborn” seemed intent on causing as much carnage as the rest of its species, while Gediman didn’t recognize the danger it posed. Ironically, it wasn’t the chestburster inside him which killed, but the ravenous Newborn, who bit into his skull as a first meal – let the blood flow.
That darn cat!
Harry Dean Stanton’s Samuel Brett sure knew how to pull off a Hawaiian shirt, but not how to survive a horror film. Brett was the working class engineering technician of Alien, and with his signature trucker’s cap and love of Jones the cat, he was shown to be a caring member of the team. A man of few words, other than “right,” Brett clearly wasn’t going to make it off the Nostromo alive. After the motion sensors started picking up Jones’ signal it was left to Brett to track down the troublesome tabby.
Singling out the rumbling horror of the first film, Brett’s death in the ship’s hold is one of the film’s greatest. The atmospheric build of the music, the jangling of the chains, and the fake scare that Jones was the alien– it was exactly what made Alien so great. Brett and his death may not be the most memorable in the franchise, but his goodbye is one of the tensest of the series, while he gets the honor of being the first character ever to be killed by a fully-grown Xenomorph!
9. General Perez
Away from the titular aliens, General Perez was the de facto man in charge of Alien: Resurrection, with a bark much worse than his bite. After dealing with the crew of the Betty, it became clear that Perez and his crew had acquired the live hosts for his baby batch of Xenomorphs to reproduce inside. With typical military precision, Perez ran his ship with an iron fist and was actually one of the few people who understood the dangers that the Xenomorph outbreak could cause.
Perez voted that he would have Ripley 8 “put down” if she caused any trouble, but it was actually his pet science project that he needed to be more concerned with. During the alien escape, he elected to evacuate the ship and hoped to pilot it remotely to Earth for preservation – sadly, the Xenomorphs had other ideas. After nuking an escape pod full of his men and a Xenomorph, Perez saluted his fallen comrades, only to be jabbed in the back of the head by another alien. Perez had hit the floor dead before he even knew what was going on. An over the top and hammy ending, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from the soldier.
The original bad guy, Ian Holm’s science officer continues a long line of intelligent bad eggs in sci-fi films. There was something rightly sinister about Holm’s part, leading to the big mid-way reveal that Ash was actually a robot for the Weyland-Yutani corporation. Working with the ship’s computer, MU/TH/UR, Ash was instructed under Special Order 937 to contain the alien and bring it back to the company – no matter what the cost of human life. When Ripley discovered Ash’s plan, he tried to violently choke her with a magazine.
Thankfully the rest of the crew intervened and decapitated Ash, but even without his head, he was a whirring, berserker robot who went rogue on the crew. Ash was eventually defeated and his head reactivated for information; instead, he mocked the crew by saying they would all die on board, and was eventually incinerated by a flamethrower.
Ash’s death was ludicrous and prolonged, but also different from the rest of the film because it didn’t come at the hands of the Xenomorph. Leaking that ominous white gloop, every Alien film since has contained some form of android accompaniment, while the upcoming Covenant reportedly contains Michael Fassbender as two robots!
7. Charlie Holloway
Cheer up,Charlie. Logan Marshall-Green certainly didn’t exactly live up to his promise as the hero of prequel Prometheus. No one really thought that Charlie would fall as early as he did in the film, let alone in such a horrific way. Charlie’s story began as he discovered the pictograms with his lover and colleague Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, and after appealing to Peter Weyland for funding, it was Charlie and Shaw’s actions that launched the Prometheus expedition. Everyone loved Charlie– well, apart from Michael Fassbender’s robotic David. As David became more infatuated with Dr. Shaw, Charlie soon fell foul of the android’s schemes.
David infected Charlie with the black Engineer liquid, which entered his bloodstream and began to mutate him. Symptoms included bloodshot eyes, protruding veins, and deteriorating skin, but also, in one of the franchise’s most insane scenes, a sick Charlie has sex with Elizabeth and unknowingly impregnates her with a bouncing baby alien.
As the team search the temple for the missing crew, Charlie’s symptoms worsen, forcing the crew back to the ship. Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers coldly refused to let the sick Charlie back on the ship. At Charlie’s request, Vickers puts him out of his misery with an old fashion BBQ when she flamethrowers him to death.
6. Gorman and Vasquez
If there was ever an unlikely comedy double act, it was William Hope’s Gorman and Jenette Goldstein’s Vasquez. She was the spunky tomboy and he was the inept lieutenant. In a film so packed with deaths, the duo’s “explosive” demises sticks out as some of the best. Outliving Hudson’s earlier farewell, Gorman and Vasquez were there as the aliens swarmed the command center and their time was up. After a whole film of being a yellow-bellied coward, Gorman showed bravery by going back to rescue Vasquez and telling Hicks to leave.
Vasquez was a Sylvester Stallone of a character, beating even Ripley and the upcoming Daniels for the size of her cojones as a strong female character, but like Gorman, her time in the Alienverse would only be a single film. After being pinned down by the approaching Xenomorphs, the pair decided to blow themselves up with the only remaining grenade, thus preventing their cocooning back at the hive, but also taking out some of the aliens on the way.
Where Gorman mellowed, Vasquez remained defiant until the end, showing her disdain towards Gorman’s inexperience. Along with Vasquez’s final line, “You always were an asshole, Gorman,” their deaths are the perfect self-sacrifices for two superb characters.
5. Peter Weyland
If you can get past Guy Pearce’s dire prosthetics, as the founder of the Weyland half of Weyland-Yutani, Peter Weyland was one of the most interesting characters inPrometheus. For most of the film, it was thought that Weyland had long since perished, but it’s revealed that David was secretly hiding him on board in the hope that meeting the Engineers could extend his lifespan. Aged 101 in 2091, he certainly didn’t have much time left, and it was cut even shorter when he finally met the Engineers.
Weyland was shown to have a frosty relationship with his daughter, Meredith Vickers, instead referring to David the robot as the closest thing he had to an heir – how ironic that David was also the tool of his death. After suiting up in a super-cool Robocop–esque outfit, Weyland’s fragile body entered the Engineers’ ship, but apparently the Engineer wasn’t too happy to be woken up and violently turned on the crew.
Decapitating David, the Engineer then used David’s head to beat Weyland to death. With his last breath, Weyland said, “There’s… nothing…” while David said goodbye to his adoptive father. It was bitterly just that Weyland was killed by the very species he hoped would save him.
4. The Newborn
Ah, so here it is, Alien: Resurrection and its infamous lesson on the birds and the bees. By the time 1997’s fourth Alien film came out, the franchise was somewhat scraping the barrel for shocks. The cloned Ripley 8 was the acid-blooded heroine, but long gone were her maternal instincts from Aliens. As the Alien Queen grew into maturity, she birthed possibly one of the ugliest cinematic creations out there. The albino looking “Newborn” entered the world of Alien for the final film’s final act.
With a face that only a mother could love, the Newborn killed its mommy in favor of some surrogate bonding with Ripley, but that turned out just as horribly. When Ripley escaped, the Newborn stalked the survivors onto departing ship, and continued its attack of Winona Ryder’s Call.
Ripley wasn’t too impressed with her kid’s temper tantrum and elected to kill the Newborn by any means possible. After Ripley’s blood burned a hole in the side of the ship, the Newborn was sucked through and its insides were spewed like a dropped trifle all over deepest space. It was like the iconic death of Goldfinger in Goldfinger, except this time it was done right, and without a clever James Bond quip.
3. Captain Dallas
The bearded boss of the Nostromo, Dallas, had all the qualities of a great captain – well, apart from getting all his crew killed. It would certainly have been a case of the captain goes down with the ship, but sadly, Dallas didn’t even make it that far. Tom Skerritt’s acting showed Dallas to be a competent leader who was rightly cautious of exploring LV-426, but by the time he realized something had gone wrong, it was too late.
Dallas clambered into the vents to track down the adult Xenomorph and met his grisly goodbye. Like the “dun dun” from Jaws, the whole scene was accompanied by the beeping dots on the screen and Jerry Goldsmith’s chilling score, signaling that the alien was coming closer with every breath.
The captain-shaped hole in the crew elevated Ripley to the lead, therefore birthing one of horror’s ultimate final girls. As the (second) most iconic image of the 1979 film, the shot of the Xenomorph reaching out from the darkness to grab Dallas will forever be etched on fans’ minds.
Alien: Director’s Cut may have had Ripley coming across his cocooned body in the bowels of the ship, but for pure terror, it is best that we leave Dallas in the air vents. While there may be more visually horrific scenes in the franchise, this death is easily the most tense.
2. Ellen Ripley
Alien3 was certainly a film choked with death – Hicks, Newt, Bishop, and all the prisoners of Fury 161 – but then Alien did the unthinkable,. It pulled a full Halloween: Resurrection and killed off its final girl. Certainly, by the time we reached Fincher’s Alien3, a hardened Ripley had lost everything that she had ever held dear, even her family from Aliens, but did anyone really expect that they would kill Ellen Ripley?
After realizing she had a baby Xenomorph inside, and knowing that there was no way out other than becoming a tool of the Company, Ripley plunged herself, and the Xenomorph inside her, into a vat of molten metal. The whole scene is held up by the fact that you think some last-minute miracle will save her.
Will Bishop, somehow, from beyond the grave? Is Hicks not really dead? But no, the shaven-headed Ellen Ripley really does fall to her doom, and death by lava pit is one hell of a way to go. There was no big fanfare and it wasn’t at the expected hands of a Xenomorph. It was a hero’s death that would go unsung, to save the world from an alien plague.
Whether or not Fincher aimed to completely put an end to the franchise, no one expected Ripley’s return in Resurrection, and that decision will remain hotly debated, however, in a so-so film, Ripley’s death burns bright.
It is only right that the first death from the entire Alien franchise is also lauded as its very best. We’ve already discussed the deaths Dallas, Ash, and Brett, but there is one death that is better than all the rest, carried out by John Hurt’s Gilbert Kane. Hurt was famous for a great many roles, however, as the chipper Kane from Ridley Scott’s franchise first, he became a legend of the horror genre.
The horror of seeing a tiny alien burst from Kane’s chest is offset by the fact that he had previously been just moments from death from a Facehugger attack. Miraculously, Kane returned to the rest of the crew for a spot of breakfast and a jolly good chuckle, lulling audiences into a false sense of security that the horror was over.
As Kane lay convulsing on the dining table and his ribcage caved in, Alien gave birth to one of the best moments in cinema ever, let alone the horror genre. The word chestburster quite literally sums up the Alien franchise, while even Covenant looks like it too will still rely heavily on this tried-and-tested means of dispatch. There was no other way to top a list of the most horrific deaths in the Alien franchise – c’est magnifique.
Which death do you think is the best in the Alien franchise? Sound off in the comments below!