Alien is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and the classic Sci-Fi horror flick is still being talked about to this day. Ridley Scott released the first Alien film back in 1979 and over the years the franchise has gotten a number of sequels. Each Alien sequel varied in quality, but the 1986 film Aliens is often regarded as the best sequel.
While Ridley Scott didn’t return to direct the sequel, James Cameron stepped up to the plate. There has been a lot of debate over the years as to whether Alien or Aliens is better, and it is certainly a tough question to answer. Here is Alien: 5 Things The Original Movie Did Better (& 5 Things That Were Better In Aliens).
10 Horror And Suspense (Alien)
While Alien is regarded as a great example of science fiction, it is first and foremost a horror movie. Alien has jump scares here and there, but a lot of the film relies on psychological horror to terrify viewers. Having most of the movie take place on a spaceship builds a lot of suspense because it makes you feel claustrophobic.
The Xenomorph design is of course supposed to be scary, but the way the creature moves around the ship and uses certain areas as camouflage is incredibly unsettling. The Xenomorphs in Aliens are also horrifying, but Aliens isn't considered one of the best horror movies ever made like Alien is.
9 Characters (Aliens)
One thing Alien and Aliens have in common is that both films have an incredible cast. Sigourney Weaver plays Ellen Ripley in both films; however, none of her supporting cast returns for Aliens. The first film had characters like Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Kane (John Hurt), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), Ash (Ian Holm), and Parker (Yaphet Kotto), but Aliens had a much larger cast.
Characters like Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) and Newt (Carrie Henn) are a few of the standout characters, but the fan-favorite character Bishop was also introduced in Aliens. Bishop was played by Lance Hendriksen, who returned to the series for Alien 3 and Alien vs Predator.
8 Set Design (Alien)
While there certainly isn’t anything wrong with the sets created for Aliens, Alien has an upper hand when it comes to set design. There may have not been very many locations besides the different parts of the spaceships, but a lot of work and detail still went into the sets.
There are tons of movie that have spaceships, but the set designers on Alien were able to make a set that stood apart from other sci-fi movies, all while maintaining a claustrophobic feel to increase suspense. Additionally, the inside of the alien craft, LV-426, was unforgettable, especially when the crew first discover the Space Jockey and the egg chamber.
7 Action (Aliens)
While Alien is seen as more of a horror masterpiece, Aliens excels when it comes to action. The tagline “This time it’s war” was a pretty big hint at what was in store for fans. Alien only had astronauts as the characters, but Aliens introduced the Colonial Marines, who were geared up with tons of weapons including the famous M41A pulse rifle.
The movie has some intense action sequences, all of which lead to the epic showdown between the Queen Xenomorph and Ripley in the Power Loader. The original Alien didn’t have that much action, but it still does come out on top when it comes to horror.
6 Acting (Alien)
The acting in both Alien and Aliens is top-notch, but Alien takes the lead in this category. Sigourney Weaver had only appeared in a few projects before Alien, yet her acting in the movie stole the show. The film also stars Tom Skerritt and John Hurt, who were well-known actors before 1979. It’s easy for acting to become almost comical in certain horror movies if actors don’t make their emotions believable, but there were genuine reactions recorded for Alien.
It’s widely known in the horror community that when the chestburster erupts from Kane’s chest, all of the actor’s reactions are genuine. The cast wasn’t told how violently the creature and fake blood were going to be coming out of John Hurt's chest, which meant it was pretty easy for them to appear horrified.
5 Character Development (Aliens)
The characters in the original Alien certainly weren’t generic horror movie characters, but the characters were developed a lot more in Aliens. Ripley was the only character to survive the original film, but her character got more of a backstory when it came time for the sequel. It was revealed in a deleted scene that Ripley had a daughter named Amanda, but since she was stuck in hyper-sleep for 57 years, her daughter had already aged and passed away.
Unfortunately, this small yet crucial storyline was cut from the final cut of the film but survives on the director’s cut of Aliens. A lot of people complain that they turned Ripley into a motherly figure in Aliens instead of a strong female leader, but her character was properly developed allowing her to be both.
4 Costume Design (Alien)
Ripley may have looked pretty fashionable in those Reebok Stompers back in 1986, but the overall costume design of Alien surpasses Aliens. The regular clothes the characters wear around the ship are simple enough, but the design makes the characters seem part of a group due to the Weyland-Yutani logos on their jackets and hats.
What really steals the show however are the spacesuits that the characters wear when they go out to explore LV-426. Certain elements of the space suit seem to have been influenced by Japanese Samurai Warriors, which you don’t often think of when thinking about space suits.
3 The Script (Aliens)
For a lot of action movies, there are certain lines that become more famous than the movie themselves. There are some movies where fans can name the title with a single line, and Aliens is one of those films.
Each character brings something different to the table, whether it’s Sergeant Apone’s hardened demeanor with lines like “Look into my eye” or even Newt’s adorable “Aye-firmative”. For many people, the greatest line of the movie goes to Ripley when she says, “Get away from her, you b****” before attacking the Xenomorph queen with the Power Loader.
2 Impact Of Xenomorphs (Alien)
H.R. Giger was the mastermind behind the design of the creature known as a Xenomorph. The design of the creatures has varied throughout the sequels, but there are certain aspects that always remain the same. What doesn’t stay the same however, is the impact the Xenomorphs have on the audience. In the original film, there was only one Xenomorph, which seemed almost impossible to kill.
In Aliens, it was barely an inconvenience to mow down a whole hoard of the creatures with a pulse rifle. Granted Ripley didn’t have a pulse rifle in Alien, but regardless, the way the Xenomorph was used in Alien was more effective than Aliens. After all, superhero movies are known for throwing in an army of alien creatures just for the heroes to destroy, which is basically what happens in Aliens.
1 Directing (Aliens)
Both Ridley Scott and James Cameron have had very successful careers in the film industry. Ridley Scott is most known for directing films like Blade Runner, Gladiator, and American Gangster. James Cameron on the other hand has directed films like The Terminator, Titanic, and Avatar. Both Cameron and Scott did well directing their Alien movies, but the upper hand goes to Cameron when it comes to directing.
Scott laid the groundwork for the entire Alien franchise, but Cameron was able to take the first movie and make a sequel that was a completely different beast. It isn't very often that a sequel lives up to the original, but it says something that some people prefer Aliens over Alien.