Over the course of five films and some 10 hours of screen time, the likes of Ridley Scott and James Cameron have helped create a living, breathing Alien movie universe unlike any other put to screen. There have, however, been moments along the way when things could have taken a very different turn for both audiences, and Ellen Ripley, alike.
In fact, with David Fincher and later Jean Pierre Jeunet bringing their own distinctive styles to the franchise later on, along with screenwriters like Dan O'Bannon, Walter Hill, and Joss Whedon, it's no surprise that plenty of imaginative and potentially game-changing scenes have been either scrapped or left on the cutting room floor across almost 40 years of Xenomorph movie action.
Don’t believe us? Read on for 20 familiar (and not-so-familiar) deleted scenes and scrapped ideas from Alien movies past and present that really could have changed everything.
In an early draft of the script for Alien, crew members aboard the Nostromo regularly struck up and maintained sexual relationships with one another. The idea was that these encounters would serve as a means of relieving tension during long-haul trips. While almost all traces of this idea were erased from the final film, some elements still remain. In one scene, cut from the final film, for example, Ripley is seen asking Lambert if she ever had sex with Ash. By replying no, it sparks her suspicion that he may in fact be an android. Another scene, which was only used during Sigourney Weaver’s screen test, also saw Ripley speak to Dallas about the possibility of the pair hooking up later.
Though not massively impactful on the plot, the inclusion of this idea could have changed the overall tone of the Alien franchise, which has rarely dabbled in the world of sex, save for a couple of liaisons in Alien 3 and, more notably, in Prometheus.
During the filming of Alien, the filmmakers toyed with as many as six different ideas for how to kill off Veronica Wright’s utterly hopeless Joan Lambert. Several ideas were proposed and later scrapped before Scott settled on her largely off-screen demise. In one particularly gruesome version, which proved far too costly for the production, the character was supposed to her head ripped clean off by the rogue Xenomorph.
Arguably the most interesting, however, involved Lambert’s body being sucked through a tiny hull breach into deep space. It was such an interesting concept, in fact, that it ended up making a reappearance of sorts in Alien Resurrection. While the original plan that time around was to have Dan Hedaya’s character, General Perez, die in similar circumstances (leaving only his skull behind) the filmmakers eventually settled on Ripley 8’s Newborn Alien offspring suffering that very fate. The scene would have undoubtedly made Lambert a more notable character in the franchise, had it been included in the original.
In another, better known deleted scene from Alien, Ripley encounters the cocooned bodies of both Dallas and Brett. While Brett is apparently dead by then, Dallas remains conscious, urging Ripley to kill him. Ripley duly complies, burning the cocooned pair with a flamethrower before making her escape.
The scene is intriguing in the context of Aliens, and the early scene where the Marines encounter a colonist, trapped on the wall, whispering the words “kill me”. It’s an encounter that brings a tear to the eye of Ripley in Cameron’s film, and one that is given additional power with this scene in mind – she’s not only crying over the horrific scene playing out over the monitor, but also because she is remembering her own crew and their fateful encounter with the Xenomorph on the Nostromo.
Ridley Scott originally had an entirely different and very dark ending for Alien in mind. In this version, Ripley made her escape off the Nostromo only to encounter the stowaway Xenomorph. Rather than blast the alien out of the airlock, in this edition of the film, the Xenomorph managed to subdue Ripley and eventually bite her head off.
In arguably the creepiest element of this scrapped version of the ending, the Xenomorph would then go about recording Ripley’s final log entry, emulating her human voice in the process. Alas, the studio vetoed the plan, perhaps sensing the potential for further sequels. As powerful and chilling as that ending may have been, it was definitely the right call in the end. Otherwise, Aliens may have looked very different or, worse still, it may not have even existed at all.
In a memorable deleted scene from James Cameron’s Aliens, Ripley -- fresh from being woken from cryo-sleep and ahead of her hearing with representatives from Weyland-Yutani -- receives an update on the whereabouts of her daughter, Amanda. It’s then that Carter Burke reveals that Amanda had died three years prior, at the age of 67. “I promised her,” Ripley says. “That I’d be home for her birthday. Her eleventh birthday.” Burke’s response is telling: “Some promises you just can’t keep.”
Cut from the film at the behest of 20th Century Fox amid concerns over the length of the film, Sigourney Weaver was said to be furious at the move, which removed a scene she felt was important to the development of Ripley’s character and helped explain her protective approach to Newt on LV-426. On the flip side, the scene also offers the first inkling of the more callous, uncaring side of Burke’s character, too.
Another set of scenes, cut from the theatrical release of Aliens but present in Cameron’s director's cut, focused on the colonists of Hadley’s Hope on LV-426 prior to the infestation. In the jettisoned footage, Russ Jorden, the father of Newt, is told to go and investigate the coordinates given to Weyland-Yutani by Ripley following her briefing.
He heads there with his wife Anne, Newt, and her brother before a brief, off-camera encounter sees Russ fall victim to a Facehugger with Anne left making a distress call. The scenes are effective in showing the colony to be a hive of activity, in stark contrast to the desolate, deserted facility the marines find later. They also serve to further flesh out Newt’s character and back story. The events also plant the seeds of an unsettling idea: that Ripley’s return and subsequent report on LV-426 set the events of the film, and deaths of the colonists, in motion. Although it was Carter Burke that contacted the colony…
Cameron’s initial plans for the colonists in Aliens went beyond Russ Jorden’s fateful encounter, though. In the original version of the script, there were several scenes involving a rescue team sent from the colony to respond to Anne’s distress call. In the scenes, they would eventually make their way inside the derelict ship and come across the remains of the Pilot before uncovering the cargo hold and its multitude of alien eggs. Chaos would ensue, with the team overrun by multiple Facehuggers.
Those who avoided the attack rounded up Jorden and the other incapacitated members of the rescue team to take back to the Colony, thus setting the events of the infestation in motion. Cut before filming due to budget constraints, the scenes would have served to further flesh out the story of Hadley’s Hope and how quickly the aliens took hold. It would have most likely involved a multitude of on-screen deaths and horror scenes, setting the tone for things to come.
In a scene that was filmed but failed to make even the director’s cut of Aliens, Ripley encounters a now-cocooned Burke on her way to rescuing Newt from the Queen’s hive towards the end of the film. Though sympathetic to Burke’s plight, she fails to heed his request to “kill him” and instead moves on in search of Newt.
Perhaps, knowing the colony was set to self-destruct, she felt it was unnecessary to help him, but it’s a scene that arguably paints Ripley in a slightly less heroic light. On the flip side, it serves as a more cathartic comeuppance for the largely despicable Burke, who earlier had attempted to have Ripley and Newt inseminated by a Facehugger, but is now facing that very same fate himself. Given that it was his contact with the colony that kicked the events of the film into action, it’s a better death than the one he suffers in the final film.
The original script for Alien 3 offered up an even darker fate for Newt than the one presented in the finished film. In this version of the film, it would have been her, rather than Ripley, who became impregnated by a Facehugger while in Hypersleep on the Sulaco.
In a grim twist, when she began to drown in her sleep chamber, following the Sulaco’s crash landing on Fiorina 161, this version of the script called for a sequence in which the embryonic Xenomorph was shown escaping from her mouth and entering Ripley’s in a bid to survive.
Thankfully, fans were spared this truly grim version of events, with the sequence cut over concerns that it was confusing and that it detracted from the twist of Ripley later discovering that she was impregnated by an alien. Given the kind of dark journeys director David Fincher has taken cinemagoers on in the years since, though, you have to wonder whether it might have been more in keeping with his cinematic sensibilities.
David Fincher had yet to make Seven or Fight Club when he was recruited as director of Alien 3, but his dark vision still shone through on occasion during an infamously troubled production. The scene involving Newt’s autopsy is a great example.
In Fincher’s version of the film, the sequence was far longer and very graphic, with Charles Dance’s prison doctor Clemens essentially taking her apart to find out if she may have become infected by a Xenomorph. The gore, coupled with the fact that fans were watching the autopsy of a small child, may have played a part in the scene scoring negatively with test audiences. Whatever the case, studio bosses eventually requested that the sequence be significantly cut down.
Though it’s perhaps understandable that some were against the scene's inclusion, it would have served as a great way for Fincher to stamp his authority on the film early on -- with the on-screen carving up of a beloved character. The message would have been clear: from here on out, anything can happen.
Though Ripley and Clemens do enjoy an off-screen liaison in Alien 3, one cut of Fincher’s film actually featured a full-blown sex scene between the pair. Despite not making it into Fincher’s “Assembly Cut” of the film, it does add some color to their relationship and would have represented the first on-screen sex scene ever in an Alien movie, let alone one involving the usually stoic Ripley.
More importantly, the scene would have also added extra power to the shock death of Clemens soon after, making it a more unexpected and arguably, more emotive demise. As it is, Clemens death gets largely lost in the mess of Alien 3 like so many other sequences and storylines, something that the inclusion of this scene could have prevented. It may have also reinforced the idea of this being an entirely unpredictable Alien adventure where nothing is off the table.
The character of Walter Golic, played by Paul McGann, almost went through as many revisions and alterations as the script for Alien 3. One thing that is certain is that, in multiple alternate versions of the film, Golic played a far more significant role than the one he was left with in the final cut.
A disliked and disturbed presence on the prison colony, Golic encounters the alien early on in the film, becoming convinced it is a mythical, dragon-like creature. Strapped to a hospital bed after making these outlandish claims, Golic’s fate remains unknown in the theatrical version of the film.
In Fincher’s Assembly Cut, however, Golic escapes and eventually releases the Xenomorph after the prisoners succeed in catching it. In that version of the film, Golic is immediately killed by the escaped alien, but in alternate scenes scrapped from the film, Golic lives on, killing two inmates and assisting Weyland-Yutani upon their arrival.
There’s even one crazy version of the film where Golic’s psychotic side comes to the fore in the finale, when he plants an axe in the visiting Bishop’s head, inadvertently proving he is human.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s flawed-but-fun Alien Resurrection was originally set to start with a vivid dream depicting a woman and a little girl in a bright gold wheat field. “My mommy always said there were no monsters, no real ones, but there are,” the girl says, mirroring the line previously spoken by Newt in Aliens, before the sound of insects fills the air and a thick sea of blood explodes from the ground.
The girl is bitten by an insect and proceeds to scream, only to have her voice drowned out as black insects poured down her throat. The scene would then cut to Ripley 8, revealing itself to be a nightmare. Ultimately scrapped before filming began, the sequence offered a knowing nod back to the events of Aliens and served to highlight Ripley 8’s dormant humanity, despite her clone status. Alas, it never made the cut.
The first script for Alien Resurrection saw Ripley 8 and the crew of the Betty attempt to make their escape off the Xenomorph-infested Auriga through a giant on-board botanical garden.
The plan was to have the crew fight their way through the garden only for one of the Betty crew, a character called St Just, to sacrifice himself, distracting the remaining Xenomorphs and allowing the others to escape to the other side of the garden before blasting a hole in the hull of the ship, sending the remaining aliens (along with himself and the garden) shooting out into space.
The scene was ultimately deemed too expensive, and elements of the character of St Just ultimately rolled into Michael Wincott’s Betty captain Frank Elgyn. A photograph of what the garden may have looked like was mocked up as part of the production, though.
An early draft of Alien Resurrection featured an altogether different version of the Newborn Xenomorph’s birth and appearance. In this version, Ripley 8 wakes in the Queen’s chamber to find herself hanging from the ceiling alongside Brad Dourif’s deluded scientist Gediman, who is slowly being drained of blood.
The Queen then gives birth to the Newborn which, in this version, is a more spider-like creature, with an inner jaw capable of draining blood. In this version of the scene, the Newborn kills both Gediman and another soldier hanging from the ceiling, and has eyes on the same fate for Ripley 8 before her escape.
This scene did away with the idea of a mother-son bond existing between Ripley 8 and the Newborn, whose appearance was more in line with the one proposed by Joss Whedon in his original script for the film. Having spoken with disdain about the film in the years since, the chances are that the inclusion of this scene may have prompted a change of heart from Whedon in terms of his involvement with the film.
The ending to Alien Resurrection was altered on a number of occasions during production. One version, for example, sees the crew defeat the Newborn alien only to crash land in a post-apocalyptic Paris. The most intriguing iteration we never got to see, however, saw the Newborn survive a crash landing on Earth before embarking on yet another battle with Ripley 8 through a snow-covered forest and on to the edge of a cliff.
In this incarnation, the Newborn is only defeated once and for all when Winona Ryder’s Call arrives on the scene in a giant hovering harvester, shredding the Newborn in the vehicle’s turbines in the process. Budget restraints put paid to this ending, though, with the filmmakers instead having the Newborn sucked out of a small hole in the hull into space – an idea toyed with on three previous occasions in the franchise.
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus originally offered up a longer introduction to the Engineers at the start of the film. While the original cut featured a single, solitary Engineer drinking that deadly dark liquid before dissolving into a waterfall in a move that was supposed to “seed life” on Earth, in this version, the sacrificial Engineer is not alone. Here, he's handed a vial containing the black goo that mutates lifeforms by a larger group of Engineers, who then escape in a ship. This longer cut was supposed to help explain the role these aliens played in creating mankind.
The footage was cut from the theatrical release to ensure that the Engineers remained as mysterious as possible. However, the scenes were reintroduced on the home video release, which, along with additional scenes, offer up a clearer understanding of both the Engineers’ purpose and what the black liquid does.
David’s relationship with his creator Weyland, played by Guy Pearce, was set to be further explored as part of a scene set back on Earth. In the original script, David was seen walking along an exotic beach location before jumping on a small boat to join Weyland on a luxury yacht.
Weyland, at that point a younger man at the height of his powers, is shown to be living the life of luxury, being fed grapes by beautiful women while David watches on. Though never filmed, the scene would have played into the idea of Weyland viewing himself as something of a living God, an idea David evidently buys into at this point.
It would have also served as a nice counterpoint to Alien: Covenant, where a disillusioned David recalls his human maker with a slightly different perspective (that's all we'll spoil for you here, we swear).
Idris Elba’s Janek is one of the standout characters in Prometheus, and yet there still could have been so much more to his story. In a scene deleted from the final cut of the movie, he goes to visit Charlize Theron’s Vickers in her quarters to help drown her sorrows after the mission suffers a setback.
It’s there that he recalls an experience from a previous mission where he and his team were forced to evacuate after a test involving a biological weapon went awry. Janek recalls looking out of the escape shuttle window at the scientists left behind to die and how helpless he felt at the time.
The scene not only helps explain Janek’s sacrificial actions later in the film, but also suggests -- and that’s only suggests -- that this encounter with the dark liquid may not even have been mankind’s first.
Prometheus suffered almost as much as Alien 3 when it came to cut, with several edited down scenes rendered utterly confusing. The best example of this comes towards the end of the film, when the elderly Weyland is awoken to meet the newly-awoken Engineer.
A key conversation removed from the film, between David and the Engineer, explains how Weyland sees himself on the same level as the Engineers, a God among men, capable of creating “life” in the form of artificial humans like David. The way Weyland sees it, he should be granted the kind of longevity the Engineers enjoy.
Alas, the Engineer reacts with anger to the suggestion that the two species are on the same level, prompting the violent response that leaves Weyland dead and David, literally, in pieces.
Do you know of any other crucial scenes from the Alien franchise that ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor? Let us know in the comments.
Alien: Covenant hits theaters on May 19th, 2017.