Saturday, 26 March 2016

Why Aliens is my Favourite Movie of All Time

I don’t know what the greatest movie of all time is, frankly I’m not sure who, if anyone, is qualified to make such a decision but I do feel confident in certain films being unsurpassed, there are many in this list for me: Pulp Fiction, Terminator 2, Robocop, The Godfather, Gladiator, The Shawshank Redemption, Predator, Die hard, to name just a few. My favourite though, my favourite film of all time, is James Cameron’s 1986 masterpiece; Aliens. I thought I’d dedicate some time gushing over just what makes it so great.


The action scenes in this movie are legendary. From the initial fight in the Alien nest to the gun turret defence to their escape run, Ripley’s attack on the nest and the final showdown with the Queen. Every action scene in this movie is legendary. The horror as the team realise they are woefully unprepared for their enemy in the initial encounter, the desperation of their turret defence and retreat and the determination, trepidation and despair of Ripley’s final showdown with the Alien hive and it’s Queen are some of the most memorable moments in cinematic history.

What an amazing woman. 

The colony of Hadley’s Hope seems real, you get the sense that this is a lived in environment, not just a movie set. In the establishing shots it is full of life and routine and then this is contrasted wonderfully with the desolation of the shots as the squad sweeps through. The design of the Aliens, their Queen and their nest is detailed, disgusting and sleek. They look like organised, deadly predators before they even attack and seeing their hive really gives you a sense of them and their depth beyond that of the other movies. Then there’s the design of the Marines, a design which essentially laid the foundation for space marine imagery in most future sci-fi works. The weapons and equipment such as the Power Loader and Pulse Rifle have also become iconic and all are instantly recognisable.


James Horner’s score is simple but amazingly effective. It creates a sense of tension that I have never heard from a movie’s soundtrack before and the fact that when you boil it down it’s only really a few themes and the odd note here and there is mind blowing. Then there’s the screeches of the Aliens, the terror as an egg opens, the tightening of a facehuggers tail and the roar of the Pulse Rifle – the sound design for this film puts most movies to shame. Just like with the imagery the sounds here are iconic, they are recognisable, famous in their own right.


‘Game over man!’, ‘They’re coming of out the God damn walls!’, ‘Get away from her you bitch!’, ‘They mostly come out at night, mostly’. This script is so quotable it hurts. From the banter of the marine’s first scenes (cleverly filmed last by Cameron to capitalise on the actors time spent together) to Ripley and Newt’s mother/daughter interactions and Burke’s corporate concerns – Cameron may have squandered his talents in the last decade or so but back in the 80s the man could write a hell of a script.

A Sci-Fi genius 


Cameron has said all of his films focus on the idea of love, in this case a mother’s love for their daughter. Ripley’s daughter is revealed to have died and this clearly plays a huge factor in Ripley’s devotion to Newt. You see the two of them grow closer and closer throughout the film, with Newt having lost her parents and Ripley having lost her only child. They are both victims of the Aliens, both survivors and the two of them give the film an emotional core that makes it relatable as well as entertaining. Don't even get me started on the genius contrasts between this and the Vietnam War, with a better trained, better equipped military force being utterly outdone.


The movie isn’t just about action, it’s also about fear. There’s the fear of technology, as embodied in Ripley’s relationship with Bishop, the fear of loneliness, demonstrated by Ripley and Newt and, of course, the fear of monsters, of predators.  The film may give extreme examples of all of the above but it’s strength as horror movie lies on tapping into real fears that most, if not all, have experienced at one time or another.


There are a handful of scenes that look a little dated now but, by and large, this film still looks great. The action scenes, sets, props and Aliens all look amazing, the film was made so well that I can’t really foresee a time when it won’t look great.

Ultimately a lot more can and has been said about Aliens than in my words above but honestly I lack the literary capacity to convey just much how I love this film, I’ll leave that to the scholars and philosophers who have written about the movie. My dad first watched it with me when I was about ten years old (much to my mother’s dismay) and I’ve watched it every year since, sometimes more than once. In fact as a birthday thing my girlfriend said she’d watch any film of mine without complaint, no matter how out of her comfort zone it was, I went straight to the Director’s Cut of Aliens.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Rob ... but please don't mention Reservoir Dogs to me LOL!
    Dad says he reckons 'Usual Suspects' should also be on your list!!
    It was made with such a low budget but is a long term masterpiece.