33. 'Aliens' (1986)
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I remember seeing "Aliens" for the first time (when it opened in 1986) and
thinking it was the perfect genre movie: it had horror, science fiction,
unrelenting suspense, exciting action and compelling military combat. It was
pulse-pounding from start to finish, all its payoffs and plot progressions were
earned and logical and it just felt right for its entire 137-minute running
time. It still feels that way.
With studios afraid these days of diminishing attention spans, it's
worthwhile to note that the first attack by the xenomorphs in "Aliens" doesn't
come until the 50-minute mark (it's over an hour in the extended edition!). That
gives writer/director James Cameron plenty of time to build atmosphere and
anticipation, while also letting us get to know almost every character. The
space marines don't have back stories, but Cameron and the great cast do just
enough that Hicks, Hudson, Vasquez, Gorman and the rest — along with Lance
Henriksen's android Bishop and Paul Reiser's corporate slime Burke -- seem real
and alive to us.
Then, of course, there's Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), freighter crew member
turned avenging warrior, a fearsome and fabulous woman in her own right and the
prototype for every female action hero since. And let's not forget the aliens
themselves — there are more of them, lots more, and they have a queen who is
twice their size and three times as deadly and hideous.
It's astounding that 20th Century Fox wasn't initially sure about making a
sequel to "Alien" because they didn't think the first one was profitable enough.
Good thing that saner heads prevailed and gave Cameron the job — it's still my
favorite film of his. There's so much to say about "Aliens," but I'm going to
stop here and watch it again right now. — Don Kaye What's
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(Sigourney Weaver in "Aliens"/20th Century Fox/Entertainment