Aliens (1986): James Cameron’s Second Chapter in Series

James Cameron’s “Aliens” is the second film in the popular film series that began in 1979 with “Alien,” also starring Sigourney Weaver. 


Based on a screen play by director Cameron, Walter Hill, and David Giler, this chapter centers on the journey taken by Ripley, who’s been unconscious for 57 years, under orders from Burke (Paul Reiser), the Company representative.  Her goal with a squadron of marines is to investigate the disappearance of colonists on the aliens’ home planet.


Some critics consider the sequel to be a much better picture than the first one, but the two films, reflecting the respective sensibilities of their directors, are vastly different. Drawing on conventions of the sci-fi horror, “Aliens” is not as scary as “Alien,” but it’s high-tech (as most of Cameron’s pictures) and contains some well crafted action set pieces.


Having been shot by different cinematographers, the two movies also have a different visual look.  Adrian Biddle shot this one, and Derek Vanlint the first.


Tougher, smarter, and more alert than her male peers, Sigourney Weaver, reprising her role, became the first actress to be nominated for a lead performance in an actioner; reportedly the crew called her “Rambolina” during the shoot.


Weaver is supported by a good cast that includes Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, and Carrie Henn, who plays the young girl Newt, the planet’s only survivor and the one who reawakens Ripley’s maternal instincts.


Oscar Alert


Oscar Nominations: 7


Actress: Sigourney Weaver


Art Direction-Set Decoration: Peter Lamont; Crispian Sallis


Original Score: James Horner


Editing: Ray Lovejoy


Visual Effects: Robert Skotak, Stan Winston, John Richardson, Suzanne Benson


Sound: Graham V. Hartstone, Nicolas Le Messurier, Michael A. Carter


Sound Effects Editing: Don Sharpe



Oscar Awards: 2


Visual Effects


Sound Effects Editing


Oscar Context


James Cameron failed to get a much deserved Oscar nomination, probably based on the Academy’s bias against the genres of horror and action, this in a year that saw the nomination of Roland Jaffe for helming the earnest and boring “The Mission.”


Running time: 137 Minutes