Alien (franchise)

Alien (franchise)

The Alien film series is a science fiction horror film franchise, focusing on Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) and her battle with an extraterrestrial lifeform, commonly referred to as "the Alien". Produced by 20th Century Fox, the series started with the 1979 film Alien, which led to three movie sequels, as well as numerous books, comics and video game spinoffs.

Related to the franchise are the "Alien vs. Predator" films (Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem), based on the related franchise which combine the Aliens with the Predators from the Predator film series.



Alien (1979)

The spaceship Nostromo visits a desolate planetoid after receiving an unknown signal from a derelict alien spacecraft. While exploring the ship, one of the Nostromo's crewmen discovers an egg-like object, which releases a creature that attaches itself to his face and renders him unconscious. Some time later, the parasite dies and the crewman wakes up, seemingly fine. However, an alien creature later bursts out of his chest and, after rapidly growing into an eight-foot creature, starts killing other members of the crew.

After completion of the film Dark Star (1974), executive Dan O'Bannon thought to develop some of the ideas (especially the theme of "alien hunts crew through a spaceship") and create a science-fiction horror film. It was provisionally called Memory. Screenwriter Ronald Shusett collaborated with O'Bannon on the project, adding elements from a previous O'Bannon script, Gremlins, which featured gremlins causing mayhem aboard a World War II bomber and wreaking havoc with the crew. The duo finished the script, initially entitled Star Beast, and O'Bannon noticed the number of times the word "alien" occurred in the script, and so he adopted Alien for the film's title.[1][2] The writers imagined a low-budget film, but Star Wars' success inclined Fox to invest millions on the production.[3]

In the original script the ship has an all-male crew (though the script's 'Cast of Characters' section explicitly states that "The crew is unisex and all parts are interchangeable for men or women"), including the Ripley character, who would be played by actor Tom Skerritt. Later, when producer Alan Ladd, Jr., and script-doctors Walter Hill and David Giler heard rumors of Fox working on other titles with strong female leads,[1] Sigourney Weaver was cast as Ripley[4] and Skerritt became Captain Dallas.

Swiss painter and sculptor H. R. Giger designed the alien creature's adult form and the derelict ship,[5] while Moebius created visuals for the spacesuits[1] and Ron Cobb provided most of the on-set design.[6]

Aliens (1986)

Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, the only survivor of the Nostromo, awakens from hypersleep 57 years later, aboard a new space station. She discovers that the planetoid from the first movie (now known as LV-426) is home to a terraforming colony. When contact with the colony is lost, Ripley accompanies a squad of marines there aboard the Sulaco.

The first film of the series, directed by Ridley Scott, was successful, but Fox did not consider a sequel until 1983, when James Cameron expressed his interest to producer David Giler in continuing the Alien story. After Cameron's The Terminator became a box office hit, Cameron and partner Gale Anne Hurd were given approval to direct and produce the sequel to Alien, scheduled for a 1986 release.[7] Cameron wrote the screenplay from a story he developed with Giler and Walter Hill.

Alien 3 (1992)

Due to a fire aboard the Sulaco, an escape pod is released. It crash-lands on the refinery/prison planet Fiorina "Fury" 161. Ripley is the only survivor. Unknown to her, an egg was aboard the ship. The creature is born in the prison and begins a killing spree. Ripley later discovers there is also an alien queen growing inside her.

Following the second movie, Aliens, Weaver was not interested in returning to the series and so producers David Giler and Walter Hill commissioned a third Alien film without the Ripley character. The premise was to return Ripley in a fourth installment, but Fox's president Joe Roth did not agree with Ripley's removal and Weaver was approached to make Alien 3. Released in 1992, the film was troubled from the start of production; without even a finished script and having already spent a million before then, pop music video director David Fincher; the third director considered for the film, was hired to helm the project.[8] After production was completed, the studio reworked the film without Fincher's involvement or consent.[9] Giler, Hill and Larry Ferguson wrote the screenplay, based on a story from an earlier script by Vincent Ward.

Alien Resurrection (1997)

Two hundred years after the events of the previous film, Ellen Ripley is cloned and an Alien queen is surgically removed from her body. The United Systems Military hopes to breed Aliens to study on the spaceship USM Auriga, using human hosts kidnapped and delivered to them by a group of mercenaries. The Aliens escape their enclosures, while Ripley and the mercenaries attempt to escape and destroy the Auriga before it reaches its destination, Earth.

While fans and critics did not receive Alien 3 well, the film still made millions worldwide at the box office and piqued Fox's interest in continuing the franchise. In 1996, production on the fourth Alien film, Alien Resurrection, began. Ripley was not in the script's first draft, and Weaver was not interested in reprising the role, though later joined the project after being given a reported million dollar salary and more creative control (including being able to approve director Jean-Pierre Jeunet).[10] The film, released in 1997, experienced an extended production and was described by screenwriter Joss Whedon as having done "everything wrong" with his script.[11]

Prometheus (2012)

Prometheus is an upcoming science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott. The film was originally intended as a direct prequel to the 1979 science fiction horror film Alien, set approximately 30 years before the events depicted in the film. Instead, a revised version of Prometheus will now explore a more stand-alone mythology based upon the race of giant beings discovered by the crew of the Nostromo in Alien. Filming began in March 2011, and Prometheus is scheduled to be released on June 8, 2012.

Future films

Whedon had written an Earth-set script for Alien 5, but Weaver was not interested in this setting, and sought to return the story to the planetoid from the first film. She has remained open to a role in a fifth installment on the condition that she likes the story.[12] Before 20th Century Fox greenlit Alien vs. Predator, James Cameron had been collaborating on the plot for a fifth Alien film with another writer. However, upon learning of Fox's plans for a crossover, he ceased work on his concept. Before he saw the film, Cameron had felt that it would "kill the validity of the franchise", and that "it was Frankenstein Meets Werewolf" – like "Universal just taking their assets and starting to play them off against each other". Although he liked Alien vs. Predator, Cameron ruled out any future involvement with the series.[13] In a 2002 interview, Ridley Scott stated that a new Alien project "would be a lot of fun", but that "the most important thing [was] to get the story right". Scott's concept for the plot was "to go back to where the alien creatures were first found and explain how they were created".[14] In late 2008, Weaver hinted in an interview with MTV that she and Scott were working on an Alien spinoff film, which would focus on the chronicles of Ellen Ripley rather than on the Aliens.[15]


Box office

Film Release date Grosses Rank
  (All time domestic)  
Budget References
United States Foreign Worldwide
Alien May 25, 1979 $80,931,801 $24,000,000 $104,931,801 #617 $11,000,000 [16][17]
Aliens July 18, 1986 $85,160,248 $45,900,000 $131,060,248 #567 $17,000,000 [18][19]
Alien 3 May 22, 1992 $55,473,545 $104,340,953 $159,814,498 #1,035 $50,000,000 [20]
Alien Resurrection November 26, 1997 $47,795,658 $113,580,410 $161,376,068 #1,233 $75,000,000 [21]
Total $269,361,252 $287,821,363 $557,182,615 N/A (E) N/A
List indicator(s)
  • (E) indicates figures based on available information.


Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
Overall Top Critics
Alien 96% (83 reviews)[22] 81% (16 reviews)[23] 83/100 (22 reviews)[24]
Aliens 100% (48 reviews)[25] 100% (7 reviews)[26] 87/100 (9 reviews)[27]
Alien 3 39% (41 reviews)[28] 57% (7 reviews)[29]
Alien Resurrection 54% (65 reviews)[30] 53% (17 reviews)[31] 63/100 (21 reviews)[32]
Average Ratings

IGN listed Alien as the thirteenth best film franchise of all time.[33] Alien was nominated for two Academy Awards, winning for Best Visual Effects. Aliens received seven nominations, including a Best Actress nomination for Sigourney Weaver, and won for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects. Alien 3 was nominated for Best Visual Effects. Alien was also inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for historical preservation as a film which is "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[34][35] The American Film Institute ranked Alien as the sixth most thrilling American movie and seventh-best film in the science fiction genre, and in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains list, Ripley was ranked eighth among the heroes, and the Alien was fourteenth among the villains.


Home video releases

There have been dozens of stand-alone releases of the individual films on various formats, including Beta, VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD, though so far the Blu-ray format has only seen a boxed set of the complete series which houses all the various versions of each film (a total of eight, see Alien Anthology below). The multiple single releases on VHS were generally the original theatrical cuts of each film, though at the very end of the format there was a sole release of the Aliens: Special Edition (see below).

Laserdisc saw single releases of all of the films in theatrical versions, as well as two so-called "box sets" which only contained one film (there were two single releases, one each for Alien and Aliens) but had multiple discs and a large amount of supplemental material with a high retail price tag (around $100USD). The Aliens set included a new "Special Edition" cut of the film completed by James Cameron just for this release, which was a significantly extended version of the film.

On DVD initially the films were only available as a boxed set (see Alien Legacy below) but were then released separately (and it should be noted that Aliens was only available in its "Special Edition" cut, not its original theatrical cut which did not make it to DVD until the next boxed set). The same pattern was followed when the two-disc special editions of the films came out after the Alien Quadrilogy set (see below), as each film got individual two-disc releases which contained the content of each film from that set. Since then, there have been multiple issues and reissues of the films, in both their theatrical or extended version, though some single releases include both.

In addition to the single releases, there have been seven complete box sets of the series at various points in its history. With the exception of the DVD version of the Aliens Triple Pack, each release contained all of the films that had come out at the time the sets were released. The seven box sets each had unique characteristics and features which were then sometimes reused in later sets or single releases in one form or another, most notably the Blu-ray set which includes a detailed archive of many previous releases, including the rare Laserdisc box sets.

  • Alien Triple Pack (VHS version), released on VHS in 1992 containing the first two films in the series and a third cassette with a 23-minute preview of the then upcoming theatrical release of Alien 3.[36] (Not to be confused with the 2008 DVD set of the same name, see below.)
  • Alien Trilogy, released on VHS in 1993, a three-cassette packaging of the original theatrical cuts of Alien, Aliens, and Alien 3.[37]
  • Alien Saga, a Japan-exclusive Laserdisc pack containing the first three films was released in 1999[38] (a planned U.S. version was canceled as DVDs were quickly taking over the much smaller domestic Laserdisc market in that country).[39]
  • Alien Legacy, a four-volume set released on both DVD and VHS in 1999, containing the 1991 Laserdisc "Special Edition" cut of Aliens (for the first time on another format), the theatrical versions of the other three films, and on DVD had various supplemental materials that were either re-used from Laseridsc or newly created.[40]
  • Alien Quadrilogy, released only on DVD in 2003, considered one of the most exhaustive box sets of the DVD era in terms of content and special features, is spread over nine discs : four discs (one disc each) for the theatrical and extended cuts of each film (new "2003" cuts of Alien, Alien 3, and Alien: Resurrection and the previously released 1991 "Special Edition" cut of Aliens), four discs containing special features specific to each film, along with an extra disc of documentaries and other supplemental content.[41][42]
    • The films were later re-released as 2-disc individual titles as part of 20th Century Fox's Collector's Series.
  • Alien Triple Pack (DVD version), released on DVD in 2008 is a 3-disc package including the theatrical cuts of Alien and Alien 3, as well as the "Special Edition" of Aliens, reusing the name of the 1992 VHS set (this was an unusual release in that Alien: Resurrection was not included, making this the first franchise box set it had not appeared in since its release).[43]
  • Alien Anthology, a 2010 Blu-ray Disc exclusive six-disc release, which features two versions of each film (theatrical, and the same new cuts used in the 2003 Alien Quadrilogy DVD set - with the exception of additional work done on the 2003 Alien 3 "Workprint" version which included having some of the original voice actors come back to re-record poorly captured dialogue in newly inserted extended scenes)[44] and virtually all of the special features and supplements from the previous releases (including an archive of the special edition Laserdisc box sets with all their image galleries and other unique content). As with the Quadrilogy DVD, the two versions of each film are housed on a single disc each, while the storage capacity of Blu-ray means the previous five discs of special features are included on the remaining two discs in the set, which hold approximately 60 hours of bonus video content and over 12,000 still images.[45]


There have been a number of spin-offs in other media including a large number of crossovers within the Alien fictional universe. These include:


As well the novelizations based on the various films (including Alan Dean Foster's) there are a number of novel series.


Numerous comic appearances include:

Video games

The first game based on the franchise was Alien (1982) for the Atari 2600, a game heavily based on Pac-Man. A strategy game based on the first movie was released in 1984.

Aliens was adapted into four different video games, a shoot 'em up arcade by Konami, a collection of minigames by Activision, a first-person shooter by Software Studios, and a MSX platformer by Square.

Acclaim released three different games based on Alien 3, two different run and gun platformers (one for various platforms in 1992, another for the SNES a year later) and a Game Boy adventure game in 1993. Sega also released a light gun arcade, Alien 3: The Gun in 1993.

The last game based on an Alien film was 2000's Alien Resurrection, a PlayStation first-person shooter.

Other Alien games include Mindscape's adventure game Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure (1995), Acclaim's first-person shooter Alien Trilogy (1996), the FPS Aliens Online (1998), the Game Boy Color action game Aliens: Thanatos Encounter (2001), and the mobile phone game Aliens: Unleashed (2003). The latest game released was the arcade game Aliens: Extermination, in 2006.

In 1994, Atari Corporation released the Rebellion-developed first-person shooter Alien vs Predator for the Atari Jaguar, in which one could play as a Marine, Predator or Alien. Rebellion then went on to develop the similarly themed Aliens versus Predator for PC. This was followed by, among others, Aliens versus Predator 2 and the expansion pack Aliens versus Predator 2: Primal Hunt.

In December 2006, Sega struck a deal with Fox Licensing to release two games based on the Alien franchise on the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.[46] Only one of the initial deal will be released, a first-person shooter by Gearbox Software, Aliens: Colonial Marines. Its expected release date is Spring 2012.[47][48] In the meantime, Sega released Aliens vs. Predator, a first-person shooter also made by Rebellion,[49] and announced Aliens: Infestation, a Nintendo DS game which was released in October 2011.[dated info][50]

In academia

The Bishop character has been the subject of literary and philosophical analysis as a high-profile android character conforming to science fiction author Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics and as a model of a compliant, potentially self-aware machine.[51] The portrayal of androids in the Alien series — Ash in Alien, Bishop in Aliens and Alien 3, and Call (Winona Ryder) in Alien Resurrection (1997) — has been studied for its implications relating to how humans deal with the presence of an "Other",[52] as Ripley treats them with fear and suspicion, and a form of "hi-tech racism and android apartheid" is present throughout the series.[53] This is seen as part of a larger trend of technophobia in films prior to the 1990s, with Bishop's role being particularly significant as he redeems himself at the end of Aliens, thus confounding Ripley's expectations.[54]

See also


  1. ^ a b c David A. McIntee, "Beautiful Monsters: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to the Alien and Predator Films", Telos 2005, pp. 19-28 & p. 39.9
  2. ^ Scanlon, Paul; Michael Cross (1979). The Book of Alien. London: Titan Books. ISBN 1-85286-483-4. 
  3. ^ "Star Beast: Developing the Story", The Beast Within: The Making of Alien.
  4. ^ "Truckers in Space: Casting", The Beast Within: The Making of Alien
  5. ^ Lina Badley, Film, Horror, and the Body Fantastic: Contributions to the Study of Popular Culture, Greenwood Press 1995
  6. ^ Robert Sutton. "R0BTRAIN's Bad Ass Cinema: Alien". Retrieved 2006-09-04. 
  7. ^ Schickel, Richard (1986-07-28). "Help! They're Back!". TIME Magazine.,9171,961839,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  8. ^ "Last in Space". Entertainment Weekly. 1992-05-29.,,310615,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  9. ^ "David Fincher". Senses of Cinema. Archived from the original on 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  10. ^ Hochman, David (1997-12-05). "Beauties and the Beast". Entertainment Weekly.,,290562,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  11. ^ "Joss for a minute: A brief chat with Joss Whedon". 2005-12-16. Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  12. ^ Larry Carroll (2009-02-20). "Will Ripley Rise Again?". MTV Movies Blog. Retrieved 2009-02-28. 
  13. ^ Vespe, Eric "Quint" (2006-02-07). "Holy Crap! Quint interviews James Cameron!!!". Ain't It Cool News. Archived from the original on 2006-02-19. 
  14. ^ Davidson, Paul (2002-01-23). "Alien vs. Predator: Battle of the Sequels". IGN. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  15. ^ "Sigourney Weaver And Ridley Scott To Team Up For Alien-Less ‘Alien’ Sequel?". 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  16. ^ "Alien (1979)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  17. ^ "Movie Alien Box Office Data". The-Numbers. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  18. ^ "Aliens (1986)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  19. ^ "Movie Aliens Box Office Data". The-Numbers. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  20. ^ "Alien 3 (1992)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  21. ^ "Alien: Resurrection (1997)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  22. ^ "Alien". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved ?. 
  23. ^ "Alien (Top Critics)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved ?. 
  24. ^ "Alien (1979): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved ?. 
  25. ^ "Aliens". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved ?. 
  26. ^ "Aliens (Top Critics)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved ?. 
  27. ^ "Aliens (1986): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved ?. 
  28. ^ "Alien 3". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved ?. 
  29. ^ "Alien 3 (Top Critics)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved ?. 
  30. ^ "Alien Resurrection". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved ?. 
  31. ^ "Alien Resurrection (Top Critics)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved ?. 
  32. ^ "Alien Resurrection (1997): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved ?. 
  33. ^ "Top 25 Franchises of All Time: #13". IGN. 2006-12-06. Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  34. ^ "National Film Preservation Board". National Film Preservation Board. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  35. ^ "Films Selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, 1989-2007". National Film Registry. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  36. ^ Alien; Aliens; Alien/Aliens Triple Pack, Entertainment Weekly
  37. ^ Alien Triple Pack,
  38. ^ Alien Saga Collector's Set (Japanese release), LaserDisc Forever
  39. ^ Laserdisc Details, IMDB
  40. ^ More Aliens come to VHS and DVD, Entertainment Weekly
  41. ^ Alien Quadrilogy, IGN
  42. ^ Alien Quadrilogy (The) (1979-1997), rewind @
  43. ^ Alien Triple Pack,
  44. ^ Alien Anthology Hits Blu-ray, Dark Realm Fox
  45. ^ Tribbey, Chris. "'Alien Anthology' Bosts 60 Hours of Bonus Content". 
  46. ^ "Aliens to spawn on next-gen systems". GameSpot. 2006-12-11. Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  47. ^ "Aliens: Colonial Marines still alive, DS edition planned". GameSpot. 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 
  48. ^ "Aliens: Colonial Marines shipping Spring 2012 and will be at E3 + Teaser Trailer - Gearbox Software Forums". 2011-06-01. Retrieved 2011-07-20. 
  49. ^ "SEGA and Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchangising Announce New Aliens vs. Predator Game". SEGA. 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  50. ^ VanOrd, Kevin (2011-07-20). "Aliens: Infestation contaminating DS this September". GameSpot. Retrieved 2011-07-22. 
  51. ^ Buttazzo, G (May 2000). "Can a Machine Ever Become Self-Aware?". In R. Aurich, W. Jacobsen and G. Jatho. Artificial Humans, an historical retrospective of the Berlin International Film Festival 2000. Goethe Institute, Los Angeles. pp. 45–49. 
  52. ^ Nishime, LeiLani (Winter 2005). "The Mulatto Cyborg: Imagining a Multiracial Future". Cinema Journal (University of Texas Press) 44 (2): 34–49. doi:10.1353/cj.2005.0011. 
  53. ^ Kozlovic, Anton Karl (Spring 2004). "HAL-o-phobia: Computer Horror in the Pre-1990 Popular Cinema". Sincronía. 
  54. ^ Kozlovic, Anton Karl (September 2003). "Technophobic themes in pre-1990 computer films". Science as Culture 12 (3): 341–373. doi:10.1080/09505430309008. 

Further reading

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