Twenty-five years ago, it was time for war. On July 18, 1986 James Cameron‘s film Aliens exploded into theaters and immediately became one of the few examples of a standout sequel in movie history. Picking up where Ridley Scott‘s Alien left off — with Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley drifting asleep in the sci-fi version of a lifeboat — Aliens emulated its predecessor with character-centric thrills and expanded upon it by visualizing the killer aliens as a bee-like hive society.

The movie celebrates industrial and military design, as in the marine ship Sulacco, which lances through space like an ingenious fusion of rifle and projectile, or the smart guns which transform cinematic equipment (the Steadicam) into weapons. At the same time, it mocks big business (see Paul Reiser‘s sleazy company man Carter Burke) and presumptuous military might.

In a popular film culture dominated by buffed-up male action heroes (Schwarzenegger, Stallone, et al) Aliens dared not only to scorn false machismo, but to weave a gory, violently thrilling story about motherhood. Critics and audiences responded with rapture. Sigourney Weaver earned one of the film’s seven Oscar nominations (it won for Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects) and the film owned the box office for four weeks. Aliens is one of the most-emulated films in action and/or science fiction, and arguably James Cameron’s best work. We’ll revisit some key memories of the film after the break.
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