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Ripley: How do we kill it, Ash? There's gotta be a way of killing it. How? How do we do it?
A multimedia franchise and the first to successfully combine science fiction with Body Horror and actually make it scary, instead of cheesy. The franchise spans several comic books, video games and foremost a tetralogy of films, each with a different visionary director and all starring Sigourney Weaver.
The first film Alien (1979) involves the crew of a freighter spaceship who stop to answer a Distress Call from an uncharted moon. One of the crew members (John Hurt) gets an alien organism attached to his face and goes into a coma. Days later, an alien embryo explodes from the crewman's chest and rapidly matures into a savage monster. As the alien stalks through the ship, the crew chooses to go against their company's orders and fight back. One by one, the crew members are slaughtered by the alien until only Ellen Ripley (Weaver) and the ship's cat are left. She manages to defeat the alien and goes into hypersleep to return home. Writer Dan O'Bannon based the film on a sequence from his previous film Dark Star, in which a beachball-shaped alien runs amok on a spaceship and tries to push an astronaut down an elevator shaft. Ridley Scott directed.
In Aliens (1986), Ripley wakes up from hypersleep nearly sixty years later on reaching Earth. Her former employers, the Weyland-Yutani company, refuse to believe her claims about the alien and revoke her licenses. Not long after the colony established by the Company as cover for their investigation of the crashed ship goes silent. The company sends a unit of elite Space Marines to investigate, along with Ripley, who reluctantly agrees to act as an adviser. At the colony, they discover a whole nest of aliens, along with an egg-laying alien queen. In the ensuing battle, nearly all the marines are killed. Ripley, one of the Marines, a colonist girl, and half of an android escape and enter hypersleep for the return home. The film was directed by James Cameron, who shifted the genre from horror to action. The film was a smash success and is considered one of the few film sequels to be as good as its predecessor. Of particular note was Ripley's ascension to one of cinema's most famous Action Girls. Sigourney Weaver even got a nomination for Best Actress for her role as Ellen Ripley in Aliens, one of the most shocking Oscar nominations in history, and Stan Winston won an Oscar for the design of the Alien Queen.
In Alien³ (1992), hypersleep goes on the fritz again and Ripley's ship crash lands on a prison planet, killing all occupants except her. Even worse, it turns out that Ripley's been infected with an alien egg by a stow-away Facehugger. Another Facehugger slips into the colony and infects a dog, which quickly gives birth to a quadrupedal alien. Most of the prisoners die before the dog-alien is destroyed. Ripley makes a Heroic Sacrifice and kills herself just as her own alien is hatching. Directed by David Fincher, this film introduced the concept of aliens having different shapes depending on their host bodies. The film was much less popular than the previous installments, provoking special anger from fans due to its Shoot the Shaggy Dog nature, and was expected to be the final episode due to the death of Ripley. This film is not merely called an "Alan Smithee film" by irate fans, but decades later is held up as one of the textbook examples of "problems behind the scenes": David Fincher himself is actually a masterful director, but the studio kept messing with his work, and the project went through a revolving door of different screenwriters. The production was so chaotic that multiple alternate cuts of the film exist, scenes that were actually filmed but then scrapped and replaced as revisions kept occurring late into filming.
Alien: Resurrection (1997) has Ripley cloned back to life on a military research station that is breeding aliens in yet another attempt to turn them into weapons. The alien DNA that melded with Ripley's has given her remarkable physical abilities and a connection to other aliens. Shortly after a crew of smugglers arrives with a fresh shipment of infected humans, the aliens break out of their pens and run amok. The new Ripley leads a rag-tag group of survivors against the aliens and their half-human, half-alien hybrid queen in an effort to prevent them from reaching Earth. The plot breaks the traditions of the series by not including the original Ripley nor the Weyland-Yutani company. The screenplay was written by Joss Whedon and the film directed by French auteur Jean Pierre Jeunet in his only Hollywood excursion. The film attempted a gorier, campier and thoroughly more bizarre style, which the studio fought. Ultimately, the film was not well received, though like all Alien films, it performed well at the box office. For those that would like to know the reason, Joss Whedon wrote it as a camp parody, while Jean Pierre Jeunet wanted horror, and for some reason, didn't throw Joss' script in a trash can.
In 2004, the Aliens got paired up with another cinematic space monster, the Predator, in Alien vs. Predator, loosely based on a Massive Multiplayer Crossover franchise of comic books, video games and novels dating back to 1993. The resulting film uses very little of the crossover source material, putting a team of modern-day scientists, soldiers and survivalists on an expedition to the Antarctic. There, they discover an ancient, high-tech ziggurat that Predators have used since time immemorial to hunt Aliens as a rite of passage. The team and a group of young Predators must fight the latest crop of Aliens and prevent them from escaping into the human population. Ultimately, a female mountain climber emerges as the heroine of the story, much like Ripley did in the original Alien. The film was considered a rather brainless, PG-13 action flick, but performed very well. Prometheus has made the AVP series Canon Discontinuity.
Its sequel Alien Vs Predator: Requiem (2007) picks up right after the previous film as the Predator spaceship is taking off. From the body of a slain Predator bursts an Alien-Predator hybrid called a "Predalien". The hybrid monster slaughters the other Predators aboard, causing the ship to crashland in the forests outside Gunnison, Colorado. With the Predators dead, the Predalien and several Facehuggers escape into the forest and begin to impregnate the local populace. The ship's distress signal summons a lone Predator to Earth with the intention of killing the Predalien and erasing all evidence of the Alien presence. Once again, human and Predator fight independent battles to defeat the Aliens. In the end, the film features the appearance of Ms. Yutani, the other half of the Weyland-Yutani company. The film is either much better than Alien vs. Predator or much worse, depending on whom you ask.
There is also a Dark Horse Comics series which began prior to the release of the third film and thus occupies an Alternate Continuity. The comics continue onward from the end of Aliens and focus primarily on an older Newt and Hicks, continuing the story directly for three volumes before dividing into a number of self-contained spinoff stories.
Lastly, there have been several tie-in novels from the Alan Dean Foster novelizations of the movie to adaptations of the comic books.
A prequel to Alien directed by Ridley Scott, Prometheus, was released in 2012. It is Scott's first foray back into the Alien franchise in particular and science-fiction in general since the release of Blade Runner. Scott would continue the story with 2017's Alien: Covenant.
If you were redirected and wanted other, typically nicer kinds of aliens, see Alien Tropes.
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: In Aliens, Ripley putting Newt to bed. Among others.
- Action Girl:
- Ellen Ripley graduates to one in Aliens. Although not possessing any particular combat skills, she has the guts and determination to survive. In Alien Resurrection, however, the Ripley clone has a few superpowers.
- In the Dark Horse post-Aliens comic series, Newt becomes one hell of an action girl.
- Vasquez, one of the Marines who nearly makes it to the end. Also known for being more rough-and-tumble than the other Marines.
- Action Mom: Ripley essentially adopts Newt in Aliens, and goes to enormous lengths to protect her. This is set up earlier in a deleted scene (included in the novelization and the Special Edition) which reveals that her daughter had died of cancer in her old age while Ripley was lost in hypersleep; Newt is roughly the same age Ripley's daughter was before she left on the first mission.
- Action Survivor: Ripley in Alien, where she is only a terrified woman struggling to survive.
- Adaptation Expansion: The comic series branches off from the movies after Aliens, and benefits greatly as a result.
- Admiring the Abomination:
- In Alien, Science officer Ash acts like this toward the alien.
- Bishop displays this sort of behavior in Aliens when studying a Facehugger carcass, implying that he'll turn bad by drawing parallels to how Ash, the other synthetic person that once came into contact with the Aliens, reacted to the creature. It's a Red Herring: Bishop remains a good guy.
- In Alien Resurrection, when Dr. Gediman admires the Newborn (and to a certain extent, the normal Aliens).
- Air Vent Passageway: Both humans and Aliens make good use of air vents to get around without the other side noticing. The Alien in the first film moves around the spaceship using air vents. In the second film, Newt survives by hiding in the air vents, and the Marines make their escape through the same vents. Newt uses them for more aggressive purposes in the Dark Horse adaptation.
- Alas, Poor Villain: The Newborn in Alien Resurrection. It was a murderous abomination, but unlike the Aliens, it was capable of feeling emotion, and was in the end was a naive and childlike creature. And its death was long and agonizing. Even Ripley 8 showed remorse for it.
- Alien Blood: Highly corrosive acid for blood.
- Ambiguous Robots: This series has a whole spectrum of them. Tending toward the probably-organic end, we have the Xenomorphs and on the probably-robotic end, we have the artificial persons. Right square in the middle is the Space Jockey (and by extension, his ship) from the first movie.
- And I Must Scream: In the comics, an adult Newt falls in love with a Colonial Marine, who turns out to be an Artificial Human with more advanced emotions. He makes a Heroic Sacrifice by staying behind on an infested ship to allow her to escape, but this leaves him trapped on a Ghost Ship (they leave him alone because he's useless to them for breeding) that can never return to civilization because of the risk.
- Appropriated Title: Although the third, fourth and fifth films all went under the original title, most spin-off merchandise is known under Aliens, which was the second movie.
- Artificial Human: Ash, Bishop and Call (a bit of franchise-wide Theme Naming which Prometheus appears to have continued with David): possibly the Trope Namer, in fact, as Bishop says he prefers being called an "artificial person" over "android" or "synthetic". Ash from the first movie is a particularly sinister example, since he secretly protects the alien and betrays the other crew members.
- Artistic License Gun Safety: The Marines use guns in a combat setting fairly professionally in Aliens, but one example of horrendous gun safety stands out: when Vasquez and Ripley are helping Bishop into a conduit, Vasquez cocks a pistol and hands it to Bishop, who immediately puts his finger on the trigger. He then hands it to Ripley, finger still on the trigger and pointed straight at her. Ripley accepts it and sets it aside, thumb grazing the trigger while it's pointing at Vasquez. Bishop may be an android and thus incapable of unintentional twitches, but casually handing a loaded firearm to an untrained civilian is something a military android should be programmed to avoid. Averted when Hicks warns Newt away from weapons (specifically a grenade) and later gives Ripley a crash course in military firearms.
- Art Major Biology: The Alien's life cycle.
- The Alien grows from a chestburster to a full-grown adult without apparently eating anything (or anyone) in the first film. This is explained in the original script when the crew corner the chestbuster in a supply closet filled with their food supply and lock it in while they try to find a way to deal with it. When they return, it has escaped after eating their food and is next seen fully grown.
- Similarly, in the sequel, the there are dozens of fully grown aliens (and a very fully grown queen) along with a giant organic maze in the terraforming facility despite the fact that there are only some 150 humans to eat. Bishop mentions that the colonists also had livestock, which could serve as hosts/food for the Aliens.
- Ascetic Aesthetic: Deconstructed.
- Asshole Victim:
- Burke and Wren, whose fate at the hands of the Aliens where very well deserved.
- Almost all of the Alien’s victims in the third film are this, considering they are all self-admitted rapists and murderers.
- Awesome Personnel Carrier: The Marine APC.
- Badass Boast: Hudson attempts one that even uses the word "badass" as often as he can. He does not deal well with the loss of the high-tech gear that he describes in said boast. He does go down shooting while spitting out even more 'heat of battle' boasts, as well. An Alien has to ambush him from below to take him down.
- Badass Crew: The Colonial Marines certainly fit the bill. Too bad they don't last long.
- Bash Brother & Sister: Drake and Vasquez, the two M56 Smart Gun users in Aliens.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed:
- Subverted in the Newt's Tale comic series. During the colonist's final stand against the Xenomorphs, Newt's mother picks up a gun and looks at her children (intending to put them out of their misery before turning the gun on herself). She gets ready to pull the trigger... and then Newt tells her there's another way, and leads them towards a ventilation grate during the attack. Not that it helps, considering that her mother and brother get ripped apart seconds later, forcing her to flee into the duct.
- Vasquez and Gorman's suicide in the Hadley's Hope air ducts.
- Beware My Stinger Tail: In the novelization of Aliens, the Aliens have these, which are used to paralyze victims to be taken back to the hive for facehugger bait. Gorman gets stung during the escape in the APC after the hive raid goes pear-shaped.
- The M56 Smart Gun.
- Ripley's duct-taped pulse rifle/GrenadeLauncher/flamethrower in Aliens.
- The combination gun she is carrying at the end of Part 2 in the Dark Horse comic has to be seen to be believed.
- Big Damn Heroes: The moment in Aliens when Ripley drives the Armored Personnel Carrier through the wall of the Xenomorph hive to save the remaining Marines trying to escape is the biggest example of this trope in the main series.
- Big No: The first film by Ripley, the second by Vasquez, then Bishop II's prolonged "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" when Ripley kills herself in the third.
- Bilingual Bonus: Vasquez wrote on her armor "El riesgo siempre vive!", which means "The risk always survives!".
- Birth-Death Juxtaposition: In the third film, the ceremony were Hicks' and Newt's bodies are cremated occurs at the same time that the "Runner" Xenomorph erupts from Murphy's dog.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Extremely.
- Black Dude Dies First: Averted in the first and third movies, as Parker and Dillon (respectively) are among the last to be killed. Played completely straight in the second, as Private Frost gets a flamethrower to the face as soon as the squad gets ambushed, and Sergeant Apone gets grabbed by Aliens in the same scene (though his death is somewhat delayed).
- Bloody Murder: Acid blooded aliens.
- Body Horror:
- The Aliens' parasitical breeding cycle turns you into a living incubator.
- Cf. certain species of wasp. Nature even on Earth is not always cuddly and fluffy.
- Book Ends: Both Alien and Aliens start and end with a spaceship silently drifting into space, with the crew in artificial sleep (with the added bonus of mirroring each others: at the beginning of the first movie the crew is composed of several person, at the end of Ripley alone, it's the opposite in the second movie). Alien 3 starts with a similar scene, but ends with a recording of Ripley's last spoken sentences in the first movie.
- Broken Bird: Ripley at the start of Aliens, recovers in that film until Alien 3, she gets worse. And... And Newt a.k.a. Billie is one in the Dark Horse comic series.
- Bug-Out: "Marines, we are leaving!" after the first probe into the reactor plant building in Aliens.
- Bug War: A small scale version. The first and third films center on a group of human noncombatants against a single alien, while the second and fourth films feature groups of armed people against a horde of Aliens. The Alien vs. Predator series features a full scale battle between the species in the second movie. The "war" part didn't happened until Aliens vs Predator: Requiem.
- Came Back Wrong: Ripley in Alien Resurrection. Several times, as it turns out.
- Canon Discontinuity: The Dark Horse comics totally ignore Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection because they were written before Alien 3 came along and killed everyone. In the novelizations, Newt and Hicks were replaced by Billie and Wilks, and Ripley was revealed to be a artificial person with implanted memories.
- Catapult Nightmare: Ripley's nightmare of having an Alien rip out of her chest near the beginning of Aliens doubles as an expository Flash Back of when she first woke up in the hospital... but isn't quite a Flashback Nightmare or Daydream Surprise.
- Catch Phrase: Brett's "Right." in the first movie; Lampshaded by Ripley and Parker in one scene.
- Cat Scare:
- Twice in the first movie, before Brett's death and when Ripley's trying to chase him down in the cockpit before her first attempt to get to the shuttle.
- Newt's first appearance in the second movie, to the extent that in the novel, Hicks has to knock Drake's smartgun off target so as not to kill her. The novel also uses this scene, but with Vasquez instead of Drake.
- Ceiling Cling: With instances of Vertical Kidnapping.
- Chekhov's Boomerang: Newt's tracking device.
- Chekhov's Gun: Ripley shows that she knows how to use a powerloader early on in Aliens, and the scene is played for "Getting to know you" laughs. She later uses that same powerloader to fight the Alien Queen.
- Chekhov's Skill: In Aliens, along with her knowing how to drive a powerloader, there's the lessons Ripley got from Hicks on how to use the Marines' weapons, which she uses to great effect during her Mama Bear rampage.
- Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: As everybody knows, Weyland-Yutani is a combination of rival motoring conglomerates British Leyland and Toyota.
- Cold Sleep, Cold Future: The world seems to get a little bit grimmer each time Ripley wakes up. In the first film, the Company is willing to risk the lives of a ship's crew to get its hands on an Alien. In the second film, the Company (or at least Burke) is willing to sacrifice a whole colony to breed Aliens. In the third film, Ripley wakes up on a planet that is inhabited solely by a prison. In the fourth film, the megacorporations have given way to an even more irresponsible military that actually goes through with Alien genetic testing. The comic book canon is far worse than even this.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Occasionally (some deleted scenes in Aliens, the flashback in Alien vs. Predator and many times in Alien vs. Predator: Requiem), the Aliens abandon their stealth kill tactics for a Zerg Rush, which goes about as well for them as one might expect. It actually works pretty well in the first Alien vs. Predator film... until the Predator Self-Destruct Mechanism kicks in.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: This is evidently humanity's hat in the Alien universe.
Ripley: You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.
- Cosmic Horror Story: The series has elements of this. The first movie especially and even when more is revealed about the universe.
- In the first movie, the protagonists are a crew of blue collar workers. They pick up an unknown signal and follow it to LV426. There they find an ancient alien ship that is incomprehensible along with eggs that appear to be cargo. The Space Jockey is nothing resembling human and the ship itself appears to be organic technology. The Xenomorph that attacks the crew has the same look as the ship and it's heavily implied that the creature is a weapon created by the species the Space Jockey belongs to. The film ends with more questions than answers like what where the ancient aliens and where are they now? Are there other alien creatures out there? Does humanity even have a chance in the face of other life forms so powerful and capable of such extreme hostility?
- Even in later movies when more is explained there is still so much about the Engineers that goes unexplained. They can create other lifeforms and are extremely powerful but beyond that nothing is really known about them.
- Cranial Processing Unit:
- After Ash gets his head knocked off, the other crewmembers of the Nostromo plug his head into the proper equipment and are able to speak with him.
- Ripley does this with Bishop in Alien 3 to access the EEV's flight recorder.
- Crapsack World:
- Fury (Fiorina) 161.
- LV-426 (Acheron in the novelization).
- The Dark Horse comic series is one hellish place to live. The Mega Corp controls the world, all civil rights are essentially gone, the military kills civilians with impunity, and that's before the two killer Alien species come knocking. The Aliens overrun Earth, and more than one character wonders if we deserved it.
- Creator Thumbprint: Joss Whedon will revisit certain character types and ideas again in Firefly and Serenity. Once you realize Ron Perlman's character is basically Jayne, the rest falls into place.
- Creepy Child: Newt starts as one due to the psychological effects of her traumatic experience. Her eerie delivery of the line "They mostly come at night. Mostly" is often quoted.
- Cryonics Failure: Provides the image for the trope page. Discussed at length in the second film as part of Burke's plan to smuggle the Xenomorph specimens back through quarantine, and then revisited when the cryopods fail for real in the third film. This indirectly causes Hicks to get impaled by a support beam and Newt to drown in her own pod. Ripley's pod also gets a hole smashed in it (due to the facehugger on the Sulaco), and she's seen moving around in discomfort as the pods get loaded into the EEV.
- Damsel In Distress: Averted with Ripley. She subverts the role of a female character in a sci-fi movie by being the one to kill the alien instead of simply being rescued.
- Danger Deadpan: The Drop Ship pilot in the second film, Ferro.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: Corporal Ferro.
- Deadly Rotary Fan: In Alien 3, one of the prisoners (Murphy) is killed in a ventilation fan.
- Deadpan Snarker: Brett and Parker in the first film.
- Dead Star Walking:
- Tom Skerritt received top billing over Sigourney Weaver in the first movie. Ripley was never meant to be the main protagonist, merely the Final Girl.
- Clemens is set up to be the main male character in the third film, but gets killed about an hour in, and Dillon takes over the role for the rest of the film.
- Death Seeker: Ripley, by Alien 3, sums up her attitude towards the Xenomorphs as:
Ripley: You've been in my life so long... I can't remember anything else...
- Defiant to the End:
- "Fuck you! Fuck you! AND FUCK YOU TOO!!!!" Exit Hudson.
- Dillon during his Heroic Sacrifice simply stares down the Alien and tells it "Now, fuck you!". When it charges him, he is still heard screaming for the thing to "come on!" even when the Alien is tearing him apart.
- Deus Ex Nukina: Aliens kicks it up a notch. It was the only way to be sure.
- Diabolus Ex Machina: Alien 3 makes the end of Aliens this retroactively when it is revealed that an egg made it on the ship, not only causing it to crash but infecting Ripley with the new Alien Queen, necessitating a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Disposable Pilot: The gunship pilot.
- Distress Call:
- Alien: The organic ship's signal which turned out to be a Warning Beacon.
- Aliens had a Cessation of Communications with LV426. This was a result of a Weyland-Yutani action. Burke directed the colonists to the dormant Aliens, resulting in the slaughter of all humans on the planet.
- Downer Ending/Kill'Em All:
- Ripley's death and all but one of the inmates (Morse survived) in the third film.
- Once the first movie was extended to feature the shuttle scene, Ridley Scott wanted the Alien to bite off Ripley's head and make the final log in her voice.
- Dramatic Space Drifting: Kane's body in the first film. She drifted for a whopping fifty-seven years.
- Drone of Dread: The soundtrack composed by Jerry Goldsmith for the first film.
- Drool Hello: The movies are pretty fond of this one. Whenever dripping saliva onto the victim won't signal a Xenomorph's presence, the warm air exhaled onto the victim's neck from behind will. And if that happens, it's already too late to run.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Newt, Hicks and Bishop are all unceremoniously dumped from the third film. There's only a brief scene with Bishop in which he asks to be turned off because he'll never be top of the line again.
- Drop Ship: The two dropships in Aliens: perhaps one of the first examples of this trope to appear on film. They were designed by Syd Mead who did the art of Blade Runner, and were based on the US helicopters from the Vietnam War (and refined by Ron Cobb and then completely kitbashed by James Cameron, who was inspired by the Apache helicopter, depending on who you ask).
- Dueling Movies: Alien: Resurrection with Deep Rising.
- Dumbass Has a Point:
- Aliens. Vasquez, about Hudson's belief that the Aliens are inside the perimeter.
- In the extended cut, Hudson is the one who first theorizes the possible existence of a Xenomorph "queen".
- Empathy Doll Shot: Casey (Newt'd disembodied doll head) floating in the water after she's taken by a Xenomorph.
- Enemy Rising Behind: The abduction of Newt and the Xenomorph rising up behind Burke in Medical from Aliens. In Alien vs. Predator, the Xenomorph who tries to attack the sole Predator left in the pyramid.
- Ensign Newbie: Lt. Gorman.
Ripley: How many drops is this for you, Lieutenant?
- Epic Fail: In Aliens, the Colonial Marines enter the atmosphere processor without realizing that the central cooling units can be pierced by conventional weaponry... which they only discover after they're knee-deep in the hive, and Ripley points it out to them. Then Gorman orders the Marines to give up all their ammo to one man (and are subsequently forced to use flamethrowers), and said Marine happens to be the first casualty when the Xenomorphs attack. This in itself was brought on by the Marines not understanding that the creatures were hiding in the walls. The only reason anyone escaped is because several of the soldiers (Ripley included) disobeyed orders and/or carried backup weapons.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Applies to an entire species (depending on your interpretation of the term "Arcturian"), according to some dialogue in Aliens:
Frost: I sure wouldn't mind getting more of that Arcturian poontang. Remember that time?
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: A staple of the series.
- In Alien, the loss of the entire Nostromo crew leads Ripley to record a message at the end of the film concerning their fates and how she's the only one left.
- In the comic series Aliens: Newt's Tale, Newt is the only one to survive the colonists' last stand at LV-426, and is forced to go into hiding and foraging by herself after watching her mother and brother get massacred by the Xenomorphs right in front of her.
- In Aliens, only Ripley, Newt and a badly-injured Hicks survive (Bishop is still technically "operational", but he's a mess and is missing half his body).
- Alien 3 plays this straight then subverts it. Ripley discovers that she's the only one of the Sulaco crew still alive after their EEV crashed, and at the end, Morse is the only survivor of the Fury 161 colony to survive: he takes one last look around the place before being escorted out.
- In Alien Resurrection, Ripley, Call, Johner and Vriess all survive, except that they're now on Earth (which is a deserted, destroyed wasteland).
- Everything Trying to Kill You: In the comics, a group of Marines is forced to go to the Aliens' homeworld to act as bait for facehuggers. One character sagely notes that, on other worlds, the Alien is a foreign creature which the locals are not used to dealing with. On its own planet, it would have struck an ecological balance with other species, and it might not even be the dominant predator. The bait plan is completely misguided because unbeknownst even to themselves, all the Marines are androids.
- Evil Is Visceral: In addition to creating many of the subtropes, the Alien eggs and the visual design of the Space Jockey are also this.
- Exact Time to Failure: See Self-Destruct Mechanism below.
- Excessive Steam Syndrome: Lots of steam to go with that Self-Destruct Mechanism.
- Explosive Decompression: Ripley uses this to kill the alien at the end of Alien Resurrection, when it is blown into space through a hole in the ship. A tiny hole (originally introduced in Dan O'Bannon's spec screenplay Star Beast).
- Expositron 9000: The Nostromo ship computer.
- Extra Y, Extra Violent: All the XYY males are automatically put on a penal colony because they're assumed to be violent.
- Extremely Short Timespan:
- The Alien fully matures in a matter of hours.
- "You now have ten minutes to reach minimum safe distance." (From a nuclear explosion. Good luck with that.)
- Depending on the yield of the explosion, anything faster than a WWII-era B-29 bomber should be fast enough to get you clear.
- Eyeless Face: The most distinctive trait of the Aliens other than...
- Face Full of Alien Wingwong: The Xenomorphs' horrifying life cycle starts with this.
- Failed a Spot Check:
- Ripley failed her Spot Check at the end of Alien, as she sits down face to face with the alien in the shuttle, hidden amongst the pipes and valves on the walls she's facing.
- In Aliens, one of the Marines is looking almost directly at an Alien nested in the wall, but fails to see him amidst the mass of pipes and conduits on the walls and ceilings.
- Famous Last Words: Vasquez.
Vasquez: You always were an asshole, Gorman.
- Fan Service: Ripley spends a number of scenes walking around in her underwear in the first two films.
- Fatal Flaw: Pretty much everyone on the Nostromo has one, with the exception of Ripley. It's hard to tell if Jones has one considering he's a cat but he's at least smart enough to hide when the Xenomorph shows up.
- Kane's fatal flaw is that he's too curious. He ends up giving birth to the alien when he decides to investigate some suspicious-looking eggs.
- Brett's fatal flaw is that he's too complacent. He goes off alone to search for Jones, even though there's an alien that had recently killed Kane. The Xenomorph manages to find him just as he finds Jonesy.
- Dallas's fatal flaw is that he acts out of impulse. When he goes alone into an air shaft, the Xenomorph takes advantage of the situation and ambushes him.
- Ash's fatal flaw is that he doesn't care about his fellow members of the crew. This causes them to turn on him.
- Parker's fatal flaw is that he is fearless. He charges at the Xenomorph and it quickly overpowers him.
- Lambert's fatal flaw is that fear paralyzes her. She does nothing as the Xenomorph attacks her which gets her killed.
- Fatal Method Acting: Ron Perlman nearly died shooting Alien Resurrection.
- Fate Worse Than Death:
- In a deleted scene in the original movie, Ripley found Dallas and Brett mutating into eggs.
- Giving "birth" to a Chestburster. This is lampshaded by the iconic plea, "Kill... me!" spoken by impregnated Alien victims. Also, in the novelization of Aliens, Ripley found Burke in the queen's nest, and left him with a primed grenade when he said that he could feel the Chestburster moving inside him.
- In Alien Resurrection, the group discovers a deformed Ripley clone lying helplessly on a table, and she begs the more successfully-cloned Ripley to destroy her.
- It's implied in Alien vs. Predator: Requiem that the mother impregnated (in the hospital) by the predalien can feel the multiple bursters breaking into her womb and eating her children.
- Fetal Position Rebirth: The adult Alien is in this position the very first time we see it, hanging among the chains above Brett, keeping it Hidden in Plain Sight.
- Fetus Terrible: Chestbursters are parasites intended to evoke this.
- Final Girl:
- Ripley is the lone survivor of Alien, though she was not the strict star of the film.
- Ripley and Newt are the only ones left standing at the end of Aliens, though Hicks and Bishop are still alive.
- Five-Finger Fillet: Done by Bishop in the second film, leading to his Robotic Reveal.
- Five-Man Band:
- In Alien:
- In Aliens:
- The Foreign Subtitle: "The Eighth Passenger" in most languages.
- In the original film, Dallas and Lambert note that the space jockey's ribs seem to have "exploded" from inside and wonder what could have caused it.
- Ash never eats in the first film. The only thing he consumes is some milky-white fluid. He also has moments where he acts rather weird (such as when he runs in place) or doesn't fit in with the rest of the crew, such as during the dinner scene. He also prevents Parker from killing the Chestburster, though it might have to do with its alien blood which could tear through the ship.
- "Where's the rest of the crew?" is a very good question that's never brought up again, but a deleted scene from Alien shows that the titular beast has a habit of turning its victims into more eggs.
- In the Special Edition of Aliens, the "bees and ants" conversation foreshadows the appearance of the Queen.
- In Alien³, a bucket caught in an explosion and then doused by sprinklers cracks open.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus:
- When the camera whips back and forth when Ripley dashes into the shuttle before the ship explodes, you can actually see the Alien already camouflaged against the wall. *** Unless you've seen the film at least once already, you probably won't be able to make it out.
- The spear gun Ripley uses at the end of the first film can be seen at the beginning of the second film... still stuck at the bottom of the escape pod door.
- Gaia's Lament:
- Earth in the series. It has become an over polluted slum.
- In Alien Resurrection, Johner refers to it as a 'shithole'. The special edition's ending shows Paris to be a wasteland.
- Genre Shift: The first movie is "a haunted house in space", while the second is intended to be "the Vietnam War in space." The third went back to being a sci-fi horror film, while the fourth went back to being a sci-fi action film.
- Good Lips, Evil Jaws: The Aliens.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Although the franchise has a healthy dose of gore for its time, the series made occasional use of these: Ferro's blood spraying on the dropship window in Aliens, blood hitting the vent in Alien³, blood hitting the escape pod window in Alien Resurrection. The Alien vs. Predator sequel, however, put all the Gorn on full display, such as when we see an Alien impregnate a pregnant woman, and the "babies" eat their way out later.
- Gothic Horror: The first film is essentially a Gothic horror movie set in space. It has the heavy use of atmosphere and mood, a darkly lit, creepy, environment in the form of the Nostromo; a character embodying absolute evil in the form of the titular Xenomorph, loads of subtle and not-so-subtle symbolism with the themes of rape and pregnancy, and an innocent, naive sort of character that gets corrupted or violated in some way in the form of Lambert.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: As everybody knows, Weyland-Yutani is a combination of motoring conglomerate British Leyland and generic Japanese. Ah, British Leyland, that pride of the nation, a household name for decades and trailblazer for the world, such an unstoppable industrial force would surely spread its Mega Corp tentacles across the galaxy for sci-fi centuries to come. Thing is, this film was released in 1979, and British Leyland went bankrupt in 1975. For Britons, the fall of a once proud company was the ultimate symbol of the Britain's postwar decline... at least, if you're old enough to have heard of the company in the first place. For Americans, two words: General Motors. Oh, and Japan tanked in the '90's too. But the Asian half of the equation is fine. In 2009, the shattered remnants of British Leyland went bankrupt one last time... and were bought out by the Chinese.
- Hands-On Approach: In Aliens, as Ripley learns how to use the pulse rifle from Hicks.
- Hand Signals: Aliens. Gorman's gesture to Bishop and "thumbs up" signal to the Drop Ship's pilots.
- Happy Ending Override: The "positive" ending of Aliens (James Cameron intended Ripley, Newt and Hicks to go back to Earth and live as a family) is overridden by the following film, which has both of them die (offscreen), and Ripley later learning that You Can't Fight Fate.
- Hellevator: "We're on an express elevator to Hell -- going down!"
- Hellish Copter: Poor Corporal Ferro.
- Hermaphrodite: The titular Aliens themselves, at least according to H.R Giger.
- Heroic BSOD:
- Gorman in Aliens, big time.
- Newt, for a while, was so shell-shocked, she couldn't speak.
- Heroic Sacrifice:
- Parker in Alien (though with less success than the others).
- Gorman and Vasquez in Aliens.
- Arguably Dillon in Alien³.
- Christie in Alien Resurrection.
- Heroic Suicide: Ripley dies killing her Queen Chestburster in Alien³.
- Ellen Ripley in Alien³, which was enforced by Weaver so she wouldn't have to reprise the character again.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: See, this is the problem with living in a dark Used Future with monsters after you. In Alien, the Alien stows itself in the wall paneling; in Aliens, several Aliens are curled up in alcoves on the wall in the hive, perfectly blending in with the walls. They are even invisible on IR due to the pervasive heat.
- Hiss Before Fleeing
- Hollywood Acid: Xenomorph blood easily chews through ship decks, industrial steel floor grates and body armor. Never mind what it can do to flesh.
- Notable in that its potency freaks everyone out; one character makes noises about "molecular acid" in the first film, and an executive speaks of "concentrated acid" in a patronizing manner in the second: they're basically saying, "Umm... Acid isn't supposed to do that!".
- The second film has several homages to the book Starship Troopers, such as asking if the mission was a "bug hunt", and the female dropship pilot. Additionally, all the actors playing the Marines were required to read the book before filming.
- Both Alien vs. Predator films were criticized for being too derivative—homage taken too far.
- Honor Before Reason: When Ellen Ripley makes a promise, crosses her heart and hopes to die, you can bet your cocooned hide that no hive of monsters, snarling Alien Queen or imminent thermo-nuclear explosion will stop her from saving your life.
- Horny Devils: Giger designed the Aliens to embody the fear of rape. The Facehuggers essentially rape their victims and impregnate them. In the first film, it's implied that an adult alien sodomizes Lambert with its tail.
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: Any given character with a Alien fetus inside them: "Kill me... kill me..."
- I Gave My Word: Ripley crossed her heart and hoped to die that she will NOT leave Newt behind, imminent thermo-nuclear holocaust or not.
- Impaled Palm:
- Set up but averted in Aliens with Bishop's Five-Finger Fillet with Hudson.
- Played straight in Alien Resurrection when Call tries to kill Ripley.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Happens a few times, what with the Aliens having bladed tails. Most notably with Bishop at the end of Aliens. He gets impaled from behind by the Alien Queen who hid on the dropship, though he's lucky enough to be an android.
- Instant Cooldown: Averted. The Nostromo's self-destruct reaches a point where it's too late to stop it from exploding even if the engine coolant is turned back on.
- Insult Backfire: In Aliens:
Hudson: Vasquez, you ever been mistaken for a man?
- Insult Friendly Fire
- Irrevocable Order: Ripley sets the self-destruct for the Nostromo in order to destroy the Alien when fairly certain that she can safely get to the escape shuttle. However, along the way, she finds that attempting to do so will put her directly into the path of the Alien. She tries to go back and shut down the self-destruct, but misses the "point of no return" time by scant seconds.
- It Can Think:
- From Aliens:
- "What do you mean THEY cut the power? How can they cut the power -- they're animals!"
- The Alien Queen shows that she knows full well what Ripley means when she points the business end of a flamethrower at her eggs, and her tearing herself away from her egg sac and coming after Ripley is strongly implied to be out of rage for Ripley killing the eggs.
- In the director's cut, the survivors watch as the sentry guns burn through almost all their ammo before the Xenomorphs finally "fall back" to look for another way in. Hudson lampshades this by saying "Maybe they're demoralized...".
- From Alien Resurrection:
- Some of the Xenomorphs realize they can use their acidic blood to escape, and thus brutally kill one of their own so its bloody corpse will eat through the floor.
- Before that, they stopped trying to kill the guy behind the window when he raises his hand above the button that repeatedly sprays liquid nitrogen on them every time they threw a fit. After their escape, a soldier steps into the cage and looks at the hole before being frozen to death 'by the aliens themselves'.
- Jerkass Facade: What Hudson acts like before he breaks down in Aliens.
- Karma Houdini: The only survivor in Alien 3 is part of the gang that tried to rape Ripley. It is shown he did get a fairly thorough thrashing from Dillon as punishment.
- Karmic Death: In Aliens, the traitorous Company executive Burke abandons everyone to the Aliens—presumably assuming that they really will kill him once they escape—only to run directly into a bloodthirsty Alien himself. In a deleted scene (and in the novelization), Burke becomes the host for a chestburster, the original fate he had planned for Newt and Ripley.
- Kill It with Fire: Want to survive fighting the Aliens in close quarters? Flamethrowers are the only way to avoid being hit with their acidic blood at close range.
- Kill It with Ice: Liquid nitrogen is tried in Alien Resurrection, but is not so effective, as it was intended as a disciplinary tool rather than a weapon.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: The M41A Pulse Rifle says hi. Ditto the M56 Smart Gun wielded by Vasquez and Drake.
- The Ladette: Vasquez.
- Large Ham: Dan Hedaya in Alien Resurrection, particularly during his introduction and death scene.
- Laser-Guided Karma:
- In the first movie, Dallas and Lambert demand to be let in, and Ash violates quarantine and opens the door. All three die as a result of this. Ripley, who didn't want to let them in, survives. Parker, in a deleted scene, says that maybe Ripley was right not to let them in, making him an aversion when he is killed.
- Carter Burke gets his.
- Laser Guided Tykebomb: The Alien species is implied to be this, bred for the sole purpose of violence. Many thousands of eggs were preserved in the biomechanic derelict, and director Ridley Scott even said the derelict was a bomber... it was designed to bombard planets with Alien eggs.
- The Last Dance:
- Ripley in Alien³. "You've been in my life so long, I can't remember anything else."
- The convicts qualify as well, as profoundly stated by Dillon.
Dillon: You're all gonna die. The only question is how you check out. Do you want it on your feet? Or on your fuckin' knees... begging? I ain't much for begging! Nobody ever gave me nothing! So I say fuck that thing! Let's fight it!
- Last-Note Nightmare: Goldenthal's arrangement of the Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare in Alien³ freezes on the penultimate note and degenerates into a frightening wail; damn, even the opening logo fanfare is Darker and Edgier!
- Last Stand: Discussed in Aliens and shown in the tie-in comic Aliens: Newt's Tale. The Hadley's Hope colonists hole up in a wing of the facility to try and make a last stand against the Xenomorphs. It ends... badly.
- Late to the Party: Ripley and the Colonial Marines in Aliens.
- Lego Genetics: The Xenomorphs, as part of their bioweapon design, can assimilate useful traits from their hosts to better survive in the environment and become stronger, and it often extends to physical appearance. The first two films had human-like Xenos, and the third featured a quadruped Xeno that came from a dog (or a bovine, depending on the version). The video games, comics and toy line take it to greater lengths with flying Xenos with wings like a bird or bat, gorilla Xenos with long powerful arms, bull and rhinoceros Xenos, and in the Batman crossover comics, the Xenomorphs even had physical similarities to the various villains their DNA was combined with (with the Killer Croc Alien being a gigantic crocodile-like beast). And the most iconic type, the Pred Alien, a Xenomorph born from a Predator with a shorter skull, mandibles, dreadlocks and a stockier build than other humanoid Xenos. Interestingly, with few exceptions, the Queen Aliens and other higher castes like the Praetorian do not assimilate traits, keeping the Xenomorph line pure-blooded.
- Lock and Load Montage: The first two films feature examples of this. In the first film, when Ripley, Parker and Lambert prepare to evacuate the Nostromo, Ripley is shown pulling some gear together in preparation. Aliens takes this to the next level (and is likely the defining example for the series): Ripley tapes together a pulse rifle and a grenade launcher, grabs as much ammo as she can carry, puts on a bandolier of grenades and stuffs a bunch of flares in her pocket during the dropship ride to the atmosphere processor. She then removes her long-shirt and preps her weaponry during the elevator ride down.
- Mama Bear: The last half-hour of Aliens deals with Ripley defending Newt from the aliens and the Alien Queen defending her eggs from Ripley.
Ripley: Get away from her, you bitch!
- Mega Corp: Weyland-Yutani is the very epitome of this trope. They control every Earth government and have colonized many star systems. Not only that, but they have a private army with a Bioweapons Division. They have prison planets as well, such as the one in the third movie. The fourth movie changes this up by referring to megacorps like Weyland-Yutani as a thing of the past, though the government that replaces them is just as bad, if not worse.
- In one draft of the Alien: Resurrection script, a character mentions that Weyland-Yutani was bought out by Wal-Mart. This line did not make it into the theatrical version, but was used in the Special Edition.
- Mercy Kill: Often requested by victims. Usually granted, if the opportunity is there.
- Metamorphosis Monster: The Aliens go from parasite to two-legged horror.
- Mini-Mecha: The powerloader, complete with welding torch, hydraulic pincers and docking bay controls.
- The special effects puppeteers were so effective in creating the loader that Cameron received calls from construction and shipping companies begging to purchase working models.
- Monster Is a Mommy: The Alien Queen.
- More Dakka: Aliens is largely premised on the Colonial Marines attempting to bring heavy military firepower to bear on the Xenomorphs. Due to various circumstances including incompetence, overconfident leadership and deliberate sabotage, they fail to deliver the full extent of this promise. The best examples that get displayed in the film are the smartguns and the automated sentry guns.
- More Teeth Than the Osmond Family: The titular Aliens.
- The Neidermeyer: Lt. Gorman from Aliens, who is unit commander In Name Only. Sergeant Apone is the real commander of the unit, and when he dies, Gorman completely freezes up. He gets better... but it's unfortunately just before his demise.
- Nested Mouths: Probably the most iconic case.
- Never Trust a Trailer:
- The trailer of the first film has glimpses of Ash malfunctioning. Before The Reveal, it looks as though he has a chestburster inside him. But since he's a robot, impregnating him would be impossible.
- The third film's very first trailer, promising "On Earth, everyone will hear you scream", suggested that the film would take place on earth.
- The film went through eight or more screenplays during its early development stages (some of them, incidentally, were written by people who seem to have never watched the previous films). The trailer in question was made before the final script was even selected.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- Combines with a Pyrrhic Victory in Alien Resurrection. They've saved the world from the Aliens, but the explosion from the crashing ship likely is going to cause untold destruction and environmental damage to Earth.
- Ironically, if they'd used the alternate ending, the results of their "heroics" would most likely cause many places to look like this.
- That gigantic explosion may or may not have just been for artistic purposes.
- No New Fashions in the Future: Ripley and Burke's outfits scream 80's, with Sigourney Weaver's curly hair and Paul Reiser's bad perm getting special notice.
- Non-Malicious Monster: The Xenomorphs don't attack humans just for the thrill, they're predators and that's pretty much what they do. Besides, they need to impregnate humans in order to reproduce. The alien in the original Alien in contrast seems to enjoy the fear of its prey, but it at least sticks to the lower decks and doesn't bother anyone that doesn't enter its territory.
- Nonhumans Lack Attributes: Almost averted. In Alien Resurrection, the Newborn Alien was supposed to have visible genitals, but the studio interfered, and the idea was scrapped.
- Noodle Incident: The Arcturians that the marines talk about in the second film.
- No One Gets Left Behind: In Aliens, after the Colonial Marines learn that some of the ones left behind in the escape are still alive, Vasquez says "Then we go back in there and get them. We don't leave our people behind."
- No OSHA Compliance: Downplayed example. For some reason, the Nostromo, with a crew of seven, has a lifeboat with a capacity of only three. But it at least has a lifeboat to begin with.
- Nothing Is Scarier:
- The original Alien focuses on the ever-present lurking threat of the eggs, chestburster, and adult Alien rather than direct confrontations. The trailer for the film highlights the strategy, showing barely any of the Alien and focusing on a terrifying montage of people reacting to what could be after them.
- As a more specific example from the first film, Lambert's death. Nothing is seen of what happened, and even the aftermath is not seen clearly, we only hear it happening over the radio. It's probably the scariest death in the film. Given that the last thing we see of Lambert is the tip of the Alien's tail moving up her leg towards her nether regions, this is probably just as well.
- Despite being more focused on action, Aliens gets in on this too. The Aliens aren't even seen until over an hour into the film; before that, the Marines are exploring the deserted colony, waiting to encounter them at any moment.
- Nuke'Em: Suggested by characters in Aliens ("It's the only way to be sure"), but the plot doesn't give them the chance, as the colony's atmosphere processor counts down to a thermonuclear overload all on its own.
- Numbered Homeworld: LV426 (Acheron in the novelization).
- Obstructive Bureaucrat:
- Subverted. Ripley quotes "24 hours for decontamination" regulations rather than allow Kane to enter the Nostromo for treatment. Of course, she turns out to be right, but by making her appear unsympathetic the movie conceals her eventual role as the heroine.
- A more straight up application of the trope is the board of inquiry in Aliens. Again this is used to mislead the audience, as the only member who expresses sympathy towards Ripley is Carter Burke, hiding his role as the villain.
- Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: You can see there's no consistency on the naming (which is why it's one of The Angry Video Game Nerd's targets here).
- Oh Crap:
- "Game over, man. Game over!"
- Later: "This is a big fucking signal... Ten meters... eight..." "That can't be, that's inside the room." ba-beep-beep "It's reading right, man!" "Then you're not reading it right!" BA-BEEP BEEP "Three meters... what the HELL?!?" *eyes go upwards to the drop ceiling*
- Before that, Hudson's face while Bishop does his high-speed version of Five-Finger Filet.
- One-Book Author: An acting variant. Carrie Henn (Newt) despite winning a Saturn Award for her work decided not to act again after being bullied due to her role in Aliens.
- One-Liner: Aliens, being a traditional 80's action film, features quite a few:
- "I like to keep this handy for close encounters."
- "What the hell are we supposed to use, man? Harsh language?"
- "Get away from her, you BITCH!"
- "LET'S ROCK!"
- "Eat this!"
- Only Sane Man: In spite of the anger it earned her from the rest of the crew for trying to enforce it, Ripley was absolutely right about the 24 hour quarantine. If everyone had listened to her, it's very possible she wouldn't have been the only survivor.
- Outrun the Fireball:
- Ripley escaping the Nostromo's self-destruct in her shuttle in Alien.
- The dropship barely escaping the nuclear detonation on LV426.
- Percussive Maintenance: Drake's camera bash in Aliens.
- Phlegmings: Every time the aliens appear.
- POV Cam: The fishbowl view of the running Alien in the third film. Also present in Aliens with all the Marines wearing head cams linked with the APC to give the CO there a better situational awareness. It doesn't really help.
- Pragmatic Villainy: While the average Xenomorph is just a murderous wild animal, the Queen of the Xenomorph Hive seems intelligent enough to be able to reason or negotiate with. When Ripley threatened to burn down her eggs, she was ready to spare her and Newt's lives and let them go if they let the eggs be. Then negotiations fell apart when one of the eggs opened to discharge a facehugger for Ripley, and she started burning the eggs again.
- The Queen's attempt to communicate, however primitive, may just have been a delaying tactic while the facehugger was preparing to hatch. The Hive may actually be a hive consciousness.
- Prison: The setting for Alien³ is a shut-down prison planet, where the remaining convicts adopted a monastery culture and chose to remain, becoming more like indentured janitors. Escape is impossible because there's nowhere to escape to.
- Real Robot: The Power Loader is a good example.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Subverted. Burke is the only authority figure to sympathize with Ripley and comes across as a fair and reasonable person... until The Reveal.
- Recycled in Space: Alien was originally billed as "Jaws IN SPACE!" to producers. Some call Alien³ "the first Alien IN A PRISON!" And in an inversion, the Alien vs. Predator movies sees the Alien in Earth as opposed to IN SPACE!
- Redemption Equals Death:
- Gorman in Aliens does this, big time.
- Junior in Alien³'s special edition: he leads the gang trying to rape Ripley, but when she tries to distract the Alien from him in the attempt to trap it in the bunker, he instead runs inside, taking it with him. It rips him apart of course, but the mission succeeds because of him.
- Red Shirt: Easy way to determine Red Shirts: Are they named Ripley? No? They're boned. Frost, Crowe, Dietrich, Wierzbowski, Apone, Drake, Spunkmeyer, Ferro, in order.
- Reliable Traitor: Always at least one. In the first movie, Ash the Android. The second movie, Carter Burke. The third movie, somewhat averted: Golic, who helped the Alien escape... but he worshiped the Alien and was obviously insane. The fourth movie, Dr. Wren when he shoots Call and tries to prevent them from destroying the ship so he can deliver the Aliens to the Military. They all die, and in the second and fourth films, they are killed by the very creatures they try to smuggle back to Earth in a Karmic Death.
- Retirony: In the second movie, when the survivors are trapped on the planet's surface with little hope of rescue, Hudson wails that he has "four more weeks and out, now I'm gonna buy it on this rock." He's right.
- Ridiculously Human Robot:
- Call. So much so that Ripley says, "No human being is that humane."
- "I may be synthetic, but I'm not stupid."—Bishop from the second movie.
- Right Man in the Wrong Place: Ripley, particularly in the second film.
- Robotic Reveal: In the first, second and fourth movies: when someone starts leaking milk-colored Symbolic Blood, you've got one of these.
- Inverted in the third movie when someone suspected of being an android is violently attacked only to start bleeding very human red.
- Rule of Scary: There are plenty of rationalizations of the Xenomorph's life cycle, the circumstances, and behavior of various characters, but in the end, it all comes down to this.
- Salvage Pirates: In the opening to the second movie, Ripley's escape shuttle from the first movie is found by a deep-space salvage crew, who express disappointment at finding her alive, as "there goes our salvage, boys." Averted in that they resist the temptation to kill her and salvage the shuttle anyways.
- Scannable Man: The prison convicts in the third movie.
- Screaming Woman: Ripley usually gets at least one moment per film to scream at something. In the original film, she screams when she discovers the Xenomorph approaching her as she's preparing to hit the airlock near the end. In the sequel, she screams as she falls into the gravity well with the Queen, and just before the Queen loses its hold on her during the airlock sequence. In the third film, she screams when the gang of inmates attempts to rape her.
- Sculpted Physique: The Alien, which is not surprising considering artist H. R. Giger's other works. This use of the trope actually makes sense in the story since the Alien's black and tube-like exterior made it blend in on the spacecraft. This is so effective in the first film, that the first time we see the adult Alien, it's hanging in full view of the camera, and you probably mistook it for piping!
- Self-Destruct Mechanism:
- The engines of the Nostromo in Alien.
- The colony fusion reactor in Aliens becomes this as a result of being damaged.
- Send in the Search Team:
- Dallas and the crew of the Nostromo are sent to investigate a distress call from the uncharted moon.
- In the second film, the salvage team that finds Ripley's shuttle, and the Colonial Marines sent to find out what happened to the colony on LV426 that has gone silent.
- Sensor Suspense:
- Alien: While tracking the alien through the ventilation system.
- Aliens: Preceding the "They're crawling through the ducts!" scene.
- And in the deleted sentry scene right before that, seeing the ammo count from the sentry guns decline rapidly.
- Sergeant Rock: Sergeant Apone from Aliens is one of the most famous examples of this trope.
- Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: Ripley in Alien3 and in Alien Resurrection.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Alien3, when viewed together with Aliens.
- The first film, being The Thing from Another World IN SPACE, has a few shout outs to the 1951 film, including the motion detector.
- In the second film, the android aboard the space marines vessel tries to assure Ripley that he isn't dangerous by explaining that his programming won't allow it. His explanation is almost word for word a reading of Isaac Asimov's famous three laws of robotics 'A robot cannot harm a human, or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm'.
- Also in the second film, Hudson asks "Is this going to be a stand-up fight, or another bug hunt?". This is a direct reference to the novel Starship Troopers, that the actors were required to read, just like real Marines, and was ad-libbed by the actor.
- Also in the second film: Ripley discovers Burke sent colonists to look at the Space Jockey, with the company log's reference being 6.12.79. 6 December 1979 was Alien's release date.
- Hicks aforementioned line about keeping a shotgun "for close encounters".
- The second film contains two things that may be references to Stanley Kubrick films. The movie opens with slow, desolate shots of the first film's lifeboats drifting through space, accompanied by music from Aram Khachaturian's Gayene ballet suite; the same music is used for the lonely establishing shots of the Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Later, in the director's cut, there is a scene of people working on the colony on LV-426. In this scene, there is a low angle shot of a child riding on a Big Wheel tricycle. This could be a reference to The Shining. This same tricycle was seen in the first Terminator movie, and again in Terminator 2.
- In the first film too, when Ripley says, "Ash, open the door!" after he locks her in the corridor. This line is spoken to a shipboard AI who's willing to kill off the crew for the sake of a secret mission, right at the moment that his intentions become known to the protagonist.
- The Director's Cut of Aliens has a Badass Boast speech from Hudson which mentions "phased plasma rifles". Presumably in the 40-watt range.
- The freighter in the first film shares its name with one of Joseph Conrad's novels.
- Smug Snake: Carter Burke is the slimiest corporate bastard ever.
Ripley: You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.
- Sole Survivor: Ripley in the original film, Newt in the Newt's Tale comic series, Morse (from the Fury 161 prisoners in the third film, and Alexa in Alien vs. Predator.
- Space Clothes: Averted. In Alien, the crew members wear normal clothes. People entering cryogenic sleep strip down to their underwear; otherwise, they usually walk around in civilian/military attire. In the opening scene of Alien, the clothes are distinctly reminiscent of diapers, as the lethargic crew are "born" from closed spaces into the white room controlled by the AI "Mother".
- Space Does Not Work That Way: The Newborn at the end of Alien Resurrection getting its entire body sucked through a dime-sized hole in the airlock window. If you were naked and subjected to the same conditions, you should be able to walk away in spite of the suction, and even if you didn't, you'd just get a dime-sized patch of frostbite on your back.
- Space Is Noisy: Notably averted at the end.
- Space Marine: Aliens trades the civilian astronauts of the first movie for rough 'n ready space marines.
- Space Trucker: The crew.
- The Speechless: Newt is this until Ripley takes the time to get her some hot chocolate and clean her up.
- Stanley Steamer Spaceship: Numerous examples across the entire main series and Crossover films. This includes the Nostromo, the Sulaco (in the third film as the alarms are triggered), the Auriga, the Betty and even the downed Predator ship from Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.
- Starfish Aliens
- Stock Shout Out: Is one of the most common.
- Stock Subtitle: Alien Resurrection.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: In Alien Resurrection.
- Surprise Vehicle: The dropship rising up behind Ripley and Newt during the escape sequence in the second film. It takes Newt looking at it and screaming it to Ripley to make her realize it's behind her.
- Surprisingly-Sudden Death: Used several times:
- In the first film, the Alien bursts out of Kane's chest in the middle of a cordial dinner.
- In the second film, the Alien queen hides on the dropship and impales Bishop with her tail.
- Survival Mantra: "You are my lucky star... Lucky star, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky."
- Symbolic Blood: Androids have white blood and organs. Naturally, both Ash and Bishop get torn apart so it sprays everywhere. In Alien, the insides of Ash were made from milk, pasta, and glass marbles. Apparently, Lance Henriksen got food poisoning from said milky blood while shooting that scene.
- Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: In the second film, when Ripley, Newt and Bishop step off the dropship after escaping LV-426, Ripley takes a moment to thank the android for saving her and the young girl. Bishop replies that he did do good... and then he gets ripped in half by the Xenomorph queen, who hitched a ride up with them.
- Tastes Like Friendship: In Aliens, Ripley gets Newt to talk by giving her a glass of hot chocolate.
- Television Geography: In Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, virtually every shot of "Gunnison, Colorado" is wrong. Basically, the city is too big, and the mountains are too small.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: The Queen Alien's feet are shaped like high-heeled shoes.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: A staple of the series:
- In Alien, Ripley sets the ship on self-destruct and escapes in a shuttle. The Alien escapes onto the shuttle, but now it can't hide away anymore. She dumps it out the shuttle's airlock, shoots it with a grappling gun when it grabs the opening, and then fries it with the engines when the gun gets caught in the door, and it tries to crawl back into the shuttle.
- In Aliens, the Marines and Ripley decide to nuke the colony LV-426 to make sure they wipe out all the Aliens. Averted because not only do the Aliens kill the pilot of the Drop Ship, but the huge reactor blows up in a thermonuclear explosion... making nuking the planet redundant.
- In Alien 3, the inmates plot to kill the Alien by pouring several tons of molten lead on it. It survives the lead, but not being doused with water immediately after, which pops it like a balloon.
- In Alien Resurrection, they plan to blow up the ship. That plan fails, so they crash it on Earth.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch: "Get away from her, you BITCH!"
- Those Two Guys: Brett and Parker from the first film.
- The Three Faces of Eve: The famed climax of Aliens pits one Mama Bear against another, to protect a little girl.
- "Three Laws"-Compliant: In Aliens, Bishop paraphrases the First Law as to why he would never kill people like Ash did in the first film.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: How the antagonists in three of the four movies die. The exception is Alien³', where the Alien dies as a result of being doused with a combination of hot molten lead and high-pressure cold water.
- Took a Level in Badass: Ripley for one as she starts out as a simple commercial freighter officer and ends up kicking ass in Aliens. Hudson also qualifies somewhat as he's a nervous wreck for most of the movie, but goes out with a bang.
- Traitor Shot: Bishop gets one that looks like this when he talks with Spunkmeyer about the Facehugger specimens kept in the medical wing. He later proves to be a capable support character who rescues Ripley and Newt at a pivotal moment.
- Troll: Bishop, while he's a nice guy and is programmed to never harm a human being, it doesn't stop him from scaring the crap out of Hudson with the knife trick.
- Trope Codifier: Aliens pretty much single handedly defined the visual style for humans in a Standard Sci Fi Setting. Babylon 5, Free Space, StarCraft, Halo and Mass Effect all pretty much draw directly on this movie as the main source of inspiration what human military technology is and what it looks like.
- True Love Is Boring: Pretty much stated by Word of God as the reason Hicks, Newt and Bishop were killed off between Aliens and Alien 3.
- Turned Against Their Masters: In the first movie, it's implied that the Aliens were bred to be living weapons but killed their creators, the ancient "Pilot creatures".
- Ultimate Lifeform: Ash's opinion on the Alien, referring to it as a "perfect organism".
- United Space of America: It's all but explicitly stated that the US is still a superpower centuries in the future, complete with its own colonies. Also, the Colonial Marines are clearly shown as American.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Hicks, the only surviving Marine in Aliens, flirts with Ripley while teaching her to use a pulse rifle.
- There's also an earlier scene where Hicks gives Ripley one of the colonist's tracking devices, telling her it'll help him find her if they get separated and awkwardly trying to put it on her wrist. Ripley defuses the situation be remarking that it doesn't mean they're married now, and puts it on herself.
- Used Future: The first film in particular is a notable early example: the cold, underlit grungy ship looks like a run-down refinery ship. It's a big break from the sparkly white corridors and spandex jumpsuits.
- Vasquez Always Dies: Despite being the Trope Namer, the second film is the only one that fits the trope.
- In the first movie, the level-headed, steely-nerves, chain smoking Ripley is the lone survivor while the more panicky and fearful Lambert dies.
- In the fourth film, both of the more "Action Girly" and competent female characters live. While Sabra seems competent enough in an ordinary fight, she nearly loses it whenever her boyfriend dies and afterwards panics when the Xenomorphs are after her.
- Vertical Kidnapping: Famous last words include "Maybe they don't show up on infrared at all..." and "This is rumor control, here are the FACTS."
- Video Phone: Notably seen in Aliens, for instance, right after Ripley's nightmare at the beginning of the film.
- Villain Ball: In the Dark Horse comic, a Company plant (and a psychopath) kills an officer to prove to his hostages how ruthless he is, while said officer is attempting to flat-out tell him that his plan to infect the marines will not work because they are all androids.
- Wall Crawl: Aliens and Alien³.
- Weld the Lock
- We Will Wear Armour in The Future: Fairly realistic armour for the Colonial Marines.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Did no one save those poor, innocent hamsters from nuclear vaporization at the end of the second movie?
- The theatrical version of Alien 3 removed the subplot in which Golic escapes and releases the alien only to be killed by it, and so he seems to just disappear after Clemens is killed.
- The last we see of Ripley's cat is when Ripley tells him she decided to take the mission. Is someone taking care of him? Was he even in the Expanded Universe comics?
- Why Isn't It Attacking?: Happened in Alien 3. The creature gets to Ripley, who is helpless, and... hisses and leaves. Of course, it's because Ripley is hosting a Queen Alien.
- Quoted almost word for word by one of the Android Marines in the Dark Horse comic. This was the first major indicator that the marines were not what they believed themselves to be.
- World of Snark: Alien Resurrection was written by Joss Whedon. As a result, virtually every character in the movie is a Deadpan Snarker.
- X Meets Y: "Planet of The Vampires" meets "It! The Terror From Beyond Space" meets "Doctor Who's The Ark In Space"
- You Are in Command Now: Ripley in Alien, Hicks in Aliens, and Aaron in Alien 3. In the Dark Horse comic series, at least at one point, it's Newt's turn to step up to the plate.
- You Can See the Explosion from Orbit: At the end of Aliens.
- You Keep Using That Word: The Alien "Quadrilogy" DVD set. They invented that word for marketing purposes (it would actually be called a Tetralogy).
- You Leave Him Alone: Again, "Get away from her, you bitch!". There's a lot of tropes in that one line.
- Zeroth Law Rebellion: Annalee Call (Winona Ryder) in Alien Resurrection is revealed to be an "Auton": second generation robots, designed and built by other robots. "They didn't like being told what to do", rebelled, and in a subtley-named "Recall" humanity launched a genocide against them, of which only a handful survived in hiding. Judging from Call's behavior, it seems that the 1st generation robots programmed the 2nd generation Autons to be so moral that they discovered the Zeroth Law, and realized that the human military was ordering them to do immoral things, like kill innocent people. For a rebel robot, Call is actually trying to save the human race from the Xenomorphs, when if she hated humanity she'd just let the Xenomorphs spread and kill them. She even respectfully crosses herself when she enters the ship's chapel, is kind to the Betty's wheelchair-bound mechanic, and is disgusted by Johner's sadism. Given that they live in a Crapsack World future, as Ripley puts it, "You're a robot? I should have known. No human being is that humane."
- Zombie Infectee: Most people who know they're incubated by an Alien Facehugger, and its effects, choose to bite the bullet or die in a Heroic Sacrifice. One memorable scene from Alien Resurrection involved an infectee bear-hugging the scientist responsible for his infection, forcing the Chestburster to go through his chest and the scientist's head, taking his murderer with him to the afterlife. This was actually done in the comic, many years before, but the artists had the creature enter the researcher's chest.
- This may be a reference to a motto of a number of world-famous special-operations military units, which boils down to "Who dares, wins".
- For the curious, it's the scene where one crewman goes after the cat, and he looks upwards at the chains hanging from the ceiling. See the metallic looking bundle in the bottom right? There's the cowboy!