Director James Cameron launched the Alien franchise into high gear in 1986 with the release of “Aliens”. Critics regarded its predecessor, Alien, as a good monster movie that shouldn’t have a sequel. Cameron authored a script that defied that thinking and proved that a good story can overcome any convention.

The film begins with a fantastic long shot of the Nostromo’s shuttle drifting through space. After floating for over 50 years, Ellen Ripley is detected by a deep space salvage team and rescued. She is returned to Earth only to learn that she is blamed for the destruction of the Nostromo. Miraculously, a survey team examines the entire shuttle and can’t detect any example of the slime-dripping xenomorph she claims was inside. Someone in the “Company” is covering up the entire incident.

After a review, Ripley is removed from flight status and reassigned as a dock worker. She attempts to warn the new Company executives of the danger residing on the planet the Nostromo had landed upon only to have her warnings discounted. The Company has sponsored a colony on LV-426 that houses several hundred people.

Her warnings gain some credibility when communication with the colony suddenly stops. A company executive named Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) and Colonial Marine Leiutenant Gorman (William Hope) offer her a deal. Return to the remote planet, LV-426, with a force of Colonial Marines and be returned to flight status, along with a reinstatement of her rank as lieutenant, or remain permanently on Earth as a dock worker.  She hesitantly agrees to go on the rescue mission.

The marine force, led by Lt. Gormon and Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews) arrives at the planet and conducts a combat assault only to find the settlement vacant. Signs of an obvious combat abound but the colonists are all missing except for Rebecca Jorden (Carrie Henn), a young girl nicknamed “Newt”.

Following signals from personal locators implanted in each colonist, the marines go to an atmospheric processing station where they venture down into a nest of aliens. They are massacred by the creatures who come at them en mass. Sergeant Apone is lost in the conflict and Gormon is wounded, leaving Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn) in command of the other two surviving marines, Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) and Private Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein).

Hicks calls for a pickup from their dropshuttle. As it approaches, a xenomorph stowaway attacks the pilots. The shuttle veers off course badly and crashes into the atmospheric processor, damaging its cooling system. The impact begins a destructive process that will eventually result in a massive nuclear blast.

Their android assitant, Bishop (Lance Henriksen) moves to a remote transmitter and remote pilots the second dropshuttle to the surface.  Meanwhile, the aliens have attacked the humans, killing Burke, Vasquez, and Gormon. Newt is drug away into the alien hive and Hicks is badly wounded.  The shuttle lands and Ripley rushes aboard, dragging Hicks with her.

She arms herself with an assault rifle and flamethrower and takes off in pursuit of Newt. Within the cooling station, at Level 3, she discovers the heart of the alien nest, rescuing Newt while concurrently encountering the alien queen. The queen is laying a series of eggs and forming a new nest.

Swept up in anger, Ripley begins burning the eggs and shoots the queen. The enraged queen breaks from her egg sack and pursues Ripley and Newt as they run to the upper levels. Ripley and Newt reach the landing platform of the atmospheric tower and rush aboard the dropshuttle. Bishop races the shuttle skyward. As they rocket back into space, the giant cooling tower explodes, consuming the entire colony in a massive nuclear fireball, vaporizing the alien nest.

Once aboard the Sulaco, Ripley is conversing with Bishop when he is abruptly ripped apart by the queen alien who stowed away in the aft compartment of the shuttle. It chases Ripley into a side compartment before turning its attention on Newt. The creature corners Newt just as Ripley reappears, employing a mechanical lifting machine.

She battles the monster, defeating it, and hurling it in to space. After defeating the alien menace a second time, Ripley enters the sleep chambers for the trip back home.

– written by Russell Sanders