Today is the thirty-fifth anniversary of Aliens. The sequel to the 1979 horror classic, the film is set fifty-seven years after the first with Ellen Ripley returning to the planet where her crew found a deadly alien species and must join a squad of marines to save a colony from countless aliens.
Development on the sequel began soon after the first film proved a success. However, due to 20th Century Fox's "Hollywood accounting" policies, the film was declared a failure. Plans for a sequel were put on hold while various lawsuits and rights issues were worked out. Eventually, director James Cameron began writing a treatment for the film during the production of The Terminator. When that movie proved a success, the sequel was once again revived and put into production. Cameron acknowledged the difficulties of making a sequel to a beloved movie, and chose to see the original as a "haunted attraction" and his film as a "roller coaster." He also integrated ideas he had for a separate story involving aliens on a space station, space marines, and a power loader. Filming proved difficult for the crew. Cameron, a Canadian who worked in Hollywood, was unaware of British practices, where it was being film. Conversely, The Terminator had yet to be released in the United Kingdom so the crew were unsure of Cameron's abilities. The crew worked through their problems and despite their concerns Fox was pleased with the film dailies. While the first film featured only a single alien creature, the sequel featured numerous creatures in addition to a newly designed alien queen. Original creature designer H.R. Giger was not involved due to other obligations so Cameron and Stan Winston created the new creatures. Numerous suits, puppets, and miniatures were created for the film, being reused to give the impression of hundreds of creatures.
Aliens was released at a time when faith in movie theaters was waining, blame being placed on the developing home video market. Despite this, the film proved an enormous success. The film opened to the top of the box office and remained in the top ten for eleven weeks. It went on to become the seventh highest grossing film of the year, second highest science film film, and the biggest earner for Fox. The film received nearly universal praise, particularly for the special effects and acting of lead actress Sigourney Weaver. Some critics called it a rare sequel that surpassed the original. The film was nominated for numerous awards, including seven Academy Awards and winning several including two Oscars for Visual Effects and Sound Editing as well as the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film. Today, the film is considered a landmark in cinema. This and The Terminator established Cameron as a blockbuster director. Weaver's Academy Award nomination established her as a serious actress. The establishment of an alien queen greatly expanded the mythos and set the stage for the franchise to come. It had a tremendous impact on popular culture. It was the first to feature a military squad being slowly dismantled by a single alien villain, something that would almost become a cliche later. Numerous video games would be inspired by the film so that the idea of space marines would also become a cliche. It has been called one of the greatest films ever made, and one of the best science fiction films, frequently topping numerous Best Of lists. It inspired four additional sequels, two crossovers with the Predator franchise, numerous video games, novels, comics, and crossovers.
The film features the talents of Lance Henriksen as the android Bishop, a role that would lead him to being cast in the immediate sequel and one of the crossover films.