Aliens (1986)

Rating: ****
Producer: Gale Anne Hurd
Director: James Cameron
Music: James Horner
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henrikson, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein

James Cameron's masterpiece sequel to Ridley Scott's "Alien" (1979) is a non-stop effects-laden action/adventure movie picking up 57 years after the first film ended. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is found by a deep space salvage team and is soon recruited to go back to LV-426 where the aliens were first found in order to investigate the disappearance of the terraformers living there. But this time she's accompanied by a bunch of Marines and a slippery company man (Paul Reiser). Not surprisingly, nearly everyone bites it by the end of the movie, with only Ripley, Hicks (Michael Biehn), and Newt (Carrie Henn) surviving to go on to the next sequel. All of the actors and characters are great, and their chemistry is genuine. This film defined Bill Paxton and he'll be known forever as Private Hudson.

Notes on the director's cut: The director's cut restores seventeen minutes of footage including an establishing shot on LV-426 with Newt's family discovering the alien ship, news of Ripley's daughter, the expanded robot sentry sequence, and more chemistry between Ripley and Hicks. Although they're all nice little treats, they don't make the film radically better. In fact, the opening shot on LV-426 actually deflates a lot of the tension and mystery about what happened on the planet, instead of allowing the viewer to investigate the situation with the rest of the cast.