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Ridley Scott says he should’ve directed Alien’s sequels. Is he right?

Ridley Scott on the set of Prometheus.
20th Century Fox

Most movie directors strive for years to make a film that most people will call a classic. For Ridley Scott, he achieved that decades ago with Alien, a 1979 sci-fi horror movie about … well, you know. It was a big hit with audiences and critics back then, and it spawned a seemingly never-ending franchise that’s about to churn out its latest product film, Alien: Romulus.

As impressive as that achievement is, what’s even more impressive is that Scott made another classic just three years later with his next film, Blade Runner. In contrast to Alien, the Harrison Ford-led visionary sci-fi movie was met with indifference when it was first released, but has since rightly been acknowledged as a classic in the cyberpunk genre. Decades later, another filmmaker, Denis Villeneuve, made an official sequel, Blade Runner 2049, and Amazon is about to make a streaming sequel, Blade Runner 2099, with Michelle Yeoh and Hunter Schafer.

Scott had little to no part in most of the follow-ups to his second and third films, and, in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, he expressed regret that he didn’t step behind the director’s chair for those respective sequels. “I should have done the sequels to Alien and to Blade Runner. You change over the years. At that time, I didn’t want to go through it again. So Jim Cameron came in—and then David Fincher—on Alien. [For Blade Runner 2049], I was regretful [not doing it], although [Villeneuve] did a good job.”

Regret is a terrible thing, and Scott, who is 86 years old and is still pumping out movies like the forthcoming Gladiator 2, has the right to express what he feels. But is he right? Would Ridley Scott’s Aliens, or even Scott’s take on Alien 3, have been any better than what we actually got?

How can you improve on one of the best sequels ever made?

A woman holds a gun in Aliens.
20th Century Studios

It’s not outrageous to claim that Aliens is one of the best sequels ever made. Released in 1986, the follow-up to Alien showed what happened to Ripley after she survived her first encounter with the Xenomorph. The director, a young upstart named James Cameron, centered the narrative on Ripley’s journey back to the same exomoon where the Nostromo crew first encountered the alien. Accompanied by a small team of space marines, Ripley has her worst fears realized when a nest of Xenomorphs starts attacking and killing everyone in sight.

What makes Aliens such a success, both when it was first released and now, is how different it is from its predecessor. Instead of a “haunted house movie in space,” Aliens is a balls-to-the-wall action movie that turns Ripley, last scene clad only in skimpy underwear and tank top at the end of Alien, into a machine-gun-toting badass.


That’s far different from Scott would’ve done had he helmed the sequel. He wasn’t happy with Cameron’s emphasis on action and turning Ripley into a larger-than-life warrior, saying, “I’m not a superhero fan … Everything gets less and less real …  [and] I think Sigourney Weaver’s a superhero in Aliens.” And while Scott’s approach, while different, would’ve been intriguing, it’s hard to argue it would’ve been better than Aliens, which revolutionized the sci-fi genre the same way Alien did in 1979.

Alien 3 launched David Fincher’s career, and gave Ripley a poetic send-off

Ripley and a group of men stand in Alien 3.
20th Century Fox

As different as Aliens was from Alien, Alien 3 was less successful with fans and critics than its two predecessors. So it’s tempting to think that had Scott helmed this sequel, it would’ve been better. But no, Alien 3 was the right sequel at the right time, a boldly downbeat movie that killed off fan favorites Newt and Hicks offscreen within the first five minutes, set the story on a prison planet populated by murderers and rapists, and shaved all the hair off Ripley’s head. It also launched David Fincher’s feature film career, and even though he has long looked down on his work on the film, it helped pave the way for later triumphs like Se7en, The Game, and Fight Club.

Far from the warm workplace camaraderie of Alien and the gung-ho “shoot first, crack jokes later” mentality of Aliens, Alien 3 dared to de-sexualize its heroine, make you empathize with its human monsters, and let Ripley wax poetic about what it really means to live with loss and regret. Its bravura finale, which saw Ripley give birth to the alien inside her just as she leapt to her own death, closed out the series on a high note, even if it made you feel bummed out that all the characters you cared about were now dead.

ALIEN 3 Clip - "Pull it Now!" (1992) Sigourney Weaver

Scott’s plans for the sequel are unknown, so it’s hard to compare something that never existed with something that does. I love Alien 3, and think it’s just as innovative and technically impressive as Aliens. It also features Weaver’s best performance as Ripley (don’t @ me!), and the last act, which sees the prisoners unite to try to kill a rapidly-evolving alien before it slaughters everyone, is genuinely exciting to watch unfold.

Fincher isn’t Fincher yet, but you can see his embryonic talent exercised in how he builds the film’s dark, wet world of cells, tunnels, and other confined spaces. He’s actually not too different from how Scott envisioned Blade Runner‘s world in 1982, but Alien 3 came out in 1992, and Scott was in a down period around this time with the lackluster 1492: Conquest of Paradise coming out the same year.

What about the other Alien sequels?

Ripley and her troops stand in water in Alien Resurrection.
20th Century Fox

As for the other sequels Alien: Resurrection, Alien vs. Predator, and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, if Scott wanted to make them, he should’ve. I hate all of them, and anyone else at the helm could’ve only improved them. Even Resurrection, which is getting some critical reconsideration as a misunderstood movie, deserves to be a Ridley Scott movie, if only to wipe away forever the painful “comedy” of a clone Ripley playing hoops in outer space. Boy, was that movie bad.

Scott shouldn’t dwell on missing out on the opportunity to direct any of the Alien sequels, no matter their quality. If he had done so, he probably wouldn’t have made 1985’s Legend, 1991’s Thelma & Louise, or 1996’s White Squall. Those movies came out around when the first three Alien sequels did, and all three are worth watching. White Squall in particular is criminally underrated, and gave Jeff Bridges one the best roles of his career.

Ridley Scott on the set of Alien: Covenant.

As for the Alien sequels we got, well, they’ve stood the test of time, and gave two of our best directors, Cameron and Fincher, a boost that helped them create classics later in their careers. Now pardon me, I have to grab my neighbor’s cat, turn down the lights, and rewatch Alien again. That Ridley Scott’s a good director. I’m sure he’ll go on to do big things in his career.

Jason Struss
Section Editor, Entertainment
Jason is a writer, editor, and pop culture enthusiast whose love for cinema, television, and cheap comic books has led him to…
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