Aliens has long been one of my favorite Sci Fi movies. It is not great movie making, and it is not great Science Fiction. But it is a great action flick with lots of worthy special effects and various thrills. There is more than that, though, and it comes to a head when Ripley shouts out at the alien: “Get away from her you bitch!”
In this posting of the movie on YouTube, you will see a pivotal moment at about the 1:51 mark. Prior to this point, the movie has largely been about Ripley and a few stranded soldiers trying to stay alive long enough to escape the alien-infested facility. Along the way, they rescue an abandoned young girl named Newt. Ripley and Newt quickly form a mother-daughter like bond.
At the 1:51 point, Ripley is in the process of rescuing Newt when she realizes she has stumbled into what is essentially a birthing center for baby aliens. Their mother, the queen badass alien herself, is in the process of laying eggs.
What changes at this point in the movie is that it transitions from ‘just another’ evil alien movie headed to the climactic battle, to a mother-with-children vs. mother-with-child fight to the death. Two mama bears are going to do battle, and no quarter will be given.
In spite of all the gory, evil things these aliens do, it suddenly seems like aliens are people too. And it is not cool going around killing children, any children.
But this is a death match for the mother and the children, and the movie needs a brutal, final fight, which we get. It starts with Ripley’s iconic line, and in this case, “bitch” has a very literal meaning (at the 2:01 mark).
Though it is easy to forget the mother vs. mother aspect as the fight rages, at some level it makes the stakes that much higher. The setup and the realization of this plot twist elevates Aliens as an engaging story.
I use a similar (not identical) situation in Lonely Hunter. It is so much more interesting and emotionally loaded than having two men beat the crap out of each other. It seems to me that the stakes go way up when it is the mama bears going to war.