An ode to the badass ladies of the Alien franchise

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May 16, 2017

Chances are that even if you haven't had the opportunity to watch any of the Alien movies, you're at least familiar with one of its lead characters -- Ellen Ripley, memorably brought to life by Sigourney Weaver in 1979's Alien as well as its subsequent three films.

While it's arguable that the bulk of the story belongs to Ripley herself -- and the frequency with which she finds herself going head-to-head against a hostile alien species -- she's far from the only female character who gets the opportunity to kick some ass.

Granted, many of these fictional ladies don't emerge triumphant after going head-to-head with a Xenomorph, but then again the aliens are pretty equal-opportunity when it comes to who makes it out alive. Male or female: no one is safe. We take a look at all of our favorite women of the Alien franchise -- because they're all kickass, in their own way.

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)

The last surviving member of the Nostromo crew, Ripley memorably went up against the Xenomorph in Alien before spending 57 years in cryosleep and then having to face the same alien threat again in Aliens. Things go from bad to worse in Alien 3, when Ripley becomes the sole survivor of an escape pod crash - and finds herself in the middle of Fiorina 161, a penal colony containing violent male inmates. (Of course after facing a deadly extraterrestrial threat twice, she's hardly intimidated by a group of human men.) One of the most frustratingly common denominators in this original trilogy of Alien movies is how loathe everyone else is to believe her when she explains the Xenomorph threat to them - and if you know anything about Ripley, you know she's not one to mince words, as seen in this brief clip from Aliens when she's debriefed from her employers at the Weyland-Yutani Corporation:

 

While Ripley goes out in a blaze of glory at the end of Alien 3 after discovering she has an infant Alien Queen growing inside of her, it's definitely not the last we see of her face. But we'll get to that in a bit.

Joan Lambert (Veronica Cartwright)

Aside from Ripley, Lambert was the only other female crew member on the Nostromo in the first Alien film. Coincidentally, she was also one of the few members that had good instincts - as she expressed doubts over the distress signal the Nostromo picked up on and later reluctance about actually stepping foot onto the mysterious planetoid itself. As fate would have it, her gut feelings were pretty spot-on when crew member Kane (John Hurt) was attacked by a face-hugger, but she didn't exactly get the chance to say I told you so. Considering the odds, Lambert was actually one of the longest-surviving members of the Nostromo's seven-man crew, but eventually suffered the indignity of a mostly off-screen death as she was preparing to escape with Ripley in the ship's shuttle.

Rebecca 'Newt' Jordan (Carrie Henn)

This wayward little girl from Aliens had a lot in common with Ripley, which probably explains why the older woman sort of took Newt under her wing. Sole survivor? Check. Tenacious and brave in the face of danger? Double check. After Newt was discovered among the wreckage caused by a Xenomorph attack on a terraforming colony, she became something of a surrogate daughter for Ripley (in deleted scenes, it's revealed that Ripley's biological daughter died during the 50+ years she was in hyperspace). Given that Newt managed to stay alive long enough to outlast the Xenomorphs until Ripley and the Marine cavalry showed up, she represents a unique kind of badass - which is to know when to hide rather than try and fight your enemy. Though Newt and Ripley made it safely off the colony, her character was killed off at the beginning of Alien 3 when their escape pod crashed on Fiorina 161.

Private Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein)

Apart from Ripley and Newt, Vasquez was the other character holding it down for the ladies against what would have otherwise been a pretty obvious sausage-fest in Aliens. As the only female Marine in the unit assigned to investigate the strange events occurring at the terraforming colony, she endured some fairly good-natured ribbing from the fellow members of her team - but also proved that when it came to snarky comebacks she could give as good as she got:

 

While it would've been the dream to see Vasquez make it out the other side of this movie alive, she got the next best thing when it comes to the Alien movies: going out in a hail of bullets (or, more accurately, the heat of a flamethrower). To this day, she's still fondly remembered as one of the biggest female badasses next to Ripley herself.

Annalee Call (Winona Ryder)

Call was a first all on her own by the very nature of being the only female synthetic of the Alien franchise - a role that had, to date, been filled by Ash (Ian Holm) and Bishop (Lance Henriksen) in the three preceding films. In Alien: Resurrection, Call is working relatively incognito as a member of a mercenary ship called the Betty, though she later becomes entangled with the Alien conspiracy and the scientific fascination around the species when the Betty's cargo of kidnapped humans are used as Alien hosts. Although Call is eventually outed as a synthetic, the her fellow crew members are only initially resistant to the idea; as the situation becomes more dire, they all wind up working together to outlast the Alien threat, along with the help of ...

Ripley Clone Number 8 (Sigourney Weaver)

Technically, this version of Ellen Ripley is similar to the original only for appearance's sake, but the resemblances are pretty skin-deep. Two hundred years after the original Ripley's death, her DNA is commingled with that of the Alien Queen - which leads to this Ripley being closer to something of a human-Alien hybrid. There are notable differences between the Ripley Clone and the original Ripley, including acidic blood, faster reflexes and heightened senses - not to mention some interesting tension between her and Call. Due to her shared Alien DNA, the Ripley Clone also had a much more complicated relationship with the Xenomorphs, which created an interesting dilemma for the character as she struggled to come to grips with the brutality of her own genesis as well as the violence inflicted by the Aliens that she felt a stronger connection to. The last we see of her, she and Call are walking off into the sunset on a ruined Earth, so ... yay, happy ending?

Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace)

In case you had any doubts about whether or not Shaw belongs on this list, I have one word for you: self-surgery. (Not only that, but fully awake, locally-anesthetized self-surgery.) After decades' worth of Alien movies featuring Ellen Ripley, bringing a new lead into the franchise could have been a risky move, but the two women are different enough that no one would ever think of drawing comparisons between the two. In Prometheus, Shaw's fascination with discovery and unearthing new information as an archaeologist puts her in a completely different mindset of approaching the extraterrestrial race who had a hand in creating the Aliens, although her curiosity winds up being her downfall. One of the things she does share in common with Ripley is their ultimate survival, and in a recent prologue bridging the gap between Prometheus and Alien: Covenant we see her preparing to enter cryosleep for a long interplanetary trip.

Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron)

The ice queen cometh. Vickers was a fascinating character for one very simple reason: she was the HBIC, and she didn't care what anybody thought about her. As the designated leader of the Prometheus expedition, she had the unenviable task of being the Weyland Corporation employee who had to wrangle a group of scientists - not to mention the captain of the Prometheus himself, Janek (Idris Elba), who she frequently butted heads with. (Of course, Vickers did the only thing most of us would probably do when stranded on a foreign planet with a guy who looks like Idris Elba: she sleeps with him.) She's later revealed to be the daughter of Peter Weyland himself, and while she very nearly makes it out alive when the humanoid Engineers turn on the expedition she suffers the rather undignified fate of being literally crushed to death by their disabled spaceship.

Daniels (Elizabeth Waterston)

There's a lot we still don't know about Daniels, but it's clear she's one of the biggest faces of this year's upcoming Alien: Covenant, which takes place about ten years after the events of the doomed Prometheus expedition. Daniels is one of several people on a colony terraforming ship, leading the charge in terms of finding a viable planet for humanity to live on. In spite of the fact that none from the Prometheus made it back alive, there's an undeniable optimism that resonates throughout the crew of the Covenant - and Daniels, specifically, if the speech she makes in the "Last Supper" prologue is any indication. We'll have to find out for sure if she retains that hope when Alien: Covenant premieres on May 19, but in the meantime we're excited about the potential for more badass ladies popping up in this long-running franchise.