5 Reasons Why Alien’s Ripley Is The Biggest Badass In Sci-Fi

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Ahead of his 1979 franchise-launching film, Alien, director Ridley Scott decided that the movie’s hero should undergo a gender swap—the character, originally written as a typical male action figure, should instead be a woman. Thus, Sigourney Weaver was cast as Ellen Ripley and the decision went down in sci-fi history (and film history in general) as a brilliant one, as the role made Weaver a household name and turned the character into an icon.

Today, Ripley and Alien both turn 40—and we’re marking the occasion by listing the reasons why we still (and will forever) love her.


She stands on her own

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Ripley, says John Scalzi, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, is “pushy, aggressive, rude, injured, suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, not wearing makeup, tired, smart, maternal, angry, empathetic, and determined to save others, even at great cost to herself.” In other words, she’s still human—she’s just a really great one. She isn’t resigned to the sidelines as someone’s love interest or victim or secretary, she’s the hero of her own story—one with a range of emotions and characteristics that extend far beyond “killer.”


She’s steely AF (but only when she has to be)

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Ripley is the person you want to be in charge when the hard decisions have to be made, like locking the hatch when Kane tried to get back inside with a facehugger doing its thing or throwing herself into a fiery inferno after realizing she was carrying a new alien queen. It’s just one of the reasons why the American Film Institute named her their eighth favourite film hero on their Top 100 list. In fact, Jodie Foster‘s Clarice Starling was the only female hero who ranked higher on the list than Ripley.


She earned Sigourney Weaver an historic nod from the Academy

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Playing Ripley in 1979’s Alien earned Weaver a bit of recognition from awards organizations like the BAFTAs and the Saturn Awards. However,
Weaver made history with her performance in follow-up film Aliens, becoming the second actress ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in a horror film. Ellen Burstyn had been the first nominee over a decade earlier for The Exorcist.


SpaceX named an IRL flight suit after her

On March 2 of this year, SpaceX launched their Dragon 2 ship for its first orbital test. No crew were aboard the spacecraft, but Ripley, the company’s specially designed flight suit, was.


She paved the way for other badass women to become sci-fi heroes

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See: Sarah Connor, Katniss Everdeen, The Matrix’s Trinity, Star Wars’ Rey and Jyn Erso, Mad Max’s Furiosa, Captain Marvel, etc, etc, etc.


Check out the original trailer for Alien, Ripley’s triumphant debut, below.