Without a doubt Alien is better. Aliens characters seem like cardboard cutouts. No character development. It is Alien but on steroids. Was there really a need to add a Queen alien? Weaver is great as always in Aliens but for the money I find Alien3 a more intriguing film than Aliens. Alien3 has never gotten its due and from a spacing and subtextual point is the closest film to Alien. Aliens is a very good movie but in no way a masterpiece like the original.
I don't know how anybody can win this debate. The two films are completely different. The only similarity worth mentioning (in my opinion) is that both movies refrain from the action sequences for as long as possible.
I personally prefer the first ALIEN, but ALIENS is excellent too.
I thinks it's inappropriate to compare the first two movies. They are different types of films altogether. The first was scifi/horror, the second was action/suspense. Both excellent, with different goals. I see them as part of a whole, really. The third movie, though... ughh. What a waste.
They are both great films, but... "Alien" is a classic. It is one of the greatest horror films ever. "Aliens" is not on the same level. Saying "Aliens" is better than "Alien" is like saying that "Inferno" is better than "Suspiria" or "Halloween II" is better than "Halloween".
'Better' is totally subjective. Each person will have their own taste.
Some like the action, humor, and thrills of Aliens. Others love the slow and gothic tension that builds throughout Alien.
For me Alien is the better film, but that's my own preference. It was a landmark sci-fi/horror movie for its time.
And James Cameron ripped off plots and scenes from the movie "Them!" blatantly in the sequel, Aliens. (And he was actually sued over 'borrowing' a story idea from author Harlan Ellison to write The Terminator.)
Neither is better. "Alien" is a suspense movie, and "Aliens" is an action movie. They are both excellent in their respective genres. "Alien" is groundbreaking and a classic, so it has an edge there over its sequel. However, they are both still enjoyable to watch.
"Alien Resurrection" was a decent addition to the series, and I quite enjoyed it. It captured much of the old action of "Aliens," and the character of Ripley, as played by Sigourney Weaver was still terrific.
A movie that I hated was "Aliens 3." It was as if the director wanted to deliberately spit in the face of the fans of the first two movies with the manner in which he opened the film and showed what had happened after the second film. It was just nasty and mean-spirited. A big thumbs-down on that one.
I'd pick over Alien over Aliens (for the reasons people have stated below, while also recognizing that comparing the two makes little sense), but my fave of the series is easily Alien 3, the Directors Cut. It's just beautifully shot, acted, and laid out. I understand the flack the film gets, but I think the DC improved upon the original by leaps and bounds. Plus for me it had the right mixture of atmosphere and character development (like the first one) and gore and action scenes (like the second one). My only complaint would be the occasional spotty alien effect.
It is difficult to compare the two films directly even though the subject matter is very similar. I like both films very much, but for different reasons. Alien has the suspense and directoral perfection of a classic. But Aliens has the action of a great adventure film. I personally like watching Aliens more because of the long battle between Ripley and the alien. That was somewhat hurried in Alien and I would have enjoyed another 10 minutes of Ripley trying to outwit the alien before blowing it out the hatch. It was over almost too soon. Aliens had a Rambo effect that is hard to beat. The addition of the queen alien was a nice touch to explain exactly where all those eggs come from. There is a lot more humor in Aliens, on several levels: the "bug hunt" mentality of the squad, the hopeless lament when the first lander crashes and Ripley donning the loader to do battle. Many more I could list. But I could watch either movie any time and enjoy the superb talent at work both in front and behind the camera. Rarely does such a combination come together in one film; now we have two. I don't consider III or IV worth discussion since they are poor attempts to imitate the first two.
Alien and Aliens are like The Godfather and The Godfather Pt II of Science Fiction films.When Alien was released it broke new ground and astounded audiences. I personally saw a woman get up and leave she freaked out so bad, and her husband stayed and looked to see if she was coming back and he said the heck with this and left too! Now that is shock value! Aliens while a great movie in it's own right, stands its ground solely on the fact that Alien put it in that position. Alien, in my opinion still stands as the grand poo-bah of all science fiction films to date. They can only hope to be as good. Great acting , Great script and the first alien creature that was actually believable and scared everyone right out of their seats!
Alien is a classic and arguably a better movie, but Aliens has had a stronger impact on pop culture, video games in particular. Aliens is also a much more quotable film. The marines depicted in the second movie have become THE stereotypical "space warrior." You will see their stylings (and quotes) transplanted into games like Halo, Call of Duty and many, many others.
"superbly crafted horror movie" is right on. A Lovecraftian masterpiece. I think that "Aliens" was pretty good, you are a bit hard on it, but it is not in the same class as "Alien", one of the best horror films ever.
I give the slight edge to Alien, which has a superb cast, beautiful direction and effects that hold up to this day, but I have to say that Aliens (which I actually saw before Alien) is a great film in its own right. Both are far far superior to the subsequent Alien films, especially Aliens 3, which is not only a bad rip-off of Scott's but really ticked me off with some decisions that were made. In fact, I would place both amongst the top 5 SF films ever made. Alien 10/10 Aliens 9.5/10 Aliens 3 4/10 Alien Resurrection 3/10
You are correct about giving "Alien" the edge, although I think it is more than slight. Top 5, maybe; top 10, definitely, but for "Alien" only, and not as science fiction, but for horror cinema, which is where it more properly belongs.
Fincher's cut of Alien 3 was outstanding. I was amazed at how different and how much more effective the story was in the director's cut. It wasn't until then that I could appreciate how important it is to let the director tell the tale, not the studio. Fincher had a better grasp of the spirit of the Alien saga than did the suits at Fox. The original Alien movie is my favorite motion picture ever.
I love them both but if I must choose I have to go with Aliens. Just because it's more rewatchable.
The first half of Alien is so awesome (love the eerie atmosphere when they find the space ship) but it begins to go down hill when it becomes a standard horror movie where one person is picked off at a time. And there have been a couple of special effects scenes that have not dated well like the plastic Ash head or the Alien in a rubber suit at the end. I try to look the other way considering the time the movie was made.
Like I said, Aliens is much more rewatchable. And the director's cut version of Aliens where the touching relationship between Ripley and Newt is expanded gives an emotional dimension that is lacking in Alien. This is not to trash Alien. Alien is still probably still in my top 10 films of all time.
I first saw Alien during its original run back in the fall of 1979. It scared me out of my wits. These are in the days of another ground breaking horror film that was released around the same time, Halloween. I thought that few films would scare me as much as Halloween ...but the original Alien is right up there....or even perhaps surpasses. These are two of the three films that I feel are the most frightening movies ever, the other being The Exorcist.
I saw people leaving the theaters while in the middle of viewing each of these films...especially Alien and The Exorcist. I heard and watched people in the theater cheer when the Alien finally met its doom. I had to go back to the theater to watch this
When I first viewed Aliens, I too thought that this was a superior film. But with the addition of home video and after viewing both films a number of times, my opinion has been changed. Alien for me is a classic that Aliens does not quite measure up to.
"Alien" and "Halloween" are timeless classics. "Aliens" is not there, although it is a great horror film.
"The Exorcist" did not survive the test of time. After being exposed to some of the great Italian horror films, especially the those of Dario Argento and Mario Bava and the Asian, esp. Japanese, horror films of more recent vintage, "The Exorcist" loses its edge. "Halloween" survives because it is pure movie genius. The score alone secures its status. "Alien" too, will always be great, regardless of advances in movie art and technology.
I know the reception for the first two Alien movies was divided among fans on which one they think is better, but I like Aliens better, it's my own personal preference. The first Alien movie was also great and was pretty scary, but Aliens has a more interesting story, flashy action scenes, great acting, better pacing, improved visual effects, and an equally dark atmosphere.
To each their own but I have to admit it irks me how many who prefer "Alien" have such a snobbish attitude about "Aliens". It's as if they think it was directed by Paris Hilton. I mean, if you prefer the first one, fine but I don't see how they can call it a classic but not the sequel. I agree with one of the above posters, who deems it as "The Godfather" and "The Godfather II" of the sci-fi/horror genre. Personally, I prefer "Aliens" by a slight margin but I love both of them and consider them both classics and masterpieces in their own right.