Aliens – The Hero’s journey breakdown

Ordinary world

Ripley has been recovered from deep space fifty seven years. She’s suffering from posttraumatic syndrome, lost her child and she’ s lost her job.

Call to Adventure

They’ve lost contact with the colony on LV-426 and they want Ripley to go in as a consultant. If she goes, she gets her job back.

Refusal of the call

Ripley doesn’t want to go.

Supernatural Aid

Hicks is her mentor. He teaches her how to shoot and gives her the talisman of the tracking device which she later uses to save Newt.

Crossing the First Threshold

She joins the crew of the Sulaco as a consultant and heads off to LV-426

Belly of the whale

The first hint of death comes when enter the drop ship to get to the surface of the planet. Stakes are now raised and she’s not completely safe from the Aliens anymore.

The Road of the trials

Click on the above link for Road of the trials and it goes to the definition. The main trials are defined and all are easily identified such as Abduction when Newt is captured.

Meeting with the Goddess

Ripley meets Newt, she’s about the same age as Ripley’s daughter was when she left on her original journey which she made in the original movie Alien. This is the relationship which inspires her to be a hero in the third act.

Woman as Temptress

Temptation is flipped on to Burke. He’s sold out his humanity and morals. He was the one who told the colony on LV-426 to investigate the alien craft and then comes up with a plan to implant the alien into Ripley and Newt and then kill the rest of the crew so he can get the Alien back to Earth and then exploit the Alien for military purpose. He’s succumbed to the temptation of greed.

Death of the mentor

Hicks is sprayed by acid blood from an Alien and becomes incapacitated. Now, she must face the final challenge alone.

Atonement with the Father

Aliens is all about Motherhood and its at this moment where she learns what being a mother is all about. Confronting her fears and a willingness to sacrifice her own life to protect Newt.


Ripley has the ability to track Newt into the Alien hive. (I always look for some God like ability, something special which an ordinary human can’t do)

Ultimate Boon

Ripley blasts up the Alien Queen’s lair and then all of the Aliens are destroyed when the nuclear plant explodes.

The Magic flight

They escape the explosion and fly up to the Sulaco

The crossing of the return Threshold

They’ve returned to the Sulaco and Ripley makes peace with her hatred of the synthetic human Bishop. She’s ready to go home but there is one more villain that needs to be defeated – The Alien Queen.

Master of two worlds

She combines her skills as both  a power loader operator and Alien killer in a one on one battle with the Alien Queen. How much more satisfying was it to watch this combination rather than her just running away and getting a gun to kill the Alien Queen. When thinking about creating you character, think about how you can combine elements of both worlds, even if these worlds (from the first and second Acts) are incredibly removed from one another. How do you combine them for a satisfying and unexpected conclusion.

Rescue from without

As Newt is getting sucked into the airlock to certain death, Bishop grabs her and saves her life. Although this isn’t saving Ripley herself, in the process of saving Newt he’s helping Ripley achieve her goal.

Freedom to live

“Can we dream?” “Yes Honey, I think we both can.”


So this film fights it out with Empire, T2 and Toy Story 2 as the best sequel of all time. James Cameron actually adapted this story from one of his other original ideas called Mother, a story about an alien bugs which have a Queen on another planet. Make sure you check out the link for Road of the Trial and any of the other headings of stages you don’t understand.

You can also find the links for

Alien – The Hero’s Journey stages

Alien – The Save the Cat beat sheet

Aliens – The Save the Cat beat sheet

Aliens – The Hero’s Journey stages

Hero’s journey and Save the Cat work very well in concert with each other. If you’ve discovered one but not the other I recommend having a look.

The hero’s journey – Death of the mentor

Death of the mentor

Joseph Campbell never listed this as one of his seventeen stages, however it is an extremely common step which usually occurs around the end of Act II. It’s significant because it marks the separation from the shelter of the mentor and that the hero must face the rest of the quest alone.

Star Wars – Darth Vader strikes down Obi Wan in front of Luke as they and now he must finish the journey without him.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie – Merrick is Buffy’s watcher, he’s killed by the vampire Lothos, at the end of the film Buffy had to face her mentor’s killer.

It doesn’t have to be a literal death either, it can mean that mentor has revealed his true self and is not someone the hero should follow.

Batman Begins – Henri Ducard was Bruce’s mentor and trained him to be the Batman. However when he revealed himself to be the true Ra’ Al Ghul at the end of the second act Bruce had to fight him and the League of Shadows.

Silence of the Lambs – When Hannibal escapes from his cell, Clarice is no longer able to call on him for the final act and must complete the search for Buffalo Bill without any more help.


Death – the act of dying or being killed

end, termination, cease, demise, release


Mentor – an advisor who trains

teacher, coach, authority, tutor, trainer


How to use it in your writing

If you want to make things really bad for your hero, kill off his teacher and then make him face that killer.

Flip the mentor so that the hero has learned the mentor was not just and righteous and make the hero go head to head with his former teacher who knows his weaknesses and his strength.

Return to the Hero’s journey Main page


Aliens – Save the Cat Beat Sheet


Opening image

Ripley floating alone in hypersleep.

Theme stated

“If one of those things gets down here then that will be all. Then all this bullshit you think is so important you can just kiss all that goodbye.”

It’s a deadly situation and no one seems to be listening to Ripley or giving her the respect she deserves.

In the directors cut there is a scene where Ripley lost her child , so motherhood is the theme and this ties in nicely with the B story and the mother alien but it wasn’t in the theatrical release. Is it possible to remove the scene which states the theme and still have that as the theme of the film? Often the Dark Night of the soul moment is a moment where the hero acknowledges, understands, accepts the theme. Motherhood, where someone is willing to sacrifice their own life for their child. The Alien Queen is also a mother facing obliteration from Ripley. Most accurately the theme is Motherhood in a deadly situation.

Ripley is recovering from spending fifty seven years in hypersleep, suffering from post traumatic stress and her employers don’t believe her story about what happened to the ship.

Inciting Incident
Burke tells Ripley they’ve lost contact with the colony.

Burke wants her to go as a consultant but she isn’t refuses to go until she wakes from a nightmare and feels like the only way to end the nightmares is to face the fear.

Break into two

She flies to the planet with the Colonial Marines.

B story

Often the B story is the love story and in this case it’s motherly love. Ripley lost her daughter at the start of the film and the B story is maternal love story between Ripley and Newt

Fun and Games

They explore the empty space colony and discover clues as to what happened. They discover where the entire population of the colony is located and the marines go in after them

They enter the alien lair and the aliens kill some of the marines and Ripley rescues them but their shuttle crashes and they are stranded on the planet.

Bad Guys Close In:
Burke releases two face huggers to get Ripley and Newt implanted with aliens and the stations nuclear reactor is going to explode.

All is Lost
The aliens infiltrate all the defences and kill the remaining marines except for Hicks. Newt is taken by the aliens and Hick is wounded by the alien acid blood.

Dark Night of the Soul

They get the shuttle but they can’t leave because Ripley has to go back and save Newt

Break into three

Ripley enters the hive to save Newt

Gather the team
Ripley’s on her own but assembles her weapons and fortifies herself for the upcoming battle.

Storm the Castle:
Ripley blasts her way into the hive, saves Newt, burns all the eggs and has the alien queen chasing after her in hot pursuit.

High Tower Surprise:
They think they escaped but the alien queen hid on their craft.

Dig Down Deep:
Ripley in a loading suit fights the alien queen.

Victory (or Defeat):
The alien queen is sucked into space. Not bad for a human.

Final image

Ripley and her new family, asleep in their pods


You can also find the links for

Alien – The Hero’s Journey stages

Alien – The Save the Cat beat sheet

Aliens – The Save the Cat beat sheet

Aliens – The Hero’s Journey stages

Hero’s journey and Save the Cat work very well in concert with each other. If you’ve discovered one but not the other I recommend having a look.

The Hero’s journey – Freedom to live

Freedom to live

Freedom to live means freedom from negative emotions which pull the hero away from living in the moment. Negative emotions such frustration, sadness, shame, fear, depression, doubt and despair are banished and instead he is able to celebrate the victory.

They are awarded with some high level of success as dictated by the world in which he lives, it may be that he becomes king, he gets the girl, gets the promotion, sees the bully get dragged off to detention.


Star Wars has the big medal ceremony to acknowledge their bravery and success in destroying the Death Star.

Aliens – Ripley escapes with her life and her loved ones.

And they all lived happily ever after.


Freedom – the power to think, speak, act as you wish without restraint. Not imprisoned or enslaved.

Liberty, independence, abandon


Live – to enjoy being alive

Delight, prosper, experience, love, pleasure, thrive


How to use it in your writing

What is success for your hero? Have you set up from the start? Is this moment a reflection of what he was like in the opening scene of the film?

Has your hero truly earned this moment?

The Hero’s journey – Master of two worlds

Master of Two worlds

As with all the steps, sometimes they are clearly separate from each other and other times they are intertwined and flow directly into each other as part of the same scene. Magic Flight, Crossing the return Threshold and Master of the two worlds can be one large block.

By the end of this stage, the hero now has proven he ability to effortlessly pass back and forth between the two worlds.

Increase the stakes at this stage by putting a ticking time bomb of some sort about to go off. Make the enemy confident and seemingly have the advantage over the Hero for the longest possible time.


In Aliens Ripley has combined her loader lifter skills with her warrior protector skills and fights the Alien Queen “Get away from her you bitch!”


Master – Acquire complete knowledge or skill

manage, dominate, overcome, control, overpower

World – A realm or domain, A particular way of life.

reality, experience

How to use this in your writing

This is the final confrontation; don’t have anything left in the tank at the end of this battle.

Make sure everything is resolved with no loose ends.

Add to the desperation by considering the location, put your hero with his back against the wall so he has no place to run, if he fails he can’t escape, he will die. Or the reverse applies and locate the battle on the enemies home ground where he has the advantage.

Give the hero some witnesses to this action.