Here is my personal list, one at a time, of the top ten movie characters ever. However, feel free to agree or offer better choices and argument. SPOILER CAUTION! The content below may give away some of the plot of the film(s) concerned.
#5 ELLEN RIPLEY
“Get away from her, you bitch!”
Lieutenant Ellen L Ripley (superbly played by Sigourney Weaver) is the ultimate heroine. She didn’t choose to be a hero, but throughout four films she kicks the arse of the most dangerous alien ever. Ripley first appeared in the dark and atmospheric 1979 film Alien, directed by Ridley Scott. Set in 2122, Ripley is part of the crew of the USCSS Nostromo mining ship, under the employ of the Weyland-Yutani corporation, that is taking raw ore from Earth to Thedus.
They got woken from hypersleep to investigate a transmission from the moon LV-426. They discover that the communication came from an alien craft that has crash-landed and whilst examining, Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a parasite that latches onto his face. Ripley refuses to let the landing party back on the ship, but this is ignored by the suspiciously-acting Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm). The parasite eventually comes off and Kane seems fine, but over dinner during “that scene” an alien bursts out of his stomach and then proceeds to kill the crew one by one.
Ripley assumes the position of commanding officer and learns from the ship’s computer, Mother, the existence of a secret Company policy (Special Order 937) that wants to study the alien creature that is killing off the crew. She decides to kill the alien (which never gets given a species name, its just called “alien”?) by setting off the self-destruct function of the Nostromo and making her escape, along with her cat Jones, in the ship Narcissus. It doesn’t quite go to plan, but she and Jones finally escape to safety.
“Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew, Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash and Captain Dallas, are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.”
We learn much more about Ripley in James Cameron’s 1986 sequel, Aliens, which starts with her and Jones being discovered in the Narcissus. Unfortunately, she has been drifting in hypersleep for an incredible 57 years and is told her only daughter, Amanda, has died (at the age of 66) and she is having nightmares about the alien.
The company do not seem to believe her story and it is during a grilling at a hearing she learns that there are now colonists living on LV-426, who have been living there for quite some time. She loses her flight licence and has to undergo psychometric evaluation and treatment to avoid criminal charges being made against her.
“Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?”
Not much time later, they lose contact with LV-426 and the weasel-like Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) persuades Ripley to accompany an elite combat team who are going to investigate.
Ripley: Just tell me one thing, Burke. You’re going out there to destroy them, right? Not to study. Not to bring back. But to wipe them out.
Burke: That’s the plan. You have my word on it.
Ripley: All right, I’m in.
They discover that the colonists have been completely ravaged by the aliens with only one survivor, a little girl named Rebecca Jorden, preferring to be called ‘Newt’ (played by Carrie Henn) who Ripley befriends. Carter Burke traps Ripley and Newt inside the medical lab with 2 face-hugging alien parasites in the hope that he can sneak their impregnated bodies through quarantine.
Burke: You know Ripley, I was hoping that you would be smarter than this.
Ripley: I’m happy to disappoint you.
The plan fails and Ripley suggests they take off and nuke the site from orbit. Following an alien attack on the medical area most of the marines are dead with just an injured Corp. Hicks (Michael Biehn), Newt and the android/synthetic person Bishop (Lance Henriksen). Newt gets captured by an alien and in the final moments of the film she goes into the alien layer, discovering not only Newt but the gigantic Queen alien.
Using her flame thrower, she just manages to escape the layer and back to the ship, but that pesky Queen alien also makes it onto the ship and this leads to an awesome duel with Ripley operating a massive robot dock-loading machine.
Newt: Are we gonna sleep all the way home?
Ripley: All the way home.
Newt: Can I dream?
Ripley: Yes, honey. I think we both can.
In the 1992 Alien³ (a film the director David Fincher now disowns) Ripley finds herself trapped in maximum security prison planet, Fiorna “Fury” 161 and discovers she has been impregnated with a queen alien embryo and at the end of the film makes the supreme sacrifice of committing suicide rather than letter the Company get hold of the alien.
Dillon: Why should we put our ass on the line for you?
Ripley: Your ass is already on the line. The only question is, what’re you gonna do about it?
In the fourth film, Alien Resurrection (1997), Ripley is ‘resurrected’ as a clone with both alien and human qualities and fights a new breed of the aliens whilst onboard a ship headed for earth. Her mixed DNA causes her some conflict but allows her to actually get close to the aliens and this ultimately enables her to destroy them and saving mankind.
Johner: Hey, Ripley. I heard you, like, ran into these things before?
Ripley: That’s right.
Johner: Wow, man. So, like, what did you do?
Ripley: I died.
Ellen Ripley is a character that develops through the films and due to very unfortunate circumstances she is forced to face her worst fears and make some tough decisions. She balances being both brave and sensitive, having the guts to stand up to the Company, to the alien, to anybody but also has strong maternal instincts and risks her life to save a little girl. She is willing to sacrifice her life to save mankind. She is tough, but she is not butch and, in fact, is quite attractive. She does not suffer fools gladly and is very much a genuine what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person. In a crisis, we’d all want Ellen Ripley with us.