Digital Review: James Cameron’s “Aliens” Arrives On 4K with Jaw-Dropping Image, Hours of Bonus Features

Today saw the release of James Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi action film Aliens on 4K digital and below are my thoughts on this release.

Widely regarded as one of the best sequels ever made in the history of Hollywood, Aliens served as the highly successful follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1979 horror movie Alien. It also helped solidify director James Cameron as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, with his only previous high-profile film having been 1984’s The Terminator (he also made the B-movie sequel Piranha 2: The Spawning in 1982, but that wasn’t quite as big a blip on the radar). Regardless, it’s now 37 years later and Aliens has just been released on 4K home media for the first time– though only via digital download, with a physical 4K disc coming in the spring of 2024. As a big fan of the Alien franchise (and especially the first two films) this is a pretty exciting milestone for me, particularly considering I’m a recent convert to the 4K format as a preferred method of watching movies.

For a while I wasn’t convinced that 4K could be that much of a noticeable improvement over the 1080p high-definition blu-ray image, but after purchasing and viewing the Indiana Jones trilogy on 4K disc earlier this year, the format has become a new obsession of mine– it helps that the discs can often be found at a decent price. I was shocked by how amazing the Indy movies looked, and the jaw-dropping sharpness of the picture helped me notice new details I hadn’t picked up on in decades of watching those films over and over again, giving me an even deeper appreciation of that franchise. The same is immediately true for Aliens, which I downloaded and watched in 4K via my Xbox One console today after receiving a redemption code for review. Having only ever seen this movie once on the big screen (in a revival screening on 35mm film), I can still easily say that this is the closest that Aliens on home media has ever felt to being in the actual theater– not to mention the fact that it also sounds great in 5.1 Dolby Atmos.

The other wonderful thing about this release is the sheer volume of bonus features that accompany the feature presentation, though many of them have been available on previous reissues of the film. First off, you’ve got the 1990 “Special Edition” cut of the film (also in glorious 4K) with a quick, archival introduction by Cameron himself, two different versions of the audio commentary starring James Cameron with his cast and crew, the classic three-hour-long Superior Firepower: Making Aliens behind-the-scenes documentary (plus a number of making-of “enhancement pods”), a more recent half-hour featurette from the 2016 blu-ray release, two versions of James Horner’s isolated score for the film, deleted scenes, trailers, and more. I actually lost count going through it all, but I want to say there’s at least a dozen or so hours of bonus materials here– and a lot of it is absolutely worth your time if you’re at all curious about Cameron’s creative process during this era of his career.

All told, this 4K release feels essential for any fan of Aliens, and I’m definitely glad to have it on digital, though I’ll probably also pick up the physical disc release in the spring. With James Cameron’s output still a going concern for Disney, considering his commitment to creating however many upcoming Avatar sequels in years to come, it’s great to revisit his roots on earlier 20th Century Fox (now 20th Century Studios) projects, and you certainly can’t go wrong with the presentation and bonus features included here. This movie has so many fantastically memorable shots, scenes, and individual moments that I can’t imagine owning it in anything but the best format possible.

Aliens is available in 4K right now via digital download, and will be released on 4K disc on March 12th 2024.

Mike Celestino
Mike serves as Laughing Place's lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly "Who's the Bossk?" Star Wars podcast. He's been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.