To someone over a certain age, "Ripley" reminds us of "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" which was a sort of cartoon strip about amazing "facts" (not too worried about authentication) like a man in China living to 250, etc. Sort of a Guinness Book but as mentioned, much more sensational and not really records. I guess also there is a character from a series of novels named "Ripley." Given not only what happens to Ellen Ripley in Alien and especially subsequent films, the "Believe It or Not" idea seems possible to me.

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    I always thought it was interesting that her name was one letter away from that of the director - Ridley (Scott) v Ripley (Ellen).
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 22:01
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    @F1Krazy: i had not thought of this. if a writer wants the main character to be a fictional version of themselves, they will sometimes play with names. Like Burroughs in his semi-autobiographical stuff used his mother's maiden name "Lee" for the narrator.
    – releseabe
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 22:23
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    @F1Krazy - Interesting but also coincidental.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 0:26

1 Answer 1


According to a 2004 interview with Walter Hill, one of the producers on Alien, the surname, Ripley, was indeed inspired by Robert Ripley's Ripley's Believe It or Not! franchise, while the first name, Ellen, was his mother's middle name.

David had suggested making the captain a woman. I tried that, but I thought the money was on making the ultimate survivor a woman – I named her Ripley (after Believe It or Not); later, when she had to have a first name for ID cards, I added Ellen (my mother’s middle name). I called the ship Nostromo (from Conrad, no particular metaphoric idea, I just thought it sounded good.) Some of the characters are named after athletes. Brett was for George Brett, Parker was Dave Parker of The Pirates, and Lambert was Jack Lambert of The Steelers.

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    And notably, this name was chosen before Ridley Scott was selected by the studio to direct, putting paid to the idea that Ripley is Ridley's self-insert.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 23:22
  • Nostromo i just looked up was set in Sulaco which I assume has been noticed before.
    – releseabe
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 13:22

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