There are actors, actresses, directors, producers, writers and special effects artists working on every film and television program. Over the course of their careers, most of these people will be involved in a science fiction or fantasy property. A chosen few are so revered within the fandom of the genres that they have earned the title of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Icons.
Susan Alexandra Weaver was born October 8th, 1949 in New York City. She began using the name Sigourney in 1963. The daughter of a TV producer and an actress, her first film role didn't come until 1977. That role, a small part in Annie Hall, led to an award winning career on the stage and on film spanning five decades and continuing on into the future. But what makes Sigourney Weaver a Sci-Fi and Fantasy Icon? By my count, Weaver has had seventeen roles in the science fiction and fantasy genres. She has fought aliens, saved aliens, encountered ancient demons and sorcerers, become two spaceships and has even been a vampire queen.
Defining Genre Role
This is a no-doubter. Introduced as Warrant Officer Ripley in 1979's Alien, this is the best female role ever in science fiction. Sigourney Weaver brings this character to life like no other actress probably could. Take a look at Alien: Resurrection. That is a mediocre movie at best, poor story, lousy ending, uninteresting characters, a sad bookend to the original franchise, but Sigourney Weaver puts everything she has into her performance and nails it.
While Weaver's performance in Alien is fantastic, it is the further expansion of the character of Ellen Ripley in 1986's Aliens that cemented her place as an icon. This film is where Ripley explodes off of the written script page and develops into a complete character. Weaver plays through her entire range in the role, starting out the film learning that she has been drifting in space for 57 years and her daughter is an elderly woman. No one believes her about what happened on the Nostromo and she ends up loading freight until she is offered the opportunity to return to LV-426. There she is forced to confront the object of her fears, the xenomorphs. She befriends an orphaned girl and when this girl is threatened by the alien queen, Weaver switches into full-on ass kicking mode. Weaver was justifiably nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for the performance where she lost to Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God.
Not to beat a dead horse, but there is a movie in the Alien franchise which is unfairly ignored by many.
The controversial Alien 3, in which Ripley, Hicks and Newt crash land on a prison planet is a worthy sequel to Aliens. The decision to kill off Hicks and Newt in the crash seems harsh, but in reality the Alien franchise has always been about Ellen Ripley. In Alien 3, her arc progresses into the natural next act. Bear with me here. In Alien, Ripley is a competent member of a competent space crew who are all put into an unfamiliar situation. They all make a lot of bad decisions until everyone is dead except for Ripley and Jones the cat. In Aliens, Ripley is a competent member of a team made up of competent people who are put into a situation where only Ripley has been before. Ripley watches the Space Marines ignore her advice and make bad decisions until most of them are dead. She steps up and saves the one remaining Marine Cpl. Hicks and Newt. In Alien 3, Ripley is seemingly the only competent person on the prison planet where they are all put into a situation she has been through too many times except now she has an alien queen inside of her. She allows bad decisions to be made for about five minutes before she tells the all-male prison population to shut up and listen to her. She takes charge of the situation and saves the day again. Then, when reps from Weyland show up and want the queen, she says "Hell no!" and sacrifices herself to prevent the weaponizing of the xenomorph. Then Alien: Resurrection takes a big old crap on her sacrifice.
If you're looking for something a little lighter, check out her voice work as the Planet Express Ship in the "Love and Rocket" episode of Futurama. In a parody of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Weaver plays well against John DiMaggio's Bender character while their relationship develops from flirting to Fatal Attraction.
I can also not recommend enough Weaver's performance as Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest. You should watch it for no other reason then it is a great movie with marvelous performances by everyone involved, but also because of the great scenes in which Weaver is at the breaking point in her frustration with how ridiculous all of the situations are.
Ones You Should Probably Avoid!
M. Night Shyamalan is not really known as a director that gets the best performance out of his actors and The Village is no exception. How a movie with such a talented ensemble of actors could be so horrible is beyond my understanding. Unfortunately, Sigourney Weaver was one of these actors and delivered a forgettable performance as Alice Hunt in a forgettable movie. To be fair, there's not much that you can do with dialogue like this:
Lucius Hunt: Sometimes we don't do things, yet others know we want to do things so we don't do them.
Alice Hunt: What nonsense do you speak?
Lucius Hunt: You needn't worry. Nothing will happen to me.
Alice Hunt: You remind me of a colt sometimes.
Gives you chills, doesn't it?