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In the final sequences of Alien (1979), Ripley activates the self destruct sequence of the Nostromo.

After seeing the alien in front of the shuttle entrance, Ripley runs back to the control room and frantically tries to deactivate the self destruct.

The whole sequence can be seen here in pictures and in the YouTube clip below.

Why would Ripley make this decision; what’s the need for disabling the self-destruct?

Basically she was dead anyway. Nowhere to go and the alien was on to her. So it would just seem to be the best option to destruct the ship and the alien.

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She was a fighter, giving in and commiting suicide was not in her nature. Have a look at her in Aliens, insisting on being taught how to use the grenade launcher, returning the loader to fight the queen etc.

The alien moved around the ship and although it was blocking her way out at the moment it would probably move, it was just a matter of her not getting caught. If nothing else she might be able to hold it off with the flame thrower until she got out, there were several options other than just giving up.

I am guessing that at that point she was going to turn off the self destruct, get in the pod and blast off and then just broadcast a warning about the ship's contents.

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If you remember watching the movie. The scene where she sees the alien before she goes to disable the self destruct. Well the main reason she went to go disable it was that the alien was blocking her only way of escape, the shuttle (Narcassis). When she went back to disable the auto destruct this was when the alien stowed away on the shuttle.

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Padding the running time.

There isn't an answer that works for me. Ripley wasn't a fighter till after the confrontation on the life boat (and she is mostly a fighter in Aliens because the Xenomorph has taken her life and her daughter from her). I think it was a left over plot thread probably from a earlier version of the script and they left it in because it fuels tension in the movie and adds some suspense and drama near the end.

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