The Alien franchise has been going strong for the better part of 40 years, but what's the best rewatch order for the series? Blending together genres and setting the films (for the most part) in the distant future, the Alien franchise has delivered eight films, including two that bring in the Predators, as well as two prequel installments, all of which continue to delight to this day.
Not only did the first Alien film mark a turn for the better in the careers of Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver, but it established this far-reaching universe of the alien race known as the Xenomorphs. The Xenomorphs, in their various forms, were introduced in Alien and have evolved (similar to the Predators in their respective franchise) as the years have gone on. Every film has delivered what is essentially a "humans vs. terrifying creature" story typical across genres but, because of the wide variety of characters, the setting, the time period, and the creatures themselves, the Alien storyline has become more engaging and complex, with lots of tangled history to unpack, origins to figure out, and a franchise future still open-ended enough to lead to more films.
Because there are so many films in the Alien franchise to watch, there are truly tons of permutations of combinations to be made when trying to figure out the right viewing order. Below are some of the most logical viewing orders which help filter the franchise through different angles. Of course, there is one order that could arguably be the best rewatch order.
Alien Movies Release Order
Perhaps the most traditional route to go when rewatching the Alien franchise is to watch the films in the order they were released in theaters. Choosing this order means paying close attention to the story as well as the backstory, Easter eggs, characters worth keeping track of, and so forth, but it still makes for a rewarding watch.
- Alien: Released in 1979 and directed by Ridley Scott, this film stars Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, and Bolaji Badejo.
- Aliens: James Cameron takes the director's chair in 1986's Aliens, starring Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, William Hope, and Jeanette Goldstein.
- Alien 3: It's director David Fincher's turn to steer the Alien franchise ship with 1992's Aliens 3. This installment stars Weaver, Henrikson, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Holt McCallany, and Ralph Brown.
- Alien Resurrection: Released in 1997 and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Resurrection stars Weaver (for the final time), Winona Ryder, Dominique Pinon, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott, Kim Flowers, and Dan Hedaya.
- Alien vs. Predator: Arriving in 2004 and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, AvP stars Henriksen, Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Ewan Bremner, Tommy Flanagan, Joseph Rye, Agathe de La Boulaye, and Sam Troughton.
- Alien vs. Predator: Requiem: In 2007, director duo The Brothers Strause served up the second face-off between Xenomorphs and Yautja Predators in Requiem, which starred Stephen Pasquale, Reika Aylesworth, Sam Trammel, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis, Ariel Gade, and Kristen Hager.
- Prometheus: It was time to get Scott back in to direct and add some more backstory to the franchise with Prometheus, which came out in 2012 and starred Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pearce, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Benedict Wong, and Kate Dickie.
- Alien: Covenant: Scott returned as director and Fassbender returned to the cast for Covenant in 2017, which also starred Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bechir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, and Amy Seimetz.
Alien Movies Chronological Order
Rather than adhere to release order, there's the option to watch chronologically, based on the timeline established within the Alien franchise. It means certain films end up in the viewing queue in places one might be surprised by but watching this watch will help really iron out the progression of events in both the world of Alien and the world of Predator.
- Alien vs. Predator: This film takes place in 2004 and is set in the Antarctic, specifically Bouvet Island.
- Alien vs. Predator: Requiem: Requiem is set 3 years after AvP in 2007 and takes place in a rural Colorado town.
- Prometheus: Set more than 80 years after Requiem, Prometheus includes the creation of the Weyland Corporation in 2012 (as seen in flashbacks) but really begins in 2093.
- Alien: Covenant: It doesn't take too long for Covenant to kick in: the film is set in 2104, just 9 years after Prometheus.
- Alien: By the time Ripley enters the scene, it's already 2122 and the film's setting is focused primarily on the spaceship Nostromo.
- Aliens: The second film of the franchise picks up 57 years later in 2179. It's revealed Ripley was in hypersleep all the time, meaning she can emerge on the exomoon LV-426 ready to jump into action.
- Alien 3: Ripley barely has any time to recover from her time on LV-426 before she crash lands on the prison planet Fiorina 161 in the same year, 2179.
- Alien Resurrection: The last film in this rewatch order, Resurrection, takes place more than 100 years after Alien 3 in the year 2381.
Alien Movies Original Series Order
Watching the Alien films with a specific focus just on the original series is best for those viewers who want to focus solely on the character of Ripley as well as Weaver's performance. The number of films in this viewing order is short but there's enough to watch and enjoy here to make the viewing experience a worthwhile one.
- Alien: Meet Ellen Ripley, one of two women working aboard the Nostromo. Ripley is established as a competent, determined member of the crew who is able to hold her own when the Xenomorphs begin to wreak havoc on the ship.
- Aliens: Ripley levels up in Aliens, turning into more of a badass and a mother figure as she helps a group of soldiers and one young girl, Newt, fight back against the Xenomorphs. Aliens showcases the side of Ripley that is all action hero, allowing her to be tough and rough around the edges thanks to her previous encounter with the aliens.
- Alien 3: Ripley crash lands on Fiorina 161, a prison planet, and brings with her just as much turmoil and baggage as the average prisoner being left there. She now officially has lots of battle scars, trauma, and secrets which risk affecting her ability to fight the Xenomorphs once again, making for her encounter with them on Fiorina 161 even more intriguing to watch.
- Alien: Resurrection: Ripley evolves, just not in the way audiences expected her to evolve. Rather than growing mentally and emotionally or evolving insofar as she makes strides to heal her trauma, Ripley literally physically evolves. Resurrection is set 200 years in the future, meaning the only way Ripley can return is in clone form. But her cloned DNA has been bred with a Xenomorph's, making her a formidable weapon and a character with a lot of issues to sort through.
Alien Movies Predator Order
If taking a broader view of the Alien franchise and allowing another essential movie creature in on the fun - the one, the only, the Predator - sounds appealing, then going for a viewing order that includes a handful of key Predator franchise films (as they tie into the Alien franchise) is the way forward. Because canonical texts outside of both franchises, be they books or comics, also weave together the Xenomorphs of Alien and the Yautja of Predator together, looking at how these alien races specifically interact on film would be good for those fans really wants to wade deep into these respective worlds.
- Alien: This viewing order is all about establishing what the Xenomorphs are and how they evolve. All of those basics are covered pretty well in Alien.
- Aliens: Chestbursters get even more of a spotlight in Aliens; they'll be more important later in this rewatch order so paying attention here in key.
- Alien 3: Interestingly, Ripley is forced to fight the Xenomorphs will less evolved technology than she is used to. This proves that Xenomorphs are susceptible to even the most low-tech weapons if they're inventive enough — a weakness that will be exploited when they come in contact with the Yautja in later films.
- Alien: Resurrection: An unsettlingly key plot point in Resurrection as it relates to future films which involve the Yautja is that procreation is an essential driving force in the Xenomorph culture. A Xenomorph queen is impregnated with an embryo that mixes Ripley's preserved DNA with a Xenomorph's, highlighting Xenomorphs are able to breed outside their race and the results are... interesting, to say the least.
- Predator: It's time to introduce the Yautja. Bonus: Arnold Schwarzenegger leads the film and gets to have some truly macho fight sequences with a Jungle Hunter Predator, confirming this film is legendary and it was indeed made in the '80s.
- Predator 2: The Predator franchise gains momentum here, sure, but it's important to remember that connections to the Yautja's combative history with the Xenomorphs is hinted here. At one point in the film, human protagonist Harrigan (Danny Glover) enters a Yautja ship and sees Xenomorph skulls displayed like trophies.
- Alien vs. Predator: It's time to fight. The longstanding war between the Xenomorphs and the Yautja finally arrives on Earth, not only ensuring humans in the middle of everything but establishing the Xenomorphs and the Yautja are so ferocious in battle that only one alien race can come out on top. Most importantly, a Facehugger Xenomorph manages to impregnate a Yautja warrior, leading to a Chestburster Xenomorph emerging from the Yautja's body and teasing the forthcoming Predalien.
- Alien vs. Predator: Requiem: The unholy combination of Xenomorph and Yautja comes together in Requiem. The adult Predalien makes its presence known, confirming the Xenomorphs and Yautja can successfully produce offspring and that that offspring can control both alien races. Unfortunately, the Predalien is one-of-a-kind but is later killed off before the end credits. But that doesn't mean another Predalien won't show up in the future.
Alien Movies Ridley Scott Order
The Alien franchise has the honor of boasting plenty of talented directors who've come in to contribute their own visions and take on the Alien world, but sometimes, focusing on the director who kicked this whole thing off is the way to go, which means watching only three films. Scott directed the key texts, so to speak, which have helped to establish the world and fictional history of the Alien franchise. It's also a pretty short watchlist, making it great for fans who want to cram in as much franchise goodness into as short a viewing window as possible.
- Prometheus: Thankfully, Scott was on deck to direct the first of two prequels, Prometheus. This prequel is sprawling but it does a good job of putting the world, the Xenomorphs, and some key pieces of Alien backstory into focus.
- Alien: Covenant: As the second prequel, Covenant has the metaphorical training wheels taken off by Scott, allowing the franchise to get some momentum as it showcases the truly horrifying abilities and instincts of the Xenomorphs while also do a soft reinterpretation of Alien.
- Alien: The end is actually the beginning (based on release order). Watching the Scott-Alien films in the order will make it even plainer that Covenant has a very similar story structure to Alien but who cares? Even better, for those who like to really focus on what a director is doing with a film, watching Alien will shed some light on how Scott has evolved as a director over the years by shining a light on where he was in the early years.
The Best Order To Rewatch The Alien Movies
There are plenty of ways to watch the Alien franchise because there are enough films to create more permutations of viewing order than many of us know what to do with. But, at the end of the day, in order to get the purest Alien franchise experience that honors the spirit of all the films, while also sticking fairly closely to the core timeline, is to follow this viewing order.
- Alien: It doesn't stick to the timeline set up in the films but Alien is the perfect first film to help establish the world and tone of the franchise and get a proper introduction to the Xenomorphs.
- Prometheus: Watching what is meant to be the first film in the Alien timeline means you can get all of the core knowledge in place while still having familiarity with what's coming down the road, thanks to Alien.
- Alien: Covenant: Covenant is more table-setting and lore-building which will help support what happens and why it happens in every other film.
- Aliens: It's now time to get back into the original Alien films by watching the second-ever film in the franchise, Aliens, and see how Ripley's story continues.
- Alien 3: Because Alien 3 plays in the Alien sandbox a little more openly in taking Ripley to a maximum security prison in space for a change of scenery, having seen the previous films will help make this film feel less like a wildcard installment and more like a logical exploration of how to push the established boundaries.
- Alien: Resurrection: The perfect denouement to an already arguably perfect viewing order is to cap with Alien: Resurrection. Making the massive leap forward in time and melding the evolved Alien world with familiar characters from the past (namely Ripley) will help to synthesize everything seen in the Alien films up to the point together beautifully.
No matter what viewing order is chosen, it's honestly hard to go wrong. It is the Alien franchise, after all.