The Alien franchise is one of the least consistent in story and tone in Hollywood history – it jumps from director to director, planet to planet, character to character. The only reason it can get away with this is that it is essentially a series of movies about a species.
So, as long as that species is in it – and even that element is played fast and loose, according to Prometheus – the movies can pretty much go anywhere they want. The Alien movies have dipped in and out of quality over the years, with both masterpieces and duds in the franchise’s timeline. So, here are the Alien Movies, ranked.
8 Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
On paper, the idea of an Alien/Predator hybrid called a “Predalien” sounds awesome, but on film, not enough is done with it to live up to expectations. The action sequences are too dimly lit and their camerawork is too shaky to be effective, and the directors, the Brothers Strause, fail to build up any suspense or tension in the lead up to the movie’s moments of terror.
The human characters are two-dimensional, undeveloped, and mostly based on worn-out tropes. On the whole, while the production design is there for this movie to work, its script and direction fail to really bring it to life, so it just ends up being pretty yet boring.
7 Alien 3
It’s incredible to think that this was David Fincher’s directorial debut, because it’s so awful. But that’s not Fincher’s fault. His greatest works, like Se7en and The Social Network, came later when he was allowed creative control. For his first movie, the former music video director had studio executives watching him like a hawk.
The resulting movie is a mess. It starts off by betraying fans of Aliens with the news of Newt, Bishop, and Hicks’ off-screen deaths and only gets worse from there. Fincher himself disowned the film, saying, “No one hated it more than me.” He blamed the producers’ lack of trust in him for the poor quality.
6 Alien vs. Predator
Ever since Abbott and Costello met the Universal Monsters, it has been a trend in Hollywood for studios to cram their most profitable franchises together. Just like Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator was a no-brainer. The movie brings in human characters to keep the conflict grounded, but those characters have even less dimension and personality than the droves of alien creatures squaring off around them.
The movie’s visual style is inspired by Aztec mythology, which certainly makes it interesting to look at. There are a few genuine thrills in Alien vs. Predator, but sadly, they are few and far between.
The first and, so far, only movie in the Alien franchise to not have the word “Alien” in the title is supposedly a prequel, but it’s more confusing than clarifying. It’s no wonder that the screenplay was written by Damon Lindelof, the guy who subjected the world to the Lost series finale.
Like that show, this movie asks more questions than it answers. It introduces us to “the Engineers,” but it doesn’t elaborate on any of its own mythology. As one might expect, Ridley Scott imbues the film with glorious visuals, but the script it’s built on just isn’t great enough. While the original Alien is a horror classic, this prequel isn’t scary at all. It looks great, but it’s no classic.
4 Alien Resurrection
Some fans might not agree with the trajectory the Ripley character took after sacrificing herself at the end of Alien 3, but Sigourney Weaver still makes a compelling lead, even when she’s playing a clone of her iconic character. Winona Ryder and Ron Perlman provide strong support, too.
Joss Whedon’s screenplay might not have a great story flow, it is replete with terrific xenomorph moments, including one fantastic underwater sequence. Although it would’ve been much better with Whedon’s original final act set on Earth, Alien Resurrection is an underrated member of the Alien family.
3 Alien: Covenant
Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant was the best Alien movie since the unparalleled first two. It brings the horror back to the franchise, as well as the masterful filmmaking and suspenseful storytelling. Michael Fassbender is the movie’s standout, playing dual android roles as the trustworthy Walter and duplicitous David.
Alien: Covenant has the most brutal, bloody, graphic violence of any Alien movie – you’ll never be more terrified of the titular xenomorphs than when one obliterates two people in the shower. Katherine Waterston lives up to the legacy of Sigourney Weaver in a fantastic lead performance, while usually comic actor Danny McBride provides strong support. Plus, the movie ends with a truly haunting plot twist.
James Cameron’s more action-oriented sequel to Alien falls just short of it. It effectively raises the stakes by switching one xenomorph out for dozens. This sequel also added a new dimension to the Ripley character as she became a sort of mother figure to young Newt.
Cameron depicted that relationship in such a beautiful way, because Newt lost her family and Ripley had just found out that, while she was floating through space, her daughter grew old and died, so they needed each other to fill the voids in their hearts. Aliens wasn’t quite as groundbreaking as Ridley Scott’s original, but it might be just as great a work of cinema – it’s a very close call.
Ridley Scott made movie history with this 1979 sci-fi horror masterpiece. It’s likely that no Alien movie will ever live up to the original. The movie is essentially a haunted house story, with the setting switched to a space station – because, of course, in space, no one can hear you scream.
Everything in the movie is perfect: the acting, the direction, the pacing, the editing, the cinematography, the production design. It all works together to create a tense, suspenseful atmosphere and it’s brilliant. Plus, it has the iconic chest-bursting scene and it gave moviegoers a badass female action hero for the first time ever.