Looking for the definitive ranking of the Alien movies? We've got you covered.
40 years after Ridley Scott's original flick introduced audiences to the slick, acid-blooded creature stalking the crew of a spaceship, the Alien franchise is still going strong, with a new TV show and movie reboot on the way (opens in new tab),
All in all there are eight Alien movies, mostly sequels, two prequels, and two spin-offs where the xenomorph faces off against the deadliest hunter in action-movie history, the Predator.
Since launching in 1979, the franchise has made hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office and built up a large and very opinionated fanbase. So, in trying to choose the best Alien movie, we're bound to upset someone.
Crowning the ultimate Alien movie is no easy task. The quality of the ensuing sequels, prequels and crossovers varies wildly, but what better time than now to put them in their place. Here's every Alien movie, ranked for your pleasure.
8. AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem (2007)
A sequel to Alien Vs Predator, a critically-mauled, but modest hit at the box office, the odds were never good on AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem being up to much.
The only film in the franchise to thoroughly squander its top-notch premise; what would happen if we brought the aliens to Earth? Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem crash lands on Earth with xenomorphs bursting free in small-town America and predators in hot pursuit.
While it's a fun concept, the execution is sorely lacking, from its characterization to the thin plotting, it's hard to believe a movie about a crossbred alien-predator hybrid wreaking havoc on earth is so dull. By far the most baffling choice is to shroud its titular beasts in darkness, making it impossible to enjoy the movie's strongest component: the inventive creature design.
7. Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Abandoning the Alien vs. Predator comic story in favour of a new narrative, Resident Evil helmer Paul W.S. Anderson assembled a decent actioner, but it still finds itself way down our list.
This movie plays like an early blueprint for Prometheus as a mismatched band of scientists discover two vicious species engaged in an ancient brawl in Antarctica. Granted, the decision to make a movie about two violent species with a PG-13 rating is a headscratcher, but the resultant product is watchable fluff.
Come for the aliens and predators beating seven shades out of each other and try not to ponder how much it contradicts the events of Prometheus.
6. Alien: Covenant (2017)
As he was promoting Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley Scott had told journalists that as far as he was concerned "The beast is cooked" (opens in new tab), meaning we'd seen the last of xenomorphs, who were conspicuous by their absence in 2012 prequel Prometheus.
Then he changed his mind and made Alien: Covenant, which swings entirely the other way, stuffed to the gills with creatures out to decimate the crew of the Covenant.
With flecks of intrigue threaded into the plot, thanks to Michael Fassbender's good cop/bad cop routine as androids David and Walter, it's an attempt to steer the franchise into new terrain. But the result fails to commit entirely to one concept. Trying to be both a full-blown Alien monster movie and Prometheus sequel leave you with no real sense of what's more important. But if brutal, bloody xenomorph action is your thing, you'll be delighted.
5. Alien Resurrection (1997)
Impressed by his visual style, Fox hired French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet for the third sequel and his approach to Hollywood genre blockbusterism was 1997's Alien: Resurrection.
The result, a frantic, uneven, yet wildly good time best enjoyed with zero expectations. Joss Whedon's script yanks together a patchwork of odd ideas which finds a clone of Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley onboard a military ship experimenting on a batch of freshly-imported human hosts by impregnating them with aliens.
The plot covers little new ground – surprise, the xenomorphs kill everyone! – but the story beats of Weaver's hybridized Ripley are where it's strongest. Her weary leader now fused with the focus of the creature creates genuine nuance when she's forced to confront yet another iteration of the xenomorph.
4. Prometheus (2012)
Prometheus started life as a full-blown Alien prequel stacked with xenomorphs and chest-bursters galore called Alien: Engineer, but Ridley Scott nixed this take, remoulding the script with Lost's Damon Lindelof into a soft reboot following scientists in search of answers about mankind's beginnings.
This space adventure drips not with xenomorph spittle and bloody entrails but with creationist themes and jaw-dropping production design, a far cry from the franchise's signature snarl.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo's Noomi Rapace makes the best of her role as archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw, while Michael Fassbender as the duplicitous android David steals every scene. Say what you will about the plot and the characters' baffling decision-making, this is Scott's finest visual achievement in the franchise.
3. Alien 3 (1992)
Alien 3's notoriously hellish production is often discussed more than the film itself. The film went through endless writers in development and actually began production without a finished script. As well as that, Weaver had shaved her head for the film, and, having wrapped production, began to grow it back. When she was told, she would be required for reshoots, she had to shave it again, something that she was reportedly paid $300,000 to do. (opens in new tab)
But, in the 30 years since its debut, Alien 3 has undergone a critical reappraisal of sorts. Studio interference preventing David Fincher from crafting the first-time feature he wanted is now less of an issue with the film's legion of staunch defenders eager to celebrate it, warts and all.
Following the events of Aliens, we pick up with Ripley alone again and on a prison planet where fire is the only weapon against a lone alien. Weaver's insistence that no guns be used make for a unique spanner in the storytelling works. Flashes of Fincher's concepts and later visual prowess hint at what could've been as the creature munches its way through convicts. Interestingly, this is the sequel that launched the franchise's most iconic shot (opens in new tab).
2. Aliens (1986)
While the sequel snags the second spot, let's not kid ourselves: Aliens is equally as good a time as the original. James Cameron's sequel took nearly a decade to hit theaters but was worth the wait. The director's confident swagger crossed with Weaver's established star power and an augmented take on H.R. Giger's titular beast delivers one of the best action movies ever made.
Ripley's ordeal with the creature continues as she reluctantly joins forces with a crew of space marines to investigate the same planet from Alien. The movie's a pure adrenaline rush, a mash of horror atmospherics fused with stunning set-pieces, as the marines combat the xenomorphs.
The ensemble cast, which includes Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser and Lance Henriksen as well as Weaver, embarked on a gruelling pre-production boot camp, making them feel like genuine comrades whose unshakable camaraderie gives the film true heart. All the harder to watch, then, as the creatures pick them off one by one.
1. Alien (1979)
The 1979 original remains a masterclass in horror. A nail-biting slice of cinema, Alien scares just as much today as the time of release.
Ridley Scott calibrates the matrix of terror within the Nostromo's close quarters to perfection. How so? Alien shreds your nerves because of its simplicity: a crew of space truckers grapple with a bloodthirsty alien species and a double-crossing android. Of the entire franchise it's the only entry to exercise the long, slow burn effectively, only showing flashes of the alien's stomach-churning excess well into the runtime.
Scott's penchant for wide angles, and long, uninterrupted takes, where the alien could emerge at any moment, drive the dread like a gnawing in your skull. Its stunning production design, star performance from Weaver in her first major role, and the sheer horror of H.R. Giger's alien creature cements this as not only the best Alien movie but one of the best horror films ever made.
Disagree with our ranking? You can watch all the Alien movies on Disney Plus now (opens in new tab) and make your own assessment.
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