While we’re all enamored with Resident Evil Village, with its vampires, werewolves and other assorted horrors, Resident Evil isn’t just a series of horror games – it’s also a series of ridiculous action movies. These absolute treasures of cinema are often maligned, thanks to their campy presentation and how far they stray from the games they borrow the name and some characters from.
But if you just want some fun zombie action movies to gawk at, you won’t find many zombie movies that are quite so bombastic and straight up just entertaining. For a while I had only seen a couple of these movies, stopping after the fourth one, mostly out of complete ignorance that Resident Evil: Retribution and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter even existed. But over the weekend, as I was anxiously waiting for the new game to sate my thirst for Resident Evil’s unique brand of campy horror, I found a Blu Ray collection of all six films, and I sat down and I watched them all.
I watched them all in a single day.
Binge watching these movies is probably the most unhinged thing I’ve done in a while, but I can now come up with a definitive and totally objective (read: not objective at all) ranking of all six films. I was tempted to just list them all as number one, mostly because I just kind of love all of them in their own special ways.
There’s probably going to be a lot of spoilers ahead, if you actually care at all about the story of these movies. I can’t restrain myself, I’m sorry.
6. Resident Evil: Retribution
Resident Evil: Retribution is the fifth movie in the series, and it kind of feels like they were kind of running out of ideas. Alice finds herself going to an Umbrella facility in Siberia, where she has to fight her way through virtual biomes where the evil company tested its bioweapons alongside Ada Wong. At the same time, there’s a backup team, which includes fan-favorite character Leon S. Kennedy – even if he only marginally looks like that character.
Out of all the Resident Evil movies, Retribution is the one that feels the most like a video game, and not even like a Resident Evil game. It just feels like these characters are fighting through game levels, with some ridiculous boss fights thrown in for good measure.
And, because they’re all like virtual biomes or whatever, there are clones of old fan-favorite characters running around. It’s an absolutely bizarre movie, and probably the worst, but it’s still a blast if you’re not after something that, like, makes sense.
5. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
By the end of this franchise, the lore is just so unhinged that there was no way to tie it all up in a way that wouldn’t be extremely corny and fun to watch. Iain Glen is back, and we first meet him as a preacher driving around a giant tank that’s leading an army of zombies. Don’t worry, there are multiple versions of Iain Glen, because this is a late-era Resident Evil movie and clones are everywhere.
Anyways, some shenanigans ensue and Alice finds herself teamed up with Claire Redfield – another returning character – and a bunch of survivors, fighting off the army. It also turns out that this group of survivors are literally the last people left alive, and our heroes have to dive into the Hive from the first movie in order to save the human race from extinction. And down there they get to fight bioweapons, clones and more.
If it sounds incomprehensible, it’s because it kind of is, but that’s the charm of these movies.
4. Resident Evil: Extinction
Extinction is basically George Romero’s Day of the Dead but not quite as good. Zombies have now taken over the whole world, and a group of survivors are surviving on a caravan of buses. There are even Umbrella scientists that are injecting zombies with a serum to try to make them docile, just like the 1985 zombie classic – though their motive is a bit more nefarious.
But while extinction is a lot like Day of the Dead, it of course has its own little tricks. Alice has psychic powers now, and is being tracked by Umbrella through a satellite. The movie even ends when Alice kills the big bad scientist that turns into a giant monster and she finds an army of clones of herself. Too bad that gets immediately ret-conned!
3. Resident Evil: Afterlife
Resident Evil: Afterlife is all over the place. It begins with an army of Alice clones storming an Umbrella facility, where they all die. And, then Albert Wesker, introduced as a hologram in Extinction, injects Alice with a serum that takes away all of her super powers. Then the movie time skips, and Alice is flying a plane along the west coast of the United States, looking for her friends that survived the last movie. Then we go to Alaska, find one friend and then we go back to California and land on top of a Prison.
But the prison is probably the most tense these movies have been since the first two movies, as there are Zombies that can dig tunnels underneath, and there’s no escaping the prison. They do end up getting out, eventually, but this part of the movie is genuinely a bit unnerving.
That tone completely vanishes at the end of the movie, though. Even though they started the movie off trying to get rid of the super powers and the clones, they couldn’t resist making things obnoxious at the end – but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
2. Resident Evil
Most people hold the first Resident Evil as their favorite, and it’s not really hard to see why. The movie is extremely well paced, as the team of Umbrella soldiers dives deep into the hive to see why the murderous AI killed everyone.
It is perhaps the most down-to-earth movie in the series, and also has an amazing soundtrack. This movie set the stage for the entire series going forward, and to this day remains probably the best video game movie ever made – besides maybe Sonic the Hedgehog.
1. Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Resident Evil: Apocalypse is not only the best Resident Evil movie, but it’s one of the best zombie movies of all time. There’s a good period of time where Alice isn’t even involved, and we get to see Jill Valentine take the spotlight for a while until Alice serves as the Deus Ex Machina a little bit in.
It also has some of the best scenes and one-liners in the entire series, and has the most survivors at the end of the movie. What’s so great about it is that it isn’t just about Alice taking revenge on Umbrella, like most of these movies are, and the entire cast gets their time to shine and develop throughout.
And the final throwdown between Alice and Nemesis is one of the coolest fights in the whole series while simultaneously being one of the most emotionally impactful moments. The stakes seem higher here than in any of the other movies, even if it’s just on the scale of Raccoon City and not the entire globe. If you’re going to watch any of the Resident Evil movies, watch Apocalypse.