All 6 Movies from the “Alien” Franchise Ranked from Worst to Best
In 1979, director Ridley Scott helmed a revolution in the sci-fi genre: “Alien”. With a few TV series and only one feature film on his résumé at the time, this revolutionary masterpiece had mixed reviews at the beginning, but ultimately became a landmark in horror and science fiction and one of the biggest franchises in film history.
With a woman as the lead character, Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, amazingly portrayed by Sigourney Weaver, defied the stereotype of the lead hero in an action, adventure, horror and science fiction franchise always being a male character.
Now, almost 40 years after the first movie of the franchise arrived at theaters and changed the sci-fi genre forever, “Alien: Covenant” arrives in 2017, taking place before the first Alien film and a few years after “Prometheus” in the chronology.
To commemorate such an important franchise in film history that is beloved by die-hard fans for decades and decades now, we ranked all six movies in the Alien franchise. Also, it’s never too late to remember that the two ‘Alien vs. Predator’ movies were deliberately left out of this list and that we have lots of spoilers below.
So, here are the six Alien movies ranked from worst to best:
6. Alien: Resurrection (1997), directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
After seeing three movies where Ripley destroyed basically every xenomorph that showed up in her path, do we really need to see this mother and son relationship between our favorite lieutenant and the new human-xenomorph hybrid? And what about that basketball court scene?
Often considered as the weakest Alien film, “Alien: Resurrection” is directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who you might remember for directing “Amélie” a few years later, and who had previously directed great films like “Delicatessen” (1991) and “The City of Lost Children” (1995), both in collaboration with writer and director Marc Caro.
Written by Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”, “Much Ado About Nothing”), the movie is full of dull moments and moves up a little slowly with lots of unnecessary gags. But the most strange part of the film is still Ripley’s awkward relationship with the Alien which she, for some reason, has an affection for.
With lots of weird camera movements and a few scenes and moments that should maybe not be in the script in the first place, “Alien: Resurrection” is number six in the ranking of the Alien franchise.
5. Alien: Covenant (2017), directed by Ridley Scott
The last installment in the Alien franchise follows a colony ship that is heading to a remote planet with more than 2,000 people on board to occupy this new place. Everything changes when they find a nearby paradise and decide to land there.
Working both as a prequel to the movie “Alien” from 1979 and a sequel to “Prometheus”, released in 2012, “Alien: Covenant” is, in tone, definitely a hybrid between those two films.
With debatable motivations of their characters and not solving many of the questions raised by its prequel “Prometheus”, “Alien: Covenant” seems to have no memorable moments at all. Despite the amazing special effects, photography, and landscapes, the movie fails to get meaningful relationships between its characters and fails to add personality to all of them.
Being R-rated might not have been the best choice for this movie because everything is based on exposure. Its visuals and violent scenes with more blood than ever before, its dialogues, its plot-twists… most of the aspects of this film are just mimicking things we have seen more than once before in this franchise.
Even though it does not move as slow as other movies in the Alien series, “Alien: Covenant” seems to be there just to tie “Prometheus” to the first Alien film but does not add anything significant to this universe.
4. Alien 3 (1992), directed by David Fincher
With a lot of controversy surrounding the production of this film, mostly with David Fincher’s problems with creative control, “Alien 3” is often considered the “moment when the Alien franchise stopped working,” although this is clearly debatable.
Being a famous director of music videos at the time, it is not hard to imagine that it sounded like a good opportunity for Fincher to get into the industry with such a big blockbuster franchise as Alien was at the time (and still is).
Following Ellen Ripley arriving in a maximum all-male security prison and eventually realizing she brought a deadly creature with her, “Alien 3” is the most slow-paced movie in the franchise because everything seems to take too much time to actually happen, and this has more to do with screenwriting than directing.
If you watch the Assembly Cut of the movie in comparison with the theatrical version, you might be able to see that “Alien 3” should not be as hated as it was – and as it is – nowadays. And let us remember that Fincher himself once said that nobody hates this movie more than he does.
Even with all of the projection time where the narrative does not seem to progress, the corridor scene by the end of the film shows lots of Fincher’s control of imagery that we would see in his following films and we can probably say that this third act of the movie makes it worth seeing (although still does not save the whole picture).
3. Prometheus (2012), directed by Ridley Scott
Despite the fact that “Prometheus” has lots of narrative problems – especially in the dialogue section – this is by far the most underrated movie in the Alien franchise.
Being in the Alien universe without lots of xenomorphs chasing people might have upset the audience, but “Prometheus” has lots of traces of the first Alien film – and let’s be clear, we’re not comparing them in terms of praise and quality. Leaving lots of questions open to the audience (as “Alien” did), it seems to be an issue nowadays to make the audience think for themselves, principally in the blockbuster era.
With lots of issues in the writing – but still thousands of miles away from it being “poorly written” as some people stated at the time – “Prometheus” is a great looking film and a good contribution to the Alien universe as it is tied directly to its first chapter in many themes and approaches.
Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender deliver great performances in this film that is closer to that beloved 1979 chapter of this series than people like to acknowledge.
Even with only a few big action sequences, “Prometheus” is probably going to gain recognition as a better movie as time passes by when audiences recognize that not every good blockbuster film has to deliver all the information in a silver plate. This is why “Prometheus” gets the third place on the rank.
2. Aliens (1986), directed by James Cameron
When James Cameron helmed the second chapter of the Alien franchise, he transformed the very suspenseful story and universe that was released seven years earlier into a top-notch action film. What can be worse than one xenomorph? Lots of them. And their mother as a terrifying bonus.
With amazing sequences, great practical effects, an awesome setup, and a terrific performance by Sigourney Weaver that brought about her first Oscar nomination (and let’s remember that it was for a sci-fi performance, something unprecedented in the Academy’s history), “Aliens” is not only one of the greatest movies in this franchise, it is one of the greatest action films ever made.
Having more destructive power than ever, the team travels to a distant planet to perform a rescue mission and Ripley once again has to face the xenomorphs. Written by James Cameron, all of the characters in this movie, from the android Bishop to the lead character Ripley, have great interactions between them and traces that make them relatable, something not very common in the newest chapters of the franchise.
Weaver delivers an amazing performance with this character who discovers her daughter has passed without their encounter that she promised decades before, and finds this daughter figure in a little girl on that faraway planet. This mother and daughter relationship is one of the most touching moments of the film.
“Aliens” has lots of memorable action sequences, great writing, and a thrilling ending with an amazing robot versus mother-alien battle that left audiences on the edge of their seat cheering for Ripley. That is why “Aliens” gets the number two spot on this list.
1. Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott
When “Alien” first arrived in theaters in 1979, it received mixed reviews. Time Out even said that the tricks played by the movie could not disguise its imaginative poverty. But still, time was able to redeem the masterpiece that “Alien” is.
With the groundbreaking choice of a female protagonist, something sadly still not very common in the sci-fi and horror genre in all kinds of mediums, “Alien” introduced the world to one of it’s greatest heroines: Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, a woman who lost everyone in her crew to a terrible monster and defeated it by herself.
Leaving a lot to the imagination of the audience, with superb practical effects and production design and direction that is nearly perfect, “Alien” is a landmark in blockbuster history. A story about the time of the pitching says this movie was sold by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett as “Jaws in space.” This is such an amazing thing because they took two of the most acclaimed movies at the time, “Star Wars” and “Jaws”, to sell something entirely new. And thankfully they did.
There is a saying that nothing is more terrifying than our imagination and “Alien” plays exactly with it. Nothing is as explosive as it could be, leaving the audience thrilled by connecting the dots that this claustrophobic narrative leaves us scene after scene.
By hearing its music composed by Jerry Goldsmith and the amazing sound design with all its complex noises and nuances, “Alien” builds suspense making the most with all the tools only cinema provides us.
Revolutionizing the sci-fi genre forever while perfectly building up horror and suspense puts the first installment of this franchise on the top of this list.
Author bio: Vítor Guima is a filmmaker, writer and musician from São Paulo, Brazil. Every day he watches a movie, reads a few pages from a book, listens to an album and freaks out with the feeling of not having enough time to see everything. You can follow him on Instagram on @ovitorguima.