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All 6 Movies from the “Alien” Franchise Ranked from Worst to Best

25 May 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Vitor Guima

Alien

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

Alien Covenant

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

Alien 3 (1992)

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

Prometheus

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

Aliens (1986)

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.

 

 


   

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  • Zwei

    I love Prometheus. I took it like a monster movie trash. A tribute to the rip off of Alien, lol

  • bluesborn

    I think I actually like Alien 3 in all its bleak glory more than any of the others save the first one which is a singular masterpiece. The second Aliens was actually always disappointing to me after the first one,but then again I did see “Alien” on acid when it came out which although not as horrific as you mighty think made the Geiger sets seem genuinely alien. (which they kind of do anyway)

    • Abhishek

      Agree with you on Alien 3. It needs to be above in ranking than Prometheus.

    • Darren

      Alien 3 is severely misunderstood and criminally underrated. I’d argue that its on par with Aliens

  • Mortimer

    1. Alien
    2. Aliens
    3. Prometheus, Alien: Covenant (tie)
    4. Alien 3
    5. Alien: Resurection

    That said, I was never very big fan of Aliens (1986). Without doubt, it’s one of the greatest action flicks ever but this movie never worked for me as sequel to Alien.
    I think author is a bit harsh on Covenant – it’s very solid, proper Alien movie but final 25-30 minutes seem a little bit forced. One or two movies more need to resolve all this prequel puzzle. I only hope Ridley will live enough to make them.

    • MzUnGu

      Took Ridley Scott over a half an hour to land a spacecraft on that planet this time…. So, may need to wait a little longer. I didn’t even finished it, so no waiting for me. 😛

    • AmazingAmy

      Covenant Fassy in Blonde is real thirst…he should stay blonde !!!
      He blew me away in Covenant to how he distinguished Walter and David…i wont spoil Covenant plot but if you see it, prepare to scream at his smexy scene

      • Mortimer

        I’d love to see Fassy and Rosamund in the same movie. They would make a great couple on screen.

        • AmazingAmy

          Joe won Canness !!!! High chance he will got Oscar Nom.
          He attends Cannes with Rooney ( won two years ago) 😀

          • Mortimer

            So happy for Sofia, Lynne and Joaquin ! I’ll be very angry if he doesn’t get nomination (for this or Mary Magdalene) from Academy gang in January.
            And Rooney and Joaquin are my favorite Hollywood couple – both winners in Cannes. Love them.

    • pranshu gwalherkar

      i totally agree with your problem about aliens

  • Oz Molinas

    In my opinion, ALIEN is a suspense movie, ALIENS is an action movie, ALIEN³ is a long music video, ALIEN:RESURECTION is an Adventure movie, PROMETHEUS is an origins movie and ALIEN:COVENANT is a horror film… All of this within a scifi expanded universe created by R. Scott

  • Daniel Hammerberg

    Alien 3 was in no way better than Covenant. I just watched both last week. Alien 3 was just boring and it looked old. It didn’t hold up well over time.

    • Brian Gregory

      But did you see the Assembly Cut? If not, give that a go. Far superior to the butchered theatrical release.

      • Daniel Hammerberg

        I watched the 2003 Enhanced edition that was in the Alien Anthology box set.

  • SupernaturalCat

    Alien was often referred to as an old fashioned haunted house movie set in outer space, in which I agree. One of the best horror movies ever made. And it had one of the best, equally effective trailers for a horror movie ever made.

    Aliens …my sense of nostalgia paints a better memory of it than what I get out of it when I end up catching a glimpse of it these days. Looking back, it was in that era that launched the phenomenon of movie makers drastically overusing the military as the backdrop for an inordinate amount of movies. Ever wonder why that is? …or why sooooo many movies of any stripe made in the US are framed around pro-police and pro-military attitudes? First and foremost, this process serves to normalize a military-govt-in-civilian clothes, along with normalizing a police state as something everyone should either want, or at the very least, passively (ignorantly) accept. I recommend researching how the Pentagon and CIA work very closely with Hollywood to advance pro-war/pro-militarism friendly attitudes in the public mind. And no, I’m not advancing the idea that Aliens was made wit that in mind–of course not. But I digress…

    Alien 3 took awhile to grow on me, although now I can watch it and find it a much better movie than I did back upon its release. That it was made as an AIDS allegory was a theory commonly espoused back in the ’90s.

    Beyond the first three entries, I haven’t much of an opinion on the subsequent sequels.

    Alien Trailer HD (Original 1979 Ridley Scott Film)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ5lPt9edzQ

    • bluesborn

      Your take on Aliens was nicely elucidated. I think all the macho military stuff detracted from the first film yet in spite of that fact still managed to be a better than average action adventure flick. I also found your thoughts concerning the rise of military propaganda in the movies interesting and certainly nothing to be sneezed at.In fact I think it would make for an interesting list on this site.

  • Josh Lee

    I think Aliens is the best of any of them. Action/horror at perhaps its finest.

  • Richie Dixon

    I think alien ,aliens, covenant, alien 3, resurrection, prometheus .Alien being 1

  • How Promethius didn’t end up 10th on a list of 6 is beyond me.

    • Mortimer

      Because it’s one of the better movies in the franchise ?

  • Carsten Nilsson

    1. Aliens
    2. Alien
    3. Alien: Covenant
    4. Prometheus
    5. Alien 3
    6. Alien: Ressurection

  • Andrew Trump

    Alien was so trendsetting, which I think is forgotten now. Following decades of shiny white space ships and spotless stainless steel futuristic interiors, Scott came up with the notion of space ship as tramp steamer. Genius.

  • Lugh

    Alien and Aliens are both great. Alien 3 and Prometheus are – at best – ok. The other two are sh!te.

  • Iván Solorio (SanS)

    For me it would be
    1. Alien
    2. Aliens
    3. Prometheus
    4. Alien: Covenant
    5. Alien 3
    6. Alien: Resurrection

  • Brian Gregory

    ALIEN 3 can only be judged on the ASSEMBLY CUT -rightly mentioned in the article. It is far superior to the butchered theatrical release and if you haven’t seen it, hold judgement.

  • Alien should be number 2 and Aliens should be number 1. It was VASTLY better the the first movie.

    • Mortimer

      Nah…Alien is far SUPERIOR movie to Aliens.

      • I saw Alien in the theater when it first came out. A 14 year old boy should have been thoroughly entertained by a good sci fi horror flick, But I was bored and confused. Why was I confused? Because the movie had a fatal flaw that even a teenage boy had issues with: that a tiny 20 lb. creature eats a cat and then the next time we see it in the short term of the story itself, it is a 400+ lb. monster.

        On the other hand, seeing Aliens a few years later was an awesome experience of and action-packed, sci fi / horror film.

        • Mortimer

          You’re older a lot than me and I respect that, I wasn’t even born when the first movie came out. But please, explain to me – in which part of the movie was cat eaten by Alien ? You certainly do know that the cat is live and well at the end of the movie, right ? Also, what we know about Alien metabolism and how it works ? Maybe creature has ability to grow up very quickly and without eating ? I really don’t understand why is this big problem for you.

          I don’t like Aliens very much – obnoxious marines with big guns fighting big space bugs. And in my opinion, Alien Queen idea ruined the mystery about xenomorphs.

          For me Alien was always superior movie – better actors, better atmosphere, better mystery, better pacing, better horror, better art design, better score etc.

          • “Maybe creature has ability to grow up very quickly and without eating” Is the only explanation for the ability to generate so much biomass so quickly. But then, what reason would it have to kill all the humans? It was a problem for me because the little alien appeared, then disappeared. Then there was a huge alien that was a threat to the crew. The huge gap was confusing and I spent at least half-an-hour wondering iif I had missed something. By the time I figured that I hadn’t missed anything and fully invest my attention to the movie again, I still hadn’t missed anything. 🙂

          • Mortimer

            Maybe Alien was just misunderstood; he killed the entire Nostromo crew in self defence lol.
            For me the biggest unanswered question was – why Alien didn’t kill Ripley at the end, when they were alone in the shuttle ? It was so easy for him to do that but he was more like: “Blah…this is becoming boring (killing humans lol) and I’m tired. I’ll get some sleep first.” Some fans speculated over the years that he was about to change into his final, ultimate form but Cameron never addressed that in his sequel which was missed opportunity in my opinion.

          • Lol! All good points.

  • Rich

    Aliens was the best, sorry. It took Alien to a whole new level that they have not been able to replicate. Covenant was disappointing but better than Alien 3.