“In space, no one can hear you scream,” read the tagline for the original 1979 Alien movie. Four decades later, that succinct summary still stands as the best lens with which to view the haunted house in space franchise. The movie series has blessed fans with one of the most badass action heroes in all of cinema in Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and supplied a steady stream of creepy androids and entertaining side characters that most fans can name off the top of their heads (shout out to Newt). But most importantly, the films also birthed (literally and figuratively) the greatest villain in monster movie history to cement its legacy in the sci-fi horror genre.
With Alien: Covenant hitting theaters on May 19, we’ve started to wonder how it compares to previous installments? So here is the definitive ranking of all the Alien films so far (excluding the Alien vs. Predator movies because we’d rather take a bath in Xenomorph acid blood than re-watch those monstrosities).
5. Alien Resurrection (1997)
The most recent installment featuring Weaver centers around science experiments gone horribly, horribly wrong and the military’s strategy to clone Ripley 200 years after her self-sacrifice (Alien 3) as a hybrid life form that gives birth to a new alien queen. You know, because it’s not like the Weyland-Yutani Corp. has lost enough manpower and resources to these pesky aliens.
Resurrection has a lot of Rocky V vibes to it as it tried to build itself up from the familiar Alien foundation but failed pretty hilariously when throwing in its new wrinkles. Sure, it’s cool to see Ron Perlman and Winona Ryder as mercenaries hunting down new space monsters. And yes, as a youngin I thought that the humanoid alien-Ripley moment at the end was kind of nice. But Resurrection is dangerously sparse on plot and kind of lame.
4. Alien 3 (1992)
David Fincher behind a massive sci-fi blockbuster? On paper, that sounds amazing. Sadly, the final product did not live up to the hype.
In typical Fincher fashion, Alien 3 is layered with interesting subtext, this time revolving around gender issues as Ripley is stranded on a nearly all-male penal colony. There are also a handful of standout visuals peppered throughout. But you need more oomph to make a great Alien movie and this threequel was severely lacking in the Xenomorph department. Couple that with some truly clownish CGI and Alien 3 was just kind of…boring.
3. Prometheus (2012)
I’m not a Prometheus hater nor am I a Prometheus apologist. It’s a big, beautifully composed film that asks important questions but has no real interest in providing answers or putting its money where its double-mouth is thematically. It’s no surprise that Prometheus is the most polarizing entry in the overarching Alien saga.
The prequel attempts to tie into the original through the connected origins of humanity and the Xenomorphs thanks to an ancient race of “Engineers.” There are welcomed familiar horror elements such as Noomi Rapace’s stomach-bursting C-section. But overall, Prometheus was a bit too haughty and hollow to fully satisfy the Alien fan base.
2. Aliens (1986)
James Cameron knows how to make one hell of an action movie. That’s not exactly breaking news, but it’s always worth a friendly reminder.
Aliens finds Ripley awaken from 50 years of hypersleep and in an obvious ain’t-broke-dont-fix-it move, she returns to LV-426 with a new crew. The planet is now a terraforming colony and Ripley joins a crew of space marines – shout out to the great Bill Paxton, RIP – to exterminate the multiplying Xenomorph threat. Not only does she fight the alien queen, but she does it in a goddamn mechanized robot suit.
The sheer awesomeness of this movie cannot be understated.
1. Alien (1979)
Director Ridley Scott’s original is, at once, one of the definitive sci-fi films and horror movies in cinematic history. That’s impressive.
There’s a looming sense of fear and concern embedded into every single shot that is only amplified by the carefully constructed setting. The washed out grays, the dingy shelters, the claustrophobic feel; everything about Alien is designed to make you s— your pants.
You want to talk about leaving an imprint? Nearly 40 years later (and with drastic leaps forward in CGI), seeing that alien burst out of John Hurt’s chest is still one of the most disturbing scenes ever. This is the one that spawned it all and influenced two separate genres.
Yes, I’m definitely sleeping with the light on tonight.