Ranking every movie in the ‘Alien’ franchise

Aliens

The fan-favorite science-fiction franchise that began with cinema classic Alien in 1979 has had more mediocre entries than great ones. The more recent movie to come out of the franchise, 2017’s Alien: Covenant, was neither the best nor worst of the bunch. At the end of last year, rumors swirled that franchise star Sigourney Weaver might return for a future installment of the series. Until that happens, fans will have to make do by rewatching the existing Alien movies, which we’ve ranked below, excluding any spin-offs, from worst to best. 

6. Alien 3

Alien 3 is inarguably the worst movie in the Alien franchise for two simple reasons. First, the film killed off Newt and Hicks who are, besides Bishop and Ripley, the best characters in the entire franchise. They were both killed offscreen, at the beginning of the film, and for no important reason.

The film is not the worst film in the world though, as it still boasts some harrowing scenes while furthering some of the franchise’s themes around motherhood. Ellen Ripley crash lands on a planet that is also a prison, and she inadvertently brings one of the iconic facehuggers with her. The film ends with her making the ultimate sacrifice, which makes for a pretty dramatic conclusion if this were only a trilogy. 

5. Alien Resurrection

Alien Resurrection takes place 200 years after Alien 3, with a clone of Ellen Ripley, who met her end in the previous film. This installment and Alien 3 are, in truth, about equal in terms of their cinematic quality. The only reason Alien Resurrection edged out Alien 3 is that this movie didn’t kill any great characters. 

The movie contains some (perhaps unintentionally) fun moments, such as Ripley’s clone making an excellent basketball shot. Winona Ryder plays a synthetic and never appears again in the franchise. The film is forgettable, which is kind of unfortunate because one could do a lot with a clone storyline.

4. Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant had a big task ahead of it. Be better than Prometheus, the film that revived the franchise, and be better than Alien: Resurrection, which ended the series’ original run on somewhat of a sour note. One out of two ain’t bad, I guess. The film served as a prequel to the original Alien and a sequel to Prometheus. The downfall of Alien: Covenant came from both the fact that it wasn’t a great film, and also that it tried to explain the backstory of the xenomorph’s evolution. The xenomorphs were interesting creatures, aliens, which stop at nothing to take over everything in their way. Placing David the android in the evolutionary cycle takes some of the mystique of the alien away as well, adding to the film’s poor quality.

3. Prometheus

Prometheus

Prometheus is a good film, albeit not a great Alien film, even though it is packed with lore. The fact that this film strayed away from being an Alien film is a bonus here. We get to see some backstory with the Weyland-Yutani corporation and Peter Weyland’s obsession with immortality. We are introduced to the mysterious aliens dubbed the Engineers and at the end of the film, we see the first chest-burster. The performances in this are stellar and that is why the film ranks so highly. Michael Fassbender, who also appeared in Alien: Covenant, is particularly outstanding. Also, this was the first film that Ridley Scott came back to direct after Alien. His deft directorial touch helps the film rank higher than predecessors. 

2. Alien

The one that started it all, Ridley Scott’s Alien is a masterpiece. A crew reports to a distress signal on a planet and brings an alien back to their ship. One by one, the alien picks them off. Starring Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, and Ian Holm, this film is iconic for its great story and great performances. The film is a master of tension, manipulating sound and design in awesome ways to bring the terrifying xenomorph to life. Out of every film on this list, this is the only one that is a straight science fiction horror film and it is so much better than most of the sequels for that very reason.

1. Aliens

Alien is a horror film. Aliens is an action film and one of the best ones ever made.

Starring Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn and directed by James Cameron, the film adds two things that the first film did not have, more aliens and the 80s. Muscles, guns, and explosions define the film, but the performances by almost every actor, from Carrie Henn who played Newt to Bill Paxton who played Hudson, are also memorable. It’s game over for any other Alien film that might have wanted to take home the top spot.