In the month of April, Spring isn’t the only thing on the horizon, as the cosmic celebration of Alien day is always slotted for that beloved date of 4/26. Having just watched the entire series in an effort to celebrate one of our favorite sci-fi franchises, I thought it would be a good idea to sit down and whip up this list of every Alien movie ranked from worst to best. Whether you’re jumping into the series for the first time or simply looking for the best Alien movie to watch on the scariest of all space-themed holidays, this list should give you a decent idea of the franchise’s track record. From the classic Alien films from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, to the modern prequel series, this list covers every mainline movie with the exception of spin-offs (we’ll save the Alien vs Predator series for another day). As you prepare your popcorn and settle in for a night of otherwordly terror, we hope you’ll enjoy our list of the every Alien movie ranked from worst to best.
6. Alien 3 (1992)
On paper, Alien 3 sounds like an absolutely killer film. After crash-landing on a prison-planet full of rapists and killers, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) must fight a new breed of terror, one both familiar and altogether new. It’s also directed by David Fincher, the award-winning creative mind behind such fantastic films as Zodiac, Se7en, Gone Girl, and The Social Network. Throw in a bit more gore than the previous Alien films and give it a unique visual style; sounds pretty good right? Eh, not so much. While Alien 3 delivers a passable sci-fi experience with one of our favorite cinematic heroines, it’s definitely the weakest of the original trilogy and falters in more than one place. When picking out the spots for every Alien movie ranked, it wasn’t hard to toss Alien 3 further down the list.
Don’t let Alien 3‘s spot on this list get my message too twisted; it’s still a movie that’s worth checking out while you throw some popcorn at your face. Unfortunately, it’s not all that scary, nor does it offer any meaningful narrative content for fans to search for. Instead, Alien 3 is often self-indulgent, opting for a surplus of dialogue sequences and quick xenomorph interactions rather than a slow-burn suspense story or all-out tour of gore. There are some visceral death scenes and Ripley remains a complete bad-ass, but by the time the credits roll, you’ll feel a bit cheated. There are too many plot holes, the CGI is exceptionally poor (although there’s still a good use of practical effects too), and the plot lacks the intrigue that the Alien franchise has always upheld. If you’re going to dig into any of the Alien movies from the 90s or prior, you might want to pick something other than Alien 3.
5. Alien: Covenant (2017)
Ridley Scott is back at it again in Alien: Covenant, delivering a follow-up to Prometheus, the “not really an Alien movie but totally an Alien movie”-movie. Taking place a decade after the events of Prometheus, Covenant follows a colonization ship headed for Origae-6, a beacon of hope for new human life. Like in most other Alien films, the crew decides to take a small detour, tracking down a mysterious transmission to a nearby planet with promising readings. Unfortunately, this is the first of many bad decisions, leading them directly into the hands of the enemy. Although Alien: Covenant is ripe with callbacks to the classic Alien flicks as well as a fantastic performance from Michael Fassbender, the excessively predictable plot and weak characters make this an entertaining yet ultimately underwhelming modern entry in the series.
Don’t get me wrong, Alien: Covenant is miles ahead of Alien 3 in terms of fun-factor. When it comes to alien vs human action, Alien: Covenant has some exceptionally cool moments. The lore and world-building additions that are explored in Covenant are also super interesting, painting a perverse and demented history of the xenomorph. Michael Fassbender also steals the screen in every scene, commanding the camera as both androids David and Walter. In fact, watching Fassbender in these two similar yet subtly unique roles was the highlight of the movie and one of the best performances in the entire franchise. While there’s plenty of horror and thriller fun to keep you entertained, Alien: Covenant can’t escape the constant issue of supposedly intellectual characters making exceptionally moronic decisions. Apart from some early movie surprises, you’ll likely see every death and plot-twist coming, as Covenant story is as predictable as they come. I still had a decent time watching Covenant, but when it comes to every Alien movie ranked, Covenant sinks towards the bottom due to its failings as a standalone story.
4. Alien: Resurrection (1997)
While Alien: Resurrection doesn’t have a hugely popular director attached to it, many comic book and horror nerds will be very familiar with its writer, Joss Whedon. Best known for his unique storytelling displayed in shows like Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and one of my favorite movies, Cabin in the Woods, Whedon definitely brings his signature style to the Resurrection script. Set 200 years after the events of Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection immediately breaks a lot of movie sequel rules. It revives a protagonist that had no business being revived, hand-waves a whole bunch of important narrative explanation, and sets its own path as a unique entry in an mostly uniform franchise. Despite these digressions though, Alien: Resurrection ends up being one of the most entertaining Alien movies of the bunch, thanks to Whedon’s fun ideas and some stellar characters and performances.
Aboard a fortified military spaceship, the Auriga, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is once again kicking some serious xenomorph ass. Joined by a group of rag-tag mercenaries including a foul-mouthed Johner (Ron Perlman), the quick and calculated Christie (Gary Dourdan), and a feisty and eager soldier named Call (Winona Ryder), the cast do their best to survive as xenomorphs run rampant. While the plot might be a bit too convoluted or outrageous for some, the action and death scenes are some of the series’ best, ranging from horrifyingly disturbing to gleefully fun. Sure, there are some character choices that are arguably offensive and some plot-points that are honestly laughable, but they shouldn’t completely ruin the movie for you. While Resurrection trips over its own ambitions from time to time, it’s still wildly entertaining and definitely one of the wackier entries in the Alien franchise.
3. Prometheus (2012)
As the only movie in the Alien franchise without the word “Alien” in the title, Prometheus has a habit of bucking franchise trends. Acting as a prequel to the original movie, Prometheus takes us back 30ish years before the first Alien flick and tells us a tale of discovery, determination, and death. Lots and lots of death. After discovering a star map that leads them to a nondescript planet 30 light-years away from Earth, a group of scientists (and a few representatives from the ever-present Weyland Corporation) bite off more than they can chew during a research expedition. Directed by Ridley Scott, Prometheus takes a lot of big gambles and pays off in some places, but falls a bit flat in others. In an effort to recreate the magic of the original Alien, Ridley Scott crafts a unique story with several mysteries to unravel, some more effective than others.
First and foremost, the cast of Prometheus is utterly stacked with talent, including some of my favorite actors in the business. The two focal researchers, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Pace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are highlights among the dozen-plus character cast, as is the suave and confident captain Janek (Idris Elba) and the deceptively devilish android David (Michael Fassbender). To accompany this A-list cast, Prometheus is packed with equally expensive CGI, resulting in bombastic action scenes and grimy sequences of sci-fi horror. Unfortunately, despite how fun and charming they might be, many characters are prone to plot-progressing idiocy, betraying their intelligence by making exceptionally bad decisions. While I have quite a few nit-picky issues with Prometheus, I still thoroughly enjoy watching it every few years. It might not be the best Alien movie of all time, but it deserves more credit than it gets.
2. Alien (1979)
The first Alien film was directed by Ridley Scott, a name that many fans of the sci-fi genre should know and revere. Scott was also responsible for iconic films like Blade Runner, Gladiator, and more recently, The Martian. Despite releasing over 40 years ago, the original Alien film stands the test of time, giving viewers a claustrophobic and suspenseful spin through space. The film centers around the transport vessel known as the Nostromo on its return journey to Earth. When the ship’s onboard computer detects a distress signal midway through the trip, the crew is forced out of cryo-sleep and sent to investigate.
The findings of their investigation are less-than-ideal, resulting in a downed team member and an extraterrestrial threat that stalks them from within the ship. With nowhere but the cold expanse of space to go, the crew find themselves in a close-quarters battle with a fierce and incredibly deadly specimen. Thanks to fantastic practical effects and an excellent cast of characters, including a career-making performance from Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, Alien sneaks and slithers its way into film history as one of the best sci-fi flicks ever made. When compared to the rest of the series, the original Alien movie is one of the strongest and most succinct entries in the franchise. Don’t be fooled by its age, Alien is still just as enjoyable now as it was over 40 years ago.
1. Aliens (1986)
As a sequel to one of the most acclaimed sci-fi films ever made, Aliens had exceptionally big shoes to fill. Directed by James Cameron (best known for his work on Terminator, Titanic, and most recently Avatar), Aliens adds a whole lot of new lore and world-building surrounding the titular creatures, while also offering audiences more action, heart, and suspense than before. Taking place over 50 years after the original movie, the plot follows Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) after waking up from a deep cryo-sleep. In her slumber, a large human colony has been built on LV-426, the same planet where Ripley’s team discovered the crashed alien ship in the first movie. When communication is lost with the colony, Ripley, along with a team of colonial marines and some company representatives, travel to LV-426 to investigate the issue.
When compared to the original Alien film, Aliens is a much more bombastic and action-packed experience. You won’t have to wait long until the xenomorphs rear their ugly heads; things get bloody pretty quick. In addition to the extra action, Aliens also has a surprising amount of charm, thanks to the relationship between Ripley and a young, orphaned girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). There’s also some great comedic relief in the form of Private Hudson (Bill Paxton), who spouts one-liners that have become etched into movie history. I can still hear the echoes of the infinitely quotable line, “Game over, man! Game over!”. In my opinion, Aliens might very well be the best Alien movie in the whole bunch, but that’s an opinion that will surely be contested. Either way, if you’re looking for an Alien movie to watch on Alien day, Aliens will surely hit the spot.
We hope you have a great Alien day! Do you agree with our list of every Alien movie ranked? Let us know in the comments below. If you’re in the mood for more horror-themed ranked lists, be sure to check out our thoughts on the best Amnesia game, or for something more lighthearted, our ranked list of the original Spyro games. Whatever you do, watch out for facehuggers!