Every Alien Movie, Ranked By Rewatchability

Although it was initially conceived as a haunted house movie in space – essentially a glorified B-movie – Ridley Scott’s Alien was praised as one of the greatest horror films ever made and launched one of the most lucrative sci-fi franchises in Hollywood. Through sequels, prequels, and spin-offs, Scott and his team (or, in darker times, intrusive 20th Century Fox executives) have expanded the worldbuilding of the Alien franchise with new stories, characters, and settings.

In the decades since Scott’s original movie became an instant classic, the Alien franchise has produced endlessly rewatchable gems like Aliens, thought-provoking if overlong prequels like Prometheus, and sequels that barely hold up to a single viewing like Alien Resurrection.

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6 Alien Resurrection (1997)

The fourth Alien movie, dubbed Resurrection, managed to kill off the franchise for a decade and a half. It took the involvement of Ridley Scott himself to revive the series after the disappointment of Alien Resurrection. As the title would suggest, following the events of Alien 3, Ripley is brought back to life in Alien Resurrection.

Ripley’s revival overcomplicates what is essentially a standard Alien plot. Alien Resurrection barely holds up to a single viewing, let alone repeat viewings, but it is redeemed by one great underwater set-piece.

5 Prometheus (2012)

Scott’s return to the franchise, Prometheus, marked a massive tonal shift. A prequel exploring the origins of life, Prometheus introduces audiences to “the Engineers,” giving the aliens a completely unnecessary backstory. The xenomorphs are more terrifying when they’re shrouded in mystery.

The franchise’s worldbuilding is significantly expanded in Prometheus, but that worldbuilding begs the question of whether or not the Alien franchise needs worldbuilding. On the whole, Prometheus is an interesting sci-fi exploration of Biblical concepts and it has some delightfully creepy moments, but it’s ultimately too lofty and slow-paced to satisfy as an Alien movie.

4 Alien 3 (1992)

Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3

Alien 3 is a let-down from its opening scene as three fan-favorite characters from Aliens – Newt, Hicks, and Bishop – are all revealed to have died off-screen. Set on a prison planet, Alien 3 surrounds Ripley with a bunch of wholly unlikable supporting characters in the Aliens trio’s place.

The Alien threequel was technically David Fincher’s directorial debut. It has Fincher’s signature moody visuals, but he wasn’t able to put much of a stamp on the movie. Alien 3 is one of the most notorious examples of a director having to deal with meddling studio executives compromising their original vision.

3 Alien: Covenant (2017)

scary CGI Xenomorph in Alien Covenant drooling

After the Biblical meditations of Prometheus, Alien: Covenant marked a welcome return to the series’ horror roots. Nobody could replace Sigourney Weaver, but Katherine Waterston does a fantastic job of recapturing Ripley’s spirit in the Ripley-inspired role of Daniels.

Alien: Covenant relies heavily on jump scares, but those jump scares – like a shower sex scene interrupted by a sinister star-beast – are beautifully effective in Scott’s hands. Covenant also culminates in a haunting twist ending that lands every time.

2 Alien (1979)

Alien-1979-Ellen-Ripley-Xenomorph-Fog-Ending

The original Alien from 1979 is one of the greatest horror movies ever made. It holds up to countless rewatches, because its spooky storytelling is perfectly paced from beginning to end. Scott doesn’t rush into the “haunted house in space” antics; he builds to the scares masterfully. H.R. Giger’s hauntingly beautiful designs gave the futuristic visuals of Alien a uniquely morose quality. The worldbuilding in the first movie is focused more on transporting audiences into unfamiliar environments, rather than filling in arbitrary backstories. The world of Alien is deeply immersive, especially paired with Jerry Goldsmith’s ominous score, and viewers have plenty of time to get to know the characters before a xenomorph gets on board the Nostromo and starts picking them off.

The chestburster is one of the most iconic horror moments of all time, marking the movie’s midpoint shift into full-blown terror mode. From that point on, Alien doesn’t let up. The xenomorph stalks its prey and wipes them out ahead of a climactic showdown with Ellen Ripley. On top of all the terror, Sigourney Weaver’s truly iconic turn as Ripley broke new ground for female action heroes. Audiences celebrate her victory on every viewing.

1 Aliens (1986)

An alien rises behind Newt in Aliens

There’s an ongoing debate among the Alien fan base over whether or not Aliens is a stronger movie than the original Alien. They’re both masterpieces in their own right, but Aliens is arguably more rewatchable than the first one. The first movie is a tautly crafted suspense thriller with one xenomorph terrorizing Ripley. The second movie is an explosive action epic with dozens of xenomorphs and their gigantic queen. Alien’s patient pacing is one of its strengths, but Aliens jumps right into the spectacle. James Cameron wastes no time setting up a thrilling new premise: Ripley and a band of Colonial Marines stranded on a planet swarming with xenomorphs.

Cameron had a lot of fun dabbling in the action genre, but he didn’t lose sight of the series’ horror roots, either. Aliens has plenty of fiercely effective scares, like the facehugger scene, and also packs in some thought-provoking thematic subtext in the irony of a human colony being colonized by bloodthirsty aliens. “You know, Burke, I don’t know which species is worse...”

NEXT: 10 Ways Aliens Still Holds Up Today

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About The Author Ben Sherlock (3664 Articles Published)

Ben Sherlock is a writer, comedian, independent filmmaker, and Burt Reynolds enthusiast. He writes lists for Screen Rant and features and reviews for Game Rant. He's currently in pre-production on his first feature (and has been for a while, because filmmaking is expensive). You can catch him performing standup at odd pubs around the UK that will give him stage time. Previously, he wrote for Taste of Cinema, Comic Book Resources, and BabbleTop.

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2022-07-06T23:40:14.000Z

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