With six installments over nearly 40 years, the Alien franchise has proven to be one of the must durable in movie history. But it's not all been so rosy.
While there have been some tremendous and scintillating highs, thrills, and frights in its films, some of which have been overseen by directors of the ilk of David Fincher, James Cameron, and, of course, Sir Ridley Scott, there have also been rank disappointments. But when push comes to shove, which is the greatest Alien film of them all, and which is the biggest dud? Here's CinemaBlend's choices, and, boy, was it an ordeal.
Warning: There are some SPOILER ahead for each of the Alien films, so those of you that don't want them ruined for you should proceed cautiously. Also, we did not include the two Alien vs. Predator films, as it has been determined that they are NOT canon. Rank them in the comments, if you see fit!
6. Alien 3
Alien 3 isn't just last on this list because of how contrived and repetitive it feels in comparison to its predecessors, but because it also nearly made David Fincher retire as a director after just one film. Thankfully, the script for Se7en rekindled David Fincher's love for the big screen and moviegoers have been eternally grateful ever since. But just one look at the tired and lame Alien 3 makes you understand why he's since disowned it. Alien 3 was always destined to fail, though, as it preposterously decided to kill off Bishop, Newt, and Hicks, started production without a script, and the result is something that even the alien would probably take pity on.
5. Alien: Resurrection
Alien: Resurrection is definitely more watchable than Alien 3, but because it was still way below the standard of both Alien and Aliens its averageness immediately provoked calls for the franchise to come to an end. It did just that for 15 years, too, until Sir Ridley Scott stepped back in to bring the series back to life. The thing is, though, whenever you watch Alien: Resurrection, it's actually fun to watch in the moment, it just doesn't leave any impact whatsoever, and you completely forget about it. It also hurts proceedings that Jean-Pierre Jeunet's direction is distinctly unremarkable, and Alien: Resurrection ends up just drifting along without ever pulling you in. Something that really shouldn't be possible with an Alien film.
An improvement on the third and fourth Alien films, Prometheus still has its own problems, most of which arise because of its bloated and ultimately unsatisfying screenplay that raises philosophical questions, only to them leave them unanswered. But with Sir Ridley Scott overseeing his first Alien film in 33 years, there's a coherence, understanding, and reverence for the world that both Resurrection and 3 lacked. That's mostly down to the fact that, because of his standing and heritage with the franchise, Scott was able to keep the studio at bay. It also boasts some fine thrills, a sensational Michael Fassbender performance, which turned the Irishman into a star, and evolves and deepens the world and the alien in an intriguing fashion. While the film itself wasn't able to profit off of these developments, as it struggles to balance its philosophical queries with its quest for entertainment, it establishes a new foundation for future films to build off of. Speaking of which ...
3. Alien: Covenant
Alien: Covenant is already proving to be a divisive entry into the Alien cannon. But while it admittedly flounders towards the end, and features a wholly unsatisfying final set piece, Sir Ridley Scott makes sure to incorporate the elements of the franchise that fans were devastated Prometheus had left out. Covenant's set-up and the crew's first encounter with an Alien is spectacular, but from then on out, the new sequel is the equivalent of an aged rock band going through their hits from 40 years earlier. Scott creates a mood, splatters gore, and generates some scares, but not to the level he had previously achieved, while he miscalculates the importance of Michael Fassbender's David, as fans want to see Aliens going crazy rather than an android chatting away. It was more gripping than any of the aforementioned efforts, but again, below its pinnacle. The first of which we're about to get onto right now ...
It feels wrong to place Alien anywhere other than first on this list. Not only is it probably Ridley Scott's finest film, which is saying something, but it is simply glorious in pretty much every fashion. First of all it is a perfect blending of cast and character, and together as an ensemble they etch up the dread as things get bleaker. It also helps that Scott, in just his second film, builds the tension seamlessly, making viewers increasingly terrified. Even though you can see the scares coming they're still impactful. Alien feels unique, too, as it is as lean and pacey as a B-movie but with a studio budget. Like the Xenomorph itself, it has no weaknesses. So the fact that its follow-up was able to not just match but build on it gives it the edge. Only just, though.
If Alien is the taut, slower, yet still harrowing version of the first two installments to the series, then Aliens is the more boisterous, intense, and rollicking, so much so that it ultimately went on to re-define the action genre. Noticing how much success Ridley Scott had with just one of the creatures, James Cameron decided to create a minefield of the blighters. But James Cameron immediately recognized that with so many of the Xenomorphs, the film couldn't replicate the pace of the original. Instead he upped the ante, as well as bringing in a Vietnam allegory, playing up Ripley's desire for motherhood without focusing on her femininity, and packing it with a captivating amount of action and set-pieces. Aliens blends action, adventure, and science fiction to such an enthralling extent that it is still the benchmark for every sequel and every action film that has been released since.