Alien: Covenant is the latest addition to the Alien franchise, but how does it stand up against the previous films? To find out, we rank em’ all (including the Predator films).
The Alien franchise has a long and winding history. From lengthy gestation periods between sequels, to lots of conflict between filmmakers and studios, to varying audience interest over the years - I’m amazed that they just haven’t given up yet. Despite all these challenges, the series has persevered for nearly 40 years and gained legions of fans. As of late, the Alien franchise is back in theaters with a prequel storyline being helmed by series originator, Ridley Scott. Predator will also soon be back in theaters with a new film in 2018.
So maybe the Alien and Predator franchises are only linked by a small easter egg in Predator 2, but two fanservice films in the 2000’s made it official. There was actually supposed to be a third AvP film that would actually be a prequel to Alien. Let’s be happy they never made that abomination of an idea into a movie, and take a look at the films they actually made. Here’s my ranking of all of the Alien and Predator films, from worst to best. Thoughts? Tell us in the comments below what your ranking would be.
#11 - Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
What happens when you take the already thin premise of a crossover film, stretch it out a bit more, and give it to two filmmakers who have no experience directing a feature motion picture? This happens. AvP requiem is a direct sequel to AvP, but unlike that film, this one isn’t trying to play off as one giant homage to the original Alien and Predator films respectively. Instead, it's cast in the mold of a campy horror film, complete with a cast of no-names and enough blood and gore to make you laugh rather than cringe. It also doesn’t help that the entire film is too dark to see anything. I’m still trying to figure out why this one ever went into production.
#10 - Alien vs. Predator
Ridley Scott has never seen this movie. The reason, he says, is that Fox’s decision to make it ruined the franchise. I think he’s right. Alien vs. Predator is just fan service at its most banal. It lacks originality, misses many opportunities to be exciting, and worst of all, dishonors the comics and both franchises on which it is based. The idea of seeing two of films most deadly aliens face off against each other is one that is better on paper than in real life. Throw in the impatient Thomas W. Anderson, and you have the quintessential boring CGI-heavy early 2000’s action film. This is Fox looking for an easy way to make money off of the Alien franchise rather than putting in the work to reinvent it for the 21st century.
#9 - Alien: Resurrection
Fox was onto something with Joss Whedon, they were just on to him a little too soon. With Alien: Resurrection and Firefly, he was ahead of his time. This is a modern blockbuster type movie - enjoyable in a brainless, bombast way. The dark comedy element was something new to the Alien franchise, but it just doesn’t come together very well. Whedon’s script has some potential, but it’s also too brash and loose. And I’m not sure Jean-Pierre Jeunet is the right kind of director for this movie. He’s a wonderful visual director, but making an Alien film in the vein of a Michael Bay explosion fest is not right. The acting is also a bit dodgy. If anything, Alien: Resurrection is quirky, but quirky is far removed from when this franchise was at its best.
#8 - Predator 2
If Predator is a great example of a 80’s meathead action film, Predator 2 feels like a 90’s arcade game came to life. In this way, both films are similar; an action film of the purest sense. Not much plot, not much back story - just lots of running and shooting. The fact that the original Predator is more fondly remembered than this sequel is, I think, because Arnold’s inescapable charisma. But this second film has some things going for it too; the special effects are better, it’s a smarter film, and it feels more substantial. It’s too bad that it’s not all that exciting and therefore not all that notable. The first film was memorable because we had never seen anything like the Predator before. This one just dresses its alien up a bit differently.
#7 - Alien: Covenant
The Alien franchise is somewhat unique in that each of its films tried to take the series in a different direction. Covenant, however, does not. It treads on familiar plot territory, namely the first film, but with the type of thrills from Prometheus that are more about shock than traditional horror. The interaction between the two androids is something new to the series, but that feels like it should have been something that could have been better explored in another film, not an Alien film. The Xenomorphs are back, but their origin is a bit of a let down. By remaining close to its roots, this Prequel-Sequel never really finds its legs.
#6 - Predators
The Predator franchise tried to do the delayed sequel...and it worked OK. While being a massive improvement over the previous installment, Predators wasn’t quite able to transcend its budget-movie roots to generate any new excitement in the franchise. It has a few cool moments, including seeing a bunch of killers face off against the fearsome hunters, and Laurence Fishburne made an impression. It also approaches the bare-bones feeling of the original film, but doesn’t really do anything exciting with it. The premise is the best part of this film, and having a great premise is half the battle, right?
#5 - Alien 3
Alien 3 is one of those movies that could have been noteworthy, or at least just interesting. However, it turned out to be neither of those things. Still, it’s a fairly competent sequel, one that does a lot of things that sequels usually don’t do. It adds something new to the Alien formula, a psychological terror. Also, the xenomorph steals the show, which in a movie called Alien should be the case. There’s also some good acting from Weaver and the supporting cast.
Alien 3 is not is flashy like the film that came before it. It’s also kind of boring and dull. David Fincher did his best to make a compelling film, and I have to give him kudos for nearly pulling it off despite the trainwreck he inherited. The assembly cut version is worth checking out, as it shows a glimpse at what the film could have been - if that version had been completed, this one might have ranked a few places higher.
#4 - Prometheus
Prometheus has its problems. The plot plays into too many cliches, and for a film that many people expected would shed some answers on the origins of the xenomorphs, it only made the franchise more murky than it already was. Yet, looking back at it, we can now appreciate it for what it was meant to be; less of a prequel to Alien and more of a first step in an entire new sub-franchise that would serve to expand the Alien universe. It was also Ridley Scott’s first science fiction film in more than three decades - he was still finding his footing. By itself, the film is interesting and disturbing on many levels - both traits of a proper Alien film. It also looks damn good, enough for me to forget about most of the plot issues.
#3 - Predator
Predator is an action movie straight out of the 80’s. A cast of lovable, big muscled dudes facing off against one ugly yet technologically advanced alien. It’s a battle of brains versus brawn, full of great one-liners and old school movie violence. It doesn’t rely on a complicated plot or a cheesy movie villain hell-bent on ruling the world. Instead, it’s a movie about human survival, except the humans have grenades and miniguns. No, Predator isn’t the smartest movie. It’s fairly one-dimensional, and besides the titular antagonist, doesn’t really add anything to the genre. Yet it is memorable, competent at what it does, and fun to watch. That’s enough for it to be looked back fondly upon.
#2 - Aliens
How do you follow up one of the most fondly remembered, and often-copied science fiction films ever made? Do something different. That tactic doesn’t always work, but somehow, James Cameron pulled this one off. For one, he understands that a sequel has to build on the original film without copying what it did. A great sequel has to be entertaining by itself - it can’t just rely on what has already been done. On the other hand, it can’t just be bigger. It has to connect to the original in a tangible way, to build on what it started, not basically start over.
Aliens does all these things, and it does all of them well. Some people may rate this film as the best in the franchise, and I don’t necessarily think they would be wrong. It has great special effects, and is essentially the birth of the modern action blockbuster (yes, beating Die Hard by 2 years). Also important, it makes the already badass Ripley into an action heroine legend.
#1 - Alien
I can accept people ranking Aliens higher than Alien, but for me personally, Alien is even more of a groundbreaking film than Aliens so that’s what makes it deserve the #1 spot. Ridley Scott took what was essentially a B-movie premise and elevated it to become one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. The entire production is top notch, and to this day the film is still incredibly effective.
It’s one of those films that everything seems to come together perfectly to create an exhilarating, artistic, shocking, and entertaining experience. From the H.R.Giger-fueled special effects, to the masterful pacing, the incredible cast, the innovative score, and yes, that chestburster scene, Alien has a lot going for it. We all know that our biggest fear is our fear of the unknown, and Alien is responsible for putting us face to face with that fear.