With the release of Prey, how does it sit with the rest of the Predator franchise? Join us as we examine the 13 Alien and Predator films from worst to best.
[Originally published May 26, 2017, Updated August 16th, 2022]
Both the Alien and Predator franchises have 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. When you think about it, these franchises are very unique within the realm of film because of how inconsistent they have been. Not only do we never know if or when we are going to get another sequel, when that sequel arrives it could be anywhere on the spectrum of awful to great.
Similarly, box office performance has rarely been impressive, and yet the studios have never been shy about spending a lot of money on them (the Alien franchise more so than the Predator franchise). In many ways these films are motivated by the passion of fans and by the inspiration of the incredible original films in each franchise. Despite all these challenges, the series has persevered for nearly 40 years and gained legions of fans. Arguably both have a bright future as well. As of late, the release of Prey has given new life to the Predator franchise, and a new Alien prequel series and a reboot are in the works for Alien.
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, updated for 2022.
#13 – 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.
Weird Casting Choice: Um….
#12 – The Predator
This was supposed to be the flashy reboot of the Predator films for the modern movie era. On paper, it should have worked. Modern special effects, an interesting cast, and a clean slate. It was helmed and written by Shane Black who has had a lot of success making witty, and fun buddy cop movies, among other things. We were expecting that type of dynamic, but it didn’t work out. Worse than simply not working out, the film was in reality an unmitigated disaster. First, in order to make the witty banter work, the film’s tone had to be lighter. Combined with a studio-mandated PG-13 rating, it felt like a parody. The plot was a convoluted mess, and anytime you have a sci-fi action movie revolving around a child character it brings up a lot of questions. Were they really trying to distil one of the most violent sci-fi franchises of all time into something resembling a family-friendly action movie? Clearly not much thought went into this one, and it shows.
Weird Casting Choice: Keegan-Michael Key as the comedy relief marine
#11 – 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.
Weird Casting Choice: Lance Henricksen because his role in the film doesn’t really make sense and is only for fan service.
#10 – Alien: Resurrection
Fox may have been 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.
Weird Casting Choice: Wynona Ryder
#9 – 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.
Weird Casting Choice: Gary Busey, because this role was originally supposed to be portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenneger.
#8 – 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.
Weird Casting Choice: Danny McBride in a non-comedy role.
#7 – 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. It also approaches the bare-bones feeling of the original film, but then makes it unnecessarily complicated. The casting also leaves a bit to be desired. The premise is the best part of this film, and having a great premise is half the battle, right?
Weird Casting Choice: Adrian Brody as a Special Ops Agent / Mercenary
#6 – 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 train wreck 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.
Weird Casting Choice: None.
#5 – Prometheus
Prometheus has its problems. The plot plays into too many clichés, 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 and has a great cast, enough for me to forget about most of the plot issues.
Weird Casting Choice: Not weird, but interesting…Ian White, or portrayed one of the engineers, had portrayed a Predator in AvP: Requiem.
#4 – Prey
After so many different approaches, side stories, and creative interpretations, it was a welcome relief for the newest Predator film to go back to basics. Prey didn’t try to build up the lore or the worldbuilding of the franchise, it doesn’t have intentions of setting up sequels, and it doesn’t try and compete with the latest and greatest science fiction action films. Also important is the fact that it tells its story from an indigenous perspective, which is extremely rare for a mainstream film production. All of these reasons, and many more, are what make Prey so impressive.
For once we have an Alien/Predator film that does not feel like its existence is based upon compromise. It is this reason which makes it feel the most similar to the classic original film. The purpose of that film was simply to tell the story of two warriors as they fight for survival. Prey does the same thing, but in a unique and compelling way. It builds the story of the Predator while maintaining the shroud of mystery which is paramount to what made the original film so successful.
Weird Casting Choice: None.
#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.
Weird Casting Choice: Also not weird, but interesting….Kevin Porter Hall, who portrays the predator, also portrays a helicopter pilot. He was cast in the role of the Predator after the studio decided against casting Jean-Claude Van Damme in the role…because Van Damme was not tall enough.
#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.
Weird Casting Choice: Paul Reiser in a non-comedy role.
#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.
Weird Casting Choice: Harry Dean Stanton, who didn’t want to be in a science fiction or horror film, but was convinced to appear anyway.