First and foremost, I absolutely love the Alien franchise, and I always have fun revisiting these films. But when it comes to determining my personal ranking of the entire franchise, there’s a few facts and problems that I must address. One of the biggest problems I have is actually a common one when it comes to this series, and that is how do I place and determine the #1 and #2 picks? Let’s face it, there are two amazing films in this franchise. The big debate among many fans is which is better? That can be a difficult question to answer considering that both of the films in question are equally fantastic and yet distinguishably different from each other in terms of style and tone, and both have very strong points to them.
But the real issue here is facing the facts about the remainder of the franchise. I love almost all of these films, but I have to be honest with myself here, and that is 6 out of the 8 films are very flawed. Picking the top two spots is easy, to a certain degree, and picking the last spot is easy, but placing the rest really comes down to subjective opinions.
When it comes to rankings, some people really get upset of how certain films are placed on any individual’s ranking list, and while I understand that for the most part there are a lot of passionate fans who feel strongly about their own opinions and like to challenge those who make these lists, I’m also a realist. As much as I love this franchise as a whole, I don’t feel that there’s a sequel that DESERVES the #3 spot, or the #4 spot, and etc, as it isn’t a perfect franchise.
So with that being said, here is my own personal and very subjective ranking list, from least favorite to favorite.
08) Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
Even if this film was properly lit enough, this would still be the worst film out of both franchises. The biggest problem with this movie is the script, which is constructed as really bad fan fiction. The characters are terrible, the story is almost non-existent, and it just comes off as some tasteless slasher. Honestly, there’s not much to say about this movie because it’s one that I struggle to get through. I do think the lead Predator is pretty badass, and I do like Brian Tyler’s score, but other than those two things, this is a mess of a movie.
07) Alien vs. Predator
‘Alien vs. Predator’ is a movie that I feel can be a fun time to watch if viewed at a distance from the rest of the franchise. Back in 2004 I went into the movie knowing what it was going to be; I prepared myself and accepted the fact that some genius at Fox made the decision to develop a PG-13 crossover between two violent, high stakes, R-Rated properties, and I anticipated the tame feeling in tone, and because of this I accepted the movie for what it was. Upon my most-recent re-watch for the sake of this ranking list, I watched it directly after viewing the first four films and I could really feel the tameness in comparison. Although this movie does have a high body count with all but one of the human characters getting killed off by each species, it still feels safe. I knew who was going to live and who was going to die. The stakes just weren’t there. I found it odd to not only have the film set on Earth rather than the ideal setting of space, but also to have it set in the Antarctic. I also feel that some of the logic is faulty: in the Predator franchise it’s established that the Predators are drawn to areas with intense heat. They try to bypass this by saying that the Pyramid emits heat, which is what draws them there. But every human character is still bundled up in their winter gear even inside. Also, if the whole scheme regarding this special pyramid is for the young Predator’s to earn their rite of passage by taking on Xenomorph’s here, then what’s up with the Predator franchise itself with the Predator’s coming to Earth to take on humans? I struggle with the logic established here especially as it pertains to the Predator franchise. That being said, it can be a very watchable movie. My favorite thing with this movie is bringing in Lance Henriksen as the ancestor of his ‘Alien 3’ character, who ended up building the Bishop synthetic from the second film. Lance Henriksen is always a win, and now with this film he joins Bill Paxton as one of the two people who has been killed by an Alien, Predator and Terminator.
06) Alien 3
When I speak of ‘Alien 3’, I can only speak of the “Assembly Cut” as it is the only version of this movie that I watch. I have not seen the Theatrical Cut in a long time and couldn’t even tell you what the differences are between the two cuts, just getting that out of the way. ‘Alien 3’ used to be my least favorite of the franchise for many, many years. It was a movie that pissed me off with how it treated the characters of Hicks and Newt, two survivors from the previous film. The direction they took this story in didn’t make sense to me when I first watched it. It felt disjointed and didn’t feel as natural of a sequel as ‘Aliens’ did with ‘Alien’; the decision to discard what was set up at the end of ‘Aliens’ is puzzling and difficult to fathom. Why did they make these decisions? That’s still something I think of every time I watch it, but the movie has grown on me a bit and is slowly climbing up my ranking list. I like that it tried to go back to its horror roots, and the cinematography is pretty damn good. Sigourney shines and is the single best thing about this movie. I felt like her sacrifice at the end was fitting and an earned end for the character, especially considering that every time she wakes up from Cryosleep, she’s plunged knee-deep in Xenomorph shit. I’d want to take a dirt nap too. In all seriousness, though, it was very much within the character of Ripley to take that jump to make sure that the company doesn’t get their hands on the Xenomorph growing inside her. The score from Elliot Goldenthal is pretty good too. The big thing for me with this movie, aside from how they wrote out Hicks and Newt, is that I just don’t care about any of the supporting characters, and for the most part found them indistinguishable from one and another. The setting was a little too ugly and uncomfortable for my tastes as well. The story, setting and supporting characters drag this film down. Still, I am able to watch it when I marathon this franchise, so that’s got to count for something.
05) Alien: Resurrection
I never really had too big of a problem with ‘Alien: Resurrection’; it’s a little more comedic and fun than the previous three films, while it certainly lacks the quality of those films. It’s a movie that doesn’t strive to be anything more than a B level popcorn film, and keeping that in mind, it can be an entertaining movie to watch. The reason why this film edges out ‘Alien 3’ for this spot on the list is Sigourney Weaver, who seems to be having a lot of fun playing this twisted new take on the Ripley character, totally embracing the fact that she’s playing a clone and not the actual character that we all know and love. I also like Winona Ryder as this film’s synthetic, Call, and I think there is an interesting little nugget with her backstory and the revolt of the Synthetics. Ron Pearlman always excels at playing the asshole character who you grow to like as the film progresses. The action scenes are pretty good, in particular the underwater sequence, which was a nice new addition to the franchise. The Joss Whedon wit with character dialogue usually gets a few chuckles out of me. I honestly don’t mind the Hybrid xenomorph in the third act because I feel that there needed to be something different to come out of these particular Xenomorph’s; after all, they’re not the actual species, but rather manufactured products much like the dinosaurs in the ‘Jurassic Park’ films, and these are ones directly created from the Queen that was removed from Ripley’s clone. The design is “meh”, but it doesn’t bother me as much as it does other people. Overall, it’s a turn your brain off and enjoy kind of movie.
After four consecutive mediocre sequels in a row, ‘Prometheus’ is a welcomed addition in my book. Sure, upon first watch I was a little disappointed with how little it connected with ‘Alien’; I expected a little more Xenomorph involvement and I went in for sure thinking that it was going to take place or end on LV-426, and when those things didn’t happen, I felt a little cheated. That said, I do find this to be an enjoyable enough movie and it had me intrigued enough by exploring this universe on a larger scope. Even without Xenomorph’s, I enjoyed being in this world, even if allegedly intelligent people make really poor and stupid choices. I liked some of the themes and philosophies that are presented in this story, although I do wish there was some closure with them within this film itself instead of sequel set-up, especially considering how the next film breezed through everything this film made significant as if it were all inconsequential. Sometimes sequel-bait can hurt a film overall, especially as in this case where the reception of the movie pushed the next film onto a similar, but different path. Regardless, the direction and cinematography are beautiful, the score is great and Michael Fassbender steals the show as David. This is an ambitious and promising entry in the franchise, flaws and all. I’ll take this over the bottom four on this list any day of the week.
03) Alien: Covenant
‘Alien: Covenant’ is a film that, for me, continues to get better and better with each re-watch. Ridley Scott’s third entry in the long-running franchise returns the horror atmosphere that seems to have been missing from the franchise after the third film. For the most part I liked the cast and the characters, and the acting was pretty damn good. Michael Fassbender steals the show as sibling Synthetic’s David and Walter (named after the series’ caretakers, David Giler and Walter Hill) and has been the consistent highlight of Ridley Scott’s prequel series. The major problem with this film is that it feels so middle of the road; half wanting to be the follow up to ‘Prometheus’, but also half wanting to please those who criticized the previous film for not being ‘Alien’-enough, and because of these two competing factions within the story, both elements are short-changed by each other. Although I do put this above ‘Prometheus’ because it does feel more like ‘Alien’ than that movie, I feel that the need to rush through the ‘Prometheus’ story to get to the ‘Alien’ aspect of the story makes it a little messy. Regardless of how you feel about that film, the story needed to get wrapped up properly. Also, Pulling an ‘Alien 3’ with Dr. Shaw’s character was a disservice. But, regardless of its flaws, ‘Alien: Covenant’ is growing on me. In my opinion, there’s more positive things to the movie than the negative.
It’s always difficult for me to choose between the first and second films in this series as to which will reign in the top spot, since both films are very different from each other, and yet are equally fantastic. ‘Alien’ is hands down one of the best horror films of all time, expertly crafted by Director Ridley Scott and Writer’s Dan O’ Bannon and Ronald Shusett. H.R. Giger’s designs are awe-aspiring, Jerry Goldsmith’s score is eerie and haunting, and the acting is top-notch from everyone who makes up the films ensemble of characters. The characters themselves are likeable and feel like real people, and all are important to the story. In fact, if you haven’t seen this film before and know nothing about the franchise, you won’t know who the lead protagonist is until the third act as the crew of the Nostromo is taken out one by one. Although it is a bit of a slow burn in terms of pacing, it is still a horror masterpiece.
James Cameron knows how to do sequels. While ‘Alien’ was a more focused, claustrophobic horror tale about one Xenomorph taking out the small crew onboard the Nostromo, ‘Aliens’ expands the scope with a larger story, bigger setting and a variety of new characters. And yet, despite being more of an action packed epic than its predecessor, this is a sequel that feels like the natural progression of the story. Ellen Ripley is now cemented as the lead protagonist of the franchise and it never feels like she’s just here because she’s the only survivor of the previous film. Sigourney Weaver easily carries this movie as the most level headed character among an assortment of a colorful cast, all of whom stand out for a variety of reasons. Michael Biehn is fantastic as Hicks; Bill Paxton is so hilarious as Hudson that I don’t even care if he spends most of the movie complaining and whining so much that you’d think his last name was Skywalker; he’s very effective as the comic relief, and Paxton kills it as usual. Also got to throw out some love for Lance Henriksen who completely nails it as the Synthetic being known as Bishop. What I enjoy particularly is that because of the conflict Ripley had with Ash (Ian Holm) in the previous film, there’s some strong tension and trust issues between Ripley and Bishop. Cameron’s script plays with an underlining theme of doubt and mistrust with the character’s development in a way that any first-time viewer may be wondering if he’ll turn as Ash did, and because of how likeable and sincere Bishop actually turns out to be, it’s rewarding when revealed that he was trustworthy. The scene with Ripley and Bishop in the third act, just before he’s split in half by the queen, is a genuine and earned payoff to that tension between the characters. And speaking of tension, there’s Paul Reiser as Burke. Burke has a great character arc throughout the film, and Reiser gives one hell of a performance.
‘Aliens’ is currently placed as my favorite of the franchise mostly because it’s my go-to when I’m in the mood to watch an Alien movie, and is one that I watch the most. The direction and cinematography are great, the action scenes are thrilling and exciting, and James Horner’s score is the best of the franchise. Although ‘Alien’ is equally fantastic, I like ‘Aliens’ just a fraction more.
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