Having finally caught on with Alien: Covenant and considering discussing it in writing tomorrow, I thought, why not just rank the whole shebang. So I did. Below.
Remember, all rankings are correct.
The Entirely Objectively Correct Ranking of the Films of Aliens Franchise
6.) Alien: Resurrection- Just to get it out of the way: Weaver as the weirdly spacey menacing Ripley clone is uncomfortable good, the movie has a great look, and the aliens swimming is oddly beautiful and scary.
Got it? Good.
All the rest? Pretty garbage-y.
This is the only film in the franchise that feels like some executive ordered it to be toyetic but boy howdy does it.
The director Jeunet’s attempt to Frankenstein the claustrophobic horror of Alien, the action adrenaline of Aliens, and the sort of “the unsavories will save us” feeling of Alien3 into a dark comedy that ditches the script’s 3rd act is…not successful. The push-pull of Fincher’s fight with the studio in the previous installment has bloomed into a full blown war here and there is not a moment that doesn’t feel compromised in some way.
5.) Prometheus- Unlike many, I don’t hate this movie’s odd philosophical digressions on creation, God(s) and the nature of being. It’s not great, but I did not find nearly as intrusive as a lot of people did.
What wounded this movie for me was the sheer infuriation the cast caused me. And I don’t even mean the “let’s take off our helmets and poke at stuff” bit, although that didn’t help. For the first time, it didn’t feel like the disasters befalling the travelers were because of human error or corporate evil. So many of them seemed to be just brought on by sheer stupidity the kind that leads so many slasher movie victims to the tip of the knife. Yes, David was plotting against them, but he didn’t need to do much to make them sacrificial lambs. And when they weren’t being dumb? Monumentally unpleasant. Like Dr. Shaw’s boyfriend (partner? husband?) who continuously treats David like garbage just because and gets incredibly sulky when, essentially, his atheism is proven while Shaw remains charged despite her faith in a higher power being called into question by meeting the literal makers of human kind.
Only David, Shaw, and Charlize Theron’s spectacularly icy Meredith Vickers manage to be more than awful or wallpaper.
It’s a gorgeous movie with a lot on its mind that chooses some of the lousiest characters in the franchise to deliver that message.
4.) Alien: Covenant- It’s my intention to dig deeper into this tomorrow in a new feature but for now let me just summarize. Covenant lives and dies on its characters. Michael Fassbender’s dual dance as the androids David and Walter is undeniably compelling, Danny McBride’s humane grounded performance as the pilot Tennessee is a great turn for the largely comedic actor and Katherine Waterston impresses as an Aliens heroine in the tradition of Weaver and Noomi Rapace (Prometheus’s Doctor Swan) who keeps telling everyone the smart thing to do and keeps being ignored to everyone’s detriment.
However, the movie’s desire to give us the untold origins of the terrifying black killing machine are puzzling. The parade of cannon fodder the other characters are is frustrating. The decision to make over the aliens as intergalactic Jasons absolutely ridiculous. So…yeah, it’s flawed.
3.) Alien3- David Fincher took over the franchise and quickly rose to the challenge of embracing the grim and greasy beauty of the previous two installments. Unfortunately, the film opens with as sort of throwaway nihilism that kills off all of the Aliens’ survivors except for Ripley with such little care that its already facing an uphill climb.
The doomed Ripley falls in the footsteps of late 80’s Sylvester Stallone and T2-era Linda Hamilton by becoming a being of sinew, muscle, and gristle and her refusal to let the xenomorphs win even as she carries the next generation is compelling. Alas you can feel the push and pull of studio v. artist in every frame and that plus the ugly opening cripples it.
2.) Alien- There is not an ounce of fat on Alien—much like the titular creature—and the last 35 or so minutes is a master class in tension. The characters are rich and lived in without excessive speechifying. One of the few movie monsters that remains damn terrifying even after full reveal.
It’s the first and establishes the “if we just followed the damn protocol, we’d be fine” tone that runs through the rest of the series while making the errors understandably human, not slasher movie dumb.
1.) Aliens- There are two schools of thought about the Aliens franchise. One puts Alien at the top slot. As more of an action movie guy that horror movie fan, I tend to fall into the second camp. Aliens deepened the mythos of Alien without becoming excessively t crossing and i dotting (see the bottom of the list). Muscular and still scary, it does sacrifice some of the depth of characterization found in Alien but only just and most of that disappears as the final stand strips down the characters. Plus, the scopes and stakes upgrade significantly. And, don’t fool yourself, this is the true birth of Ripley, action goddess hero.