Choosing the best alien movies is a surprisingly complicated task. Back in 1979, who would have thought we’d end up with eight different alien movies? And who knew they would cross over into the Predator franchise and spawn a couple of prequels like Protheus and Alien: Covenant? Throw in a host of novels, comics, and video games, and there’s no shortage of additional lore and content for those interested in learning all about Xenomorphs and the history behind the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.
The downside of having eight different alien movies is that their quality varies considerably, so we thought we’d rank the best alien movies so you know exactly which ones to avoid. reassuringly, the best are so evenly matched that you’re guaranteed a good experience no matter what you decide to watch. any of the top five are the ones we’d happily watch again and again. others? as for some of the others? we say we blast them off and bombard them from orbit. it’s the only way to be sure.
Read on as we rank what worked and what really didn’t as we take a look at alien movies, ranked from worst to best. And if you need more, check out our guide to the best space horror movies or check out the best space movies in general.
8. avpr: alien vs predator requiem
- release date: December 25, 2007
- cast: steven pasquale. reiko aylesworth, john ortiz
a disastrous movie, alien vs. predator: requiem is a waste of time. Full of excessive and senseless violence that seems to be there to shock more than anything else, Alien vs. predator: requiem can provide some cheap thrills, but only if you have very, very low expectations. Otherwise, it offers a nonexistent plot, poorly designed characters, and can’t even get the lighting right, so you’ll spend a lot of time guessing what’s going on.
makes so little sense within the context of the franchise, that you can easily skip this entry and should. the only vaguely notable thing here is the creation of an alien-predator hybrid called… a predalien. yes, this is not the smartest movie by any means. staying away. it even makes alien vs. predator not seem so bad. speaking of which…
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7. avp: alien vs predator
- release date: August 13, 2004
- cast: sanaa lathan, raoul bova, lance henriksen
alien vs. predator is slightly better than alien vs. predator: requiem. slightly. In theory, the idea of xenomorphs facing off against a predator should be fantastic, but it somehow greatly weakens the influences of both. at least alien vs. Predator is enhanced by the presence of some decent talent, including Lance Henriksen and Ewen Bremner. for the most part, they’re wasted here since the dialogue is a bit messy, but the special effects were pretty good at the time and capture the alien/predator aesthetic reasonably well.
the key that makes alien vs. predator not so terrible is the fact that you can see that it has potential. configures things but fails to succeed with the configuration. that’s thanks to it being a bit boring, ultimately, and lacking in scares, but it does have its goofy moments which mean there’s a certain ‘love to hate’ factor there.
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6. alien: pact
- release date: May 19, 2017
- cast: michael fassbender, katherine waterston, billy crudup, danny mcbride
alien: the pact should have been good. A decent cast including Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup and Katherine Waterston, directed by Ridley Scott, and a screenplay by famous gladiator John Logan should have had everything going for it. although not very good. defying logic too often, he jumps wildly from ‘this is so boring’ to ‘well that’s just ridiculous’ and never feels consistent. Fans will appreciate its many references to earlier parts of alien lore with an uncredited cameo from Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland, founder and CEO of Weyland Corporation, but few of the characters are fleshed out enough for you to care.
In many ways, Alien: Covenant’s greatest strength is that it makes you realize that Protheus is a far superior movie than you first thought, and that’s weak praise really. it all feels a bit too familiar and obvious at times.
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5. alien resurrection
- release date: November 26, 1997
- cast: sigourney weaver, winona ryder, ron perlman
The alien resurrection, the weakest of the main alien movie series, looks a little better once you’ve seen some of what comes next, but it’s still far from great. A troubled production led to a different ending that the writer, Joss Whedon, was far from happy with and the director, Jean-Pierre Jeuene, wasn’t always able to spread his creative wings the way he originally wanted. Combined, that leads to a disjointed movie that doesn’t quite work.
It’s set 200 years after Alien 3 with a cloned Ripley that also contains some of the Xenomorphs’ DNA. it’s an interesting concept that offers some tense moments along with a fair amount of gore as well, but there are also dull moments and the tension isn’t as consistent as in later installments. however, for the most part, nothing stands out enough to make it memorable enough, either in a good or bad way. it’s all surprisingly monotonous for such an interesting idea.
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4. alien 3
- release date: May 22, 1992
- cast: sigourney weaver, charles s. dutton, charles dance, lance henriksen
alien 3 is a fascinating mess, but it’s worth coming back with an open mind. back in 1992, it was seen as a disaster because it followed the almighty alien and extraterrestrials, but time has been kind to it and it’s actually a pretty interesting different take on the alien format. Ripley and an alien (of course) have crash-landed in a penal colony populated by the worst of society, and unsurprisingly, bad things happen. The conclusion is a bit heavy on the chase sequences, but beforehand, it tells an intriguing story that gives a strong cast including Charles Dance, Lance Henriksen, Brian Glover and Pete Postlewaite a chance to flex their acting muscles.
The only really problematic thing here is that the alien itself is quite different from the ones we saw before chronologically thanks to them being able to run around and outrun humans by a long shot, which makes it seem a bit less creepy than the alien original. we experienced for the first time. That takes a bit of getting used to, but Alien 3 will grow on you. Even if moviegoers will wonder what it could have been like if David Fincher’s original vision had been true.
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- release date: June 8, 2012
- cast: noomi rapace, michael fassbender, guy pearce
A lot of anticipation at the time of its release caused many to enter prometheus expecting too much. like alien 3, it’s one to go back and realize it actually works pretty well. The first prequel, is set in the late 21st century when the spaceship Protheus explores unknown areas of space and stumbles upon everyone’s favorite alien creature. It does a decent job of blending horror and gore in a way that means it doesn’t go overboard either, plus some decent acting talent from Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron and Safe Spall make up for the sometimes rough dialogue.
This isn’t the alien franchise at its strongest all the time (only two movies fully achieve that), but it does add a lot to the lore and backstory of the concept with some interesting themes surrounding Greek mythology, religion and the relevance of artificial intelligence. Sometimes trying a little too hard, Prometheus doesn’t always hit the nail on the head, but there’s certainly plenty to talk about afterwards. he will remain in your mind for a long time.
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- release date: July 18, 1986
- cast: sigourney weaver, michael biehn, lance henriksen
choosing between aliens or extraterrestrial is like choosing between your favorite child. probably. honestly, it’s such a closed thing that you can trade any of these movies and you’ll still be thrilled. aliens is the faster and more aggressive of the two movies and it’s brilliant. Directed and written by James Cameron, Ripley teams up with a group of Colonial Marines to investigate a human colony on the moon that has lost contact with the rest of humanity. you can guess why.
The movie is full of funny moments and also some creepy bits. none can rival the film’s conclusion with an encounter with the alien queen and if you’ve experienced it before, the mere memory almost certainly makes you want to watch it again right away. everything about the aliens is fantastic, from the visuals (for the time being), to the quick-thinking dialogue, to the underlying themes surrounding how strong a ripley woman is. look, we know we’re saying this is the second best alien movie, but there’s hardly anything between it and aliens. it’s just that good.
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- release date: May 25, 1979
- cast: sigourney weaver, tom skerritt, veronica cartwright
The movie that started it all, Alien is a slow but gripping story. There’s only one alien in alien unlike all the other movies and that doesn’t sound threatening does it? wrong. this alien shows what the creatures can achieve and how terrifying they can be, ensuring that this is the most horrifying of the franchise. tension is everything as it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen next. just as everything seems fine, something absolutely terrible can happen as a relatively early seemingly quiet moment deftly demonstrates.
alien may seem a bit slow compared to other classics and certainly compared to the rest of the franchise, but that’s what works so well. by slowing things down, it gives you time to understand the seriousness of the situation and learn a bit more about the crew caught up in the chaos. for a film now over 40 years old, it benefits greatly from the fact that risk often comes from the unseen rather than using obvious threats that would now seem too old-fashioned. It is a true classic in every sense of the word.
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what about the aliens expanded universe?
The alien franchise goes far beyond the main and spin-off movies. there are plenty of comics, novels, video games, and even a digital web series (opens in a new tab) to sink your teeth into. On top of that, there are collectible models, figurines, miniature games, board games, toys, and an alien nerf gun (opens in a new tab) for the collectors among you.
We’ll be putting together guides to the best alien comics in the near future, so stay tuned.