The Best (And Worst) Alien Films
Mr Harry Dean Stanton in Alien, 1979. Photograph by Ronald Grant Archive
MR PORTER ranks the seven movies in the Alien franchise, ahead of the release of the new Alien: Covenant film.
Sir Ridley Scott returns to his first franchise for a second time next month, with the release of Alien: Covenant, which, as always, features a crew of unsuspecting space explorers destined to die violently at the hands – and teeth – of the iconic Xenomorph. The toughest of the bunch unfailingly turns out to be a woman, while every crew includes an android who may or may not have the best interests of its colleagues at heart. There will be face-huggers. There will be chest-bursters. Contrary to Alien’s celebrated tagline, there will be audible screaming. But how will a crop-sporting Ms Katherine Waterston and her co-stars match up to their predecessors?
Ms Sigourney Weaver in Alien, 1979. Photograph by 20th Century Fox/REX Shutterstock
The late, great Sir John Hurt was nominated for two Oscars for his indelible performances in The Elephant Man and Midnight Express. So, it’s some measure of Alien’s greatness that the most famous moment of Sir John’s career is still the one when a penis-like beastie burst from his chest and scuttled across the dinner table into history – the world’s first sighting of the creature that would spawn a multi-billion-dollar franchise. Sir Ridley Scott’s 1979 original is the mother of all Aliens, and the sci-fi horror by which any should be judged.
Alien 3 (1992)
Ms Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3, 1992. Photograph by 20th Century Fox/REX Shutterstock
The critically reviled Alien 3 deserves re-evaluation, if only for the bleak brilliance of its premise. Ellen Ripley fetches up on a prison planet populated by rapists and murderers, and the only other organism to survive her craft’s crash landing is the Xenomorph. Weapons are banned, so the inhabitants have little to defend themselves with besides their wits, which allows for several spectacularly imaginative deaths. Even Mr David Fincher disavowed his directorial debut after well-documented production battles with 20th Century Fox, but in hindsight – and following the 2003 release of a so-called Assembly Cut – the film now has its fans. Rightly so.
Mses Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn in Aliens, 1986. Photograph by 20th Century Fox/REX Shutterstock
Mr James Cameron’s 1986 sequel is a classic almost on a par with its predecessor. Ellen Ripley (Ms Sigourney Weaver) returns to LV-426 several decades after the events of Alien (she’s been in stasis for 57 years), this time with a squad of Marines. Aliens is the film that turned Ms Weaver into an action hero, and one far more compelling than, say, Mr Arnold Schwarzenegger in the starkly similar Predator, more of which later. If there’s any mark against this near flawless film, it’s that it feels dated in a way that Alien does not, with some sets and styling that look more 1980s than 2170s.
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Mr Ron Perlman, Mr Dominique Pinon, Ms Sigourney Weaver and Ms Winona Ryder in Alien: Resurrection, 1997. Photograph by 20th Century Fox/REX Shutterstock
Another less-loved entry in the Alien canon, Resurrection nonetheless features some of the franchise’s most unusual and inventive visuals, thanks to French art-house auteur Mr Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who had previously made the acclaimed, post-apocalyptic black comedy Delicatessen. Images that stick in the mind include two Xenomorphs pursuing Ripley and co underwater through a flooded kitchen, and an alien-human hybrid being squeezed to a smoothie as it’s sucked through a bullet-hole into the cold vacuum of space.
AVP: Alien Vs Predator (2004)
Ms Lance Henriksen in Alien vs. Predator, 2004. Photograph by REX Shutterstock
What started out as a late-night stoners’ debate, à la Badger vs Baboon, became first a comic book and then a film. Set in the present day or thereabouts, this 2004 effort from the director of Event Horizon and Resident Evil sends a team of treasure hunters and mercenaries to a mysterious pyramid beneath the Antarctic ice, where they find themselves in the middle of a bloody, ancient ritual that pits the two extra-terrestrials of the title against each other. Passable entertainment for a long-haul plane journey.
Mr Michael Fassbender in Prometheus, 2012. Photograph by Scott Free Productions/20th Century Fox/REX Shutterstock
Sir Ridley’s first return to the franchise he launched buckled under the weight of expectation. A retread of the same old story – crew lands on distant planet, discovers mysterious alien organism, they all die horribly, one by one – it reliably summons some existential dread in its first act. But the plot soon ceases to make a shred of sense. (Perhaps there’s a four-hour edit that explains why Mr Sean Harris turns into an angry crab.) On the plus side, Prometheus gave us Mr Michael Fassbender’s sinister android David, who is set to return in Covenant.
Alien Vs Predator: Requiem (2007)
AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem, 2008. Photograph by 20th Century Fox/REX Shutterstock
OK, guys. One of these was enough.