Reviewing All 'Alien' Movies in Order of Release

Updated on December 9, 2019
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

At the time of writing, there are six movies that are considered part of the Alien storyline that starts with the release of the original Ridley Scott Alien movie. I'm not going to review the Alien vs Predator movies because they are so loosely related in the whole Alien universe and it's a euphemism to call them not that great. Although Prometheus doesn't really involve xenomorphs, it still matters for the Alien storyline, especially with the release of Covenant, the connection becomes clearer. We'll see what Ridley Scott will offer in his probably last outing in the Alien film universe, let's hope he's on an upward trajectory. I hope you'll enjoy our write up on all the Alien movies in order of release.

The Alien Saga began as few ones can: With a meeting of great minds at the beginning of their careers, seeking to make catharsis after an ambitious project, in which many were involved, ended shelved.

Alien (1979)

Title: Alien

Release Year: 1979

Director(s): Ridley Scott

Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, a.o.

In more than one way, Alien existed thanks to Alejandro Jodorowsky's failed Dune film project. A bankrupt Dan O'Bannon co-created this sci-fi/horror story along with his friend Ronald Shusett. To round off the look of the film, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss and Jean Giraud (who worked with O'Bannon on Jodorowsky's Dune) printed their visual biomechanical style in this little universe to make it memorable.

And then there was a young Ridley Scott. Excited by the opportunity to direct this story, he ended up infecting his enthusiasm to 20th Century Fox, achieving not only the desired green light but that the limited budget was doubled.

Alien's strength is that it's primarily a straightforward horror "home invasion" movie that happens in space, shot like an art piece and never assumed as a B-Monster Movie. It's the mix of genres, the detailed production design, the direction and the performances that subtly show the deeper themes.

But above all, its success was due to its “last scream girl”: the iconic Ripley. Sigourney Weaver took this trope and along with the "damsel in distress," destroyed them with an incredible dose (and little-seen at that time) of badass, not-forced, female empowerment.

Ripley fights against patriarchy and exploitation in every possible way. Even the ship she is in symbolizes her own struggle as a woman.

What's Your Rating For Alien (1979)

See results

The design of the Xenomorph reinforces this idea. The alien camouflages perfectly between the machinery and the ship's pipes as an analogy and constant reminder of the deadly exploitative employer and the avarice behind tech development. It's an enclosed, enslaved, claustrophobic and hostile environment. The horror of not only an invading entity but of knowing that the ones that were meant to look after you have betrayed you.

Aliens (1986)

Title: Aliens

Release Year: 1986

Director(s): James Cameron

Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Carrie Henn , a.o.

Seven years later, Ripley would return to star in the story against the xenomorphs. But this time, this character would have a new side that we didn't know: the maternal one.

James Cameron took Ridley Scott's spot as director and changed the straightforward horror tone with frenzy, explosive action. The result, Aliens, is one of the best sequels of all time.

After spending decades drifting through space in stasis, Ripley is finally rescued by her employers, the Weyland-Yutani Company. She discovers that 57 years have passed and her daughter, who was a child the last time she saw her, has died from old age natural causes.

The development of Ripley as the beacon of feminine light in historical fiction follows a progressive and logical route. Ripley continues to raise her voice and take strong actions against the condescending patriarchal oppressors that surround her. When we see the Marines for the first time, they are cocky meatheads whose relationship to weapons is practically erotic.

Ripley deals with the loss of her biological daughter, by taking under her wing a little girl called Newt (Carrie Henn), the only survivor of a colony. Cameron goes even further, introducing the figure of the Alien Queen, a giant version of the average xenomorph that fiercely protects her eggs. The result is an engaging "final boss" confrontation between two species, with their maternal protective instincts as the main fuel.

Bigger, louder and faster, Aliens takes to its heart the plural in its name, delivering the highest quality point of the saga.

And then came Alien 3.

What's Your Rating For Aliens (1986)?

See results

Alien 3 (1992)

Title: Alien 3

Release Year: 1992

Director(s): David Fincher

Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, a.o.

The unforgivable sin of the third entry in the saga is that it's a movie made by executives rather than by artists. You can't have David Fincher as the creative head of the project and restrain him. Created in 1992, this mistake would not have been made today.

Alien 3 begins his infamy by instantly eliminating the key emotional characters of Aliens. A lazy, cheap clean slate so Ripley's new motivation doesn't have any old obstacles. Newt is dead. Hicks is dead.

Alien 3 does have interesting themes that deepen Ripley's constant feminist struggle. Ripley's sexuality is enhanced. She is surrounded by the worst examples that masculinity can offer in the form of rapists, murderers, and sociopaths. She is objectified on several occasions (she even survives an attempted rape) and treated as a "damsel in distress" before she assumes her natural leadership.

What's Your Rating For Alien 3?

See results

Newt's death reaffirms a motif about Ripley's doomed maternity. Because of the Weyland-Yutani Company, Ripley has already lost two daughters (one biological, the other adopted). In Alien 3, while literally being a prisoner of the company, Ripley learns that her hated alien enemy has impregnated her. She then decides to end her life and the alien's inside her (her bizarre "third daughter", because it's an infant alien queen).

It was Ripley's femininity treated as an obstacle and a threat. Sadly, these themes were lost under a ton of bad decisions and aged CGI.

It would take five years for executives to get a more dignified way to revive the franchise.

Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Title: Alien: Resurrection (Alien 4)

Release Year: 1997

Director(s): Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, a.o.

They called Joss Whedon (Toy Story, Buffy, The Avengers) to write the script, brought Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie, Delicatessen) to direct, and became fully engaged with its borderline-pulp plot on cloning and mixed breeds.

And although at the time the franchise was at its lowest point and the reviews were mixed, the truth is that Alien: Resurrection achieved its purpose. It's a dignified, grotesque, fun and bloody addition to the saga.

Following its over-the-top approach, there's another thing that Resurrection does very well, within its style: They basically created a bonkers-yet-unforgettable UBER Ripley.

200 years have passed since the infamous events of Alien 3. Weyland-Yutani Company no longer exists (Walmart bought it lol), but the United Systems Military Auriga is the new unethical greedy corporation of humankind. After 7 failed attempts, they have managed to clone Lt. Ellen Ripley (and most importantly, the alien queen inside her) thanks to a blood sample collected in the furnace where she committed suicide. The result of the experiment is a Ripley-8 with some aspects of the xenomorphs and an alien queen with her own reproductive system. Disgusting. Wonderful.

Of course, Ripley's femininity and doomed motherhood remain the most important theme of the saga. Ripley-8 is a mix of memories and genetic material. She has the memories of the original Ripley but also has acid blood and superhuman strength. She also quotes Newt as if they were her own words. Ripley-8 is the mother (Ripley) and the daughters (the biological, the adopted, and the alien one) completely merged.

What's Your Rating For Alien: Resurrection?

See results

Ripley-8 is the most sexually explicit version of Ripley. Her stare, her movements, her dialogues, all have an implicit seduction and a powerful erotic drive. This film suggests a sexual relationship between Ripley-8 and the xenomorphs, in addition to making clear her strong maternal connection with the final hybrid alien. She's a woman with few reasons to believe in mankind, who just keeps looking for that intimate contact even with her humans and aliens antagonists.

The Alien saga, like any good Sci-fi dystopia, exists to contextualize the shadow of our humanity. "No human being is that humane," says Ripley-8 when she discovers that Call (Winona Ryder) is an android. Alien: Resurrection gives respite to Ripley and eliminates technophobia (very present in Alien and Alien 3) within the same move: Ripley-8 and Call end up holding each other back on Earth, planning their future.

You can argue about it, but in more ways than one, this was the perfect ending for one of the best movie characters of the 20th century.

Prometheus (2012)

Title: Prometheus

Release Year: 2012

Director(s): Ridley Scott

Actors: Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba a.o.

A generation later, and in a whole new century, Ridley Scott would return to the Alien universe to create a tangential prequel.

Prometheus happens about 30 years before the events depicted in Alien. In this story, a ship/mission is entrusted with following a stellar map — obtained in different artifacts of several ancient Earth cultures — that allegedly is an invitation to meet the "engineers" creators of humanity. All this financed by the Weyland Corporation, which of course from the get-go makes us understand that there will be a hidden agenda.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Prometheus is not precisely the denial of xenomorphs. Not even Ripley's absence, who is an iconic character, but her presence would make no sense in this prequel.

The real problem is the absence of "Ripley's soul," if you will. The true protagonist of this story is an android. And although Michael Fassbender is wonderful as David, the tonal change is one that was meant to polarize the audience, no matter how wannabe-Ripley Noomi Rapace is, or how cool the chemistry between Idris Elba and Charlize Theron is.

When we understand that David is the true protagonist, empathy disappears. The recurring theme of the importance of tenacity for survival is gone. At least on a human level. David is an android. One with quite dark behaviors. Fuck that robot. I'm out.

The characters drop like flies, sometimes even by their own choice, in a matter of seconds. Nobody really wants to live, except perhaps the big antagonist (WTF). That's impossible to connect with. Ripley's human spirit of survival was necessary for this to hold. It didn't.

What's Your Rating For Prometheus?

See results

However, let never be said that Ridley Scott is not a persistent guy.

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Title: Alien: Covenant

Release Year: 2017

Director(s): Ridley Scott

Actors: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride a.o.

Alien: Covenant is undoubtedly his most frenetic movie and perhaps the most strictly entertaining of the entire saga. Set 12 years after the events of Prometheus, this is the story of the colonization-ship Covenant, full of thousands of colonialists in the form of humans suspended in stasis and human embryos ready to build new civilizations, all headed for a remote planet called Origae-6.

The crew consists of a solid casting led by Katherine Waterston (Danny), who for the get-go looks like the wannabe-Ripley on duty, with a look similar to Aliens’ Private Vasquez. The dynamics of this crew is different from that of past films because instead of soldiers and "lone wolves", all members of the ship were selected with their stable partners, so they'll be ready to create new families in this colonization.

At times, Alien: Covenant looks like a Ridley Scott spoiled tantrum in the face of Prometheus' lukewarm reception. Scott sacrifices originality and a serious atmosphere of horror for a fast-paced and predictable bloody entertainment. Gone are the philosophical themes or the analogies with Greek mythologies. This is a pure summer blockbuster.

The overkill of his female protagonists is remarkable. It seemed, at times, a statement about the impossibility of replacing Ripley, who was also a sort of martyr but was always the clear lead and eternal survivor of the original quadrilogy.

Once more, the David/Walter androids (played by a great Michael Fassbender), ends up being the thunder stealer. So far in this prequel, it's evident that the wannabe Ripleys have been simple decoys so that the stoic android with bone-chilling AI — a recurring theme in the whole saga — is really the one who makes the interesting philosophical musings and who makes the plot move forward.

What's Your Rating For Alien: Covenant?

See results

David/Walter is the only proof of original personality in this new prequel trilogy. Besides that, and especially here in Alien: Covenant, everything is a steroid version of the "Greatest Hits" of the entire saga. There are like five "chestbursters", two "facehuggers", a protagonist who is the almost perfect phenotypic hybrid between Ripley and Vasquez and crew members who in one way or another remind us of former crew members victims of xenomorphs.

It wasn't enough. Ripley was always the perfect counterpart of the xenomorphs. Our empathy with her struggle was the only way we can respond as an audience. Wanting to emulate her with forgettable characters without their own personality was not a good idea.

Nor was it to put an android in the "emotional" center of the story. Ballsy, no doubt, but flawed.

This was our write up for the Alien movies in order of release. Although very flawed the nearly 12-hour runtime offers enough kicks and thrills for science fiction space horror enthusiasts. We can see were Ridley Scott wants to go with the philosophical and psychological arc of the saga, but let's be honest, it often fails to deliver on that promise.

© 2019 Sam Shepards


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)