What Is the Best Resident Evil Movie? – a Fair Countdown to the Umbrella Series
Ranking Resident Evil Movies
There are two ways to rank the Resident Evil movie series. The first and most traditional is by comparing it with what an artistically integral movie should be. This way, one has to evaluate each aspect of the process and quantify which of the entries had the best results in their departments. This way, it’s easy to understand how entries like Afterlife and Retribution would occupy the last spots, while Extinction and the original Resident Evil would be at the logical top.
The problem is that with that kind of ranking, it would be impossible not to feel that even the best movie on that list will fall short of what should be considered a “good movie”.
The second way to make this ranking, and the one we will do here, is assuming this series as an acquired taste. An absurd, bonkers, sometimes batshit crazy saga with little rigor in their scripts but always beautifully shot that, seen in retrospect, achieved the miracle of premiering SIX entries, all box office hits.
Embracing the playful, non-snobby, wild spirit of Resident Evil is the fair way to evaluate this franchise, which evidently connected with thousands of people.
God bless the Jovovich-Anderson marriage. Never a union was so over-the-top prolific in that fringe zone between video games and movies.
Here we go, our list from worst to best Resident Evil movie:
6) Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
The threequel had the ambition to transcend the franchise of its Raccoon City mini-universe. The intention to turn the saga into something more mainstream and massive was evident from the moment the story established that the T-Virus had destroyed the entire planet.
The problem with Extinction is that in order to carry out its globalizing trick, it replaced almost all the elements of the saga with a slow, low quality, no-car-chases version of Mad Max. The planet, in a few months, went from normal to have cannibal families with rotten teeth, Mohawks, and dirty dungeons full of chains. In other words, this new desert wasteland setting felt forced.
Not everything is terrible. Extinction has one of the best sequences of all six films. The attack of the killer ravens and its satisfactory explosive outcome is practically a B-movie homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which is something that you don’t see every day.
And although Ali Larter is great and gives a lot of badass personality to her Claire Redfield, the truth is that her borderline crazy villainy face was better for a potential brainwashed Jill Valentine.
Yes, the story doesn’t make sense at times. Alice wouldn’t be so against Umbrella’s intentions of wanting to find a cure for the T-Virus. At least not in that radical way. Hear them out, dammit!
Extinction is the entry that tried to be more traditional, sober and inclusive for non-gaming fans (and yes, I say this even when the film includes the concept of clones). But it’s also the most boring and pedantically pretentious (the bad kind) of them all.
5) Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)
When a movie starts disappointing, it’s almost impossible that it would end with a positive balance.
The huge cliffhanger of the previous entry (Retribution) forced many to watch The Final Chapter in what promised to be an epic and gigantic final battle between Umbrella and our heroes. What they got was 5 minutes of Milla Jovovich fighting against a CGI monster and three stunt doubles.
From then on, the disconnection was real. The Final Chapter simply couldn’t hide the absolute disappointment of its unfulfilled promise. The feeling that remained is that Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich simply couldn’t convince anyone to return to play their characters. Major characters like Leon, Ada Wong, and Jill Valentine just disappeared without any explanation. Chris Redfield never reappeared.
The replacement attempt was to bring back Iain Glen (blame Game Of Thrones for that) with the cheapest excuse of all: clones.
The only right call in that inconstant rotation of characters was to have brought Claire Redfield back. She was the ideal video game character to accompany Alice in the conclusion of this story.
The only reason why The Final Chapter is not in the absolute bottom is that its last act makes an unprecedented effort to write a satisfactory ending. The idea of the “trinity of bitches” is smart, almost good writing and also consistent with the absolute importance of Alice.
Yes, the strategic changes to make the puzzle fit feel forced (Let’s not act like we don’t know The Red Queen always had a British accent while Alice didn’t), but this being Resident Evil and considering the satisfactory closure, this was a minor fault.
4) Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
There is a moment in Apocalypse in which Alice is surrounded by Umbrella soldiers. With her hands up, Alice is forced to drop her weapon. What follows is worthy of a meme from the Saturday Night Live “Mmm Whatcha say” sketch. The gun falls slowly. Suddenly and magically, Alice appears lying on the floor, catching the gun and shooting the three soldiers. The scene is so idiotic, absurd and wonderful, that it’s impossible not to fall in love.
Apocalypse is the second installment of Resident Evil, and the first one to openly accept the influence of the original video game. Not only the characters of Jill Valentine, Carlos Oliveira, and the monster Nemesis appear directly pulled from a PlayStation One, but the whole story takes place in Raccoon City, thus moving away from the cold-futuristic-clinical environment of the first movie.
Apocalypse also had a deluxe cast, with names like Jared Harris, Thomas Kretschmann, and Iain Glen. Yes, Harris is terribly wasted, but his presence validates the movie in an incredible way.
The main merit of Apocalypse is to have accepted its status as a dumb, fun action movie, unleashing several stunts that are equally absurd, badass and hilarious. Unfortunately, its story is so forgettable and timid that it’s impossible to give it a more privileged place on this list.
3) Resident Evil (2002)
This is the original. The first one. The one that started all this.
Resident Evil took the legendary video game IP and gave it its own cinematic personality using the beauty and muscular presence of Milla Jovovich, and a futuristic, clinical and lethal atmosphere. And it did it while also being a box office hit. That’s impressive.
But not only that. Just as mainstream, affordable clothing comes from a distillation of the high-fashion, Resident Evil is an edible remix of cult films like Cube, The Andromeda Strain or 2001: A Space Odyssey. And yes, it’s time we start appreciating that.
With a cast full of talented blockbuster actors playing basic and hostile characters impossible to love, Resident Evil falters a lot in the emotional aspect, essential to creating classics.
Its CGI and deaths creativity hasn’t aged very well either. But even with that, there are still emblematic scenes like the laser grid trap and the fight between Alice and the zombie dogs.
And then there is the soundtrack. The main theme (incredibly ignored in the subsequent installments, without any logical reason) created by Marilyn Manson and Marco Beltrami is still well alive in our memories. Its selection of songs led by bands like Slipknot, Nine Inch Nails, Apollo 440 and Fear Factory generated a glorious and nostalgic Nu-metal vibe that will forever anchor it to our hearts.
Resident Evil is a small gem that although not yet fully committed to its madness, is now a perfect aesthetic time capsule, immortalizing also one of the most important milestones in the video game world.
After all, this is James Cameron’s biggest guilty pleasure for a reason.
2) Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
After the success of Afterlife (at that time the highest-grossing entry of the series), Anderson wanted to take advantage of the momentum by continuing to squeeze the shameless tone and the video game aesthetics for this, the fifth (and penultimate) movie of the series.
Anderson faced a big problem: the iconic Redfield siblings (Ali Larter and Wentworth Miller), fundamental in the Afterlife plot, weren’t coming back. His solution? to distract the viewer with the inclusion of fan-favorite characters Leon S. Kennedy and Ada Wong and the unexpected return of Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) and Carlos (Oded Fehr).
Retribution also does something very clever: it takes advantage of the narrative trope of the magic-science with an unlimited budget of Umbrella to create a playground of city simulations that works perfectly as a video game full of different stages, mini-bosses and bosses. This is how our heroes make their way among various creatures in “Moscow”, “Tokyo” and “New York”, among others.
Retribution has two departments in which greatly exceeds the other films: First, the highest quality in the fight choreographies are remarkable. Jovovich and the stunt doubles team do a wonderful job, especially in the first act. Secondly, this is the best visually achieved movie of the entire series. The colors stand out as an Ultra HD TV commercial and the contrasts are simply beautiful.
In addition, its epic cliffhanger was so glorious and ambitious, that it ended up dooming its sequel when it couldn’t deliver the goods.
What's Your Favorite Resident Evil Movie?
1) Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Afterlife is one of those rare cases in which, after a lot of movies, a franchise finally makes a genuine sincere exercise and fully accepts itself. In the case of the fourth Resident Evil movie, that meant strategically jumping the shark.
The return of director Anderson confirmed this ball-to-the-walls spirit. This is easily the most absurd, unreal and plot-hole-riddled script of the six, but it’s also undoubtedly the most entertaining, fun and all-inclusive entry.
Afterlife doesn’t try to hide its blatant strategy to collect the dividends of the recent success of the video game Resident Evil 5, forcing monsters and character designs into the script, without any explanation or logic. No, there’s no reason for a three-meter giant disguised as an African executioner with a giant ax/hammer to be in the middle of Los Angeles, but who cares? After four films, it’s evident that the saga fanbase wasn’t here to witness wonderful dialogues, deep social commentaries or extensive character development.
One of the looting mechanics of Resident Evil 5 video game are coins that the zombies release when you kill them. In Afterlife, Alice uses coins as ammunition for her shotguns, thus achieving the effect of a bloody rain money coming out of the enemies’ exploded heads. The resource is so corny, cute and bloody, that it’s impossible not to love Paul W.S. Anderson’s wink to the gamers.
Quite simply, with Afterlife, Paul W.S. Anderson left the wrong pretenses behind and focused on doing the dumb, beautifully-shot-in-3D-popcorn movie that we really wanted at this point, which makes this the best Resident Evil movie for us.
We hope you enjoyed us ranking resident evil movies.