With Alien Day upon us, we’re getting a hankering for that unique facehugger flavor that only the best (and even the not-so-great) Alien movies can provide. Whether it is Ridley Scott’s original masterpiece, James Cameron’s epic action movie throwdown, or even David Fincher’s weird nihilist take on the misadventures of Ellen Ripley and the xenomorph, each Alien movie has its own quirks that are worth exploring.
But where can you find them for streaming purposes? Well, we’re here to break that down for you right now!
The original and, some of us would argue, still the best Alien is certainly the scariest. Directed by Ridley Scott at the tailend of the 1970s, it is a product of its time in the best way–when characters were allowed to breathe with understated authenticity and drudgery. Their minimalist dynamics are also the undergirding of a massive vision, one that continued the devaluation of space travel from the glistening cleanness of Star Trek and 2001, or even the scrappy but endearing Star Wars, into something bleak and foreboding. The heroes of Alien are really victims, pawn in a game we’ll never understand. These space truckers are also trapped in their claustrophobic ship which is comprised of an ugly collection of shadows and dark corners.
But it is the monster that is the real masterstroke. Scott’s vision of the universe is a grim uncaring one filled with mysteries better left unsolved. Where did the derelict spacecraft that sent out a supposed distress signal come from? How long was it there? For whom were its eggs intended? And what exactly is the creature they hatch? There is no comforting absolution to any of these queries, only madness and oblivion. The creature in the film designed by H.R. Giger is a psychosexual nightmare with teeth, as is the orifice-filled ship it hails from. Unlike the sequels, this is no bug. I’ts a godlike being of unknowable motivation and indestructible power. It makes short work of the film’s heroes too, at least other than Sigourney Weaver in a career-making turn as Ellen Ripley. Still not the superheroine of later films, Weaver is arguably even better here is the shrewd, quick-thinking, and utterly driven-to-her-limits Ellen Ripley.
The Ian Holm character of Ash is also every bit as fascinating (and disquieting) as the creature that stalks them. Overheated with existential dread, body horror, sexual perversion, and the most famous (and disgusting) dinner scene in science fiction history, Alien is a movie you never forget.
If Alien was a chilling question mark transmitted from the cold, violent, and meaningless void of space, Aliens is its loud, explosive, and infinitely satisfying answer. What are these things? Bugs. Can they be killed? Like cockroaches. Why are they here?! So we can wipe them out, now shut up and grab a pulse rifle!
James Cameron turned a horror story into what is arguably the most satisfying R-rated action movie spectacle ever devised. Part old school war movie with a dirty dozen group of colonial marines, and part pure-badassery, Aliens is a thrill ride that lives up to what Bill Paxton’s Hudson unintentionally promises audiences: “We’re on the express elevator to Hell, going down!”
It’s been over 50 years since the events of Alien, and because of bad luck, Ellen Ripley has been frozen for all of them in cryosleep. Now awoken in a world that’s passed her by–and her daughter has simply passed away–she has nothing but anger and fear for the xenomorph (another Cameron answer) that took everything from her. So when the most vile thing in the universe–a sleazy 1980s middle management yuppie–offers the chance for revenge she takes it, and the movie never looks back. Ripley becomes the action heroine pop culture needed, and the mother that the adorable Newt (Carrie Henn) deserved. She also gets one of the best movie lines in movie history, “Get away from her you, bitch!”
The aliens get uglier and bigger, now with an Alien Queen to boot, but that just means they blow apart real good too. If the franchise had stopped here, it would have been the ultimate happy ending. How’s that for a game over, Hudson?
David Fincher might have abandoned this film, but plenty of fans still swear by it. Either the dumbest or bravest sequel of all time, Alien 3 rather defiantly revoked the happy ending of Aliens and discovered a new nihilistic corner of this universe that made the original movie look like a pleasure cruise. Beginning with the apathetic slaughter of all the likable survivors from the previous film, Alien 3 begins on a downer note and only gets grimmer.
Trapped on a prison planet with Born Again murderers, rapists, and thugs (all confusingly shaved bald, at that), Ripley has little hope for her future, and that’s before she discovers she’s carrying an Alien Queen embryo in her chest to term. Coupled with the fact that another Alien is running around on the ship, this one newly borne from what happens when a facehugger mates with a dog, all that is left is to find grace and meaning in a death and existence that’s been so meaningless. And things are only going to get worse for her before she can have that peace.
The campy 1990s movie of the bunch, Alien: Resurrection still has its growing cult of admirers because it looks so damn good. A kind of steam punk version of a mid-90s Nike commercial, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is every bit as gifted at creating a visual affectation and overwhelming atmosphere, albeit his is one with a much lighter touch. How can it not be with this premise?
Several hundred years after Alien 3 and Ripley’s death, Sigourney Weaver’s heroine is resurrected for another adventure (and paycheck), this time as an actual superhero with powers. See those nutty mad scientists crossed her genetics with a xenomorph, so she’s part xeno herself, and mother to some abomination aboard the ship. Forced to survive in this Jurassic Park context with a colorful band of space pirates who would serve as Joss Whedon’s first draft of Firefly (albeit he has since disowned this movie that he scripted with every almost every awful line in it), clone-Ripley gets to kick even more ass than normal. She also gets in a will-they-or-won’t-they romance with a robot played by Winona Ryder, because… well, French director and the ’90s?!
Alien vs. Predator
So imagine if Aliens and Predators fought? Video game worlds have turned on such ideas. A silly premise that was first broached by comic books in the 1980s, it got an official nod by 20th Century Fox when a xenomorph skull showed up in a Predator’s spaceship in Predator 2. Then this abomination happened. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, it is one of his best movies to date–which means it never rises above mediocre.
It’s a PG-13 romp where Predators and xenomorphs fight in Antarctica, because apparently for centuries humans used to worship Predators as gods, and for sacrifice, they allowed their virgins to be facehugged and give birth to serpents, and… C’mon. It’s Alien vs. Predator. There need be no pretext for its absurdity. Sadly, no one told the filmmakers this, because we spend far too much time with the human meat here.
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
Why would you watch this? No, seriously it’s an honest question. If you feel compelled to see this dumpster fire of a film again, the links are below, but please explain yourself in the comment section too.
The Alien prequel that isn’t really an Alien prequel, Prometheus has its fans and detractors. And it admittedly is quite flawed. The screenplay is particularly Damon Lindelof-y with bad characterizations, tin-eared dialogue, and lazy shifts in motivations for all of the background players. But, personally, we still think the movie has merit.
Flush with ambition and wonder, the most appealing aspect of the movie is while it’s set in the Alien universe, it’s not an Alien movie. Not really. It’s a challenging piece of science fiction about creationism, positing what would happen if we met our creators, and it turns out they didn’t like us? In fact, they hate us? And our reward for even attempting to commune with them is utter destruction?
Ridley Scott returns to the franchise he created over 30 years later and raises these big ideas in the backdrop of the original Alien‘s most enigmatic mystery: who is the Space Jockey tied to the ship and why is he there? The answers have grim implications for the fate of mankind, as well as our origins. And they are achieved in stunning spectacle, the likes of which only Ridley Scott can deliver. He also creates two memorable characters in his leads, the morally ambiguous David (Michael Fassbender), an android with a soft spot for Peter O’Toole movies and the wholesale slaughter of his colleagues, and Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) a walking paradox as a true believer Christian who also seeks scientific explanations for our creation.
It also holds a crackerjack of a nightmare scene that might be the most revolting (and thus best) piece of body horror since the original film–Elizabeth discovers she’s “pregnant” with a parasitic-alien baby. And David is going to force her to carry it to term. She has other ideas, though.
Ridley Scott is clearly having the time of his life now that he’s returned to the Alien universe. Critical and audience response has been…let’s say slightly above average but Scott wants to fill the gaps between Prometheus and the original Alien. And Alien Covenant is where he’s going to start.
Alien Covenant takes place roughly 11 years after the events of Prometheus. A new group of humans are in stasis aboard the colonization ship Covenant, where they are looked after by android Walter (played by Michael Fassbender who also plays andorid David in Prometheus and Covenant). A disaster befalls the ship, killing many of the colonists and “waking up the survivors.” While they assess the damage, the survivors discover a radio transmission from a nearby planet. A group descends down to the planet’s surface and that’s where the real Prometheus sequel goodness begins.
Alien Covenant continues a dubious Alien series distinction of resetting too much of the plot and casts from previous films. Still, it’s a worthy entry into the series and marks the enthusiastic return of the xenomorphs after they were only teased in Prometheus.