A Handy Guide to the Alien Movies



Ripley fans, rejoice! Alien (and its sequels) have arrived. We know sci-fi isn’t for everyone, but great movies are, so if you’re new to the horror/sci-fi franchise this streaming guide will break down the what and why to watch. And for the skeptics, we’ll help assess each movie’s believability to prepare you before pressing play. (Believability is based on a totally unscientific scale of Neil deGrasse Tyson, based on his commitment to precision and realism. Since Neil is busy analyzing the universe, the units of measure are educated guesses.)

  1. 1

    Alien: Director's Cut (1979)

    Directed by: Ridley Scott

    Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt.

    The drift: When a space crew answers a distress call, they’re lured into the unpredictable wrath of a sinister creature dwelling on a mysterious planet.

    Believability: 4 out of 5 Neil deGrasse Tysons for assuming space foreigners would be so menacing right out of the gate.

    Editor’s evaluation: 👽👽👽👽👽

    Watch because: It’s an inventive, eerie thriller that cemented Ridley Scott as a sure-thing among the film school up-and-comers of the time (i.e. Scorsese, De Palma). It’s also among the first horror franchises to put a strong female lead front and center without sexualizing her.

    Stream Alien: Directors Cut

  1. 2

    Aliens (1986)

    Directed by: James Cameron

    Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Bill Paxton.

    The drift: Decades after the first attack, Ripley is woken from a deep sleep to help humans fight the alien race that has since colonized.

    Believability: 4 out of 5 Neil deGrasse Tysons. Hypersleep isn’t a thing. Yet.

    Editor’s evaluation: 👽👽👽👽

    Watch because: Coming off the phenomenon that was The Terminator, Cameron was feeling his post-apocalyptic oats with this Alien sequel. It’s a fun directorial precursor to a lot of the artistic choices he used five years later in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

    Stream Aliens

  1. 3

    Alien 3 (1992)

    Directed by: David Fincher

    Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance.

    The drift: Ripley crash lands on a moon-turned-maximum-security-prison where a series of sinister events begin to unfold after it’s discovered she’s brought with her an unwanted presence.

    Believability: 3 out of 5 Neil deGrasse Tysons. Moon prison sounds more like a party than punishment.

    Editor’s evaluation: 👽👽👽👽

    Watch because: It’s David Fincher’s very first feature. Before he had Brad Pitt asking “What’s in the box?” in Se7en, Fincher shot Alien 3 and gave the franchise a suspenseful sequel.

    Stream Alien 3

  1. 4

    Alien Resurrection (1997)

    Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

    Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder

    The drift: Centuries into the future, Ripley is revived as a part-human, part-alien warrior tasked with keeping the alien race from reaching Earth.

    Believability: 1 out of 5 Neil deGrasse Tysons. Despite Sigourney’s undeniable acting chops, portraying a convincing half-human/half-alien hybrid is tough.

    Editor’s evaluation: 👽👽

    Watch because: Jeunet, the director of modern classic Amélie (yes, the doe-eyed crème brûlée eater), offered a shift in style that focused more on the characters than the war between man and beast. This movie hasn’t aged quite as well as its predecessors, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

    Stream Alien: Resurrection

  1. 5

    Alien: Covenant (2017)

    Directed by: Ridley Scott

    Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride.

    The drift: Determined to start over on a new planet, a crew encounters a planet much like Earth. It turns out it’s so similar, it even has a monster who’s ready to wreak havoc.

    Believability: 4 out of 5 Neil deGrasse Tysons. It’s hard to believe Michael Fassbender wouldn’t be able to bridge intergalactic alliances, especially with his Prometheus experience.

    Editor’s evaluation: 👽👽👽

    Watch because: Ridley Scott returned to the franchise he initially directed and there are plenty of references to the original. Also, Fassbender looks pretty snazzy in his space get-up.