Let's get tactical marines, as we run through the Alien movies in order, both chronological and release.
As we eagerly await Noah Hawley’s Alien TV series for Hulu, the Xenomorph lurks on streaming, where you can watch the entire franchise if you don’t have physical copies at hand. If you are a newcomer and need some guidance, or simply want a quick refresher, here’s our list of all the Alien movies in chronological order, including the two Alien vs. Predator flicks.
The Alien movie franchise has evolved and expanded over the years in unexpected ways, already packing six “solo” installments (five if you don’t count Prometheus) and two Alien vs. Predator crossover entries in which the fearsome Xenomorphs faced the most famous spacefaring hunters of all time. On top of that, video games and comic books have been keeping the IP alive by doing their own thing, often putting out stories which are more interesting and fitting than the later movies.
Unlike the Predator timeline, the Alien franchise is a mess if you want to unify all entries, as some events and pieces of the mythos contradict each other in big ways. However, what it lacks in cohesiveness, it makes up for in personality – each filmmaker’s stamp is all over these movies. We’re also leaving out whatever video games and comics had to say, or else this article would be twice as long and dense.
If the Alien vs. Predator talk (and potential rewatches) you’ll find below gets you in the mood for more Xenomorph-driven horror, be sure to check out our list of the Alien movies, ranked. You can find where to watch the movies below, or in our Alien streaming guide too. And if you’re looking for a critical take on each Predator installment, head over to our the the Predator movies, ranked too.
There are no spoilers in this list beyond the basic premise of each movie and some curiosities and references, but if you want to go in as blind as possible, stick to the bullet list below.
Alien movies in chronological order
- Alien vs. Predator
- Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
- Alien: Covenant
- Alien 3
- Alien: Resurrection
1. Alien vs. Predator
- Release date: August 13, 2004
- Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen
After a failed AvP project which was developed in the 90s, Shane Salerno’s script set the action in (back then) present day: 2004. An expedition led by Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) wants to investigate a massive heat signal under the ice on Bouvetøya, an island off the coast of Antarctica. What comes afterwards is a chaotic battle between long-dormant Xenomorphs and three Predator hunters, with humans caught in the middle.
As the first Alien vs. Predator crossover movie, AvP tries really hard to connect both franchises, especially with the inclusion of Aliens veteran Lance Henriksen as the founder of Weyland Industries (which later becomes Weyland-Yutani after a merger). However, it put the origins of the Xenomorphs – as presented by Alien (1979) – into question, and Ridley Scott’s prequel movies later trashed the entire idea of Xenos existing this early in the timeline. Furthermore, a major flashback set in the early days of human civilization shows that both species have been going at it for an awfully long time.
2. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
- Release date: December 25, 2007
- Cast: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz
20th Century Fox’s (now Studios) second go at AvP was met with abysmal reviews and a cold shoulder from most fans, although it delivered enough unrestrained nastiness and refreshing in-universe concepts to get diehard fans talking. AvP: Requiem is set in 2004 too, starting right after the previous movie cuts to black. There are notable differences between the theatrical cut and the extended one (which is the way to go), but the main events remain unchanged in the latter.
This movie keeps pushing the idea of everything in both franchises happening in one big timeline, and ends up tying Yutani Corp’s huge space travel advancements we see in the Alien movies to Predator tech. This ain’t canon anymore for the Alien franchise, but as mentioned before, the AvP movies have been embraced by the Predator timeline. As bad as the movie is, the Yutani nod was a cool note to end on.
- Release date: June 1, 2012
- Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron
The first of the Alien prequels by original director Ridley Scott starts in 2089 (prologue aside), with archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discovering an ancient star map on Earth that sends them – backed by the Weyland Corporation – to the distant moon LV-223, where they arrive in December 2093.
While Xenomorphs as we know them don’t show up in this movie, we learned tons about their makers – referred to as Engineers – and their connection to humankind. The sci-fi rules of all the chaos and horror that ensue are confusing to say the least, but Scott and his team made one thing clear: the classic Xenomorph didn’t exist at this point, instantly vaporizing both AvP movies out of the timeline.
In a hilarious move, the upcoming TV series, which Scott is producing and actively working on, appears to be playing the same card and trashing his take on the Xenos’ origin, as it will take place on Earth “in the near future.” Continuity? They don’t know her.
4. Alien: Covenant
- Release date: May 12, 2017
- Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup
Once again, the second Alien prequel kicks off with a distant prologue which teases future events and discoveries. The story itself takes place in the year 2104, 11 years after the Prometheus expedition went missing. The colonization ship Covenant is en route to the planet Origae-6, but a mysterious transmission of a human voice makes the crew look for answers in a nearby planet with Earth-like characteristics.
While Ridley Scott still showed more interest in everything that wasn’t the actual Xenomorph, there’s plenty of classic Alien goodness in Covenant, finally giving the nightmarish creatures a clear origin which, as mentioned before, doesn’t vibe with the AvP flicks. Sadly, the third movie of the trilogy will probably never happen following a disappointing box office haul, and Covenant’s ending is anything but close to leading into the crashed Engineer ship found in the original Alien.
- Release date: May 25, 1979
- Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
The events of the original horror masterpiece take place in 2122, which puts only 18 years between it and Covenant. Of course, this being the movie that started it all, everything in Alien stands on its own. There’s a big mystery, plenty of scares and gore, and little more. The worldbuilding is intriguing but slim, and we learn early on that Weyland-Yutani was actively seeking the strange and lethal Xenomorph.
If we accept Scott’s intent and try to work his Alien prequels into the original canon, we have to assume that, at some point in between Covenant and this movie, the company learned about the existence of the Xenomorph and the Engineers, either through a survivor of whatever happened afterwards or via remote transmission. Also, a group of Engineers from another planet or moon – since the synth David (Michael Fassbender) massacred an entire planet before creating the monster – got their hands on plenty of eggs and then crashed on LV-426. If everyone involved wanted to tie things up nicely, these events would’ve been the backbone of the prequel trilogy’s conclusion. But alas…
- Release date: July 18, 1986
- Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn
57 years after the events of Alien, in 2179, the sole survivor of the Nostromo, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), is rescued in deep space and debriefed by her employers, who seem skeptical about her claims. To make matters worse, LV-426 is now the site of a large terraforming colony. And of course, some poor employees eventually come across the massive derelict ship full of dormant Xenomorph eggs.
Though there are some obvious ellipses happening early on, the entire story plays out during the year 2179, which suggests that Ripley is brought to a Weyland-Yutani station close nearby after she’s rescued, and that LV-426 isn’t too far away either. And it all makes sense, since the Nostromo never got too far from the planetoid in the first movie before Ripley destroyed it and went for a long nap inside the shuttle Narcissus, which just drifted away for more than half a century.
7. Alien 3
- Release date: May 22, 1992
- Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance
Alien 3 begins shortly after Ripley, Newt (Carrie Henn), Hicks (Michael Biehn), and the damaged android Bishop (Lance Henriksen) enter cryonic stasis. In one the darkest movie starts of all time, Ripley crash-lands and finds herself trapped in a claustrophobic prison on Fiorina “Fury” 161, a barren world. Of course, the Xenomorphs had something to do with that, and the nightmare follows her down to the hellish planet.
The entire movie takes place in 2179, which means the post-Aliens nap was extremely short and that everything in David Fincher’s off-beat and smaller threequel happens rather fast. A major question mark that still causes heated debate among fans is the appearance of Bishop’s creator (both played by Lance Henriksen), who doesn’t seem too bothered by some grave injuries he sustains in the climax. Was he the real Michael Weyland or just a more elaborate synth designed to fool her into giving up the Xenomorph?
8. Alien: Resurrection
- Release date: November 12, 1997
- Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman
Alien: Resurrection made the biggest time jump in the franchise, distancing itself from Weyland-Yutani and that entire storyline. It’s set in the year 2381, 202 years after the death of Ellen Ripley and the last known Xenomorph. One would think the franchise would take advantage of the situation to swap Sigourney Weaver’s character for a new lead, but nope – she’s cloned, alongside the embryo of a Xenomorph Queen, using blood samples taken before her death by Jonathan Clemens (Charles Dance).
The entire premise (and development) of Joss Whedon’s script was quite the ride, and French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s sensibilities only made Resurrection even weirder, but it’s nonetheless a fascinating look into a far future of the Alien universe which somehow feels even more depressing and dire than the classic Weyland-Yutani era. If Fede Alvarez’s upcoming standalone movie (opens in new tab) for 20th Century Studios – coming to Hulu – is set after 2381 just to have even more freedom, we wouldn’t be surprised.
Alien movies in release order
- Alien (1979)
- Aliens (1986)
- Alien 3 (1992)
- Alien: Resurrection (1997)
- Alien vs. Predator (2004)
- Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
- Prometheus (2012)
- Alien: Covenant (2017)