Of the myriad movie monsters I love, The Xenomorph reigns supreme. When it comes to body horror, for me nothing beats the visceral energy and gross-out of a good old chestburster scene.
So it's not surprising that Hollywood has fed our collective appetite for HR Geiger's extraterrestrial creations, with seven big-screen outings already secreted under their slimy belts.
But which Alien movie is king? (or should that be queen?) Here's all the Alien movies ranked, as I see it:
7) Alien vs. Predator
Does this one even count?
Well, it has Aliens in it, so it's going on the list. In last place.
It's a sign of how much I love aliens, facehuggers et al, that even the lowest ranking movie here is still one I can watch and kind of enjoy. Kind of.
Look, it's not a proper Alien film is it? But there are some pretty cool scenes from a visual standpoint. The biggest crime here is how much this film messes with the canon, to the point that you should probably just watch it without thinking too much about how it fits with (or contradicts) the wider franchise.
It's basically: Look! An alien punching a predator! Or the other way around!
And then of course one of the Predators makes friends with the human survivor at the end or something?... NEXT!
6) Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
OK, let's get the other AVP movie out of the way so we can talk about the real Alien movies. Most people probably rate the first film above its sequel, but Requiem is the best of the (admittedly not very good) bunch for me; for the sole reason that it puts us in a jungle(ish) setting for the predator scenes and dark tunnels for the alien bits. And a lot of those scenes use practical creature effects, with sparing CGI moments. So it actually does a pretty good job of evoking the original movies in that way, which was cool in the cinema especially.
Unfortunately it then spectacularly nosedives off a cliff by wrapping all that cool stuff around a cringeworthy teens-in-peril tale that's almost Scooby-Doo-like, but with gore. And it plays even more fast and loose with the Alien canon. Must try harder.
OK, so Prometheus is in brackets above because it's not an Alien movie. There's no Xenomorphs in it, so it doesn't count; even if it it is admittedly set in the same universe.
Sorry Ridley, disqualified.
But yeah, this is where Prometheus would be on the list if it WERE an Alien movie. Which is isn't.
5) Alien Covenant
This one, however, I will accept. It even has 'Alien' in the title and everything.
While not nearly as bad as the negative buzz it got on release, it's equally nowhere near as good as it could have been.
The characters are mostly pretty cool (even if they do stupid stuff). I thought Kenny Powers in particular made a great not-quite-colonial-marine. There are some genuinely exciting scenes, interesting special effects and a lot that appeals to the sci-fi nerd in me.
But it's like Ridley's trying to be too clever for his own good somehow. Like he's giving us some Alien goodness to shut us up, but by God he's gonna make us watch the movie he actually wanted to make along the way. And there's that weird flute bit with the android twins. Sorry, 'artificial person' twins.
4) Alien 3
Controversially Alien 3 lands here at number four, even though we haven't come to Resurrection yet.
But this is the first 'proper' Alien movie on the list, let's be honest. For all its jaw-dripping, resin secreting, facehugging, chestburtsing nastiness, the Xenomorph is really only half of a double act.
The other half, of course, being one Ellen Ripley.
Leaning back towards the original, with a single Xenomorph stalking an unfortunate group of ill-equipped prisoners, there are some great performances here. It may be my least favourite Ripley movie, but this is still a good film; and -controversy again- I actually prefer the original theatrical release to the director's cut.
Dog alien > Cow alien.
Ripley plummeting to her death as she births an Alien is a pretty cool way to end the movie too. And of course she was never seen again. Speaking of which...
3) Alien: Resurrection
Criminally underrated, there's a great cast here (Winona Ryder aside), and a cool setup involving our band of anti-heroes trapped in a facility with 12 bred-for-some-sinister-purpose Xenomorphs hunting them down.
Written by one Joss Whedon, this movie took the amazing graphic novel Alien: Stronghold, removed the giant yellow killer robot named Dean (a shame) and then crowbarred in a Ripley clone, 'cos you know, you gotta have Ripley, right?
To be fair, while (sort of) bringing her back might sound a bad idea on paper, Sigourney is actually pretty great as the part human, part alien version of Ripley; the baddest-ass Ripley of all the Ripleys.
Plus Ron Perlman shoots a spider, and who doesn't love that underwater sequence?
And so to the monster which birthed them all. Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror masterpiece is leagues better than everything that we've covered so far.
The alien bursting its way through John Hurt's chest is among the greatest moments in cinema history, and we're introduced to one of the most kickass characters ever to grace a screen in Ripley. Geiger's Xenomorph designs are so squirm-inducing, and the atmosphere is cranked up to 11 in this one. Not to mention this is the first time we see what this amazing sci-fi universe looks like, with its bulky spaceships and milk-blooded androids.
As with most franchises that go on to have many sequels, the first chapter is incredibly strong. This was a film so good, any sequel was going to be a let down. Then James Cameron said "hold my beer"...
All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed?
Yes, inevitably topping this list is the best Alien movie and probably the greatest movie ever made: Aliens.
Telling the story of one Private William Hudson and his heroic stand against hordes of otherworldly monsters (plus other characters also doing things), James Cameron's Aliens channels the claustrophobic horror of its predecessor into what is essentially a Vietnam movie in space.
The movie expands upon the lore in a seamless way, introducing us to the giant egg-laying Queen alien (I love the line where Bishop tells Ripley -and the audience- "It must be something we haven't seen yet.")
The characters are simply iconic: from the cigar-chomping, no-nonsense Apone, to the greasy, weasly company man Burke, to the force of nature that is Vasquez, (doing the impossible by actually out-toughing Ripley in an Alien film); and of course Hudson, who is without doubt my favourite movie character of all time. So much so that I use many of his lines all the time in my daily life.
And yes, it goes without saying that I'm talking about the special edition when I talk about Aliens, with all its sentry gun goodness, but if I were ranking the original cinematic cut separately on this list, it would still very easily take second place.
So there you have it. The Alien movies ranked all the way from lukewarm to white hot. And when it comes to movies, they don't get any hotter than Aliens.