More than a few people have called me spacey, so I thus feel a spiritual connection to the extraterrestrial creatures from the Alien and Predator franchises. I daresay we’re kindred spirits in many ways (except for the parts about killing lots of human beings). Therefore, it has always been part of my destiny to rank every film in these series and share my rankings with all of you, my lovely readers. I’ve split the rankings up into sections for the two franchises proper as well as the “Versus” films, and then there’s a combined list at the end. Please enjoy all the camouflaged, chest-bursting fun!

Alien

1. Aliens (1986)

As the legend goes, James Cameron pitched the name for the first sequel by adding a dollar sign on a whiteboard at the end of “Alien.” If that cash is meant to represent all the smiles Aliens has delivered to moviegoers, then that story couldn’t be truer. This is the one where Ripley fully becomes one of the biggest action badass icons of all time. Carrie Henn is a revelation as little Newt. All of the space marines are so satisfyingly fleshed out. All that AND the definitive Paul Reiser performance.

2. Alien: Covenant (2017)

In the early days of Alien, the appeal was the terror of a strange creature lurking around every corner and within every body. Many decades later, the focus became more of a philosophical inquiry into humankind’s folly, the apotheosis of which is Michael Fassbender teaching himself how to play the flute. Often operating on dream logic, Covenant is a journey into the subconscious writ large on a cosmic scale.

3. Alien (1979)

It’s possible that I would like the original Alien a little more if I weren’t already so familiar with it by the time I first watched it in its entirety. Still, despite the lack of any significant shock value to my experience, I can appreciate the economy of Alien‘s storytelling. It barely hints at any mythology or backstory, which extends its potential appeal (though personally I prefer it when the mythology takes over and things get really weird and blown out).

4. Prometheus (2012)

Like the fire-stealing mythological figure it shares its name with, Prometheus at first glance looked like it was done in by its own ambition. This venture into origin story and creation myth was a marked departure from earlier entries, and it didn’t fully click into place for some viewers (including myself) until Covenant came along and clarified where we were headed. If you can get on Prometheus‘ wavelength, it’s a slow and satisfying descent into a point-of-no-return nightmare.

5. Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Shooting a couple hundred years ahead since the last-go-round, Ripley gets cloned and all the new humans and androids in space are getting up to the same old shenanigans as their forerunners. At this point, the infinite loop of self-destructive tendencies becomes fascinating purely for its own dreadfully hubristic endlessness. Resurrection is most satisfying on a design level, with an Alien Queen splayed out to epic proportions. There’s always plenty of room for visual imagination in this franchise.

6. Alien³ (1992)

The tortured backstory behind David Fincher’s feature directorial debut suggests that if things had gone more smoothly, we could have had another masterpiece, or at least something fascinatingly unique. It starts off compellingly enough when Ripley finds herself crash landing in a facility housing men with double Y chromosomes who have been cast away by proper society. But by the second half of Alien³, it’s just a bunch of people running around in circles with nowhere to go.

Predator

1. Predator (1987)

What could have easily been a boringly invincible foe is given the perfect 80s action movie adversary in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his powers. With Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura rounding out the crew, Predator is one of the most satisfyingly muscular movies of all time. Furthermore, our introduction to the title creature from an often subjective vantage point allows for a sort of fictional anthropology (or whatever the extraterrestrial version of anthropology is).

2. Predators (2010)

Predators is the only sequel that really takes the series in a unique direction, and it’s yet to fully get its due for that. A motley crew of soldiers and criminals find themselves dropped into unfamiliar terrain. They eventually deduce that they have been captured and placed onto a foreign planet used by the Predators in a Most Dangerous Game-style scenario. Topher Grace shines as a doctor with a twisted secret.

3. Predator 2 (1990)

The Predators have arrived in Los Angeles in the midst of a turf war between a couple of drug cartels on one of the hottest days of the year. Considering the setting, the carnage that ensues is actually fairly minimal. Predator 2 is mostly worth it for Danny Glover sweating his way to earning the respect of the Predators. And of course it must be mentioned that Bill Paxton has the distinction of delivering mighty fine supporting performances in both of the first Alien and Predator sequels.

4. The Predator (2018)

A many-years-later follow-up that never really establishes a clear-enough point of view to justify its existence. The Predator has energy and ideas to spare, but it’s undone by inconsistency and a lack of focus. At least Jacob Tremblay is around to work his usual magic.

AvP

1. Alien vs. Predator (2004)

Alien vs. Predator really makes you appreciate the Predators’ place in the intergalactic ecosystem. If they weren’t there to do their hunting business, we would all be unwitting xenomorph hosts within a matter of weeks! This ultimate exercise in fan service-generated synergy was always mostly going to be an excuse for indulgent carnage, but it also had the good sense to come up with a thought-out (if not necessarily profound) backstory. Bottom line: any movie that ends with Sanaa Lathan being recognized as an honorary Predator has my attention.

2. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

An absolutely formless, personality-devoid mess. The Predators and the Xenomorphs continue their fight, while a bunch of characters who don’t even register as the thinnest sketches of human beings get stuck in the way. The whole thing looks like it’s been caked in sludge. Nowhere near unusual enough to derive any cheap pleasures out of, Requiem is just a thorough exercise in keeping the wheels turning and then not paying any attention to how they’re turning.

Combined

1. Aliens
2. Alien: Covenant
3. Alien
4. Predator
5. Prometheus
6. Predators
7. Predator 2
8. Alien: Resurrection
9. Alien vs. Predator
10. Alien³
11. The Predator
12. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem