This year marks the 40th anniversary of Alien – director Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror. The film has not only stood the test of time as one of the most iconic movies of the 1970s, but is also responsible for kick-starting a hugely successful franchise.

From that initial entry, Alien has developed into a fairly extensive series, incorporating games, comics, toys, audio dramas and more. But if you just want to watch the Alien movies, where do you start? 

Below is a guide to the best order to watch the Alien films. From the early entries, to the recent Alien movies, this guide covers the spinoffs, the prequels and everything in between.

Let’s get started.

The Ripley order 

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

The first viewing order is for the original collection of movies, which I’m referring to as the ‘Ripley order’. These films centre around the character of Ellen Ripley, as played by Sigourney Weaver, and tell of her continual encounters with the deadly Xenomorphs (aka the ‘Aliens’ of this film series).

The viewing order is as follows:

  • Alien (1979)
  • Aliens (1986)
  • Alien 3 (1992)
  • Alien: Resurrection (1997)

If you watch this order you will see Ripley’s first and last encounter with the Xenomorphs. The films are directed by Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

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The Ripley order – Special Editions

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

The four Ripley movies have been released and re-released countless times over the years, including as a mixture of Director’s Cuts and Special Editions. These ‘tweaked’ editions include addition material which alter parts of each movie.

In some cases, the material is minor and is simply a few scenes here and there which were cut from the theatrical releases. In other cases, the material is a bit more important and adds to or changes elements of the story.

For Alien: Resurrection, the additional material provides an alternate opening and ending. While for Alien 3, around 30 minutes of footage is incorporated into the movie, which makes significant changes to the story.

If you choose to watch the Special Editions, the viewing order is as follows:

  • Alien (1979) – Director’s Cut
  • Aliens (1986) – Special Edition
  • Alien 3 (1992) – Special Edition
  • Alien: Resurrection (1997) – Special Edition

While I’m on the subject of the Special Editions, let me highlight the Alien Quadrilogy DVD boxset, which was originally released in 2003. The Alien Quadrilogy DVD boxset is available to buy from Amazon and includes both the theatrical editions as well as the Special Editions.

I bought this boxset when it first hit shelves and although I’ve upgraded almost all my DVDs to Blu-ray or digital in recent years, I refuse to part with this one. The collection includes an exhaustive array of extras (director’s commentaries, featurettes, and documentaries) and in my mind is everything I need from the Alien collection.

The fact this DVD boxset is still available after all these years tells you something about the quality. Other Alien collections are available, but this remains the one for me.

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The AVP order

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

Seven years after the release of Alien: Resurrection, 20th Century Fox decided to continue the Alien franchise but take it in a new direction. This new direction was to cross the series with another popular sci-fi/horror series – Predator.

The idea of a crossover was first introduced in comics, and was (sort of) teased in the 1990 film, Predator 2. With fans interested to see what would happen when two big franchises come together, the Alien Vs Predator movies were born.

To date, two movies have been produced under the ‘AVP’ banner and both are set before the events of the original Alien Quadrilogy. If you want to incorporate these films into your watch list, then the viewing order is as follows:

  • Alien Vs. Predator (2004)
  • Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
  • Alien (1979)
  • Aliens (1986)
  • Alien 3 (1992)
  • Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Are the AVP movies worth your time?

The AVP films have their fans and they also have their detractors, so you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

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The Predator order

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

Keeping with the subject of the shared Alien and Predator universe, if you want the full experience then you will need to incorporate all of the Predator films into your list too. To date, there are four Predator movies, running from 1987 through to 2018.

If you opt for the Predator order then you need to watch the movies as follows:

  • Predator (1987)
  • Predator 2 (1990)
  • Alien Vs. Predator (2004)
  • Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
  • Predators (2010)
  • The Predator (2018)
  • Alien (1979)
  • Aliens (1986)
  • Alien 3 (1992)
  • Alien: Resurrection (1997)

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The Prometheus order

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

Not everyone was a fan of the AVP movies, including Alien director Ridley Scott. So, when he was given the opportunity to revisit the Alien Universe in 2012 with the movie, Prometheus, he opted to ignore the AVP timeline completely.

While some might think that all of the Alien movies are connected, Prometheus and its follow-up, Alien: Covenant contain elements which contradict what is established in the AVP films. As such, these films begin a new timeline which connect back to the original series.

The Prometheus timeline introduces a number of new characters, including David, as played by Michael Fassbender. David is an android who appears n both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.

The viewing order this time around is:

  • Prometheus (2012)
  • Alien: Covenant (2017)
  • Alien (1979)
  • Aliens (1986)
  • Alien 3 (1992)
  • Alien: Resurrection (1997)

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Production order

Image: ©20th Century Fox/Disney

And finally, should you simply want to watch all of the Alien (and Predator) movies in the order they were released, then this is the one for you:

  • Alien (1979)
  • Aliens (1986)
  • Predator (1987)
  • Predator 2 (1990)
  • Alien 3 (1992)
  • Alien: Resurrection (1997)
  • Alien Vs Predator (2004)
  • Alien Vs Predator: Requiem (2007)
  • Predators (2010)
  • Prometheus (2012)
  • Alien: Covenant (2017)
  • The Predator (2018)

If you watch the films in this order, the storyline will zip around the timeline(s), but will give you all of the movies as they were released. And now you know.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Alien has birthed a wealth of material, so if you’re a fan of the movies and you want to go even further then you should check out the many comics, games or shorts that have been produced over the years. There are also a lot of toys and collectables for the Alien series, including a popular range of figures from NECA.

The above figures – Ellen Ripley and the Scorpion Alien – are just two examples of the figures that have been produced by NECA. These figures – which are available on Amazon – are just a drop in the ocean when it comes to the pieces that have been produced by the toy manufacturer.

So, tell me about your love for Alien.

Are you a fan of the franchise or is it only certain entries that you are interested in? Do you like the AVP films or is it only the Alien Quadrilogy you care about?

Whatever your thoughts and feelings, sound off in the comments section and share your interest in this long-running series.

Until next time, “Game over, man.”

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