Ridley Scott's epic Alien franchise is multiplying almost as quickly as the Xenomorph in the movies. Almost 40 years after the original film, Alien, was released in theaters, Scott is gearing up to release the sixth official film in the franchise Alien: Covenant. However, as with other massive franchises, the timeline in the Alien narrative has shifted a bit with time, and the ever expanding mythology of the franchise means that the order you should see the Alien movies in doesn't necessarily correlate to the order of their release.
The Alien franchise is essentially made up of two separate series — the original films and the prequels. To star at the beginning of the story, one actually has to start with the most recent Alien release, Prometheus, before working their way up to the original Alien. Unfortunately, this means that if you want to start fresh at the beginning, you're going to have to wait two long movies until you get to the introduction of Ripley, Sigourney Weaver's iconic female hero. If you're hesitant to get into the Alien franchise, I suggest ditching the timeline and starting with Alien. Fall in love with Ripley and her world, and then you can work your way back to the beginning. Luckily, Alien movies tend to follow a formula, and the most important part of said formula is having a strong, female protagonist. So, don't worry, starting from the beginning will still bring you kick ass feminist moments and a whole lot of fun.
1. Prometheus (2012)
Prometheus takes place in 2091-2094 and kicks off the story with a team of scientists, astronauts, and explorers tracing the origin of life on Earth. But when the crew of Prometheus lands on a moon, chasing after a signal, they don't find Gods, they find creepy, parasitic aliens.
2. Alien: Covenant Prologue — The Crossing
The Crossing is a short prologue released online before Alien: Covenant. It gives viewers a glimpse into what happened to Elizabeth Shaw and David after Prometheus.
3. Alien: Covenant Prologue — The Last Supper
The Last Supper is another teaser prologue to Alien: Covenant. It's not necessarily a must-see, and the entire plot is basically just a reference to a scene from Alien, so seeing it before the original film might be a bit confusing. However, it does provide audiences with a feel for the dynamics at play in Alien: Covenant.
4. Alien: Covenant (2017)
It's now 2103 in Alien: Covenant, when a new crew is sent to colonize a distant planet. They think they're finding a safe haven for humans, but really they're just going down the same doomed path of the Prometheus crew.
5. Alien (1979)
The original Alien film takes place in 2122, when a merchant ship intercepts a distress call and... you guessed it, encounters the alien species that plagued Prometheus and Covenant.
6. Aliens (1986)
Aliens takes place 50 years later, in 2179, after the moon has been colonized. However, when Earth loses contact with the new colony, a preserved Ripley is woken up and sent to battle the alien once again.
7. Alien 3 (1992)
As if she hasn't been through enough already, in Alien 3, Ripley, fresh off her fight from Aliens, crash-lands in a prison. And she didn't come alone.
8. Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Alien: Resurrection, the last film in the original series, takes place much later, in 2379. 200 years after the events of Alien 3, Ripley's clone must pick up her likeness' legacy. (Bonus female heroine played by Winona Ryder!)
For the purposes of sanity, I won't go into the Alien vs. Predator movies and their place in the timeline, which is pretty murky. Since those movies have less to do with the Alien mythology, they don't really need to fit into the Alien franchise. As of now, Alien: Resurrection is where the Alien story ends, but that could change at any moment. A few years ago, director Neill Blomkamp publicly announced that he was working on a possible Alien 5, a film that would bring Weaver and Ripley back to the franchise. The project seems to have died in development, but that doesn't mean someone else won't come along to pick it back up again. One thing's for sure: we haven't seen the last of Alien.