Franchises are the lifeblood of Hollywood. They fuel the box office throughout most of the year, and they create fans for life. Most travel down the PG-13 road, to get into the wallets of as many people as possible. The one shining exception against the PG-13 rating is the Alien franchise. The Ridley Scott birthed R-Rated Sci-Fi has been drawing fans in for decades. But exactly how many films make up the Alien franchise? Are there four? Are there eleven? Or is the answer more complicated, somewhere vaguely in between?
One way to classify the franchise is simple. How many movies does the H.R. Giger designed monster appear? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is one. While H.R. Giger’s work inspired the later films, he only directly contributed to Ridley Scott’s original masterpiece. James Cameron opted to design the Alien Queen himself for the sequel, and H.R. Giger is only given a ‘created by’ credit. Although Cameron apologized for not bringing Giger on, the damage had been done. This caused some changes to the creature, the biggest change being the ridges along the Aliens skulls.
But then again, Sigourney Weaver, the second star of the franchise only to the titular monster itself, starred in four films, not one. No matter how hard people try to forget the later two. So does her presence opposite the monster mean it is an Alien film? If so, that brings the total to four.
Yet the Alien creature has been featured in other films as well. The first film version of an Alien crossover happened in the oft forgotten, but vastly superior, Predator 2. In the climax of the 1990 film, during a battle in the heart of a Predator mothership, Danny “I’m too old for this shit” Glover stumbles upon a Predator trophy case. Hanging among the trophies is the unmistakable Alien skull, tying the two franchises together from then on out. So does that make the total five? Well the characters Predator 2 specifically mention the first film, and the events of the first film are mentioned in I from 2012. The direct mentions of these events bring the entire Predator series into the world of Alien. And brings our total film count up to seven.
Well, what about actual cross overs instead of the possibly canon-adjacent Predator films? 2004 saw the release of Alien VS Predator, and then in 2007 there was a direct sequel to that film, Alien VS Predator: Requiem. Both films feature characters that are part of legacy Alien lore, with AVP starring Lance Henriksen as Weyland. The sequel features the other half of the ominous “Company” with Fancoise Yip playing Ms. Yutani. The second Alien VS Predator draws it’s creature design from the late-90’s era PC game and it’s excellent sequel, inspiring the big bad in the film, the PredAlien. This occurs when a facehugger impregnates a Predator instead of a human, and creates quite the force to be reckoned with. So now we are at nine films and almost 1000 minutes of run time.
The tenth film is the often mocked, but still brilliant, Prometheus, featuring yet another Weyland in the form of a prosthetically aged Guy Pearce seeking immortality. The entire premise of the film lies in trying to finding the Engineers. In the original Alien, the Nostromo is stopped by a distress call from an Engineer, eventually leading the crew to discover the abandoned starship, and set the entire Alien franchise in motion. A mid-credits scene shows the birth of an early Alien, exploding out of the chest of a fallen Engineer. Prometheus can easily be viewed as a distant prequel of Alien.
Now what if I told you that another Ridley Scott classic took place in the same universe. Would it surprise you that the Tyrell Corporation from Blade Runner was once direct competition for Weyland-Yutani? Buried in the special features of the Blu-ray for Prometheus, the screen below can be found.
Now I know it isn’t exactly a smoking gun, as it doesn’t mention the Tyrell Corporation directly, but the language used and the parallels it draws to Blade Runner are painfully obvious. It would also make sense that there would be an arms race of sorts for artificial people, with Tyrell going the biological route and Weyland pursuing mechanics. Don’t expect this to ever be stated out right though, Blade Runner is a Warner Brothers property and Alien is owned by 20th Century Fox. Despite that technicality, between all of these connections, we now have a grand total of eleven films.
That means the Alien franchise has more films than Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.
So that brings us back to our original question: How many films are in the Alien Franchise? The answer: It doesn’t matter. Canon sucks and is ultimately boring. There are so many stories to be told in this universe that one should not be locked into the stories produced by Hollywood Execs. Canon exists so nerds can argue amongst themselves for the title “Nerdiest-nerd-to-ever-nerd”. That shouldn’t be a reason to like something. Being invested in a franchise isn’t a right that you get based on your media consumption level.
Tonight, the Alamo Drafthouse and Fox are only showing two films, Alien and Aliens. When discussing the Alien franchise, some fans only see those two films in their heads, banishing all others to the darkest corners of their mind. Others race forward to embrace the new chapters the Ridley Scott is writing in Prometheus and its upcoming sequels. Some were exposed by mid 00’s B-movies where monstrous creatures pummeled each other and humans just got in the way. Any child of the 90’s still shudders at the sight of the weird Alien-Human hybrid of Alien Resurrection. For me Alien will always be tied to Predator because of the fantastic first arc from the Dark Horse Comics series. Some are gamers who were drawn to the excellent Alien: Isolation. Close friends cheer on anything Ridley Scott has touched, and begrudgingly acknowledge James Cameron’s contributions.
LV-426 day is meant to be a celebration of the franchise we all know and love, and I promise there will be people being exposed to Alien and Aliens for the first time on Tuesday. I was born after both Alien and Aliens, and while I have seeked out past opportunities to see Alien in theaters, this Tuesday will be the first time I will see Aliens on the silver screen. But that doesn’t make me any less excited than someone who saw them in their first run. We should be excited to discuss things with new people, not close them out.
The one thing we call agree on though: