Aliens Sigourney Weaver

Space Race

A Complete Ranking of Every Alien Film

Catch Alien 3 this month on IFC.

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Since Ripley and those pesky xenomorphs burst onto the scene in 1979 like the baby alien from Kane’s chest, the Alien franchise has become a cultural phenomenon, spawning sequels, prequels, and plenty of poor knockoffs. (We even celebrated “Alien Day” on April 26th.) With IFC airing Alien 3 this month, we decided to rank every Alien film from terrible to terrifying. Where does your favorite fall on our list? Read on to find out.

7. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

20th Century
20th Century Fox

The word “requiem” brings to mind death, and this unnecessary gore fest sequel to the already pretty terrible Alien vs. Predator is proof the series should be put out of its misery lest it kill all our warm, fuzzy feelings for the Alien and Predator franchises. AvP: Requiem attempts to have slightly more exposition and plot than its predecessor, but the film gets bored with it quickly, resorting to buckets of blood and cheap scares all shot in very poor lighting that is meant to look moody but winds up making you strain your eyes instead in order to see any of the “action.” The humans all do their best with shoddy dialogue and stereotypical, one-dimensional roles. There’s a perverse pleasure to watching this train wreck unfold, but AvP: Requiem is a film that is far more shock than anything resembling awe.


6. AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)

20th Century
20th Century Fox

Overstuffed with hollow CGI, the one thing Alien vs. Predator has going for it is it delivers exactly what’s promised in the title. If you’re looking for any semblance of a real plot, look elsewhere, because this movie isn’t for you. Oh sure, fan favorite Lance Henriksen shows up as billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland – the man on whom his android character’s appearance in previous films was based – and assembles a team to investigate a mysterious, shape-shifting pyramid buried under the ice in Antarctica, but the humans are mainly here to be playthings and add to the body count in this extraterrestrial showdown. Like Godzilla vs. King Kong, the popcorn-worthy enjoyment of Alien vs. Predator comes from seeing two big baddies going at it with cloaks, daggers, and facehuggers, even if the whole thing is pretty silly. Best to forget the two excellent series this film pulls its main monsters from and just settle in for the schlocky carnage.


5. Alien: Resurrection (1997)

20th Century
20th Century Fox

Not even a script from beloved sci-fi scribe Joss Whedon could save this semi-fun clunker set 200-some odd years after the events of Alien 3. This time around, poor Ripley has been cloned using DNA from blood samples taken before her death and impregnated with an alien embryo. As a result, she has super-strength, acidic blood, and a sixth sense to feel the xenomorphs. But despite the added welcome presence of Winona Ryder as an oddly empathetic synthetic and tough guy Ron Perlman, the film is mainly recycled scenarios from previous installments and an excessive amount of gore. Sigourney Weaver, for her part, commits fully to a sequel unworthy of her talents. This one should have just stayed dead; no resurrection required.


4. Alien 3 (1992)

Director David Fincher’s feature film career got off to an inauspicious start with this jumbled if intriguing third installment in the series that features a bald Ripley butting heads with both a renegade xenomorph and the ex-inmates of a penal colony when her escape pod crashes on Fiorina “Fury” 161. The film unsuccessfully tries to be too many things at once: a meditation on faith, an indictment of corporate greed and ego, an exploration of PTSD, and an old-fashioned horror movie.

Unfortunately, these loose threads of interesting, complex ideas are never given the chance to fully develop; too much studio meddling throughout production led to a patchwork script that is promising but messy. Like many of Fincher’s later films, Alien 3 has a pervasive atmospheric bleakness in every frame that actually works quite well for its rather fatalistic plot, creating a rather beautiful visual style that stands apart from the other films in the series. Weaver is still the main attraction, and she delivers…quite literally. There’s only room for one Queen in this series, and Ripley makes damn sure she’s it. RIP to them both.


3. Prometheus (2012)

20th Century
20th Century Fox

Critics and fans were split on Ridley Scott’s 2012 return to the franchise due to its ambitious, philosophically-heavy plot from screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts that raised more questions than answers. However, Prometheus is perhaps Scott’s most visually stylish film of late with tastefully-employed CGI intermixed with practical effects to achieve an equal sense of wonder and isolation, not to mention a bloody scene featuring Noomi Rapace that rivals Alien for its shock and gore factor.

Though not, in Scott’s words, a “direct prequel” to Alien, the film has plenty of visual, narrative, and musical nods to the original peppered throughout while still successfully existing as its own unique story within the larger Alien universe. While it lacks some of the nuance of Alien, Prometheus manages to capture much of the same atmospheric, chilly tone. One thing critics and fans could unanimously agree on: Michael Fassbender’s standout performance as creepy, conniving, Peter O’Toole-obsessed android, David, who will return in the 2017 follow-up, Alien: Covenant. Big things have small beginnings, indeed.


2. Alien (1979)

Pitched to studio execs as “Jaws in space,” Scott’s first cinematic voyage into the place no one can hear you scream is a modern masterpiece of slow-building suspense and downright terror. Much like in Jaws, Scott’s sparing use of the actual alien until late into the film ramps up the tension, putting the Nostromo crew and the audience alike on edge as does Jerry Goldsmith’s atmospheric, haunting score.

Every element –- from H.R. Giger’s iconic creature design to Michael Seymour’s production design of the sets –- gives the film a chilly, claustrophobic yet elegant feeling unmatched by a sci-fi film since. While Sigourney Weaver’s tough-as-nails Ripley would go on to become the breakout heroine of the series, Alien is truly an ensemble piece with each character getting plenty of screen –- and scream –- time. From its still-shocking “chestburster” scene to Ripley’s frantic race against the ship’s self-destruct sequence, this one set the stage for future sci-fi films in bold, exciting ways.


1. Aliens (1986)

20th Century
20th Century Fox

James Cameron’s follow-up to the original is heavier on the action than the suspense but equally as thrilling and scary, turning Ripley’s survivor of the first film into an all-out badass warrior much like he did with Sarah Connor in the Terminator series. Weaver earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her strong, layered performance as the embattled but relentless Ripley, and Cameron’s screenplay and direction gives her a level of respect and bravura usually reserved for male action heroes.

Cameron takes the seeds of Ridley Scott’s original ideas and makes them bloom into a fully realized world of militarized forces, sinister corporate agendas, and true dystopian nightmares. The standout supporting cast featuring Cameron favorites Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn as well as Paul Reiser, Carrie Henn’s orphan Newt, and Lance Henriksen’s iconic android Bishop hold their own and add to the emotional heft of the film. The heart-racing action sequences balance out the slow-build to the mother of all climactic battles at the end. A technical marvel in its time that still looks impressive today, James Cameron’s sequel dares to actually have a heart in the midst of its chilly futuristic setting. For the rest of the films in the series, it’s game over, man! Aliens blows them all out of the airlock.

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Rocky IV Paulie Robot

Mr. Roboto

5 Reasons Rocky IV Is Too Rotten to Miss

Catch Rocky IV Friday at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: MGM/UA/YouTube

When Rocky IV was released in 1985, the critics were not kind. (While it wasn’t around back then, the film’s 39% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.) Less of a movie than a jingoistic music video starring a robot and a steroid-addled, monosyllabic Russian baddie, Rocky IV is a far cry from the Italian Stallion’s humble origins.

Still, more than any movie ever made, it exemplifies the whole “so bad its good” genre. This movie was made for us, the great-unwashed masses of the 1980s, who loved the band Survivor and hated those Commie bastards. Before you catch Rocky IV on IFC’s Rotten Fridays, let’s take a look at some moments that make this flick a “too rotten to miss” classic.

5. That Opening Shot

Rocky IV
United Artists

It takes all of 30 seconds for the audience to know they’re in for one ridiculous rollercoaster ride through a Cold War conniption fit of good vs. evil. Gone is the subtle tone and grounded reality of the first Rocky. In its place we see two gloves, one emblazoned with the American flag, the other with the Soviets’, hurtling toward each other. When they collide, sparks fly, and we witness an explosion decades in the making.

In case the symbolism is too subtle for you, director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone is trying to hint that this movie will be the clash of civilizations we’d all been waiting for, but instead of nuclear bombs, a humble palooka from the streets would be duking it out in the ring with the ultimate representation of coldhearted Communism. If it were up to us, this opening shot would’ve won Best Picture all by itself.


4. So Many Montages

Rocky IV has a running time of 91 minutes and 20 seconds. Its eight montages (yes, EIGHT) run a total of 29 minutes and 10 seconds. That is one third of the movie solely dedicated to montages. (Considering Stallone’s contempt for all things Soviet, we have to wonder if he knows it was a dirty Ruskie who invented the montage.)

During one of the many, many montages, director Stallone actually flashes back to a scene that had happened a minute and half prior, creating the impression that he might actually flashback to the montage we were just watching in the same montage. Stallone clearly loves a good montage set to an inspirational ’80s song, and so do we. Which brings us to…


3. A Soundtrack Full of Pumped Up ’80s Jams

Speaking of montages, they are set to the score of some of the cheesiest hits from the mid-’80s. For once, we’re spared tracks from Frank Stallone, with Stallone replacing his rocker brother with synth-y singles from Survivor, John Cafferty and Kenny Loggins. And of course, Robert Tepper, possessor of an ’80s mullet that could topple empires, crooning “No Easy Way Out.” The music in this movie is one step away from being a parody of the music in this movie. If you ever want to know what cocaine can do to the human mind, just listen to this soundtrack.


2. Rocky Ends the Cold War

Rocky IV speech
United Artists

In one of the most misguided, self-congratulatory, and immediately dated moments in cinema history, good ol’ galoot Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War four years before the Berlin Wall came down.

To quote the Italian Stallion himself: “In here…there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than millions. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…everybody can change!” And just like that the Soviet public, generals and even the Premier himself rose to their feet in applause, realizing what fools they’d been. This guy beat Mr. T for Heaven’s sake. He knows what he’s talking about!


1. Paulie’s Robot

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and really consider this for a moment. Rocky IV has a robot butler in it. A movie franchise that began back in 1976 exploring the gritty reality of a bum fighter trying to prove himself somehow limped along long enough to turn into a weak Short Circuit rip-off in which an alcoholic mooch with a history of domestic abuse now gets his coffee served to him by a robot. A robot that he has programmed with a “sultry” lady voice!

Stallone was inspired to include the real life robot Sico in Rocky IV because of the work it did to help autistic children like his son Seargeoh. That’s all very moving, but doesn’t explain why he decided to write a scene where Paulie dubs poor Sico “the love of my life.” It’s a testament to Rocky IV‘s “too rotten to miss” status that Paulie’s robot girlfriend/personal servant isn’t even the craziest thing that happens to Rock and the gang.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

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Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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