The Geek Beat: Our Favorite Branches On The 'Alien' Family Tree

The Geek Beat: Our Favorite Branches On The 'Alien' Family Tree

May 17, 2017

I'm not exactly sure when the Alien franchise evolved from a sci-fi creature feature to an existential epic about the origins of humanity and extraterrestrial contact. And yet, I do remember a simpler time when nuking the film's aliens from orbit was the only way to be sure and “who's going to survive?” was the deepest question we asked of the films.

Still, it's easy to appreciate all of layers that have been added to the franchise over the years through the films, video games, comics, and so many other stories and spinoffs built on the legacy of Ridley Scott's original, 1979 classic, Alien. We wanted to know more about the aliens, and storytellers have been happy to weave countless tales about the terrifying, acid-blooded xenomorphs for more than three decades.

Even the aliens themselves have changed, with just the movies alone giving us multiple variations on a deadly, nightmare-fueling theme when it comes to the xenomorphs. We've seen human-alien hybrids, queen aliens, and various other iterations of aliens over the course of seven films, and everyone seems to have their favorites.

Here are some of the most memorable variations on the franchise's iconic, frightening creatures – and just for kicks, I've ranked them according to just how memorable they were.



9. The Runner (Alien 3)

Depending on which version of the movie you watch, this alien hatches from either a dog or a cow, but the result is the first iteration of the franchise's titular monster to suggest that the creatures take on some characteristics of their hosts. This revelation opened up a wide array of possibilities for future films and spinoffs in other media, making the dog/cow alien an important cog in the Alien franchise mythology. And hey, for a second there – just after it emerged from its host and shook off all the blood and entrails – it even looked kind of cute


8. The Trilobite (Prometheus)

Perhaps more memorable than the creature itself, the scene in which we're first introduced to the alien growing inside Elizabeth Shaw's body just might be one of the franchise's most memorably terrifying sequences. Watching actress Noomi Rapace perform self-surgery in a claustrophobic medical capsule is scary enough, but seeing what the machine yanks out of her – a writhing mass of tentacles and teeth – just ups the nightmare factor for this resident of the film's extraterrestrial menagerie. Seeing the creature fully grown in the film's third act only makes it more scary, as we see it overpower and violently impregnate one of the otherwise intimidating Engineer aliens, who had been the film's most daunting antagonist up to that point.


7. The Deacon (Prometheus)

Although it only appeared in a brief, mid-credits scene in Prometheus, the creature known as “The Deacon” served as a major unifying element between the Alien prequel and the rest of the franchise. This ancestor of the xenomorph introduced in 1979's Alien differed quite a bit from the more iconic creatures, but also shared just enough in common to prompt the desired recognition – and excitement – from franchise fans.


6. The Chestburster (Alien)

The early forms of the xenomorphs tend to have precious little on-screen time, but they always make an impressive entrance. As their name suggests, they have a nasty habit of violently emerging from their hosts in a spatter of blood and guts, and from the very first moment audiences laid eyes on them in Alien, they've been a heavy hitter when it comes to packing a lot of scares (and squeamish reactions) into a small body. It's enough to make you feel bad for Alien actor John Hurt, who got upstaged by a miniature monster puppet in one of Hollywood's most iconic sequences.


5. The Newborn (Alien: Resurrection)

After Alien 3 opened the door to genetic variations among the xenomorphs, Alien: Resurrection kicked it off its hinges with a hybrid alien resulting from scientific tampering with human and alien genetic material. The result was one of the creepiest aliens so far: A creature with sagging flesh and human characteristics roughly blended with xenomorph features, and a skull-like face that actually managed to show emotion. It's that last part that was the kicker, though, when the monstrous creation met its end in what might be the most gut-churning moment in the franchise. The terrifying “newborn” is sucked out through a small hole in the window of a spaceship, screaming in pain and terror as its body is compressed and expelled in a gruesome spray of flesh and semi-human material. It's a scene that's so horrifyingly memorable that it makes ou feel bad for the film's murderous, extraterrestrial monster.


4. Predalien (Alien vs. Predator - Requiem)

Is there anything that screams “fan service” more than the Predalien? Not only does this creature appear in the sequel to a movie that brings together two of Hollywood's most popular sci-fi monsters, but it actually combines both monsters into an even more terrifying monster. Oh, and then it makes a Predator fight the Predalien. Sure, the movie wasn't all that good, but you have to admire the audacity of taking an idea that seems like fan fiction and bringing it to the screen.


3. The Queen (Aliens)

James Cameron upped the ante in a lot of ways with Aliens, but the film deserves a lot of credit for expanding the mythology of the franchise with one of its most intimidating elements: The aliens' “queen.” Of course, he could've stopped with just revealing the monstrous, egg-laying originator of the creatures – which was impressive enough – but he went on to have that same creature disengage itself from its egg sac and chase Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley down for a climactic brawl. “Get away from her, you bitch,” indeed. The addition of the Queen is just one of many elements that makes Aliens more than a worthwhile successor to Alien – and a cinematic masterpiece in its own right.


2. The Facehugger (Alien)

Combining the nightmare-inducing elements of spiders, octopi, and the fear of having something launch across a room and latch onto your face, the creatures known as facehuggers remain one of the franchise's most subtle terrors. If they don't get you when they emerge from their eggs, they skitter around, hiding in corners and generally scaring you with the potential of what they could – and likely will – do to their victims.


1. The Xenomorph (Alien / Aliens / etc)

There's no topping a classic, and whether you prefer the look of the xenomorph of Alien with its translucent head and black exoskeleton or the harder-edged version of the creature in Aliens (which ditched the translucent head and took on a more bluish color), there's nothing in the franchise that's more iconic than the ol' xenomorph. It's the perfect killing machine, after all. From its acid blood to its razor-sharp tail to its eyeless face and mouth-within-a-mouth jaws, it's got a little bit of everything to make it one of Hollywood's most formidable maulers of hapless human (and alien) victims. Like Wolverine, it's the best there is at what it does, and what it does is really, really messy.


This week's question: Which version of the xenomorph is your favorite from the movies?

Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV. You can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.

Categories: Features, Geek
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