The Resident Evil movies aren’t exactly…Academy Award-winning cinema.
The overarching narrative follows Alice, an amnesiac on a quest for revenge after a corrupt medical manufacturer (the Umbrella Corporation) unleashes a bioweapon that turns people into zombies. The monsters get bigger and bloodier with each successive movie and the plot twists grow all the more strange.
That being said, Resident Evil remains the highest-grossing video game movie franchise of all time. Devoted viewers returned to theaters for all six movies– cheering on Alice slicing, dicing, and decapitating zombies. With the Resident Evil reboot slated for release this September, it’s time to take a closer look at the film series that captivated audiences for 14 years.
From worst to best, here are my rankings for the Resident Evil franchise.
6. Resident Evil: Retribution
In the fifth Resident Evil, Alice wakes up captive in an underwater testing facility created by the Umbrella Corporation. She spends the majority of the film dashing through replicas of major cities while she searches for a way out, encountering old friends and enemies along the way.
There aren’t a lot of good things to say about this movie. In fact, they’re mostly bad things. To start with, Retribution feels more like a pulpy filler episode than a comprehensive expansion of the plot. Characters from the games, like Ada Wong, are introduced to the movie universe but there is no discernable depth to them. More so than for any other Resident Evil film, the twists of this installment are out of place and negated entirely by the next film.
If you’re a fan of the actress, Michelle Rodriguez, go right ahead and enjoy Resident Evil: Retribution. If not, you can skip this one and you won’t miss anything.
5. Resident Evil: Apocalypse
After the events of the first movie, Raccoon City becomes ground zero for the zombie outbreak. Alice is charged by former Umbrella researcher, Charles Ashford, with finding and saving his daughter before the city is blown to smithereens. But will that keep the virus contained?
Unlike the fifth Resident Evil movie, the second Resident Evil movie has something resembling a plot. There are clear stakes and Alice’s fight scenes are entertaining gore-fests. But there’s a reason Roger Ebert called it an “utterly meaningless waste of time.” The explosive action sequences can’t make up for the lackluster performances and various subplots are dropped for no explicable reason.
4. Resident Evil: Afterlife
This installment covers more geography than any other Resident Evil film. Alice travels from Tokyo to Alaska to Los Angeles, tracking broadcasts from a supposed safe-haven called Arcadia. She meets up with her friend, Claire Redfield, who doesn’t remember anything from the previous movie, and together, they embark on a journey to discover the secret of Arcadia and Claire’s lost memories.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Mika Nakashima, one of the lead actresses in the live-action Nana films, in the opening scene. She doesn’t stick around for long (because she immediately turns into a zombie) but her appearance is just one of many pleasant surprises in the movie. The mystery of Arcadia is somewhat engaging. The final fight scene is extremely goofy but fun.
For the record, there’s a zombie in this movie that gives strong Pyramid Head vibes. Afterlife is worth watching just for him.
3. Resident Evil
It’s the surprise blockbuster hit that started it all. Alice awakens without memories in an empty mansion right before she’s forced to join a special security task force. Their mission? Contain an accidental outbreak of the T-Virus in the Hive, a special lab facility run by the Umbrella Corporation. Unbeknownst to them, the Hive’s AI system, “Red Queen”, has already begun the containment process and she’s determined to kill Alice and the rest unless they find a way to escape.
Some have described the first Resident Evil as a guilty pleasure movie and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s a zombie horror film that combines Alice in Wonderland with science fiction elements and the result is exactly as ridiculous as you might expect.
However, the suspense is more nuanced and the zombies feel genuinely threatening. This film features better cast performances than all the other movies combined.
Resident Evil ends on a cliffhanger but I personally believe that you can watch the first installment by itself without needing to invest time and money into watching all six films.
2. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
The Final Chapter begins with Alice trekking back to Raccoon City. The Red Queen reveals to Alice that there’s a T-Virus cure inside the Hive and if she can successfully retrieve it, she can save the world. But at what price?
My main issue with The Final Chapter is that the editing is awful, head-ache inducing garbage. There are at least 300 ½ second cuts per scene, creating a barrage of ugly blood sprays and stilted monster screams.
Beyond that, the last Resident Evil film delivers a satisfying ending to a mostly jumbled and confusing franchise. I won’t spoil the ending but the concluding twist is one of the bright spots of the series. The actor playing Dr. Alexander Isaacs is clearly having the time of his life.
1. Resident Evil: Extinction
This may be a controversial choice but I stand by it. Extinction is the best Resident Evil film.
In the third Resident Evil installment, the T-Virus has turned the world into a Mad Max wasteland riddled with zombies. Alice meets the original video game protagonist, Claire Redfield, leading a convoy of survivors through the devastated Southwestern United States. Just when Alice thinks she discovered a safe-haven for them all in Alaska, the Umbrella Corporation reminds her they’re not done with her yet.
Resident Evil isn’t a franchise that puts a lot of stock in character development. Or consistent plots. Or character motivations. Nevertheless, Extinction develops Alice into a more complete and interesting protagonist. The narrative takes the time to cultivate the relationships between Alice, Claire, and the other members of the convoy, so, the stakes are higher when these characters are in danger.
To be honest, that’s really only half the reason why this is the best Resident Evil movie. The other half is Alice’s badass wasteland outfit.
A weeb writer with a master's degree. Also known as the Otaku Analyst.