#366. World War II

Unlike the Anglo-Zanzibar War, World War II is likely to be the war with the most films featuring it as part of their plot. There are numerous reasons for this, including the rise of Hollywood during the same timeframe, as well as a distinct “good guy vs. bad guy” conflict. Unlike the Civil War, World War II was a recent enough conflict for there to be individuals who were affected by it. Furthermore, unlike the Vietnam War, World War II was a war popular with the public sentiment (even despite the unpopular idea of war in general). Consequently, of the multitude of World War II films, at least eight of them have won the Oscar for Best Picture, which doesn’t even include the numerous nominated films that covered the same subject. This week’s two films highlight some of the best World War II movies ever made.

Saving Private RyanSaving Private Ryan
Year: 1998
Rating: R
Length: 169 minutes / 2.82 hours

The effects of war can spread far from their source of origin. In a global conflict like WWII, there can be prisoners of war in Burma being held by the Japanese (like in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)) as well as in Germany (like in The Great Escape (1963)). Of course, the impact of a war is often felt on the home front as well. Soldiers have families back home and often have to work hard at reintegrating into a post-war society (like in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)). That’s assuming these soldiers even make it back at all. Some generals like Patton (1970) throw their empathy out the window when giving orders, especially if they produce results. However, there are also occasions when the leaders in charge realize a single soldier’s life is significant, especially if it means that soldier can return home to a family who has already lost so much.

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln sent a letter of condolence to Lydia Bixby after her five sons died fighting for the Union. To prevent this tragedy from happening again, General George Marshall (Harve Presnell) orders that James Ryan (Matt Damon), a soldier missing in action, is found and returned home safely. Ryan’s three brothers were also soldiers, each one of them confirmed dead by the end of D-Day. While it takes some time (and the lives of two men) to track Ryan down, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) is reluctant to return empty-handed. Unfortunately, while Ryan’s biological brothers are dead, his brothers-in-arms are still alive and protecting a strategic bridge. Captain Miller reluctantly agrees to help defend the bridge with Ryan, which proves to be a daunting task as a German Panzer Division arrives to take back control. Will anyone survive to return home?

Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.77 hours

Just like war can affect those who are on the home front, the civilians left behind still have plenty of capability to resist the evil present in a global conflict like WWII. Sure, you might be a nun helping a family escape German-controlled Austria (like in The Sound of Music (1965)). You might even be a German industrialist saving the lives of many Jews from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories (like in Schindler’s List (1993)). Nevertheless, these little things add up to help defeat the enemy. While plenty of Europeans resisted the advancement of the Nazis, the Americans in Hawaii were completely taken by surprise (like in From Here to Eternity (1953)) but still did their part to win the war. Of course, when the war is in your backyard (like in Mrs. Miniver (1942)), it’s much easier to step up and help the war effort directly.

With the Germans advancing through France, allied troops gather at Dunkirk in the hopes of being evacuated. Unfortunately, there are not enough military transports to take hundreds of thousands of soldiers away from the French port. The soldiers who are trapped on the beach begin to realize there isn’t enough transportation and come up with ways to get on the boats that are leaving. Of course, as they are still in enemy territory, even these boats face torpedoes and aerial gunfire from German forces, sinking in the process. Meanwhile, across the English Channel, civilians are being conscripted to head over to Dunkirk and use their small boats to evacuate the soldiers. Overhead, Spitfire planes are engaged with the enemy to help pave the way for a safe return home. The tension of the situation remains high as each second ticks by, dwindling away the time left for people to escape.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 well-made WWII movies

#359. Vigilantes

While the police should be the primary form of law enforcement, sometimes they are limited with what they can do. These limitations can be brought about via budgetary or personnel constraints, but the most significant restriction seems to be the law itself. Criminals are only criminal if they’re caught doing something against the law. Even if they are caught, with good enough lawyers, these individuals can sometimes go free. When the law seems to fail the individuals affected by these criminals, there is often a desire to take justice into their own hands. The urge to be a vigilante is usually tempered by the law-breaking that would occur as a part of the act of vengeance. Vigilantes thrive in societies with little to no law enforcement, like the old west, but many current situations are just as applicable. This week’s two films highlight some vigilantes.

Magnum ForceMagnum Force
Year: 1973
Rating: R
Length: 124 minutes / 2.07 hours

One of the reasons vigilantes start to emerge in a system is because of corruption. If justice is being hampered by bureaucracy, that’s one thing, but when a biased leadership that wants certain criminals to go free exists, it can be difficult to overcome these limitations without stepping outside the law. Most police officers want to see justice happen, but even the blindly ignorant can usually see where something is wrong with the system. In these cases, either the citizens rise up and become vigilantes, or the cops who want the criminals to be punished will make sure the criminals’ consequences are doled out. The only difference between these kinds of vigilantes and the ones portrayed in comic-book movies (which seems to be all of them) is that the competence of the police force is not in question in these cases.

Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) has a lot on his plate and usually finds himself in situations where he needs to act to prevent a situation from becoming worse. Of course, the way he performs his job isn’t exactly “by the book.” One of Callahan’s traits is that he often uses his gun to get things done. At the firing range, he runs across a group of rookie police officers who prove they’re better with their guns than he is. While mobsters are being murdered around town, Callahan starts to suspect these cops are taking justice into their own hands, killing the mobsters who have been acquitted through the legal system. When the leader of this “death squad” turns out to be one of the rookies, Callahan is offered a position in their group. Callahan declines the offer and has to use his gun to survive while also bringing these rogue cops to justice.

The Boondock SaintsThe Boondock Saints
Year: 1999
Rating: R
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours

“‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” While this passage from the Bible gives many of the downtrodden hope in their unjust situations, sometimes people turn into vigilantes when they feel that God is taking his time. Often, criminal organizations will manage to stay underneath the radar of the police, but will still affect the lives of ordinary citizens. Because there is no evidence these organizations have done anything wrong, they are allowed to continue unabated. Much of the time, these organizations end up taking advantage of the disadvantaged, mostly because they know these individuals won’t fight back. But, what if some individuals see what’s happening and decide to stand up for these ordinary citizens? They don’t have the legal right to confront the organization, but these vigilantes will do what it takes to solve the problem.

During a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, Irish-American brothers Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) MacManus stand up to some Russian mobsters who want to acquire the pub by force. After being rebuffed by the MacManus brothers, the Russians return the next day to settle the score and are killed in self-defense. While the media lauds these men as heroes, the FBI still start investigating the situation. Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) sympathizes with the men and lets them go after a night in a holding cell. Of course, Connor and Murphy have now made the decision to rid Boston of these Russian mobsters. As they start to go about killing these criminals, Agent Smecker is conflicted as to whether or not to arrest or assist them. When the leader of the Russian mafia goes to trial, the brothers are aided by Smecker and their long-lost father to enact their own brand of justice.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 vehement vigilantes

#353. Iron Men

Any metallurgist will tell you that steel is stronger than iron. And yet, the concept of iron being a sturdy material still remains in our popular culture. Perhaps it’s the weight of iron, and its use for strength training. Maybe it’s due to the “purity” of iron, itself being one of the elements on the periodic table. In any case, it seems many movies use iron as an advantage. From the campy Ironmaster (1983) to the martial-arts mashup of The Man with the Iron Fists (2012), the characters who can manipulate iron are usually shown as having an advantage. Not only can the benefit be through defense, with iron armors and shields, but through offense as well, with swords and spears. Either way, iron is often associated with war, which itself has intrinsically been a man’s game. This week’s two films highlight men who use iron to their advantage.

Iron ManIron Man
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes / 2.10 hours

While not technically made of iron, but instead of a gold-titanium alloy, the suit worn by the eponymous Iron Man certainly gives Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) an advantage. From the obvious defensive capabilities of the suit to the advanced weaponry installed and integrated with it, whenever Stark dons this armor, he can take on super-powered individuals of many varieties. Ironically enough, even though iron is considered “heavy,” the Iron Man suit allows its wearer to fly, mainly due to the immense power contained within the suit. Of course, the very first version of the Iron Man suit was likely made of iron (or steel, if it was available), but that was due to the limitations of the materials Tony Stark had at the time. A fusion of medieval armor and modern technology, the Iron Man suit is what makes Tony Stark Iron Man.

After being captured by terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan, Tony Stark is forced to build weapons for them as their hostage. Not wanting his company’s technology to get into the hands of terrorists, Stark instead creates a suit of armor that he can use to escape. Unfortunately, his mobility is limited due to a piece of shrapnel trapped in his chest. The only thing keeping him alive is a magnet in his chest, holding the metal in place. After escaping the terrorists, Stark arrives back in the United States and starts improving on his design. Rumors of an “Iron Man” start circulating in the press as Tony tests out his equipment in public. Once a working design is finished, he sets out to punish the arms traffickers who have misused his company’s weapons. In doing so, he gains the attention of the Air Force, as well as his mentor, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who has built an “Iron Man” suit of his own to stop Tony.

The Iron GiantThe Iron Giant
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Length: 86 minutes / 1.43 hours

Not only is iron the main ingredient of the molten core of Earth but its crust as well, which makes it the most abundant metal found on this planet. Of course, Earth is not necessarily unique in this attribute, as iron is plentiful on many other planets and stars. What do you think gives Mars its red hue? Oxidized iron, of course. It is then no wonder that an alien robot from outer space would also be made of iron. Much like Iron Man, this Iron Giant has the defensive capabilities provided it by this heavy metal, but also the offensive weaponry provided by alien technology. Of course, even iron has its limits. Given a situation with forces stressing enough, the metal will bend, melt, or break. Iron is certainly a strong element, but it is not indestructible.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite: Sputnik. Shortly afterward, a mysterious object falls from the sky and lands near Rockwell, Maine. Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) observes this re-entry and heads into the woods to investigate. When he finds a giant, metal robot (Vin Diesel), he learns it is not there to hurt anyone. In fact, the robot has no knowledge of Earth or its customs, so the 9-year-old boy takes it upon himself to teach the enormous automaton. Unfortunately, the U.S. military also knows something landed in Maine and sets out to find it. While the military assumes the robot is dangerous, Hogarth shows them that, if they do not threaten him, he will not attack them. With cold war tensions high, fear causes one of the leaders to launch a nuclear strike against the robot, potentially killing everyone who would be nearby.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 metallic men

#352. Wealthy Superheroes

In the realm of superheroes, there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief when it comes to how a hero obtained their powers. From alien lifeforms who found themselves on Earth (a la Superman) to regular people who encounter deadly energies that mutate them into super-human beings, most superheroes have unbelievable origin stories. Then there are the “wealthy” superheroes. They don’t really have any superpowers other than their intellect and a massive fortune bequeathed to them via their deceased parents who succeeded in capitalism and industry. While heroes like Spider-man are a little more relatable to the common man due to their financial plight being in the lower middle-class, wealthy superheroes fight crime through an endless barrage of gadgets that could only be afforded by a continuous stream of money. This week’s two films highlight some notable, wealthy superheroes.

Year: 1989
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes / 2.10 hours

Surprisingly enough, DC Comics has not one, but two wealthy superheroes in its lineup. Until recently, most people weren’t aware of Green Arrow, but the TV show Arrow has helped to bring this hero into the mainstream. Of course, this superhero pales in the name recognition that comes with Batman. Not only did Bruce Wayne grow up in the lap of luxury provided by his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, but since both his parents were killed when he was young, he became the sole heir to the Wayne fortune. Because of the way his parents were murdered, his vengeance-filled vigilante attitude toward wrongdoing spurned him into crime fighting. While Bruce Wayne trained his body to be the superhero he is today, the money he has spent on gadgets, vehicles, and hideouts far surpass the amount available to someone just working at a newspaper.

As Gotham City prepares for its bicentennial, many events are taking place to ensure it goes off without a hitch. The mayor has put district attorney Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams) and Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) on notice that they need to clean up crime in the city before the big day. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) is using his influence as a billionaire businessman to host a fundraiser gala at Wayne Manor. When he notices Commissioner Gordon excusing himself from the party, he goes out to investigate as Batman. Through Batman’s meddling, mobster Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) accidentally falls into a vat of chemicals and emerges as “The Joker,” bringing terror to the city in the form of the “Smilex” chemical. As people start dying with smiles on their faces, it’s up to Batman to stop The Joker before he can unleash the chemical on the bicentennial parade.

Iron ManIron Man
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes / 2.10 hours

In the superhero battleground that is DC vs. Marvel, if DC Comics has a wealthy superhero in the form of Batman, Marvel must have a corollary superhero to balance the playing field. While Tony Stark doesn’t have the tragic backstory that Bruce Wayne does, he is still the heir to a vast fortune accrued by his industrialist father. There are other differences as well, including Tony Stark’s focus on engineering to create his gadgets himself, as well as the technological advances that come via this emphasis that allow Stark to gain superpowers through his “Iron Man” armor. And while Bruce Wayne is hesitant to reveal his secret identity, Tony Stark is so much of a narcissist that he welcomes the attention he gains by being connected to the superhero known as Iron Man. In any case, Stark’s “superpower” would not be possible if he didn’t have the money to make it happen.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is so confident in the weapons technology of Stark Industries that he makes a visit to Afghanistan to show off their latest creation: the “Jericho” missile. Unfortunately, through some underhanded dealings, he soon finds his own weapons used against him as he’s captured by terrorists and held hostage. In the scuffle, a piece of shrapnel is caught in his heart and the only thing keeping it from killing him is a magnet in his chest. While his wealth and influence mean nothing in the cave where he’s trapped, he still has his intellect and uses it to fashion a suit of armor that allows him to escape. Once back in civilization, Tony investigates how these terrorists managed to obtain weapons from his company while also developing an improved version of his “Iron Man” suit to take down terrorists. Upon finding the mole, Tony must fight to maintain the integrity of his company’s name.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 very rich vigilantes

#351. The Joker

Perhaps the most recognizable villain in the realm of superheroes and comic books, The Joker stands as a stark antipode to the brooding darkness of Batman. The contrast of insane levity to serious vengeance has made The Joker the best example of an archenemy, a feat that has rarely (if ever) been topped. For decades, The Joker has gone through several iterations and style changes, some of which have been notorious for their extreme take on the character. Similarly, there have been many different actors who have portrayed The Joker over the years, with a few of them being somewhat questionable in their interpretation of the character as well. While most people associate the quintessence of The Joker via Mark Hamill’s voice acting for Batman: The Animated Series, this week’s two films will examine some different performances of the character in live action films.

The Dark KnightThe Dark Knight
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Length: 152 minutes / 2.53 hours

Following the superhero movie format, after Christopher Nolan’s Batman origin story, Batman Begins (2005), Nolan proceeded to use the Batman franchise’s most recognizable villain for the sequelThe Dark Knight (2008). Many fans of the Batman franchise were upset with the casting choice of Heath Ledger, not only due to his somewhat recent role in Brokeback Mountain (2005) but because there were plenty of comedians who were considered for the role at one point or other. Considering he posthumously won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, these concerns were assuaged by the time the film was released. A similar controversy surrounded the casting of Jared Leto in the role for Suicide Squad (2016), but that controversy was linked more to how The Joker looked, rather than who was playing him.

During a bank robbery that seemed to go wrong, a gang of clown-themed thieves is whittled down until a lone clown remains: The Joker (Heath Ledger). The local mafias of Gotham find themselves in a bind with Batman (Christian Bale) constantly thwarting their criminal efforts. The Joker steps in and offers to get rid of Batman for the mobs in exchange for half of their finances. He doesn’t even want the money . . . he just wants to watch the world burn. To “level the playing field,” The Joker starts interfering with the trial of mob financier Lau (Chin Han), killing people until Batman reveals his identity. District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) says he’s Batman, but The Joker sees through the ruse, thus providing the real Batman with a choice: save Dent or save his girlfriend, Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal). With The Joker in control of Gotham, only Batman can stop him.

Year: 1989
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes / 2.10 hours

Before 1989, the only version of The Joker to hit the big screen was Caesar Romero’s in Batman (1966). Using the same cast as the 1960s television series, this Batman film was far campier than the dark and gritty versions we know today. While Tim Burton is known for his dark imagery, there was still a modicum of camp to his Batman (1989). Comparatively, though, the Tim Burton version did succeed in transforming the caped crusader into a much darker motif and helped evolve the franchise into what we know today. If anything, Tim Burton helped people to understand that comic books aren’t necessarily for children. At any rate, for many years, Jack Nicholson’s performance as The Joker was considered the definitive representation on the big screen, especially as it was faithful to The Joker’s origin story from the comics.

Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) is in the crosshairs of his mob boss, Carl Grissom (Jack Palance) for taking his mistress. Jack is saved by Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle), who wants him as a witness against Grissom. Unfortunately, in the ensuing chaos, Batman (Michael Keaton) arrives and knocks Jack into a vat of chemicals. While most assume Jack is dead, he finds the chemicals have altered his appearance, giving him a clown-like face with a permanent smile. This disfigurement drives him mad, and he takes on the identity of “The Joker.” Through the chemical known as “Smilex,” The Joker terrorizes Gotham, leaving many people dead with a hideous grin on their faces. Realizing the truth about The Joker’s past and origins, Batman sets out to save Gotham and avenge his dead parents.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 takes on a classic villain

#342. History Hunters

We cannot predict the future, but we can certainly study the past in excruciating detail. Some items of significance from the past are recognized for what they are immediately after they have gained a spot in the annals of history. And yet, there are many instances where these precious historical artifacts are lost. Sometimes, these items are lost on purpose, to protect the power they yield. Other times, they’re misplaced via upheavals that change the social structure of the world. Regardless of how these historical items are lost, there are people out there who hunt the hidden history to better understand our modern world. These individuals might not be archeologists, like symbology professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) in The Da Vinci Code (2006), Angels & Demons (2009), and Inferno (2016), but they all understand the importance of history. This week’s two films highlight some “history hunters.”

Raiders of the Lost ArkRaiders of the Lost Ark
Year: 1981
Rating: PG
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

Because history isn’t always written down, we often need to turn to archeologists to dig up the past. While the artifacts recovered don’t tell the whole story, they can lead to an inference of the lives of the people who once used them. Regarding famous Hollywood archeologists, none come closer than the adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). For his first appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), he was able to find and recover the Ark of the Covenant. While the sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) wasn’t about any historical object, the next film in the series, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) found the Holy Grail (albeit a different interpretation than the one in The Da Vinci Code). I can only hope that after the non-historical Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Indy will find a historical artifact in the fifth installment due out in 2020.

Adventurer and archeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has traveled the world in search of rare and significant items. While he came home empty-handed from Peru, two men from the government have another mission for him. As it turns out, a mentor of his is being tracked by the Nazis because they believe he holds a crucial piece to an item known as the “Staff of Ra.” When Jones arrives in Nepal and finds his friend has died, he manages to obtain the item in question and heads to Cairo. Upon seeing the Nazi dig site, Indy realizes they’re searching in the wrong spot because they only have half of the information on the Staff of Ra. With full knowledge of the artifact, Jones finds where the Ark is actually buried but is thwarted by the Nazis who trap him in a tomb and take the Ark away. Escaping from his predicament, Indiana Jones catches up with the Nazis just as they are about to test the powerful artifact.

National TreasureNational Treasure
Year: 2004
Rating: PG
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

While Americans do appreciate history, there hasn’t been much of it in the United States when compared to other regions of the world. In fact, as we’ve seen in The Monuments Men (2014), we will go out of our way during a time of war to protect the art and history of Europe as the Nazi menace looms overhead. Still, this doesn’t mean America is completely devoid of historical artifacts, it merely means most of them have been documented. Because of this, undocumented history is certainly more interesting to pursue. Since the secretive society of the Masons helped found the United States, there have always been rumors of Masonic treasures buried under government buildings. National Treasure (2004) takes this idea and runs with it, following up these adventures with National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) a few years later.

With only the single clue of “The secret lies with Charlotte” guiding his way to a fabled Masonic treasure, Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) sets out on an expedition to the Arctic to uncover a ship with the same name. When he finds a pipe with a clue that suggests the next piece of the puzzle is on the back of the Declaration of Independence, his partner, Ian Howe (Sean Bean), suggests they steal the famous document. The two men go their different ways, which leads Ben to head to Washington D.C. to warn the authorities of the robbery attempt. Because they don’t believe him, he takes matters into his own hands, stealing the document himself. The next few clues lead him to Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Trinity Church in New York City. The whole time, Ian is hot on Ben’s trail, eventually leveraging Ben’s father (Jon Voight) as a hostage. Will Ben give up a chance at treasure to save his dad?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 history hunters

#339. Alien vs. Predator

Which came first, the Predator or the Xenomorph egg? It’s almost weird to me how these two sci-fi/horror franchises have become inexorably linked over the years. If anything, it’s to the credit of 20th Century Fox to combine these two successful franchises together, even if the films resulting from the crossover aren’t that great. Sure, each franchise has excellent and mediocre entries in their canon, but both franchises’ worst are better than the best film of their combined universe. Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) were both critically panned. Fortunately, this has not detracted from the popularity of either franchise. While the idea of combining the Alien and Predator antagonists originally started as an idea in a graphic novel, the idea of a crossover is hardly new. Regardless, this week’s two films highlight the original films from the respective Alien and Predator franchises.

Year: 1987
Rating: R
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours

Despite not being nearly as prolific or as critically acclaimed as its Alien counterpart, the Predator franchise is still an essential piece of popular culture. Perhaps the reason the franchise hasn’t been taken seriously is due to the overt machismo that characterized Predator (1987). It’s even harder to take the franchise seriously when the Predator is integrated with our society, as seen in Predator 2 (1990) when the titular character comes to Los Angeles to do its killing. Recently, there has been a bit of a revival, with the Predators (2010) reboot, which added some more interest to the characters than just the meathead military guys from the original. Time will tell if this year’s The Predator (2018) will help bring the franchise into relevance, or if it will be the detonator on the nuclear device to kill the franchise for good.

Deep in the jungle of Val Verde, a spacecraft lands and releases its pilot into the dense surroundings. While a team led by CIA operative George Dillon (Arnold Schwarzenegger) are in the jungle to recover some stolen documents, they soon find a group of Army Special Forces who went in ahead of them was brutally murdered. Unbeknownst to them, the murderer is still on the loose, and starts tracking the group of trained military men. One-by-one, the members of the team are picked off by the alien known as a “Predator,” a being who hunts dangerous creatures for sport. Eventually, the only remaining member of the team is Dillon, but he has determined the Predator can only see in infrared, thus saving him from a potential conflict. Using the ingenuity of man, Dillon sets up a series of traps and is able to take down the Predator. Unfortunately, the Predator has one last trick up its sleeve.

Year: 1979
Rating: R
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

In 1979, Alien was a hallmark film for both the horror and sci-fi genres. Not only is the eponymous Alien the 14th best villain of all time, according to the American Film Institute, but the sequel, Aliens (1986) practically improved on the original. It’s no wonder there are almost twice as many Alien films as there are Predator ones. Of course, Alien³ (1992) failed to deliver, and Alien: Resurrection (1997) did little to boost the franchise. When Ridley Scott, the director of the original Alien film, decided to revive the franchise with a set of prequel films, he succeeded in bringing the magic back to the franchise’s roots, but still falling somewhat short of the groundbreaking appeal of the original. Even with Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017) being moderate successes, there’s a chance that a future film would blow the whole franchise out the airlock into the icy vacuum of space.

In response to an emergency beacon on an alien world, the starship Nostromo lands on LV-426 to investigate. While there, the crew discovers the skeleton of a giant alien that appeared to be killed by something erupting from its chest. When they find a chamber full of enormous eggs, one of the eggs opens, and a creature attaches itself to the face of one of the crew members. Returning to the ship, the rest of the team helps to discover that this “facehugger” has highly corrosive blood. Fortunately, it dies after releasing its hold on the crew member. Unfortunately, shortly afterward, an alien creature bursts from his chest and skitters away to hide in the vents of the ship. Now the crew suddenly find themselves up against an alien threat that their company actually wants them to bring back to Earth. Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the last surviving member of the crew, and it’s up to her to kill this monster.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 man-killing monsters