Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” is set in the years before his first “Alien” movie. Here’s what to look for if you’re inspired to watch what came before:
(1979): Released at the height of “Star Wars” mania, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” was a horror thriller, not a sci-fi swashbuckler. Nonetheless, it won audiences over with its slow-burn suspense and H.R. Giger’s startlingly novel “biomechanical” creature design. The film also made a star out of Sigourney Weaver, playing her signature role of Ellen Ripley.
(1986): James Cameron took a completely different path for his follow-up, creating one of those rare sequels that are as good as their progenitors. Ripley joined a platoon of space marines on a voyage to the planetoid where the first team had picked up its alien stowaway. But this time there were lots of the beasties — protecting their queen. It was an action movie par excellence, filmed on an $18 million budget that seems quaint today but drove Cameron to great lengths of filmmaking ingenuity.
• “Aliens Versus Predator” comics
(1989): Dark Horse Comics published the first “Aliens Versus Predator” story, mashing up Giger’s creature with the titular hunter of the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. The next year, the “Predator 2” movie sequel continued the crossover by including an alien head mounted on the trophy wall inside the predators’ spaceship. This iteration spawned an increasingly ridiculous world of comics, books, toys and video games, eventually even roping Schwarzenegger’s “Terminator” character, Superman and Batman into the fold.
• “Alien 3
” (1992): Director David Fincher struggled with 20th Century Fox on his debut feature, which angered many fans by killing off two of the three survivors of “Aliens” in its opening scene. The bleak story saw Ripley crash-landing on a sparsely populated prison planet where she and a handful of unarmed inmates faced a new alien. Negatively reviewed at its release, “Alien 3” has enjoyed friendlier reappraisals from fans and critics alike in recent years. The movie ended on a note of seemingly irreversible finality until …
• “Alien: Resurrection”
(1997): “Alien: Resurrection” reanimated Ripley 200 years later. In retrospect, perhaps script doctor Joss Whedon (now of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Avengers” fame) wasn’t the best choice to come up with the story, whose comic-book tone and one-liners were an uncomfortable fit for the “Alien” franchise. The French production team of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, special effects supervisor Pitof and cinematographer Darius Khondji brought a highly stylized and aggressively unrealistic look to the film. It has aged badly.
• “Alien vs. Predator”
(2004): Action film director Paul W. S. Anderson took the helm of the first big-screen foray into the “AvP” world, which shoehorned the established “Alien” story line into a tale of aliens and predators duking it out in a giant stone temple under the Antarctic ice. With no aspirations beyond being a popcorn film, “AvP” was a box office success and even drew praise from James Cameron (though most critics didn’t agree).
• “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” (2007): Colin and Greg, the brothers Strause, directed the breakneck “Requiem,” which kept the action on Earth — this time in Colorado. By far the most violent and over-the-top of the films in the “Alien” world, it disappointed audiences and critics alike, though the directors’ reliance on old-fashioned practical special effects instead of pure CGI did produce some of the most convincing aliens in the series.