Try as they may, Hollywood has struggled to turn video games into thriving film franchises. But you can’t blame them for trying. Modern video games often boast some impressively sprawling narratives. Yet in spite of all the cinematic failures, the Resident Evil franchise has somehow proven to be an exception. In fact, the Resident Evil movies are among the top box office performing horror franchises of all time. Do you know your T-virus from an Andromeda Strain? Can you tell the difference between the Umbrella Corporation from the Tyrell Corporation? Get ready to countdown the Resident Evil movies from worst to first.
6 – Resident Evil: Afterlife
There’s something about the fourth film in horror franchises. Saw IV, A Nightmare on Elm Street IV: The Dream Master, Parnormal Activity IV – they all signalled diminishing returns for their respective series. Despite Paul WS Anderson’s return behind the camera, Afterlife can’t escape this fourth film jinx. Across the board, this sequel is a downgrade. Poor CGI effects, noticeable green screen, incoherent plotting, and unmemorable new characters – Afterlife is a tough slog. So much about this movie is incomprehensible. The Axeman looks cool, but makes no sense for a movie about zombies. And yes, I know the movies are based on a videogames, but that doesn’t mean they have to be literal adaptations. Mila Jovovich’s Alice loses her powers, but she’s still pretty superhuman. Shawn Roberts’ Wesker is easily the dullest villain in the series. Movies based on video games can be stupid, but they can’t be boring.
5- Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
As far as final series entries go, you can do a lot worse than Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. All logic has been tossed out the window at this point. Wesker still sucks. But The Final Chapter brings back Ali Larter and Iain Glen. That counts for something. And Jovovich has steely heroine ‘Alice’ perfected. Though it plays more like a ‘greatest hits’ compilation than an actual movie, The Final Chapter wisely brings back much of what worked from early in the franchise. With plenty of frenetic action and a return to The Hive, The Final Chapter manages to send off the Resident Evil series on somewhat of a high note.
4 – Resident Evil: Retribution
New characters. Old returning characters. Some old characters not returning. More clones. And more slow motion. On the one hand, Retribution feels completely unnecessary. Let’s face it, Resident Evil did not have enough story to carry it through six movies. But the sequel is saved by what’s a pretty cool-looking opening and a few nice story tweaks. In addition, this sequel tones down the post-apocalyptic vibe a little and re-embraces the series’ original horror roots. Anderson thankfully gets back to some of the ‘blood and guts’ zombie fun from the early movies. Not much in the way of originality ever emerges. Still it’s an improvement over Afterlife.
3 – Resident Evil: Extinction
With its third movie, the Resident Evil series transitioned from a mix of horror and action to Mad Max-themed post-apocalyptic fare. How does a zombie-making virus turn the planet to a scorched wasteland? No, it doesn’t make any sense. But veteran action director Russell Mulcahy keeps things moving along briskly with some inventive action scenes. One scene with ‘zombi-fied’ crows is a series highlight in spite of some dodgy CGI. A zombie showdown in an empty Las Vegas is bloody fun and actually injects some tension into the sequel. While Extinction began to over-complicate the series, it’s still decent mindless popcorn fun.
2 – Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Not surprisingly, the first sequel is still the best sequel. Though the Apocalypse expands the Resident Evil universe, it still feels contained and like an organic follow-up. New characters played by Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, and Mike Epps were worthy successors to the original’s cast. Special effects in the series were always hit and miss, but Apocalypse gets a passing grade. A quickly paced story and several well-staged action sequences make it easy to avoid thinking too much. Even though the ‘Nemesis’ character is clearly a lame ‘big boss’ addition to the movie, the monster design impresses. Most importantly, Apocalypse wasn’t weighed down yet by the series’ increasingly convoluted story.
1 – Resident Evil
There’s something about Paul WS Anderson. Technically, he’s not a great filmmaker. Nonetheless, Anderson brings a certain workmanlike quality to his work. Mortal Kombat was a 90’s guilty please, and Event Horizon is a hidden gem. In spite of all its flaws, the original Resident Evil is an inherently watchable movie. For 30 minutes or so, it actually spins a fairly suspenseful yarn. You’ll still find some of the series’ best set pieces in the original. Even after five sequels, you still can’t beat that laser-grid security system scene. Mila Jovovich’s Alice joined Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor as badass heroines. Overall, it’s a fun blend of science fiction and horror that stands up to multiple viewings.