Making Sense of the ALIEN Franchise’s Timeline

In 1979, Ridley Scott released one of the best and scariest sci-fi films of all time: Alien, which went on to spawn a decades-long franchise. Though many are great, the eight films in the Alien franchise have woven a convoluted and confusing timeline. And that is set to continue in a new FX on Hulu series from Noah Hawley! It’s an intriguing and exciting development. Which makes it the perfect time to look back at the films and try to decipher just where the new TV show might fit in. (And to try to make sense of the timeline at all.)


Alien vs. Predator

What's the ALIEN Timeline and How Will the HBO Max Show Fit Into It?_1

20th Century Studios

It’s important to note that while we’re including the Alien and Predator crossover films, Disney apparently doesn’t count them as canon; they’re claiming their new series will be the first Alien story to be told on Earth. But we like to make sure we’re being thorough, so this is where we’ll begin. Sanaa Lathan leads this Antarctic-set adventure with the Weyland-Yutani Corporation sending a team of scientists to uncover a strange heat anomaly under the ice. This is a vital moment in Alien canon as it establishes the early history of the corporation that sent the ill-fated Nostromo into space in 1979’s Alien. Granted, in the original movie’s timeline, that doesn’t happen until over a hundred years in the future, in 2122.

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem

What's the ALIEN Timeline and How Will the HBO Max Show Fit Into It?_2

20th Century Studios

The sequel to AVP takes place immediately afterwards. (It would be really interesting if the new series did include these as canon seeing as we get some wild creature combinations. But that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.) Basically, here we get a “Predalien,” which is a Xenomorph chestburster that exploded out of the chest of the dead Predator from the first movie. When it escapes, the ship carrying it crashes in Colorado. That’s where another Alien versus Predator matchup occurs. As this is once again set on Earth, and Disney specified their show would be “the first Alien project set on Earth,” don’t count on seeing any Predalians in Hawley’s show. Unless Disney is feeling really spicy.



What's the ALIEN Timeline and How Will the HBO Max Show Fit Into It?_3

20th Century Studios

Ridley Scott began truly reimagining his creation with Alien‘s esoteric 2012 prequel Prometheus. A group of scientists head off on a theologically-driven quest to work out just where humans came from. On their way, they discover the origin of the Xenomorph and proliferate its creation. We can probably expect Prometheus to at least play a part in the upcoming series, whether it’s the corporation preparing for the mission or just nods to the ideals that drove it. Seeing as Scott is involved, you can assume that these newer additions to canon will be relevant.


Alien: Covenant

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20th Century Studios

Alien: Covenant is both a sequel to Prometheus and another prequel to Alien. And if you thought the other movies were weird, get ready for this one. Just over a decade after the events of Prometheus, we join the Covenant, a colonization ship with its very own android named Walter. Played by Michael Fassbender, it’s clear he’s a “descendant” of David from Prometheus. After the ship is damaged, a small crew ends up on an Earth-like planet where they find David, who’s been cultivating new versions of the creatures from the first film. This deep space gothic horror could be a great launchpad for the new show, especially as it left a lot of questions for fans of the series. It’s also an exceedingly strange entry and Hawley does seem to gravitate towards the weird.



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20th Century Studios

Here we have the original (and, in this writer’s opinion, the best). HR Giger and Ridley Scott collaborated on this terrifying space horror, with the former creating one of the great horror monsters: The Xenomorph. A searingchiller that’s really about workers’ rights and their expendable nature under the iron grip of corporate, Alien is more timely than ever. The crew of a spaceship are waylaid when their craft picks up a distress signal and they’re directed per their employer’s protocols to investigate. What they find is nothing short of a nightmare. Hopefully the political undertones of the movie will travel through to the new series. Especially if it’s—as we suspect—a series about the inner workings of the young Weyland-Yutani Corporation.



Ripley prepares for final battle in Aliens

20th Century Studios

James Cameron’s action-heavy sequel centers on a group of marines who are sent to investigate a space colony after the Weyland-Yutani Corp loses contact with them. They’re accompanied by Sigourney Weaver’s iconic action hero from the first film, Ripley. She only joins the crew on the promise that they’ll destroy the creatures. But, of course, Weyland has other plans. This is a beloved action flick that has a ton of memorable moments, so expect some nods and references. Though, if we’re getting a near-future series, don’t expect a Newt cameo. Not that we’d hate that…


What's the ALIEN Timeline and How Will the HBO Max Show Fit Into It?_6

20th Century Studios

Immediately following the events of Aliens, we find Ripley as the sole survivor of the cryostasis pod she and Newt escaped in. Unluckily for her, she’s landed on a maximum security prison facility. In a nasty twist, here the Xenomorphs arrive via a Facehugger and a sweet little dog. The final act of the film introduces us to the concept of the Alien Queen and sets up the vital connection between Ripley and the creatures she was once dedicated to killing. Connecting Ripley to the Xenomorphs is a stellar bit of weird lore. But as Ripley (likely) won’t feature in the new series, it’s a moot point. Still cool though.


Alien Resurrection

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20th Century Studios

Set two centuries after the third Alien movie, this might be the most outrageous of the sequels. It was directed by French arthouse maverick Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Here we get Ripley as a hybrid Xenomorph clone and she’s once again trapped on a ship full of ignorant people who do not understand the danger of the aliens they’re messing with. This is another entry that’s concerned with the greed of corporations and the lack of value they place on sentient life. So it seems to be fairly likely to assume an Earth-set Alien series would be interested in excavating that running theme and how the Weyland Corp got to this point.

So where does the new Alien series fit in?
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While we don’t know much about the show so far, we, as always, have some theories. Our best guess it will likely be a Weyland-Yutani Corp focused series set in the years leading up to Prometheus. That would essentially make it another canonical prequel. This allows them to ignore the AVP movies and build more of a grounded sci-fi heavy lore about the corporation that sparked the franchise. Knowing Hawley, though, it’ll likely also have some intriguing puzzle-box storytelling. And perhaps even a little surreal abstraction, which would fit perfectly with the wild world of Alien lore. Basically, we cannot wait.

Header image: 20th Century Studios

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