Video game adaptations don’t exactly have a reputation for being well received, by either critics or fans. That said, the Resident Evil franchise has certainly loomed in popularity, spawning a movie franchise that started out somewhat like the game, but branching off into its own mythos. So with the series getting a much more game-accurate reboot, we thought it would be fun to look back on the franchise as a whole and rank every Resident Evil movie from worst to best!
7. Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
For years, this was the unofficial last installment, and it was a sequel that seemingly ignored everything that happened in the previous movie and just kind of did its own thing (albeit not successfully).
The whole city-wide simulation subplot felt a little too borrowed from The Matrix, and it was clear that this was a franchise that had run out of post-apocalyptic storylines and was just eager to get the characters back into some sort of ordinary society setting (even if it wasn’t real).
The return of Jill Valentine was seemingly in name only, as she looked and acted nothing like she did in the 2nd movie. There are moments in this franchise where its silliness becomes fun, but here it was just ridiculous. It’s only real positive point is a genuinely kickass ending shot with army of infected outside the White House, which unfortunately never amounts to anything.
6. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Released during the 3D craze that was rejuvenated by Avatar, Afterlife was shot with 3D in mind and it shows (in a bad way). Up to this point, the series always had somewhat of a grounded feel, but here everything was in front of bad green screens with random crap coming at the camera in gimmicky fashion.
By this point, the series was starting to run out of ideas, although it hadn’t quite devolved into what Retribution became. Another saving grace is the casting of Wentworth Miller, who had decent chemistry with Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter. It’s a highly flawed movie that gets ridiculous in its final 15 minutes (which makes up the entire runtime of the next one). It’s not quite the worst, but it’s also far from the best.
5. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Essentially Army of the Dead over 10 years before that came out, Extinction smartly changed up its physical setting and made for a pretty decent addition. The Vegas desert proves to be a visually interesting place, and the back and forth between Alice trying to help a group of survivors and Dr. Isaacs trying to locate her for his experiments make for a nice duality.
Albert Wesker is a bit too cartoonish to be taken seriously, so the installments that feature Isaacs in the primary antagonist position usually make for better movies. And given the events of Apocalypse, this was the first movie that really showed the scale of the T-virus infection.
4. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)
Despite being incredibly disappointed with skipping over everything that happened in Washington, DC, The Final Chapter is better than it gets credit for. After two sequels that felt more like green screen inspired 3D fests, this conclusion attempted to ground everything again and did more plotwise than the last 2 movies had.
Here, we get real stakes with the introduction of the antivirus and Umbrella’s plan to keep it buried. And while the last minute exposition about the original “Alice” seemed incredibly contrived (as was Milla Jovivichs’ old makeup), it did more to advance the narrative of this series had had been done in years. You could honestly just have this movie follow Extinction, and it wouldn’t really make a difference, except for a more concise film series.
3. Resident Evil (2002)
Looking back, this original movie was pretty unassuming, considering what this franchise eventually became. The original Resident Evil is incredibly stylized (in a good way) and pays tribute to its video game roots with a plot that deals with characters passing through different levels to get to an eventual end goal. James Purefoy also gives a pretty underrated performance and we sadly don’t see him again.
If you overlook the sequels, it works as this standalone mystery/action/thriller with pretty decent special effects for the time, and some genuinely kickass death scenes (especially that laser grid). There’s a reason that The Final Chapter went back to the Hive and it’s because it’s a pretty awesome setting for one of these movies.
2. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021)
Perhaps it’s sacrilege to put this reboot so high on this list, even higher than the original movie. But it can’t be understated how surprisingly great this movie really was. Aside from being a very accurate depiction of the source material (which isn’t the only factor), it was a movie that knew exactly what it was going for.
Many of the other films on this list tried very hard to be cool and stylized, but it often came off as over the top, campy, and ridiculous. This often clashed with the overall serious tone. Welcome to Raccoon City plays out like a dumb but fun 90s movie because that’s exactly what it knows it is.
It has all the same great action and creature designs, but with a tone that kind of knows it’s a cheesy monster movie and never forgets that. You find yourself laughing with the movie rather than at it.
1. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
One of the best features of any apocalyptic fiction is the breakdown of society itself. And it’s something that unfortunately gets glossed over very quickly so that the plot can move forward to the post-apocalyptic world. Resident Evil: Apocalypse rightfully took its entire runtime to show the utter chaos and mayhem that occurred following the exposure incident in the Hive.
Featuring a genuinely awesome ensemble cast with Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann, Jared Harris, and others, Apocalypse strikes that perfect blend of stylish action, grotesquely fun creature design (with some great practical effects), and a narrative that’s advanced via ticking clock. It hasn’t devolved into the endless sequel-itus problems the later films did, and it perfectly expands upon the first movie which kept everything isolated and contained.
Which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!