Last week, we ranked the Alien films as a whole. This week, we look at the best performances.
Obviously, Ripley is the queen of the Alien(s) films, and nothing compare to the work she does. So, the real question is when it comes to the performances in the franchise is who is the second best to her! Let’s dive in.
10. Idris Elba
Hollywood has NO idea what to do with Idris Elba. He’s really fucking great here though as a totally normal human being who understands that sex is good and when the opportunity comes to do the right thing, it’s generally better to just go on and do the right thing. It’s really weird how this is one his best post-Wire roles given how relatively small it was.
9. Ron Perlman
Perlman really captures the very odd tone of the film that is simultaneously deadly apocalyptic while increasingly ridiculous. Perlman delivers a very broad performance that does not take itself too seriously but also leaving just enough room for some emotional investment. He perfectly captures the spirit of this very big mess of a film!
8. Winona Ryder
The androids in the Alien flicks always end up being some of the most interesting characters. Ryder brought so much vulnerability to the role and much like Perlman would be a great character to bring back if the fifth Weaver film ever happened.
7. Billy Crudup
No one in Covenant really gets much to do outside of Fassbender. Crudup though really maximizes his brief and rushed character arc. He was unexpectedly thrusted into a leadership role at the start of the film and was in no way qualified to do anything of the sort. His entire life fell apart in a manner of hours and was just trying to keep from drowning. And failing to do so. Casting Crudup in small roles in your blockbuster films is a good way to make your blockbuster films better.
6. Ian Holm
Even before the android reveal, Ian Holm did an excellent job of contributing to the unsettling feeling of the film. His presence, and the way he carried himself did a great job of establishing that something is very wrong despite the everyman/regular day tone that much of the characters were bringing to the film. For every other character in the film, this was a story about a day in the life of a worker where they slowly and then suddenly are forced to accept that something is very, very, very wrong. Holm’s work as Ash serves as the tonal anchor. There is something wrong. And there was a menacing countdown until the shit hit the fan.
4. Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton (tied)
Kotto and Stanton are just a delight in this film from their opening moments. Their characters and performances are crucial to understanding and establishing the world of Alien. They are the human element that let us know that the world of Alien is truly **our** world. It is a world about the people of Earth even if they are very far away in space and into the future. They are equal parts funny, charming, rude, self-involved, and always human. While Sigourney Weaver delivers a legendary performance and later on, the performances of people like Kotto and Stanton are what make the Alien films so deep and moving when they are at their best.
3. Lance Henriksen
The character and lore of Bishop along with the work of Henriksen captures many of the themes of the franchise effectively and makes his android character oddly comforting. Bishop is the light in the dark. A totally sincere hope that things are should be counted on to be good. He makes for a particularly effective supporting character in Aliens in response to the development of Ripley after the events of the first film.
2. Charles Dance
Truly one of the best performances (it really sneaks up on you) and one of the most human characterizations in the whole series. With Signourney Weaver’s Ripley pushed to such a hopeless place where nothing can get better with a dash of unspoken survivor’s guilt, it was incredibly fitting for her to be paired with a character quietly and meekly trying to make amends for past mistakes. Dance approached the work with delicacy and restraint and just enough charm to make him likable even when you understand he’s hiding something. The one benefit of the rest of the cast being so flat is that it allowed him to shine more.
1. Michael Fassbender
Fassbender does a genuinely great job being both a charismatic presence that the film needed while also layering in unclear motivations and desires. In some ways, it’s really just a “wacky” performance playing to the cheap seats, but it somehow is perfect for what the films need each time out. It’s a testament to him and Ridley hat they managed to find a way to hit the sweet spot exactly right.