The Alien Anthology has a long and bloody history of containing an unusually high carnage count, as H.R. Giger's terrifying biomechanical beasts are insanely effective killing machines with their multiple sets of retractable razor-sharp jaws, notoriously nasty disposition and hull-melting concentrated acid for blood.
In the original Alien, the android Ash admired the xenomorph for its purity, and I heartily concur. The latest installment in the franchise, Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant, omitted here for obvious spoilery details and currently floating in nebulous box-office territory, is a particularly brutal slaughter-fest with enough snapping spines, splitting skin and torture-porn dismemberment to haunt twenty thousand Halloweens. Previous scenes of abrupt Alien abduction and steaming choppers jabbing at spacegoers had much more subtlety that I sorely miss.
But which of the Alien assassins' vicious human slayings is truly the best?
Let's dissect the entire spectrum of notable kills in this five-film Alien series to discover which monstrous murder ranks the highest. For the purpose of this list we're concentrating only on pure xenomorph attacks of the most insane varieties that include future cocooning as impregnable host and tragic deaths attributed to various elements of the Alien life cycles. No peripheral perishings due to exploding ordnance, friendly fire, flamethrowers or a chance encounter leading to a crew member suddenly vanishing into some nefarious nest.
Brace yourself for a tour-de-force of creature calamities in this ranking of 23 (well, 24 -- one of 'em's a two-fer) Alien fatalities and tell us which one takes the top spot on your kill count.
Aliens - Cynthia Dietrich (Cynthia Dale Scott)
Medical corpsman for the Colonial Marines. Dies in the Atmosphere Processor Plant attack in The Hive. During the confused assault, an alien warrior steps out from the greasy wall and mauls her mercilessly. She shoulda stayed on the Sulaco and played backgammon with Bishop.
Alien Resurrection - Sabra Hillard (Kim Flowers)
Elgyn's svelte main squeeze and pilot of the Betty, Hillard dies a watery death in the flooded galley, being dragged away by a graceful swimming xenomorph after Johner pulverizes its partner with a direct hit from an underwater grenade. Joins her boyfriend in that big foot rub parlor in the sky.
Alien - Joan Lambert (Veronica Cartwright)
Chain-smoking Navigator aboard the Nostromo. Slaughtered while petrified by the creeping monster as she gathered oxygen tanks to pack into the Narcissus shuttle craft. Don't scream, just run! Really! Move your feet!!
Aliens - Carter Burke (Paul Reiser)
Weyland-Yutani corporate A-hole who deserved a much greater death after sending Hadley's Hope colonists out to the derelict ship which resulted in 156 deaths and trying to implant an alien in Ripley and Newt to smuggle back to Gateway station. Locks himself in a service room when xenomorphs attack the main operations center but is joined by a hungry creature who makes a light meal of him before cocooning him for later incubation.
Alien - Samuel Brett (Harry Dean Stanton)
Engineer tech and best buddy of Parker, Brett is the first kill of the adult xenomorph when the Hawaiian shirt-wearing stoner is looking for Jones the cat down in the cargo hold of the Nostromo, refreshing himself with condensation droplets and listening to the melodic chimes of hanging chains. I believe he found more than just the frisky feline. Right!
Aliens - Colette Ferro (Colette Hiller)
Colonial Marine Dropship Pilot of the Cheyenne, called down to the surface of LV-426 after the disaster at The Hive. Before landing, a stowaway warrior enters the cockpit and gives her a big smile before splashing her blood across the windshield, causing the dropship to crash near the shocked survivors below. No more flying her friendly skies.
Alien 3 - David Postlethwaite (Pete Postlethwaite)
David meets his end in the third act as he attempts to help lure the lone xenomorph into the lead works. Not remembering to check his corners in a room he's backed into, he's undone by the munching monster that's come up from behind, driving its punishing jaws straight through the back of his cranium and exploding out of his forehead.
Aliens - Master Sergeant Al Apone (Al Matthews)
His beloved Colonial Marines march into the Atmosphere Processor Plant, where they're ambushed by a swarm of xenomorph warriors. Apone holds it together with incineration units until an Alien carries him off screaming to be used as a host and later killed by a newborn chestburster. Don't believe it? Look into my eye!!
Aliens - Private First Class William Hudson (Bill Paxton)
The ultimate badass was a Colonial Marine with 2nd Battalion Bravo Team. He dies on LV-426 (Acheron) at the Hadley's Hope Colony installation hammering away at alien Warriors with his pulse rifle in the operations center, shouting challenges as he's ripped below the floor grating by clawed appendages and into the sewers where he's later killed by a Chestburster. Game Over, man!
Alien 3 - Thomas Murphy (Christopher Fairbank)
Happily scrubbing the air ventilation shaft singing Zager and Evans' one-hit wonder, "In The Year 2525," Murphy bites the dust in the heat and filth of mind-numbing manual labor, being the first to perish at the bleak prison as the adult xenomorph attacks and send him tumbling into the rotating fan blades. Poor chap! At least he went down singing.
Alien Resurrectiion - Frank Elgyn (Michael Wincott)
Captain of the Betty and leader of the smugglers group that delivers the bodies to General Perez on the USM Auriga. The gravel-voiced pirate gets cocky and is ambushed by a ravenous alien drone from the steel floor grating while hunting down more weapons. Shocking due to the fact that he's never given anything heroic to do except look cool drinking and smoking with the General and giving orgasmic foot rubs. Huh ... actually, considering it's Michael Wincott, maybe that's enough.
Prometheus - Rafe Millburn (Rafe Spall)
Prometheus is an interesting case in our ranking as technically nobody (human) except Millburn gets killed by a xenomorph or its various incarnations. One reason is that THERE ARE NO XENOMORPHS in it and most of the crew are killed by each other: Holloway is torched, Fifield is run over by an APC then shot to death, Vickers is crushed by the crashing Juggernaut after it was rammed by Janek and his flight team aboard the Prometheus. So that makes the too-curious biologist the sole member of the crew that is directly killed by an alien, a mutated worm emerging from a puddle of black goo. He stupidly goes to pet the cobra-like creature and it wraps around his arm, enters his helmet and dives down his throat. Remember kids, don't touch the Hammerpedes!!
Alien 3 - Alan Jude (Vincenzo Nicoli)
Clean-up man Jude is one of the more likable inmates on Fury 161. After Dillon's rousing speech, he agrees to try to bait the Alien into the leadworks and is nearly home free, sprinting toward Dillon with a flare when the swift monster chases him down and tears him in half as his body parts slop onto the slamming door.
Alien 3 - Superintendent Harold Andrews (Brian Glover)
The annoyingly gruff warden of Fury 161 rarely stops yammering about prison protocol and enforcing his long list of conduct rules, but his mouth is suddenly silenced when he's bitten and hauled off through an overhead air passageway just as he's lambasting Ripley about her delusions of a marauding monster. Sometimes the xenos have perfect timing!
Alien Resurrection - Brian Clauss (Brian Rowe)
Part of Dr. Wren's unethical scientific team cloning Ripleys and creating beefy warrior xenomorphs, Clauss seems like a decent enough guy but unfortunately sticks his head into the containment chamber in the med lab after the Alien breakout. A clever head alien was lurking outside and had learned all about the liquid nitrogen spray button from Dr. Gediman and slams a clawed hand down on the activator, spraying Clauss with a frosty blast and freezing him to death. The icy stalk of his glacial arm cracking off is a nice touch!
Alien - Dennis Parker (Yaphet Kotto)
Chief engineer assigned to the commercial towing vehicle Nostromo, Parker is dispatched in a frenzy of agonizing screams as he collected oxygen tanks for the escape plan involving the shuttle craft Narcissus. Devoured ... and he never got his bonus.
Alien Resurrection - General Martin Perez (Dan Hedaya)
The stern commander of the military research vessel USM Auriga, Perez bites it after tossing a grenade into an escape pod that an Alien has infiltrated and remote-detonating it as the pod launches, Saluting his slaughtered soldiers, he then receives a lethal cranium kiss from an escaped alien drone's savage jaws. Notable for the comedic look on his puzzled face as he inspects some brain tissue as he draws a last breath. Mi cabeza es su cabeza!
Aliens - Private First Class Mark Drake (Mark Rolston)
Proficient with a smart gun, Drake aids his assault team in getting back to the APC after the disastrous initial assault on The Hive. Hoses down crunchy aliens with extreme prejudice. Neglects to see a warrior emerge from a wall but Vasquez blasts it with a flurry of hot rounds. Too bad the xenomorph is filled with concentrated acid for blood that splatters Drake's face and body with a lethal dose of steaming fluid.
Alien 3 - Jonathan Clemens (Charles Dance)
The sympathetic but disgraced doctor is the chief medical officer for the penal colony of Fiorina 'Fury' 161 and known for his potent injectable "cocktails." The xenomorph pulls Game of Thrones' future Tywin Lannister into the ceiling of the infirmary right in front of Ripley, but at least she got laid before the horrifically abrupt abduction. That's an even faster way to get off the morphine.
Alien Resurrection - Dr. Jonathan Gediman (Brad Dourif)
Don't tease the xenomorphs! It's a good rule to follow, especially after they devour one of their own to escape the containment cell watched over by the taunting doctor. Gediman ends up left for dead and cocooned in the Alien queen's lair, witnessing the eerie monstrosity of the Newborn's birth. He provides some initial nourishment for the baby beast as it bites into his head like a delicious seedless grape.
Alien Resurrection - Larry Purvis (Leland Orser) and Dr. Mason Wren (J.E. Freeman)
This is a total two-fer and deserves to be near the top of the heap for very good reasons. Purvis is one of the poor hosts delivered by Elgyn's smugglers and impregnated with a xenomorph that wants to come out and play. Dr. Wren, head of the scientific team breeding creatures on the USM Auriga, gets a shocking surprise when the toothy, chrome-domed infant bursts not only through Purvis' chest but also continues out through the jackass doctor's forehead as he's being held. Brutality at its best!
Alien 3 - Leonard Dillon (Charles S. Dutton)
Dutton's strong and resilient convict is the heart of this film and he's given one of my favorite death scenes in the lead works mold as he saves Ripley and stands defiant against the creature, removing his glasses and tossing out one last F-bomb to the monster before Morse douses it with molten metal. He's baptized in the steaming lead, dying with the ravaging creature in a beautiful moment of his ultimate salvation and sacrifice.
Alien - Gilbert Kane (John Hurt)
It's hard to top the pure visceral horror of this iconic Alien attack, which is probably one of the most disgustingly memorable scenes in cinema history. Second in command on the Nostromo, the executive officer experiences a close encounter with a facehugger on the derelict Juggernaut and is impregnated with a xenomorph that erupts from his heaving chest cavity in the middle of dinner. Come on Kane, the food's not that bad!