Resident Evil – from worst to best

Resident Evil umbrella

Resident Evil: From worst to best

Disclaimer: Playing and collecting the games, and watching and defending the Resident Evil movies is one of my great passions in life. I love the mythology, the characters and the true escapism it offers, and it is a series I grew up with. You should know this before reading any further…

Edit: This list has now been updated to include Resident Evil : The Final Chapter (2017), so some of what’s written below may not make complete sense. Consider it a tribute to the writing of the series… 

Hurl abuse and criticism all you like, the Resident Evil film series is going nowhere.

Intense fans of the cannon games seem to hate it, snobbish film critics dismiss it and it appears as though the story reached its dead end at least 2 entries ago… so why is the world now bracing for the 6th instalment to be unleashed next year? Simply because the haters are the vocal minority, and the majority (myself proudly included) flock to the cinema in droves to see the stunning Alice battle zombies and other T-Virus creations in each of her figure-hugging outfits, and bathe in the eye-popping apocalyptic glory prepared for us with smiles on our faces, popcorn on our laps and a desire to be entertained.

Though it is truthful that each film is left wanting in the script, directing, acting, plotting and setting departments, it is also the case that these downfalls are so obviously the reason for the series’ resonance with its audience. It is incomprehensible that such a series exists, and just how outlandish it has become since its claustrophobic beginning is quite phenomenal, but without such oddities existing the film industry would indeed be an unbelievably boring place. This is why I, a gargantuan fan and collector of the games series from Resident Evil 0 through to 4, love it.

Here are the Resident Evil films ranked in order of quality (yes, that’s right, quality).

6. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

So, not a lot happens in this entry to be honest, but with Paul W.S Anderson returning to the helm after two entries as writer/producer only there’s no doubting its style and ultra-cool 3D action beauty. The ‘shower scene’ as I like to refer to it, in which Alice and Claire (Ali Larter) battle the Axe Man inside the prison is eye-poppingly gorgeous, and the final fight between Albert Wesker and Alice, Claire and Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller) backed by the tunes of A Perfect Circle and taking place in a stark white environment fist-pumpingly awesome. I did mention I’m a fan, didn’t I?

Resident Evil Afterlife

5. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

With an Australian director at the helm in Russel Mulcahy (Razorback, Highlander) it’s no wonder Extinction has a distinctively Mad Max feel. On Blu-ray this desert-set entry dazzles as the crisp sand, sun and blood covers the zombie filled landscape and the booming audio delights the senses. Also, Wesker makes his first appearance, and Alice (with help from a clone) accounts for her first Tyrant – but possibly the smartest move with Extinction was through its bookends harking back to the beloved original.

resident evil extinction

4. Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

On paper, the plot for this 5th entry appears rather convoluted and layered, on screen however it is clear that is decidedly not the case. Retribution is simple minded but a whole lot of fun, and gives the fans what they want in spades. You want Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) to return despite having been killed? You got it! Leon Kennedy, Ada Wong and fan favourite Barry Burton to be introduced to the story? No Worries! And if like me you also wanted (though didn’t realise it beforehand) to see Wesker sitting in the President’s office in the White House where humanities last stand is apparently taking place, you got that too.

resident evil retribution

3. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

This is a franchise that has long been illogical, incomprehensible and of more recent times downright bizarre, and in The Final Chapter this is both embraced and refined. Indulgent action set-pieces still abound, and the script is still cheesy and exposition heavy, but this time around these cherished elements are in support of an exciting narrative that presents a dire future and a noteworthy twist.

Resident Evil The Final Chapter promotional still

Ali Larter, Milla Jovovich and Ruby Rose

2. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

Taking the action out of The Hive and onto the streets of Racoon City, Apocalypse is indeed a bigger, more expensive and action packed film than its predecessor, but not quite as good. With a target audience of young males and survival horror gamers, the introduction of Sienna Guillory as Jill Valentine (the name alone to set fan-boys hearts fluttering) and villain Nemesis (S.T.A.R.S!) was a stroke of genius, and the rewards were reaped in its impressive box-office haul (to this date, each new film in the series has brought in more than that before it). For the keen gaming eye there are references galore (particularly to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis), and for those not affiliated with the Capcom phenomenon, there is some Alice, sweet Alice.

Resident Evil

1. Resident Evil (2002)

Proudly sitting at number 30 in my top 30 films of all time, Resident Evil is a tense, scary and pacey gem of a horror movie with a killer soundtrack by the divisive Marilyn Manson and a great cast of international of talent. It exists in a different world to the games, and is all the better for it, as any attempt at re-creating the terrifying atmosphere of Spencer Mansion would fail dramatically. This is exciting, buzzing industrial horror that any self-respecting genre fan should enjoy and appreciate… after all, it did bring zombies back into the mainstream after a decade in the wilderness, and further the career of the extraordinary Milla Jovovich.

Resident Evil

So, are you with me, or against me?

48 responses to “Resident Evil – from worst to best

  1. I’m with you! Although, I really only liked the first two–Apocalypse is my personal favorite–and then some strange force kept compelling me to return to theaters with every sequel. It’s probably because I’ve been a sucker for Milla Jovovich ever since The Fifth Element rocked my world when I was just a young’un.



  2. Like the games, the films are hit and miss for me. That said, there’s a certain WYSIWYG thing about them that’s enjoyable when I happen to come across one on cable an stop to kill an hour and a half or whatever.

    I know a few diehard fans of the games who hate all the films for not sticking to series canon in terms of a few things they consider “important”, but I don’t find any films PERFECTLY replicating what’s in a game or comic or book (so it’s no big deal to me)…

    • I’m a diehard fan of the games myself, and I appreciate that the film series went down a completely different path… it was the best way to show the games respect and further the Resident Evil legacy.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      • I appreciate the insight. I just watched Apocalypse again last night and remembered how much I liked it. I’ve seen all but Retribution and Afterlife and I agree with your analysis. Also, I’ve never played the games, so I’m glad to be told that they went a rather different direction.

  3. Resident Evil 1 all the way! l love the scene when they get chopped into itsy bitsy diced cubes by the lasers ha. Having said that, I thought Apocolypse was cool as I had just completed RE Nemesis and the storyline was really similar. My ex actually watched Apocolypse first and then really wanted to watch the first and she’s not really into zombie stuff so that says something as well! We watched the rest in the cinema together and it became a ‘thing’. Isn’t that nice now.

    • haha, very nice. I watched that laser room scene far more times than can be considered normal when I first got the film on DVD, and while it is incredibly nonsensical, It’s still very cool in a pretty horrible way!

  4. The first Resident Evil will always be the best – it’s a fun, cool action-horror. But I absolutely HATE apocalypse. I don’t care how many references to the games it makes, it’s a lazy, amateurish film.

  5. Ive always enjoyed the series but retribution is easily the worst one. The opening ’28 days scene’ was brilliant but it rapidly went downhill after that.

    Other then that I mostly agree, especially that 1 is the best of the series

  6. Hmmm, I have not seen all these films, actually I am not even sure which ones I have seen (and that, in my opinion, tells a lot about how uninteresting I find the Res-film series as a whole)… But I know for sure that I have seen Extinction twice on late-night TV and both these times during same week!
    I have also only played the 4th instalment of the games. Good action and nice monsters, although the QTE’s rip my nerves to shreds.

    I think that the best aspects of Resident Evil: Extinction lie in the visuals and the acrobatic action. The Mad Max feeling you mentioned is also positive. There is also something haunting about the hordes of zombies packing against the fences outside the Umbrella’s underground bunker entrance. But overall, I didn’t really like the film. It’s certainly not worth hating, it is, after all, a zombie-pandemic-survival-action movie, but I like more survival themed zombie/infection movies. Also, I have never really hated Jovovich, if not regarded her as a great actor either. She is well suited to play a professional zombie eliminator, and, as I have stated in my review of Joan of Arc, she is also rather good at portraying people at the edge of insanity. Overall, I’d say that the Resident Evil films may be more aimed at the really big fans of the games, even though I know a few that seem to passionately hate the films while loving the games.

    • Man Resident Evil 4 is my favorite game of all time! Can remember every aspect of playing that for the first time. As I’ve stated, I don’t view these movies as a critic would, and perhaps that is to my shame. I’m aware though that for someone not as in love with this viral-outbreak world as me the movies could absolutely be reviewed very harshly for a lack of plot among other things.

      Oh, and on the subject of Milla, other films worth noting for her performances include The Fourth Kind, Dazed and Confused and He Got Game.
      Thanks for the comment!

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  8. I really want to see the movies and (re)play the game now. Normally video game movie adaptations are diabolical. That’s what I hear about the Silent Hill films (the game series I am unhealthily obsessed with)

    • Oh don’t be mistaken, the movies are by no means accomplished or polished or critically acclaimed, but I love them all the same. I grew up with the games so they hold a very special place in my heart! And I like that the movies didn’t try to recreate them.

      Silent Hill is great also, the games series and the first movie in my opinion! I hope you enjoy them all also!

  9. I agree the first RE film will always be the best, but honestly I love the entire franchise and I really enjoyed Afterlife & Retribution in 3D at the cinemas. I admire both Milla Jovovich & Paul WS Anderson they have done a fantastic job of the franchise. I don’t understand why Retribution got such bad reviews from critics. The trouble is when a film is made from a story that was originally a game it never lives up to its name perfectly! I mean look at how awful silent hill has become now? The games are more terrifying then the films alone and there thinking of making a “The Last of Us” film? Really? From a game to a film it never works. The only film I think that pulled it off and lives up to it’s game was the first Mortal Kombat film! Anyway back to RE, so in my option I think Retribution was epic, okay so the slow motion scene on Arcadia took them like a month to finish but it was beautiful in 3D! It has a talented cast the return of Michele Rodriguez & Sienna Guillory and they couldn’t of found better actors to portray Ada Wong & Leon Kennedy, Li Binngbing & Johan Urb played the roles beautifully! There are some awesome fight scenes my favourite was the corridor scene when Alice kicks ass with just a pistol and a padlock chain. Fans and film critics say it was too much like a video game, wasn’t that what people wanted from the beginning? I don’t get it!! By far the first one is the best, and then probably Extinction and then Afterlife & Retribution in no particular order, my least favourite was probably Apocalypse even tho it introduces game characters for the first time Jill Valentine, Carlos Olivera & Nemesis and has a strong resemblance to the games there was something about it that I didn’t like it Maybe because it just doesn’t have that same underground geography feel like the other movies. It has never felt the real RE from the beginning anyway and since it started it, it’s different but it’s a breath of fresh air and I love it! it’s still a fantastic film franchise and I love Milla Jovovich she’s one of my best actresses and I don’t think there can be a RE film without her from now on, unless the franchise is revamped. Paul Anderson is probably one of my favourite film directors/producers and I admire all of his work and I’m hoping the finale in 2015 is going to change everything and get better reviews. He’s done an awesome job of the films and my only criticism is that he should of never killed off Michelle Rodriguez in the first film he should kept her alongside Alice all the way through, oh well!

    “Your All Going To Die Down Here!” Words of The Red Queen!

    • It’s nice to see someone that shares my opinion! Jill Valentine is my gaming crush, and always has been, which is really why I rate Apocalypse so highly. Thanks for the in-depth comment mate!

  10. That is pretty much the way I would stack them up too.

    Something I never noticed though, it is the same order I would rate which movies I thought Alice w the most hot in. I may have more issues than I thought I did.

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  12. Great read and thanks for liking my blog entry ;).
    I should also cover this series, as I enjoy them very much myself, and I’m a fan of the games as well. Sometimes I think a lot of gamers take things too seriously with certain franchises. I actually prefer the first RE movie in terms of story to the original game, as this was kind of a mess. The movies surely have their ups and downs, but except maybe for Apocalypse I found them all pretty cool in their own way. Didn’t really remember what exactly happened in the last one after watching it, as it was pretty convoluted, but it was still very entertaining, and I’m looking forward to the next flick (more than the games, to be honest) ;).

    Favorite movies order:
    RE, RE: Afterlife, RE: Extinction, RE: Retribution, RE: Apocalypse”

    BTW, I also enjoy quite a few other game adaptations despite the general consensus they’re crap, including “Silent Hill” and… well, yes, “Mortal Kombat” and “DOA” ;). Some are reviewed on my page if you want to check them out, somewhere between the game reviews.

    • I agree with you – game adaptations make for some great guilty pleasures! and they should be treated as existing in a separate universe.
      I loved Silent Hill! And Doom ha.
      Looking forward to checking out more of your site.

  13. I pretty much agree with this list, but I would place Extinction above Retribution. Even though it probably has the least similarity with the game franchise I liked the setting and action a lot and Tyrant has always been my favorite enemy in the game series. It was the first Resident Evil movie I saw in theatres on opening night. I went back for Afterlife but was really disappointed. The first movie was amazing. It was just so atmospheric and Marilyn Manson’s soundtrack was excellent. I would listen to the main theme on the DVD menu for hours before shutting it off.

  14. While I disagree with the order (I think the first two are the worst by a wide margin), it’s nice to see someone sticking up for this highly underrated series. Paul Anderson doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

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  18. Well .. we all await Star Wars .. which will likely bully everything else off the screen for a while. I anticipate a pretty good movie there … but I won’t be camping outside the door.

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  21. My Best to Worst: Extinction, Apocolypse, Resident Evil, Afterlife, Redeption. I’m probably the odd man out, but I liked Alice the best when she was kicking ass using her powers and abilities. Extinction and Apocolypse seemed to emphasize her powers and abilities the most and that’s what I liked them the most and even more than the first Resident Evil. Hated the fact that they took her powers in Afterlife, think it ruined the francise and the appeal of Alice, glad there giving her back her abilities for the finale, Final Chapter. If the Final Chapter is as good as it’s hyped up to be, it may be my new fav.

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  23. Can’t disagree nor agree. I thought the first one was solid, a hidden treat for film fans and a fantastically faithful but independent story to suffice gamers. After seeing the others, however, I am convinced that they failed to truly capture the simple genius of the Biohazard series. I think something like giving RE 4 or 2 a movie adaptation would’ve been more reasonable. Still I value this list for shining a light on a series that has a dedicated fan base.

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  26. I can’t say I enjoyed the second one very much, but the rest of the series is great and I’m shocked how poor of reception they all have. Switch Retribution and the original and that’s about my ranking, though they’re all great.

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