How do you watch the Resident Evil movies in order? This undead horror movie franchise put the pedal to the metal with its over-the-top style, nu-metal music, fears around corporate negligence, and badass leading lady.
Resident Evil technically is an adaptation of the popular horror video games, but if you’ve played them, you know the word ‘adaptation’ is used very loosely here. Paul W. S. Anderson’s best zombie movies took the core concept of Umbrella Corp’s outbreak and ran with it… far, far away. When you allow them to exist as exercises in 2000s indulgence, they have everything that was fun about action flicks from that era: slow motion in excess, iconic apocalyptic fashion looks, and a cool female protagonist in Milla Jovovich’s Alice.
There may still be new movies in the franchise to come, but let us take a look at the live-action Resident Evil movies in order. Luckily, the release order and the chronological order are one and the same, so we don’t have to get a degree as we did for the Insidious movies in order. Oh, and Netflix‘s series, the animated movies, and 2021’s Welcome to Raccoon City aren’t here; they’re completely separate with their own timelines and have no connection to these movies.
How to watch the Resident Evil movies in chronological order:
- Resident Evil
- Resident Evil: Apocalypse
- Resident Evil: Extinction
- Resident Evil: Afterlife
- Resident Evil: Retribution
- Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Resident Evil (2002)
The timeline begins with 2002’s Resident Evil, which opens with an outbreak of the T-Virus in the Hive: an Umbrella Corporation facility doing genetic research that the corporation would aim to weaponize and sell. When the virus gets out, the facility’s AI — The Red Queen — initiates a lockdown and kills all staff in an effort to prevent spreading. When Alice (Milla Jovovich) wakes up in a strange house with amnesia and unsure of her connection to Umbrella, a special ops team brings her along to investigate what happened.
We learn Alice had a part to play in leaked company secrets, unraveling the mystery of her identity. Ultimately, the team walks into the facility with no knowledge, and as a result, carnage ensues. Alice returns to a vastly different world ravaged by the unleashed T-Virus.
Critics didn’t exactly call this one of the best action movies, but it’s our favorite in this timeline. Its chaotic approach, compelling hero, and personable supporting characters (Michelle Rodriguez is dope in this) build a cool and threatening world that paves the way for further installments.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Apocalypse takes place after a short time jump proceeding the events of the original movie. It leans way further into the video game roots with a story that adds the game character Jill Valentine, terrifying boss Nemesis, and follows a group of survivors as they attempt to evacuate the lost Raccoon City before it’s nuked.
The film builds to the threat of decimation, the media covering up Umbrella’s involvement, and Alice once again held captive. At this point, the nefarious corp and Dr. Alexander Isaacs (a high-ranking scientist) in particular clearly have plans for her.
W.S. Anderson didn’t direct this one, and we think it’s all show and no go: extremely action-heavy with poor characterization for Alice, who’s basically a vacant superhero now.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Following the events of Apocalypse, Alice has decided to strike out on her own. She wanders desolate land, struggling to fend off other survivors and find resources. The virus has spread throughout America, creating a wasteland. She stumbles upon another group of survivors, and we meet one of the few great supporting characters of the series, Claire Redfield.
Oh, there are also Alice clones now. Umbrella, realizing Alice has a unique biology resistant to the T-Virus, has been creating duplicates of her, failing to replicate her abilities — ie. Project Alice. Alice convinces Claire and her group to seek safe harbor in Alaska, where there is rumor of land left unaffected by the outbreak. When Alice learns of her clones, though, she aims to get rid of the Umbrella facility growing them.
This one is awesome. The desert setting, the development of interpersonal relationships for Alice, and the dusty action are all a step up from Apocalypse. W.S. Anderson returned with some much-needed unique flavor.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
We open in Tokyo in Afterlife, with a sequence that blew our socks off. You can watch it above. Alice is making good on her promise to get rid of her clones, attacking a large Umbrella facility in the city with the help of her copies. Albert Wesker, another game character brought to the screen, narrowly escapes.
Alice sets off for Alaska to find Claire, but realizes they’re not there. But eventually, they reunite: survivors are holding out in a prison surrounded by swarms of undead. There’s a stunning fight between Alice, Claire, and a nasty-looking bioweapon mutant, full of 3D gimmicks (this was one of those movies that made big on the trend) and rain effects we loved. In the end, they head for Arcadia, a ship they hope will bring safe passage. After fighting their way through, the movie ends with a cliffhanger about the reality of Arcadia.
We rate this one. We like it when supporting characters stick around and connections are nurtured, and Alice is at her best when she’s in the role of a reluctant leader.
Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
After Alice and her allies are attacked on Arcadia, a mind-controlled Jill captures her. Meanwhile, an Alice clone wakes up in the suburbs with a husband and daughter. Zombies attack, revealing the setting as Raccoon City during the outbreak. A clone of Michelle Rodriguez’s Rain shows up to help them. We don’t know what the hell is going on, but we’re into it.
Real, captured Alice escapes her cell and battles her way through an Umbrella simulation of Shibuya Square, Tokyo. She then encounters the game character Ada Wong, one of Wesker’s skilled agents. There’s a lot that happens, but basically, the AI Red Queen now controls Umbrella. It all culminates in an attempt to free Jill, escape the simulations, and recoup.
This one is bonkers, and is basically a journey through the franchise up until this point, revisiting old faces, providing lots of opportunities for great action, and setting the stage for the finale.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)
The Final Chapter is the last movie in the timeline, and The Red Queen tells Alice she has 48 hours to infiltrate the Hive, the facility beneath Raccoon City. Umbrella Corp, whose employees are safe in cryo-sleep, has an airborne anti-virus that can kill every zombie but is waiting for humanity to go extinct before releasing it. Because her body carries the T-virus, Alice sees it as a suicide mission.
When she travels to Raccoon City, she finds Claire, who survived Arcadia. She, Claire, and some ragtag humans enter the Hive, with the goal of killing Weskler, Isaacs, and releasing the anti-virus.
The Final Chapter kind of sucks. It came out in 2016, and the endearing qualities of the previous movies have worn themselves thin by now, and the ludicrous, disorientating editing doesn’t help this last flick feel elevated or like a top-quality goodbye. It’s also plot-heavy with few character beats. On the upside, Jovovich makes it worthwhile and the music is fantastic.
How to watch the Resident Evil movies in release order:
- Resident Evil (2002)
- Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
- Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
- Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
- Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
- Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)
Those are the Resident Evil movies in order. Peaks and valleys, but in the best movies the good outweighs the bad, and they’re quintessential to the trends of the 2000s and early 2010s. Whether you watch in order of release or chronologically, your experience will be exactly the same. Nice and simple! For the not-so-simple, we’ve got the DC movies in order and X-Men movies in order.