Movie adaptations of video games are generally met with derision, but survival-horror shooter Resident Evil managed to go the distance, spawning five sequels, turning Milla Jovovich into an action icon, and collectively raking in over $1.2 billion in global box office. As the series progressed, a definite sense of “same thing, different film” started to set in, but occasionally a new instalment would attempt shake up the formula for the better.

With reboot/origin story Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City poised to take moviegoers and gamers back to where it all began, there’s no real need to watch all seven RE films prior to heading to the cinema. But if you’re feeling the need for an Evil refresher, or only want to check out the good ones, we’ve ranked the franchise from best to worst. [SPOILERS ahead]

Note: This list ranks the live-action RE movies only. The three animated films – Vendetta, Degeneration and Damnation – have not been included here, but are worth a look.

A possibly contentious choice for the best Resident Evil film, but there’s so much to like about the third one – from the post-apocalyptic Mad Max/Damnation Alley vibe and music video-styled direction by Russell Mulcahy, to those killer crows and bits swiped from Day of the Dead. Extinction pretty much ties up the events of the previous two films – before things get crazier – and also works as a standalone entry like the original. If you only see one Resident Evil film…

The original in a franchise is often the best, and Paul W.S. Anderson’s take on the survival-horror video game comes in a close second in the RE ranking. It’s your basic lab-under-siege scenario, with Milla Jovovich’s Alice rocking it in red as she battles a mad AI and hordes of infected zombies. It’s a hyper-stylised actioner with a plot that’s easy to follow (unlike some of the sequels that followed) and a decent video game adaptation (one of the few), even if gamers were left miffed at how much it diverged from events in the Capcom shooter.

While not quite saving the best for last, the grand finale does wrap things up successfully by returning to where it all began, the Hive, in order to find the anti-virus that will put an end to all the evil, resident and otherwise. You could almost watch this one directly following the original film and skip the four in the middle, and it would all still make sort-of sense. Moreover, it makes good on its promise of being ‘The Final Chapter’ (even though a reboot is incoming) by bringing events full circle with a sense of closure, despite Alice’s parting promise that her job “isn’t finished yet.”

The first sequel saw a change of director and direction, with Alexander Witt taking the helm (while Anderson was off shooting Alien vs. Predator) and gamers getting a bit of what they wanted the first time round – namely a film more recognisably rooted in RE gameplay, including characters like Jill Valentine and Carlos Olivera. For everyone else, it’s a bit like watching someone else play the game while you sit there without a controller, although the action is relentless and the fight between Alice and the naff-looking Nemesis is fun.

Sticking zombies in a prison setting usually works – especially alongside TV jailbird Wentworth Miller – but the fourth RE film never fully exploits the potential, even with P.W.S. Anderson back onboard as director. Things are starting to feel pretty familiar now – Umbrella continues to experiment on survivors/the search for Arcadia continues – but you do get an army of Alice clones attacking Umbrella’s Tokyo branch. Afterlife does look darn slick, though, and was impressive up on the big screen with some decent 3D to distract from its derivate plotting.

The penultimate RE film is a recycling machine, churning out more of the same and playing fan service to gamers who’ve stuck it out this far with a procession of familiar RE characters, alongside ones from the movies that died in previous instalments but return as clones. It’s a mostly forgettable entry that pilfers from The Matrix and Aliens (Alice’s maternal instincts kicking in with a cloned child), although the ‘Previously on Resident Evil…’ recap unspools as a crazy slow motion rewind – then it’s all downhill.

Resident Evil at JB Hi-Fi