Don't confuse any of these films with Resident Evil: Degeneration and Resident Evil: Damnation. Those two CGI films explicitly follow the canon of the games; these live-action films integrate parts of the videogame canon, but follow their own unique canon.In the first film (which this page covers), a young woman named Alice (Milla Jovovich) awakens to find herself in an empty mansion with little-to-no memory of her past. After soldiers burst through the doors, they take her with them into The Hive, an underground bioresearch facility situated beneath the mansion. Alice discovers an unspeakable secret the Umbrella Corporation wants hidden away for good: they've developed a bioweapon far beyond anything the world has ever known. As the hours tick away and Umbrella's response unit hunts for the cause of the devastation within the lab, the result of that devastation soon becomes clear: the dead have come back to life, and they hunger for fresh flesh...
For tropes related to the sequel films, please visit their individual pages; the first film contains examples of the following tropes:
Action Girl: Alice is the standout example, but there's also Rain Ocampo.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Subverted. The team is told Red Queen has gone homicidal for no reason, but this is a lie. It is Red Queen's job to contain possible outbreaks, which she did perfectly. True, she killed a couple of hundred people but that was specifically part of it; to kill everybody in the facility. And it's nothing to the destruction that follows in the sequels as a direct result of Umbrella breaking quarantine. It's "return" in the fifth film has this trope played straight, though.
Air-Vent Passageway: At one point, the surviving team members go through air vents to evade the zombies.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Alice makes it through the entire ordeal without getting cut up or bruised and is only wet by the end of the film. Illustrating how much this trope is in effect, Milla Jovovich talked about being covered in lesions and bruises after shooting the brief moment where Alice is dragged across the grille in the train. Rain also looks very good for someone who has been bitten by multiple zombies and only merely looks like she's got a bad hangover.
Bottomless Magazines: Bullets run out only when the film demands it. Otherwise even the revolvers can shoot non-stop with no need to reload whatsoever.
Braids of Action: Rain as the Vasquez of this film has her hair sensibly tied back in a braid.
Bullet Proof Fashion Plate: Spence spends most of the film wearing a tight T-shirt that doesn't get torn and he doesn't even get a scratch on his exposed arms. In contrast, Matt and Kaplan get plenty messed up.
Combat Parkour: Alice (Milla Jovovich) in the movies takes this to ridiculous extremes, with even an unpowered Alice sending full-grown adults (and zombies) flying with moves straight out of The Matrix. She enjoys making use of Combat Parkour mainly to dodge and evade attacks (and even lasers) in Resident Evil 3.
Rain: (covered in gore and bites) When I get out of here, I am getting laid!
Spence: (beat) You may want to clean up first.
Doing It for the Art: Paul W.S. Anderson wrote the script for the first film specifically because he wanted to ensure that Resident Evil got a decent cinematic adaptation, and the films are loaded with winking little references to the games.
Face Heel Revolving Door: The Red Queen. Her sole purpose is to keep the virus contained and she won't help the team if it means the virus has any chance of escaping. All things considered, that's her job and she's got a point. At the fifth film, she seems to have gone full heel.
Fast Roping: The soldiers engage in this when they enter the mansion. Why they went on the roof first, or why they simply didn't just go in through the open front door is never explained, but it's probably Rule of Cool.
Gory Discretion Shot: Kaplan is seen putting a gun in his mouth and it then cuts to a reaction shot of Alice hearing the gun being fired. Subverted when it turns out Kaplan just shot a zombie and looks for another way out.
One is literally diced by a grid of beams, but we only see the blurry image of his reflection as he's falling to bits.
Heroic Sacrifice: J.D. ends up performing one unintentionally when he pushes Chad Kaplan away from a locked door so that he can unlock it himself (which unfortunately turns out to have a horde of zombies behind it).
[They] shoot so badly they actually increase the number of zombies.
Speaking of said locks, they are designed to contain some of the most dangerous viruses known to man. Which, when damaged, unlocks instead of staying shut. There's no kind of manual lock backup, like actual biohazard vaults might have in addition to the electronics. Who designed that syst- oh, right, Umbrella.
Necessarily Evil: The Red Queen qualifies big time. Yes, she did murder the entire Umbrella research facility staff but she was only following her main directive to prevent a T-Virus outbreak. In all fairness, her actions are probably the most sensible out of anyone in the entire series in containing the outbreak. Her actions are brutal but effective at least until Umbrella unseals the facility and lets all the zombies loose.At the fifth film however, she seems to have gone full-on evil.
Our Zombies Are Different: These zombies exist because of science — specifically, a virus. A cure exists, but doesn't have much reliability even when administered soon after infection. The T-Virus zombies move slow, and any head trauma (not just a shot to the head) will kill them; Alice kills two zombie dogs by kicking one in the head and smashing the other's head with a paperweight, while Rain kills a zombie by snapping her neck.
Pull the I.V.: Alice does this in the hospital scene that comes at the end of this and near the start of Apocalypse.
Rule of Cool: The whole series invokes this rule by the boatload, but special notice for this film goes to the Laser Hallway. The Red Queen could've just killed everyone right away by using the "laser grid" on the first pass. Watching the grid adapt to the victims' attempts to avoid it and take them down one by one makes for a much more awesome scene, though.
Stripperiffic: As Jovovich pointed out on the "Making Of" feature for Apocalypse, they had to find a way to make Alice sexy since "in real life, she just wears a security uniform [and] no one pays to see that". Thus, Alice dons the red dress and black short shorts. Admittedly, the dress doesn't give her too much trouble since she's wearing a jacket over it for most of her action scenes.
Surprisingly Sudden Death: This happens four times in the first film: once in the laser trap scene, once with the "dining room" attack scene, and twice with the Licker. This continues in the sequels.
Take a Third Option: The Red Queen gives Alice an ultimatum — kill Rain and escape or stay in the Hive and die. Kaplan pulls off a Big Damn Heroes moment by frying the Red Queen and unlocking the door.
Villain Ball: The Umbrella clean-up team sent to investigate The Hive reveal that the Red Queen has a timer running on the facility; since the The Virus broke loose and infected everything, when the timer counts down to 0, all of The Hive's entrances will permanently seal shut — nothing gets in, nothing gets out. This seems pretty smart so far. Umbrella does not agree with this. Not only does the system have a built-in override, but the team sent to override the system contains five people. Guess what happens when they override the system.
Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Rain vomits hours after being bitten by a zombie. On the DVD commentary, Michelle Rodriguez asked Paul W.S. Anderson, "Why didn't you do a close up on the throw up?" Ugh.
Xanatos Gambit: The Red Queen pulls one when the protagonists try to escape the Hive before the doors close for good. With a Licker at the window of the lab slowly breaking through, the Queen gives Alice and company a choice: kill the T-Virus-infected Rain (and thereby invoke Vasquez Always Dies) or let her live long enough for the Licker to kill her. The Queen wins regardless of what choice Alice makes as the virus will end up contained — or, at least, she would've won if Kaplan hadn't taken option three and fried the Red Queen to unlock the door and allow everyone to escape. This ends badly.
Matt: Listen to me. There is nothing else you could've done.
You Keep Using That Word: Despite the T-Virus being called a protean virus and mentioned as being airborne, no one ever wears gas masks and are apparently fine for doing so? After the intial infection of the Hive scientists, apparently by an airborne variant, even in that film, afterwards, bites seem to be the only way for anyone to actually become infected.
In the books at least, it is stated that the T-Virus has an airborne variant with a hot zone, and this is the deployment method. After that though, the virus reverts to the non-airbourne variant with all the people-eating that entails. The film hints at this, but doesn't say so outright.