Which one is your favorite?
The Predator movies are one of sci-fi/horror’s most enduring properties. There’s something deceptively simple about a hulking, technologically advanced monster tracking its prey through all manner of locales. The titular monster has featured in movies, novels, comics, and even games (listen, Predator: Concrete Jungle for the PS2 slaps). Here, we’ll be taking a look at the franchise’s history, ranking the Predator movies (and crossovers) from worst to best.
6. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
In another world, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem might rank higher on this list. In that other world, Requiem is a movie people could actually see. No one can quite agree on why Requiem is borderline unwatchable, but no matter the creative or logistical constraints, the movie is simply too dark to see. It’s the equivalent of a Triple-A game released with game-breaking bugs. As good as it might be, it doesn’t matter when it arrives inextricably broken. With games, bugs can be patched. With Requiem, only makeshift, at-home fixes can render it even marginally watchable.
That’s a shame, too, since the movie itself might otherwise have been B-movie nirvana. Far from a classic, it does see the short-lived Alien vs. Predator franchise retcon its predecessor’s mainstream approach for a violent, gory, hard-R foray into monstrous mayhem. Bodies are splayed and split open. Heads are severed. An entire maternity ward is turned into a Grand Guignol display of savagery. It’s Aliens and Predators taking on small-town Americana. While the casting is a little uncomfortable in retrospect, it’s a movie that delivers exactly what audiences wanted. If only they could see it.
5. The Predator
While I was in graduate school, I started going to the movies by myself for the first time ever. In the thick of a graduate thesis, it was a nice way of calibrating my mind after a long day of typing and researching. I saw Crazy Rich Asians for a good cry and Suspiria for the thrill of watching the only other people in the theater loudly storm out during Olga’s (Elena Fokina) death. I also saw Shane Black’s The Predator, and at the time, I thought it was fine. Not great, but passable. Yet, if you’d asked me a week later to go see it, I likely would have replied, “Oh, is that out yet?”
The Predator is forgettable. It trades in problematic tropes, behind-the-scenes controversies, and one of the dullest Predators to ever grace the silver screen. Everyone looks bored. The violence is nondescript. The action is serviceable at best, incomprehensible at worst. It’s not outright offensive, but given Black’s track record, it should have arrived with a roar, not a shrug.
The Predator was really struggling for the better part of a decade. Kicked off by Requiem, Predators arrived to bridge the gap between it and The Predator. It, like what followed, is passably entertaining though remarkably dull more often than not. Adrien Brody stars as one of several mercenaries dropped on an alien planet to duke it out for survival. Alice Braga’s Isabelle, an IDF sniper, is really the movie’s lone saving grace. Regressive where it hurts most, Predators devolves into the 2010s’ formula of frenetic, shaky action. The gunplay kinetics are rendered unclear, with everything dialed up louder than it needed to be. In fact, the monster is something of a co-star in his own movie. Arriving with heaps of promise, it has the nugget of a good movie in there somewhere. What audiences got, unfortunately, was still a lot of green blood nothing.
3. Alien vs. Predator
Toward the climax of Paul W. S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator, the Predator runs alongside Sanaa Lathan’s Alexa in full-blown action movie cheese slow motion. It’s ridiculous, encapsulating Anderson’s caution-to-the-wind approach for one of horror’s most ambitious crossovers ever. Granted, in retrospect, Alien vs. Predator reads better than it did upon release. The makeup remains top-notch, and the backstory detailing a century-long feud between the two species yields considerable promise. Still, Alien vs. Predator’s contemporary critical reconsideration is mostly on account of it simply being Alien vs. Predator. In other words, it’s the movie fans got. It could have been so much more, but in the absence of any additional entries (Requiem notwithstanding), it’s all fans have. It’s natural, then, to find a glint among all the arctic rubble. Whether it deserves that reassessment is another question entirely. Whoever wins, we definitely lose.
2. Predator 2
Listen, Stephen Hopkins’ Predator 2 is not strictly speaking a good movie. It’s rough in a lot of places, an incredulous sequel to an action-horror classic. Where Alien vs. Predator is reassessed by dint of necessity, Predator 2 genuinely deserves to be reconsidered. It’s heaps of fun, revitalizes the Predator mythos, and features a sensational Danny Glover at its center. The monster lands in Los Angeles, slaughtering subway passengers, menacing the streets, prompting the LAPD to enact a new “tough-on-Predator” policy. More subversive than it was given credit for upon release, Predator 2 is a respectable sequel to a classic.
In fairness, either Predator or Prey could take the top spot here. Truthfully, it comes down to audience sensibilities. For as much as Prey revitalizes the franchise– and trust me, it does so sensationally– it still sways to the rhythms of John McTiernan’s original. At times, beat-for-beat, they might as well be the same movie, just with the cast and locale swapped out. For what it’s worth, Dan Trachtenberg’s period-setting, Comanche cast, and restrained approach better match my own sensibilities. Amber Midthunder is sensational as Naru, a skilled warrior who must grapple with an unidentified monster attacking her tribe.
McTiernan’s Predator is close to the same thing, only with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s paramilitary leader in the Central American jungle. The machismo of McTiernan’s original is undeniable, and for some audiences, the first is intractably the best. Still, for audiences who didn’t grow up with Predator V/H/S rentals, the nostalgia simply isn’t there. Make no mistake, both are sensational, though contemporary audiences—especially those new to the franchise—might find Prey a little closer to their own burgeoning cinematic sensibilities.