Seven is a relatively short number for a franchise that’s been around for 35 years! Here’s our list of the worst to the very best.
The Predator franchise has been a landmark of action, thrills, iconic movie monsters and equally as iconic movie quotes since John McTiernan’s 1987 original first sent Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers out into the jungle. The first film’s unique blend of super-macho 80s action, sci-fi creativity, and slasher-like horror has left an indelible legacy on movies ever since. And, like most franchises who seemingly got it right on the first try, Predator’s various sequels and spin-offs may be fun in their own right but mostly fail to live up to the original.
That is, until the latest entry in the franchise, Prey. Now streaming exclusively on Hulu, the film is directed by Dan Trachtenberg (who previously blended genres with the excellent 10 Cloverfield Lane) and is set in the 17th century in the Comanche nation. A young aspiring warrior named Naru (played by Amber Midthunder) ends up facing off against one of the first Predators to arrive on Earth, and the result is the most thrilling and engaging film in the franchise since the very first. It’s a welcome refreshment after decades of inconsistent quality from the series.
In celebration of the release of Prey and a successful revival of the Predator franchise, we’ve gone back through every movie – including the two Alien vs Predator crossovers – to decide on a definitive ranking order. Here are our picks of the Predator franchise from the worst to the very best.
‘Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem’ (2007)
Directed by special effects experts the Brothers Strause, the second of the Alien vs Predator crossover films was shockingly a Christmas Day release in the United States. Like its predecessor, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem was a box office success but an extreme critical failure, currently sitting at 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yikes. The film follows a powerful Xenomorph / Predator hybrid clashing with a veteran Predator hunter in a small Colorado town, a premise that could be a lot of fun but fails on every level to be so. Whatever cool action and effects were happening on set are almost entirely obscured by amateurish, frenetic editing and abysmal lightning. It’s hard to make out what exactly is going on, but it doesn’t take too long to realize that the answer is, not much. Instantly forgettable and increasingly bland characters line up to be slaughtered in a way that feels far more tedious than scary or exciting, and it makes for the most flat out bad entry in the franchise.
‘The Predator’ (2018)
Bringing on acclaimed director Shane Black, who just so happened to star in the original 1987 film, to lead a new reboot of the Predator franchise seemed like a no-brainer move at the time. In Black’s film, a team of U.S. soldiers led by Army Ranger Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) as well as skilled biologist Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn) fight against a pair of Predators. Black’s deadpan, fast-talking sense of humor is present throughout The Predator and does at least make it stand out in that way from the rest of the franchise; a bit of a refreshing, “isn’t taking itself too seriously” kind of vibe. But the movie itself is a complete mess; a frustratingly incoherent, at times problematic, but mostly just weirdly boring entry that goes nowhere by its end. It’s a bizarre disappointment.
Hungarian filmmaker Nimród Antal brought the Predator franchise back with its third main entry and first in 20 years with Predators, based on a story by none other than Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez came up with the idea to take the humans to the Predator planet this time around, or at least a planet that they use specifically as a game reserve. With a new ensemble cast that includes Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo and Mahershala Ali, Predators has the talent to go with its strong premise. But there’s just not much else besides that. The action is lackluster, none of the characters have any real depth despite the efforts of the all-star cast, and the result is a shallow and mostly forgettable movie among others that at least shoot for more interesting ideas.
‘Alien vs. Predator’ (2004)
Four years before Nick Fury showed up in Tony Stark’s home and Marvel Studios opened the floodgates to shared cinematic universes, there was Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator. Coming just a year after the similar cross-franchise beat ‘em up Freddy vs. Jason, Anderson’s film blended together the worlds of both the Predator and Alien franchise for an action-packed extravaganza. Set in an ancient and mysterious pyramid, the film stars Sanaa Lathan as mountaineering guide Lex Woods, one of the leaders of a large expedition sent to investigate the pyramid and its origins. Naturally, the group gets caught in the middle of a centuries-long war between the titular alien races and all hell breaks loose. It may not be an objectively good movie but Anderson (who directed Mortal Kombat and most of the Resident Evil franchise) knows how to make the most of the mayhem. The novelty of it is impossible to deny, and as far as movie monster smackdowns go, you can do far worse than this bit of action-packed, silly fun.
‘Predator 2’ (1990)
The first sequel of the franchise switched things up right away by moving from the jungles of Central America to the urban jungle of Los Angeles. With a less hyper-masculine but equally as fun cast led by Danny Glover, Predator 2 had the right idea to bring together different genre elements once again, leaning more into the Predator’s slasher side (the subway scene is the film’s high point), incorporating gang wars, hotshot cops, and even a bit of mysticism and futurism into its plot. Director Stephen Hopkins goes for broke, delivering a uniquely exciting and at times even purposefully campy bit of sci-fi action pulp. Still, it does pale a good bit in comparison to the original and is held back by a noisy and increasingly muddled third act. Audiences at the time seemed to agree, as the film made less at the box office despite costing more and the franchise would mostly lay dormant for nearly two decades.
Dan Trachtenberg has revived the series in exactly the right way with Prey. The film just works on all fronts. Intense action, suspense, emotion and visceral carnage are all here, along with a tight script with engaging themes that are woven into every part of its deceptively simple story. Prey is easily the best of all the Predator movies since the original – a lean, mean and badass thrill ride that brings the extraterrestrial hunter back to feeling like a force to be reckoned with.
Once again, don’t fuck with the original. There have been countless dissections and analyses of this wonder of the late 80s, from its satirization of the action genre to its themes of nature, survival and masculinity to just how superbly put together it is. The action is exciting to this day, the tension is on a level most current movies simply aren’t even close to, the cast is superb, the steady reveals still work, you name it. Predator is the real deal. If you’ve never actually seen it before, do it now! Come on! Do it!