Invisible(-ish). Invincible(-ish). Intent on ripping out your spine. For decades now, the Predator has been dishing out damage on our screens – a tooled-up bipedal amphibian hunter who’s in it for the thrill of the chase, ready to add to its collection of trophies as it ventures across the galaxy. Right back from its introduction in 1987, the Predator (or, the Yaujta) has become an all-timer movie monster, one just as well-adapted to serving up scares as causing carnage. Through the years, it’s fought human soldiers, alien Xenomorphs, gang members and more in a series of films that have had real ups and downs – and now, he’s back on a high facing off against a Native American warrior in Dan Trachtenberg’s thrilling Prey.
But if you’ve been considering an all-out Predator rewatch, there are some entries you might want to prioritise. Empire presents a ranking of all seven Predator movies – with some high highs, and some low lows in there. Even if you ain’t got time to bleed, make sure you have time to read about the best and worst entries in the series.
Every Predator Movie Ranked
7) Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
Picking up from the cliffhanger of the first AvP (see below), Requiem crashes the hybrid ‘Predalien’ on Earth and sets it to work butchering small-town American schoolkids and their parents. Deservedly viewed as the nadir of both franchises, it’s an almost entirely dismal experience that’s often so dark you can barely see what’s happening. Some of the violence is just deeply unpleasant, rather than the edgily, taboo-bustingly horrifying it’s presumably aiming for, and the idea of taking Giger’s Xenomorph and simply putting it through the motions of an Earth-bound, present day slasher movie shows a wretched lack of imagination. And yet… if you squint (and you have to), Requiem is at the very least attempting something surprising. While the nominal heroes of the film are the human cast (Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz), Requiem’s real protagonist is actually a Predator, called in like Winston Wolfe or Leon to wordlessly clean up someone else’s bloody mess. For all its many, many flaws, Requiem’s use of the Predator might just be the most intriguing of any of the sequels. You just won’t want to watch it to find out.
6) Alien vs. Predator (2004)
It should have been a dream cinematic deathmatch. An Easter Egg in Predator 2 (a Xenomorph skull can be seen in the Predator’s trophy collection at the end of that film) led to an Alien Versus Predator comic book run – eventually spawning a big-screen clash. But while there are moments of trashy, pulpy fun to be had here, the result is a film not really befitting either of Hollywood’s scariest creatures – a murky, silly noisefest with paper-thin plasma-fodder characters, dumb dialogue (“This is like finding Moses’ DVD collection!”), and endless exposition to establish exactly why these species have intergalactic beef. It’s inherently daft, sending a group of scientists into a subterranean Antarctic pyramid where a showdown is taking place in an ever-changing Rubix cube of chambers – and while there are cool ideas (Aliens star Lance Henriksen returns, not as android Bishop but as Charles ‘Bishop’ Weyland) and director Paul WS Anderson brings some of Event Horizon’s gothic flair, it misses where it really counts: the Alien vs Predator showdown just isn’t very good. Dingy, weightless, and edited to hell, it’s a major disappointment – and the chunky Predator redesign is ugly in all the wrong ways. The tagline – ‘Whoever wins, we lose’ – sadly wasn’t kidding.
5) The Predator (2018)
In theory, Shane Black directing a Predator movie was a perfect marriage. Not only did he act in the original film (playing the first-to-die Hawkins), but he went on to redefine the action-comedy as a filmmaker with Lethal Weapon, going on to direct genre favourites Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys and Iron Man 3. Somewhere, though, it all went wrong. While there are flashes of Black’s signature wit, the ‘Predator in the suburbs’ premise feels fresh, and the upgraded mega-Predator is cool, The Predator ends up mostly a mess. With choppy and incoherent storytelling (you barely register when major players are bumped off), an unbalanced tone, unlikeable characters, and a questionable approach to autism and PTSD, the radar on this one went seriously awry. Over-reliant on nods to the past and bearing all the hallmarks of studio interference, an apparent effort to relaunch the franchise instead resulted in it stalling once more. Still, it has a strong ensemble, with Olivia Munn, Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Sterling K Brown, Keegan-Michael Key and Jacob Tremblay trying their best. If only everything else lived up to them.
4) Predator 2 (1990)
Predator’s first sequel swaps the jungle for the city – the ‘concrete jungle’, if you like – but manages to stay a step above pedestrian. If the narrative trajectory is unavoidably similar to a rather good Dark Horse comics series, there’s mileage in setting a sequel somewhere markedly different. And that final sequence aboard the Predator ship, with that Alien skull on the wall, nodded towards potentially bigger things… Once again attracted by heat (this time a sweltering LA beset by gang violence and some wonky Jamaican voodoo) this Predator takes on a cast that’s an interesting roll-call of Lethal Weapon, Aliens, Die Hard and Arnie-movie alumni – Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Steve Kahan, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Maria Conchita Alonso – and it’s all solidly directed by ‘90s franchise go-to Stephen Hopkins. The unusual choice of making Glover the put-upon leading man works well, and there’s some great action, even if the Predator itself (Kevin Peter Hall again) occasionally approaches Frank Drebin levels of haplessness. AvP director Paul WS Anderson said that Predator 2’s hunter wouldn’t have been allowed in the training pyramid.
3) Predators (2010)
Probably the most underrated film in the franchise, Predators – co-written and produced by Robert Rodriguez and directed by Nimród Antal – hinges on a neat inversion of the original’s premise. Like that film, it’s set in a sweltering jungle where a cast of characters are picked off one-by-one by the invisible hunter – but this time, they’ve all been plucked from Earth and dropped (quite literally, the film beginning in mid-air) onto the Predator home-world. If it gets a bit carried away with the world-building (and doesn't provide as many, well, Predators as its title implied), Predators does bring in plenty of new ideas: different Predator tribes, in-fighting among the species, and a vast booby-trapped forest. And while its characters aren’t the most memorable (the intentional against-type casting of Adrien Brody as the central hero doesn’t really work), there’s an interesting wrinkle in that many of them are terrible people too – giving that title a dual meaning. It’s a solid expansion of the series and the mythology, but it didn’t set the box office alight, hence its sequel-baiting ending never led to anything. Still, it gave us Louis Ozawa Changchien’s Hanzo facing down a Predator with a samurai sword, and for that we should be grateful. Can we request a Prey-like prequel in feudal Japan next, please?
2) Prey (2022)
It took several decades, but finally someone figured out how to make a Predator movie that comes close to the original. There are many masterstrokes at play in Dan Trachtenberg’s take on the mythical hunter – but the most important one was not looking forward but back, to the 1800s and the Native American Comanche nation. So far removed from the original timeline that it barely has to connect to the increasingly long-winded lore, it also offers a gloriously stripped-back set-up: more so than any film in the franchise, this is a film about predators and prey, hunter and hunted. At its centre is Amber Midthunder’s ferocious Naru – a Comanche woman who wants to be a hunter, and isn’t taken seriously by the men in her community. Nor is she taken seriously by the Predator, who literally can’t see her since it doesn’t perceive her as a threat. But a threat she most certainly is (especially with her tomahawk-on-a-rope), and seeing her level up and grow in confidence and ability to take it on is thrilling stuff. With strong thematic underpinnings about colonialism, an earthy elemental feel (rampaging bear vs. Predator!), and tense, stylish filmmaking, this one’s bang on target.
1) Predator (1987)
If Prey finally gives it some stiff competition, the original Predator is still the best. For all that it’s the most ridiculously macho movie ever made, with rippling biceps and cheesy kiss-off lines galore, it’s also about dismantling that brute-force masculinity – quite literally, since the “ugly motherfucker” of the title turns almost the entire human cast to mincemeat, and all the firepower in the world can barely touch it. Director John McTiernan builds up the atmosphere beautifully – you can feel the sweltering heat of the jungle and growing sense of unease, with sweet time taken before the dreadlocked alien hunter is revealed in all its glory. It’s a formidable foe – so much so that even peak-powers Arnie is barely a match for it, his Special Forces soldier Dutch forced to outsmart the beast in the final confrontation rather than overpower it. Throw in a legendary supporting cast including Carl Weathers, Shane Black, and Elpidia Carrillo, and some of the most quotable dialogue of all time (“Get to da choppah!”) and you have one of the greatest sci-fi action movies ever made.