The Best Adaptations Of 'The Most Dangerous Game' You've Never Seen

(Welcome to The Best Movies You've Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. This week's column is a response to the recent shelving of a movie that's been made previously many, many times before.)

As you've undoubtedly heard, a studio film scheduled for nation-wide release was recently pulled from Universal's schedule in response to a tweet by the president and a vocal outcry by conservative pundits and followers. The detractors are misinformed as to the point of The Hunt (2019?) – and they seem to be equally oblivious as to how these films end (ie the intended targets defeat the merciless killers) – but the bigger head-scratcher is their general obliviousness that the film is just the latest variation in a long line of adaptations of "The Most Dangerous Game."

Richard Connell's acclaimed short story was published in 1924, and its tale of a man captured by a mad aristocratic sportsman and hunted as the most challenging prey quickly caught the public's attention. The first adaptation for the screen arrived eight years later, and many more followed both official and unofficial including John Woo's ridiculously fun Hard Target (1993), the soft-ish-core porn of The Suckers (1972), the Rutger Hauer-starring Surviving the Game (1994), and the gloriously bonkers Turkey Shoot (1982).

You know those, though, so I'm here to introduce some entertaining and/or engaging examples that you've probably missed over the years. The connective line between them is that, unlike a slasher where a killer stalks and kills unknowing victims, these Game riffs see people target and alert their prey for the clear intention of enjoying a hunt. So keep reading for the best "adaptations" of The Most Dangerous Game that you've probably never seen.

Run for the Sun (1956)

Mike Latimer left his career and fame as a bestselling novelist behind for the adventure and relaxation of an extended Mexican vacation. When a female reporter comes looking for him the two hit it off and come to enjoy each other's company, but the romance is short-lived. A flight together over the jungle ends in a crash, and the pair find themselves rescued by two reclusive men with a swastika-shaped secret. Their hosts are Nazis – Nazis! – and soon Mike and Katie are on the run with armed men and vicious dogs on their trail.

This United Artists feature was the third movie to be officially adapted from Connell's short story, and while it remains familiar the film's big shift is to change the Russian madman for a Nazi. They've been an all-purpose villain for decades! The action plays out against some lush jungle settings (filmed outside Acapulco) and a plantation originally built in the 16th century, and both locales add to the film's scope.

There's more character work here than in earlier versions, and while that might leave some viewers less engaged it works for me in part because of the dynamic between Richard Widmark and Jane Greer. Their budding romance convinces, and their back stories work to create engaging enough characters – not that we need extra reasons to cheer them on in a fight against Nazis.

Run for the Sun is currently available on DVD.

The Naked Prey (1965)

A hunting safari in South Africa crosses paths with local tribesmen and commits something of a social faux pas by refusing to pay tribute. The tribe retaliates to the sleight by slaughtering the hunters and servants, but out of both respect and a spirit of sportsmanship they keep the guide alive. His punishment will be one of endurance – they strip him of his clothing and weaponry, send him into the baking heat of the African veld, and then one by one send hunters after him to kill their human prey.

This classic tale of survival doesn't always get mentioned as a riff on The Most Dangerous Game, but if most definitely is. While the impetus for it all stems from an act of rudeness, the result remains the same as hunters set loose their prey as both a challenge to him and themselves. The unnamed man is the most dangerous "animal" they've stalked, the deadly adventure becomes one built on mutual respect and understanding up through its final moments.

That respect is a major part of director/star Cornel Wilde's intention with the film as he was a filmmaker with a real interest in humanity's role within nature. (See 1970's No Blade of Grass for further evidence of that.) his film shows respect and reverence for the landscape, the wildlife, and the local tribes who call rural Africa home. It's a beautiful movie, both visually and through that intent, and it's one that tells its story without real villains. It's not exactly a forgotten film, but too many people still haven't seen it.

The Naked Prey is currently available on Blu-ray/DVD and streaming.

Open Season (1974)

Ken, Greg, and Art are best friends sharing a bond forged in Vietnam, but along with a shared interest in guns and hard partying they're also connected in madness. Human lives have grown meaningless to them, and once each year they head to their remote cabin in the woods and bring along some unwilling participants for a weekend of fun. Emotional abuse, forced labor, and assault lead to ultimate intention – they release the couple into the woods with a thirty minute head start and then begin the hunt.

Director Peter Collinson's (The Italian Job, 1969) mean and lean movie uses doesn't offer too much lip service to the "crazy Vietnam vet" angle and instead makes it clear that while these guys lost their humanity in war they're still functioning adults making their own choices. They're the bad guys, pure and simple, but the film also makes curious work of their intended targets as they're not exactly sympathetic. Happily, there's another player in the mix who I'll let you discover for yourself.

The film's an intriguing little thriller worth watching on those merits alone, but it's also worth seeking out for the cast. The legendary Peter Fonda passed away recently, and this marks one of his far lesser known films as he plays one of the madmen alongside Richard Lynch and John Phillip Law. All three are casually charismatic in their evil actions which makes them even more terrifying as human monsters, and both Cornelia Sharpe and William Holden also make memorable appearances.

Open Season is not currently available.

Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987)

Daria and Tisa enjoy adventure, banter, and Sheena (1984) cosplay, but the fun takes a turn when they're locked away on an intergalactic prison ship. The pair escape and fly off in a shuttle only to crash land on a mysterious planet where they meet the mysterious Zed, a man with robot servants and a castle nestled amid a dense and dangerous jungle. His charade as the perfect host quickly gives way to his true goal – he's going to hunt them with his laser crossbow and mount their corpses in his game room.

Okay, I can already hear you laughing at this pick and reaching for the 'unsubscribe' button, but hear me out. Is it the final film from the director of The Erotic Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1975) and Zombiethon (1986)? Yes, yes it is, but it's also a fun little adventure with laser battles, rubber suited monsters, a horny robot, and some entertaining production design from its jungle "exteriors" to the castle walls adorned with taxidermied beasts and human heads. Genre stalwart Brinke Stevens pops up (and out) to beef up the T&A, but the main plot sticks surprisingly close to Connell's original story.

All of that is good, low budget fun, but the element that tips the scales for me is found in the two lead characters. Sure they're pretty, sexy, and scantily clad, but Daria and Tisa are also smart, skilled, and more than competent when it comes to kicking butt with laser guns or their bare knees. The film's male love interest doesn't save them, they save themselves through critical thinking and swordplay, and that's no small potatoes for a cheap T&A flick from the 80s. They survive in the end (spoiler warning!), and when Tisa asks Daria what's next she replies, "Our universe is vast, full of wonders. We'll explore, find strange new worlds together." That's optimism built on friendship, a respect for science, and a shared appreciation for Star Trek, and how do you say no to that?

Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity is currently available on Blu-ray/DVD and to stream.

Rovdyr (2008)

It's 1974, and four friends are on a vacation deep in a Norwegian forest. Fools. A brief stop at a diner sees a mild fracas with the locals end with the friends picking up a hitchhiker, but once they return to the road it's quickly made clear what she was trying to escape. The group is abducted by armed men and knocked unconscious – and when the awake they find themselves lost in the woods while a horn sounds nearby signaling the start of the hunt.

This Norwegian slice of horror, also known as Manhunt, is by far the most brutal of the films on this list, and that means it's probably bound to appeal to the least amount of people. There's nothing in the way of nuance here as the victims are frequently whiny young people, the killers are angry hicks, and the film simply works its way through the body count to a pretty killer ending.

The brutality comes with some pretty gnarly gore beats, and while they're occasionally marred by CG effects the practical bloodletting should appeal to horror fans. The film actually feels as close to something like Wrong Turn (2003) as it does to Connell's story, but thankfully it avoids the sexual assault angle aside from mild insinuations. It's all about the killings, and to that end ankles are shot off, large spikes are driven through heads, and both blades and guns get plenty of use. We get a final girl too, another nod to the slasher genre, although her ending isn't entirely clear.

Rovdyr is not currently available.

Ready or Not (2019)

Grace has just enjoyed the happiest day of her life. She's married the man she loves, his big family has welcomed her (well, most of them have) into their lives, and her new husband's family business means their future looks bright. She just has to do one more thing before she's officially made part of the family – she has to play a game of hide and seek where she hides and they hunt her armed with deadly weapons and a desperate need to see her dead.

The newest feature from Radio Silence (the filmmakers behind the best segment of 2012's V/H/S) tells its own story with more going on than a mere hunt, but that element remains a major part of the film. It shifts the arena from an island or compound to an old, intricately designed house complete with secret passages, and that in turn creates new thrills. Think The Most Dangerous Game meets You're Next (2011) and you'll have an idea what to expect while also being wholly unprepared for what's to come. Samara Weaving slays in the lead role, and the film is a hilarious, bloody, and smart ride worth taking.

And yes, this is a cheat of sorts as the reason you most likely haven't seen it yet is that Ready or Not has literally just opened in theaters. It's a highly entertaining film well worth watching down the road at home, but I'm taking every opportunity to sing its praises now in the hopes it does well in theaters.

Ready or Not is in theaters tomorrow.

Check out more of the Best Movies You've Never Seen!