The Predator Films, Ranked Worst To Best

Despite the simplicity of its premise, John McTiernan's 1987 film "Predator" spawned a rather unlikely media franchise, multiple sequels, and several crossovers. The set-up can be fit on a notecard: A group of burly military men, engaged in a violent mission in the jungle, find themselves being hunted by an invisible space alien they are powerless to stop. By the end of the film, all their sweaty, military-inflected machismo is reduced to blood and pulp, and it will take the wits and cleverness of Arnold Schwarzenegger to save us. 

"Predator" was a hit, but the concept was so simple as to stymie sequel efforts. Little is learned about the alien species other than their fondness for game hunting, and a full rundown on their civilization is never depicted on screen. In ancillary, expanded universe materials, the aliens are named The Yautja, although the canonical legitimacy of that name can be debated. In small ways, the mythology of the creature was explored — on a limited basis — in the film's five sequels (with a sixth on the way: Dan Trachtenberg's "Prey" hits Hulu on August 5, 2022). 

Some of the sequels are excellent. Some are most decidedly not. As a way of preparing for the sixth "Predator" film, one must take stock of where the series has been to date.

6. Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem (2007)

Blunt, shlocky, and incompetent, The Brothers Strause's clunky sequel to the 2004 hit "Alien vs. Predator" takes place in smalltown America where an Alien creature is on the loose, and the Predator must hunt it. The Alien in question is, in fact, a hybrid of the "Alien" alien and the "Predator" alien. This doesn't seem to mean much other than the creature has facial mandibles and stylish dreadlocks. 

The human characters in "Requiem" are useless and forgettable fodder, sprinkling the background of an alien mayhem film that provides very little in the way of alien mayhem. Not that a casual observer would be able to tell: The photography in here — from Michael Bay impresario Daniel Pearl — is so dim and murky, it's difficult to make out what's happening in any given moment. It takes so little to create a fun, drive-in-ready piece of audience-pleasing alien-based action shlock, and "Requiem" doesn't even rise to that level. It's a miserable film. The best one can say about it is that it knew to get out after 94 minutes. 

5. The Predator (2018)

It's now a well-established piece of film trivia that celebrity screenwriter Shane Black was hired to act in McTiernan's "Predator" as a tricky way to have him on hand should the script needed to be punched up on the fly. Black is cited as an uncredited script doctor on "Predator," a project he was working on even as he wrote as "The Monster Squad" and "Lethal Weapon." It was a very busy year. In 2018, the studio had the novel idea to ask Black back into the franchise's fold with a "Predator" sequel he would be permitted to co-write (with Fred Dekker) and direct openly. This was after his major success with "Iron Man 3," so it seemed like the wisest possible choice. 

What Black ended up making is an embarrassment. The silly badasses of the 1987 original were replaced by flip, terrible prisoners whose banter seems less playful than pathetic. The premise is that modern-day humans have captured a Predator creature and aim to study it before it — natch — breaks its restrains and flees. It will be up to Thomas Jane to stop the monster. The jokes are frequently sexist, and there is an on-the-spectrum character whose autism is treated like a superpower. It's clunky, it's not exciting, it's not funny, it's not even satisfyingly violent. 

4. Alien vs. Predator (2004)

Dark Horse Comics famously united the creatures from Ridley Scott's 1979 film "Alien" with McTiernan's monster into a pop culture team-up that has become a miniature franchise unto itself. Fans so enjoyed the pairing — the aliens are the galaxy's most dangerous animals, the predators are the galaxy's most terrifying hunters — that seeing the respective creatures wail on each other in live action was hotly anticipated. In 2004, director Paul W.S. Anderson provided the battle royale everyone desired ... and had them asking why they desired it in the first place. 

In order to spice up the premise, "Alien vs. Predator" takes place in a Mayan pyramid that has been inexplicably buried underneath Antarctica. A team of scientists find that the pyramid can automatically rearrange itself, forming a stone maze. The minotaur in the labyrinth is a pack of xenomorphs. Here to save the day is a Predator who know how to deal with these bug-like animals, and who will end up having to kill many aliens in order to escape. Every possible combination of alien fight is imagined (Predator vs. Alien Queen, Predator vs. Facehugger, etc.) and the shlocky glee of monster mayhem is fulfilled. It's as good as an Alien vs. Predator film could possibly be.

3. Predator 2 (1990)

Fans of "Predator" likely fostered fantasies of what kind of damage the titular alien could do in the big city, and Stephen Hopkins' "Predator 2" provided the goods. Set in the near future in Los Angeles, "Predator 2" sees a world gone mad. Pollution is high, temperatures are higher, and crime rates are the highest they've ever been. The police and the local drug cartels are involved in a violent shooting war ... and a mysterious invisible alien seems to be killing off combatants. It will take a great deal of investigation for police detective Danny Glover to determine that there is an alien in their midst, and for special agent Gary Busey to locate it. 

It's a slick action sequel whose only theme seems to be that crime will eventually become indistinguishable from battlefield combat, attracting a creature that likes to hunt in battlefield scenarios. The finale shows off the interior of a Predator's ship, and their trophy room implies that all this species does is fly around the galaxy hunting sentient beings for sport (a xenomorph head is prominently displayed). 

2. Predator (1987)

The original "Predator," it should be remembered, is a satire more than it is an action film. The sweaty biceps, hulking mighty attitudes of the soldiers, and crass, sexual dialogue between the testosterone-soaked men are all exaggerated to the nth degree. They are outsize versions of regular humans; cartoon characters who represent machismo run amok and a misplaced confidence in American military might. That they are destroyed by a creature with a distinctly vaginal face should cement "Predator" as a savvy comment on ultra-masculinity as it is depicted in '80s action cinema. "Predator" is almost an antidote to George P. Cosmatos' "Rambo: First Blood Part II." 

"Predator" functions perfectly well as an action picture as well, however, and one can have a fun time at the movies watching soldiers get skinned and turned inside out but a mysterious monster. The creature remains mysterious and threatening throughout "Predator," and not knowing about it makes it far more terrifying. That mystery is largely lacking from future sequels, and the creatures became too familiar too quickly. In 1987, it was still a threat.

1. Predators (2010)

The advantage Nimród Antal's 2010 film has over its predecessors is that it not only recaptures the threat and the mystery of the titular creature, but it expands on the myth in an interesting way. The premise is close to something out of "The Twilight Zone." A group of humans awaken — in mid-air! — plummeting toward the ground of a planet that is definitely not Earth. Upon finding one another and gathering to compare notes, each of the humans (among them Adrien Brody, Danny Trejo, Mahershala Ali, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, and Walton Goggins) finds they were considered dangerous killers back on Earth, and now will have to use their cunning to survive an onslaught of multiple Predators who have brought them here to be hunted. 

"Predators" features a scene wherein multiple creatures communicate, thinking they are out of human earshot. The audience might get the impression that they have a command structure, that there is a sense of propriety among these otherwise murderous aliens. For a brief moment, we see that Predators might have a life outside of their game-hunting shenanigans. Additionally, there are twists with the characters who have arcs and revelations as the film progresses. "Predators" has the most interested Predators and the most interesting humans. 

That makes it stand above the rest.