Prey is the biggest debut of any film or series on hulu, and with good reason. This Predator series prequel, which arrives during the 35th anniversary of the original film’s theatrical release in 1987, has critics and viewers raving about its fascinating new spin on what many thought was an exhausted franchise. Which makes this a perfect time to count down and rank every Predator movie from worst to best.
The rules are straightforward, since there are seven movies featuring Predators, with five from the primary franchise and two crossovers with the Alien franchise. So I am counting them all down, in order from worst to best.
I dislike speaking ill of movies, since if I didn’t enjoy it then I certainly don’t feel like wasting more time thinking about it. And I just generally see no point in tearing down work that other people put time and artistic effort into, because however bad a film is, there was at least one person who loved it at some point — usually a lot more than one.
But it’s also worth being honest about what didn’t work in a film, especially when relevant to a larger discussion and point about the film and cinema, so hopefully my remarks here about a few of the films will be taken in that spirit. Because there’s value in assessing and critiquing cinema, which is part of what I’m here for after all, and this is a movie-ranking article where something has to come in last. And let’s be honest, this franchise had a few misses, as well as some brilliance and a few in between.
So, without further ado, here is my ranking of the Predator movies, from worst to best!
7. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem — It’s like the most boring characters in dead-end subplots from a teen soap were intercut with poorly lit action shots from a versus fighting game. Elapsed time from face-hugger to chest-burster is down to minutes, death scenes feel like placeholders, and there’s no suspense or point to any of it.
6. The Predator — Rote action and weak “I heard that joke in first grade” humor further hamper a crazy-quilt plot full of half-developed ideas that turn the franchise backstory into a goofy mess. Worse are the offensive “autism is a superpower” concept and the fact a sex offender was cast and only got edited out at Munn’s insistence.
5. Alien vs. Predator — If you can get passed the absurdity of the crossover or its “ancient civilizations were taught by aliens” trope and painfully cheesy third act, this by-the-numbers actioner is at least efficient at setting up its premise and delivers what anyone taking time to watch a movie called Alien vs. Predator presumably expects.
4. Predator 2 — The biggest deviation from the series template came early, and the results are better than its critical reception yet not as good as its cult reputation. It’s less grounded and much campier, featuring nihilistic violence and outrageous action akin to Robocop, but unfortunately without the level of savvy satire or commentary.
3. Predators — This underrated entry in the saga plays up the notion that in any survival situation, the biggest threat might be the other people around you. And it expands the “big game hunter” framing of the Yautja into the extra-sinister “private game preserve” experience with a few nice surprises and solid action.
2. Predator — The original still holds up after all of these years. With a straightforward plot, amazing action directing, and a cast of charismatic action notables, the first film of the franchise was a deconstruction and critique of 1980s action filmmaking and heroes while also being one of the finest examples of both.
1. Prey — The newest entry is Predator at its best, in an exceptional survival tale reflecting a people’s myths and legends seemingly confirmed by the arrival of the inexplicable. Subplots about challenging social norms, themes reflecting the title’s different meanings, and grand action-horror make this a deeper, definitive experience.
And there you have it, dear readers, my ranking of every Predator movie from the franchise’s 35-year history!
During my rewatch of the series last week to prepare for this article, I was surprised to find myself disliking Alien vs. Predator a lot less than the first (and only other) time I saw it. On the flip side, I found Predator 2 to be much campier than I remembered, and without Danny Glover I’m not sure I’d be nearly as forgiving of some of its flaws.
With three very good or great entries, a couple of mid-range entries, and two duds, I think it’s possible to enjoy a majority of the series and get a good range of different approaches to the Predator formula.
Speaking of formula, lots of folks are suggesting other ideas for future Predator films with a similar approach to Prey. But it’s a mistake to treat Prey’s smart, complex use of period framing as merely a “Predators vs [historic era/figure]” Mad-Lib.
Dropping Predators into various historic settings would be an overly simplified version of what Prey accomplished with more considered motivation and approaches. So when the next period setting is announced, which seems inevitable now in light of the enthusiastic reaction, I hope the story and characters are as well-formed and drive the choice of setting as richly as in Prey.