The Predator movie franchise is over thirty years old and is best described as incredibly varied. Unlike its sister series, Alien, which has a clear set of through lines – the Ripley originals, Alien vs. Predator, the David prequels – few of the seven Predator movies so far have been quite like the others, and most entries tend to ignore much of what’s happened before. The latest offering, Prey, took things a step further, taking place centuries before the preceding six entries. With seven movies, two of which are crossovers with Alien, there’s always a debate about which is the best Predator movie. The Predator franchise has its clear successes and flops, despite the endless arguments within the fanbase, so here are the Predator movies ranked.
The Predator franchise kicked off in 1987 with the titular Predator featuring then-rising megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger alongside some of the best visual SFX and prosthetics seen till then in cinema. The great premise and direction helped secure Predator as a budgetable IP for studios, and it was followed up by the bigger-scale sequel Predator 2 in 1990, although this time with Danny Glover in the leading role instead of an Arnold Schwarzenegger return. The sequel also switched out commandos in the jungle for cops in the city, starting the franchise tradition of rolling the dice with settings and scenarios. Various Predator 3 versions were stuck in development hell throughout the 1990s, but by the ’00s, the presence of a xenomorph skull in Predator 2 had spawned a series of comic book Alien crossovers. 2004 and 2007’s double-tap of Alien vs. Predator and AvP: Requiem soon came but weren’t the success studio Fox expected. This led to revisions of an old 1990s script set in space, which became 2010’s Predators, but the series then faced another gap of almost a decade before Shane Black’s The Predator arrived in 2018. Once more though, it failed to match the resounding success of the first two entries or the novelty-value box office figures of crossover AvP.
As the confusing titles may hint, Predator is a series with an unclear identity that’s gone through several soft reboots since its original plan. The most recent entry came in 2022, titled Prey, and it was once more a completely new direction for the franchise. Prey took the fearsome alien hunter and placed it in the 1700s alongside Comanche tribespeople. It was standalone but still featured plenty of Predator franchise Easter eggs. Did Prey’s decision to walk so far away from the rest of the franchise pay off though? Prey has been received incredibly well, with both critics and some fans arguing it might just be the best Predator movie so far. To find out, here’s all the Predator movies ranked.
7. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
One point that’s never debated in arguments about the best Predator movie — it’s not Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. The 2007 sequel to AVP is the worst entry in both franchises by quite a margin. By whatever method is used to compile a list of Alien or Predator movies ranked, whether it’s critical reception or adjusted-for-inflation box office revenue, Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem is at the bottom. It doesn’t even have a small-but-vocal segment of the fanbase backing its corner like other cult-sleeper entries in otherwise popular franchises (for example Birds of Prey fans in the wider DCEU audience). Set on modern-day Earth in a small town, AvP: Requiem is just a slasher movie where the killers happen to be Aliens and Predators. In fact, involving these two is to a massive detriment: once you’ve seen a xenomorph in the fluorescent light of a diner kitchen, it’s really lost all menace; and the Predator can’t be both human hunter and protector without losing the inbuilt code of duty.
It’s not even a good slasher film setup. The string of potential victims have broad backstories and weak relationships messily established before they’re picked off in an oddly paced escalation in genre cliché locations – forest, school, hospital, etc. The action is rife with weak internal logic, and the low production budget compared to AvP is painfully obvious, although that doesn’t excuse or explain all of Alien Vs. Predator’s mistakes. Many cheap movies have great scripts, direction, or acting. This one does not (unlike contemporary ’80s throwback ’00s crossover Freddy Vs. Jason). Cinematography and post-production are equally lackluster, with the whole movie presented in high-contrast, high-saturation imagery. It’s narratively dull and visually dark, with the only real moments of inspiration from directors the Strause brothers doing some experimenting with the R-rating, and that’s a very mixed bag. Seeing Xenomorph blood melt somebody’s face is cool, having Chestbursters emerge from a child and a ward full of pregnant women is not.
It’s the titular Aliens and Predators who suffer most. Whereas the crossover did add some fun aspects to the Xenomorphs and Yautja, the second did not. The movie’s hybrid Predalien was hated. This major antagonist had been teased in Alien vs. Predator, and its design and concept weren’t really the issue. A Yautja hybrid could have given the Xenomorphs, just mindless drones in the predecessor, a sense of autonomy away from the Alien Queen. Instead, the Predalien was hardly used, and when it was the end result was incredibly anticlimactic. After waiting so long to see a hybrid of both movie icons, fans left Alien vs. Predator: Requiem disappointed at the result, which didn’t help the already negative reviews of the movie. There hasn’t been another Alien vs. Predator crossover attempted since, although new franchise owners Disney could try to breathe new life into the concept and roll out a rebooted AvP 3.
6. Alien vs. Predator
Like its fellow early-2000s horror icon showdown Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator feels like it came too late. Released in 2004, Paul W. S. Anderson’s crossover came six years on from Alien: Resurrection and 14 after Predator 2, making it more a reboot of both franchises than a continuation team-up. And considering the promise of a showdown had already been heavily exhausted thanks to a slew of better-timed mid-1990s comics and video games that almost replaced interest in their core series and then tapered off, AvP emerged as an obscure throwback made during one of the low points of big-budget filmmaking.
The contemporary eye rolls were predictable, and the resulting movie is lesser than the Nightmare/Friday take, not really satisfying either fandom with its story. Alien vs. Predator‘s PG-13 rating didn’t help, as it meant that a high proportion of kills are just a Predator claw retraction and off-screen slicing. Plainly, it’s an Anderson movie first and has all his aesthetic hallmarks (mixed with the copious plugging of gaps by referring to The Thing). That said, the director clearly has an affection for the original movies, sneaking in sly references big and small. Lance Henriksen returned as the original Charles Weyland, while Ewen Bremner exploring the Antarctic town above the Predator pyramid presented a red-hued version of Aliens‘ scanner. While the mythology is bluntly worked in, it is nevertheless well thought out. There’s also a bevy of cool, fan-pleasing moments: an alien scarred in acid blood by a Predator net, a Predator slicing a Xeno’s head from behind, a make-shift xenomorph skull shield, and the Predalien tease.
However, when the Easter eggs and fan service are put aside, Alien vs. Predator doesn’t really do much that isn’t seen in the previous installments of either franchise. Yes, it was cool to see a live-action Predator throw down with a Xenomorph for the first time, but the novelty soon wore off. An attempt was made to deepen the lore of Aliens and Predator with flashback sequences to a battle at an ancient temple. Sadly, all the brief glimpses of thousands of Xenomorphs swarming atop a trio of Predators served to do was remind audiences how much better AVP could have been with a little more budget and a better story. Even when considered away from the Alien and Predator canon, AVP doesn’t hold up that well as a movie – it’s little more than the poor-CGI-laden popcorn fodder the early-to-mid 00s are renowned for.
5. The Predator
It’s hard to measure The Predator, the second most recent entry in the franchise from director Shane Black, against the rest of the Predator movies. After all, it’s less a movie and more an object to be studied, joining Fantastic Four, Suicide Squad, and Justice League as 2018’s entry in the “predicted box-office gold butchered by reshoots” category. Its frenetic editing reveals a movie lacking in proper coherence. As released, The Predator only makes sense because it barrels at such a pace the audience can’t really question illogical decisions due to the sheer amount of The Predator‘s ideas – and more isn’t always better.
However, The Predator showed glimmers of what does work about the franchise. The inventiveness of the alien technology, as with AvP, makes for some great visual spectacles, and the R-rating of The Predator definitely helps in this regard. The character interplay, too, is often sharp. Boyd Holbrook and his team of outcasts are dependably funny once they’re introduced, while Olivia Munn does a stellar job as the bemused scientist-turned-action hero Casey Brackett. Even here, though, the film collapses into a “tell don’t show” approach, so audiences never get to explore their relationships more deeply.
But those are just glimmers. Overall, The Predator overall is a badly made action movie, and for the Predator franchise a perplexing entry. It included many Predator easter eggs to link into all the other movies (Predators aside) with subtle cuts like Jake Busey as the son of his father’s Predator 2 character. The Predators as presented in The Predator felt particularly bizarre to some fans, with their goals changed from hunting humanity for sport to invading the planet. This didn’t work for audiences, as part of the appeal of the Yautja is that they aren’t trying to take over Earth. They make humanity feel small differently – by reminding us of our place on the intergalactic food chain. Predator culture is so intriguing because they obviously could wipe out humanity with their advanced tech, but they don’t, because for them everything is about the hunt. The Predator ran with a different take that didn’t scan.
4. Predator 2
Almost as beloved as the original, fans are still debating unanswered questions from Predator 2. One of the biggest challenges for a Predator sequel was that the creature’s powers were built around the narrative of the original movie, meaning a plot formula is baked into the monster. Predator 2 doesn’t really do much to get away from that, with its central conceit being to move from the real jungle to the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. Set in a baking, near-future city torn apart by gang wars, it definitely feels different and the massively increased budget creates some striking shots in this vein, but the core story is more or less the same, except instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger facing one Predator, it’s now Danny Glover (referenced in a Prey easter egg) up against a gang of Yautja.
But where Predator’s jungle setting made for incredible tension via man-alone-against-nature action, all of Predator 2‘s police department in-fighting and conspiracies felt like dull distractions. Audiences found no surprises in the police plot because they’d seen them play out before. The second Predator movie could have been as good as the first if it didn’t sidetrack itself with low-end rehashes of cop show genre tropes. Things did pick up when the Predator became the hunted – the slaughterhouse scene is fresh and inventive – but it wasn’t quite enough to secure Predator 2 a higher spot on the list.
However, Predator 2 made franchise history with the final scene: Glover ends up in the Predator ship below LA, discovering a museum of previous hunts, including an Alien Xenomorph skull. He engages in one final battle with the Predator, besting it with its own weapons only to be surrounded by six others. He braces, but they just silently take the fallen hunter’s body away, gift his killer an old pistol, and blast away. With barely any dialogue outside of Glover’s stunned quips, the mythology of the Predator was significantly deepened in a single scene.
It’s still unclear if Predators is actually underrated or just underseen. It barely broke even at the box office, the debate about whether Adrien Brody can pass muster as an action hero is as strong now as it was pre-release, and nobody seems to have questioned that The Predator‘s Ultimate Predator is really a reconfiguring of the Super Predator seen here in Predators, so it may be the latter. Whatever the case may be, it’s certainly better than its reputation suggests.
Part of the problem may be that despite a high-concept premise – a collection of deadly human killers are kidnapped and taken to a Predator game reserve planet to be hunted by various creatures – Predators is the least ambitious in the franchise, happy being a solid yet unremarkable reminder that Predators exist and a litmus test for the viability of the franchise after Alien vs. Predator: Requiem’s monumental failure. The attempt to reboot the franchise used a Predator 3 script from the 1990s which Predators adapted, and some of its writing makes the retrofitting obvious. It’s also worth noting that 2010 was a strong year for cinema. Predators had movies like Inception, Black Swan, and Shutter Island to contend with. Part of its lack of wider appeal could simply be that it lost out to the string of critical successes that were released in 2010.
Predators had one of the strongest cast of characters seen since the original, and the premise of traveling off-world makes for a unique Predator entry. The characters’ fear due to being so far from Earth gives Predators some actual thematic heft that many other entries lacked. However, where plot-light entries such as AvP managed to find strength, Predators was at its weakest. The action was lackluster, with most fights simple beatdowns edited together with quick cuts that obscured much of what was happening. Despite its relative lack of renown, Predators was a welcome addition for franchise fans, and there was genuine disappointment when the planned Predators sequel was canceled.
Unsurprisingly, the original Predator was (until the latest entry) the best. It’s neither Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best performance nor John McTiernan’s most acclaimed movie, but it started the Predator franchise with a high bar that took decades to match. The first Predator stood head-and-shoulders above the rest until the 7th entry, Prey, arrived decades later in 2022. Predator had a simple premise but executed it brilliantly. There’s a reason the best entries in the franchise still follow the template established in the first movie for tense human-vs-Yautja stalking, hunting one-upmanship, and battling of wits: It works.
At first, Predator may seem like a typical action movie from the mid-1980s – and that’s exactly the point. Predator may now be an action classic in its own right, but just as with McTiernan’s next film Die Hard, it built that by upending what came before. It was never intended to be the start of a deep sci-fi canon – it was supposed to be a blockbuster action movie with an alien in it. However, skillful direction and the iconic visuals ensured it would be remembered as so much more. The first masterstroke is having the movie start away from the Predator. The mission Arnie’s Dutch and his team are on is a simple rescue, and the dark secret is that it’s politically motived, but it’s nothing fantastical. The subsequent assault is standard 1980s action, with quips galore (“stay put” after pinning someone to a door with a throwing knife). It’s then that they find flayed bodies before the attack, and afterward, the delayed evacuation and stifling heat make it clear that Predator is more grounded, an inversion of the well-worn genre tropes of the time. And then the Predator shows up.
Once the switch is made, the movie becomes something else: a tense hunt led by a fantastic villain. The Predator is such a wonderful creation, immediately striking, believably grotesque, and so ridiculously OP even a walking human tank like Arnold Schwarzenegger was nearly bested by it. Predator came out after Terminator, so audiences were used to seeing Arnie as the indomitable non-human presence worthy of fear. If a director wanted audiences to know their monster was terrifying in the late 80s, having it scare an Arnold Schwarzenegger character was pretty much the best way to do it. The final showdown where Dutch (who nearly died), slathered in mud, coaxes the hunter out and engages in one-on-one combat is uniquely set up and tensely played. That Dutch had to forsake his armament and muscle in favor of quick wits and brain power was the ultimate deviation from the gun-heavy backdrop of 80s action movies and ensured Predator would go down in cinematic history as a groundbreaking movie.
Prey was released by Disney direct to stream on Hulu, but before the movie had even been released, fans and critics alike were touting it as a possible return to glory for the Predator franchise. However, Prey defied even the most optimistic expectations. The hardest of Predator’s soft reboots so far, the latest entry told the story of Comanche hunter Naru as she tracks a Feral Predator across the great plains in 1719. The move from pure sci-fi horror to including elements of historical drama, such as French Trappers decimating the local Bison population, was a gamble. It paid off though, and Prey has managed to draw new fans into the fold as well as appease diehard Predator veterans. The original Predator held its spot as the best movie in the franchise for decades, but it’s now been well and truly knocked into second place – Prey is the best Predator movie.
Prey doesn’t just deserve the top spot for its new setting though. Even heroine Naru, played incredibly well by Amber Midthunder, is a praiseworthy highlight but not the reason Prey headed straight to number 1. Prey has earned its spot as the new best Predator movie because it returned to the franchise’s roots and improved on them. It did everything Predator did but better, from the tense forest stalking and fights against the new Feral Predator to the sweeping landscape nature shots and inspired cinematography. The special effects, while not as groundbreaking as Predator in the context of a 1987 release, are nonetheless immaculately rendered in Prey. It perfectly balances CGI and practical effects, and at no point does the presence of an alien hunter or its sci-fi weaponry break immersion from Prey’s 1700s setting.
The debate over whether Prey is better than Predator will likely carry on for years within the fanbase, but that in itself is telling. No sequel to Predator has even come close to being a serious contender, even Predator 2. Prey has set a new benchmark, and there’s already speculation about when an eventual Prey 2 can be expected. Even the elements Prey changed, such as the setting and design of the iconic Predator, have been received by fans and critics alike as positive changes. After decades of being a franchise known for going downhill like Paul W.S Anderson’s Resident Evil, The Matrix, or even sister-franchise Alien post-Aliens, the Predator movies have found a new lease on life with Prey. Depending on how future entries fare, Prey could be the movie that turned Predator from an IP Disney acquired but didn’t need in the Fox takeover to a tentpole franchise that allows the family-friendly House of Mouse to be taken seriously in the R-rated arena.