Perhaps the most important thing to note about prey is that it isn’t chasing the glory of the original classic. Rather this builds on its foundation to say something new. It’s a simple, straightforward cat and mouse story like the first film, but the cartoonishly toxic males are replaced by a strong-willed female protagonist whose most formidable foe isn’t the Predator, but the oppressive tribe who thinks she should spend her time cooking rather than hunting. The cast is also almost completely native, which is worthy of praise not just within the context of the Predator franchise, but in the film industry as a whole.
2. Predators (2010)
From the first frame to the last, predators is a screaming fast rollercoaster ride of a movie. Seemingly every moment offers a new twist or turn in the plot that, more often than not, turns the story completely on its head. The mystery that hangs over the heads of the group of killers slashing their way through the jungle they were quite literally dropped into is a simple one: Where are they and how the hell did they get there? And every small revelation the group happens upon causes the mystery to slowly unravel, in a way that is utterly gripping and ridiculously entertaining.
It seems to be the case, at least at this point in the franchise’s history, that Predator movies just work best in the wilderness, and the jungle in predators is as much a character in the story as it is a setting. There’s danger creeping (or bounding) around every corner, and some of the deaths and fights scenes are the most memorable in the series: from Hanzo’s (Luis Ozawa) moonlit samurai stand-off to Edwin’s (Topher Grace) explosive demise. It’s clear that director Nimród Antal and his team took time to craft every scene in a thoughtful way.
Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Laurence Fishburne, Clifton Collins Jr., Mahershala Ali, Danny Trejo… this cast is as solid as they come, and they each get a chance to shine. If the movie has a weakness, it’s in its final act, in which the veil of mystery is lifted and we’re left with a somewhat uninspired peek into the Predator’s social systems that we probably didn’t need. But truthfully, it’s hard to fault predators in any significant way. It’s a showstopper of a film that comes ever so close to besting every other entry on this list.
1. Predator (1987)
Thirty-five years later, and the first predator still stands above the rest as the reigning champ of the franchise. John McTiernan’s sci-fi horror classic is so canonized and worshiped that it’s easy to forget just how simple and unadorned it is. It’s a man vs. monster fight to the death in a Central American jungle, and on paper, it’s a good idea but really nothing to write home about.
But McTiernan’s filmmaking is just so good that the movie doesn’t need any bells and whistles to hide behind. The cinematography is also underrated, effectively grounding you in the environment and making the action and dialogue easy to follow despite the characters often being fanned out across a veritable maze of trees and ferns. The editing is similarly fantastic; the way the hunt plays out is as much about suspense as it is jump scares, a nuance almost all of the subsequent sequels miss. The disgustingly misogynistic dialogue between the squad members throughout the movie doesn’t age well, but it’s important to remember that there’s a satirical element to the script (these bros do wind up getting eviscerated by a vagina-faced monster, after all).