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The Predator Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

A year before director John McTiernan decided to crash an office Christmas party in "Die Hard" he delivered another genre-bending action flick in 1987 with Arnold Schwarzenegger leading the charge. "Predator" was "Commando" clashing with a modern-day "Aliens," helping send the '80s out with an exceptionally large bang. Marked as another of Schwarzenegger's successes at the peak of his career, a franchise flourished that differed significantly from the others he'd put his name to.

Like a space-age Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, the Predator became the biggest draw, not who he was facing off against. With three sequels, some pretty disappointing crossover spin-offs we wish were invisible, comic books, and video games, fans were hooked by these stealthy hunters keen to add human skulls to their trophy cabinets. Now, "Prey" is the latest addition to the movie franchise, exploring a new chapter in the "Predator" world that we've known about for some time but never actually seen.

But where does Dan Trachtenberg's potential franchise-saver stack up against the rest of the "Predator" movies? With a track record of underappreciated ups and unexpected downs, there's a lot in other installments that follow our favorite hunters who are all about waving spines in the air like they just don't care.

The Predator almost killed the franchise

On paper, there was absolutely nothing that should've gone wrong with Shane Black's "The Predator." For the writer of films like "Lethal Weapon" and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," who had also directed "Iron Man 3" and "The Nice Guys," it was a great fit. Add in the fact that he'd not only starred in but also served as a script doctor on the original (via Independent), and hopes were high that someone with an actual history with the franchise would care. To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger's very perturbed Dutch, "You set us up!"

Viewed by audiences as the weakest of the franchise (via Rotten Tomatoes), Black's contribution wraps up a wasted cast in a story that is far too heavy on laughs in some areas and completely tone-deaf in others. Boyd Holbrook, Sterling K. Brown, and Olivia Munn do their best with what's given to them, but when some lines involve making jokes about neurodevelopmental disorders, bailing on this hunt may have been a better option.

If it's not Thomas Jane's Tourette's character being used as a punch line, it's Jacob Tremblay as Holbrook's on-screen autistic son narrowing the condition down to being "smart" and that's it. Overall, it's a wasted attempt at a revival of the franchise that, even with its cliff-hanger ending, sent the Predator off on the wrong trail, which, in the end, 20th Century Studios wasn't willing to follow.

Predator 2 is a space-age slasher

When it comes to the initial filmic follow-up hoping to spark a franchise, the pressure is always higher than any after that. Nevertheless, director Stephen Hopkins took the heat when he dared to drop the legendary alien hunter in "1997" Los Angeles with the Arnie-less sequel, "Predator 2." Facing off against Danny Glover this time, the second round following John McTiernan's 1987 hit does have its perks but takes somewhat of a scattershot approach compared to the "Predator" outings that followed.

Somewhere between "Jason Takes Manhattan" and "RoboCop," that legendary stalker with a spaceship is on a horrific hunting trip hanging from skyscrapers and taking down crime lords. Stitching together "wouldn't it be cool if...?" moments that see him getting struck by lightning and having a killer frisbee, "Predator 2" boasts a high body count but feels flimsier than the airtight trip into the woods that preceded it.

Danny Glover is following his Murtaugh mold from "Lethal Weapon," backed by the likes of gold-tier talent like Bill Paxton (who obtained his unique sci-fi movie record here) and Gary Busey, but the tension isn't in the same league as it is in the original. Still, those teases of another franchise and a plot thread that wouldn't be tied up for 32 years leave "Predator 2" to narrow the gap between a lousy watch and a fun but flawed one in the pantheon of "Predator" installments.

Predators is the sequel you shouldn't sleep on

Like the murderous monsters the film is named after, "Predators" somehow sits as the grossly underappreciated entry in the franchise and is one of the only films to stand shoulder to shoulder with the original. In a cold open, the impressively jacked Adrien Brody wakes to find himself with a team of strangers who have been dumped on an alien planet used as a game reserve. He quickly deduces that he and the other cold-blooded killers are prey for extraterrestrial hunting experts, and a fight for survival ensues as a trio of "Super Predators" descend on the planet's newest visitors, setting up for some impressive and near-iconic showdowns.

Besides Brody giving it his all in a role few would've expected him to tackle before this, Laurence Fishburne makes an appearance as an unhinged lone survivor who has stayed hidden from the aliens that love hiding. Topher Grace also appears as a presumed lame duck of the group who eventually turns the whole film on its head in the best way possible.

While still unashamedly throwing in homages to the original, Nimród Antal's directorial effort also boasts incredible moments, including alien tracker dogs, Danny Trejo's brief but stupidly excellent appearance, and a katana-wielding Yakuza having a showdown with a Predator. If there's any chapter worth revisiting with a sequel, even one that may have set up another "Alien" crossover, it's this one.

Prey is the bloody brilliant future of the Predator franchise

Etching ahead of Nimród Antal's epic equivalent to "Predator" and saving the franchise while it's at it, "Prey" really is the best addition to the series since it began. Set around 300 years before John McTiernan's original, Dan Trachtenberg's take on the legendary creatures bleeds like before while being cut from a totally different cloth. This isn't just about the thrill of the hunt that has kept fans hooked since 1987, but it also explores the far deeper story that not even Arnie's installment considered venturing into.

Amber Midhtunder is the young and keen Comanche hunter, Naru, who has yet to be accepted by her tribe as what she wants to be. As a result, this critical component to the plot tweaks the past tropes established by the franchise itself. This new female character is fighting to be seen as a worthy threat even before the Predator crosses her tracks, making the battle between the two hunters all the more crucial. Add in the cultural representation that Native Americans have rarely been shown in past action films, and "Prey" quickly finds itself crossing off targets we never considered marking.

Predator is still a cold-blooded classic that started it all

Dated as it may be in its unapologetic '80s machismo, "Predator" still stands as the trophy winner of the franchise by being the first and redefining what action movies of that era could be. Ending with Arnie in an unimaginable fight for survival, "Predator" oils up some icons of action men of that era and expertly tears them apart.

From the classic quotes to some incredible action scenes, the highlight will always be Stan Winston's incredible creature design that's as well-known as Arnie's own Terminator (another Winston special). Initially, Jean-Claude Van Damme suited up as a very different beast, but the decision to get Kevin Peter Hall as the towering menace set on chopping down the Austrian Oak proved to be a game changer. That masked alien invader that could go invisible on a whim didn't just change the film; it unimaginably changed cinema forever.

It's fair to say that "Prey" picks up the trail of John McTiernan's classic, but should a dispute ever kick up over "Predator" being the weaker party, well, you know there's only one way to settle it: a good old fashioned arm wrestle.