Everyone knows Predator is one of the best action movies ever committed to film, but why? How is something so simple also the perfect encapsulation of what an action film should be? Is the muscle bro handshakes? The mud-slathered Austrians insulting apex predator aliens? Or is there some kind of intrinsic magic that infects the audience each time the opening credits begin against a lovingly filmed helicopter sequence? Slather yourself up in some good ol’ invisi-mud and dive into the nitty gritty about one of the best '80s movies – Predator.
As a genre, '80s action films were very concerned about all the times things got too real in Central American jungles. Predator turns the heat up by dissecting American military actions during the war on drugs, and in doing so is one of the best sci-fi movies with monsters that are obviously metaphors for Soviet Russia. It also has some truly large muscles.
It’s not easy to be one of the best monster movies of the '80s, a decade which saw a lot of really fun monster flicks, but with a spectacular cast of best friends, behind the scenes pranks, and a director who happened to know a thing or two about Austrians who were adept at using machine guns, Predator became the pinnacle of action cinema. It’s funny, well paced, and never gets boring. Stick around, you’ll want to find out why Predator is so good.
You're probably thinking to yourself, "I'm a big boy who can buy tickets to Wolverine movies, I've seen big muscles before."
But if you haven't seen Predator, you don't know anything about big men with even bigger muscles. The man muscles modern audiences are exposed to are nothing but composites of CGI magic, personal trainers, and water pills. Not so in Predator. To stay in shape for the movie, the actors allegedly woke up at 3am to work out before a 12-hour shooting day. That kind of dedication to being big strong men shows up on film, and the world is better for it.
Shane Black has written some of the greatest action comedies of all time (Lethal Weapon, Monster Squad, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), so it's not shocking he performed some secret rewrites on the Predator script once he arrived in Mexico to flex with his bros and read comics, especially since he was working with producer Joel Silver at the time.
According to Black, 20th Century Fox asked him to pen a rewrite on the Predator script but he thought it was fine so he asked for a part instead (look at the stones on this guy). Then, when he got on set, he continually rebuffed advances to rewrite the script because he just wanted to bro down and act in the jungle.
Think of how much better Predator, a film that's already peak cinema, could have been if it had featured one of Black's many tropes:
- A washed up detective who has to get over his drinking problem to fight the Predator.
- A woman who can't remember who she is who has to fight the Predator.
- A precocious child who has to take care of their washed up detective father who has to fight the Predator.
Predator's director, John McTiernan, is a big time action daddy who brings the best explosions and subway beheadings to film. The movie you probably know him for is Christmas spectacular Die Hard.
Die Hard is good, but there's no way it would have achieved its status as one of the greatest action films of all time if McTiernan hadn't spent a year of the late '80s in the Mexican jungle filming a team of big men being chased by an invisible creature. The reason the giant team of baddies seem like such a cohesive unit is Die Hard ties in directly to McTiernan's work on wrangling so many action daddies in the most hostile of climates.
McTeirnan's experience on the set of Predator, and everything he learned from shooting all that hot jungle action and wrangling muscle-bound '80s daddies, perfectly primed him for another claustrophobic thriller (albeit one filled with men who are more step daddy than pure daddy material), Die Hard. What's more, the commercial success of Predator imbued Fox with enough trust for McTiernan to let him make Die Hard his way, on a decent budget.
You know what you didn't see a lot of in the '80s? Action movies with a large, multicultural cast. For some reason it took until the back half of the '80s for filmmakers to realize audiences would be pumped to see big strong men from all walks of life f*cking up drug lords in South America and trying to fight an alien wearing an invisibility cloak. The half-hearted attempt at a 2010 reboot of the franchise ignored this and cast more white people than an LL Bean commercial.