If you mostly remember Predator as the movie in which Arnold full-belly hollers, “Get to the choppah,” then Prey is going to remind you that, at its best, this series is all about the intense cat-and-mouse game between the hunter and the hunted. Which one is which remains up for debate, as a brutal alien visiting Earth who sportingly tracks the most dangerous game once again finds himself in over his head hunting humans.
Across three Predator sequels and two Alien vs. Predator spinoff films, Prey breaks down this franchise like a fraction, reducing the concept back to its essence, going back over 300 years to pit a willful young Comanche against a laser-toting, largely invisible extraterrestrial here to collect skulls, spines, and other violent trophies.
Prey moves forward by going back, and we're doing the same, running through the history of Predator, the wildly fluctuating perception of the series among Ranker voters, and why Prey is a big, big deal for fans.
- Photo: Predator / 20th Century Fox
The Original 'Predator' Is An Acknowledged Classic Across Genres
In 1987, Predator was a lean, mean action-thriller with a science fiction twist and the most muscle-bound of all the muscle-bound leading men in the go-go '80s. It was well-received at the time, and its reputation has only grown over time. Predator is an action film first and foremost; it ranks high on our list of The Best Action Movies Of All Time, a list powered by over 250,000 votes from fans and topped by another Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi actioner, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Sprinkling genre elements of horror, sci-fi, and slow-burn thriller, Predator ranks high on heavily competitive film lists like these:
- The Best Alien Movies Ever Made
- The Best Alien Horror Movies Ever Made
- The Best Sci-Fi Movies Of The 1980s
- The Best Action Movies For Horror Fans
- The Scariest R-Rated Sci-Fi Movies
- The Best Science Fiction Action Movies
Not convinced? Well, we saved the biggest for last, since it ranks No. 9 on the list of The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time, right between Jurassic Park and T2.
- Photo: Predator 2 / 20th Century Fox
None Of The Sequels Quite Managed To Recapture The Magic
Unsurprisingly, the first film in this series easily tops our list of The Best Predator Movies. It's not at all unusual for the first movie in a long-running franchise to sit atop the heap on a Ranker list, as is the case in these comparable examples:
- The Best Alien Movies
- The Best Pirates of the Caribbean Movies
- The Best Movies In The Jurassic Park Franchise
For some franchises, it's the first sequel that takes the cake, as you can see with All Six Terminator Movies, Ranked Best To Worst, and Every Star Wars Movie, Ranked Best To Worst, led respectively by Judgment Day and The Empire Strikes Back. That's definitely not the case for Predator 2, a not widely loved sequel that ranks below the 2010 follow-up Predators, according to Ranker voters. Even that sequel's fan base is modest at best, though, while 2018's The Predator is widely viewed as a whiff, ranking No. 7 on the list of Movie Reboots That Had To Be Rebooted Again.
The series as a whole ranks high on several Ranker franchise roundups, cracking the Top 20 in two genres and making it into the Top 100 in franchises generally:
- The Best Horror Movies Franchises
- The Best Science Fiction Franchises Of All Time
- The Very Best Movie Franchises
Overall, Prey could benefit from a slight sense of exasperation with the series, an exasperation summed up by the No. 3 ranking of the Predator films on our list of Wildly Successful Movie Franchises (That Only Have One Great Film), just behind The Hangover films and just ahead of Transformers.
- Photo: Alien vs. Predator / 20th Century Fox
The 'Alien Vs. Predator' Spinoffs Aren't Exactly Beloved Either
Way back in 1990, Predator 2 offered a quick glimpse of an unmistakable skull on the “trophy wall," suggesting that the Predators (known as the Yautja) had made sport of the Aliens (known as Xenomorphs) and planting the seed that would blossom in comic books and video games pitting the 20th Century Fox-owned creatures against each other. The monster mash finally made it to the big screen with 2004's Alien vs. Predator, which really does pit the extraterrestrials against each other in a pyramid beneath the ice in Antarctica.
Alien vs. Predator didn't land too well with fans of either franchise: It ranks No. 2 on the list of Times R-Rated Franchises Made PG-13 Sequels No One Asked For (Or Wanted), ranking behind only RoboCop 3. Even those who enjoy AVP acknowledge that it's a step in the direction of gimmicky schlock, as it ranks No. 5 among Bad Action Movies That Are Actually Good, right between Rush Hour 2 and Cobra.
One person who isn't a fan? Sigourney Weaver. The one and only Ellen Ripley didn't mince words when a fan asked her opinion on AVP and its sequel, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem back in 2016. “Well, I haven’t seen them,” she responded, according to Entertainment Weekly. “Because I heard that the Alien doesn’t beat the Predator and I thought, ‘F*** that.'”
- Photo: Prey / Hulu
'Prey' Is A Back-To-Basics Prequel - But Not An Origin Story
For a series that started with such a simple hook, things got so complicated over the course of six total movies that Ranker had to lay it all out in A Complete Timeline Of The Many Hunts Of The Predator Franchise. Take, for example, that the Yautja were worshipped as gods by the Egyptians, Aztecs, and Mayans as early as 3000 BCE. The Predators also helped these civilizations construct pyramids as part of Xenomorph hunts. See? It's gotten complicated.
Prey takes place in 1719, so it's technically a prequel to the original film. Don't let that make you think it's going to further complicate the timeline, though. Prey zigs where its predecessors have zagged by eschewing more mythology on the Yautja and instead focusing on what they do. They hunt. And as the title suggests, this time it's all about the Predator's prey.
At the film's red-carpet premiere, director Dan Trachtenberg explained why Prey has to take place over 300 years ago, telling Film Updates:
I wanted to make a movie about protagonists that we never see as the leads of a movie, being Native American and the Comanche even more specifically, so that sort of lent itself to being set in the past. And I just want to sort of go even further than when we typically see Native Americans show up, it's in a Western, in a cowboy movie, in the 1800s. So I just wanted to go back further to the height of the Comanche empire.
So sure, it's a prequel, but unlike the Star Wars prequels, Prey isn't about explaining origins or expanding mythology. Instead, it's a return to the original's stripped-down narrative pitting Comanche against the extraterrestrial hunter.