The Predator movie franchise is over thirty years old, and in that time can be best described as incredibly varied. Unlike sister series Alien, which has a clear set of throughlines - the Ripley originals, Alien vs. Predator, the David prequels - few of the six Predator movies so far has been quite like the others, and most tend to ignore much of what's happened before.
It kicked off in 1987 with Predator, followed up by bigger budget sequel Predator 2 in 1990, before various versions were stuck in development hell before 2004 and 2007's double-tap of Alien vs. Predator and AvP: Requiem. Their shared misstep led to a revising of an old 1990s script with space-set Predators, and now the series is going in a whole new direction with Shane Black's The Predator. As the confused nomenclature may hint, Predator a series with an unclear identity - narratively inconsistent and tonally varied - that tapers off much quicker than the likes of Alien or Terminator. That said, crossovers aside, its lows are certainly a little less abrasive.
Related: Read Our Review of The Predator
With The Predator hearkening back to some (not all) movies in the series and opening up many debates of what the Yautja means in modern-day cinema, we're going to look back over the series and rank all six Predator films from worst to best.
6. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem is the worst entry in both involved franchises by quite a margin. The previous films all had flirtations with the slasher genre, but here's where all the usual sci-fi trappings, unique style and grander themes were tossed aside and it became homogenized, indistinct from a Platinum Dunes remake. Set on modern-day Earth in a small town, AVPR 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 cliche locations - forest, school, hospital - with weak internal logic (being stabbed by an alien's tail is interchangeably instakill or flesh wound) and cheap sets (the military presence is one guy in a room), all presented in a high contrast, high saturation image. It's narratively dull and visually dark, with the only real moments of inspiration from directors the Strause brothers being some experimenting with the R-rating, and that's a very mixed bag; seeing xenomorph blood melt a douchbag's face is cool, having chestbursters come from a child and a ward-ful of pregnant women is not.
Obviously, what suffers most are the titular beasts. Whereas the first movie did add some fun aspects, this is a dud. The Predalien, the major antagonist after being teased in Alien vs. Predator, is a neat enough design and gives the xenomorphs, just hordes in the predecessor, a sense of autonomy. But it's for naught when their conflict is such a small, unrelated part of the movie; the creatures are separate for most of proceedings and franchise ephemera is cheap, winking at the most well-known iconography and ideas (when not breaking continuity entirely). Little wonder both series went back to ideas in development from before this whole sorry affair afterward.
5. 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 at one of the low-points for big-budget filmmaking.
The contemporary eyerolls were predictable, and the resulting movie is lesser than the Nightmare/Friday take, not really satisfying either fandom with its story and a PG-13 rating meaning 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 copious plugging gaps with callbacks to The Thing). That said, the director clearly has an affection for the original movies, sneaking in sly references big and small (Lance Henriksen returns as the original Charles Weyland, while Ewan Bremner exploring the Antarctic town above the Predator pyramid creates a red-hued version of Aliens' scanner), and while the mythology is bluntly presented, it is nevertheless 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 xenos head from behind; a make-shift xenomorph skull shield; the Predalien tease (surely a reshoot).
However, when you step out of the bait, Alien vs. Predator doesn't really have much to say that's not been done in the previous six movies - any inventive idea with plot relevance is lifted from another film - and is ultimately about the showdown. And that's the real issue: the first brawl is just that, with a Predator swinging a xenomorph into pillars, while a later final battle against the Alien Queen is still far off delivering on the promise.
4. The Predator
Warning: Spoilers for The Predator in this entry.
It's hard to measure The Predator, the latest entry in the franchise ostensibly from director Shane Black, against the rest of the movies in this ranking. 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 "tentpoles totally butchered by reshoots" category. Granted, it's a step up from all three of those - there's no Kate Mara wigs or Henry Cavill mustache embarrassments - but its ADHD 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 some crazy illogical decisions and the sheer amount of ideas it throws at you. Why does the Predator not kill a naked Olivia Munn? Don't worry, now ask why its spine was yanked out by a bigger Predator when it was just revealed that's a DNA gathering trick. It's dumb as is, but there's also the sense that what's underneath was already broken to some degree.
However, what this has that the other films don't have are glimmers of what does work. The inventiveness of the alien technology as with AvP can be fun, and the R-rating does admittedly lead to some gory and creative kills. The character interplay, too, is often sharp. Boyd Holbrook and his team of mentally unstable outcasts are dependably funny once they're introduced (Thomas Jane's intermittent Tourettes sufferer aside), while Olivia Munn is so good as the bemused scientist-turned-action hero she should have led the whole thing. Even here, though, the film collapses into a "tell don't show" approach, so we never get deeper into these relationships before it tried to Rogue One it.
But those are just glimmers. The Predator overall is a badly made action movie, and for the Predator franchise a perplexing entry. It aims 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, then has fan-offending broad jokes like "get to the choppers" (that just happen to be in a military base). The creatures themselves are particularly bizarre, with a hybridization plot really just a cover for a scheme involving humanity's near extinction and a plot to steal our climate change heating planet from us. Yes, The Predator takes the space hunter premise and turns it into a same-old alien invasion narrative.