This week sees the release of Prey, the prequel (Preyquel? Predaquel?) to the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biceps vehicle and alien grudge match, Predator. The beauty of it being a prequel is that you are not obliged to do an all-night marathon session binging all the other Predator films before it comes out. No, instead you get to do that after you’ve watched Prey.
So to help you along, here’s a handy guide to the viewing order of the Predator franchise, with only a little editorializing over which ones you can safely skip or drink through.
1. Prey (2022)
So this article is about the chronological order to watch the Predator movies in, and this is chronologically the first movie, but really, you should probably at least have seen Predator before watching this one, as you’ll get a lot more out of the film if you’re familiar with the way they usually work.
In Prey, a Comanche warrior must face off against Derek, an alien dental hygienist who has come to Earth for a long weekend of game hunting. At least that’s our head canon.
Where Derek differs from the other Predators is that he has not come to Earth specifically hunt out The Most Dangerous Game: Man. He’s basically like a No Man’s Sky player who’s landed his ship on a random planet and wanders around aimlessly looking for dangerous animals he can start beef with—-picking fights with all kinds of wildlife before he thinks there might be fun to be had in killing these hairless ape creatures.
It is a proper, stripped down, back to basics Predator movie that uses the Predator and its historic setting to create something really special.
But it learned all its tricks from:
2. Predator (1987)
The original, the best, the origin of that meme where two really muscular arms shake hands. Set roughly 300 years after Prey, in this movie Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers face off against a Predator who we’re going to assume is called Jeff and works as a recruitment consultant when he’s not Predator-ing. The film is absolutely dripping in ‘80s hyper-masculinity, and yet somehow also functions as a slasher movie, with Schwarzenegger of all people playing the Final Girl. It lays out the format that the rest of the franchise ignores at its peril.
The Predator comes to Earth to face off against our biggest and meanest killer in an inhospitable environment. They duke it out. Our biggest and meanest killer finds themselves stripped of allies and weaponry until they are left with nothing but animal cunning and a fight to the death.
It’s perfect. Why would you mess with it?
3. Predator 2 (1990)
This film has a lot of problems and gets a lot of criticism, but it understood the assignment. Set in the grim future of 1997 when Los Angeles is being torn about by a heatwave and warring drug cartels, it transposes the action from the middle of the jungle to an urban arena.
This time Garfield, an accounts executive who likes to let off steam hunting lower organisms (head-canon again), has decided the most deadly killers on Earth are a bunch of drug lords and sets about violently murdering them while Danny Glover plays a too-old-for-this-shit detective trying to track him down. He might seem a bit weak sauce after Schwarzenegger’s super commando, but that adds a new angle, as he desperately fumbles around to understand and then take down a force he is far outmatched by.
It also gives us a glimpse of the inside of a Predator’s spaceship, including a selection of wall trophies that include a certain Alien from another movie franchise…
4. Alien vs. Predator (2004)
We’re just going to say it: You don’t really have to watch this one. Just going to say, right now, if you want to skip this one, and the next one, nobody’s going to judge you. The plot is ripped straight from H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Predators (these ones don’t get names, because this film doesn’t count) expose an ancient pyramid on an island off the coast of Antartica. Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen), who looks spookily like the robot Bishop from Aliens, assembles one of those teams of archaeologists that also include a lot of mercenaries to go and take a look.
It turns out the pyramid is some of xenomorph-worshiping temple, and a bunch of xenomorphs escape! The Predators and Aliens then run round trying to kill each other until the surviving human and Predator have to make an unlikely alliance and jump away from an explosion in the climax.
Even this makes it sound more fun than it is. You come away respecting both of the universe’s deadliest killers less.
5. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
Okay, pay attention because this is going to be important later. Don’t put Predators in small towns or suburbs. Out in the wildest and most inhospitable environments you can think of? Brilliant, love it. Call of the wild, red in tooth and claw, absolutely, it’s what we’re here for. The center of a nightmarish urban sprawl? Counterintuitive, but it works! It highlights the parallels between the city of the wild, showing that the veneer of civilization is thin wherever you look, and that a big city can be as hostile as any wilderness.
But you shouldn’t put the Predator up against a location whose best defense is that the Predator will get bored and go home. To keep its interest, we have the return of the xenomorphs of Aliens, and a hybrid “Predalien” from the last film which probably sounds like a really cool concept if you’re 12 rather than something that negates the terrifying things about both its parents.
It also gives us a glimpse of the Predators’ home planet, continuing to depict the Predators as “higher budget but slightly rubbish Klingons.” Skip this one too if you like.
6. Predators (2010)
FinallyAGoodFuckingPredatorMovie.gif. After the spirited but flawed first sequel, and the Totally Doesn’t Count duology of Alien vs Predator Films, someone finally comes along and makes a film that properly gets the Predator and how to use it. This is a film about the baddest alien motherfuckers fighting the baddest human motherfuckers to see who wins.
The twist? This time the Predators are ordering in. A mismatched selection of humans, all of whom seem to be some kind of deadly killer, wake up falling through the sky above an alien planet. No sooner do they have time to get their bearings when they run into “super” Predators, Hank, Frederick, and Susan, the marketing team for a mid-size double glazing company who are out on a team building weekend. It is some proper back to basics Predator action, with a human cast that shows a smorgasbord of the different ways, and reasons, humans use to kill.
And then you can stop watching Predator movies.
Seriously, you can stop, right now. Why not do an Alien movie marathon that starts with Alien and ends with Alien 3? Or you know what’s a good film? Event Horizon. Or if you love Predators so much, maybe you can watch those Star Trek: Voyager episodes where the baddies are just Predator with the serial numbers filed off?
Oh, you really want to watch all the Predator films, huh? Fine. Here we go. You asked for this.
7. The Predator (2018)
Predator films function on one basic premise: The Predator finds the most dangerous killer it can among humanity and then it tries to kill them. The entire franchise was kicked off because someone made a gag that Rocky would have to go to space to find any more opponents.
You’re not going to make a Scream movie where Ghostface gets a temp job and has trouble adapting to the limitations of an office environment. Nobody cares about Freddy Krueger: The Janitorial Years. If the Predator isn’t tracking down the deadliest actual human it can find, then they aren’t technically even a Predator, are they?
In this film, set in suburbia (I told you we’d come back to that) the Predators’ main objective is to kidnap an autistic child. This is because it wants his DNA, because it turns out Predators have human DNA now—a plot twist that went down an absolute storm when they tried it in Doctor Who. At one point the autistic child dresses up in the Predator’s armor as a Halloween costume.
There is not enough wine in the world to make this entertaining, but if you insist on watching every film made under the Predator license in chronological order, this will be the last Predator film you see. If that’s what you want.