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You may have missed this, amid the constant slew of cinema news beamed directly into your pocket-sized smart device of choice, but 2022 is set to bring us a new Predator movie, the fifth in the franchise. Titled Prey, it’s directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane, Portal: No Escape) and will premiere on the Hulu channel. Rather than be set after the events of 2018’s The Predator, Prey is a prequel - the Yautja’s own Prometheus, if you will.
What Prey likely won’t have a(n immediately obvious) connection to is the Alien series. Nevertheless, the two sci-fi monster franchises have been intertwined ever since their first comics-world crossover in 1989, with the first movie nod to their shared universe coming in 1990’s Predator 2, where a xenomorph skull can be seen amongst an array of successful-hunt trophies. A pair of movies pitting acid-for-blood bugs against heavily-armed extraterrestrials who pursue other species for sport followed in the ‘00s - and it’s with one of those that we kick off this ranking of every Alien and Predator movie, so far.
(Quick note: we’re not including any short films, like the 40th anniversary Alien series from Tongal Studios - although some of those are great and you should totally watch them, particularly Harvest and Specimen - or the shorts that came out around The Predator. It’s the main movies only, here. Also excluded is the Digital Series for Alien: Isolation. That’s a video game, and pretty brilliant.)
12. Aliens vs Predator: Requiem (2007)
It had to be, didn’t it? This second crossover movie might be a gruesome gorefest, with chest-popped kids and a maternity ward from hell, but there’s so little blood rushing through its veins, so little heart at its centre, that it’s a wonder it can make it to the end of its mercifully brief 94-minute run time. The movie’s high kill-count barely registers with viewers given how little character development there is for any humans in this, and plot wise it’s like someone just wrote “Predalien” on a white board at 20th Century Fox and made the rest up as the shoot went along. AvP: Requiem’s ending is weak, half-heartedly teasing a never-happening follow-up; its action sequences either too dark to care about, exceptionally dull, or both at once; and while it does feature some fun men-in-monster-suits pugilism, as its hybrid squares off against a regular Yautja, it’s not nearly enough to lift this out of last place.
11. The Predator (2018)
I’ve nothing against kids being in these movies. Aliens is all the way up there, down there, and one of its main characters is the squeaky little Newt. But while The Predator is notable for presenting autism as something other than something to be ‘cured’, its depiction goes too far the other way and makes the young Rory, who finds some Predator gear and immediately knows how to work it, into Professor X or something. He’s presented as a sort of superhero - and that’s really not how autism works. That said, the kid is from the most annoying cast member here, as a slew of semi-famous faces (yes, that is Mass Effect’s Miranda Lawson) ham it up in between bloody kills and gaping plotholes. It’s sometimes goofy enough to raise a smile, and there are some fun nods to the series’ past - Jake Busey plays the son of a character from Predator 2 who was played by his real dad, Gary, which is nice - but the story’s a mess, the dialogue dreary (if in doubt, add profanity), and tonally The Predator is all over the place. Somewhere, there’s a full-on comedy fan-cut of this movie that runs for 20 minutes and is infinitely better than the full 107 minutes we get here. Oh, and spoiler? The Predator? There’s more than just the one, SMDH.
10. Alien: Covenant (2017)
The worst of the Alien-only movies and a direct sequel to the almost-as-bad Prometheus, Covenant is your standard slash ‘em up where a lot of people are alive at the start but just a few are left at the end. Human character development is largely absent - Danny McBride has a hat, and Billy Crudup has God - and most of the emphasis is placed on getting the series-trademark xenomorphs into the picture after their absence in the previous film. Except, surprise! It’s not actually a xeno like the xenos in Alien to Alien Resurrection, but a protomorph, because you bet this timeline is gonna get dragged out further by whatever Ridley Scott next does with this series. I mean, he’s got the right to do what he wants, to some degree - that is the 84-year-old director’s name on the original Alien, after all. But with neither Covenant nor Prometheus really satisfying fans of all things Alien-y, there’s a good possibility that a third prequel, if it happens, won’t be worth the entrance fee.
9. Alien vs Predator (2004)
Unlike Requiem, the OG AvP actually has a few humans worth rooting for, and it’s a fast-paced, relatively streamlined romp through a shape-shifting temple of doom packed full of face-hugging critters and, subsequently, double-jawed monsters from outer space who are supposed to be quarries for the Preds to hunt. It feels closer to its comic roots than to either the Predator or Alien movies that came before it, and rattles through its 101 minutes with minimal fuss. Which is not to say it’s good, as such - but it’s harmless, it has Spud from Trainspotting in it, and there is the suggestion at least that director Paul W.S. Anderson, who previously directed the game-to-movie productions Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil, cares about the source material. As a popcorn flick, you can do much worse.
8. Prometheus (2012)
Supremely stylish and actually pretty captivating for its first hour or so, Prometheus doesn’t so much jump a shark in its second half as birth a squid. Getting some Engineers backstory and seeing one in action is neat on paper, and joins some of the dots to Alien in a fairly neat and tidy fashion, but a large pale man killing a wrinkly greedy man is just about as exciting as it sounds. And I can’t believe that at no point of production, nobody turned to Ridley Scott and said, boss, why don’t they just run to the side? I couldn’t quite bring myself to walk out of Prometheus when I first saw it at the cinema, but Past Me might have had a better time if he had.
7. Predator 2 (1990)
Until a recent re-watch, I’d forgotten - or simply never appreciated in the first place - just now nasty Predator 2 is. It’s a movie in which it’s hard to root for anyone - not Danny Glover’s Harrigan, the Los Angeles-terrorising Predator itself, or even the “want some candy” kid. Director Stephen Hopkins’ slasher-movie past presents itself to the fore in Predator 2, as this flick is soaked through with the red stuff, but it lacks the suspense of 1987’s predecessor (not to mention the Schwarzenegger star power) and the surprises of the movie that’d follow it, 2010’s Predators. Glover’s turn at being an all-action leading man in his mid-40s isn’t without merit (the younger Patrick Swayze had originally been envisioned for the Harrigan role), and his slighter-than-most frame almost gives this a Die Hard edge where an ordinary man finds himself in an extraordinary situation. But the various parts of Predator 2 don’t fully merge into a coherent whole that makes the most of its cast or premise: an alien hunter on the loose in a sprawling modern metropolis should have more punch and bite than this. Still, it’s got Bill Paxton in it, and Bill Paxton could give any movie an extra star on its score.
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6. Alien Resurrection (1997)
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and writer Josh Whedon were hot properties bristling with Hollywood potential when they came together to work on Resurrection, coming off the back of The City of Lost Children and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie version) respectively. And they so nearly make some gross-out magic happen on this fourth Alien film, which picks up some 200 years after Alien 3 and sees Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley brought back to life through a series of clones. How the alien - a queen, no less! - inside her comes back too, um, IDK, movie science isn’t it, just go with it. A decent cast around Weaver, including the likes of Ron Perlman, Michael Wincott, Winona Ryder and Dominique Pinon, ensures there’s a crackling chemistry amid the crewmates of the Betty, which echoes the marines of Aliens just with fewer flamethrowers; and when Resurrection gets silly, it does so with a knowing wink to the audience. No, this isn’t all scares from the shadows and haunted-house jumps: it’s loud, it’s proud, and this time they can swim. I can’t not mention the freakish Newborn, which is this movie’s biggest misstep, but otherwise, yeah, it’s a good time that isn’t in the Alien/Aliens league but really, what is?
5. Predators (2010)
Now, not everyone liked this one. A whole lot of you reading this right now would not have 2010’s Predators - all Adrien Brody frowns and Laurence Fishburne’s marbles being spilled across the jungle - but having watched it again just a few weeks ago, it’s better than I remember it being in the cinema. Perhaps with expectations lowered, a more enjoyable time can be had following its group of human killers being hunted for sport by the titular aliens on a distant planet that looks suspiciously like Hawaii. You can see how director Nimród Antal and writers Michael Finch and Alex Litvak wanted to pay tribute to 1987’s Predator - sometimes that’s subtle, at other times it’s a character actually smearing mud over themselves, Arnold-style - and also Aliens, with its added-s nomenclature and, y’know, multiple Predators in it. I cannot deny that seeing Brody punch a Predator in its face is cool. Using Danny Trejo as a trap is cool. Seeing Hanzo duel another of the aliens, katana in hands, is cool. Style over substance? Eh, maybe, a little. But when the style is this stylish, I’ll allow it.
4. Alien 3 (1992)
In before, the Assembly Cut saves it. Sure, the Assembly Cut of Alien 3 does change a number of plot points and bring, I suppose, a clearer sense of structure to this movie, cursed as it was during a lengthy production by an ever-changing script, crew members dropping out, and David Fincher making his feature-length directorial debut amongst the chaos. Fincher, who’d go on to direct Seven, Fight Club and The Social Network, has few positive memories of the Alien 3 experience and generally prefers to not talk about it - but given the mess this could have been, it’s really not bad at all. Indeed, it’s the fourth-best movie on this list, so there must be some notable strengths to it. Let me give you three. First, Charles S Dutton. Goodness me, what a presence this man has in this movie as Dillon, the ostensible leader of the inmates of a prison colony that becomes home to a hungry alien menace. (Notably, Dutton had been incarcerated for several years himself, so brought real-world experience to his role.) Second, although filming began without a set script, the environments of this movie, its powerfully physical sense of space and place, is wonderful, mesmerising almost. (The xenomorph CGI? Not so great.) And third, there’s Sigourney Weaver in - and I’m going there, here I go, watch me say it - her best-ever performance as Ripley. She has to carry so much of this film, and she does it superbly. I also adore the ending: the fall into the flames; the shutting down of the complex, the doors being locked; Morse being led away by the Weyland-Yutani evac team; the sun rising on a new day, a new start; all while that fanfare swells. And then Weaver’s words crackling back from the end of Alien. Leaves a little something in my throat, and part of me wishes they’d just left the series there.
3. Predator (1987)
Eminently quotable, unashamedly bombastic and capable of producing genuinely enrapturing cinema from a plot thinner than the fabric of your underwear, Predator is a very ‘80s, very awesome, all-action classic. Subtly goes out of the window as director John McTiernan (Die Hard, Last Action Hero, jail time and bankruptcy) throws Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch and his paramilitary team into a rainforest to go head-to-head with Kevin Peter Hall’s Predator (who also played the part of the alien in the sequel, before dying in 1991), leading to chain-gun hedge-trimming, some super-uncomfortable-looking dry shaving, a little forced sticking around, and a healthy dollop of spine-ripping for dessert. It’s big, it’s dumb, and it’s a lot of fun - and that’s all that Predator needs to be. Interesting aside: the Predator’s noises are made by Peter Cullen, most famous for being the voice of Optimus Prime in the Transformers series. From a hero to millions to one ugly mother effer.
2. Aliens (1986)
Where Alien was quiet and slow, Aliens is eardrums-poppingly loud and… actually yeah, it’s slow for a long time, too. But all of that set-up, the team-building amongst the marines, Ripley’s recounting of what went down on the Nostromo, Burke just sliming over every little thing he touches, it’s so vital in making us give a damn about the people in this picture. Like Alien before it, camaraderie is everything amongst the humans here, and while some of the casting feels distinctly off in the 21st century - the white Jenette Goldstein plays the Latino Vasquez, her skin darkened with make-up - there’s a clear bond between everyone who takes this express elevator to hell, going down. Director James Cameron gets exceptional performances from a trio of actors who’d been in his 1984 movie, The Terminator - namely the aforementioned Bill Paxton (again, electric whenever he's on screen) as Hudson, Michael Biehn as Hicks, and Lance Henriksen as the android Bishop (come on, who didn’t try the knife thing at home, after seeing this?). But the unquestionable star of this show is Weaver’s Ripley, upending the 1980s trend for hyper-macho, mega-muscle action stars by slinging a pulse rifle over her shoulder, strapping a flamethrower to the side of it and ultimately taking on the alien menace almost single-handedly. With breathless set-pieces that can still put hairs on end, a pounding score that gets the blood pumping, and dialogue that sparkles with sharp wit and deep pathos, Aliens is one of the greatest examples of the action genre, one of the greatest movies of the 1980s, and one of the greatest movies of all time. But it’s not the greatest Alien or Predator movie, because…
1. Alien (1979)
At the risk of repeating myself: had to be, didn’t it? What has touched Alien, really, since it came out over 40 years ago? Watch it today, and its horror still creeps as menacingly, its sets still clank and rattle with weight and momentum, and its tension is more palpable than any knife that’d dare to try to cut through it. Ridley Scott’s second movie as director, after 1977’s The Duellists, is a masterpiece of making the impossibly big - the incalculable vastness of space, the infinite possibilities of life across the cosmos - seem painfully, excruciatingly intimate, so close you can feel the touch of the void on your skin. The alien of the title, so shrouded in darkness, so mysterious of origin at the time of this movie’s release, became an immediate icon: a nightmare beyond dreams, beyond evolution as we know it, and yet shockingly akin to the real fears of real people; of being stalked silently, observed, assaulted. The real fear on the cast members’ faces when that violent birth happens is the stuff of cinema legend; so too the retro-futuristic look of the Nostromo, a spacefaring tugboat that should be so old-fashioned by now that the spell is broken and the immersion shattered, and yet, that never happens. You believe in the ship, these people, this monster. And it’s that belief that has you feeling your own chest when Kane’s rips open, and your spine tingling when Lambert has nowhere to go, a scream stuck between heart and mouth. You swallow your own down - and the taste has you coming back to watch this again and again, as it’ll be for decades more to come.
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