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The Beginner’s Guide to Surviving in the ‘Predator’ Movies

Ahead of the release of ‘Prey,’ our resident Predator expert offers a series of guidelines for making it out alive

Ringer illustration

One of the joys of watching a movie in which characters are scratching and clawing for survival is wondering how you’d handle the same nightmarish scenario. (If you put me through half of what Robert Redford endured in All Is Lost, I will, in fact, be lost.) But not all life-or-death scenarios are created equal, and the enduring thrill of the Predator franchise—a wonderfully delirious cocktail of slasher and action movie tropes—is the sheer improbability of staying alive.

The dire situation is pretty self-explanatory: We’ve got an alien species that visits Earth to hunt humans for sport with an overwhelming advantage in strength, stealth, and weaponry. Beyond that, the Predators routinely go after the baddest dudes on the planet—the kind of people responsible for the manliest (and most meme-worthy) handshake in the history of cinema. Keep in mind, one of these guys still loses their arm while fighting a Predator:

If Yoked Carl Weathers couldn’t defeat one of these aliens, what chance would any of us have? The odds are certainly stacked against anyone going toe to toe with a Predator, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to come away with your skull and spinal column still attached to your body. Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch defeated one of the extraterrestrial hunters in 1987’s Predator before calling him “ONE UGLY MOTHERFUCKER,” a chosen few have lived to tell the tale through a combination of brains and brawn. (Whether or not someone would believe a story about being pursued by a 7-foot alien with dreadlocks, well, that’s another issue entirely.)

With the latest entry in the franchise, Prey, arriving on Friday, there’s no better time to pore through the history of human-Predator activity so that the next wave of unfortunate souls can gain some type of advantage. (Given Hollywood’s current IP obsession, I wouldn’t be surprised if Prey isn’t the last we see from the Predator franchise, which is totally fine because I would watch dozens of these movies.) These are your guidelines for surviving a Predator film; study them like your life depends on it, because it very well might. Let’s begin the hunt.

Keep a Low(ish?) Profile

Based on the species’ previous visits to our planet, Predators are attracted to two things: human conflict, and the impressive individuals that stand out amid the carnage. After all, these fellas don’t just want a fresh kill—they’re craving a challenge. Imagine how hyped the Predator in Predator was when Dutch raided a camp of guerilla fighters in Central America and killed nameless goons while dishing out a bunch of ridiculous one-liners. (My favorite: “Stick around” after impaling someone with a machete.)

The skills that put Dutch and his elite military unit on the Predator’s radar are what you’ll need to put up a fight against the aliens. At the same time, you don’t want to build such a legendary reputation that Predators invite you—or more accurately, take you hostage against your will—to test out those abilities on their home planet. In 2010’s underrated Predators, a random collection of A-list mercenaries wake up in a mysterious jungle with no memory of how they got there. As the group—led, inexplicably, by Adrien Brody—soon discovers, they’ve become the prey in an extraterrestrial game reserve. Facing off against one Predator is daunting enough, and these characters have to deal with an entire planet of them with almost no hope of making it back to Earth. And the longer they’re stuck on Planet Predator, the more likely they’ll turn into Noland (Laurence Fishburne), a kooky survivor of previous hunts who’s basically an offworld Colonel Kurtz.

In short: be a formidable warrior without being a clout chaser.

Be Vulnerable

There are many ways for a person to convey vulnerability, but not all of them apply to a showdown with a Predator. Like, I wouldn’t advise going up to a Predator and discussing your struggles opening up with romantic partners because you were denied love and validation from your parents—that won’t stop it from skinning you and hanging your corpse from a tree. (If anything, the Predator will probably be bummed you didn’t even try putting up a fight.)

But Predators do abide by a code of honor, and there are certain conditions where an individual will be spared from its hunt. In Predator 2, which takes place in a version of Los Angeles so cartoonishly violent it feels like it was projected straight from a Fox News executive’s wet dream, the creature spares LAPD detective Leona Cantrell (María Conchita Alonso) after its infrared sensors discover she’s pregnant. From the Predator’s view, it wouldn’t be very sporting to kill someone with a baby on the way.

Granted, unless you know the time and date of a future Predator attack, you can’t exactly plan to have a bun in the oven when the alien shows up—assuming you can even get pregnant to begin with. But if you aren’t expecting and still don’t want any Predator smoke, there may be an alternate approach: put on your birthday suit. In 2018’s The Predator, biologist Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn) is spared by a Predator when it finds her naked and unarmed. (She wasn’t just nude for the sake of it, but had to follow a decontamination process to exit a government lab.) Whether it was the fact that Casey was weaponless or didn’t have any clothes on is beside the point—note: it would be funnier if the Predator could relate to the awkwardness of being discovered, ahem, exposed—as it’s better to err on the side of caution. Like the Discovery Channel series, your best bet is to be naked and afraid.

Don’t Be a Hero

My favorite recurring bit in the Predator franchise is when a character decides to buy time for other members of the group by offering to take on the Predator alone. This tradition started in Predator with Billy (Sonny Landham), who tossed away his guns and cut into his own chest with a machete as a sign that he ran out of fucks to give. (Point taken, my swole king.) The selfless trend has continued with Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) in Predators as well as Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) and Baxley (Thomas Jane) in The Predator. Making this choice is, frankly, one of the coolest things you can do in a Predator film if you aren’t the main character. The problem is that it’s also a death sentence.

Based on previous events in the franchise, the best-case scenario for one of these face-offs is that a Predator gets taken out during the character’s heroic sacrifice. That’s what happened when Hanzo, a taciturn Yakuza member, wielded a katana against a Predator before they simultaneously killed one another. For Hanzo, the badassery of going Samurai Mode against a Predator speaks for itself. (I can’t stress enough, pitting a Yakuza enforcer against the universe’s gnarliest big game hunter is one of mankind’s greatest artistic achievements.) But when the name of the game is (ideally) survival, there’s no harm in practicing a little self-preservation.

Alien Technology Is Your Friend

Considering Predators travel throughout the cosmos and treat Earth like a stop on a safari tour, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their technology blows anything humanity has created out of the water. Trying to compete against a Predator and their tech would be like a propeller plane going up against an F-18 fighter jet. But the Predators’ greatest strength can also be turned into a weakness—as long as you can use their weapons against them.

While Dutch went full Bear Grylls in Predator and embraced his surroundings to defeat his adversary, other franchise protagonists have utilized Predator technology to their advantage. In 1990’s Predator 2, LAPD lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) kills a Predator with one of its own throwing discs, which cuts sharper than the world’s most expensive kitchen knives. (If you gave a bunch of those discs to the characters on The Bear for food prep, they would have no problem filling dozens of takeout orders.) But another, far greater use of Predator technology might not amount to anything more than a cinematic what-if.

After Army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) overcomes a giant, evolved Predator using—you guessed it—an explosive spear from the alien’s own severed arm at the end of The Predator, the U.S. government finds cargo left behind by the movie’s first, smaller Predator. When a scientist accidentally activates what’s inside the package, it’s revealed to be a “Predator killer” suit: essentially, alien armor and weapons capable of leveling the playing field. (Naturally, Quinn wants to wear it.) Unfortunately, with The Predator underwhelming at the box office and the franchise moving onto Prey, a prequel set in the 1700s, we may never see the so-called Predator killer in action. But the same sentiment applies: if you want to stand a chance against a Predator, give them a taste of their own medicine.

Earn Interspecies Respect

While their name implies they’re hunting for food, Predators go after humans for nothing more than the love of the game. From their perspective, the premise of the entire franchise is just a super messed-up recreational activity. But like any sport, the Predators have their own set of rules and are surprisingly noble with their bloodletting. If all else fails, humans can save their own skin by earning the aliens’ respect.

Take Predator 2’s Harrigan: after vanquishing his otherworldly foe in the film’s climax, he’s surrounded by a group of Predators. Given how difficult it was for Harrigan to defeat a single Predator, the rest could’ve killed him without breaking a sweat. Instead, the Predators collect their slain comrade’s body and present Harrigan with a trophy for his efforts: a flintlock pistol with an inscription dating back to 1715. The sequence not only confirms Predators have been visiting our planet for centuries, but that these killers abide by a code. (I’m also willing to bet my life savings this pistol will be an Easter egg in Prey.)

Really, the biggest issue is that the bar for getting props from a Predator is so damn high. When the aliens are already targeting some of Earth’s most formidable fighters, a character has to prove that they’re the best of the best of the best. Of course, the upside is that there isn’t anything cooler than gaining the respect of the universe’s finest warriors. If you can do that, you’ve earned bragging rights for life.

Find a Common Enemy

In hindsight, it’s incredible that Predator 2—a movie that inserts a Predator into the middle of Los Angeles’s gang wars—has become the skeleton key for unlocking the whole franchise. In addition to revealing that Predators have spent centuries traveling to Earth, the film briefly shows a Xenomorph skull in one of the hunters’ trophy collection: a throwaway gag that nevertheless planted the seeds for a crossover with the Alien franchise. When the two iconic species finally squared off in Paul W.S. Anderson’s 2004 hit Alien vs. Predator, the movie came with the perfect tagline: “Whoever wins … we lose.” (This should also be the official motto of every Republican National Convention.)

But while Predators and Xenomorphs are both bad news for humanity, the former can still be reasoned with. As decades of films across the two franchises have established, Predators won’t harm vulnerable individuals during their hunts; conversely, Xenomorphs kill any person they encounter or, worse, set them up to be impregnated with an alien that will violently burst out of their body. To that end, the human protagonist of Alien vs. Predator, Lex (Sanaa Lathan), teams up with a Predator to defeat the Xenomorph Queen: a seminal moment in interplanetary unity.

The alliance might’ve been borne out of extraordinarily apocalyptic circumstances, but Alien vs. Predator also set up a backstory where Predators were revered by ancient human civilizations as gods. And when left to choose between ruthless Lovecraftian murder machines with acid for blood or an honorable warrior race so awesome our ancestors decided to worship them, it’s an easy decision to make.

Consider Making Your Way to the Nearest Helicraft

When all other options are off the table against a Predator, it’s never a bad idea to listen to everyone’s favorite Austrian strongman and “GET TO THE CHOPPA!” While Dutch’s heroics have been immortalized in pop culture, it doubles as handy advice throughout the franchise. If there’s one thing the Predator movies have in abundance outside of its namesake hunters, it’s big, beautiful choppers:

Screenshots via Hulu

Obviously, the above helicopter is from the first Predator movie—what’s the point of Dutch yelling about getting to one if there weren’t any in the Central American jungle?—but Predator 2 also found room for a chopper in the middle of war-torn Los Angeles:

Since Predators took place on an alien planet, we can excuse the film for its lack of chopper content. (Ditto for the forthcoming Prey, unless the film is set in an alternate history where flintlock pistols and helicopters were invented around the same time.) Thanks to Dutch’s rallying cry, helicopters have become so synonymous with the franchise that The Predator even toyed with the audience by having a character say “get to the choppers” in reference to, well, a different kind of man-made machine.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether it’s on land or in the air: in a Predator film, there’s no better failsafe than [clears throat] chopping it up.