Updated: Nov 11, 2019
An elite team of commandos is dropped into a Central American jungle to hunt down whoever or whatever is behind the disappearance of an earlier squad. Instead the hunters become the hunted by a being that clearly isn't human.
“The jungle… it just came alive and took him''.
For those who watched it for the first time in the late 1980s, this movie grabbed you by the throat and didn't let go until the closing credits. The camera showing the Predator's point of view, the pounding heartbeat in the background, the creature's thermal vision, its ability to become invisible at will, race through the tree cover, hunt for sport - all made it one heck of a sci-fi action adventure. The Predator's sheer size took audiences by surprise - when Bill Duke (Mac) kills the scorpion and moves on, the Predator holds up the dead scorpion in its unbelievably gigantic clawed hand. Its strength took audiences by surprise when the Predator one-handed, heaves the mighty Schwarzenegger (Dutch) clear off the ground, its forearms, chest, biceps and thighs almost twice that of the bodybuilders who made up much of the cast. Alan Silvestri's soundtrack convinced you that Billy was right: "There's something out there waiting for us and it ain't no man. We're all going to die".
"There's something out there waiting for us and it ain't no man. We're all going to die".
To set an extra-terrestrial being that sported infrared vision, advanced heat mapping and all sorts of digital technologies in a steamy and stifling South American jungle is a wild and wonderfully effective idea in itself. To then throw in the alpha male, Schwarzenegger who loses all his commandos to the trophy-hunting creature and finally duels with it alone is nothing short of a masterstroke. In a clear role reversal from his previous alien hit, The Terminator (1984), Schwarzenegger is now the hunted human.
In the end, both alien and human are stripped bare of their toys and it is this climactic battle of wits that takes the movie above the gore of skinned humans and luminescent green alien blood. Directed by John McTiernan (who went on to do Die Hard (1988), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Last Action Hero (1993), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)), this movie manages to transform a very simplistic plot into an intense and gripping human drama. Spawning multiple sequels (and crossovers with the Aliens franchise), Predator is still viewed by action movie fans as THE template for making grisly, testosterone-filled action that can grab and hold attention. Unpretentious in its aim to entertain, it still surprises by reducing a seemingly invincible, muscled hero to a vulnerable, bleeding, but unbowed human.