Predator is a 1987 American science fiction horror/action film directed by John McTiernan, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, and Kevin Peter Hall. It was distributed by 20th Century Fox. The story follows an elite special forces team, led by 'Dutch' (Arnold Schwarzenegger), on a mission to rescue hostages from guerrilla territory in Central America. Unbeknownst to the group, they are being hunted by a technologically advanced form of extraterrestrial life, the Predator. Predator was scripted by Jim and John Thomas in 1985, under the working title of Hunter. Filming began in April 1986 and creature effects were devised by Stan Winston.
The film's budget was around $15 million. Released in the United States on June 12, 1987, it grossed $98,267,558. Initial critical reaction to Predator was negative, with criticism focusing on the thin plot. However, in subsequent years critics' attitudes toward the film warmed, and it has appeared on a number of "best of" lists. Two sequels, Predator 2 (1990) and Predators (2010), as well as two crossover films with the Alien franchise, Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), have been produced.
An alien spacecraft enters the Earth's atmosphere and jettisons a pod, which descends into a Central American jungle. Later, Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives in the same area with his elite team for an operation to rescue a presidential cabinet minister who had been abducted by guerrilla forces. The team consists of Mac Eliot (Bill Duke), Blain Cooper (Jesse Ventura), Billy Sole (Sonny Landham), Jorge "Poncho" Ramirez (Richard Chaves), and Rick Hawkins (Shane Black). Dutch's old military friend George Dillon (Carl Weathers), now working for the CIA, accompanies them as a liaison. The team is inserted into the jungle by helicopter and begins its hunt.
They soon find the wreckage of a downed helicopter and later, the remains of Army Special Forces, whose presence in the country puzzles Dutch. The group is horrified to find the bodies have been hung and have had their skin removed. They track the guerrillas to a heavily defended rebel encampment which they destroy, except for a woman named Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) whom they take prisoner. Dutch is enraged when Dillon confesses the rescue mission was just a ploy to get his group to attack the rebel camp, and that the men they had found in the downed helicopter had disappeared in a failed rescue of two CIA agents. As the team make their way to the extraction point, they are observed from afar by an unknown creature using thermal imaging.
Anna briefly escapes, but when Hawkins catches her, he is stabbed and dragged off. The nearly invisible creature spares the unarmed Anna. Moments later, while the team is looking for Hawkins' killer, Blain is killed. Mac physically sees the creature and opens fire on it, but it disappears into the jungle. Anna offers the team insight on the creature which is something of a local legend. The team sets a trap, but it avoids capture, severely wounding Poncho in the process. Mac and Dillon are killed in the ensuing chase, and Billy is slain making a stand. The Predator catches up to Dutch and engages in a short shootout during which Poncho is killed. Realizing the creature only attacks those possessing weapons, a wounded Dutch sends Anna unarmed to the extraction point. Jumping off a waterfall, he narrowly escapes the creature by inadvertently masking his body's heat signature with mud and witnesses the Predator's true form when its active camouflage fails in the water. Dutch applies more mud, improvises various weaponry and traps, then baits the Predator into coming out by starting a large fire, and yelling a loud, barbaric war cry.
Hearing Dutch's war-cry, the Predator arrives to investigate and eventually traps him. Discarding its electronic weaponry, the alien challenges Dutch to hand-to-hand combat. Battered and barely able to move, Dutch manages to drop the counterweight from one of his traps, which falls and crushes the creature. As Dutch asks the mortally wounded alien what it is, the creature mimics his question in garbled English and then activates a self-destruct mechanism on its wrist. Dutch barely escapes the nuclear explosion and is rescued by helicopter, along with Anna.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer, a former Green Beret.
- Carl Weathers as George Dillon, a former teammate of Dutch and current CIA agent, sent along with Dutch's team.
- Elpidia Carrillo as Anna, a guerrilla, captured by Dutch's troops following a battle with the rebels.
- Bill Duke as Mac Eliot, a close friend of Blain's who served with him in Vietnam.
- Jesse Ventura as Blain Cooper, who fought alongside Mac in the Vietnam War.
- Sonny Landham as Billy Sole, a Native American tracker.
- Richard Chaves as Jorge "Poncho" Ramirez, a Chicano fluent Spanish who translates initially for Anna.
- Shane Black as Rick Hawkins, the team's radio operator and technical expert.
- R. G. Armstrong as Major General Homer Phillips, the coordinator of the mission, who assigns the team based upon their reputation.
- Kevin Peter Hall as The Predator, a member of a warrior race which hunts aggressive members of other species for sport.
- Sven-Ole Thorsen has an uncredited cameo as a Russian military advisor.
For a few months, following the release of Rocky IV, a joke was making rounds in Hollywood. Since Rocky Balboa had run out of earthly opponents, he would have to fight an alien if a fifth installment of his boxing series were to be made. Screenwriters Jim and John Thomas took the joke seriously and wrote a screenplay based on the joke. The Thomas script for Predator was originally titled Hunter. It was picked up by 20th Century Fox in 1985, and turned over to producer Joel Silver who, based on his experience with Commando, seemed the right choice to turn the vintage science fiction pulp storyline into a big-budget film. Silver enlisted his former boss Lawrence Gordon as co-producer and John McTiernan was hired as director for his first studio film. New Zealand director Geoff Murphy was also considered to direct.
According to the documentaries included on the Region 1 release of the special edition, the original monster suit was vastly different from the final product, designed by Stan Winston. Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally slated to play the creature, but allegedly made claims that the suit was "too clumsy and too hot". The original monster was a disproportionate, ungainly creature with large yellow eyes and a dog-like head. It was nowhere near as agile as the creature portrayed by Kevin Peter Hall. After Van Damme was removed from the film and subsequent financial troubles with the studio nearly caused the project to shut down, McTiernan consulted Stan Winston. While on a plane ride to Fox studios alongside Aliens director James Cameron, Winston sketched monster ideas. Cameron suggested he had always wanted to see a creature with mandibles, which became part of the Predator's iconic look.
Silver and Gordon first approached Arnold Schwarzenegger with the lead role.
Schwarzenegger said, "The first thing I look for in a script is a good idea, a majority of scripts are rip-offs of other movies. People think they can become successful overnight. They sat down one weekend and wrote a script because they read that Stallone did that with Rocky. Predator was one of the scripts I read, and it bothered me in one way. It was just me and the alien. So we re-did the whole thing so that it was a team of commandos and then I liked the idea. I thought it would make a much more effective movie and be much more believable. I liked the idea of starting out with an action-adventure, but then coming in with some horror and science fiction."
To play the elite band of soldiers, both Silver and Gordon, with co-producer John Davis, searched for other larger-than-life men of action. Carl Weathers, who had been memorable as boxer Apollo Creed in the Rocky films was their first choice to play Dillon, while professional wrestler and former Navy UDT Jesse Ventura was hired for his formidable physique as Blain. Native Americans Sonny Landham and Richard Chaves, and African-American Bill Duke, who co-starred alongside Schwarzenegger in Commando, provided the ethnic balance. As a favor to the writer of Joel Silver's blockbuster Lethal Weapon, the studio hired screenplay writer Shane Black not only to play a supporting role in the film, but also to keep an eye on McTiernan due to the director's inexperience.
Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast as the Predator creature, the idea being that the physical action star would use his martial arts skills to make the Predator an agile, ninja-esque hunter. When compared to Schwarzenegger, Weathers, and Ventura, actors known for their bodybuilding regimens, it became apparent a more physically imposing man was needed to make the creature appear threatening. Additionally, it was reported that Van Damme constantly complained about the monster suit being too hot, causing him to pass out. He also had allegedly voiced his reservations on numerous occasions regarding the fact he would not be appearing on camera without the suit. Van Damme was removed from the film and replaced by Kevin Peter Hall. Hall, standing at an imposing 7 foot 2 (218 cm), had just finished work as a sasquatch in Harry and the Hendersons. Peter Cullen was invited by Fox to do creature vocals, and was initially reluctant since his throat was injured when he voiced King Kong for the 1976 film, but accepted the job after seeing the unmasked Predator. Cullen said his main inspiration were horseshoe crabs, which the Predator face reminded him of.
Commitments by Schwarzenegger delayed the start of filming by several months. The delay gave Silver enough time to secure a minor rewrite from screenwriter David Peoples. Principal photography eventually began in the jungles of Palenque, Mexico, near Villahermosa, Tabasco, during the second week of April 1986, but the film overall was filmed in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Much of the material dealing with the unit's deployment in the jungle was completed in a few short weeks and both Silver and Gordon were pleased by the dailies provided by McTiernan. On Friday, April 25, production halted so that Schwarzenegger could fly to Hyannis Port in a Lear jet chartered by Silver in order to get to his wedding on time. He was married on April 26, 1986, to Maria Shriver, and honeymooned for two weeks in Antigua, while the second unit completed additional lensing. The production resumed filming on May 12.
Both director McTiernan and Schwarzenegger lost 25 pounds during the film. Schwarzenegger's weight loss was a professional choice. McTiernan lost the weight because he avoided the food in Mexico due to health concerns. Unlike McTiernan, most of the cast and crew suffered of traveler's diarrhea since the Mexican hotel in which they were living was having problems with the water purification. In an interview, Carl Weathers said the actors would secretly wake up as early as 3:00 a.m. to work out before the day's shooting. Weathers also stated that he would act as if his physique was naturally given to him, and would work out only after the other actors were nowhere to be seen.
According to Schwarzenegger, filming was physically demanding as he had to swim in very cold water and spent three weeks covered in mud for the climactic battle with the alien. In addition, cast and crew endured very cold temperatures in the Mexican jungle that required heat lamps to be on all of the time. Cast and crew filmed on rough terrain that, according to the actor, was never flat, "always on a hill. We stood all day long on a hill, one leg down, one leg up. It was terrible." Schwarzenegger also faced the challenge of working with Kevin Peter Hall, who could not see in the Predator suit. The actor remembers, "so when he's supposed to slap me around and stay far from my face, all of a sudden, whap! There is this hand with claws on it!" Hall stated in an interview that his experience on the film, "wasn't a movie, it was a survival story for all of us." For example, in the scene where the Predator chases Dutch, the water was foul, stagnant and full of leeches. Hall could not see out of the mask and had to rehearse his scenes with it off and then memorize where everything was. The outfit was difficult to wear because it was heavy and off-balance.
R/Greenberg Associates created the film's optical effects, including the alien's ability to become invisible, its thermal vision point-of-view, its glowing blood, and the electrical spark effects. The invisibility effect was achieved by having someone in a bright red suit (because it was the farthest opposite of the green of the jungle and the blue of the sky) the size of the Predator. The red was removed with chroma key techniques, leaving an empty area. The take was then repeated without the actors using a 30% wider lens on the camera. When the two takes were combined optically, the jungle from the second take filled in the empty area. Because the second take was filmed with a wider lens, a vague outline of the alien could be seen with the background scenery bending around its shape. For the thermal vision, infrared film could not be used because it did not register in the range of body temperature wavelengths. The filmmakers used an inframetrics thermal video scanner as it gave good heat images of objects and people. The glowing blood was achieved by green liquid from glow sticks used by campers and mixed with personal lubricant for texture. The electrical sparks were rotoscoped animation using white paper pin registered on portable light tables to black-and-white prints of the film frames. The drawings were composited by the optical crew for the finished effects. Additional visual effects, mainly for the opening title sequence of the Predator arriving on Earth, were supplied by Dream Quest Images (later Oscar-winners for their work on The Abyss and Total Recall). The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Visual Effects.
The soundtrack was composed by Alan Silvestri, who was coming off the huge success of Back to the Future in 1985. Predator was his first major action movie and the score is full of his now familiar genre characteristics: heavy horn blasts, staccato string rhythms, and undulating timpani rolls that highlight the action and suspense. Little Richard's song "Long Tall Sally" is featured in the helicopter en route to the jungle. Mac also recites a few lines from the song as he's chasing the Predator after it escapes from their booby trap. Silvestri returned for the sequel, making him the only composer to have scored more than one film in either the Alien or Predator series.
In 2003, Varèse Sarabande released the soundtrack album as part of its limited release CD Club collection; the album also includes the Elliot Goldenthal arrangement of the Fox fanfare used on Alien 3.
- "Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare" (Alfred Newman - arrangement by Elliot Goldenthal 1992) (0:27)
- "Main Title" (3:51)
- "Something Else" (3:34)
- "Cut ‘Em Down" (1:56)
- "Payback Time" (2:09)
- "The Truck" (4:22)
- "Jungle Trek" (1:47)
- "The Girl’s Escape" (6:00)
- "Blaine’s Death" (2:47)
- "He’s My Friend" (1:26)
- "We’re All Gonna Die" (3:32)
- "Building a Trap" (3:02)
- "The Waiting" (3:27)
- "The Hunt Is On" (4:51)
- "Dillon Is Disarmed" (2:07)
- "Billy Stands Alone" (2:34)
- "Battle Plans" (9:24)
- "Wounded Predator" (4:14)
- "Hand to Hand Combat" (3:12)
- "Predator’s Big Finish" (3:42)
- "The Rescue and End Credits" (4:44)
In 2010, the same year Predators featured an adaptation of Silvestri's score by John Debney, Intrada Records released the album in a 3000-copy limited edition with remastered sound, many cues combined and renamed, and most notably (as with Intrada's release of Basil Poledouris's score for RoboCop) presenting the original end credits music as recorded (the film versions are differently mixed). This release is notable for having sold out within a day.
- Fox Logo (Alfred Newman/Arranged by Elliot Goldenthal 1992) (:26)
- Main Title (3:52)
- Something Else; Cut ‘Em Down; Payback Time (7:37)
- The Truck (4:23)
- Jungle Trek (1:48)
- Girl’s Escape; Blaine’s Death (6:40)
- What Happened? (2:01)
- He’s My Friend (1:26)
- We’re Gonna Die (3:29)
- Building The Trap (3:06)
- The Waiting (3:27)
- Can You See Him? (4:52)
- Dillon’s Death (2:05)
- Billy And Predator (2:32)
- Dutch Builds Trap (9:28)
- Predator Injured; Hand To Hand Combat (7:22)
- Predator’s Death (3:43)
- The Pick-Up And End Credits (5:58)
Released on June 12, 1987, Predator was #1 at the US box office in its opening weekend with a gross of $12 million, which was second to only Beverly Hills Cop II for the calendar year 1987. The film grossed $98,267,558, of which $59,735,548 was from the US & Canadian box office. $38,532,010 was made overseas.
Initial critical reaction to the Predator was generally negative, with some reviewers criticizing the thin plot. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film an average score of 36 based on 11 reviews from 1987, with the review opinions summarized as "generally unfavorable". Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times described it as "grisly and dull, with few surprises." Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the film is "a rather pointless thing when you get down to it, [and] has little of the provocative intelligence that was found in [previous Schwarzenegger film] The Terminator. But at least it's self-propelling in terms of suspense and cheap thrills." Dean Lamanna wrote in Cinefantastique that "the militarized monster movie tires under its own derivative weight." Variety wrote that the film was a "slightly above-average actioner that tries to compensate for tissue-thin-plot with ever-more-grisly death sequences and impressive special effects." Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times proclaimed it "arguably one of the emptiest, feeblest, most derivative scripts ever made as a major studio movie." Feminist Susan Faludi called it one of "an endless stream of war and action movies" in which "women are reduced to mute and incidental characters or banished altogether."
Roger Ebert was more complimentary of the film, saying "it supplies what it claims to supply: an effective action movie." He gave it 3 out of 4 stars and praised its pacing, location photography, strong but simple characterizations, and special effects. He particularly noted that the fast pace of the film keeps viewers from breaking their suspension of disbelief: "the action moves so quickly that we overlook questions such as (1) Why would an alien species go to all the effort to send a creature to Earth, just so that it could swing from trees and skin American soldiers? Or, (2) Why would a creature so technologically advanced need to bother with hand-to-hand combat, when it could just zap Arnold with a ray gun? ... None of these logical questions are very important to the movie." The film has been a perennial cable favorite outside of America, in India and other countries.
In subsequent years, Predator has appeared on a number of "best of" lists. In 2001, it was one of 400 films nominated for the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Thrills list, though it did not place in the top 100. In 2003, the Predator creature was one of 400 characters nominated for AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains. In 2007, C. Robert Cargill of Film.com ranked Predator as the seventh best film of 1987, calling it "one of the great science fiction horror films, often imitated, but never properly duplicated, not even by its own sequel." Entertainment Weekly named it the 22nd greatest action movie of all time in 2007, and the 14th among "The Best Rock-'em, Sock-'em Movies of the Past 25 Years" in 2009, saying "Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been as manly as he was in this alien-hunting testosterone-fest." IGN proclaimed it the 13th greatest action movie of all time. In 2008, Empire magazine ranked it 336th on their list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 77% "Fresh" rating based on 39 critical reviews and reports a ratings average of 6.8 out of 10.
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