To say that the Predator is an icon is putting it mildly. He’s one of science fiction’s most recognizable creations: a B-movie testament to the power of imaginative creature design. And yet, while the Predator can absolutely break legs (and spines, and skulls), he simply cannot seem to catch a break when it comes to green-lighting sequels.
From subpar Alien crossovers to decades-long gaps in production, the Predator’s cinematic trajectory is slippery and full of setbacks. Indeed, if we’re being generous, the franchise boasts only one true hit, namely 1987’s Predator. And for those of you keeping score at home, it took 23 years and three more attempts before the franchise finally produced a decent sequel. Even then, 2010’s wildly under-appreciated Predators only received middling reviews and a lukewarm reception at the box office. Despite its demonstrated success as a big-screen baddie, the Predator just can’t catch a break.
Suffice to say, the question of how to make another Predator film has puzzled executives and screenwriters since the franchise’s inception. For every sequel that successfully clawed its way into movie theaters, there’s an unmade take that wowed on paper but floundered in development. Here’s a breakdown of all the Predator movies that never made it to the big screen.
The Hunt: Alien vs. Predator
The concept of pitting Xenomorphs against Predators first appeared in the anthology comic book series Dark Horse Presents in 1989. A year later, Predator 2 further indulged a showdown with an easter egg of a Xenomorph skull in a Predator trophy case.
But the "Alien versus Predator" concept didn’t make earnest moves toward the big screen until 1991, when future Hellboy co-writer Peter Briggs penned a spec script. As reported in Bloody Disgusting, Briggs’ proposed script coincided with studio interest from 20th Century Fox and literally sold overnight. Briggs’ initial draft, titled The Hunt: Alien vs Predator, adheres closely to the original Dark Horse comic penned by Randy Stradley. Taking place off-world and in the future, Briggs’ script focuses on a clan of Predators who use planets seeded with Xenomorph eggs as hunting grounds. As a challenge, their leader, Broken Tusk, includes a queen facehugger in the batch of eggs unleashed on the jungle planet Ryushi. As you’d imagine, this does not go well. Sure enough, the aliens quickly rip through the planet’s human colonists and indigenous animals, as well as the Predators themselves.
In 1992, Aliens magazine reported that Roland Emmerich was attached to direct, though nothing came of it. A later article in Sci-Fi Universe Magazine specifies that Emmerich and his creative partner Dean Devlin were especially keen on the idea of the Predator-Alien hybrid only hinted at in Briggs’ draft. Fox effectively shelved the project in 1993 after producer Joe Roth left the studio. In 2002, producer John Davis rejected a treatment penned by James DeMonaco and Kevin Fox on the basis that, according to IGN, he wanted to set the film on Earth and move away from the Dark Horse comics.
A Predator period piece
At the end of Predator 2, an elder Predator gifts our hero Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) with a trophy for being, well, heroic. While gargling at Harrigan to "take it," the Predator extends an antique pistol engraved with the inscription "Raphael Adolini 1715." It’s a memorable moment that hints at just how long the Predators have been terrorizing our planet. It also raises a whole swath of questions that, it turns out, were intended to find answers in a sequel that never materialized.
As brotherly director/writer duo Jim and John Thomas note in the Predator 2 director’s commentary, they were constantly toying around with the idea of a Predator film set on Earth in a time before modern weapons. "We played around on the set [with] doing something historical," the brothers recall. "Like, in a time where you had nothing but steam engines and flintlocks and you were up against something like [the Predator]. That could be fun."
The brothers’ idle (if very compelling) brainstorming sessions never materialized into anything concrete. To be fair, Predator 2‘s negative critical reception and disappointing box office returns weren’t exactly an incentive to immediately move forward on another sequel. And yet, while we were robbed of a big-screen Predator period piece, that didn’t stop Dark Horse Comics from picking up the Thomas brothers’ enticing engraved pistol and running with it. Published in July 1996 and written by Henry Gilroy, Predator: 1718 tells the story of Raphael Adolini, his pistol, and how the Predators in Predator 2 came to acquire it. Set in the Bermuda Triangle, the comic paints Adolini as a pirate captain suddenly faced with a rebellious crew and an unlikely alien ally. And you know what? If you flip the pages of the comic book really fast, you can pretend that 20th Century Fox had the wherewithal to turn Predator: 1718 into a movie.
Before earning his first screenwriting credit on 2010’s Predators, Alex Litvak worked at 20th Century Fox in the 1990s. As Litvak recalls on the AvP Galaxy podcast, the studio’s attitude at the time was that you couldn’t make another Predator movie without the original film’s star: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Responding to this limitation, Litvak pitched a sequel that envisioned the triumphant return of Schwarzenegger’s Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer.
Litvak’s pitch took place directly after the events of the original Predator. As the script tells it, the whole affair from the first film has been classified and Dutch is living out his days in exile. Then, a Predator ship crashes at a remote location and the government taps Dutch to lead a spry team of commandos to investigate. When they finally reach the ship, a group of Predators emerge with one target: Dutch. He’s the one that got away. And they’ve come back to claim their prize.
As Litvak explains, the pitch was a pointed attempt to seduce Schwarzenegger. Whether Litvak’s proposed script even made it to the actor is unclear. In any case, the studio resolved that Schwarzenegger was still off the table and the pitch never saw the light of day.
Robert Rodriguez’s Predator sequel
While waiting to work on Desperado in the early 1990s, Robert Rodriguez wrote a script for a third Predator film. An unconfirmed copy of his script has since made the rounds on the internet, and it is, to put it mildly, completely bananas. The story begins on an alien planet, where a group of humans outfitted in Predator armor attack a Spanish galleon. The cloaked attackers overwhelm the ship and transport their captive, Dutch(!), to a prison planet. The planet also happens to be a gladiatorial training ground for "teen" Predators, replete with, among other things, human-alien hybrids.
As relayed by IGN, Rodriguez approached Arnold Schwarzenegger about returning to his original role as Dutch. Supposedly there was even a role in the script written for the man, myth, and flexible legend Jean-Claude Van Damme. We’d like to think he was going to be the character who gets so hungry he barbecues and eats a Predator (no, really).
Rodriguez’ script would ultimately morph into 2010’s Predators thanks to an extensive overhaul by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch. However, at the time, Fox passed on the script because Rodriguez’s sequel was simply too ambitious and expensive. "It was this crazy, intense off-world story," Rodriguez recalled to the Los Angeles Times. "There was just no way it could be made. The technology wasn’t there yet." Well, we now have the technology for a Predator film with a Spanish galleon in it. So get on that, Hollywood!
While working on 2007’s Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem as a visual effects consultant, Liam O’Donnell drafted an AvP sequel treatment.
As detailed in an interview with AvP Galaxy, O’Donnell’s idea for AvP3 took place on a future Earth ravaged by climate change where mankind has reverse-engineered advanced interstellar travel with plasma technology from recovered from Predator weapons. However, the fuel that powers this spacefaring tech is derived from a rare mineral only found in southern Africa, the last continent free from the vice grip of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. As O’Donnell told followers on Twitter, the script involved global warming freeing the original AvP queen from her icy tomb as well as a third act three-way fight between one Predator, one Alien, and one human.
The treatment was ultimately scrapped for (at least) two reasons. First, as O’Donnell puts it: after the addition of the Predator home planet to Requiem, there was an assumption that "if you do an AvP3, it’s got to be in space." Second: upon its release, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem did a commercial and critical pratfall, souring all prospects of a follow-up.
Vincenzo Natali’s Predators
It’s always a treat when directors share tidbits from unmade projects, but in 2015, Vincenzo Natali went the extra mile by tweeting a slew of concept art for, among other things, a tentative Predator reboot. The visual pitch, featuring art by Amro Attia and Dan Billigan, offers a brief, if basic, glimpse into what we could have seen: an expressionistic jungle war zone, a sleek and spiky Predator, and a brutal gladiatorial showdown. Natali pitched his take on what would ultimately become Predators with nothing but a log line: "Predators hunt humans on their planet." "It was fun to do because it was wide open," Natali Tweeted.
During his appearance on the Best Movies Never Made podcast, Natali elaborated on his visual treatment: "When I was called in to pitch… there was nothing. There was no script. There was only the notion that this was going to take place on a Predator planet… and there was kind of — I think there was a Dangerous Game aspect to it with humans being hunted by Predators… I met with Robert Rodriguez and some executives — separately — and I just did a whole bunch of drawings." Evidently, nothing ever came from that bunch of drawings. And that’s a shame, because the idea of the director of Cube and Splice taking a stab at a Predator movie sounds like a match made in sci-fi horror heaven.
In 2010, director Nimród Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez revitalized the franchise with Predators, an action-packed sequel set on an alien planet-turned hunting ground. The honor-obsessed aliens use a planetary game preserve to test their abilities, hunting down humans as well as creatures from other planets. At the end of the film, only two survivors remain: Royce (Adrien Brody) and Isabelle (Alice Braga). As the pair catch their breath at the end of the film, a new hunt begins, and our heroes realize they have to find a way off the planet.
Despite its obvious sequel setup, as of the time of writing, a Predators follow-up has yet to materialize. Which makes co-writer Alex Litvak’s enticing proposal for a direct sequel an absolute knife twist. Laying out the storyline to AvP Galaxy, Litvak described his pitch for Predators 2 as "Die Hard on a Predator ship." In Litvak’s sequel, Royce and Isabelle let the Predators catch them. They are then brought aboard the ship "that [the Predators] use to funnel people to this planet." They break out of their cells and as they attempt to seize control of the ship, Die Hard in space ensues.
Eventually our heroes make it back to Earth. And then, per Litvak: "We land and realize it’s the future! All along we thought this was happening now, but what if these guys have been on ice for 300 years? The hatch opens, and the Space [Colonial] Marines come in!" This move would have once again merged the Alien and Predator franchises under one roof. As Litvak tells it, although 20th Century Fox was enthusiastic, "some stars never lined up" and his proposed sequel never got off the ground.