The year before John McTiernan made his immortal classic, Die Hard, he filmed one of the best sci-fi horror movies of the 80s, maybe of all time. What I like about McTiernan's storytelling style is that he takes time to set up characters, even if only one or two traits. Just like the 13 terrorists in Die Hard, the 7 soldiers in Predator give us a concrete understanding of just who is at risk. Even though the action takes place in a wide open tropical rainforest, it feels tight and claustrophobic as the soldiers get picked off one by one.
The plot is pretty barebones, Arnold S. and his battalion are sent on a mission in South America that is typical 80s action fare. They wade into hostile territory to find some missing service men only to discover something has skinned them alive. At first they think it is an enemy combatant going too far but eventually they figure out it is an alien who has come to earth to hunt our most dangerous humans.
Even though there has been only two proper sequels (not counting the Alien vs. Predator movies), this original built a strong antagonist in the Predator. It had a set of rules it played by and even had a sort of sore loser mentality built in. All in all, the creature that could mimic and appropriate human speech was a big enough character to challenge one of the eras most beloved action stars in Arnold. It was truly some special chemistry that made this the last great American horror creation until the Scream killer.