With Halloween Ends slicing through multiplexes this weekend, we thought it best to rank the Halloween franchise as a whole because … well, that’s what we do. Obviously, the crème de la crème of the series remains John Carpenter’s original entry, released way back in 1978, but the remaining list (ranked from worst to best) may surprise you.
As always, feel free to rank the Michael Myers movies as you see fit in the comments below, though for the love of Michael Myers and all that is Laurie Strode, keep your comments civil. There’s no need for an “Evil dies tonight” mob over a list based off of one man’s opinion.
13) Halloween: Resurrection
After successfully reinvigorating the Halloween franchise with H20, the powers that be decided to toss out the goodwill established in favor of more blood and guts nonsense. Jamie Lee Curtis looks positively bored in an early cameo that sees her beloved character die in the most lackluster way imaginable, while a cast consisting of Tyra Banks, Busta Rhymes, and Sean Patrick Thomas mumbles their way through pedestrian dialogue and a series of half-assed kills. It’s utter rubbish at best and, even worse, boring and predictable.
12.) Halloween II (2009)
The first 15 or so minutes of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II are absolutely stellar. Picking up where Zombie’s original film left off, we see Michael chase Laurie to a nearby hospital where he quickly murders Octavia Spencer and a handful of nurses and security guards before turning his sights on our leading lady. She hides in a security booth and he violently forces his way inside and … it’s all a dream.
The remainder of the film is utter garbage, abandoning the nuances of its predecessor for an absurd and extremely violent follow-up that feels more like the bastard child of Devil’s Rejects than anything resembling Carpenter’s Halloween.
11.) Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
The second John Carpenter sequel deviated from Michael Myers and tried to inject some life into the already stale franchise by morphing it into an anthology series, a la Cloverfield. There were initially plans to release a new Halloween-themed flick every year, but due to the tepid reaction to Halloween III: Season of the Witch, future projects never materialized. On paper, the idea is sound, but in practice, the results are far less thrilling.
That’s not to say Season of the Witch is outright terrible. In fact, the decidedly creepy premise centered around Halloween masks that turn kids into murderers whenever they view a jaunty TV commercial carries a certain morbid appeal, as does the whole Stonehenge rune sacrificial thing-a-ma-jig that frankly never made much sense. At least it gives Carpenter and co. a reason to display an array of cheesy special effects.
What really kills Halloween III are the characters (or lack thereof), portrayed by Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin — a decidedly mismatched pair that spend much of the film engulfed in an awkward love story. Scares are few and far between and the ending lacks the thrills of other Halloweens, leaving Season of the With as little more than an ambitious but deeply flawed bit of horror.
10.) Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
As the bastard middle child of the Jamie Strode trilogy, Revenge of Michael Myers doesn’t have much to offer other than some deliciously gory kills (performed with an assortment of farm tools) and a few half-cocked supernatural plot points. Picking up immediately following Halloween 4, we find young Jamie now living in a Children’s Clinic after murdering her foster mother. She has a telepathic link to Michael, you see? Our killer, now adorned in a bright white mask that never gets dirty, pursues the child for a few hours and then has a violent standoff with Dr. Loomis at his old childhood home. He then dies … but he doesn’t actually die and somehow escapes at the film’s end.
There’s nothing remarkable about this entry, which adheres closely to the established formula — Michael stalks and kills a handful of extras whose acting is a notch or two above the type found in porn — then rinse and repeat. But, hey, it’s Halloween. After five films, what else do you expect?
9.) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
There are those who love the tacky fourth, fifth, and sixth entries in the Halloween series, and others who were more than happy to ignore them completely when H20 rolled around. I’m firmly in the latter camp, though I do understand the appeal of these titles.
For starters, Halloween 4 was smart enough to bring the Shape back for more slicing and dicing following his absence from the misguided Halloween III. Unfortunately, the plot sticks with the family drama established in Halloween II and has Michael stalking his niece, Jamie Strode, around Haddonfield for reasons explained in later entries. Dr. Loomis also returns because Donald Pleasance was apparently strapped for cash, then a lot of people die and the film ends. Except, even the ghastly effects and clever kills (he impales a woman with a shotgun) aren’t effective enough to mark this entry as anything more than a break-glass-if-bored-as-hell slice of entertainment.
8.) Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
The finale to the Jamie Strode trilogy is bonkers enough to rise above Halloween 4 and 5, but not by much. Set some time after the last flick, Curse of Michael Myers tries to introduce mysticism into the proceedings by attributing Michael’s boogieman-like powers to something called Thorn. Naturally, a cult and a bunch of shady science types are attempting to harness the supernatural power for their own personal gain, leading to a plethora of impalements, exploding heads, and standoffs; all painted in 90s neon greens and blues so that the pic looks like it takes place in the same universe as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.
Still, Halloween 6’s greatest achievement was giving the world more Paul Rudd just months after his breakout performance in the summer hit Clueless. He actually makes this entry worth watching.
7.) Halloween Kills (2021)
Good intentions abound in David Gordon Green’s peculiar follow-up to 2018’s Halloween, but the sequel fails mostly because it lacks a clear-cut objective. Sure, Michael is as badass as ever, delivering a handful of kills that stand amongst the best in the franchise. Unfortunately, his actions are lost amidst a half-assed storyline that follows a group of Halloween 1978 survivors’ attempts to exact revenge on the man that, er, ruined their lives …? There’s some nonsense at a hospital involving a mental patient and a frantic mob, as well as a series of scenes in which Jamie Lee Curtis tries to convince Will Patton (and the audience) that she must be the one to kill Michael Myers — despite not having any familial connection to him this go round. Seriously, why is she still here?
Halloween Kills will likely be most remembered as that weird chapter set between Halloween 2018 and Halloween Ends — the one where Michael uses a car door to make a woman blow her head off with a gun and later spends approximately 45 minutes stalking a gay couple in their home. The pic is certainly bonkers enough to warrant a look, even if it ultimately fumbles the lofty ideas presented in its script. Say it with me: “Evil dies tonight!”
6.) Halloween II (1981)
Despite its shocking ending, the original Halloween didn’t necessitate a sequel, and 1981’s Halloween II proves why: there’s simply not enough material worth exploring. The more one expands Michael’s lore, the less interesting the killer becomes. Indeed, Halloween II’s greatest contribution to the franchise is transforming Michael from a random madman with an affinity for killing young teenage girls to … Laurie’s brother on a mission to kill his sister — a wild miscalculation that had a negative effect on future installments.
Still, one can find simple joys in the bloated sequel if they squint hard enough. There are wild kills aplenty (one involving a nurse and a hot tub), the always appealing Jamie Lee Curtis, and intrigue surrounding the ongoing battle between Dr. Sam Loomis and Michael. Unintentional comedy abounds, such as when Loomis gets some poor schmuck who happened to dress like Michael on Halloween night killed — a bit that is largely shrugged off by everyone — and a scene involving Lance Guest and a slippery pool of blood.
Halloween II doesn’t move the needle in any direction but is still required viewing for those invested in the original series’ timeline.
5.) Halloween (2007)
Rob Zombie’s first foray into the Halloween franchise resulted in plenty of backlash from fans who didn’t take to his twisted vision. I kind of dug it. While essentially a beat-for-beat remake of John Carpenter’s original film, Zombie contributes more gore, violence (Michael Myers is a seven-foot monster capable of breaking men with his bare hands), foul language, sex, and pseudo-psychology. A fascinating extended prologue dives deep into Michael Myers’ tortured soul and gives the killer more humanity than before; a nice wrinkle to the Myers mystique that doesn’t really pay off, but it at least makes you care about the big fellow a little more, I suppose.
2007’s Halloween lacks the quirkiness of its 1978 namesake, but still offers a unique perspective on Carpenter’s original idea without deviating too far from the source material.
4.) Halloween H20 (1998)
Before David Gordon Green’s reboot, Jamie Lee Curtis returned to battle Michael Myers in Steve Miner’s silly but ultimately entertaining Scream-styled sequel. Much of the film centers around a new cast of characters led by rising 90s stars Michelle Williams, LL Cool J, Josh Hartnett, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but the main event is the smackdown between Laurie Strode — here, a typical mother attempting to move on from her tragic past — and the ghastly Shape. In that regard, H20 doesn’t disappoint — even if the film as a whole hasn’t aged as well as others on this list.
3.) Halloween Ends (2022)
Maybe it’s the newness of it all, or maybe I went in with really low expectations following Halloween Kills, but I actually really enjoyed Halloween Ends. David Gordon Green’s third and presumably final entry in his trilogy is little more than B-movie schlock replete with clunky dialogue, goofy acting, and a synth-heavy score ripped straight from The Lost Boys. And yet, it breaks from the formula enough to feel somewhat original. That in and of itself is a miracle.
Following one of the better intros in the franchise, Halloween Ends picks up a few years after Kills and reintroduces us to Laurie and her granddaughter Andi. The events of the previous film (notably the death of Andi’s mom) continue to haunt our heroines, as does the shadow of Michael Myers, who somehow escaped following his 2018 rampage and remains at large — an idea that has the town of Haddonfield on edge. So much so that grisly murders are often attributed to Michael or caused merely by the fear of his reappearance.
Surprisingly, Michael is left off-screen for a good chunk of the film, which only adds to the suspense — the idea of the monster is scarier than the monster himself. In his place resides Corey Cunningham (a deliriously bizarre Rohan Campbell), a young boy who may or may not possess the same pure evil lurking within Michael as a result of an incident that occurred a few years prior. Is evil born or attained through life experience? I’m not sure, though Corey — a timid, quiet boy early on — certainly enjoys partaking in the exploits that come as a result of his darker nature.
To reveal more would ruin the fun, even if you get a general idea of where the film is headed in the opening reel.
I suspect this is one of those Halloween movies that fans will learn to appreciate later on down the line; if not for its ambitious story, then at least for the ways in which Green mimics Carpenter’s filmmaking style. More than anything, Ends looks and feels like a slasher flick from the 1980s. There are wild stylistic choices, insane character arcs, and more than a few bits that leave you wondering what the bad take looked like, but that’s part of the charm. Imagine Christine set in the modern age, clunky execution and all.
Tellingly, Ends lacks genuine scares, but still offers plenty of suspense. When the violence finally commences, it’s raw, brutal, and undeniably graphic, but also laced with tragedy and emotion. Green paints a dark vision of a society on the brink of collapse, one packed with despicable people harboring anger, pain, and resentment; unable to move past the tragedy that befell them all those years ago. If Halloween Kills was about a town seeking revenge, Halloween Ends explores a town in dire need of closure.
Luckily, Laurie is on hand to battle the demons plaguing Haddonfield; though, the film wisely moves away from the Laurie-as-Terminator concept and allows Jamie Lee Curtis more opportunity to flex her renowned charisma. Here, Laurie is more in step with the young teenager we saw in the original — she’s plucky, smart, fun, and vulnerable. She’s an old woman attempting to salvage the last remaining years of life — no longer living in fear of the Shape, but still susceptible to the pain Michael caused. It’s pretty great.
Future viewing might say otherwise, but my initial reaction to Halloween Ends is that it was an intense, satisfying character drama laced with typical Halloween tropes. Green may have difficulty executing the ambitious ideas he establishes but he still manages to offer a new spin on a stale franchise that was in dire need of fresh blood.
2.) Halloween (2018)
After several failed sequels and reboots, David Gordon Green managed to breathe fresh life into the Halloween franchise with 2018’s Halloween; a film that serves as a direct follow-up to Carpenter’s original and wisely ignores all other entries. While there’s only so much you can do with the formula, Green mixes old and new into one insatiable meal, replete with shocking violence, a few well-timed scares, and a dash of modern-day girl power (via Jamie Lee Curtis’ cheesy Sarah Connor-esque Laurie Strode). Somehow it all works, making 2018’s Halloween the best sequel thus far in the ongoing franchise.
1.) Halloween (1978)
Obviously, nothing was going to top John Carpenter’s original classic. It’s easily the best entry in the series and the de facto king of the slashers. Without Halloween, there’s no Freddy, Jason, or the absurd number of imitators that followed. In terms of horror, Carpenter’s classic reigns supreme.
That’s not to say Halloween is perfect. The movie occasionally suffers from clunky writing and cheesy acting, but there’s a certain magic to its B-movie trappings — its dimly shot exteriors, simplistic plot, and minimalistic score (one that continues to impress to this day). Where other entries lean on gore, Carpenter utilizes atmosphere and carefully built-up suspense punctuated by bursts of violence to thrill audiences.
You’re dazzled and terrified in equal measure.
In Michael Myers, Carpenter crafts one of cinema’s greatest horror icons — one who has somehow endured despite the slew of garbage he was forced to appear in later on. Laurie Strode escaped damsel-of-the-week fare and became a legend in her own right, awarding us with the always-appealing Jamie Lee Curtis to boot. There’s a reason we’re all tuning in to see Michael and Laurie square off for what feels like the umpteenth time in the latest Halloween flick — the pair are larger-than-life icons worth watching, no matter how many times they kill each other.