When John Carpenter set about making a little low-budget horror film called Halloween in 1977, it was impossible for him to know that he was also creating the foundation for a horror franchise that would span the next three decades. Indeed, against a budget of just $300,000, Halloween would take audiences by storm to the tune of $70 million worldwide, making it an insanely profitable venture. As Hollywood is wont to do, the desire for a sequel came calling and never let up. The myth of Michael Myers was built, broken down, twisted, ruined (a couple of times), and rebuilt again over the next 30 years. Carpenter would only remain tenuously involved in the first two sequels, but his legacy lived on as subsequent filmmakers tried to capture what made so special in the first place.
In this article Filmologia will present you all 11 Halloween movies in the franchise – ranked from worst to the best (in our opinion).
11. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
After the success of the reboot-ish Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, the franchise ruins itself all over again by bringing Laurie Strode’s story to a terrible, weak ending as she’s stabbed then thrown off the roof of a psychiatric hospital. Aside from the fact that the retroactive “explanation” for how Michael survived his H20 beheading is idiotic, killing off Laurie Strode in such a turgid fashion is downright disgraceful to the franchise. And that’s only in the opening 10 minutes of the movie! Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal returned to helm what turned out to be more an imitation of popular horror trends (found footage! stunt casting! college slashers!) than a genuine sequel.
10. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
This may be a controversial placement to some, but the complete backtracking from the ending of Halloween 4 is pretty unforgivable. Instead of taking the story to its natural next step—an evil Jamie—Michael’s niece is now simply a mute, troubled young girl plagued by visions of her uncle stalking and killing people. This is dumb. And the choice to make Jamie a mute, throwing herself into silent fits of terror, is an odd one that comes off more comedic than troubling/scary. It’s a boring film to boot, as Michael just moseys along while Jamie watches through her minds eye, then drags her adorable little hospital buddy/translator along to watch her uncle kill people.
9. Halloween 6 (1995)
Also known as ‘Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers’. This one is somewhat legendary in Halloween lore given its troubled production and unfinished nature. Extensive reshoots removed an entire third act sequence in which Dr. Loomis received the “Curse of Thorn” from Michael Myers, and the final film is filled with nonsensical stretches as a result of extensive editing. Perhaps the producers and director Joe Chappelle should’ve known better than to try and explain away Michael’s seemingly supernatural powers, but they went all in with this cult subplot that was so bad that subsequent films pretend it never existed in the first place. Nevertheless, the film remains pretty watchable thanks to a strange debut performance from Paul Rudd and a family drama subplot involving Marianne Hagan’s character that’s actually quite compelling.
8. Halloween (2007)
Remaking an iconic film is never a good idea, but give credit to producer Malek Akkad for going the ambitious route by signing Rob Zombie to steer the remake of Halloween. The resulting film is… well he tried, but much of the script is packed with reprehensible characters spouting reprehensible dialogue. The film’s greatest asset is Zombie’s direction, as he opts to make the franchise entirely his own rather than trying to follow in John Carpenter’s footsteps. In a twist, Zombie’s film decides to give much more shading to the Michael Myers character, and indeed Halloween is very much his movie. Turning Loomis into a cash-grabbing opportunist was an inspired choice, and there are a few interesting detours to be found assuming you’re not immediately put off by the film’s unabashedly “gross” nature.
The film gets indulgent at points and suffers from odd pacing, but Tyler Bates’ score is a welcome twist on Carpenter’s classic theme yet. Zombie’s Halloween isn’t for everyone, but it at the very least gets credit for taking such significant liberties with the source material rather than simply retreading territory Carpenter had already worn.
7. Halloween II (2009)
Like it or not, Halloween II is 100% a Rob Zombie movie. This is a film that is entirely its own, completely unattached from formula or mythology set up in the series, but also grounded in the foundational fact that Michael Myers is a force of nature. Like Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, Zombie’s sequel picks up moments after his first film ended, following Laurie to the hospital. But in a delightful twist, the opening 20 minutes are revealed to be an elaborate dream sequence as the audience is shocked into reality—the movie actually takes place years after Halloween ended, with all the central characters now completely changed people.
The idea for Halloween Ii is sound—if Halloween was Michael’s story, Halloween II is Laurie’s, and it’s very much a descent into madness. And I like the notion that this is a film about madness shared by two siblings, but in execution Halloween II is nearly unwatchable. The script falls flat as delivered by some truly terrible performances, and while Brandon Trost‘s cinematography features some bold choices, the over-gritty nature just underlines how gross everything about this movie is. It’s better than Zombie’s initial remake simply because it goes its own way, but still falls short as a piece of cinema.
6. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
After four sequels of varying success, and following the tortured production of Halloween 6, the producers finally had a good idea: bring back Jamie Lee Curtis. While it’s still frustrating that a deal couldn’t be struck for John Carpenter to return to the director’s chair, the evolution of the Laurie Strode character makes H20 a satisfying—and plausible—watch. Of course she would become a functioning alcoholic, and of course she’d still be plagued by anxiety over her brother. It’s still a little irksome that the film doesn’t take the time to explain the existence of Jamie, Laurie’s daughter, but the choice to ignore all the “Curse of Thorn” nonsense was probably wise. In essence, this is a direct sequel to Halloween II.
A little help from Scream writer Kevin Williamson is prevalent throughout, especially in relation to the teens (featuring Josh Hartnett in his first major role), and the film successfully brings the franchise into the modern horror era without forsaking the original film. Seeing Curtis back as Laurie Strode was enough to put butts in seats, but the fact that she’s played as a strong heroine rather than simply a terrified victim makes the film all the more worthwhile. And the icing on the cake: finally seeing someone chop off Michael Myers’ head.
5. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Following a complete and total fan rejection of the Michael Myers-less Halloween III, producers staged a big return for everyone’s masked psychopath for the first Halloween film without John Carpenter or co-writer/producer Debra Hill’s involvement. The result is a sign of things to come: cheapened sequels that lean far too heavily on Donald Pleasance and threaten to ruin the mystery behind the Michael Myers myth. It’s nevertheless fascinating to see how the return of Myers is dealt with, especially the solution for not having Jamie Lee Curtis onboard, and the niece aspect works to a point, but this sequel pales in comparison to what came before.
4. Halloween (2018)
If H20 marked a well-meaning if rough attempt at seeing how the events of the original Halloween would affect Laurie Strode later in her life, director David Gordon Green‘s 2018 sequel Halloween finally gets it right. The choice to ignore any and all sequels and pick up 40 years after the events of the original film provides the perfect foundation for telling a story about trauma and its lifelong effects. We see how the events of that one fateful night essentially ruined the rest of Laurie’s life, and how that trauma trickled down to her daughter and granddaughter. But if Laurie recognizes that living her life in fear and preparation was the wrong choice for her daughter, she’s grateful that she’s at least ready when Michael finally breaks free. It’s wasn’t the right decision, but it wasn’t all for naught.
This is the most artful Halloween film since the original, as Green not only sprinkles this movie with the perfect amount of fan-service-y Easter Eggs, but also captures everything in a stripped down, effective manner—just like Carpenter’s original. Simplicity is the name of the game in Halloween, and while this film doesn’t really redefine the genre or even the franchise, it provides an ample amount of scares and thrills. But it’s the thematic resonance—the story of trauma and capable, complicated women—that truly makes Halloween stand a cut above every other sequel.
3. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)
Almost universally reviled upon release, Season of the Witch has grown in appreciation over the years. Carpenter and Hill’s initial idea for a Halloween III was to kick off a franchise of anthology films, each centering around the titular holiday. It’s a brilliant idea in and of itself, but Carpenter and Hill underestimated the fan fervor for Michael Myers. When the masked menace was nowhere to be found (in fact, Halloween is a piece of diegetic media seen on a TV screen, so these films don’t even take place in the same universe), fans were very, very angry.
But looking at Season of the Witch on its own, it’s actually a satisfying piece of sci-fi horror. More Invasion of the Body Snatchers than Halloween, the science-fiction twist on the story/holiday makes for a fun series of events leading up to some of the most gross-out and disturbing special effects of the series. And who can forget that infectious Silver Shamrock earworm?
2. Halloween II (1981)
No one expected Halloween to become a massive phenomenon, so when it came time to craft a sequel, John Carpenter and Debra Hill had to create a franchise out of what was supposed to be a one-off horror film. The fix? Add a twist the reveals Laurie Strode is actually the sister of Michael Myers. That story point carries a lot of this film, as Rick Rosenthal’s direction tries so hard to mimic Carpenter’s slow burn approach that much of the film ends up feeling too laid back and quiet. Jimmy, in particular, delivers every line like he’s in his first class after lunch—it sounds like he’d rather be sleeping than dealing with a murdering psycho on the loose.
Rosenthal (or possibly Carpenter, who reportedly reshot some scenes himself) also ups the gore and blood significantly from the first movie, an area of the franchise that refused to remain consistent from film to film, and Curtis is regrettably sidelined for much of the movie. Regardless, this is the closest thing we have to a Carpenter-helmed sequel, and the choice to pick up directly after the events of Halloween turns out to be a smart one that gives the story a sense of propulsion.
And the best one: Halloween (1978)
There’s no substitute for the original, of course. There’s something primal about Halloween that makes its terror untethered by era or age. It’s as scary now as it was in 1978, despite the multitude of changes that have taken place both in the world and the world of cinema since then. We’ve been shown every trick in the book, but still Carpenter’s masterpiece of horror endures as an out-and-out classic.
It’s all to do with the simplistic nature of the film. It’s a very basic premise—babysitters are terrorized by a homicidal maniac on Halloween night—but the execution is where Halloween really shines. Michael Myers doesn’t yell, he doesn’t run, he doesn’t get angry. He is a constant force of nature, always moving forward, never bothered. That’s what makes him so scary—there’s no reasoning with nature, it just is. That’s something that the sequels never really recaptured, probably because a sequel is inherently antithetical to the nature of Michael Myers. The more explaining you do, the more you break down the myth of the unknown, the less scary Michael Myers becomes.
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