halloween
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myer | Galaxy International Releasing/Getty
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myer | Galaxy International Releasing/Getty
Entertainment

All the Movies in the 'Halloween' Franchise, Ranked

He goes by different names: The Shape, the Boogeyman, Michael Myers. But most moviegoers know him by his blank face, a Captain Kirk Halloween mask spray-painted white by a team of low-budget filmmakers who had no idea they'd be making a movie that would spawn 10 sequels and linger in the popular consciousness 40 years later. With the arrival of Halloween, a sequel to the first film and reboot of the franchise starring Jamie Lee Curtis, there's never been a better time to revisit the series. Yes, even the bad ones.

What makes a good Halloween movie? It's instructive to look at the awful entries in the series because they help show why John Carpenter's 1978 original remains such a classic and high-point for the horror genre. Though other slasher franchises might have higher body counts, campier one-liners, or better sequels, there's no touching the original Halloween's studied focus and unrelenting commitment to terror. So, grab a carving knife and read on -- because everyone is entitled to one good scare.

Halloween Ressurection
Halloween: Ressurection | Dimension Films

11. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Evaluating and ranking the lesser entries in a slasher series like Halloween, which features more than a few movies that could charitably be described as completely awful, is a fun methodological task: Do you reward bad movies for deviating from the formula in bizarre ways or celebrate bland movies for dutifully checking the genre boxes with little flair or pizzazz? Personally, I'm more sympathetic to horror sequels that make big, bold choices, like sending Jason Voorhees to space or turning Freddie Kruger into a weird snake, than those that choose to play it safe. Unfortunately, Halloween: Resurrection makes goofy decisions and sticks to a tired script. The best of both worlds? Not quite.

This movie, which was the last to feature Jamie Lee Curtis before the new reboot, typically sits at the bottom of rankings like this, and for good reason. In one of the many cases in the series where the next installment immediately undermines the ending of the previous movie, Halloween: Resurrection opens with Laurie Strode in a mental institution after it was discovered she decapitated an innocent man she thought was Michael Myers at the end of Halloween H20. (The flashbacks to the previous film in this one are a little tough to parse; at one point, an orderly provides a recap of the entire franchise when he says, "There were several murders, lots of confusion.")

It doesn't really matter what happened with Laurie because she gets killed by Myers in the first 15 minutes, an unceremonious end for a beloved character, and we shift to a plot about college kids shooting an internet reality series in the abandoned Myers family home back in Haddonfield, which means lots of blurry digital video footage, Yahoo chat rooms, and a reference to The Osbourne's. If this movie has any redeemable element, it's rapper Busta Rhymes as kung-fu-loving, red-wine-sipping super-producer Freddie Harris, one of the best supporting roles in the whole series. (He runs "Dangertainment," the company that's producing the reality show.) After surviving multiple assaults from our masked villain, he describes Myers as "a killer shark in baggy-ass overalls," a vivid assessment that will stick in your mind far longer than anything else in this dumbass movie.  

Where to see it right now: Stream on Cinemax Go; rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, VUDU, and YouTube (watch the trailer)

halloween V
Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers | Galaxy Releasing

10. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Where Halloween: Resurrection is reliably bonkers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers is mostly a chore. After mildly reviving the series at the box office with the back-to-basics Halloween 4, series executive producer Moustapha Akkad quickly assembled another Myers-centric follow-up for the next year to keep the momentum going. For fans of the series, it was a chance to see what would happen after the big twist ending of the previous film, but, in true Halloween fashion, the sequel failed to deliver on the cliffhanger. It totally squandered it! Instead of a movie centered around Laurie Strode's young daughter Jamie (Danielle Harris) becoming a force of pure evil, as implied by the previous movie, we get another 90 minutes of Myers mowing down teenagers. 

What keeps this one from being the worst movie in the series? Not much, honestly. The movie opens with a hilarious sequence where Myers escapes near certain death from dynamite by crawling through a hole, floating down a river, and taking refuge with an old hermit (with a parrot!) who nurses him back to health over the course of a year. Then he's back at it again, stalking and stabbing on Halloween night, but this time the story is intercut with scenes of poor helpless Jamie screaming and crying because she now has a telepathic link with her indestructible uncle. In the Halloween movies, family is always a burden one must endure. 

This one is for completists only. A slightly unhinged performance from Donald Pleasence, still playing the dogged medical professional Dr. Loomis, makes it watchable, and there are bits of mythological chaos in the margins. (The "Man in Black" makes his first inexplicable appearance.) There's also some sharp filmmaking from director Dominique Othenin-Girard and cinematographer Robert Draper, who at least understand how to wring suspense by framing Myers in the background of shots and execute a terrifying laundry shoot sequence towards the conclusion. At the same time, this is also the Halloween movie with the two cops who literally arrive with clown noises on the soundtrack when they show up on screen -- like honking horns -- so I'm not going to go overboard with my praise here.

Where to see it right now: Stream on Shudder; rent on iTunes, VUDU, and YouTube (watch the trailer)

Halloween H20
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later | Dimension Films

9. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

What's most striking about watching Halloween H20: 20 Years Later after watching the new Jamie Lee Curtis-starring Halloween is how similar they are. Both conceive of Laurie Strode as a traumatized, hardened adult with a drinking problem and one child (played by teen heartthrob Josh Hartnett here). Both movies feature creepy scenes in public restrooms. Both end with Laurie facing off against her unkillable foe. The biggest difference is that Halloween H20 is mostly terrible.   

My sense is that many fans have a soft spot for this sequel, which does at least center around a gamer performance from Curtis, but the glib, post-Scream veneer of winking pseudo-sophistication -- Scream writer Kevin Williamson is credited as an executive producer and reportedly worked extensively on the script -- simply doesn't mix with the overall Halloween aesthetic of slow-creeping dread. Everything is too frenetic. Appearances from future stars like Joseph Gordon Levitt, who takes an ice-skate to the face, and Michelle Williams, who plays Hartnett's prep school girlfriend, can't redeem director Steve Miner's cluttered visual approach, the nonsensical plotting, or the many groan-worthy jokes. Also, there's a Creed song that plays over the end credits. Sorry, this movie is bad. 

Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, VUDU, and YouTube (watch the trailer)

Halloween Curse of Michael Myers
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers | Dimension Films

8. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers could also be called "The One with Paul Rudd." Or, if you're going by how he's referred to in the opening credits, he's "Paul Stephen Rudd." The future Ant-Man goes a long way towards making the first Halloween movie of the '90s, which was plagued by heated behind-the-scenes battles and resulted in the eventual release of a long-obsessed-over by fans "producer's cut" DVD, remotely entertaining. Playing a grown-up Tommy Doyle, the little boy Laurie babysat in the original movie, Rudd mugs his way through this often deeply unpleasant movie with an endearingly befuddled look on his face, providing a layer of irony that helps alleviate the mystical mumbo-jumbo. 

From a plot perspective, there's so much to be befuddled by here: Building on some veiled allusions to Druidism in previous films and the appearance of the "Man in Black" in Halloween 5, the Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers goes overboard in trying to connect dots that were never actually designed to be a coherent, explainable mythology. In the opening, Laurie's now-adult daughter Jamie gives birth to a child under the supervision of a robe-wearing secret society whose members presumably want to keep the Myers bloodline going, but the filmmakers struggle to make you care about any of this. Obviously, Carpenter's original was so powerful precisely because the villain was mysterious -- not because he was part of an ancient curse.  

Everything here is ridiculous. In addition to lines about how the Druids were "actually great astronomers," we also get appropriately '90s flourishes like an appearance from a local shock-jock in the Howard Stern mold and graphically violent deaths like a head exploding via electrocution. (This is the only Halloween movie that plays like a Hellraiser sequel at times.) Even Rudd and Donald Pleasence, who makes his final appearance in the series here, can't save the movie, but there are individual moments and scenes that work as delightfully chaotic kitsch. 

Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, VUDU, and YouTube (watch the trailer)

halloween
Halloween | Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/The Weinstein Company

7. Halloween (2007)  

In the midst of the "remake every horror property you can" craze of the '00s, The Weinstein Company approached Ozzfest-staple-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie, fresh off the creative success of his exploitation movie throwback riff The Devil's Rejects, to reboot the franchise in his scuzzy, hyper-referential style. Unsurprisingly, he did exactly that, alienating some die-hard fans and grossing out critics in the process, but his take on Carpenter's classic is admirable even when it overreaches and fails to deliver. After decades of mostly interchangeable directors plugging away at the series, occasional stumbling on moments of beauty or terror, it's refreshing to get a Halloween movie from a filmmaker with a real eye and a discernible point of view.

Zombie's most controversial decision -- choosing to focus on young Michael Myers and examining his troubled childhood -- is actually his smartest artistic choice. In awkwardly mashing together standard issue serial killer psycho-babble with his profanity-laced redneck aphorisms, Zombie permeates the mythology of the series like a child removing pus from an open wound. (That's a compliment!) The opening stretch of the film, which centers around multiple domestic squabbles and William Forsythe bellowing lines like, "Bitch, I will crawl over there and I will skull-fuck the shit out of you," is the most compelling case for why this movie should even exist. It plays like a heavy metal dirtbag gloss on The 400 Blows. If you stop the movie there, it would be brilliant. 

What comes after when Zombie leaps into the future and follows adult Michael Myers is no less vile but much less interesting. Watching him remake Carpenter's original movie, including recreating key scenes and quoting back bits of famous dialogue, invites some cruel comparisons; the second half feels like a band playing one of those covers where they up the tempo for no reason, mistaking speed and volume for a sense of urgency. The final showdown between Laurie and Michael, who simply wants to spend time with his long lost baby sister, is repetitive, dragging the movie well past the 90 minute mark. Similarly, the moment where Dr. Loomis (now played by a preening Malcolm McDowell) pleads, "It's my fault -- I failed you!" to a confused Myers will likely remind viewers of that tear-drenched scene from Good Will Hunting instead of providing genuine catharsis.

Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, VUDU, and YouTube (watch the trailer)

halloween
Halloween | Universal Pictures

6. Halloween (2018)

David Gordon Green's combination-reboot-and-sequel to the 1978 original retcons all the plot elements from Halloween II onward, including the revelation that Laurie is the sister of masked-killer Michael Myers, but it's not exactly as different from those grubby sequels as it clearly thinks it is. In the same way Halloween H20 was reflective of the post-Scream moment, or Zombie's Halloween tapped into the torture-filled remake phase of contemporary horror, the new Halloween, which comes from horror super-producer Jason Blum, is very much a 2018 genre movie designed for fan approval. It's basically Halloween: The Shape Awakens, a self-aware continuation of a story that prioritizes reverence for the source material over innovation.

The script, which was penned by Green and his Vice Principals collaborators Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, takes place 40 years after the original and finds Laurie Strode (Curtis) in doomsday prepper mode. With her paranoid demeanor and frequent visits to her backyard gun range, this version of Laurie is similar to Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but Curtis, sporting long gray hair and glasses, finds humor and wit in the archetype. Similarly, Judy Greer and Andi Matichak, who play the next two generations of Strode women, provide an emotional throughline to a movie that often hobbles from one familiar set-piece to the next.

Some of those set-pieces, like the last 20 minutes where Laurie hunts down Myers in a clever inversion of the original's finale, are enormously crowd-pleasing. The problem is these call-backs are surrounded by bits of verbal comedy that might work on an episode of an HBO comedy but feel incongruous and grating in the context of a Halloween movie. (There's a discussion of banh mi sandwiches by two cops that stops the movie dead in its tracks.) Luckily, Carpenter is back on music duties here, working with his son Cody and composer Daniel Davies, and the score rises to the occasion even when the movie falters. Just close your eyes and enjoy.

Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

Halloween IV Return of Michael Myers
Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers | Galaxy International Releasing

5. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

You thought Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis died at the end of Halloween II in that big explosion? Think again! After the Myers-less sequel Halloween III: Season of the Witch failed to deliver at the box office, the producers brought the masked lug back out of retirement and basically sealed the fate of this franchise, forever shackling it to a man in a jumpsuit. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers isn't exactly an inspired work of art, but it's an effective example of an '80s slasher, it has a neat ending, and it's constantly airing on AMC during October. If any of these sequels qualify as comfort food, this is it.

This is also the movie that gives you the best sense of what makes the sleepy Illinois suburb of Haddonfield tick. While following Laurie Strode's daughter Jamie (Danielle Harris) and her foster sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell) as they outrun the boogeyman, we get a portrait of a community where the anger of bloodlust and the threat of mob rule are always lurking beneath the surface. (In one scene, a group of men at a bar get a posse together to "hunt the bastard" and end up shooting an innocent man.) Though director Dwight H. Little struggles to create tension or generate scares, he delivers an action-movie siege finale that's ideal 3 a.m. cable viewing.  

Where to see it right now: Stream on Shudder; rent on iTunes, VUDU, and YouTube (watch the trailer)

halloween ii
Halloween II | Universal Pictures

4. Halloween II (1981)

If there's a fatal flaw to most of the sequels in the Halloween franchise, it's introduced in Halloween II when we learn that Laurie is actually the sister of Michael Myers. In the movie, the information is actually shared with a flummoxed Dr. Loomis instead of Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode, who spends most of the runtime in a hospital bed recovering from the events of the previous film, but the larger damage is done. The choice undermines the thematic potency and elegant rigor of the first movie by providing a psychological motivation for Myers, who functions best as a force of unknowable evil. Who cares about the family tree? 

Still, Halloween II, which was co-written by Halloween's original writers John Carpenter and Debra Hill, has a nasty efficiency to it that makes it stand out. The hospital sequences, which include shots of security footage of Myers walking through the halls, are upsetting and visceral, adding to the idea of Myers as an unstoppable harbinger of doom. The synth-drenched score also helps sell the mood of unease. Similarly, the wide-screen imagery from returning cinematographer Dean Cundey gives even the needlessly gruesome kill scenes, demanded by producers looking to out-gore the wave of slasher rip-offs, a certain panache. 

Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, VUDU, and YouTube (watch the trailer)

halloween ii
Halloween II | Dimension Films

3. Halloween II (2009)

In the same way Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects improved on its predecessor House of 1,000 Corpses, Halloween II represents a significant jump in quality from his first attempt at psychoanalyzing the Myers family. It's almost like he needed to clear his throat first. Freed from having to pay homage to John Carpenter's original and from the burdensome task of doing an origin story, Zombie's take on Halloween II can be difficult to watch but it's ultimately a rewarding experience, a haunting and occasionally surreal attempt to reckon with the effects of violence.

In Zombie's first Halloween, Scout Taylor-Compton's performance as Laurie Strode feels indistinct, like a smudge on a windshield, and the teenage scenes are hampered by some awkward dialogue. The movie's sympathies (and interests) clearly rest with Myers. In Halloween II, Zombie forcefully puts the viewer in Laurie's mind using every weapon at his disposal: dream sequences, therapy scenes, and frenzied paranoid visions of death litter the movie. As she attempts to process the trauma of her encounter with Myers, you feel every bit of her anger, rage, and resentment at the world. She's righteously pissed. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Myers is often framed like a mythical folk figure. (There are multiple aerial shots of him moving across landscapes that could be images from a Lord of the Rings movie.) He performs acts of strength like tipping over a car with his hands or stomping a head with his foot that make him resemble a giant in a touring circus. Dr. Loomis, portrayed here as an obnoxious celebrity and true-crime book huckster, can't escape the freak-show either. By the time Zombie stages his Western-like shoot-out finale, complete with an emotionally devastated sheriff played by Brad Dourif, you'll either be completely disgusted or you will have fallen under this odd movie's sinister spell.

Where to see it right now: Stream on Showtime Anytime; rent on Amazon Video, and VUDU (watch the trailer)

halloween iii season of the witch
Halloween III: Season of the Witch | Universal Pictures

2. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is an enormously entertaining fusion of paranoid science-fiction and occult horror tropes, but it also represents an alternate path for the Halloween series. Following Halloween II, which John Carpenter famously called in interviews "an abomination and a horrible movie," the director and his Halloween co-writer Debra Hill produced this third entry in the series, the first to not feature Michael Myers, the town of Haddonfield, or a member of the Strode family. Beyond the title and a flash of a trailer for the 1978 original on a television in a dingy bar, there are practically no connections to the previous movies.

In the context of wildly successful TV anthology series like American Horror Story and True Detective, the decision to ditch your main character doesn't seem that wild, but it didn't sit well with audiences, who mostly rejected this stylish genre pastiche about a doctor (Tom Atkins) investigating the bizarre murder of a patient. Soon enough, the good doctor finds himself in Santa Mira, a small factory town in California run by the mask-making Silver Shamrock Novelties. (They have a great jingle, too.) No, these aren't white Michael Myers masks either. Writer and director Tommy Lee Wallace, assisted by another excellent score co-written by Carpenter, is up to something far stranger.

Sadly, the movie was not a hit and the anthology model was ditched. By the time Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers came out, the film's producers put Myers' name right in the title so there wouldn't be any confusion. But a loyal army has formed around Halloween III: Season of the Witch and with good reason: It sustains a completely unique, transfixing mood of dread for its 98 minute runtime.

Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, and VUDU (watch the trailer)

halloween 1978
Halloween | Sunset Boulevard/Getty

1. Halloween (1978)

A fearful Dr. Loomis describes the appeal of this movie early on. "I spent eight years trying to reach him," he says of the murderer known as Michael Myers. "And then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... evil." Purely and simply evil. That's what we're dealing with here. 

The breathless, deserving praise heaped on John Carpenter's original Halloween for the last 40 years often focuses on the "pure" and "simple" elements of the movie -- the lack of backstory, the chilling piano theme, and the long tracking shots -- but there's a density and complexity to what this movie actually accomplishes that also deserves to be celebrated. Like most great artists, Carpenter makes it look easy, but that doesn't mean it is easy. The same could be said of the cast, from series stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence to peripheral figures like P.J. Soles and Charles Cyphers, who play teenager Lynda Van Der Klok and Sheriff Leigh Brackett, respectively. Everyone does their part. 

From the opening, which follows an act of murder from the eyes of the perpetrator, to the ending, which cuts to exterior shots of a barren Haddonfield to imply evil could be anywhere, the movie is constantly toying with your expectations and switching perspectives. The roving camera isn't completely bound to Laurie Strode or Michael Myers; it's bound to the demands of a given scene. Like the brainy teenagers in Wes Craven's Scream, these characters watch genre films, including Howard Hawks' The Thing from Another World, and the imagery clearly displays a reverence for Alfred Hitchcock; but Carpenter is not here to wow you with his knowledge or impress you with his taste. He's looking to surprise and to evoke terror. Unquestionably, he succeeds. 

Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, and VUDU (watch the trailer)

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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.