40 years after John Carpenter’s masterpiece of horror new Halloween films are still gracing the big screen. Fresh off the release of the 11th film of the franchise, Michael Myers remains as iconic and terrifying as ever before. Our trips to Haddonfield have seen some ultimate highs, the lowest of lows, and a quick detour to Santa Mira. To celebrate the pagan holiday and the film franchise that shares its name, I’m taking a look back and ranking the entire Halloween film franchise!
To help understand my perspective writing this, I’ll share a bit about my experiences with the series. The Halloween films served as my introduction to the horror genre, and remain my all-time favorite. I hold this franchise near and dear, and I’d like to thank Nightmare on Film Street’s Jon and Kim for allowing me the opportunity to share my rankings! (Editor’s Note: We’re counting on you Chris. Don’t let us down!)
A quick note: David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween is included in this ranking, but is 100% spoiler free. Also, you’re bound to disagree with some of the finer points on this list, but I’m nothing if not honest, and we’d love to hear your personal rankings on Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook!
11. Halloween Resurrection (2002)
One good thing can be said about Resurrection, and that is it produced a much-needed break and reset in the Halloween series. Chasing the coattails of The Blair Witch Project, producers grabbed onto everything they thought kids found hip at the time. This movie is a monument to the disconnect between a studio and it’s audience. That disconnect saw rapper Busta Rhymes cast in a leading role, to karate kick Michael Myers and drop the infamous “Trick or Treat Mother F*cker” line. Even setting aside the most egregious sin committed by any Halloween film (unceremoniously killing off Laurie Strode), Resurrection still holds the title as the worst movie in the series by far, bringing in a whopping $37 million worldwide.
10. Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009)
To his credit, Rob Zombie had a vision when he directed the 2007 remake of Halloween. Whether you like his style or not, he created a cohesive, fresh take on a character that had grown stale after three decades of sequels. Then, he proceeded to completely destroy his creation in 2009’s Halloween II. Michael Myers doubles as the world’s deadliest hobo with a full beard and satchel en tow. Malcolm McDowell’s captivating performance as Dr. Loomis in the first film is completely erased. The character turns into a money-hungry Hollywood bottom feeder with little to do but make you hate him. Viewers are force-fed fantastically bad symbolism surrounding the “white horse” in a very transparent effort to shoe-horn Sheri Moon Zombie back into the story. While not as bad as the previous entry on my list, Halloween II produced the same result: stopping the Halloween series in its tracks. This time for 9 years. Sorry, I have nothing nice to say about this one.
9. Halloween H20 (1998)
I’m well aware of the pitchforks out for me on this one. I ask you to set aside your 90’s childhood nostalgia and hear me out. Owner of hands down the worst Halloween film title, H20 serves as an example of great ideas gone awry. While producers originally wanted John Carpenter to direct, the parties could not come to terms, and what’s left is the most un-Halloween movie ever filmed. From the score to the 4 (four!) different masks used, H20 feels as though Michael and Laurie were transported into the Scream universe. Not coincidentally, Scream writer Kevin Williamson was hired to write a treatment of the film that was used as the basis for the story. Yes, Jamie Lee Curtis returned to her iconic role of Laurie Strode, however, even her character doesn’t really feel like the original Laurie. Weak on suspense and brutality, H20 comes across as a movie seemingly tailor-made for family audiences, something very uncharacteristic of a Halloween movie. Nothing feels right here. Big studio involvement spells big trouble for horror films more often than not, and H20 proves no exception.
8. Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)
As I mentioned, Rob Zombie had a vision for Halloween. Whether you like his style or not, Zombie’s reboot featured a compelling plot from the beginning. Humanizing Michael’s transition into a serial killer had not been done before. Zombie’s Halloween boasts some stellar casting performances. This includes Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis, Brad Dourif as Sheriff Brackett, and in a fun twist, Danielle Harris as Annie Bracket. Not all is wonderful, though. The film suffers when it must serve as a true remake of John Carpenter’s original in the second half of the film. Viewers are punished with Zombie’s M.O. of white-trash characters and over-the-top brutality. Frankly, this movie may have been better off had it not attached itself to the Halloween franchise or Michael Myers altogether, and instead just focused on the creation of a new serial killer. But as it is, even die-hard fans of the original series can appreciate this different take.
7.) Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Halloween 5 is a fascinating film. Longtime producer Moustapha Akkad, known for refusing to kill off Michael no matter what, decided to walk away from the setup of little Jamie Lloyd becoming a killer in H4. We are introduced to the “man in black” that later appears in Halloween 6, but never learn much about him. Why? Because the writers didn’t know either. Halloween 5 marks the point in the franchise where writers were out of ideas, knowing Akkad would never allow Michael to die. Boy, can you tell while watching, too. That being said, the movie fascinates me because of the mixture of bad scenes and incredible franchise-defining scenes. The latter includes a visually stunning setup of Michael chasing a victim at night via car, Jamie Lloyd trapped in a laundry chute, and Dr. Loomis viciously beating Michael down with a board. Also, the pumpkin-slashing opening credits are SO COOL.
6.) Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Ah, the infamous “Cult of Thorn”. In an effort to explain what makes Michael Myers the brutal killer he is AND tie together the previous films, the results are…mixed? I’ll be blunt: the outlandish, hole-filled plot doesn’t work at all. However, for what it sacrifices in substance, it replaces with style. Michael, boasting one of the best looking masks of the series, is absolutely brutal in Halloween 6. The scene inside the operating room makes a case for one of the most horrific of the franchise. Also, the film is shot beautifully. Unfortunately, H6 really comes in two versions; theatrical and the “producers’s cut”. The producer’s version includes a much better score by familiar face Alan Howarth, and a much crazier ending. Regardless, if you want to see the most vicious version of Michael sans Rob Zombie, this is it.
5.) Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
You really have to wonder how this movie would’ve been received had it been marketed properly. I fell victim to what many others did on my first viewing, asking myself halfway through “where is Michael Myers?” Season of the Witch launched John Carpenter’s vision of turning the Halloween series into a yearly anthology of different Halloween-themed stories. Halloween masks that, when worn while watching a televised detonator per say, melts children’s heads into bugs and snakes. We actually get to see this happen, and it is terrifying.
The film contains all the feels of a John Carpenter film (though he did not direct), from slow pacing to another iconic synth score. Season of the Witch comes with some warts, though. If the masks won’t melt your head, the too-long, cringe-worthy sex scenes between Dr. Challis and Ellie will. Ugh. Luckily, the film rebounds for one of the most morbid implied endings to any horror film you’ll see. “Eight more days ’till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween…”
4.) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween 4 begins the top-tier portion of my rankings. After film goers were seemingly burned with a Michael-less Halloween entry, filmmakers corrected the mistake quickly. Michael awakens from the coma he’d been in since the events of Halloween II, and begins his bloody path back to Haddonfield to find now-deceased Laurie Strode’s daughter. Donald Pleasence returns and owns the screen with his character of Dr. Loomis. In addition, Danielle Harris gives one of the finest child-actor performances ever, conveying fear far better than even many adult actors can.
Most importantly, this film truly captures the Halloween-holiday feel unlike any other entry in the franchise. It is eerie. It is cold. It is scary. Interesting fact- it was written in 11 days to beat a looming writer’s strike, and certain plot points are noticeably rushed because of it. Had the filmmakers had more time and not screwed up so badly on the mask, Halloween 4 may have found its way higher on this list.
3.) Halloween (2018)
No spoilers here. What really amounts to a 40 year hiatus allows fans to brainstorm a Vegas buffet of their own ideas and expectations of where this film would go. David Gordon Green’s Halloween does not break new ground in the slasher genre. Put your expectations aside, and you’ll find that this film is incredible. Jamie Lee Curtis deserves and Oscar for her return to the Laurie Strode character, damaged from the events of 40 years prior. James Jude Courtney absolutely NAILS his portrayal of Michael Myers. Although several kills are done off-screen, Gordon Green rewards you with spectacular, gory shots of the aftermath.
John Carpenter returns with a phenomenal score, blending the classic synth sounds with a droning guitar that will put a smile on your face. Halloween does feature some plot missteps and mis-timed humor. Overall though, Green and McBride penned a love letter to a tortured franchise. As a die-hard fan, I’m swooning.
2.) Halloween (1978)
What’s left to be said that hasn’t already been regarding the John Carpenter classic. Perhaps the most influential film to the horror genre as a whole, Halloween birthed the modern slasher and all of the tropes we know and love. While the movie spawned countless copycats (like Friday the 13th, *cough*), none of them were able to capture the quality of what was done here. Maybe it’s Carpenter’s score, which may be as recognizable as Santa Claus at this point. Maybe it’s the iconic William Shatner mask, a product of a razor-thin budget and the right creative geniuses. Maybe it was the excellent casting of Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence. In the end, it’s simply a film made with all the right ideas. Halloween reigns as a true cinema classic that will never die.
1.) Halloween II (1981)
John Carpenter and Debra Hill made an astoundingly good choice to pick up the story minutes after the original, creating a two-film epic of horror. Halloween II ranks as the best of the franchise because it captures what the pure evil Dr. Loomis described looks and feels like. While many complaints about this sequel focus on how it departs from the original in style, I view this as logical progression.
I’ve always interpreted the film as such; when Dr. Loomis shot Michael Myers 6 times off of the balcony, whatever was left of Michael’s humanity died. All that remained was a vessel of pure evil. The film’s style choices center around this idea, some intentional, others perhaps not. Stuntman Dick Warlock’s turn as The Shape feels almost robotic, inhuman. The iconic mask had aged from residing under writer Debra Hill’s bed, warping into a dirty, sinister scowl. The iconic Carpenter score was replicated with a more gothic sound of a church organ. The large hospital setting quickly turns into a claustrophobic house of horrors.
Most importantly, Halloween II accomplishes what few horror films do; an incredible third act. The blood tears, a blinded Michael swinging his scalpel madly at Laurie, and the poetic end of Loomis sacrificing himself to take Michael down with him all make for the greatest sequence in Halloween lore. Though the final shot shows the Shape’s mask melting, there is no “happy ending” here. A perfect ending to the night HE came home.