- The original 1978 Halloween set the blueprint for the slasher genre and influenced films like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
- Halloween: Resurrection is widely considered one of the worst films in the franchise due to its terrible script, uninteresting characters, and lack of suspense.
- Halloween 2018 revitalized the franchise by focusing on Laurie and making Michael Myers scary again, pleasing both fans and newcomers.
Here’s a ranking of every film in the Halloween franchise ranked from worst to best. The Halloween series turned 45 in 2023, an impressive feat considering creator John Carpenter never wanted a sequel. The original Halloween wasn’t the first slasher movie but it set a blueprint that would come to define the genre. With a slew of low-budget, increasingly gory slasher movies coming in its wake, including Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street, many of the archetypes in these movies could be traced back to 1978’s Halloween.
Carpenter penned and produced Halloween II, which picks up literal seconds from the end of the original/ With Michael seemingly dead for good by the sequel’s ending, Carpenter attempted to turn the series into an anthology with 1982’s Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, but the audience’s rejection of a Myers-free entry quickly put an end to that idea. Michael was brought back for Halloween IV: The Return Of Michael Myers but the series has branched off into unpredictable and unfortunately odd avenues ever since. David Gordon Green’s Halloween 2018 hit the franchise reset button again on a new yet divisive trilogy. Let’s take a look at the entire 13-installment Halloween saga ranked from worst to best.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Even the most devoted fans of the Halloween movies are hard-pressed to find much merit in Halloween: Resurrection. The movie is, in a word, atrocious. Both the script and concept are terrible, the characters utterly uninteresting, the suspense non-existent and the film undoes the good ending of Halloween H20. Jamie Lee Curtis is brought back for a contractually bound cameo in the opening scene to retcon H20’s ending before the film jumps ahead to what feels like a reality show that takes place in the Myers house.
Halloween: Resurrection pretends to be making some kind of commentary on the nature of reality TV and the internet age, but it’s ultimately nothing else but a cynical, creatively bankrupt cash grab. The whole enterprise can best be summed up with the visual of rapper Busta Rhymes kung-fu fighting with Michael Myers, which is unintentionally hilarious. What’s more, Busta Rhymes somehow beats the superstrong Michael, twice.
Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (1989)
Halloween IV was a franchise rejuvenating hit so a sequel was immediately greenlit. Sadly, Halloween 5 suffered because it was a rushed production, having been written, shot, and edited less than a year after the previous installment. This results in a bizarre sequel with lots of tonal oddities. While Jamie Lloyd is the nominal protagonist, the story jumps to different characters for long stretches, making for a strained rhythm.
The infamous Man in Black makes his introduction in a subplot that feels almost disconnected from the rest of the movie. While Michael has had to suffer some bad masks throughout the series, the one he’s afflicted with in Revenge is arguably the worst. However, the film is not all bad news. Donald Pleasence makes a great return as Loomis, the movie has some interesting stylistic flourishes, and an extended chase involving Jamie trapped in a laundry chute is one of the most intense parts of any sequel.
Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)
There was a big gap between Revenge and the cleverly subtitled Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers, which was a famously troubled production. The previous entry set up several mysteries Curse had to address, namely the Man in Black and the tattoo symbol he shared with Michael in addition to luring back audiences burned by the last movie. The Curse Of Michael Myers sought to answer the question of what made The Shape evil. The answer encompassed an ancient Celtic cult and a star constellation, making the whole explanation ludicrous and roundly rejected by fans.
The movie also opens with the needlessly graphic death of Jamie Lloyd which sets an unpleasant tone for the rest of the story. Paul Rudd made his movie debut as hero Tommy Doyle while Pleasence returns for the final time as Dr. Loomis. Halloween 6, which briefly had Quentin Tarantino involved, has some atmospheric imagery, a couple of effective stalking sequences, and the occasionally inventive murder. The convoluted storyline and nasty tone ultimately work against it, however, and it never once feels scary. The movie has a well-published alternate version dubbed The Producer’s Cut, but there’s not much difference in quality aside from a noticeably toned-down finale.
Halloween Ends (2022)
Halloween Ends is the most recent installment of the Halloween franchise, marking the 13th original film in the series. Upon its release, many were initially pooling it with some of the worst installments in the entire franchise, particularly because it was an underwhelming ending to David Gordon Green’s modern trilogy that started out with such high expectations from 2018’s Halloween. Criticisms reflect these sentiments of disappointment with Green’s trilogy, which clearly tapered in quality and originality from Halloween to Halloween Kills.
There are some redemptive qualities about Halloween Ends that suggest that critics might have been too harsh on the film given its context. Its major flaw is taking the focus away from Laurie and Michael by centering around the brand-new character Corey, which is not what fans or critics want from a trilogy finale. It was a strange narrative choice that ultimately robbed fans of what they wanted to see, more Laurie and of course more Michael. It did end the trilogy with a definitive stance that Michael would not be coming back.
Halloween II (2009)
Rob Zombie’s movies in the Halloween saga are probably the most divisive among the fanbase. Some will defend them as brave reinventions of the Michael Myers mythology, whereas others find them abrasive and unpleasant. The truth probably falls somewhere in between as Zombie brings a unique style and tone to the franchise. While his ambition can’t be faulted, his overall execution is problematic. Zombie’s first Halloween was met with polarized critical and audience responses. He returned for a sequel when promised greater creative freedom despite once vowing that Halloween would be a one-off for him.
This results in Zombie tearing up the Halloween rule book entirely. Michael is seen unmasked and even speaks. Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) has turned into an amoral jerk. The film ends on a staggeringly bleak note. Rob Zombie’s brutal Halloween 2 is plagued with issues from unlikeable characters, an odd structure, and tonal experiments that don’t quite work. That said, it also has some beautiful imagery, great performances, especially from Brad Dourif’s put-upon Sheriff Brackett, and a fantastic and unpredictable opening chase in a deserted hospital. The movie is ultimately an ambitious mess but regardless of how it panned out, it remains one of the most unique Halloween outings.
Halloween Kills (2021)
While David Gordon Green’s Halloween 2018 was greeted with some mixed responses, there’s little denying that it was a huge success. Halloween Kills takes a cue from 1981’s Halloween 2 by picking up moments from the end of the previous movie to inspire the new beginning. While the sequel gathers together returning cast and characters and doesn’t skim on gore, Halloween Kills is sadly a mess. Even by the modest standards of the slasher genre or even 1978’s original Halloween, the Halloween Kills story is almost non-existent. The movie’s tone veers from goofy comedy to on-the-nose social commentary and overly harsh violence.
Green and his screenwriters are seemingly making up for the lack of any real narrative drive with distractions like a larger-than-usual body count and nostalgic callbacks that feel hollow. What’s worse is that series icon Jamie Lee Curtis spends Halloween Kills largely sidelined from the action. The performances are mostly fine with newcomers Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Longstreet making the biggest impression, but many of the actors are given thinly developed roles. Halloween Kills deserved better than this somewhat tiring outing.
Series fans had been bitterly disappointed by Halloween: Resurrection before Rob Zombie’s remake. Since the filmmaker had recently directed the acclaimed The Devil’s Rejects, a fresh take on Michael seemed like it had potential. Zombie is very much inspired by the raw grittiness of ’70s cinema like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and his style is a total 180-degree turn from the measured pacing of Carpenter’s original. Zombie reimagines the backstory of Michael, who was raised in an abusive house and begins hurting animals as an outlet for his rage. His impulses soon turn to murder and the film charts his gradual slip from Michael Myers into The Shape.
This first half of the film is the strongest. While the performances are mostly good and the violence effectively brutal, the crass, over-the-top dialogue and “edgy” tone are jarring. Several cameos from genre luminaries feel somewhat forced too. The second half is basically the original movie played on fast-forward, revisting many of the key beats and iconic moments with an appearance from original Jamie Lloyd actor, Danielle Harris. Zombie feels a little disconnected during these sequences but springs back to life when coloring outside the lines. Zombie’s Halloween has flashes of greatness but this feels like he would rather have made a Texas Chainsaw reboot than a Halloween movie.
Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween IV was made in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of the original. Halloween IV, which nearly made Michael a ghost, jumps ahead a decade to reveal Laurie Strode passed away in a car crash and had a young daughter named Jamie. Just like David Gordon Green’s 2018 movie, Halloween IV: The Return Of Michael Myers was an attempt to go back to basics. The story opens with the reveal both Michael and Dr. Loomis somehow survived the inferno at the end of part two. Upon learning he has a living niece, the comatose Michael springs back to life.
While Halloween IV has sprinkles of gore, it does a nice job of building suspense and getting to know the characters first. Some of the set pieces, like a chase through an empty school and on a rooftop, are effectively staged. Jamie makes for a sympathetic heroine and Harris really commits to the role. Halloween IV’s long production delay ultimately just resulted in a Xerox of the original. Thanks to great performances and well-staged action, Halloween IV makes for an entertaining sequel. The opening credits are atmospheric and enjoyable and the ending closes on one of the most shocking notes of the entire saga.
Halloween II (1981)
The success of 1978’s Halloween led producers to think that there was still gold to be mined from the concept so a sequel was requested. Carpenter felt there was no more story following the original, but accepted a deal to write and oversee the production. By his own admission, it was a painful script to write, and the somewhat controversial reveal that Laurie Strode is the sister of Michael Myers was an attempt to inject something unexpected. Halloween II picks up where the original left off, with Laurie being wheeled to a hospital and Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) continuing his hunt for Michael.
New director Rick Rosenthal brought back much of the same crew in an attempt to make a seamless transition between the two films. While the movie isn’t nearly as sleek as its predecessor, Halloween II features some creepy sequences, another great soundtrack, and a committed turn by Pleasence. Unfortunately, Curtis spends most of her screen time confined to a bed but the final half-hour is an effective cat-and-mouse chase between her and Michael through the eerily quiet hospital. The sibling twist is effectively handled although providing Michael with a motive does undermine his aura somewhat.
Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)
Halloween III: Season Of The Witch acts as an experiment for Carpenter and Hill planning to turn the series into an annual anthology centered around the holiday after Halloween II ended with Michael being burned to a crisp. The film follows a doctor who uncovers a conspiracy in a small town by a local toy maker. There’s no denying Halloween III is a strange movie. The storyline doesn’t make much sense and it’s an odd mix of slasher, corporate satire, and folk horror. The hero is a sleazy, alcoholic doctor who skips out on spending time with his children to hit on the daughter of his murdered patient.
Despite this, Halloween 3 still developed a cult following for being an eerie treat, featuring several disturbing set pieces and a fantastic score by Carpenter. Halloween III also features the maddeningly catchy Silver Shamrock theme which becomes a literal signal of madness by the time the credits roll. Season Of The Witch was a dud financially, with fans and critics baffled by the lack of Michael Myers, hence his return in Halloween IV. Despite once being considered the black sheep of the series, it’s now considered a great standalone horror tale.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Jamie Lee Curtis was the instigator of Halloween H20 once she realized the 20th anniversary of Halloween was coming up. She got in touch with Carpenter and Debra Hill in hopes of reuniting on a new sequel to explore what happened to Laurie Strode after the original but eventually, she was the only returnee. H20 was developed following the smash success of Scream, so the script was infused with much of the same meta-self-awareness. H20 picks up with Laurie having faked her death and gone into hiding, working as the headmistress at a private school while being an overprotective mother to John (Josh Hartnett).
The sequel is at its best when exploring Laurie’s psyche struggling to hide her alcoholism and overcome the sneaking fear her brother will return. When he inevitably does, it leads to a great final act where she grabs an ax and decides to end her nightmare once and for all. Needless to say, Curtis is great and bolstered by an impressive young cast that includes a young Michelle Willaims and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The end result of Halloween H20 makes it one of the standouts of the entire film franchise, particularly considering that the final scene would have been a perfect ending to the original series.
Anticipation and anxiety greeted the announcement of David Gordon Green’s Halloween. Green directing, Blumhouse producing, and Curtis and Carpenter’s involvement ticked many boxes for devotees. Thankfully, Halloween 2018 largely proved an entertaining sequel and a revitalizing note for the Halloween franchise. Green and Danny McBride’s script balances suspense, drama, and humor wonderfully, and the cast is great, especially Curtis’ haunted Laurie.
Halloween 2018 and its retcons are somewhat the work of fanboys, including an extended one-take prowl through Haddonfield littered with Halloween II Easter eggs. Despite this, Halloween still largely plays like its own movie. Green’s sequel is welcoming to fans and newcomers alike. The decision to drop the convoluted mythology and focus on Laurie and her family dealing with the literal monster in their closet is a welcome, back-to-basics approach. It also does the impossible by making Michael scary again, a feat that once seemed challenging in previous installments.
Halloween started life as The Babysitter Murders, a low-budget film about a killer stalking babysitters. Carpenter was hired to write and direct, with the producer later having the idea to set it on Halloween. Looking back on the production it appears a lot of its most acclaimed elements were happy accidents, such as the iconic William Shatner mask that became Michael Myers’ face was bought in a store. In addition, Jamie Lee Curtis auditioned for the lead and just happened to be the daughter of Janet Leigh, star of Hicthcock’s Psycho.
With a shocking opening, measured pace, haunting music, and prowling camera work, Halloween sets viewers on edge throughout. Viewed through modern eyes, the movie can seem clichéd and predictable, but it’s important to remember that Halloweencreated the formula other franchises were essentially built on. Halloween wasn’t an instant success, but word of mouth propelled it to become one of the highest-grossing independent movies of all time, launching Carpenter’s career, turning Jamie Lee Curtis into a horror movie Scream Queen, and making Michael Myers a cinematic icon.