All of the Halloween Films Ranked from Worst to Best
Among the successful slasher franchises–Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play–few have as odd and nuanced a history as the Halloween films. Spawned by a vision indie horror flick by a promising young director and given the trappings of everything from 1980s schlock to 1990s angst to 2000s obnoxious teen wittiness, the Halloween franchise has never quite found its footing in cinema at large, in part because how just how fucking good the original is compared to the other films in the genre (and most horror films in general).
Because of the wild ride on which it’s gone, Michal Myers’ career is not obviously stacked. Many horror franchises, much like metal bands, are great during their ’80s heyday and shitty afterwards. But the Halloween franchise varies greatly from movie to movie, with elements of every era in which it exists both improving and sullying John Carpenter’s original vision.
As anyone who’s read my work on MetalSucks can tell, I love Halloween, and as such absolutely adore Michael Myers, the ultimate celebrant of my favorite holiday. So here, in the spirit of the season, is my formal ranking of the Halloween franchise. Let me know where you think I’m totally fucking off in the comments section.
10. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Ho boy. Halloween: Resurrection is sort of like a hair metal album that dropped in the early-to-mid-‘90s—a product of a dying trend that clueless industry people were still trying to milk for all its worth. The movie tries to capture Scream’s hip teen vibe while packing some M. Knight Shamaya twists that all add up to a terrible film.
Opening with a shitty explanation for Michael Myers surviving Halloween: H20 and a lackluster “final” murder of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, lying to us that she is finally finished with the franchise), running with the ol’ reality-TV-webisode-crew-gets-more-than-they-can-handle plot, and concluding with Busta Rhymes bursting through a wall and yelling, “TRICK OR TREAT, MOTHERFUCKER” at Michael Myers. Resurrection solidly earns its spot at the bottom of this list.
9. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
By ’89, the slasher game, like metal, had gotten a little weird. Freddy had Dokken writing songs for him and was cracking jokes in bad sunglasses and Jason was invading Manhattan after a pathetically goreless killing spree.
And Michael Myers? Michael was in a weird place. Halloween 5 introduced the series’ supernatural elements without going entirely in on them, while at the same time trying to add humor to the series and failing miserably. The bumbling cop duo with their slide whistle theme music, Michael’s niece Jaime Lloyd stuttering between psychic seizures, Dr. Sam Loomis wheezing around in a state of crazed excitement…what a train wreck.
Halloween 5 sucks and sucks hard. It has none of the menace of the original and none of the brutality of the movie before it. It also has hands-down the worst Michael Myers mask in the series. It’s so bad, it’s even better than…
8. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
A full six years after the last installment, Michael Myers returns as an agent of the Cult of Thorn, a Druid group who uses Michael as the physical embodiment of the Celtic demon Thorn and commit child-murder in the celebration of Samhain.
Sound idiotic? It is. Like Rob Zombie’s reboot, Halloween 6’s attempt to explain Michael’s resilience and murderousness does the character an injustice. It doesn’t help that Michael is elaborate and cruel in this movie, shoving his victims in dryers and stringing up a shock jock as a scarecrow. And the “metal” version of John Carpenter’s theme by Brother Cane? Hideous.
The truth is, if it weren’t for the cult aspect, this unnecessarily-gritty entry into the franchise wouldn’t be half bad. As it is, it’s awful. That said, it’s not as though the Celtic cult storyline came about in a vacuum, did it? No, for that we have to thank…
7. Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)
Promoters of 1980s nostalgia will try to convince you that Halloween III: Season Of The Witch is a good movie. Though it’s daring in its complete departure form the franchise and the Silver Shamrock masks are iconic, Halloween III is a confused garbage heap.
The basic plot…well, there’s nothing ‘basic’ to it. The Silver Shamrock mask company is using its popular Halloween masks to murder children as child sacrifices to Samhain. How do they do that, you ask? Well, the masks are implanted with pieces of Stonehenge that are set off by a TV frequency and turn the heads of anyone wearing them into bugs and snakes. When one cop horny cop and his jailbait love interest get too close to the company, they get attacked by pudding-filled LED robots.
What lovers of the film enjoy pointing out is that Carpenter originally wanted the franchise to be an anthology series, and he actually worked on Season. But these are the same people who will tell you that Carpenter’s They Live is a masterpiece rather than a heavy-handed schlock film with very cool imagery in it. Make no mistake, this movie’s bad.
6. Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)
Why reboot the greatest slasher film of all time? For Rob Zombie, the answer seems to have been the same reason a dog licks its own ass: Because he can. As much as one wishes Zombie’s film had been a loyal tribute to the original, that is sadly not the case. Instead, it is a ridiculous nu-metal retelling of what was originally a masterpiece of simple beauty.
To be fair, Zombie’s Halloween has plenty of things that work for it. His depiction of Laurie and her friends is decently human, Sam Loomis’ capitalization on the Myers story is interesting, and Michael’s brutality is pretty loyal to the character.
But we all know the problem here: it’s that Zombie embellishes Myers’ backstory. In his film, Myers is the son of an abusive and destitute family who’s obsessed with masks and kills his sister and stepfather because they’re repulsive substance-abusing pieces of shit. And we don’t need that—making Michael Myers a story of revenge on a cruel and unrelenting world makes him no longer scary.
What’s so frightening about Michael is that he’s a normal kid who one day decides to take Halloween too far. Making that about stained linoleum, crying stripper moms, and gross-looking cereal takes all the power out of the character’s insanity.
5. Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009)
Truth be told, Zombie’s sequel to his original Halloween is more of the same. However, what Zombie does well is up the ante on weird imagery.
A running theme in Zombie’s Halloween II is Myers’ mother (played by the director’s wife—who else?) as a white ghost next to a white horse, guiding Michael in a sort of psychedelic haze. Something about that is weird and beautiful, and it couples well with Laurie Strode’s slow descent into unhappiness. While Laurie’s life gets dark and ugly, Michael continues to be guided by an ivory angel.
Is this movie good? Nah. But it shows Zombie doing some fascinating things that I only wish he’d taken further in The Lords of Salem. Of course, it still has all the problems of the first, so it’s doomed from the start.
4. Halloween II (1981)
Something I find fascinating about Halloween II is that John Carpenter had extra scenes with more hardcore gore filmed in an attempt to stand up against the more brutal slashers of the era. Carpenter was obviously worried that his character was too slow and atmospheric, and wanted Michael to earn his spot as head of the class.
That said, it is the moments without the viciousness that make Halloween II a fine movie. Sheriff Brackett being told his daughter Annie is among the victims after an innocent man dies burning in front of his makes your skin crawl. Loomis’ startled confusion—is he dead? Is he not?—makes the whole movie paranoid and chaotic. And Myers with his eyes gouged out, twin rivulets of blood running down his face, trying to murder Laurie by sense of hearing alone is deeply creepy.
Because it’s the last film before the sharp left turn of Season of the Witch and the sequels thereafter, Halloween II has become a favorite among horror fans. Maybe if Carpenter had either been allowed to go hog wild with the gore or had shied away from it completely, the film might be as even and classic as fans want it to be.
3. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
After a six-year break, the Halloween franchise was restarted with this sequel, in which Michael goes after somewhat-psychic niece, who for some reason lives in Haddonfield (Jesus, guys, just move to Tucson). But while the set-up is kind of ridiculous, Halloween 4 is the most traditional slasher movie of the franchise, and as such has a number of classic-if-campy horror moments that will warm genre fans’ hearts.
But Michael Myers isn’t the only figure revived for this movie. Donald Pleasance finally returns as Sam Loomis, Michael’s doctor and perpetual hunter, who is forced to chase his psychotic ward back to Haddonfield. Meanwhile, Michael’s niece Jamie is played by Danielle Harris, a modern scream queen who appeared in Rob Zombie’s remake of the original film. Between that and the old-school murders and kitschy gore, Halloween 4 might be the most appropriate Halloween party movie of the series—rather than admire the efforts of the film’s makers, fans can scarf popcorn, talk about how silly Michael’s mask looks in this one, and cheer along as teenagers get hacked to death.
2. Halloween: H20 (1998)
Twenty years after the original film, Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the franchise, playing Laurie Strode once more. In this big-budget sequel, Strode is living under a fake name at a fancy boarding school where she’s the headmistress. She’s a pill-popping alcoholic who is overprotective of her son, especially on Halloween. But she’s finally recovered from her annual hang-ups…that is, until her brother shows up.
Horror purists will no doubt find plenty to hate about H20—it tries hard to mimic the hip teen-speak of Scream, LL Cool J’s character is pretty ridiculous, some of the three Michael masks used in the movie are just the worst, and yeah, that title blows. That said, the movie is well-written, Curtis’ character shows a lot of nuance, and, best of all, it returns Michael Myers to the character he’s always meant to be.
The beauty of Michael Myers is his simplicity. He kills because it’s Halloween, a night when you can get away with anything. When he leaves a body in a terrifying place or state, he’s turning it into a Halloween decoration. In H20, Michael is single-minded and basic, killing by knife and hand and displaying the corpses as elaborate displays of terror. He doesn’t try to compete with Freddy or Jason or Leatherface. He isn’t anyone other than himself, which is what fans have always wanted.
1. Halloween (1978)
When I first suggested writing this list to Axl, he asked, “Do you really like any of those movies other than the first one?” That’s a valid question, because while all of the other Halloween movies have their ups and downs, the original is a pretty flawless horror masterpiece.
The story is so classic it’s now cliche: fifteen years after butchering his sister when he was only six years old, Michael Myers escapes from the mentally institution where he’s been kept and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, IL. There, he steals a white Human mask, steals his sister’s tombstone, and cases a trio of babysitters, Laurie, Annie, and Linda, who are getting ready for another harmless Halloween in the suburbs. Once the sun sets, Michael becomes the Boogeyman, coldly stalking his prey as a form of twisted trick-or-treating. It’s up to Dr. Sam Loomis, Michael’s panicked psychiatrist, to hunt down and stop what he believes to be evil in the flesh.
Between director John Carpenter’s use of widescreen and Steadicam, along with the simple and brutal unleashing of evil that is Myers’ descent on Haddonfield, Halloween is a quiet and effortless horror masterpiece. Michael Myers is the ultimate combination of the holiday’s cavalier mischief and the bottomless darkness of a broken human mind. Meanwhile, Jamie Lee Curtis portrays Laurie as the ultimate naïve suburban good girl who isn’t ready for what the night brings. It’s no wonder that the film spawned countless imitators, and has become the most successful independent film of all time.
In the late 1970s, October 31st had been made kid-friendly by companies like McDonalds and Ben Cooper Costumes. Halloween was, and continues to be, a stern reminder that for one night, as the year croaks out its last, all bets are off, and evil reigns supreme.