Halloween is a time for revisiting horror franchises. After all, it’s the one time of year when it’s not only socially acceptable to power through marathon horror movie sessions, but actually encouraged. Yet, while the Nightmare On Elm Streets, Friday The 13ths, Hellraisers, and Child’s Plays of the world have their place in obsessive October screenings, only one franchise has the spookiest of all holidays built right into the title. Of course, I’m speaking of Halloween. You know, that tale of the other Michael Myers who has a tendency to do horrible things to babysitters.
Back in 1978, a young whippersnapper version of John Carpenter and his movie-making buddies took on Halloween as an indie genre assignment. They were passionate about it, of course, but never dreamed that they’d end up creating the slasher genre as well as an iconic monster movie. But it happened and in addition to a decade worth of Halloween knock-offs, the little flick that could also spawned a franchise that’s ten titles strong and counting (an 11th Halloween flick is in production as we speak, dating this list before it’s even published).
So in celebration of my favourite holiday, the time has come to rank the Halloween movies from best to worst. Regardless of your personal opinions, this shall be the official ranking of the Halloween franchise from now until the release of the last chapter. Sorry. This is it. Plan your Halloween movie marathons accordingly.
1) Halloween (1978)
The best title in this particular series is a no brainer. John Carpenter’s ground-breaking and influential masterpiece is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, full stop. Though it served as a foundation for all slashers to follow, this fairly bloodless affair is more of an exercise in masterful atmosphere and suspense than gratuitous T&A and gore (not that there’s anything wrong with those simple pleasures). From the first frame to the last, Carpenter is in absolute command of viewers, creeping his cameras through corridors, transforming suburban idealism into a land of nightmares, and creating one of the great movie monsters in Michael Myers. It’s like a cinematic haunted house designed to make you leap on cue and fling popcorn everywhere that still works brilliantly all these years later because the tricks and scares are so perfectly conceived. Then there’s the score, which is deceptively simple and bone-chillingly effective. It’s probably the greatest horror theme ever conceived and the creepy icing on the cake of this masterpiece of terror.
2) Halloween II (1981)
Released a few short years after the original film became an unexpected cultural phenomenon and essentially made against Carpenter’s wishes despite his direct participation, Halloween II is undeniably a step down from the original, but by no means a failure. Picking up seconds after the end of the original film, the sequel continues Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Cutis) horrible night with Michael Myers along with an added familial twist. The movie is undeniably hokier than Halloween, yet it has a certain charm and energy that’s impossible to deny. Beyond that, the sequel is underrated for helping found pretty well every other slasher convention that the classy original didn’t feature (more blood, more boobs, more elaborate kills, an even more supernaturally unstoppable killer, etc.). Arriving on screens only weeks after Friday The 13th Part 2 introduced Jason, the success of Halloween II helped confirm that the slasher genre was here to stay, for better or worse. Most people dismiss this sequel simply because it’s not as good as the original. That’s a mistake. Halloween II is a damn good time and thanks to some last minute reshoots by the man himself, it’s the only sequel that feels like a John Carpenter joint. So, that’s something.
3) Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)
For years, Halloween III was dismissed purely because it was the sequel that didn’t feature Michael Myers. John Carpenter hoped to continue the franchise as an annual anthology series linked only by the holiday. Audiences were confused, so the threequel bombed and the franchise disappeared for 6 years. However, in recent years, viewers have finally come around to accept the flick for the wild, ridiculous, and fun ride that it is. Directed by Carpenter’s longtime collaborator Tommy Lee Wallace (who later made It), this bizarre film about a maniac toymaker attempting to kill all of the children in America with deadly rubber masks and an annoying commercial is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. Bouncing between some genuinely horrifying sequences and hysterically campy insanity, Season Of The Witch is the perfect Halloween movie to watch with a gang of friends, a gallon of booze, and endless laughter. Led by a an amazingly sleazy/charming performance by cult icon/moustache perfectionist Tom Atkins and featuring a downright amazing techno score from Carpenter, Season Of The Witch has been disrespected for far too long. This insane movie is a cult classic in it’s own right and should never be considered a lesser entry in the franchise again.
4) Halloween II (2009)
Generally speaking, the 2000s horror movie remake craze was a lazy slap in the face to genre fans; however, there were a handful of exceptions to that rule, and Rob Zombie’s wacko take on the Halloween franchise was the highlight. As good as Zombie’s remake was, his sequel/remake was even better. A surreal, nightmarish, darkly comedic and wild tale examining Laurie Strode’s (Scout Taylor-Compton) psychological damage following her first encounter with Michael Myers, this is a Halloween movie on acid in the best sense. Sure, there are some silly moments that Zombie pushes too far (especially the excessive horse symbolism), but Zombie has delivered without a doubt the finest Halloween movie since the 80s and one that worked so well it’s kind of a shame that he never expanded the series into a trilogy.
5) Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween III may have ended John Carpenter’s involvement in the franchise, but with Freddy and Jason making too much money at the box office throughout the 80s, there was no way that Michael Myers could die. Halloween 4 was created under the most cynically commercial circumstances imaginable and yet somehow turned out far better than anyone could have expected. Obviously it helped that Donald Pleasence returned with all of his ranting n’ raving charms. Director Dwight H. Little knew his way around crafting a suspense sequence and showed welcome restraint from gore to deliver a classier horror sequel than most. Then there was the clever plot involving the talented Danielle Harris as a little moppet in danger without a hint of precociousness and a fantastically creepy ending. Halloween 4 is no masterpiece, but it is a thoroughly entertaining romp that brought Michael Myers back in style…and then allowed the icon to be destroyed through a variety of more predictably crappy sequels.
6) Halloween (2007)
Horror fans cried foul when it was announced that Halloween would get the remake treatment and many dismissed Rob Zombie’s personal take on the series when it appeared. However, the film has held up remarkably well over the years. It’s somewhat awkward structure dedicates the first half to Michael’s disturbed childhood before transforming into a delightful scene-by-scene retelling of the original Carpenter classic with a grungy 70s Rob Zombie makeover. As long as you can get over the fact that it’s not the original Halloween, there’s tremendous fun to be had. It’s a remake by a genuine fan with real talent who is unafraid to make the material his own while still honouring what everyone loves about the original. Underrated and underappreciated.
7) Halloween H20 (1998)
The last decent entry in the series is a bit of an odd one. Made after the massive success of Scream under the eye and influence of Kevin Williamson, H20 brought Jamie Lee Curtis back to the franchise for a sequel as influence by the wisecracking Ghostface series as the original Halloween. Filled with one-liners, references, and self-conscious humor, it’s an aggressively 90s entry in the Halloween cannon that makes for a nice nostalgic viewing, if you have a fondness for the era. Friday The 13th 2 and 3 director Steve Miner knows his way around crafting a scare, so the jumps work and Curtis was surprisingly game to dive back into the series that launched her career. Sure, LL Cool J’s appearance is distracting and the Michael Myers mask is horrible, but at least H20 is fun and respects the franchise. The same thing certainly can’t be said about the rest of the turkeys on this list.
8) Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)
Of the three completely crappy Halloween sequels, The Curse Of Michael Myers is at least the most watchable. The stupid cult-based plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it features Donald Pleasence’s final performance as Dr. Loomis, some amusingly gory kill scenes, and a hysterically bad lead performance from a young Paul Rudd. Other than that, it’s a messy, stupid, and confusing movie that was re-edited within an inch of its life before release. Last year, a long lost “Producer’s Cut” of The Curse Of Michael Myers emerged after years of rumor, so now you can at least watch a version of Halloween 6 that kind of makes sense. It’s still a big stinking pile of Michael Myers garbage, but at least you can follow it. So that’s something.
9) Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (1989)
Following the surprise success of Halloween 4, the producers raced to get another sequel on screens within a year and managed to completely destroy the franchise that they just resurrected. Sure, Danielle Harris returned with her character’s new mythology, but this time she was stuck in an idiotic plot involving a psychic connection between herself and Myers. I suppose it at least provides justification for all of the Myers POV shots, but other than that, the flick is laughably stupid and even boring. Then there’s the introduction of the “Man In The Black Hat” character who is supposed to be responsible for Michael Myers or something? It’s hard to say; the movie is a complete mess that almost destroys the unexpected fun of Part 4. It does have a pretty sweet Jack O’Lantern open credits sequence though. So that’s something. You know what? Just watch that opening credits sequence. There’s no need to suffer through anything else.
10) Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Finally, we come to the worst of the worst. An absolutely pathetic excuse for a movie that was made purely because H20 was successful. After an awful opening that undid the finale of H20 and killed of Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween: Resurrection turns into a grade D horror film about a reality television series that gets an accidental celebrity cameo from Michael Myers. Nothing in the movie works. At the time, producers tried to make it sound like they were honouring the series by bringing back Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal, completely forgetting that his first cut of that classic required substantial John Carpenter helmed reshoots before release. The only thing worth watching in Resurrection is the interaction between Busta Rhymes and Michael Myers purely for the insanity and accidental hilarity of that meeting of titans. Just check that bit on YouTube, though. No one deserves sitting through this idiocy in its entirety. Watching Halloween: Resurrection would be an effective form of torture, but it’s certainly not an acceptable form of entertainment.