The ‘Halloween’ Franchise Ranked

This article was contributed to The Film Magazine by Kieran Judge of and Horror Reviews by the Collective.

With the leaves turning brown and people buying costumes, it’s every horror fan’s favourite time of the year, and no name in the movie world is more synonymous with the end of October than the knife-wielding maniac himself, Michael Myers. So, with the new Halloween film seeming to revive the iconic character, I decided to rank all the films in order, from the original 1978 film to Rob Zombie’s two remakes. Enjoy!

10. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween Resurrection

It’s Halloween night, and there’s a live-streamed challenge to see if several teenagers (read as ‘cannon fodder’) can survive the night in the haunted Myers house. Of course, unknown to them, Michael has returned to get knife-happy once again, and we have our blend of found-footage and campy slasher flick.

I try to find something in every film that gives it a redeemable quality. I think this one’s might be that Jamie-Lee Curtis is in it for five minutes and that, as the eighth film in the franchise, we just want to see Michael going on a killing. The found-footage style live stream stuff is a nice twist on the slasher film (remember that The Blair Witch Project came out three years before), but it utterly fails to provide any kind of scares.

You don’t care about the characters, the plot is so thin it’s transparent, and suddenly the little house in the middle of the street is a gothic mansion up on the hill, away from everyone where no one can hear you scream. The film finally buried this line of sequels for good, and for good reason. Time to return to the drawing board.

9. Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009)

Rob Zombie Halloween Sequel

Following up on Rob Zombie’s remake (or re-imagining) of the original film, Zombie uses the original sequel to provide a nightmare sequence to open the film, before going off his own new direction. Myers’ body went missing two years before, Dr. Loomis has a new book out that is milking Myers for every cent possible, and Laurie keeps getting visions of Michael returning to Haddonfield.

The main trouble with this film is that it’s just badly directed. As many people have noted, Zombie is great with visuals, but he can’t direct dialogue for love nor money. Some of the shots in this movie, such as Sheri-Moon Zombie’s ghost approaching the farm house in the moonlight, are beautiful. Unfortunately, beautiful cinematography doesn’t make up for the movie itself.

The action sequences are shaky and Michael’s visions of his mother are ridiculous; and he doesn’t even wear his mask half of the time, which goes against everything Michael Myers stands for. The script turns Laurie into being a whining, average slasher chick you don’t care about, and Dr. Loomis is transformed into an egotistical writer that doesn’t care about anyone except himself. As a fan-film, this might have been seen as competent, but as a high-budget movie from someone that’s got directing clout, it fails on every conceivable level.

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

Halloween 5 Movie Still

Halloween 4, 5, and 6, can almost be grouped into a little category of their own, being one path of sequels from the first two movies. In this movie, after Jamie’s possession at the end of Halloween 4, she has developed a psychic link with Michael Myers who has managed to survive the mine shaft and is returning to hunt down his surviving family. Alongside this it introduces the mark of the cult that will come to dominate the following film.

One of the many things this film suffers from is that it doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing. It doesn’t know if Jamie, Loomis or the new group of teenage girls are the main character(s), it doesn’t know how far to introduce the Curse of Thorn, it doesn’t know if it’s finally killing off Michael Myers for good. Added to that, the mask is the worst mask in the entire franchise. It’s too flimsy and the eye-sockets are too wide and astonished, and the blank but grim expression of Myers is lost in an almost comical expression.

There’s an ok-ish kill or two, and Danielle Harris is fairly decent in the film (especially at such a young age), but that’s really all there is here. Even Donald Pleasance is playing a parody of his former self here. It’s not an absolutely atrocious film, but there’s nothing saving this film from being incredibly forgetful. Evidence: before I re-watched it for this list, I forgot what actually happened in it. Not a clue.

7. Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Halloween 6 Horror Movie

Halloween 6 isn’t much better than the previous instalment, but is marginally improved upon. Focusing on the Curse of Thorn, and the pseudo-pagan myths of Halloween to be the origin of Michael’s immortality and rage, Michael is stalking a family living in the old Myers House years after Halloween 5 (relatives of the Strodes) whilst Loomis and a grown-up Tommy Doyle (played by Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd), try to stop him from sacrificing Jamie’s child.

I had to rank this film higher than the last purely because, despite many re-shoots and re-drafts, it at least tries to tie everything together. It wants to end this phase of Halloween mythology, and to a large extent that’s what it does, even killing Loomis at the end of the film (Pleasance himself passed away months before the film’s release). Rudd is surprisingly half-decent in one of his early roles, and the kills are decent for a slasher sequel. Added to this, the mask is markedly improved upon from the previous film, Myers’ body language is very nearly back to being similar to the first film, something that was lacking from the other instalments to this point.

However, the cult is still a ridiculous concept, the need to explain Myers’ supernatural powers is a ridiculous and pointless endeavour which goes against the point of Myers’ remorselessness. It still presents an entirely forgetful finale involving a load of kids locked up in a hospital to be inflicted with the curse or sacrificed to pagan gods (yeah, you heard that correctly), and the film is a satire of its former self.

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

Halloween 4 Horror Movie

Awakening from a coma after ten years, Michael discovers Laurie is dead and has a daughter, Jamie. Michael returns to Haddonfield to track down and murder the young girl. Dr Loomis, inevitably, comes to try and stop him.

This is perhaps the second-worst mask in the series, and right from the shot of him in the mirror at the film’s beginning, you know it. The hair is wrong and the face is too white and shocked. The plot is incredibly forgettable, though fun to watch in a campy sort of way, and aside from one or two chase scenes, nothing really stands out.

The only things that do are, much like Halloween 5, the acting of Pleasance and Harris, who both do an excellent job here with the script they’ve been given. Also here is one of the first times we’re given a proper Michael bloodbath. There are one or two moments in Halloween 2, but nothing to this extent. They’ve upped the gore-factor, probably due to the amount of blood in other series such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, and there are some nice practical effects, but nothing that makes the film of any merit. It’s not going to be on the ‘must-watch’ bucket list any time soon, but it isn’t a bad instalment in the franchise.

5. Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)

Halloween 2007 Rob Zombie

Many may be surprised that this film made it so high up. Rob Zombie’s take on the original film sees the movie split into two sections – the back-story of Michael, and his eventual break-out and murder spree – with Malcolm McDowell taking on Donald Pleasance’s role as Dr. Loomis to track him down.

There are some things that need to be addressed in regards to this film. Notably, as has been said before, Zombie can’t direct dialogue, and in this film we have the prime example in a particularly infamous breakfast table scene. Explaining Myers’ rise to evil is also a negative, as many people would agree upon, as it takes away the mystery from the little boy who just suddenly snapped one night. This version of Michael might be any other generic slasher villain with a tragic backstory, one out of a Lucio Fulci gore-fest. Laurie isn’t an incredibly likeable survivor girl in this adaptation, and most would see it as a disrespectful re-imagining of a film that didn’t need to be touched.

That as it may, the film still shows off Zombie’s incredible ability to capture images, and offers paintings of violence and mayhem that are as beautiful as they are shocking. The murder-spree is relentless, never giving you any time to breathe, and Michael feels as big and powerful as ever; he’s bulked up and he’s a merciless machine of destruction. It’s one of the better directed films in the franchise, with a startling ability to shock and disturb, at least if one forgets to compare it to the original film. It’s in no way amazing, but it’s certainly one of the better remakes of classic horror films and definitely more powerful than the original string of sequels after Halloween 2.

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

Halloween III Horror Movie

The oddball of the franchise, Season of the Witch is an entirely new narrative that follows on from Carpenter’s plan to make each instalment in the franchise completely different, an anthology series, all revolving around Halloween. Here in this film we follow the attempts to stop a toy manufacturer from using children’s Halloween masks to bring about the return of Samhain, an ancient Celtic Festival, connected to witchcraft.

There’s no Michael Myers, no Laurie Strode, but the violence and intensity is still there. With a dark fantasy feel driving the film, the all-encompassing evil surrounding the story is palpable. The Silver Shamrock commercial is incredibly memorable, and the pumpkin-head death is possibly one of the most shocking deaths in all of horror. The scope of the film is much wider, and whereas the Myers arc is very personal and intimate, with one man after one girl, Season of the Witch is much more apocalyptic, having a feel very similar to what Ringu would eventually attempt to capture.

It’s not perfect in any way, and there are some aspects of the scenario that feel very out of place (I’m still not convinced by the androids), but it’s a good, solid film in its own right that can be respected and liked away from the other Halloween films. If you like your horror a little more psychological and haven’t checked this one out because you think it’s a slasher, you’re in for a little bundle of fun.

3. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween H20

H20 takes the bronze medal position. Twenty years after Michael’s attack on Haddonfield in 78, and disregarding all sequels after Halloween 2, Laurie Strode is convinced that this year, just like every year, Michael Myers will come to finish what he started. This time, she’s right.

It’s important to remember that this was a Halloween film that came in the wake of Scream, also made by Dimension Films, and even in the opening 10 minutes before the titles, you can see its impact. The whole film feels cleaner and tighter. The orchestral arrangements (that I don’t think had been present, or as present, in the scores thus far) add to the scope of the film, and the writing is bordering closer on playful, with more comedy in the film than there had been in previous instalments. It’s a slicker, polished film, which helps it to stand out from the crowd as something more than a Halloween sequel, but a sequel fully embracing the new school of horror.

All of the acting is superb, with Jamie-Lee Curtis returning as a harrowed, post-trauma Laurie in hiding from Michael who she fears is still alive. The final act in the school is well executed and full of scares in all the right places, with a high enough body count to satisfy all the gore-hounds in the audience. It’s simply a well-crafted film, as good a sequel as anyone could hope for, and a much-needed injection of adrenaline back into the franchise.

2. Halloween 2 (1981)

Halloween Movies Ranked 2

Immediately following the events of the first film, Laurie is rushed into hospital as Dr Loomis and Sheriff Bracket are hunting down Michael Myers. With a higher body count and the knowledge that the formula works, the second film takes the slasher movie method and elevates it from the first film, giving us plenty of scares and memorable scenes whilst staying faithful to the original.

Almost everyone in the film is great, aside from one or two characters that are almost purely written in for knife-fodder (the hospital security guard isn’t going to win any Oscars, no offence intended). My only real complaint is that Michael’s body language (something I inspect in every film) is radically different to the first film. It’s a slow and laborious approach, completely different to the Michael from the original, which was deliberate, yes, but he could also move when he needed to (think of his crouching, defensive stance atop the stairs in the Doyle house, or his fairly swift descent down them). This Michael is much slower, and I think a little less scary as a result, but not too much.

The film is still well-constructed and well paced, everything falls nicely into the slots it needs to. The direction is still excellent, the music is good, the writing is top notch. If you need to see how the follow-up to a good film should be done, this is your main case study.

1. Halloween (1978)

Halloween 1978 Horror Film

Was there ever any doubt which film would top the list?

One of the godfathers of the slasher genre, the original 1978 film revolutionised horror cinema forever. The film introduces the terrifying figure of Michael Myers, escaping from the asylum to continue his killing spree 15 years after murdering his sister. Chasing Jamie-Lee Curtis and pursued by Donald Pleasance, the film’s relentless attack on quiet suburbia, far away from the gothic castles of old, hits right at the core of modern paranoia, a direct attack on western civilisation.

The acting is perfect, with everyone (including the kids) performing their socks off. Each moment of the film is phenomenally executed and gives birth to some of the most iconic images in cinema. From the beautiful opening POV steady cam shot to the final montage of Haddonfield with Myers’ breathing, it grips your throat and never releases your windpipe. Myers comes in, stalking, watching, and strikes for maximum impact. The mask has never been beaten, the acting of all 5 (yes, 5) actors helping to create the unique body language of the stalker that can snap and rage in seconds.

Halloween didn’t invent the slasher film, but it proved that it consistently worked. It grounded the tropes, the themes and motifs, and it gave us one of the most iconic scores in cinema. It still terrifies today, and if you have the chance to see it at the cinema then you absolutely should go. It’s an experience that can’t be replicated by any film in any setting. It’s a true one-off; an tremendous masterpiece.

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