Michael Myers and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) face off again this October. In celebration of Halloween Ends, the last film in David Gordon Green’s new trilogy, we’ve assembled a ranking of Halloween films, from the very worst to the very best. This includes every film in the franchise. It also entails all of the timelines, even the bonkers Cult of Thorn storyline. One thing’s for sure, no matter how awful or stellar a particular Halloween sequel, the boogeyman always returns to Haddonfield.
Halloween Resurrection (2002)
Oh boy, where to begin with this dud? It’s SO bad that the franchise’s creator, John Carpenter, said a few years ago that it made him cringe. Director Rick Rosenthal’s film turns the white-masked boogeyman into a shell and spoof of his former self after a cast and crew decide to film a reality show in the Myers home. On paper, this concept could have been cool. It matched the times and the peak of reality TV. This movie is so absurd, however, that Busta Rhymes karate chops the famed slasher to a bloody pulp.
Maybe Curtis knew that this film was going to be a real stinker. She’s killed off within the first 20 minutes and said she’d only appear in this movie if she dies, so she didn’t have to return for a sequel. Yikes! This was a truly low point for the franchise. This particular timeline should have ended with Halloween H20, a superior film and fitting initial conclusion to the Strode saga.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
I’m sure there are some Halloween fans out there who dig the Cult of Thorn storyline, right, right? Well, don’t count me among them. Michael Myers was always an effective character because you don’t need to know much about him. This is the film that started to change that. Oh, and it features the worst mask in the franchise. I mean, it’s really, REALLY bad.
Directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard, this film picks up one year after the very decent Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Myers is back at it again, attempting to murder his now-mute niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris). What worked about this one’s predecessor is that it kept things basic. Myers was out to kill another family member, Laurie’s daughter. This film sets up a convoluted storyline that bogged down the franchise moving forward. That psychic connection between Jamie and her uncle, or whatever you want to call it, makes for some laugh-out-loud goofy scenes at least. Also, what the heck is with the mysterious man in black? Talk about a silly character and a jump-the-shark cliffhanger ending.
Halloween Kills (2021)
Initially, after reading the plot of Halloween Kills, I was excited. I also thought David Gordon Green did a pretty good job with Halloween 2018. By focusing on mob mentality, this film had potential, lots of it. But man, oh man, does the execution fail. This is a deeply uneven film.
Even worse, the mob, led by a grown-up and very, very angry Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) comes across as cliche. “Evil dies tonight” is the corniest line in any of these films. Meanwhile, legacy characters, not only Tommy Doyle, but also Lindsey (Kyle Richards) and Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) feel utterly wasted here. Let’s hope Green redeems himself with Halloween Ends and picks up the pieces after this mess. Fingers crossed that Lindsey and Officer Hawkins are given more to do in the grand finale as well.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)
This film suffers from Halloween 5 and 6’s faults. It tries to give a complicated storyline to the boogeyman. Now, this isn’t a terrible film, and I think people are generally too harsh on Rob Zombie’s Halloween renderings. But it traffics in serial killer cliches. Did you know Michael butchered small animals as a boy, before murdering his sister, Judith? We don’t need any of those details, like, at all. Keep it simple, stupid! That’s what worked brilliantly with the first film.
All of that said, this film does have some nail-biting suspense and a kickass final girl, Scout Taylor-Compton’s take on Laurie. It also has some spooky October imagery that transforms Haddonfield into Halloween Americana. Other than that, it’s a pretty paint-by-numbers remake under Zombie’s direction. The sequel, which is even more maligned, is much more interesting in its willingness to take major risks.
Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Okay, I’m sure some folks would rank this one much, much lower. But I dig it. Yes, the Cult of Thorn storyline is absolutely absurd. Yes, Jamie’s (J.C. Brandy) death feels utterly wasted and pointless. And don’t even get me started on the crazed version of Dr. Loomis. It’s a woeful rendition of Donald Pleasence’s beloved character and his final time in that role. He died during filming. But director Joe Chappelle’s film is moody and atmospheric. It plays with dark and blue shadows/tones like Carpenter’s masterpiece. It also has some cool nods to the Universal Monsters.
Michael is also pretty terrifying in this one. He’s relentless, with quite a few brutal kills. He’s much scarier here than in Halloween 5. Oh, and let’s not forget, this is the film that introduced Paul Rudd to the world. Rudd plays an older and super obsessive Tommy Doyle. Give Halloween 6 a try if you haven’t recently. It’s not as bad as you think. Just ignore the bizarre Druid cult stuff.
David Gordon Green kicked off this new trilogy on a fairly high note. The first of the new trilogy returns the story to the basics. Michael is again that force of nature like in the first film. The weird brother/sister storyline is stripped, and instead, this is a direct sequel to the first film. Laurie is much older, fully armed, and ready for Michael. She’s been waiting for his return for decades. Her house is loaded with booby traps, too. This time, she’s joined by her daughter, Karen, played by Judy Greer, and her granddaughter, Allyson, played by Andi Matichak. The Strode women make quite a kickass trio.
Curtis gives quite a performance in this one, playing a much different Laurie than in H20, though the story still centers on her trauma. Carpenter also returned to complete the score, and this is one of the strongest Halloween sequels in years.
Halloween III: The Season of the Witch (1982)
It’s been intriguing to see this movie garner such a cult following over the last few years. After the first two films, Carpenter wanted Halloween to transform into an anthology series. While that would have been neat, the idea never materialized other than in this film. That said, there’s a lot to like about this oddity if you’re willing to give it a try and accept Michael isn’t in it. First of all, it stars horror icon Tom Atkins as Daniel Challis. He seeks to uncover a sinister and conspiratorial plot by the Silver Shamrock company. This company sells ghoulish masks to children that well, make their heads explode or melt, whatever verb you want to use.
This film is a heck of a lot of fun and features some pretty gnarly special effects, especially when one of the kids puts a mask on. Oh, and you’ll sing that Silver Shamrock song all October. I promise that.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
After an outcry that Michael wasn’t in Halloween III, he returned for the fourth installment. Directed by Dwight H. Little, this has one of the best openings of any Halloween film. It perfectly sets the tone and captures October in small-town America. This time, instead of Laurie, who apparently faked her death, we’re introduced to her very adorable niece, Jamie (Harris). She’s in mortal danger after her uncle returns to Haddonfield…again.
Sure, Michael scares in this one, but it’s the characters that really drive this sequel, from Jamie to her big “sister,” Rachel (Ellie Cornell), to Dr. Loomis. We generally care about these folks, and Jamie is a welcome addition to the franchise. This sequel has a lot of rewatch value. And that ending!
Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009)
I’m sure some folks would pillage me for placing Rob Zombie’s unpopular sequel ahead of the much-beloved Halloween III. But compared to so many Halloween sequels, Zombie swung for the fences with this one and did something really, really interesting. He deconstructed the Halloween sequel while commenting on violence and trauma way before A24 made that an industry.
Laurie (Taylor-Compton) tries to piece her life back together, and she’s failing. Initially, you think this will be a remake of Halloween II. The opening takes place in Haddonfield Hospital, with an utterly ruthless Michael (Tyler Mane) stalking his sister. But about 15 minutes in, Laurie wakes up. This is Zombie’s first major clue that this isn’t going to be the film you think it is. The rest of the movie is a feverish, blood-soaked nightmare that showcases a final girl’s pain. What happens the night after she survives, or a year after? How does she cope? This movie is all about the effect of violence. It’s a deeply personal story, and Taylor-Compton gives a gripping performance. So does Harris, returning to the franchise to play Laurie’s best friend, Annie.
My main gripe with this film is Michael’s whacky mommy issues. The scenes with Sheri Moon Zombie and a white horse feel utterly pointless and weigh down what would have been a pretty darn good sequel. Still, this film has been reevaluated over the last year or two, and rightfully so. It addresses the consequences of violence in ways the other sequels really don’t. This also features the most animalistic Michael to date. He grunts. He pants, and he kills, and kills, and kills. I’ll say it again. This is one of the most interesting Halloween sequels to date with some of the best cinematography.
Halloween H20 (1998)
This is the first film that really explored Laurie’s trauma. Set 20 years after the first film, H20 tracks Laurie to an elite prep school. She changed her name and also had a kid, John, played by late 90s heartthrob Josh Hartnett. Speaking of heartthrobs, this movie features a who’s who of late 90s teen stars, including Michelle Williams and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s like the WB all-stars. There’s also a cool appearance by the original scream queen, Janet Leigh. Oh, and LL Cool J plays Ronny, a security guard who writes erotica that he reads over the phone to his very dramatic girlfriend. The humor oddly works.
But let’s not kid ourselves. This movie is about the showdown between Laurie and Michael 20 years later. That scene where they first encounter each other, shielded only by a single door and its small glass window is applause-worthy. This is the reunion we’ve been waiting for, and it was worth the wait. Steve Miner already proved he can direct a good slasher, after handling Friday the 13th Parts 2 and 3. He does a great job with this sequel, too. H20 really should have ended this timeline. Laurie beheads Michael, and it’s the perfect ending to their story. Finally, she can heal. Let’s pretend Resurrection never happened.
Halloween II (1981)
Carpenter never wanted a sequel. He thought the story ended after his initial film. However, the movie made too much money and changed the genre, so a sequel was inevitable. Carpenter returned to co-write, and he still insists he was drunk while penning much of this script. Hence, the odd decision to make Laurie Michael’s sister. Still, much of this film holds up.
The cat and mouse game in Haddonfield Hospital between Laurie and Michael is super effective. Director Rick Rosenthal knows how to build suspense. (What the hell happened with Resurrection, though?) Consider that scene where Laurie, barely able to speak, crawls across the parking lot, limited by her injuries, desperate to escape. That sequence is nerve-jangling. Or how about that moment she shoots Michael in the eyes, and he bleeds? Iconic! It’s one of the best moments in any of these movies. Or how about that ending, when Loomis lights Michael on fire? This one also makes brilliant use of the track “Mr. Sandman” during the opening and end credits.
Well, what’s left to say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? It birthed a slasher icon and perhaps the most famous final girl. It changed horror and spawned the 80s slasher decade and all the copycats that followed. It also made Carpenter’s career, and let’s not forget his main partner here, Debra Hill. We wouldn’t have the franchise without her.
None of the sequels come close to this masterpiece, from the use of shadow to the depiction of Michael as a force of nature to the establishment of the final girl tropes. Those first-person POV shots remain chilling. Carpenter knew the importance of restraint as well. You don’t necessarily see all the bloodshed, but you don’t need to. In this one, Michael is at his most terrifying and most effective. He’s there, and then he’s suddenly not. He emerges from the shadows and then disappears after a kill.
Now, all these years after the OG, Michael and Laurie go toe to toe one more time. You can catch Halloween Ends in theaters on Oct. 14 or streaming exclusively on Peacock.
Brian Fanelli is a poet and educator who also enjoys writing about the horror genre. His work has been published in The LA Times, World Literature Today, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Horror Homeroom, and elsewhere. On weekends, he enjoys going to the local drive-in theater with his wife or curling up on the couch, and binge-watching movies with their cat, Giselle.