With the holiday fast approaching and no new sequel to see, we revisited and ranked all Halloween films in the frightening franchise from worst to best.
This past summer, horror fans received an unfortunate update on the status of the latest Halloween sequel, Halloween Kills – its release date would be pushed back an entire year, from October 16, 2020 to October 15, 2021, due to ongoing complications with the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue to combat a virus almost as villainous as Michael Myers himself, seeking out “scary movies” may not be at the top of everyone’s idea of “escapism,” but, regardless, to both honor the upcoming Halloween holiday and account for the absence of this spooky sequel, we at Loud and Clear felt that it would be fitting to revisit, re-evaluate, and rank all Halloween films from worst to best and recommend the most fearsome features for this year’s frightening festivities.
11. HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS
Director: Joe Chappelle
Writer: Daniel Farrands
Composer: Alan Howarth
Though the Halloween franchise is not immune to insane retconning and ludicrous leaps in logic, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers takes the cake as the most nonsensical sequel yet. In 1990, screenwriter Daniel Farrands sought out to help explain the “origin” of Michael Myers and explore what “drives him to kill.” This effort resulted in the conception of the “Curse of the Thorn,” an ancient affliction placed upon Myers when he was a child by the conniving “Cult of the Thorn,” which causes Michael to kill his entire bloodline in order to keep the cult alive.
If that excessively (and unnecessarily) elaborate explanation for Michael’s evil wasn’t already alarming enough, The Curse of Michael Myers suffered from a turbulent production, in which producer Paul Freeman and director Joe Chappelle regularly re-wrote the script on-set, sometimes from scene to scene. When the film was shown to a test audience in early 1995, it was roundly regarded as “unwatchable,” spurring the studio to seek out reshoots and edit the movie with “punchier” pacing and a more “striking” style to keep audiences invested in spite of all its anarchic aimlessness. Nevertheless, there was no way to rescue the film from artistic ruin, and as a result, it remains at the rock bottom of this ranking.
10. HALLOWEEN II
Director: Rob Zombie
Writer: Rob Zombie
Composer: Tyler Bates
Though Rob Zombie’s 2007 handling of the Halloween mythos was an intriguing reinterpretation of Carpenter’s classic, this sequel showed how significantly the writer-director could stumble without the foundation of a favored film to stand on. Aside from Halloween II’s genuinely horrifying hospital-set prologue – in which Scout Taylor-Compton’s Laurie Strode frantically tries to fend off Michael Myers as he hacks and slashes his way through staff members to get to her – this savage sequel bears little resemblance to the 1981 series continuation it shares a name with, as Zombie abandons the confines of this “one nefarious night” and jumps ahead a year to analyze how Laurie and her friends and family are coping after the assaults they endured.
Zombie dives into discussions of trauma and cycles of violence with reckless abandon, and his audaciousness is certainly admirable, but these contemplations never coalesce into a whole, since Zombie too often gives into his goriest impulses to put the mature musings on pause and depict a tangential murder of Michael’s. In the end, Halloween II alternates between being deathly dull (when it’s focused on Laurie’s millionth mental breakdown) and being downright disturbing (when it’s spotlighting Michael’s sadism), making for a sequel that’s never either as smart or as scary as it strives to be.
9. HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Writers: Larry Brand & Sean Hood
Composer: Danny Lux
Many Halloween fans often find Halloween: Resurrection to be the worst film of the franchise, and honestly, it’s hard to blame them. From a pathetic prologue that muddies the memory of the terrific Halloween H20: 20 Years Later and completely wastes the character of Laurie Strode to the head-scratching inclusion of media icons like Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks (who both appear as if they’re acting in another movie entirely), Resurrection simply seems like it could be any old tired and tawdry teen horror film of the early aughts as opposed to an entry in the once hallowed and historic Halloween series.
And yet, for as stupid and silly as the story’s set-up is (which finds the cast and crew of a reality show spending a night in Michael’s Haddonfield home before the masked marauder starts to murder them one by one), its idiocy is at the very least more interesting than anything in the convoluted The Curse of Michael Myers or Zombie’s “ho hum” Halloween II, which explains its placement here. It’s not a “good” movie by any stretch of the imagination – the writing is woesome and the characters are quite callow – but there’s something oddly entertaining about its outrageousness and outlandishness. Again, this is no enthusiastic endorsement for Halloween: Resurrection, but it does feature a scene where Busta Rhymes does Kung Fu against Michael Myers, and that’s not for nothing.
8. HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS
Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Writers: Michael Jacobs, Dominique Othenin-Girard, & Shem Bitterman
Composer: Alan Howarth
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers is the “Goldilocks” film of the Halloween franchise – not that great, not that bad, but just “okay.” After the series received a second life following the surprising success of 1988’s riveting The Return of Michael Myers, producer Moustapha Akkad fast-tracked this direct sequel in order to cash in on the last days of the 1980s slasher movie craze. Unfortunately, the film’s clumsy and careless construction certainly showed in the final feature, resulting in a movie that’s more middling than memorable. Danielle Harris turns in yet another commendably captivating child performance as Jamie Lloyd – Laurie Strode’s daughter – and there are surely some standout scare sequences (most notably when Jamie is attempting to avoid Michael’s murderous rage in a laundry chute), but overall, the film lacks the exciting energy of the franchise’s more effective entries. Aside from its fuzzy finale, The Revenge of Michael Myers is mostly a serviceable and straightforward story – even as the movie (and Michael) appear to be on autopilot – but it’s hard not to feel like it’s anything more than a less rewarding rehash of its predecessor.
Director: Rob Zombie
Writer: Rob Zombie
Composer: Tyler Bates
Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake often elicits an array of extreme reactions – depending on who you ask, it’s either an artistic triumph or all-out trash. In reality, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Zombie’s Halloween is basically three movies in one – Michael’s corrupted childhood, his sessions with Dr. Loomis at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, and his harrowing return to Haddonfield – so it’s bound to feel like the aberrant auteur bit off more than he could chew. However, film is such an ardent attempt to do something new with the series that one can’t help but respect his idea for this reinvention at the very least.
Most disdain is directed towards Zombie’s “explanation” for Michael’s malevolence – with viewers left to decide if it was caused by nature (given his innate inclination towards insidious acts of violence) or nurture (attributed to the abusive Myers household) – but when studied separately from Carpenter’s 1978 classic (in which Michael is merely the embodiment of pure evil), Zombie’s take on tale of Michael Myers is quite thought-provoking as a sort of “alternate version of events,” meant to stand beside the original film instead of replacing it. And if all that psychological pondering still doesn’t work for you, have no fear; by the time the second half of the movie rolls around, Zombie’s dark and disturbing depiction of “Halloween Night, 1978” is as intense and invigorating as one would hope, beefing up Michael’s brutality but retaining Carpenter’s sense of suspense.
6. HALLOWEEN II
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Writers: John Carpenter & Debra Hill
Composers: John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
Taking place immediately after the events of the 1978 original, this John Carpenter-penned and Rick Rosenthal-directed sequel can’t quite re-capture the “lightning in a bottle” brilliance of its predecessor, but by retaining cherished cast members (including Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance) and actively involving Carpenter in the overall conception of the film, Halloween II is a mighty fine follow-up in its own right. Rosenthal and Carpenter largely keep the chaos confined to one location (the local Haddonfield Memorial Hospital), which helps the sequel feel as small-scale and stressful as the terrors that came before. In addition, Michael matures into a truly malicious monster, as the kill quotient is upped considerably, and what was once left to imagination in regards to Michael’s rage is now out in the open for all to see (that horrifying “hot tub” scene is still strikingly startling, nearly 40 years later).
Sure, Halloween II can feel a bit slow at the start, and Curtis doesn’t get nearly enough to do (even with the revelation of her status as Michael’s younger sister), but Rosenthal’s devotion to delicately developing dread over the course of film’s 92-minute runtime pays off perfectly with a (literally) fiery finale that wonderfully wraps up this two-part presentation of the panic produced on “the night he came home.”
5. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Writer: Tommy Lee Wallace
Composer: John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
Oh Halloween III. You never did get a fair shake, did you? Truth be told, in hindsight, it makes complete sense that fans of the franchise would eschew embracing a sequel that didn’t feature Michael Myers in any capacity. Season of the Witch also strays from the slasher genre entirely, as it instead centers around a sinister scheme by a Halloween mask manufacturer that involves the mass murder of children across the country and more curses from crooked cults – fun for the whole family! All jokes aside, on its own merits, Halloween III is a terrifying treat, with a genuinely mesmerizing mystery and some seriously horrendous horrors (courtesy of those malicious masks). Tom Atkins (Escape From New York, The Fog) even turns in a pleasant performance and serves as an empathetic entry point for audiences exposed to all of this anarchy as the doctor devoted to exposing the evils of the sinful Silver Shamrock company making all of these masks.
Sadly, even though the film has found a cult following in recent years, it was a critical and commercial flop upon release, putting an end to Carpenter’s efforts to adapt the Halloween series in an anthology format, where each new entry would showcase a new story taking place on “the night of Halloween.” It’s unfortunate that Season of the Witch was spurned back in the day, as Carpenter’s inspired idea would certainly be a delightful deviation from the franchise domination of the 21st Century.
4. HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS
Director: Dwight H. Little
Writer: Alan B. McElroy
Composer: Alan Howarth
Though Halloween III deserves to be defended, it can’t be denied that the series as a whole did indeed regain a certain “spark” when Mr. Myers returned to wreak more havoc on Haddonfield. While this “fourthquel” arguably features the worst mask to date, this slight shortcoming doesn’t prevent the film overall from feeling like a ferocious and fantastic return to form, complete with compelling characters we genuinely care about – like the darling Danielle Harris’ Jamie Lloyd and the excellent Ellie Cornell’s Rachel Carruthers – and an abundance of atmospheric and anxiety-inducing encounters with this monstrous mass murderer. From an alarming altercation with Michael on the roof of a house to a spine-tingling sequence in which Michael attempts to break into an escaping truck (carrying our horrified heroines) from above, The Return of Michael Myers continually ups the ante with these suspenseful set pieces and many others, engaging audiences throughout the film’s expedient 88-minute runtime. While its fast-paced frights differ from Carpenter’s more subtle spooks in the 1978 original, Halloween 4 is a stupendously scary successor and the strongest sequel in the series, absent the Jamie Lee-led reboots.
3. HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER
Director: Steve Miner
Writers: Robert Zappia & Matt Greenberg
Composers: John Ottman & Marco Beltrami
1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later was released at a time when the franchise really had something to prove. Not only was the last entry – the calamitous Curse of Michael Myers – an almost series-ending atrocity, but also, the Scream films (the first two of which debuted in 1996 and 1997, respectively) had started to be seen as the signature “slashers” of the era, asserting their dominance over the likes of Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and, yes, Halloween. To craft their “comeback,” the crew behind Halloween H20 recruited Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson to help shape the script and director Steve Miner – who had helmed horror staples such as Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th Part III – to return the franchise to its frightening foundation.
Ignoring installments III-6, Halloween H20 picked up after 1981’s Halloween II, portraying a period in which Curtis’ Laurie Strode had faked her death to evade her belligerent brother and currently worked at a private boarding school in California while looking after her son (Josh Hartnett, of The Virgin Suicides and Black Hawk Down). Though she attempts to live a “normal” life, she remains haunted by the memory of Michael’s assaults, and as she grapples with this trauma, she soon has to face this terror once more when Michael returns for a “rematch.” Thanks to Williamson’s snappy and sharp-witted screenplay, a charming cast of colorful characters (with a particularly plucky performance from Curtis), and a terrifically terrifying third act, Halloween H20 satisfied supporters and successfully saved the series – that is, until Resurrection brought things back to square one.
Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, & David Gordon Green
Composers: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter & Daniel Davies
David Gordon Green’s Halloween is the most recent entry on this list, and in this current continuity, it’s meant to stand as the one true sequel to Carpenter’s 1978 classic, doing away with every other film in the franchise thus far. While this decision initially seemed somewhat dangerous (as it risked alienating fans of Carpenter’s 1981 continuation Halloween II, the Jamie Lloyd larks in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5, or the well-received 1998 reboot Halloween H20), Green and co-writer Danny McBride won the attention of audiences with what ultimately added up to a meatier and more mature H20 that spotlighted the shared trauma between three generations of weathered woman – Curtis’ Laurie, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer, of 13 Going on 30 and Ant-Man), and her granddaughter Allyson (played by newcomer Andy Matichak).
This timely and topical storytelling – paired with Curtis’ complex and courageous characterization – made 2018’s Halloween the most “meaningful” movie in the series to date, but don’t let this supplemental sentiment make you think that the sequel skimps on the scares. Green is perhaps the most distinguished and dynamic director to capture this chronicle since Carpenter himself, and his combination of considerate callbacks to the original film and new stupefying sequences of suspense makes for an unnerving and unpredictable rollercoaster ride of a film that harkens back to the horrors that took place 40 years prior.
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: John Carpenter & Debra Hill
Composer: John Carpenter
I mean, c’mon. Were you expecting anything else?
Yes, to absolutely no one’s surprise, John Carpenter’s seminal slasher classic still keeps its title as the “King of the Halloween Series,” as no spooky sequel, frightening follow-up, or riveting reboot has come close to matching its stunning simplicity or palpable panic. Sure, Halloween (2018), Halloween H20, and Halloween 4 are devious delights, and yeah, Season of the Witch and Halloween II offer some absorbing amusement, while even Rob Zombie’s reinvention has its fair share of fans, but no film can accurately ape the atmosphere and anguish of the original Halloween, no matter how hard they try.
Before all the mangled motives for Michael’s malevolence and the extensive excuses for his evil, 1978’s Halloween merely told a simple tale of a malicious man murdering innocent individuals with no set motive and no rhyme or reason – and what’s more unsettling than these unexplainable instances of inhumanity? By the time the film’s cryptic conclusion arrives, viewers are already often visibly shaken, but that formidable final frame seals the deal; after Michael is shot off a balcony and supposedly falls to his death, Donald Pleasance’s Dr. Loomis crosses to the edge of the room to check for his corpse, but Michael has fled from the site as swiftly as he showed up, almost as if he never even existed in the first place. Loomis can’t help but show the shock on his face, causing Curtis’ Laurie to then cry out in concern. Carpenter lets his camera linger on various locations throughout Haddonfield as Michael’s breathing is heard in the background, indicating that evil is around us at all times without our knowledge, and there may be nothing we can do to stop its spread or avoid its arbitrary attacks. In other words, evil is inevitable.
Be among the first to receive our monthly updates with film news, movie-inspired recipes and exclusive content! You’ll only hear from us once a month. #nospam