When there are seven entries in a franchise before you were even allowed to watch movies, it’s quite daunting to dive into it. So, despite being a massive fan of the horror genre, I didn’t even touch the “Halloween” series until David Gordon Green took the reins in 2018. And, to be very honest, I didn’t get the hype. I thought that the original was alright, and the “requel” (a film that’s both a sequel and a reboot, of sorts) mostly retread familiar ground. Don’t get me wrong. John Carpenter is my favorite horror movie director of all time, with “The Thing” being my favorite horror movie of all time. But both the “Halloween” films just didn’t do it for me. When “Halloween Ends” rolled around, though, I decided to take the plunge and watch all twelve films before even glancing at the newest one. The journey was arduous but fun, and now I’m here to talk about it.
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for all the “Halloween” movies, and their rankings can be controversial in nature.
If you thought that the continuity of the “X-Men” franchise was a mess, you are clearly not familiar with the “Halloween” franchise’s timeline. I watched them in the order in which they were released. And this is what I understood. “Halloween” (the 1978 one), “Halloween II” (the 1981 one), “Halloween 4”, “Halloween 5”, and “Halloween 6” are in the same timeline. What about “Halloween 3”? It exists in a separate timeline where “Halloween” (yes, the 1978 one) exists as a literal movie. “Halloween H20” and “Halloween: Resurrection” are sequels to “Halloween II” (yes, the 1981 one). But David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” (the 2018 one), “Halloween Kills,” and “Halloween Ends” are sequels to “Halloween” (the 1978 one). Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” and “Halloween II” exist in their own timeline because they are a reboot of the franchise. Then again, elements from “Halloween 3” are there in Green’s films. So, maybe that film exists in the latest continuity as a movie. With all that said, let’s begin the ranking of the “Halloween” films.
13. ‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Late’ (dir. Steve Miner)
If it’s not evident from the title, yes, the film takes place 20 years after the events of “Halloween II.”, i.e., the movie that established that Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers (Chris Durand) are siblings. And in order to avoid getting killed by him, she has faked her death and is living under the name “Keri Tate.” She is the headmistress of a private boarding school called Hillcrest Academy/ She has a son, John (Josh Hartnett), and she’s in a relationship with the school’s guidance counselor, Will (Adam Arkin). Michael raids Dr. Loomis’s (Donald Pleasence) office and learns about all this, and heads over to Hillcrest to finish the deed. Since most of the students have left to attend a school trip to Yosemite, Laurie, Will, security guard Ronny (LL Cool J), John, Molly (Michelle Williams), Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd), and Sarah (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) are the only ones in Michael’s violent path.
“H20” plays out more like a “Scream” movie than a “Halloween” movie because Miner seems way more interested in parodying the franchise than telling a sincere story about Laurie and John. Hence, you have scene-after-scene of fake jump scares that deflate all the tension before the real killings begin. You can say that it’s Miner’s way of showing how on-edge everyone is. And yes, that can be the intention. But the execution isn’t very good, and it becomes very annoying very quickly. Laurie and John’s bond is very flaky. So, despite the film’s best efforts, the anxiety of a mother who could lose her son doesn’t translate very well. On top of that, Michael Myers’s kills aren’t gruesome, scary, or fun. It just plays out in a very basic way and has nothing interesting to offer or something new that we haven’t seen in this genre. However, I’ll advise giving it a watch. Every “Halloween” movie has at least one element that turns them into a fan.
12. ‘Halloween Resurrection’ (dir. Rick Rosenthal)
This direct sequel to “H20” opens with the revelation that Michael Myers (Brad Loree) wasn’t the one who was decapitated three years ago. Instead, it was a paramedic who was disguised as Myers by Myers. Since Laurie essentially killed an innocent man, she was sent to a psychiatric facility. Three years after this incident, Michael re-emerges to kill Laurie. And despite her best efforts to trap and murder Michael, she gets killed by him. The narrative then jumps forward by a year to show us that the Myers household has been turned into a destination for a game show called “Dangertainment,” which is hosted by Freddie (Busta Rhymes) and Nora (Tyra Banks). The participants – Sara (Bianca Kakilch), Rudy (Sean Patrick Thomas), Donna (Daisy McCrackin), Jen (Katee Sackhoff), and Jim (Luke Kirby) – have to spend one night there and figure out Michael’s psyche. But then Michael shows up and starts hacking them off one by one.
Credit where credit is due, the premise of “Halloween: Resurrection” is excellent. It comments on the continuous commodification of real-life trauma for the sake of entertainment. And how it gives people this false sense of courage that they can deal with real evil when they face it. But when push comes to shove, they just buckle under the fear and the pressure. This is reflected in the performances of the participants, as they always seem like they are playing it up for the cameras. Everything from their sense of intrigue to their affection for one another looks like an attempt to be the audience’s favorite instead of truly dealing with the history of the place they are in. That’s why when the real horror begins, all their charade drops, and they turn into scream machines. The issue with the film is that there’s no perceivable difference between the artifice of these characters and anything that lies beneath them. So, despite the creativity of the kills, it doesn’t leave any lasting impact.
11. ‘Halloween’ (dir. Rob Zombie)
John Carpenter’s original film didn’t offer a lot of information on Michael Myers and just said that he used to live with his mother, father, and sister. And one day, he just snapped and killed his sister, probably for sleeping with her boyfriend, thereby insinuating that he didn’t like people getting intimate. But in his movie, Zombie goes ham with it and spends around 40 minutes fleshing out why his Michael Myers (Tyler Mane/Daeg Faerch) is the way he is. He lives in an abusive household. He is bullied at school for his mother’s job as a stripper. On top of that, he hates his sister because she doesn’t take him trick-or-treating on Halloween to have sex with her boyfriend. So, he is admitted to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he comes under the care of a child psychologist named Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). However, Loomis fails to fix him and terminates his professional relationship with him. Soon after that, a janitor tries to mess around with Michael and accidentally sets him free, thereby commencing his journey of carnage.
I always say that when someone makes a remake, it has to be wildly different from the original. Or else, what is the justification behind redoing a classic? If everything from the frames to the tone is similar to the original, why should I even bother watching the remake? So, in that department, Zombie mostly aces it. His “Halloween” is dirty, grimy, stinky, trashy, and chaotic as hell. His Michael Myers is a literal monster. And the violence on display is visceral to the point that you’ve to look away. But the problem arises when he tries to emulate the subtle dread of Carpenter and contradicts the frenetic, bloody vibe of his own film. Because this version of Michael Myers stands out everywhere he goes and lives in a time when people are more aware of strangers lurking around. So, seeing this gigantic human being doing the same things Carpenter’s Myers did just seem a tad too derivative. Apart from that, yes, it’s a great film and definitely doesn’t deserve all the hate it has gotten over the years.
10. ‘Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers’ (dir. Dominique Othenin-Girard)
Taking place right after the events of “The Return of Michael Myers,” this movie follows Michael Myers (Don Shanks) as he escapes the clutches of Sheriff Ben Meeker (Beau Starr) and Dr. Loomis (Pleasance) by floating away in a river. He is rescued by an elderly hermit, and Michael thanks him for his help by killing him because that’s the only thing he knows. What he doesn’t know, though, is that he shares a psychic connection with his niece, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). Hence, she is aware of his every move and the fact that he’s going to go on a killing spree again before coming for her. Yes, in this continuity, Laurie Strode (Curtis) is not only Michael’s sister (and dead) but also Jamie’s mother. However, since Jamie has been rendered mute due to her altercation with Michael, she can’t let everyone know about the impending doom soon enough, which forces her to experience her uncle’s evil all on her own.
Right off the bat, I loved the bonkers premise. And it’s not just because there’s a supernatural element to this franchise. It’s that, even though the protagonists have the upper hand as they can see how Michael is going to come for them, they cannot stop him. It doubles down on the fact that he’s the very essence of evil. He is so evil that even if fate goes out of its way to save innocent people, he is going to keep swinging, and he is going to keep killing. Danielle Harris is the star of the film, even though it has Donald Pleasance exploring the new extremities of Loomis’s paranoia. She spends more than half of the film expressing all her anxiety and fear without uttering a word, and it’s mind-blowing. When she does speak, she blows you away all the same. The movie does suffer from some tonal issues, which are personified by Deputy Nick Ross (Frank Como), Deputy Tom Farrah (David Ursin), and Spitz (Matthew Walker). It feels like they’re in a different film altogether. Apart from that, yes, it’s worth a watch.
9. ‘Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers’ (dir. Joe Chappelle)
So, at the end of “The Revenge of Michael Myers,” both Michael (George P. Wilbur) and Jamie (Danielle Harris) are abducted by a cult and their leader, Dr. Terence Wynn (Mitch Ryan). When Jamie becomes an adult (played by J.C. Brandy) – brace yourselves, please – the cult impregnates her with Michael’s semen, and she gives birth to Steven. She escapes with that baby and hides it in what appears to be the bathroom of a bus service company. So, when Michael finally catches up to her, she gets killed, but the baby survives. The film introduces Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd) as an adult who is a Michael Myers fanatic. And the new inhabitants of the Myers house are relatives of the Strode family: Kara (Marianne Hagan), her son Danny (Devin Gardner), her brother Tim (Keith Bogart), her mother Debra (Kim Darby), and her abusive father, John (Bradford English). This means that Michael is not only going to come for Steven (who is in Tommy’s care because he’s the one who noticed the clues left by Jamie) but Danny as well.
The juxtaposition of a cult that artificially inseminates Jamie – a character we’ve been following for two movies – with Michael’s seed and the suburban setting of the Strodes’ family drama is wild to me. But it’s also the reason why it’s so interesting. Because when you are in the sixth installment of your franchise, and you’ve already hinted at your central antagonist’s psychic powers, you must double down on it and go completely into “The Wicker Man” territory. My only gripe is that it doesn’t go far enough with it, even after setting the table for one of the most bizarre conclusions in a “Halloween” movie. If you have reached the cult’s underground lair and you are going to pit your Michael Myers fanatic against Michael Myers himself, it needs to get a little ugly. However, the need for that kind of payoff can differ from person to person. The kills are great. The movie looks amazing. The performances from the cast are excellent. Since it’s Pleasance’s last outing as Loomis, there’s a melancholy to his work. Also, hot take maybe, Rudd is very good as Doyle.
8. ‘Halloween’ (dir. David Gordon Green)
Taking place exactly 40 years after the John Carpenter classic, Green follows Michael Myers/The Shape (James Jude Courtney) as he is freed by his own psychiatrist, Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer). Because he wants to examine the connection between Michael and Laurie (Curtis) and if he has some unspoken marching orders in his head that compel him to do what he does on Halloween. Laurie is a recluse who lives in a remote cottage that is armed to the teeth with all kinds of arms and ammunition. Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer), granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), and son-in-law Ray (Toby Huss) live in Haddonfield. And all four of them are unaware of the fact that Michael is returning home again. It’s only after a series of senseless killings that Laurie sees Michael and instantly goes into panic mode. She shifts her family to that cottage and starts preparing for their eventual altercation with Michael.
Despite being a sequel and having a very intriguing premise, just like Zombie’s remake, Green spends around 1 hour and 10 minutes familiarizing the audience with old plot beats and recreating frames with some new material. The only reason that’s bearable is that Michael Simmonds’s cinematography, Tim Alverson’s editing, the overall production value, and the performances from Greer, Curtis, Matichak, Huss, Virginia Gardner, Dylan Arnold, Miles Robbins, and Drew Scheid are brilliant. There’s a sense of authenticity to it all that invokes the small-town spirit Haddonfield has been known for, whilst having a fresh coat of modernity painted over it. And when Green kicks things into high gear in the last 30 minutes, that’s when it gets fun. The twist with Sartain is incredibly surprising. Michael is a very different beast here and is devilishly artistic with his kills. The hollowed-out head of a policeman with a torch stuck in it to make it look like a jack-o-lantern? It deserves a chef’s kiss. The fight between Laurie and Michael is good. But since it aims to be on par with recent action movies, it should’ve been better edited (something that Green does improve upon in the sequels).
7. ‘Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers’ (dir. Dwight H. Little)
Due to the absence of Michael Myers in “Season of the Witch,” those in charge of the “Halloween” franchise decided to chuck their anthology ideas and – as the title suggests – bring back the boogeyman. It is in this movie that Michael (George P. Wilbur) learns he has a niece called Jamie (Danielle Harris) and breaks out of his comatose state to go after her. Loomis pursues him to Haddonfield in the hopes of stopping him or at least warning his victims. Talking about Michael’s victims, Jamie lives with her foster family, Richard (Jeff Olson) and Darlene (Karen Alston), and their teenage daughter, Rachel (Ellie Cornell). They are aware of Jamie’s past and the history of Halloween in Haddonfield. But still, they go out to celebrate it. And that’s when Michael strikes, and chaos ensues.
It’s a fairly simple premise (and follows the DNA of the original), which is handled confidently and competently by Little. But unlike the original, he and writer Alan B. McElroy show a different perspective to build the threat of Michael Myers – in addition to that of teens and adults – and that is of a child. Yes, characters like Tommy, Lindsey, and Julian have been around, but their viewpoint hasn’t been as well explored as that of Jamie’s. Seeing the movie unfold through her eyes, which is amplified to the next level by Harris’s impressive performance, Myers goes from being just some serial killer to a literal monster. Harris’s chemistry with Cornell is so perfect and full of love and care that you cannot help but root for them to make it through to the end of the movie. And it’s also the reason why the final twist, which comes right at the tail-end of the film, feels so gut-wrenching. It’s predictable, but the unavoidable nature of it all is what makes it impactful.
6. ‘Halloween II’ (dir. Rick Rosenthal)
Taking place on the infamous night of Michael Myers’ (Dick Warlock) killing spree, Rosenthal’s directorial debut follows the boogeyman as he follows an injured Laurie Strode (Curtis) into the local hospital. Loomis pursues him again but looks in all the wrong places. And in the meantime, Myers goes to town with the nurses and doctors in the hospital. If that plot synopsis looks too brief, it’s because that’s basically it. To put it even more simply, “Halloween II” is like “Die Hard” but in a hospital, and Michael Myers is in it. And the contrast between the comparatively expansive nature of the first film and the limited setting of the sequel makes for a very interesting viewing experience. Even though the threat of Michael Myers feels dangerous on the streets, you can run anywhere. But in the hospital, you can go to the next room or the next floor. Then what? Oh, you want to get to the cars in the parking lot and escape? Michael has already busted their tires and broken their engines. The phone lines? They are either not working, or it’s too dangerous to use them because Michael will hear you. So, your best bet is to wait it out until Loomis and the police figure out that Michael is at the hospital. If that’s not nerve-wracking, I don’t know what is. On top of that, the movie looks and sounds excellent. There’s some fantastic imagery here, with the one showing Laurie’s drugged-up POV being one of the best, and the performances are great.
5. ‘Halloween II’ (dir. Rob Zombie)
Are you surprised by the ranking of this film on this list? Well, that makes two of us. But before getting into the “why” of it all, let’s talk about the plot. There are separate stories. One is that of Michael Myers (Tyler Mane). He is on an almost Biblical journey as he traverses the length of Illinois, killing people, having hallucinations about his mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) and his younger self (Chase Wright Vanek), and realizing how his story has been monetized by Loomis (McDowell). Yes, McDowell’s Loomis is essentially a con artist who is selling books about his relationship with Myers and profiting off his last altercation with the boogeyman. Meanwhile, Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) is trying to resume a normal life. She’s going to therapy. But none of that is helping because she’s having frequent nightmares of Michael and his mother. That’s right, in this film, Laurie isn’t actually Laurie but Michael’s long-lost sister, Angel Myers. And when these paths eventually collide, bodies drop like flies.
As mentioned before, my major issue with Zombie’s remake was that he couldn’t decide if he wanted to recreate the original or forge his own path. In “Halloween II,” the weight of the past movies is lifted, thereby allowing him to make one of the most ball-to-the-walls, relevant, chaotic, surreal, and jaw-dropping reimaginings of pop culture icons. I’d go as far as to say that it’s so spectacular that, despite all the criticism it got during the time of its release, you can see Zombie’s Influence in Green’s trilogy. It’s tough to balance psychological horror with slasher horror. But Zombie does it and creates images and moments that are burned into my brain. He is clearly fascinated by what’s going on in Laurie and Michael’s brains, and he takes such an intriguing route that I can’t help but applaud him. As for Loomis, he takes a route that a lot of so-called mental health experts are taking just to sell a book and earn some money. And after all that, there’s the explosive finale. It still baffles me that Zombie never got to complete his trilogy.
4. ‘Halloween’ (dir. John Carpenter)
Although it is a tale as old as time, let me repeat it for you. In 1963, on Halloween night, a young Michael Myers stabbed his teenage sister Judith to death and was subsequently sent to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium for fifteen years. In 1978, Dr. Loomis (Pleasance) and Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) arrived at the Sanitarium to take Michael to court, only to find that all the patients had escaped. Michael attacks Marion, takes the car, and heads over to Haddonfield. Loomis follows his bloody trail and tries to warn Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) about the kind of danger Michael is bringing to the quaint little town. But his advice falls on deaf ears, thereby allowing Michael to stalk Laurie (Curtis), Annie (Nancy Keyes), and Lindsey (Kyle Richards) and try to kill them one by one. By the time Loomis or the police get to Michael, the damage has already been done.
What can I say about this movie that hasn’t been said before? It’s a classic for a reason. Carpenter’s mastery of tension, dread, and character moments and using music to elevate every frame constructed by Dean Cundey and every precise cut by Tommy Wallace and Charles Bornstein is educational. I’ll say that you probably had to watch the movie when it came out to really grapple with why it’s so culturally significant. Because by the time you see it (or at least I saw it), you’ve already seen hundreds of copycats and parodies of this undoubtedly brilliant piece of work. But there’s one shot at the 14-minute mark where Michael stands at a distance and looks at Laurie. And that scene keeps going on and on until it becomes uncomfortable enough to transcend time. At that moment, Carpenter ensured that no matter when you watch it or where you watch it, you’re going to feel the unwavering gaze of Michael Myers.
3. ‘Halloween Kills’ (dir. David Gordon Green)
Although the entirety of “Halloween Kills” takes place on the same night that “Halloween” happens, Green, Danny McBride, and Scott Teems make an interesting decision where they take things back to the night of 1978. And they follow two officers chasing down Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney in the 2021 version and Airon Armstrong in the 1978 version) as he escapes through the alleys of Haddonfield. Eventually, they end up in the Myers house, where they assume that Michael is hiding. While searching for him in there, Pete (Jim Cummings) gets attacked by Michael, and in an attempt to shoot Michael, Pete’s partner ends up shooting Pete. That partner is Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton and Thomas Mann). In the present, we see Michael going on yet another killing spree as the residents of Haddonfield descend upon him, with Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) leading the way, while Laurie (Curtis), Karen (Greer), and Allyson (Matichak) recuperate at the local hospital.
Green and his team essentially take the hospital set-up of “Halloween II” and the brief moment of mob justice in “Halloween 4” and dial it all the way up to eleven. The result is beautiful, pulpy, cringe-worthy, and insanely enjoyable. Although the whole “evil dies tonight” has been meme-d to death, it’s an incredibly apt representation of mass hysteria. When you are in the middle of it, you are both swept away by the energy of the movement and have moments of realization that it’s utter madness. The fact that it doesn’t amount to anything is perfect because, as Laurie describes him, Michael feeds off of fear and anger. The more people rally against him, the more powerful he gets. Because he knows that he is in their heads. Even if he isn’t in front of them, he is haunting them. And by the time the crowd realizes that they’ve done more damage to the town than Michael can with his knife. That said, every single kill conducted by Michael is delicious. The film looks and sounds impeccable. While all the performances are top-notch, it’s Anthony Michael Hall who takes the cake.
2. ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ (dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)
Here’s the plot of the film: Right before Halloween, a shop owner pursued by mysterious men in suits is killed despite being under Dr. Daniel Challis’s (Tom Atkins’) supervision. Challis goes after the killer, but that man lights himself on fire and dies right in front of the hospital. The shop owner’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), approaches Daniel and asks him if her father said anything before dying. He says that her father had a Halloween mask in his hand and uttered something about someone coming for all of them. Daniel and Ellie track down the manufacturers of that mask, and it turns out to be a factory called Silver Shamrock, which is located in Santa Mira, California. When they arrive in Santa Mira, they realize that it’s one of those company towns that is heavily monitored by the owner of Silver Shamrock Novelties, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy).
Initially, nothing appears out of the ordinary. But when Daniel and Ellie’s neighbor at the motel is killed by a ray of light emitted from the badges installed in the Halloween masks, the plot thickens. Cochran is weaponizing Halloween so that he can sacrifice all the children who are wearing his masks to ancient pagan gods and “control the environment.” To be honest, I don’t even know what that last part means, and that makes it all the more scary. Has anything good ever come out of sacrificing children to pagan gods? Well, then, there you go. On the surface, yes, it’s an over-the-top supernatural horror. However, if you look closely, it shows how little we know about the practices we’ve normalized. With the rise of capitalism and the thought process that “we should do the things that make us happy,” we are becoming more and more ignorant about dangerous traditions and modernizing them via festivals. And it could backfire on us any day. In addition to that, “Season of the Witch” rules on every level, and the cliffhanger deserves to be on every “top 10 movie endings of all time” list.
1. ‘Halloween Ends’ (dir. David Gordon Green)
Set four years after the incidents of “Halloween Kills,” Green caps his trilogy by introducing Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a young guy in Haddonfield who was accused of brutally murdering a child while he was babysitting him during Halloween night. After killing Karen (Greer), Michael Myers (Courtney) is nowhere to be found. Laurie (Curtis) has spent a lot of time searching for him, and in this process, she has witnessed the once quaint town turn on itself. And since there’s no boogeyman left to blame for it, they’ve deemed her a freak show and Cunninghman, a psycho. Despite this animosity, both of them continue to persevere. In an attempt to give Allyson (Matichak) a better life, she pushes her in Corey’s general direction so that they can heal together and move on. But since Haddonfield’s mask is off after that night of murder and mayhem, they show the couple that they aren’t going to let them live peacefully, thereby sending Corey off the edge and into a recovering Michael’s lap.
“Halloween Ends” rules because Green (along with Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, and Danny McBride) walks that inexplicably difficult line of subverting expectations and paying off everything that they’ve set up in the past two films. Green’s take on the franchise has always been about Michael merely being a symptom of Haddonfield’s rotting core, which is made up of the residents’ pent-up feelings of paranoia, jealousy, hatred, and the habit of victim blaming. And that if something so vicious and negative isn’t checked properly, Michael isn’t going to be the only thing killing people on the streets of the town. With Corey, that prophecy is fulfilled, and the way it’s executed makes “Halloween” scary again. Because I know the kind of guy Corey represents. I know the kind of girl Allyson represents. I know someone like this version of Laurie in real life. So, seeing them get torn apart, literally and physically, because the town didn’t seek therapy hits too close to home. Also, the kills are exquisite, and the fight between Laurie and Michael is on par with some of the best action scenes out there. Hence, all in all, it’s the best “Halloween” movie (yet) and one of the best movies of the year.