While we readily admit that the "Halloween" series has had its peaks and valleys over the last 40+ years, the great news for horror and movie fans is that the franchise in whole makes for an awesome full course marathon movie binge. The bad entries are junk food guilty pleasures, while the good "Halloween" films are tantalizingly sublime. Scary tricks and treats, ranked here to the mightiest Michael Myers of them all…
12) Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
On the plus side, "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" features both original "Halloween" hero Donald Pleasance as old reliable Dr. Sam Loomis, and future Ant-Man Paul Rudd as the grown-up Tommy Doyle. Tommy's the little boy Laurie Strode babysat in the original, and the character's back again in the new "Halloween Kills," now played by "Breakfast Club" star Anthony Michael Hall.
The bad news is that "Curse" is just that – pretty bad. It's often boring, more than a little unpleasant and unnecessarily complicated. As in, Michael Myers is no longer the blank slate cipher of evil that he really always should be. Instead, "Curse" reveals that young Mike was the unfortunate victim of an ancient Druid cult that made him kill his family. Say again? Like we said, totally unnecessary, completely ridiculous. However, if you're a franchise completist…or a Paul Rudd mega fan…enter...but with caution.
11) Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
While we love Busta Rhymes as a karate-chopping producer who actually does get in some good blows on our guy Michael Myers, the rest of "Halloween: Resurrection" is a bit dead on arrival. Besides committing the ultimate mistake of offing Jamie Lee Curtis' supreme scream queen Laurie Strode in the first half hour, the rest of the movie presents little of interest to take her place. The plot, something about ambitious twentysomethings shooting an internet show in Myers' childhood abode, comes off as a hackneyed attempt to capitalize on low rent "Blair Witch" type footage. It's kind of a cheap move – and cheap movie.
10) Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
After "Halloween 4" reignited the franchise with a return to fine slasher genre form – and one hell of a kicker at the end – the follow-up mostly missed. For one, it turns out that young Jamie (Danielle Harris), daughter of Laurie Strode, would not assume the mantle of her homicidal, now-deceased Uncle Myers after all. Second, it turns out Uncle Mike isn't dead after all. He just drifted down the river, where he's nursed back to health by some old guy, and then comes back to haunt Haddonfield again. It's nice to see Donald Pleasance also back again to fight his eternal nemesis…but it's more dark and dreary than dark and fun. And what's with the two aloof cops and that recurring sound effect on the score?
9) H2: Halloween II (2009)
"Halloween II," the Rob Zombie version, is sort of the cinematic equivalent of Michael Bay's "Bad Boys II" (or maybe "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"). Basically, it's everything from the first episode, but with the director unleashed to pursue his fever dream to its fullest extent. So everything is more. More kills. More blood. More insanity. Dependent on what you think of said director, you might like this. Zombie's freed from having to rehash the Michael Myers origin story from the John Carpenter version. And he goes nuts, with lots of strange imagery, visions from Michael's past of his messed-up family, and lots of unfiltered nastiness. It's not at all pretty (we feel for Octavia Spencer, one of Myers' many victims here), but if you're a hardcore Zombie fan, enjoy the circus.
8) Halloween (2007)
Slightly less intense (on a relative scale) but more coherent is Rob Zombie's first go-round in the "Halloween" franchise. The filmmaker does a good job of filling in Michael's childhood with all kinds of macabre details – torturing animals, killing a local bully, murdering his stepdad [in addition to his sister and her beau]. Plus, the heavy metal musician-turned-horror director is unafraid to push the gore to extreme levels. So it is different. And yet, it also recreates the '78 version faithfully, but with lots of over-the-top flourishes. Those who wanted to see a new perspective on "Halloween" got exactly that. Those who didn't…well, there's always the original.
7) Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Back when "Halloween III" came out in theaters, fans of the franchise were understandably confused. Where's Michael Myers? Where's Laurie Strode? What does any of part "III" have to do with the "Halloween" film series? As it turns out, not much and quite a lot. Originally, first "Halloween" director John Carpenter, still a producer and composer here, meant for the series to be an anthology if it was to continue on. His vision was that each subsequent film, other than being set around Halloween and featuring plenty of thrills, would be its own complete story. Nowadays, given the concepts of series like "True Detective" and "American Horror Story," that would be no biggie. But in '82, audiences were chomping at the bit for more Michael, and were not into this story of Halloween masks that turn kids into goo, and a coven of witches atop the corporate ladder responsible for it all. Thankfully, as the years went on, this oddity in the franchise kept getting better. It's different, it has a wicked clever novelty tune, and Carpenter stalwart Tom Atkins kicks butt as the heroic doctor in action.
6) Halloween II (1981)
While Carpenter himself has disowned the follow-up to his original, we're here to proclaim that it does have its pleasures. Taking place the same night as the first film, "Halloween II" has Michael Myers coming for Laurie Strode at the hospital – and slashing anyone who gets in his way. It's not nearly as amazing as the previous time around, but as far as slashers go, it's not half bad. Taking its cue from recent at-the-time "Friday the 13th," "Halloween II" ups the gore factor, and layers on another great music score, from John Carpenter and Alan Howarth.
5) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
By 1988, the "Halloween" producers were fully aware that the anthology approach taken in part 3 was not going to work. New icons on the block Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees were starting to gain major legs and limbs up on the original slasher franchise. What to do? Get back to the basics, with lots of extra crunch. Part 4 finds Michael Myers back in town, and tracking the now-deceased Laurie Strode's daughter Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). Donald Pleasance is also back as Dr. Loomis, with his pitched intensity at volume level eleven. It's all good slasher '80s gore style fun, with a final shot that promises a shocking new direction. Sadly, that promise would be squandered in the next installment.
4) Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Twenty years after the original, Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode made her return to the series – and effectively nullified the events of parts 4 – 6. Here, along with the help of Josh Harnett as her son, Michelle Williams as his girlfriend, and "Scream" scribe Kevin Williamson as the film's executive producer, Curtis/Strode carries the franchise to its logical, effective conclusion – killing off Michael Myers once and for all - until the next episode of course.
3) Halloween Kills (2021)
In case you're looking for thrills at the theaters this weekend (or at home on Peacock), "Halloween Kills" is decidedly better than the mixed critical reviews indicate. While it's true that Laurie Strode is sidelined for much of the film's run time at the hospital (in keeping with the original "Halloween II"), the confrontations between Michael Myers and much of Haddonfield's community make for some visceral, over-the-top horror that should please genre purists. And the director's insistence to include social themes about mob rules and the devastations of generational trauma isn't a bad thing. If anything, it makes this entry more interesting, if a bit overstuffed.
October 15, 2021
2) Halloween (2018)
Forty years after the original, Jamie Lee Curtis returned again to the franchise in a successful reinvention from filmmaker David Gordon Green. This time, everything but the first film was jettisoned. And the film's the better for it, focusing on a Laurie Strode who's kept her trauma up close and personal for four decades. That way, when Michael Myers really does return home here, she's ready for him. She may be a little more grey and less spry, but she's also wise. While her daughter, granddaughter, and the town are blind to the signs, she is not, and she's made sure to train herself for this next confrontation. No longer a victim, this Laurie is the aggressor in the film's awesome finale. The movie's better than everything but John Carpenter's "Halloween," and the cherry on top is Carpenter's new score, composed with son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies.
1) Halloween (1978)
Next year, "Halloween Ends" will end the franchise (maybe) at lucky number 13. Why so many movies? Why the fuss? John Carpenter's "Halloween" is the vital reason. It's a classic in the horror genre, and a landmark in movie history. Its influence over every scary movie that followed is immeasurable. And strangely, it features only a handful of onscreen deaths, and very little blood. That it's still one of the scariest movies you'll ever see is what makes it great. The direction, the acting, the cinematography, Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Michael Myers, the legendary music – it's as impactful today as the year it was released. It's not just one of the greatest horror movies. It's one of the best movies ever.
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.