Every Halloween Movie Ranked from Best to Worst

Halloween

The Halloween movies have become synonymous with… well, Halloween. For over forty years, and over the course of 13 movies, Halloween has become a staple of the horror genre and an absolute must-watch every time the jack-o-lanterns come out and the trick-or-treaters come knocking.

Call them essential viewing for any horror fan. Today, audiences remember them not only for establishing the modern slasher movie but also for introducing one of the most terrifying villains in filmdom in the form of the Shape, Michael Myers.

As good as some of the Halloween movies are, however, like any franchise composed of sequel after sequel,  some entries run out of gas (a common trope with most horror series) and just plain stink. From the series' earliest installments up to its latest sequels and reboots, here is every film in the Halloween series ranked from best to worst.

1. Halloween

Halloween Movies Ranked
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Could anyone ever top the original, especially when it revolutionized horror movies? Perhaps director John Carpenter's most successful and beloved movie, cinema historians Halloween the first-ever modern slasher movie, responsible for putting the horror subgenre on the map and paving the way for future horror franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th.

It's a simple, effective horror movie that has pretty much no gore, has only a few jump scares, and has one of the most iconic horror theme songs and villains of all time. Borrowing from earlier genre inspirations like Psycho and Black Christmas, Carpenter shot the original Halloween on a shoestring budget, using a younger cast of unknown (the exception being established character actor Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis, one of the actor's most celebrated roles), with a young director only just beginning to learn his craft.

However, Carpenter not only exceeded the odds with Halloween, but he also shattered them, making one of the most profitable horror movies of his day, and creating one of the best-reviewed slasher movies in an era. This came at a time when the subgenre didn't command a great deal of respect. Since its initial release in 1978, Halloween's reputation has grown over the years, remaining the quintessential slasher movie in all of horror. Ask pretty much any horror movie fan: a Halloween spent without watching the original Halloween is a Halloween wasted.

2. Halloween (2018)

Halloween Movies Ranked
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Hollywood has seen a new trend in recent years, wherein producers make a direct sequel that ties to the first entry in a franchise and ignores all other (subpar) sequels that followed the original. Look at how Terminator: Dark Fate follows Judgment Day, ignoring Rise of the Machines, Salvation, and Genisys, or how the new Candyman movie ties in only to the original film, retconning the two sequels that followed. Case in point here with Halloween '18, which may have been the first movie to use this recent retconning idea and proved how successful it can be when implemented in the right way.

Set forty years after the first Halloween, the entry in the Halloween franchise follows Michael Myers, just after he breaks out of a psychiatric hospital and returns to Haddonfield. A wizened Laurie Strode, who has spent the past four decades readying herself for the inevitable day Myers to return and hunt her and her family down, must face The Shape once more.

After what he perceived as the somewhat disappointing Rob Zombie Halloween remakes, John Carpenter returned to the franchise as a creative consultant with this movie, offering his input after a forty-year-long absence from the series.

The movie also features the return of horror heavyweight Jamie Lee Curtis to the franchise after 16 years (she made her last appearance in the franchise with 2002's Halloween: Resurrection), as well as the welcome additions of director and writer David Gordon Green and his frequent collaborator, Danny McBride, as a writer.

With Carpenter's input guiding them, Green and McBride made a worthy sequel that measured up to the original after four decades of subpar follow-ups, returning the franchise to the forefront of horror, and resurrecting the Myers character for a new generation of moviegoers.

3. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

What the newest Halloween did with every single movie in the Halloween franchise except for the original, Halloween tried doing with H20: 20 Years Later, retconning Season of Witch, The Return of Michael Myers, The Revenge of Michael Myers, and The Curse of Michael Myers, and instead existing as a direct sequel to Halloween II.

Starring a returning Jamie Lee Curtis twenty years after her last appearance in Halloween II, a now middle-aged Laurie Strode, suffering from PTSD as a result of her encounters with her brother Michael Myers two decades prior, tries moving on with her life by finding work as a teacher in a private California boarding school with her son, John (Josh Hartnett). Her attempt to start a new, quiet life and overcome her past traumas, however, is interrupted by the sudden reappearance of Michael, who attempts to hunt Laurie and her son down once and for all.

While H20 isn't the worst movie ever, it feels somewhat off for a Halloween film, similar more in style and tone to the then-modern Scream movies that dominated the slasher genre in the 1990s.

It might help that H20 started as a story by Kevin Williamson, the writer behind the Scream franchise. Perhaps the best sequel in the Halloween franchise prior to the newer Halloween (which of course retconned this movie) 20 Years Later remains a favorite of horror fans and Halloween fanatics alike.

4. Halloween II

Halloween 2
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Obviously, Halloween II had a lot to live up to with its release. Taking place after the events of the first movie, Halloween II follows the returning main characters — Michael, Laurie, and Dr. Loomis — as they try to deal with the aftermath of the events of Halloween.

Resolving the cliffhanger in the original movie, Dr. Loomis attempts to track down the missing Michael, who targets an injured Laurie as she is taken to a local hospital to treat the injuries she sustained at Michael’s hands. A so-so movie in and of itself, Halloween II has a few interesting elements. For starters, the movie introduces the idea that Laurie and Michael are long-lost siblings, something that played a major role in each sequel, as well as Rob Zombie's remakes.

In addition, the film tried to conclude Michael and Laurie's storyline, with producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill attempting to establish the franchise as a horror anthology series, a plan they tried out with Halloween III: Season of the Witch, though later abandoned. Today, the revelation regarding Laurie and Michael's relationship remains somewhat controversial, with some fans loving the personal aspect it brings to the series. In contrast, others felt it an unnecessary and out-of-nowhere plot twist.

Regardless, Halloween II is no doubt one of the better sequels in the franchise — which, given how bad some of the later sequels are — doesn't say very much.

5. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Carpenter intended the Halloween franchise as an ambitious anthology film series of movies set during Halloween with their individual storylines, characters, settings, and themes. With Michael Myers' story concluded with Halloween II, John Carpenter and Debra Hill set out to make Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Starring the underrated character actor Tom Atkins and Dan O'Herlihy, the movie follows a strange plot that involves Halloween masks used to kill thousands of people on Halloween night.

A now-unique entry in the Halloween franchise due to it being the sole movie without Michael in it, Season of the Witch has only grown in popularity over the years, gaining a serious cult dedication as a standalone horror film. It's also a great “what-if” look into what the franchise might have taken instead of relying on Michael Myers, offering a fresh spin on the horror series that few producers ever tried pulling off.

After a lukewarm reception and less than stellar box office earnings, the studio abandoned Carpenter and Hill's ideas for anthology format, with Michael Myers returning to the series six years later in Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers.

6. Halloween Ends

Halloween Ends Movie
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The thirteenth and most recent entry in the Halloween series, Halloween Ends is billed as the film that will close the curtains on the Halloween franchise.

Whether that will be the case remains to be seen (slasher properties have a way of evading permanent death, much like Michael Myers himself). But there's a good chance it’ll be the last Halloween movie for a while— as well as the one that draws Laurie and Michael’s story to a close.

Four years after the events of Halloween Kills, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) tries to come to terms with her daughter’s brutal death at Michael’s hands. As she tries to maintain a healthy relationship with her granddaughter (Andi Matichak), Michael returns to Haddonfield one last time, confronting his old nemesis Laurie in an all-out battle.

Like Halloween Kills and a number of other titles on this list, Halloween Ends leans on the genre tropes and conventions surrounding the slasher. However, it still tries to forge a different kind of horror film in a genre that’s become formulaic.

Its ending may divide fans — some viewing it as a satisfying way to end the series while others are left wanting more — but for the most part, it’s a fitting final chapter for Laurie and Michael’s decade-spanning story.

7. Halloween Kills

Halloween
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

With 2018’s Halloween, the Halloween franchise again reasserted its place as the dominant series in modern horror. However well received it had been by fans and critics, though, the reception to Halloween ‘18 was countered by the negative press Halloween Kills received three years later.

Moments after the end of the 2018 Halloween, Michael Myers escapes from the fire set by Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her family. Now once again free to stalk the residents of Haddonfield, Michael begins a slow, violent journey to his childhood home, racking up a higher and higher body count as he crosses town.

Halloween ‘18 spelled renewed hope for the Halloween series — a chance to improve upon the awful sequels that followed in the wake of the original movie. As it is, this 2021 sequel is just as middling an effort as the dozen other Halloween films that preceded it.

Still, Halloween Kills isn't as awful as some of the lesser Halloween sequels, but it fell flat when it came to following up on the esteem of the 2018 Halloween.

8. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

The Return of Michael Myers
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

After the underwhelming financial and critical success of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which attempted to distance itself from Michael Myers, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers returned to the story of Michael after his apparent demise at the end of Halloween II. Ser ten years after Halloween II, Michael awakens from a coma and returns to Haddonfield to hunt down his young niece, Jamie, Laurie Strode's daughter.

To prevent Michael from harming the young girl, Myers's archenemy, Dr. Loomis (once again played by Donald Pleasence), tries to find and protect Jamie before Michael can get his hands on her. If the producers had hoped The Return of Michael Myers marked the series as a return to form able to capture the success of the original Halloween, they failed.

The movie marked the first Halloween installment that didn't involve original producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill, both of whom perhaps recognized the fact that The Return aimed to cash in on the slasher craze engulfing horror at the time, creating sequels for sequels' sake to compete with other disappointing franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Friday the 13th movies.

From a commercial standpoint, the new producers succeeded, with The Return becoming a huge financial success, sparking renewed potential for future Halloween movies centered around the Shape in each new Halloween franchise entry.

9. Halloween (2007)

Halloween 2007
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

In the mid-to-late 2000s, numerous horror franchises (especially slashers) saw remakes that attempted to revitalize each major franchise with more modern stories and an updated style of filmmaking—which just meant darker, more violent stories that attempted to overcome some of the cheesier elements from the '80s and '90s that modern audiences chuckled at.

This resulted in failed remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, among others. That includes Halloween, with director Rob Zombie attempting to remake the original film with his signature blend of ultra-violent horror.

Like most horror remakes that came about at that point — Zombie had less than great results: a violent horror movie that made for an often difficult film to watch owing to its extreme content.

With Halloween, Zombie attempted to remake the classic horror movie in his own way, examining the psyche of Myers, including his childhood upbringing, as potential reasons that explain his reason for turning into a killer.

While an interesting direction for the franchise to take, some expressed disappointment at such a deep explanation regarding Myers' motives. That included Michael’s creator, John Carpenter, who believed that such an explanation ruined the mystique of the character, who is always at his scariest when his motives remain a mystery. Some horror and Halloween fans seemed to enjoy the movie, however, resulting in a sequel, Halloween II (2009), just two years later.

10. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The sixth entry in the Halloween franchise, The Curse of Michael Myers, went all-in regarding the supernatural elements of the Michael Myers character, offering some magical explanations as to why Michael is an unstoppable, immortal killing machine. As the movie explains (sorry for spoilers here), an ancient curse of Gaelic origins gave Michael his signature paranormal powers and abilities.

Starring a returning Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis in his fifth and final outing as the character (he passed away eight months before the film's release) and a young Paul Rudd as Tommy, the boy Laurie Strode babysat in the original movie, The Curse of Michael Myers offered a somewhat pointless, in-depth reason for Michael's powers.

As John Carpenter himself later griped about the Rob Zombie Halloween remakes, explaining Michael's origins in too much depth or applying some paranormality destroys the mystery and aura the character possesses—the less that is explained about him, the scarier he is.

Though panned upon initial release, in more recent years, an alternative cut of the movie with 45 minutes of additional footage and an alternative ending dubbed “The Producer's Cut” has circulated online to somewhat better reviews.

11. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers pretty much follows the same story presented in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, with Michael, once again trying to hunt down his niece, Jamie, now mute and suffering from PTSD from her experiences during the events of Halloween 4, with Michael's counterpart, the psychiatrist Dr. Loomis, trying to stop him.

The biggest difference between this entry and The Return of Michael Myers, however, is the introduction of the strange psychic connection between Michael and Jamie. Fans see it as a riff on the ESP elements used to a better degree in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (perhaps the single time Friday the 13th has ever done anything better than Halloween).

Just as its plot had been similar to the previous entry in the Halloween franchise, The Revenge of Michael Myers received a similar critical reception upon release —a negative one.

Critics noted the disappointing turn the series had taken in establishing itself as yet another slasher franchise in a market full of other disappointing horror sequels.

12. Halloween II (2009)

Halloween II 2009
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Rob Zombie's sequel to his earlier 2007 remake of Halloween, Halloween II shows off Zombie's wild ambition. Set two years after Zombie's previous Halloween movie, Halloween II features each of the three main characters — Laurie, Dr. Loomis, and Michael himself — trying to process what happened in the first movie. Laurie attempts to overcome PTSD and the mental trauma she suffered from her encounter with Michael in the first movie, Dr. Loomis tries to cash in on the events by writing a book about it, and Michael attempts to reunite with Laurie, revealed as his sister in this movie (similar to the original Halloween II‘s revelation that Laurie and Michael are siblings).

Zombie's sequel reveals a darker, violent interpretation of the Michael Myers character—even more so than his first movie. While Zombie's plans for this movie may have been well-intentioned, showing each character's psyche and response to the horrific events of the first movie, the movie earned criticism for its violent content, with critics and fans not warming to many of the ideas Zombie tried presenting with this movie.

13. Halloween: Resurrection

Halloween Resurrection e1666862227496
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

A sequel to Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (which acted as a sequel to Halloween II and ignored the events of Halloweens III through 6), Halloween: Resurrection is… well, it's just bad.

Starring Jamie Lee Curtis again as Laurie Strode, this time around, the Shape returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, where his former childhood home has since been converted into the main setting of a live TV horror show.

Resurrection had been seen as a disappointing follow-up to the already mixed reception of H20, with many critics and fans deeming it an unnecessary movie that—like the series’ earlier sequels during the slasher craze of the '80s and '90s—had been made to cash in on the sudden surge in popularity of slashers after Scream‘s success. By 2002, the slasher craze had died down, thanks to underwhelming attempts at horror sequels like Resurrection.

Author: Richard Chachowski

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Classic Film, Contemporary Film and TV, Video Games, Comic Books

Bio:

Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Wealth of Geeks, Fangoria, Looper, Screen Rant, and MSN. He received a BA in Communication Studies and a BA in Journalism and Professional Writing from The College of New Jersey in 2021. He has been a professional writer since 2020. His geeky areas of interest include Star Wars, travel writing, horror, video games, comic books, literature, and animation.