While most horror franchises attempt to maintain strict continuity over their films, Halloween has been rebooted or remade no less than 5 times over the course of 11 movies. This could make for a very confusing experience if someone unfamiliar with the franchise were to binge watch the first film through to the last.
Instead of just ranking each film from worst to best, I’ve organized all eleven films into six timelines. That way, you can follow a story arc from beginning to end by picking and choosing just those films involved with that particular timeline. I’ve also ranked each timeline from worst to best taking into account the quality of each individual film.
6. Halloween Anthology Series
Films Included: Halloween III: Season of the Witch
While Halloween III: Season of the Witch has developed a cult following over the years, critics and audiences outright rejected it upon release. To continue the series, Carpenter and his producer Debra Hill envisioned that Michael Myers’ story ended with Halloween II (1981). Each subsequent sequel would now be a stand-alone story with new characters based around a Halloween theme. Their first effort combined witchcraft, computer technology, and consumerist culture into a story about the evil Silver Shamrock Novelties company bent on using cursed children’s masks to bring about a large scale ritual sacrifice to commemorate the Druidic holiday of Samhain.
Season of the Witch is by no means the worst film in the franchise, but given that its failure threw a wrench into Carpenter and Hill’s plans before they even began, it’s best viewed completely independent of the franchise as a whole, if it’s even worth viewing at all.
5. The Curse of Thorn
Films Included: Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
The first two films set the stage. Offscreen, Laurie Strode dies in a car crash. Then Halloween 4 opens with Laurie’s daughter, Jamie Lloyd, suffering from an unexplained supernatural connection to Michael Myers. Halloween 4 is a flawed retread of the original. Halloween 5 and Halloween 6 reveal that Michael Myers is the pawn of a mystical cult who placed a curse on him when he was a child. This curse makes him invincible and emotionlessly driven to kill every member of his family as a sacrifice to keep the cult alive.
Some of the ideas brought up in this series are interesting. However, much of it undermines the idea of Carpenter’s original film, giving Myers too much of a needless backstory that is both confusing and poorly told throughout the fourth, fifth, and sixth installments. These films also waste most of their screen time following really stupid teens and their inevitable fate at the blade of Myers’ butcher knife.
4. Rob Zombie’s Halloween
Films Included: Halloween (2007), Halloween 2 (2009)
Go on YouTube and you will find equal amounts of videos that praise or condemn the 2007 remake and its original concept follow up.
The main talking point of Halloween (2007) is that shock rocker turned director Rob Zombie eschews the mystical elements of Michael Myers and instead gives him a full on origin story. The first hour of the film follows Michael, growing up in a hostile environment of the most despicable rednecks this side of hell. It also suggests that he kills his entire family to save his baby sister, Laurie Strode, from the abuse he suffers every day. In captivity, the deplorable conditions and lack of personal connection turn Michael into a soulless killing machine, who finds peace and enjoyment in brutally murdering anyone who comes across him.
H2 (2009) feels a lot more like a two-hour endurance test of watching Michael Myers commit some of the most explicit and merciless kills in the entire franchise. Meanwhile, Laurie Strode screams, cries, and wallows in self guilt. Sam Loomis has become a diva profiting off his public exploits of the Haddonfield tragedy. The film creates a bleak nightmarish vision of a world where everyone tries to exert a perverse form of authority over each other.
Rob Zombie essentially made two “Rob Zombie” films using Halloween mythology. Both the remake and its sequel are grindhouse exploitation films. In other words, people either love what he brought to the franchise or they despise it.
3. Halloween: Twenty Years Later
Films Included: Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
If we disregard Halloween: Resurrection, and we should, then you can split this timeline into two parts: the night HE came home (Halloween and Halloween II), and the night SHE fought back (20 Years Later).
Halloween H20 opens with Michael Myers, who has escaped from custody, searching for the whereabouts of his sister, Laurie Strode. He finds her disguised under the name of Keri Tate, a high school teacher in California. As expected, the events of 1978 have left a damaging impression on Laurie. She frequently visits therapy, over-protects her son, and suspects Michael Myers may in fact find her and finish what he started as the 20 year anniversary of that fateful night approaches.
The film works on many levels. It spends a lot of time on character development. When Michael Myers shows up, he is merciless and the kills do not shy away from gore. It isn’t scary, particularly due to the inclusion of LL Cool J as comic relief. However, the final showdown between Laurie and Michael is everything a Halloween fan could have hoped for.
Resurrection spits in the face of the entire franchise. It retcons the ending of H20, kills off Laurie Strode fifteen minutes in, and then spends the rest of the film following participants of a reality show finding themselves face to face with the real Michael Myers. The highlight of this film is a scene where Busta Rhymes karate kicks Michael Myers while saying “trick or treat, motherfucker!” John Carpenter certainly could not have been impressed.
2. The Night He Came Home
Films Included: Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981)
John Carpenter’s Halloween is, was, and ever shall be the greatest slasher film of all time. It utilizes silences and slow burn to build tension, suspense, and great payoffs in a way no film has been able to equal. It is essentially perfect. The widescreen CinemaScope gives the small scale story an epic feel. The eerie music is as iconic as the way Michael Myers personifies our deepest, darkest fears as an unstoppable force waiting for the right time to strike, a symbol for the kind of themes we associate with the season. It has a beginning, middle, and end. Full stop.
Halloween II continues the story as if there were no credits in between the two films. The film functions primarily as an extended third act to the original story. Most of it plays out in the hospital that Laurie has been taken to for recovery. Michael Myers dispatches the cops and nurses in his way while Loomis is determined to stop Michael once and for all. This is also where we learn that Michael Myers is Laurie Strode’s sister, a reveal that demystifies his stature in the original film. While the violence has been amplified and the body count doubled, Halloween II fails to capture the essence of its predecessor. But as a standard, run of the mill slasher, it’s entertaining enough to give the full picture of what happened on October 31, 1978 in Haddonfield, Illinois.
Films Included: Halloween (1978), Halloween (2018)
Since nothing can really compare to the iconic original, it isn’t fair to say that David Gordon Green’s 2018 addition to the franchise is a true return to form. Halloween (2018) retcons every sequel, giving audiences a Laurie Strode who is now a paranoid grandmother hell bent on protecting her family from the inevitable return of Michael Myers. Like the original film, Halloween (2018) keeps the story simple. The action is mostly contained in Haddonfield. The movie doesn’t overcomplicate Myers’ motivations, nor does it try to reinvent the wheel. It’s an efficient slasher with a few questionable story decisions, but overall a really fun ride that could also work effectively without having seen the first one.
This past weekend saw David Gordon Green’s Halloween hit a record breaking series high, with Box Office Mojo reporting a 91 million dollar worldwide three day opening. All the other big horror franchises like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw, and Paranormal Activity seem to have come and gone, but Halloween is here to stay.