With the most recent Halloween movie now streaming on Netflix, Sarah Ward revisits one of horror cinema’s most iconic franchises—ranking every Michael Myers stabfest from worst to best.
There are few certainties in this life but, for the past 42 years, the continued resurrection of Michael Myers has been one of them. The mask-wearing serial killer always returns—whether hunting down Laurie Strode in their hometown of Haddonfield, or terrorising peripherally or not-at-all connected characters.
John Carpenter hasn’t sat in the director’s chair since the first 1978 film, but the series and characters he created with Debra Hill are never away from cinema screens for long. With the most recent Halloween film—2018’s David Gordon Green-directed Halloween—now on Netflix, we’ve ranked every entry in the franchise from worst to best.
Given it’s the movie that killed the slasher series for years, Halloween: Resurrection’s title is deeply amusing. That’s the only enjoyment fans will get from this woeful instalment, the eighth entry in the saga proving tired, bland, sloppy and rushed. Resurrection smacks of a generic script that could’ve fuelled any old flick, with Michael Myers and Laurie Strode shoehorned in. Premise-wise, it’s also predicated upon the most 2002 idea possible: stranding a group of college students in Michael’s childhood house, then filming it for an internet reality TV show. Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks lead the cast, naturally.
There are only two positives to Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers: Donald Pleasance and Danielle Harris. Making his fourth appearance as Dr Samuel Loomis, Pleasance isn’t at his best, but he’s a welcome presence. Once again playing Jamie Lloyd, Michael’s niece and Laurie’s daughter, Harris tries to improve by-the-numbers material. She never quite takes the mantle as Jamie Lee Curtis’s successor, but given that her character is primarily tasked with luring Michael into a trap, that’s hardly surprising. The psychic link aspect of the plot, with Jamie and Michael connecting telepathically, is also one of the worst things in the franchise.
There’s no doubting that 2009’s Halloween II is a Rob Zombie film. It arrived two years after he first reimagined the franchise and, in his typical style, it’s filled with gore aplenty. But while his additions to the fold stand out in tone and Zombie-esque slasher antics, that doesn’t make them any good—just different to the rest of the series. In this sequel, Zombie attempts to explore the impact that violence has on everyone affected—especially on Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). While that’s a noble aim, it doesn’t bear the weight it should.
One of the most terrifying elements of John Carpenter’s Halloween is the lack of substantial explanation for Michael’s actions, both as a boy and during his main killing spree. That’s one of the things that make his attacks so unnerving: the idea that they’re just random acts of violence that could befall anyone (even if 1981’s Halloween II negates that by providing a reason). But in Zombie’s remake, he gives Michael’s justification from the outset. It’s a significant misstep that undercuts the terror of his actions. Elsewhere, Zombie’s Halloween plays out exactly as everyone expected from a Zombie-directed Halloween flick.
In 1995, Paul Rudd cozied up to Alicia Silverstone in Clueless and a star was born. That year he also added the less-impressive Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers to his resume. Rudd plays the grown up version of Tommy Doyle, the boy Laurie babysat in the first Halloween. Yes, the writers were stretching to keep the series going, and to manufacture whatever connections to the original they could. When a franchise resorts to roping in random relatives—aka new Strodes—that doesn’t bode well. Nor does a narrative that, as centred around a Druid curse, is equally routine and convoluted.
No spoiler alert required: as Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers’ title announces, Michael makes a comeback after sitting out Halloween III: Season of the Witch. With its masked villain returning, it follows Halloween II’s timeline, albeit 10 years after the initial attacks. It also mimics the original Halloween’s storyline far too closely, as though the franchise’s powers-that-be assumed lightning would strike twice. A few details change, including the new focus on Jamie, but Return always feels like an unconvincing facsimile. Still, that’s far preferable to some of the other dull and ridiculous chapters that followed.
Laurie didn’t survive The Return of Michael Myers, but Halloween H20 brings her back—because the franchise is just better with Jamie Lee Curtis. Two decades after her run-in with Michael, Laurie is a private school principal. Ignoring the fourth, fifth and sixth films (and erasing Jamie), she’s a single mother to a teenage son (Josh Hartnett), which gives Michael another target. H20 is formulaic, and content to let Michael slash his way through a new bunch of teens (including Michelle Williams). However it’s more entertaining than most of the franchise’s later sequels. Also, Curtis’ mother and Psycho star Janet Leigh makes an appearance.
The only Halloween follow-up with Carpenter and Hill as screenwriters, Halloween II picks up the moment that its predecessor ends. Alas, because the original works so well by itself, exploring what instantly comes next always feels superfluous. So does the big twist, which subsequently shaped the franchise’s overall path until 2018’s Halloween smartly decided to scrap it. That said, this hospital-set film does include a number of memorable scenes as its charts Michael’s continued pursuit of Laurie, as well as Loomis’ efforts to keep tracking his murderous former patient. But it’s still a clear step down from the initial Halloween.
There’s an immense difference between great Halloween films, watchable entries in the franchise and terrible chapters—the latter of which outweigh the first two categories by a considerable margin. Although Halloween III: Season of the Witch doesn’t feature Michael, it’s one of the great Halloween movies. The setup: as October 31 approaches, Silver Shamrock merchandise starts proving popular. At the same time, a spate of murders occurs with links to their Halloween masks. As well as unleashing one of the catchiest jingles there is upon the world, Witch spins in supernatural and sci-fi elements to entertaining effect.
With H20, the franchise demonstrated that it’d happily ignore awful previous chapters to tell a better story. 2018’s Halloween goes one step further, ignoring everything but John Carpenter’s initial film. This David Gordon Green-directed sequel understands what made its predecessor so powerful and effective, but never blandly attempts to offer up yet another copy. Michael is back, teens fall into his clutches and Haddonfield definitely isn’t safe. However Halloween smartly provides a thoughtful and ferocious contemplation of Strode’s journey, with Curtis as formidable as ever.
A perfect slasher film, the original Halloween didn’t just lead the way for its ten sequels and remakes to date, plus two to come (Halloween Kills and 2021’s Halloween Ends). It also transformed its sub-genre, with every movie about a knife-wielding maniac made since owing it a debt. A straightforward story told well will do that. Throw in Curtis’ engaging performance as a teen experiencing a traumatic night, the instant unease Michael evokes with every appearance, Carpenter’s restrained visual storytelling and that iconic score, and Halloween is a horror masterpiece. It astutely captures the anxiety of falling victim to a deranged killer for no discernible reason—an idea as scary as anything else in the film.