The original Halloween movie is very sneakily probably the movie I have seen more than any other.
It seems weird, but I watched it a lot as a kid, and even as an adult I watch it with some regularity during the Halloween season. So usually at least once more with each passing year. Every fall, the leaves change, the weather gets colder, and I watch Halloweens 1, 4, and 5. If not more of them.
It only recently dawned on me that I watch it so much… probably more than movies I like slightly better, such as Hot Fuzz or Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. There’s just no thematic time of year to pop in Hot Fuzz, you know? But Halloween? Man, it’s right there in the title.
There are so many other Halloweens, though! There are seriously three just called “Halloween”. It’s the Weezer’s “Self-Titled” Album of Movie titles. You don’t discern it by the name; you discern it by the year or the director (as you separate Weezer albums by their coloration). Some across the entire franchise, I have seen many times; others I have seen only once. But if I were to rank them all, what would that look like?
I’M GLAD YOU ASKED.
It’s actually been over two years since I last went through the Halloween franchise and ordered the franchise by my preference. Since then, TWO shiny new movies have been released! How do they affect the rankings? Let’s take a look…
#13. Halloween: Resurrection
There are great Halloween flicks. There are good Halloween flicks. And there are bad Halloween flicks.
And watching Halloween Resurrection makes the “bad” Halloween flicks look great. Even in those bad ones, I can say something positive. But not this one.
This movie is just so painfully of its era that it must have felt dated within two years of its release. Michael Myers Vs A Reality Show Competition? With smarmy early 2000’s teenager characters? God. I hope Michael remembered to update his Livejournal and download a song off of Kazaa in between kills.
This movie also kills Jamie Lee Curtis off, like, 5 minutes in, rewrites the badass ending to Halloween H20, and has Busta Rhymes look like Roman Reigns against Michael. Like I said… there are bad Halloween movies. And then there’s Resurrection. There is nothing good here.
#12. Rob Zombie’s Halloween II
This movie never felt like it wanted to exist. I have no idea what the truth behind it is, but if you told me that the studio kidnapped Rob Zombie’s beloved pet goat and told him he HAD to make a sequel to 2007’s Halloween, I’d believe you.
It’s incoherent and sloppy and doesn’t really do a lot well from a story standpoint. Michael spends way too much time unmasked, talks at the end, and straddles a line so poorly between “unstoppable, mystical force” and “just a big dude” that nothing makes sense in either direction.
The Mom And Her Horse plot is nonsense that belonged in another movie. The less said about that, the better. Oh, and Michael develops telekinesis, I guess? Whatever.
The good? The acting is actually, somehow, borderline phenomenal, particularly from Scout Taylor-Compton, Danielle Harris, and Brad Dourif. They make this flick watchable. They put in a level of quality and effort this story did not deserve.
#11. Halloween Ends
I wrote an entire article this week on the absurdity that was Halloween Ends. And it still just keep tickling the back of my brain. I’m not sure what happened here.
There was a good idea here. I positively liked what they tried to do here. But you can’t do THIS STORY in a movie you’ve advertised as the end of a forty year journey! This is a mid-franchise arc where you introduce some new aspects and build to how it will all affect things going forward.
It feels like Halloween Ends just forgot what it was and lost its own focus. Good idea–I honestly think so; you could have told this story with Judy Greer’s character after Kills instead of Corey–but TERRIBLE execution.
#10. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
How to rate this movie?
Halloween 3 is nefariously the Un-Halloween. No Laurie, Loomis, Jamie, or Michael. Instead we get a weird plot about Stonehenge and evil robots. It’s like a bad fantasy movie and a bad science fiction movie hung out for a while and wished they were a famous horror franchise.
It’s not awful by any stretch; it just doesn’t work. It shouldn’t be called “Halloween 3” (it should have stood on its own), and it should have decided whether it wanted to be about Samhain or robots, and not tried to force them together. You have this weird juxtaposition of the occult and evil modern technology, and it leaves both ends feeling unsatisfied.
The good is that… it’s different! And the evil plot may feel generic (“Murder all children…”), but is carried out in a really fun and creative way (“…by turning their heads into rattlesnakes and cockroaches!”). Oh, and the ending is legitimately TREMENDOUS.
#9. Rob Zombie’s Halloween
God, I HATE this movie. I don’t even like that it is this high. But Resurrection is dumpster juice, this one’s own sequel feels like it was made at gunpoint, and Season of the Witch is just such an outlier. And then Halloween Ends happened and just befuddled all of us. At the very least, this had the basic bones of a Halloween movie. The very basic, osteoarthritis-inflicted bones.
This movie gave Michael the poor piteous back story that NO ONE asked for, up to and including making him a snotty little brat who deserves a good smack in the face. Daeg Faerch plays pre-teen Michael, and he is just… just the worst. Maybe that’s intentional, but he comes across as more of a petulant jerk than an ominous monster-in-making. I couldn’t stand any scene he was in.
And this goes on FOREVER! Zombie allegedly wanted Michael’s childhood backstory to be its own flick, with a sequel being the actual retelling of Halloween. And it shows in how long the “opening” drags on. But no one needed this.
The good is that Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, and Danielle Harris are all extraordinary, and that for at least the last act, it becomes, you know, HALLOWEEN. Also, there isn’t a white horse in site. Always a plus.
#8. Halloween (2018)
Except for the ardent Halloween 3 apologists, I am sure I didn’t lose anyone with my first four picks. The Zombie Halloweens and Resurrection and widely agreed upon as the worst of the lot, and Season of the Witch is just weird enough that I don’t think anyone faults anyone else for wherever they rank it.
But I might lose people here.
I really did not find Halloween (2018) to be a good effort at all.
Did you ever have a piece of entertainment where, the final product may be fine, but one or two things were done SO POORLY, that you could never get them out of your head?
For me, that’s Halloween 2018’s nonsensical heel turn from Michael’s new doctor. It’s befuddlingly moronic, doesn’t serve the plot at all, and ultimately goes nowhere. And when I think of this movie, that’s right where my mind goes, fair or not. It took me wholly out of the experience. And I never got back into it. I spent the rest of the movie thinking “…but WHY did that happen?”
Andi Matichak stars as the proto-Laurie, the new young female protagonist at the heart of the film, and she is direly forgettable. Compared to those before her (Jamie Lee Curtis, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Scout Taylor-Compton, and even Michelle Williams in a smaller role), she is easily the least memorable. I want to chalk that up to how little she had to work with, but Taylor-Compton did a better job with a worse series of movies.
What’s good here? At least it’s a movie that came from the source material AND doesn’t star Busta Rhymes. Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer are as excellent as they always are. And I respect the daring move to undo the Laurie/Michael relationship that had defined the franchise for 37 years… even though it was never part of the original.
#7. Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers
Paul Rudd was in a Halloween movie! LOVE IT.
Even at such a young age, in his very first role, in a horror slasher flick, he is just so… PAUL RUDD here. He makes little smirky faces and elevates everything else going on around him with his inherent charm and neurotic character. This movie is worth it just for his work. He hasn’t reached his final form yet, but you can see this guy had a future.
This was Donald Pleasance’s last Halloween film before he passed, and that’s a shame because this one is weird. But weird in an endearing way because it just comes so out of nowhere. The screenwriters really did the best they could with the cliffhanger from part five that never had an intended resolution.
There is suddenly a whole CULT built up around Myers, and he is their avatar on Earth. They even give him a little underground bunker to rest in when he is not murdering teenagers, which… sure. Why not? It explains where Michael went between movies, I guess.
Like a lot of the 90’s Halloweens–and everything that came out in the 90’s–this feels very dated today. The shock jock story that moves throughout is such a weird thing that would ONLY work in that decade when we cared who Howard Stern was.
It’s not great, but it does have heart. And Paul Rudd.
BONUS FACT! The last two entries on this list–Halloween 2018 and Halloween 6–are the only two Halloweens I saw in theater when they were new releases! Weird.
#6 Halloween Kills
Look, there have been a lot of bad Halloween movies, and to me… this wasn’t one of them. I always think the hate for this one is overblown.
Like… is this a GOOD movie? No. Do I like the 2018 timeline that eradicated the familial connection between Laurie and Michael? Not at all. But as a Halloween entry, I thought this was fine. It did some stuff right!
I loved the character development of Judy Greer’s Karen, especially in how her inability to save the mental patient just destroys her and has her join the mob she previously hated.
I really liked the Big John / Little John characters. And the doctor and nurse couple we follow for a bit!
And… yeah, okay. That’s all.
But it’s more than I liked about anything below it on this list!
#5. Halloween II
The change from Halloween 1 to Halloween 2 is so abrupt, especially watching them back-to-back as I did this past week.
Gone is the menacing atmosphere and underlying sensation of dread. No longer do you need to worry about scouring the screen for details. And the score is not basically the lead performer anymore. It is all replaced by a Friday The 13th inspired fascination with gore and brutal deaths.
It’s not AS well made as its predecessor, but its acceptable. And to this day, when waiting for and getting on an elevator, I think “Would these doors close fast enough to save me from a slowly walking, masked killer?”. These are the important things to consider. There are moments like that that really stick with you, even if they aren’t AS iconic as those from 1978.
Curtis is at least as good here as she was in the original, and she creates a true sense of victimhood with how vulnerable she is.
#4. Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Listen. No, listen! I don’t want to hear it! Just… you listen, okay?
I really like Halloween 5.
I know a lot of people don’t. I know many of them would pretty happily swap this spot with Season of the Witch or 2018’s offering. I get it; there’s a lot here that doesn’t work. Most notably the killing off of Rachel (and replacing her with Tina, who I think gets more hate than she deserves), the goofy clown music that plays when the dopey cop duo shows up, and the not taking full advantage of Halloween 4’s ending.
All that aside, we get PEAK crazy madman Sam Loomis here, as he is constantly raving and screaming at everyone, and eventually falls into using a little girl as bait. Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd is brilliant once again, and her third act cat-and-mouse chase with Michael throughout the Myers’ house is incredibly intense and well-shot. And yeah, it’s an entirely different house than we’d seen before, but who cares?
Also, you know… it’s a sequel to 4, and I love 4. I have seen them back-to-back a ton and never gotten sick of them.
Oh! And there are kittens, and they don’t die.
Aaaaand, it’s not like this franchise is full of bangers or anything outside of the top 3. So why not? Why shouldn’t I put Halloween 5 here?
#3. Halloween H20
The Halloween franchise’s first (unless you could Halloween 3) attempt at starting a new timeline, the 20th anniversary of Halloween saw the return of Jamie Lee Curtis and the dissolution of the entire Jamie Lloyd canon. And it was worth it because it would give us… the timeline for… Resurrection. Oops!
This is another Halloween movie that knows exactly when it was made, but you know what? Who cares? A lot of them do. From 2018’s inspiration from Doomsday preppers to 2’s surrendering to slasher tropes to the Zombie flicks’ reliance on gore and torture porn era shooting, most of the Halloweens “feel like” their era. Am I going to hold the fact that Scream was a big deal in the late 90’s against H20? I am not. If there hadn’t been a Halloween in 1978, there wouldn’t have been a Scream in 1990-whatever. This was just returning the favor.
Jamie Lee Curtis was her usual perfect self here, and she was a more believable and sympathetic victim than she was in 2018’s iteration. With Halloween 2 remaining in canon for the H20 timeline, a Laurie who is only 20 years out and suffered finding out her brother was a serial killer made a lot more sense than a Laurie who was 40 years out and just almost got killed by a rando once.
The Shape is creepy and terrifying here, and the climax is chilling.
Something something CGI mask. I’ll be honest… I never noticed.
#2. Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers
This is the movie that introduced Jamie Lloyd, Michael Myers’ niece and the daughter of Laurie Strode, who would be the driving force of the next few flicks. Laurie herself is written off in this continuity as having died in an accident since the events of Halloween 2, which is kind of a shame, but the movie makes it work. Honestly, it’s no worse than the weird “Michael’s parents were killed” from part 2 as a way to bring Laurie and Myers into relation.
So after the Season of the Witch interlude, Michael is BACK for this one, and now on the hunt for his niece. It works the formula of the original, and I dig the new characters of Jamie and Rachel, as well as the always-welcomed return of Dr. Loomis! There’s also an angry mob in this movie which I get a bigger kick out of than I should, and everything just feels comfortable. Halloween was Halloween, and Halloween 2 kind of lost its way in trying to ape Friday the 13th. Halloween 4 feels like the more perfect marriage of the original and what the slasher genre had become.
Danielle Harris, Donald Pleasance, and Ellie Cornell carry this story to heights that don’t quite equal the top entry on this list, but come surprisingly close.
#1. Halloween (1978)
The best horror movie of all time. Everything works here: from Curtis’ portrayal as the most noteworthy Final Girl in history, to Michael as the silent, stalking madman, to Donald Pleasance as the bewilderingly charming Dr. Loomis who is either bemoaning “EVIL IS COMING!” at everyone who will listen like a loon, or is wandering the streets and pranking kids. The music and score and, really all of the audio, is foreboding and significant. The directing uses great work with shadows and zooms to build terror. And it’s so smart because there are details in the background throughout the movie you will only notice on several re-watches. This is a movie where the story and acting are both wonderful, but play second fiddle to an unimpeachable atmosphere.
The original Halloween is an incredibly well-constructed flick that maximized its viewers’ sense of dread and created three of the most outstanding characters in all of horror. A deserving classic, and true five-star movie.
But what do you think? How do you place the Halloweens? Give me your rankings in the comments!
Until next time… take care!