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Ranking the "Halloween" Movies

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Matt Bird writes all sorts of nonsense, but he dedicates a large chunk of his time to writing game walkthroughs.

Copyright 1978 by Compass International Pictures.

Copyright 1978 by Compass International Pictures.

One of the first long-term horror franchises to really capture the imagination of Western moviegoers, Halloween is both incredibly simple and surprisingly complex. Charting the murderous path of masked madman Michael Myers as he chases series protagonist Laurie Strode, Halloween is full of plot twists, family intrigue, mixed motivations, and supernatural suspense - yet it all generally boils down to one man with one knife.

There are a lot of Halloween movies, and choosing one to stand out over the others is tricky. Nevertheless we will give ranking Michael Myers' movies a shot and see which ones are worth watching.

Copyright 1982 by Universal Pictures.

Copyright 1982 by Universal Pictures.

Honorable Mention - Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Season of the Witch is the far left field oddball entry in the Halloween series, and for years it was easily the most-reviled movie of the lot. This film managed to put Halloween on hold for six years before a fourth film was made. Why? Well... suffice it to say, the quality of Season of the Witch had little to do with its unpopularity.

Season of the Witch begins with a desperate man being chased by someone in a suit. Man one kills man two in gruesome fashion but winds up in a hospital himself. The patient is then killed by another man in a suit, and his attending doctor takes up the mystery of who did him in, and why. The doctor is joined by the man's daughter, and they set out to investigate a suspicious company, Silver Shamrock, which makes a line of popular Halloween masks. Silver Shamrock is behind a catchy commercial with a countdown, and time is running out.

Notice the issue with that summary? It's probably obvious: No Michael Myers. Halloween cameos on a few TVs in Season of the Witch, rendering the first two films a fiction within a fiction. John Carpenter wanted to turn the franchise into an anthology, with Halloween Night as the unifying theme. Fans of Halloween and Halloween II didn't like that Michael Myers had been kicked to the curb, however, and Season of the Witch was critically drubbed.

It's a shame, too, because this film is fine. Sure, it's not top-tier horror material, but the acting is decent, the premise is solid, and there's still plenty of gore for disappointed slasher fans. Ranked with the rest of the Halloween movies, Season of the Witch would be in the top five. But it's going to remain an honorable mention here, because Halloween III is far closer to an episode of the Twilight Zone than a proper sequel to the franchise.

Copyright 2002 by Miramax Pictures.

Copyright 2002 by Miramax Pictures.

11. Halloween: Resurrection

Released 20 years after the original Halloween, Halloween H20 was a successful return to form after several so-so sequels. It's a shame, then, that the handlers of Michael Myers' legacy decided to take what made H20 good and throw it right out the window for Halloween: Resurrection. This. Movie. Stinks!

Resurrection immediately gets off on the wrong foot by putting Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode in a mental hospital, over-explaining the events of H20, bringing back Michael Myers in the dumbest way imaginable, and killing Laurie. Ugh. With Laurie gone the action shifts to a group of teens recruited into a reality TV show, tasked to spend a night in Michael Myers' childhood home. All the spooky stuff happening in the house appears to be rigged by the producers... and then Michael shows up. He doesn't like people touching his stuff.

The movie's many other sins aside, Resurrection's decision to negate H20's empowering end for Laurie is incredibly disappointing. Her brief scuffle with Michael is decent, but killing her off so early in the movie also kills any interest in the rest of the film. None of the other actors - not even poor Katee Sackhoff - come close to matching Jamie Lee Curtis' acting chops, and their characters are all surface-level nothings. The reality show plot feels like a bandwagon gimmick, and what should be a tense night in the Myers household (which is way too big) devolves into a goofy mess of limp jump scares and weird, often slow-mo moments. Sean Patrick Thomas blinding Myers with pepper and then going into dual-wielding knife mode? Gratuitous Tyra Banks dancing butt shots? Busta Rhymes kung-fu fighting?

(Why is Busta Rhymes even in this movie, let alone made the hero in the end? He is not the character who should be preaching about the dangers of reality entertainment in the last five minutes.)

If you liked Halloween H20, you should not watch Resurrection. It destroys everything great about its predecessor's ending and serves up a bland, cheap replacement. This film isn't scary, this film isn't tense, and this film definitely isn't good.

Copyright 1989 by Galaxy Releasing.

Copyright 1989 by Galaxy Releasing.

10. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

The fifth instalment in a storyline that was already growing thin in The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5 is not a terrible movie. It's shot nicely, if not always edited well, and gives the viewer plenty of slasherific gore. Unfortunately The Revenge of Michael Myers is also the beginning of explorations into the very nature of Michael Myers, and those excess elements land it low on the list.

Another year, another Halloween. Michael is back in Haddonfield, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is waiting for him to resurface, and a bunch of unsympathetic teens are standing between them. This time around the Final Girl is Jamie, Michael Myers' niece from Halloween 4, and she spends much of the movie as a desperate mute. Jamie has a psychic link to her uncle, and suffers from panic attacks as Michael does his deadly business. Jamie is probably the best part of the movie, and child actor Danielle Harris is to thank.

The problem is... well, basically everyone else in the cast. They stink. Michael is his usual murderous self, but there's no sensible teenaged foil to take him on. The closest we get is Tina, a bubbly, spastic personality who feels too much like an obvious victim to be the protagonist. Her friends are utterly expendable and don't amount to much. Donald Pleasence is always a good actor, but Loomis is way too over-the-top in Halloween 5. His rambling antics have worn thin, and some of his actions paint him as an out-and-out villain. Why do the police still listen to the guy? Ah, yes, because they're utter goofballs in this movie...

Throw in a mysterious figure in black and copious hints of what is to come and The Revenge of Michael Myers bloats up into a bit of a mess. It's a serviceable mess, but there's not enough of the strong stalker-style tension from the first two films. Jump scares do not a good movie make. This is one of the Halloweens you can skip if you're forced to choose.

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Copyright 1995 by Miramax Pictures.

Copyright 1995 by Miramax Pictures.

9. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Early on in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers the obligatory mean father of the cast hacks down a Michael Myers decoration with an axe. While doing it he yells "Enough of this Michael Myers bull****!". This may or may not have been an intentional piece of meta commentary on the franchise, but after you're done watching The Curse of Michael Myers, you might start feeling the same way.

The Curse of Michael Myers picks up years after The Revenge of Michael Myers. Michael's niece Jamie is on the run from her uncle, and her newborn baby is adopted by Tommy, one of the two kids from the original Halloween who has grown up into a conspiracy theorist of sorts. (And is played by Paul Rudd! Fancy that.) The baby is the target of a cult, and they want to control Michael Myers for their own nefarious purposes. Things get nuttier as the titular curse comes into play, and then there's some stuff about... cloning... maybe... it all gets a bit fuzzy.

The Curse of Michael Myers could have been great. Its cast is full of good actors - Rudd's eclectic Tommy would have been a fantastic recurring character - and there's some awesome, barbaric kills. The bull**** guy's head explodes! That's awesome! There's even a great late-movie chase sequence through a hospital with neat sci-fi vibes that serves as a fitting finale. But the stupid lore of the Thorn keeps butting in, and knowing that the entire cult would be forgotten by the next movie turns The Curse of Michael Myers into a roadblock when re-watching the franchise. Who cares why Michael comes back? Just let him be an immortal killer from Haddonfield.

If you care about the events of The Return of Michael Myers and The Revenge of Michael Myers then The Curse of Michael Myers is worth watching. It more or less wraps up the storyline and provides closure for the Jamie character, as well as a (confusing) end to Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis. If none of that matters, though... watch the highlights on YouTube.

Copyright 2009 by Dimension Films.

Copyright 2009 by Dimension Films.

8. Halloween II (2009)

Rob Zombie's follow-up to his supremely-popular Halloween reboot, Halloween II is... well, it's similar to the first movie. It's bloody, it's gross, it's over-the-top, and it's concerned with a deep-dive into a single psyche. Unlike the first movie, though, this one is all about Laurie Strode, and Michael Myers messed her up pretty good. Seriously, this film is bananas.

Initially picking up after Michael's defeat in Halloween and showing how he gets away from the authorities (spoiler, the truck he's in hits a cow), the film echoes some of the events of the original Halloween II before jumping forward in time. Laurie is living with one of her friends, but recurring nightmares and visions make her life nigh-unbearable. She now has a connection with her brother, and she begins to feel what he feels... and do what he does. It's a grim descent for the teen that only gets worse as the film goes on.

Laurie's change is understandable in this movie. She went through a lot, starts having weird dreams, discovers she's the sister of a psychopath, and goes through a lot more. She's bound to become irritable, and Scout Taylor-Compton does a great job portraying her spiral into madness. Less understandable is what the movie does to its other mains. Dr. Loomis, who displayed genuine signs of sympathy and concern before, becomes an egotistical so-and-so in Halloween II. He screams at a press conference, for pity's sake. And Michael? Well, he's functionally not different, but his shared visions with Laurie are... trippy. To say the least. The film recalls Michael's connection to his niece in The Revenge of Michael Myers, a comparison that's not to this film's advantage.

Halloween II can be hard to watch. The deaths are grisly, the characters unpleasant, the swearing way over-the-top, and the narrative confusing. It's a Rob Zombie movie before it's a Halloween movie, and if you're okay with that (you'll get great cinematography, if nothing else) this film should please. On a list of Halloween movies, though, it's of middling value.

Copyright 1988 by Galaxy International Releasing.

Copyright 1988 by Galaxy International Releasing.

7. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

After the critical debacle that was Halloween III, the powers that be made the financially-wise decision to return the Halloween franchise to the safe, deadly hands of Michael Myers. The result isn't as good as the original films, taking the franchise from above-par to... well, still above-par for an 80s horror movie, but lesser.

Despite the outcome of Halloween II Michael Myers is still alive, and upon learning of the existence of his niece he breaks free of his restraints and, you guessed it, goes on a rampage towards Haddonfield. Dr. Loomis, who should be even more dead than his patient, takes up pursuit once again. Niece Jamie is defended by adopted sibling Rachel, and eventually everyone is swept up in a whirlwind chase to the grand showdown with Michael Myers. There are murders.

The Return of Michael Myers is... fine. It gives fans what they want: Michael Myers is back and he kills people in brutal fashion. Rachel is more than adequate as a Laurie replacement - though how Laurie gets written out is lame - and the niece is an interesting character, if not compelling. There's no reason for Sam Loomis to still be around, but it's nice to have a recurring face. Beyond those three, though, the cast is way-overstuffed. There are hospital workers, teens, a few adults, local cops, state cops, and a lynch mob. Part of the horror of the older Halloween movies was forcing protagonists to face Michael alone, and with so many characters that doesn't happen often here.

If you just want more Michael Myers, then Halloween 4 will do. He's in it a lot, and he has plenty of chances to demonstrate his nigh-invulnerability. Even headbutting the windshield of a car hard enough to break the glass, and then getting rammed by said car, is not enough to stop the guy. But the tension is starting to wear thin, and fans of Halloween's nail-biting atmosphere may not be satisfied with part four.

Copyright 2021 by Universal Pictures.

Copyright 2021 by Universal Pictures.

6. Halloween Kills

As of this writing the newest Halloween movie, Halloween Kills resembles most of the other immediate sequels in the series: Stylistically similar to its predecessor, filled with slightly-higher stakes than before, and... not quite as good. Going bigger does not always work out to a film's advantage, particularly with horror movies built on small-scale scares.

Beginning immediately after 2018's Halloween, Halloween Kills sees Michael Myers freed from a near-death experience by some too-diligent firefighters. Back on the loose in Haddonfield, Michael is swiftly targeted by Haddonfield itself, a mob sick of his predations and ready for revenge. Unfortunately this is the middle film in a trilogy, so you can probably guess how things go for said mob. Michael gets in lots of gory kills before the credits roll, and the events are set for 2022's Halloween Ends.

Halloween Kills is far from a failure, and if you liked the previous film you'll probably enjoy the sequel. In an unfortunate, ironic echo of 1981's Halloween II, however, Jamie Lee Curtis is sidelined in a hospital yet again, and her lack of presence hurts this film. It was the Strode trio of ladies that made Halloween such a treat, and allowing so many smaller players to flood in and fill Laurie's spot just doesn't work as well. It doesn't help that the mob makes some dumb decisions near the end - there is no way Michael should survive the movie, given how it plays out, but... he does. Laurie from H20 needed to stop by and give Haddonfield some pointers.

Halloween Kills looks good, is acted well, and has lots of fun returning characters from previous films. (Yay Tommy!) It's also unbelievably bloody, and that's enough for a surface-level Halloween movie. But there needs to be an extra, emotional spark to make a Halloween film drift above the rest, and Halloween Kills just doesn't quite get there. Looking forward to the sequel, though!

Copyright 2007 by Dimension Films.

Copyright 2007 by Dimension Films.

5. Halloween (2007)

After the critical failure of Halloween: Resurrection, the series heads made the decision to, again, erase the past and start over. The result was 2007's Halloween, which reexplores the origins of Michael Myers and the original Haddonfield murders. Helmed by Rob Zombie, this reinvention is... certainly something.

Halloween starts with Michael's childhood, and it sucks. He's bullied by classmates, belittled by his sister, mocked by his monstrous father, and compelled to hide his insecurities behind a clown mask. Yet he's also hinted to be a disturbed boy of his own accord, and it doesn't take long for Michael to start killing. This lands him in the care of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), and Michael grows up in silence, making masks in an insane asylum. About halfway through the events of the original Halloween play out, and Michael's trip through Haddonfield goes more or less as before, at least until the end. His confrontation with Laurie Stroud (Scout Taylor-Compton) is quite different this time around, and it's framed by the knowledge that they are siblings.

Halloween is a gritty, harsh movie with few of the subtleties of Carpenter's original, yet in Zombie's bluntness there's a horrifying charm. This is a film with a defined vision, and it spares no efforts beating Michael Myers into a murderer. At times it is probably too harsh, reveling in gore where the older films would cut away. Zombie wants you to recognize that Michael Myers is a monster, and he builds up a sympathetic image of the boy only to rip it apart moments later. It's an effective tactic that gives Michael more nuance.

The attempt to recreate the original movie is unfortunately less successful than Zombie's take on Michael's origins, with little interest in building tension. Carpenter's Halloween thrived on the slow build, something this Halloween for the most part fails to do. The emphasis is on the after-effects of Michael's attacks, not the build-up. This Halloween also changes Laurie from a no-nonsense caretaker into... well, kind of a bubblehead. Scout Taylor-Compton is not a bad actress, but her Laurie is just another one of the teens, where Jamie Lee Curtis stood out as an overly-responsible stick-in-the-mud. They feel like different characters, and that's fine.

How much you like this Halloween probably depends on how much you value Michael's point of view. He is the main character of this movie. If you'd rather he be a faceless, horrifying force of nature with no defined reason for his evil, then this one won't be for you.

Copyright 1981 by Universal Pictures.

Copyright 1981 by Universal Pictures.

4. Halloween II

Halloween was a surprise hit, so John Carpenter needed to find a way to turn his one-shot story into a multi-part franchise. Halloween II was the result, a direct sequel to the original film that wound up being pretty danged close to Halloween on all fronts. And calling this a 'direct' sequel is almost an understatement, because it starts immediately after Halloween ends.

Continuing the events of Halloween night, Halloween II follows Michael Myers' quiet rampage through the populace of Haddonfield, Illinois. Despite being shot six times Myers is still on the loose, and no one can find him... that is, until he tracks Laurie Strode to a nearby hospital. The hospital staff become his new targets as Michael searches for Laurie. A surprise connection between the two, unveiled near the end of the movie, sets the course for much of the rest of the franchise. Not quite as simple a plot as Halloween, but still a classic slasher setup.

If you liked Halloween you'll like Halloween II. The moments of suspense aren't quite as strong and the story gets a bit hokey as it approaches its conclusion, but the direction and performances in this sequel are great, and Michael gets in more inventive kills than his first outing. Halloween II is also a fair bit more graphic than the original, so if gore is your thing you may prefer this follow-up. If there's one major complaint it's that Jamie Lee Curtis spends a lot of time in a hospital room doing very little, which is an unfortunate use of the franchise's best character.

Though it's not the best film in the Michael Myers saga, Halloween II is surprisingly great. If you're going to watch the original movie it's almost a no-brainer that you follow it up with the sequel (assuming, of course, you're not moving on to the 2018 film). The sense of tension that's lacking in later films is still here, and Michael Myers remains a great, looming presence that's scary as hell.

Copyright 1998 by Miramax Films.

Copyright 1998 by Miramax Films.

3. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

Coming off a string of lackluster sequels, Halloween H20 needed a big win to justify continuing the series. The fourth, fifth, and sixth Halloween instalments had their merits, but by the end the lore of Michael Myers was horribly bloated. H20 blew many of the problems away, and while it's not a perfect movie, it's much, much better than most of its predecessors.

H20 takes place 20 years after the events of the first two Halloween films, assuming that everything after never happened. Jamie Lee Curtis is back as Laurie Strode - albeit an undercover Laurie - and she's constantly on the lookout for a Michael Myers who doesn't seem to be coming back. She's seemingly on the verge of an emotional breakthrough... when Michael comes back. Sigh. She, her son (Josh Hartnett), and a small group of students must avoid the killer in a nigh-empty school.

The cast facing Michael Myers generally makes or breaks a Halloween movie, and they're decent this time around, if not fantastic. Most of the characters feel more well-rounded and interesting than previous instalments, and there are fewer of them to share screen time. Always a smart move in a horror movie. Ultimately, though, this is a film about Laurie facing her demons, and her one-on-one fight with Michael Myers cements Jamie Lee Curtis as the Final Girl. The battle isn't that suspenseful, but damned if it isn't extremely satisfying. The last twenty minutes of the film prove that Laurie is a lot smarter about fighting Michael than anyone else who has ever faced him. Bravo.

Whether you'll gravitate to H20's take on Halloween depends on how much you enjoyed the goofiness of the three previous instalments. There's little family drama, no psychic link, no visions, no cult, no curse, none of that in H20. If you're okay with all that stuff falling to the wayside and focusing on a conclusion to Laurie's storyline, you'll like H20.

(Just, uh... don't watch the sequel to H20. Please, don't.)

Copyright 2018 by Universal Pictures.

Copyright 2018 by Universal Pictures.

2. Halloween (2018)

Yet another return to formula to reinvigorate the franchise, 2018's Halloween came almost a decade after Rob Zombie's series and, apparently, at just the right time. Immensely successful at the box office, Halloween is, to date, the highest-grossing slasher film of all time. And rightly so, because this movie is awesome.

Going a step further than the H20 reboot, Halloween kicks even Halloween II to the curb and considers only the original movie to be canon. Forty years have passed since the now-reclusive Laurie Strode stopped Michael Myers and got him locked up, and she's still waiting for him to come back and try again. Despite Michael's looooong incarceration he of course manages to escape, returning to Haddonfield to wreak havoc. Laurie rushes in to rescue her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and family before Michael can put his knife to work.

Keenly aware of the long history of the franchise, Halloween pays homage to what came before (it even pokes fun at the severed brother-sister connection) while doing its own thing. This is still the monster of ten-plus movies, and Laurie feels haunted by the weight of all their encounters without several of them having happened. Yet this is also about a Laurie who's struggling to reconnect with her family, and where H20 largely failed to find relevance in Laurie's relationship with her son, this Halloween absolutely succeeds in bringing in a daughter. Both Karen and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) are vital to the telling of this story.

This is very much a Halloween movie. Despite his age Michael is still a horrifying killer (he manages to make a fistful of teeth scary), and there are some brutal, suspenseful moments. Laurie stalking through a quiet house with a gun and a flashlight may be one of the tensest Halloween moments to date. But it's the relationships that push this Halloween above the top, putting it on par with the original in almost every respect - and even surpassing 1978's Halloween in terms of emotional impact.

Copyright 1978 by Compass International Pictures.

Copyright 1978 by Compass International Pictures.

1. Halloween

The original Michael Myers haunt, Halloween is the distilled depiction of a murderer on the prowl. It's not nearly as complex as some of the other Halloween films, and its odd simplicity makes for a compelling watch, one not fettered by years of lore and backstory and necessary character building.

Halloween has a tidy premise: Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital, Michael Myers steals a car and his iconic outfit, Michael Myers starts to murder people on Halloween night. Jamie Lee Curtis and her friends become the targets. There's some background work done by Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis, but for the most part this movie is all about watching teens have their teenie fun while Michael Myers looms in the background.

What's surprising about Halloween is just how slow a burn it is. Aside from the intro and some early action during Myers' escape from the mental institution Halloween moves at a snail's pace. Laurie and her friends babysit, bicker, laugh, and have sex relatively undisturbed. Michael Myers stalks them all for quite a while before going in for a kill, and Laurie herself doesn't really start to fight him until the last twenty minutes. Myers is genuinely creepy as he watches the teens from afar, and the long intervals between his attacks generates terrific amounts of tension. Will he attack now? No? How about now? No, not yet... come on, this is getting unbearable...

Free of the excess that was to come, Halloween is a great horror movie. Michael Myers is used really well, and the decision to allow the serial killer to move around during daylight hours makes him seem all the more unnerving. (Though he needs to learn not to tailgate.) This may not be the most exciting instalment in the franchise, but that may actually be a strength rather than a weakness. Known, visible stalkers are scary, and Michael Myers is the ultimate stalker.

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