It just wouldn’t be Halloween without Michael Myers. Ever since John Carpenter’s silent killer stalked Laurie Strode and her friends in 1978’s “Halloween,” the indestructible boogeyman has resurrected for 10 of the franchise’s 11 films, slashing his way through Haddonfield, Illinois decade after decade. Carpenter’s pulsing synthesizer and ominous piano notes are instantly recognizable, a soundtrack for the holiday and a warning for anyone who hears it — Beware of the Boogeyman.
Not every “Halloween” film is great, but the franchise continued to expand and grow over the years, as audiences demanded the iconic killer to come back from impossible odds. To be sure, there was always a touch of the supernatural to Carpenter’s original film; Michael was never really quite human. But as the mythos of Michael Myers expanded, it pulled in new family members, strange psychic links, and even ancient Druid curses.
A new “Halloween” sequel, directed by David Gordon Green and once again starring Jamie Lee Curtis, is headed for theaters on October 19, and while this fresh take will erase all the previous sequels, we’ve decided to look back at the entire franchise, and rank all 11 feature films from worst to best.
11. “Halloween: Resurrection” (Rick Rosenthal, 2002):
Jamie Lee Curtis deserved better than “Halloween: Resurrection.” Laurie Strode deserved better than “Halloween: Resurrection.” The audience deserved better than “Halloween: Resurrection.” The film effectively erases Laurie’s triumph in “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later,” showing that she did not in fact kill Michael, it was a paramedic he swapped costumes with. Laurie has killed an innocent man, while her killer brother roams free once more, and now she’s confined to a mental institution.
Once more the siblings face off, and this time, Michael kills Laurie. It’s a bold choice to be sure, and likely, considering Curtis’ involvement, a way to exorcise herself from the role that has come to define her career in some ways. Even so, it’s a disappointing moment, one that sets a brutal tone for the film to follow, where Michael stalks and murders his way through his derelict childhood home, now being used for a live internet show. The return of Michael in “Resurrection” was meant to pave the way for even more sequels, but poor reviews kept it on hold until Rob Zombie’s 2007 reboot gave the franchise a much needed jolt of fresh blood.
10. “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” (Dominique Othenin-Girard, 1989):
Although the events of “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” had paved the way for Michael’s niece, Jamie, to follow in her uncle’s footsteps and become a killer, “Halloween 5” instead chose to place the young girl in a children’s hospital, where she suffers from seizures and nightmares from the trauma that happened the year prior. Jamie is now mute, Michael is still alive (naturally), and he’s come back to Haddonfield to kill her. Jamie still has a psychic link to Michael, which helps tip off Dr. Loomis that his favorite patient is still alive.
And so the cycle continues; lots of murders in Haddonfield, everyone thinking Loomis is crazy, Michael shaking off any attempts to subdue him. The most interesting thing about “Halloween 5,” apart from the brief moment where Michael removes his mask for Jamie, is how it sets up the events for “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.” As Michael sits locked away in the police station, a mysterious man in black arrives, killing the officers, setting Michael free, and giving audiences a glimpse at one of the franchise’s most interesting elements — the Curse of Thorn.
9. “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” (Dwight H. Little, 1988):
When audiences were disappointed with “Halloween III: The Season of the Witch” because it didn’t feature Carpenter’s iconic killer, it proved the franchise was forever linked with Michael Myers. So, plans for a horror anthology series built around Halloween were scrapped, and Michael was back, having survived the fire at the end of “Halloween II,” eventually waking up from a coma when he overhears that Laurie has died in a car accident, but has a niece, Jamie, living in Haddonfield. And so, Michael comes home once more.
There are plenty of improbable things in “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers,” including the sudden existence of Michael and Laurie’s niece, Jamie, but the film establishes an interesting psychic link between the young girl and her deranged uncle. Yes, Michael and Laurie are brother and sister. Even in establishing the familial link between Michael and Laurie, the “Halloween” franchise has never truly explained what drives Michael to go after his own family. Perhaps unfinished business? But seeing the young Jamie struggle with what is in her own bloodline, fearing that she might also be a monster is compelling. The film’s final scene, with Jamie clad in a clown mask, holding a pair of bloody scissors, with Dr. Loomis raising his gun to shoot her, is still a chilling one.
8. “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” (Steve Miner, 1998):
The upcoming “Halloween” sequel isn’t the only film to effectively erase all of the previous films. “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” glosses over the fourth, fifth, and sixths films, and reintroduces Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, who faked her death after the events of “Halloween II,” and is now the headmistress of a boarding school in California. But Laurie can’t escape the shadow of Michael for long, he eventually comes calling, something Laurie has spent her life in fear of, except now she has a son and students to protect.
It’s hard not to love a “Halloween” film that stars Curtis, as well as Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams, but to make things even better, Curtis’ mother, the legendary Janet Leigh also makes an appearance and her character is cheekily named Norma, a nod to her iconic turn in “Psycho.” “H20” also marks the first time the franchise gave the power back to Laurie, recognizing her importance as a Final Girl and giving her a triumphant moment, where she kills Michael once and for all, vanquishing her demons and finally earning her freedom. With the exception of the new “Halloween” film, Laurie has never been as badass and bold, which makes the retconning in “Halloween: Resurrection” even more frustrating.
7. “Halloween II” (Rob Zombie, 2009):
Taking a page from “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers,” which coincidentally also stars Danielle Harris, Rob Zombie’s follow-up to his 2007 re-imagining of “Halloween” focuses on the connection between Michael Myers and his younger sister, Laurie. Two years after the events on Halloween night, Laurie is struggling to cope with the trauma of what happened, as well as with nightmares that have plagued her ever since Michael’s escape. When Michael returns to Haddonfield (because of course he returns), Laurie begins have hallucinations that include her acting out Michael’s murders, suggesting the psychic link between them runs deep, and might one day turn her into the monster she fears the most.
“Halloween II” was met with mostly negative reviews from critics, but it deserves a second look because of how much insight it gives into victimhood. Laurie struggles with PTSD after the attacks on her friends, something horror movies often tend to gloss over. Being a badass, blood-soaked Final Girl comes at an emotional cost. Laurie also struggles with the realization that Michael is her brother, and what this says about her, eventually positing that Laurie would take up Michael’s mantle. Much like the latest “Halloween” film, Zombie’s “Halloween II” suggests that sometimes fighting monsters can turn us into one as well.
6. “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” (Joe Chappelle, 1995):
The Curse of Thorn. The return of Tommy Doyle. Even more members of the Strode family. A final goodbye to the unforgettable Donald Pleasance and his irascible Dr. Loomis. “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” really does have it all, and it’s one of the most underrated sequels in the franchise. Michael has killed his niece Jamie, who has given birth to a baby, the mysterious Man in Black, who appeared at the end of “Halloween 5” to spring Michael loose, wants for his own schemes. Back in Haddonfield, Tommy Doyle, the boy Laurie was babysitting in the first film, has grown up to into Paul Rudd, and he finds Jamie’s baby and cares for it.
Tommy figures out that Michael has been afflicted by an ancient Druid curse, Thorn, which finally gives the answer that “Halloween” fans have long wondered. Why did Michael kill his sister, and why does he continue to hunt down his family members? Thorn was a curse born by one child in each tribe long ago, and these children had to sacrifice their next of kin on the night of Samhain (or Halloween). And that’s how Michael keeps returning, and that’s why he rampages his way through Halloween night. “Halloween 6” successfully expands and deepens the “Halloween” mythos, giving a dark sacrificial element to Michael’s past murders. If you’re going to explain the boogeyman, better to keep him as evil and inhumane as possible.
5. “Halloween” (Rob Zombie, 2007):
Rob Zombie has always worn his cinematic horror influences on his sleeve, particularly with his first two films, “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects,” so it wasn’t surprising when he decided to put his own twisted spin on John Carpenter’s franchise. Zombie’s “Halloween” reimagines Michael Myers as a bullied young boy, already displaying psychotic tendencies serial killers, before he lashes out on Halloween night and kills his older sister, her boyfriend, a school bully, and his mother’s boyfriend. As an adult, Michael murders his way through Haddonfield on a quest to be reunited with his younger sister, Angel, now renamed Laurie Strode.
Zombie’s “Halloween” remains one of the highest grossing entries in the entire franchise, and is infused with the director’s trademark dark aesthetic. It’s divided horror fans, some of whom feel that it departs too much from the original series. Perhaps the biggest problem with Zombie’s “Halloween” is the reimagining of Michael as a bullied and troubled young boy. Filling in Michael’s background only serves to humanize him, and that misses the point of Michael Myers. He isn’t human, he’s pure evil, he’s the boogeyman, and we shouldn’t feel sorry for him, we should only fear him.
4. “Halloween II” (Rick Rosenthal, 1981):
After the smash success of “Halloween” in 1978, Jamie Lee Curtis became horror’s go-to Scream Queen, following up her big screen debut with lead roles in Carpenter’s “The Fog,” as well as “Prom Night” and “Terror Train.” But the pull to reunite with Michael Myers proved to be too good to pass up. With a screenplay co-written by Carpenter and Debra Hill, “Halloween II” picks up exactly where “Halloween” left off — on the night of Michael Myers’ babysitter murders in 1978 — and explores the fallout after Myers eludes Dr. Loomis and the police once more.
“Halloween II” is chock-full of some brutal and memorable murders (especially the hot tub scene), but it’s best known for it’s franchise-altering twist, the jaw-dropping revelation that Laurie Strode is in fact Michael Myers’ younger sister. It’s a twist that still divides fans to this day, and one that took some of the punch out of Michael’s fevered pursuit of Laurie. Now he wasn’t just a maniac chasing after a young woman for no reason, but a crazed brother trying to murder one more sister. Forever linked with the boogeyman in the ghoulish mask, Laurie seemingly is able to break free at the end, when Michael goes up in flames at the hospital and dies. But as later sequels would prove, you can’t keep the boogeyman down for long.
3. “Halloween III: The Season of the Witch” (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1982):
When “Halloween III: The Season of the Witch” hit theaters in 1982, fans were taken by surprise by the new offering in the iconic franchise. Where were Michael Myers and Laurie Strode? Instead, the film moved the action to Santa Mira, California, home to the Silver Shamrock Novelties, whose owner wants to harness the mystic powers of rocks from Stonehenge to bring back an ancient age of witchcraft. To do so, he would make a mass sacrifice, achieved through the company’s Halloween masks, which are implemented with a microchip that will detonate and kill all the children wearing them on Halloween night.
With “Halloween III,” producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill saw the franchise’s potential for something more. Instead of rehashing sequel after improbable sequel, “Halloween” would become a horror anthology series centered around Halloween night, not unlike “American Horror Story” or “V/H/S.” The truth is, it was a genius idea, but it was too far ahead of its time. As the franchise would soon prove, audiences didn’t really care about logic (after all Michael Myers had already proved to be superhuman before), they just wanted to see Michael come back and kill. In time, “Halloween II” found its audience and has become a cult classic, and it’s tantalizing to think of where Carpenter could have gone next with the franchise in this vein.
2. “Halloween” (David Gordon Green, 2018):
After 40 years, Michael Myers is back once again. For the horror icons big return, Blumhouse Productions wrangled some big talent, with “Stronger” director David Gordon Green stepping behind the camera, as well as the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. But to help set apart this new “Halloween” from the many other sequels, Green and co-writer Danny McBride decided on a big gamble — only the original 1978 film would remain canon and not anything else, not even “Halloween II,” which infamously introduced Strode as Michael’s sister.
The gamble pays off in spades, as Gordon’s take on “Halloween” is infused with a lot of fun callbacks to the original film that will keep fans smiling, but ultimately centers on a showdown between Laurie and Michael. This is Laurie’s big moment, the one she has been waiting and preparing for for many years, pushing aside her PTSD from that fateful Halloween night and training herself to become a ruthless killer. “Halloween” isn’t a perfect horror movie, but by exploring generational trauma, it elevates itself above the rest, giving Laurie Strode (and Jamie Lee Curtis) the sequel she’s always deserved.
1. “Halloween” (John Carpenter, 1978):
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John Carpenter’s “Halloween” remains one of the most iconic horror movies ever made, is easily the best film in the entire franchise. “Halloween” wasn’t the first slasher, Michael Myers wasn’t the first on-screen boogeyman, and Laurie Strode wasn’t horror’s first Final Girl. And yet, none of this really matters because “Halloween” was able to take these old formulas and reinvent them into something extraordinary. So extraordinary, in fact, that “Halloween” singled out by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
“Halloween” is still packed with scares even 40 years later. Michael’s relentless pursuit of the teenagers of Haddonfield, his proclivity to posing their dead bodies is pretty chilling, but it is his origin story that remains the film’s biggest scare. As the audience watches from his perspective, a masked Michael creeps upstairs and attacks his older sister, stabbing her to death. It’s a harrowing on its own, but when the camera pulls back and Michael’s father rips off his Halloween mask, it is clear that Michael is just a child, staring blankly, unfazed at what has occurred. Why did this six-year-old stab his sister to death? Carpenter isn’t interested in the answer, because as Dr. Loomis succinctly surmises, Michael is pure evil. And there’s nothing scarier than that.
In many respects, Michael’s ability to seemingly rise from the dead time and time again, not only in countless sequels but also from back-breaking falls, blows, and bullets, has turned him into horror’s own Superman. No matter where the horror genre has strayed over the years, it always comes back to Michael Myers. He is an unstoppable icon, The Shape waiting on the other side of the hedge, watching us walk away in broad daylight, naively thinking we are safe. Much like Laurie, we’ll always feel a pull to Michael, and horror will never truly be able to escape his silent shadow.