'Halloween' franchise ranked: The best and worst Michael Myers movies. Plus, how to watch

·8 min read

Making lists is fun and arguing about them even more so, but on this let’s agree: “Halloween” is one of the three greatest horror films ever made, and one of the best films, period.

(The other two are “The Shining” and “The Exorcist,” by the way.)

John Carpenter’s 1978 classic is hugely influential. It helped popularize the notion of the Final Girl and the slasher film. It also paved the way for an endless stream of inferior sequels.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

The movie’s beauty is in its simplicity. As a child Michael Myers (he didn’t have a name in the first film) kills his sister with a butcher knife on Halloween. Years later he escapes the psychiatric hospital where he’s been under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, and begins slaughtering teenagers. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) fights him off and survives.

So does Michael, who is still around for “Halloween Ends,” the 13th film in the franchise, which came out Oct. 15. The movies in between have been hit or miss — mostly miss. Here’s a power ranking of all the "Halloween" movies ever made. It’s a killer.

13. “Halloween: Resurrection” (2002)

This hilariously bad entry tries to cash in on the then-new reality TV craze. Busta Rhymes plays the mastermind behind a show in which fame-hungry young people agree to spend the night in Michael Myers’ childhood home, with cameras everywhere. Guess who else shows up? It’s stupid, but that’s not its worst sin. That would be its inglorious killing of Laurie. But don’t worry. Like most of the deaths in this franchise, it didn’t take.

How to watch: Rent or buy on Prime Video or iTunes.

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12. “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” (1989)

A shame, really, because the movie that came before it, and for which this is a direct sequel, was pretty good. Michael’s niece Jamie (Danielle Harris) has been traumatized by, you know, her psychopathic uncle trying to kill her. Somehow Michael has lived through his latest seemingly certain death. And somehow Loomis still hasn’t changed clothes. Michael is still after his niece, who had been placed in a psychiatric hospital. The scariest thing about it is the horrendous acting. Although the plot is a close second. It features a cowboy who steps on dogs. Why not? It's unique in that some of the characters are so unlikable, you root for Michael.

How to watch: Streaming on Shudder, rent or buy on Prime Video or iTunes.

11. “Halloween Kills” (2021)

A massive disappointment after the 2018 version of “Halloween” seemed to have righted a listing ship. An ugly, terrible movie. As with “Halloween II” (the first one from 1981), Laurie spends the bulk of it in the hospital. It’s meant to be a commentary on vigilante justice and the divisiveness plaguing the nation. Instead, it’s just a bunch of meatheads running around yelling, “Evil dies tonight!” Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.

How to watch: Streaming on HBO Max.

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10. “Halloween II” (2009)

The second of the Rob Zombie “Halloween” films. Like some of the other films, it diverges a long way from the idea of the original. Michael is still a killer, but he answers to the ghost of his mother, which … isn’t that enough? It is kind of fun to see Malcolm McDowell as Loomis, now a fame-hungry author with no regard for any of the people he ostensibly wanted to help. Other than that, ugh.

How to watch: Streaming on Peacock.

9. “Halloween Ends” (2022)

If only. The last film in director David Gordon Green’s trilogy at least puts Laurie back in the fight, but it introduces elements that distract from what has always been the main attraction: Michael trying to kill Laurie, and Laurie trying to survive. There’s some of that, but not nearly enough. What do they think we watch these things for? Here’s hoping the franchise has the courage to make good on the promise of the title. But don’t count on it.

How to watch: In theaters, streaming on Peacock.

8. “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” (1995)

Paul Rudd! And the last on-screen appearance by Pleasance before his death. It’s bad, and Rudd seems deranged as one of the kids Laurie babysat in the original. He’s obsessed with Michael, as is Loomis, who has retired and finally changed clothes. Haddonfield is finally going to celebrate Halloween again, with results you might expect. For some reason, a dark mystical element is introduced in the form of druids, evidently because they didn’t think of an alien invasion first. It defeats the purpose of Michael as a soulless, relentless killer. Fortunately (sort of) it’s all so murky and unclear that you can’t follow it anyway.

How to watch: Rent or buy on Prime Video or iTunes.

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7. “Halloween” (2007)

Zombie works his ugly black magic on the origin story, taking, ahem, some liberties with it. In this telling Michael grows up in an abusive household — William Forsythe is inadvertently hilarious as his mean old drunk of a stepfather. Michael casually kills rats and the occasional classmate till he turns his sharp knife on his own family. Zombie has some inventive ideas in terms of how the film is shot, but this lacks any of the subtlety of the original film.

How to watch: Rent or buy on Prime Video or iTunes.

6. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

This movie infamously ditches the Michael Myers storyline and goes rogue in what Carpenter planned as a kind of anthology series. Tom Atkins is a smoking and drinking doctor trying to figure out a mysterious murder, along with the daughter of the victim, who he conveniently has an affair with in that inappropriate early ’80s way. Nice bedside manner. Critically thrashed when it came out, it’s gained a cult following since. Not quite sure why. One of the Stonehenge columns, some 1980s computer technology and androids and witchcraft combine for some absurd mayhem. It’s awful, with heroically bad acting. Goofy fun, but nothing more.

How to watch: Streaming on Peacock.

5. “Halloween” (2018)

The first of Green’s trilogy. Probably overrated because what came before it was so bad, but it is nice to see Curtis back — and casting Judy Greer as her daughter is a nice touch. Laurie is now a grandmother with a survivalist streak, which everyone thinks makes her crazy, but of course it actually makes her the sanest person around. It whets appetites for the next two films, but they were tremendous letdowns. Should have quit while they were ahead.

How to watch: Rent or buy on Prime Video or iTunes.

4. “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” (1988)

Michael wakes up from a years-long coma so that he can work his way back to Haddonfield to kill his niece (Danielle Harris) who no one knew he had. Loomis is, as ever, on his trail, even though he and Michael were supposedly killed in an earlier film. Loomis is still wearing his trench coat and gloves all the time, for no particular reason. Would you see a psychiatrist who dressed like that? It’s only OK, but gets bumped up several notches for a truly great ending — one that the series did not have the courage or good sense to continue with.

How to watch: Streaming on Shudder, rent or buy on Prime Video or iTunes.

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3. “Halloween II” (1981)

This film picks up where the first left off. And that’s where most of the similarities end. Pleasance is back, grumpier than ever. So is Curtis, but she spends most of the movie either unconscious or zonked out on painkillers. This has the big reveal that Laurie, the ultimate Final Girl, is the younger sister of Michael, the ultimate slasher. It’s as far-fetched as it sounds, yet would be the springboard for many more movies. Shame.

How to watch: Streaming on Peacock.

2. “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” (1998)

This has several distinct advantages, not the least of which are its production values — it looks like a movie and not an old VCR tape you found in the attic, which is the case with some others. But the biggest plus is the return of Curtis, back as the older, wiser Final Girl 20 years after the original. The cast includes Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the debut of Josh Hartnett. All this probably makes the movie sound better than it is. It’s OK, not great. But it’s way better than the sequels that came before it.

How to watch: Rent or buy on Prime Video or iTunes.

1. “Halloween” (1978)

Jamie Lee Curtis takes on the bad guy, Michael Myers, in "Halloween."
Jamie Lee Curtis takes on the bad guy, Michael Myers, in "Halloween."

Honestly, it’s a 12-way tie for last. What Carpenter understood and evidently no one else did is that dread is what drives fear. Some of the scariest bits are when Laurie and her friends are walking home from school and the sun is starting to set. There’s no explanation for Michael’s behavior, no motive. He is just, as Loomis repeatedly reminds us, pure evil. They should have kept him that way.

How to watch: Streaming on Shudder. Available to rent or buy on Prime Video and iTunes.

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Reach Goodykoontz at bill.goodykoontz@arizonarepublic.com. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk. Subscribe to the weekly movies newsletter.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: 'Halloween' film series ranked: Best, worst Michael Myers movies