The Best Reason to Watch Each of the 11 ‘Halloween’ Movies
With 11 films already in the franchise (and more on the way) the Halloween series remains one of the most successful brands in horror.
Though Michael Myers continues to rank among the scariest characters ever put on film, not every entry in the Halloween franchise was successful. Some failed at the box office despite their artistic merit, others were critical failures despite turning a profit and there were even a few which were total flops no matter which way you look at them.
With that in mind, we here at Ultimate Classic Rock have decided to revisit every movie in the franchise and find at least one reason that you should watch it. Some of these films are wonderful, and some are terrible, but this exercise isn’t only about quality; It's also about celebrating the terrifying films horror fans love. So put on your costume, settle back, and get ready for a trick-or-treat-filled journey through one of the greatest of all horror movie franchises.
Critics' consensus: All-time great horror film
Why you should watch: It's an amazing scary movie.
If you like being frightened by things on the screen, there's no reason not to have seen Halloween. It tells the story of Michael Myers, an incarnation of evil who escapes from a mental institution and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Ill., to terrorize teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). It's a success from top to bottom, featuring sterling filmmaking from director John Carpenter, a slow and steady ramping-up of tension, and any number of memorable moments. And in addition to introducing Michael Myers to the world, it helped give shape to the modern horror movie and the slasher genre in particular.
'Halloween II' (1981)
Critics' consensus: Solid, gritty slasher flick.
Why you should watch: It's an effective continuation of the first movie – although a definite step down in pure quality – and reveals the franchise's first big twist.
Beginning in the moments after the first Halloween ended, the first sequel follows Michael as he continues his hunt for Laurie. The action starts in Haddonfield, and then carries on to the hospital where Laurie has been taken to recover. The twist comes when it's revealed that Laurie is actually Michael's sister, who was given up for adoption long ago. Director Rick Rosenthal does fine if uninspired work, managing to mimic the look and feel of the original if not its effectiveness. There's also enough plot and movement to keep things interesting, and some scares that still hold up. In the end, it's an entertaining piece of '80s horror filmmaking.
'Halloween III: Season of the Witch' (1982)
Critics' consensus: Oddball cult classic.
Why you should watch: Because it's fun as hell, even if it has nothing to do with the rest of the Halloween franchise.
While the second film was in production, John Carpenter and his longtime partner Debra Hill, who were still heavily involved with the production of the Halloween films at that point, decided that they would try to make the franchise into an anthology series, with each film featuring a new story. As a result, Halloween III has nothing to do with Michael Myers, but instead tells a tale centered around a Halloween mask factory that's producing masks designed to kill anyone who puts them on. Campy, weird, and carrying more than a dash of social satire, the film was widely panned on release by critics and audiences who were expecting another dose of Myers mayhem. In the intervening years, however, its reception has grown steadily more positive. These days it's frequently listed as being one of the best in the franchise.
'Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers' (1988)
Critics' Consensus: A comfort-food slasher, and the best of the so-called "Thorn Trilogy"
Why you should watch: This is the movie that starts to invent a Michael Myers mythos.
After the anthology concept of Halloween III bombed at the box office, executive producer Moustapha Akkad made the decision to bring back the masked killer that fans were clamoring for. So he resurrected both Myers and his doctor/nemesis Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) -- both of whom had been killed in an explosion at the end of Halloween II -- and instructed his creative team to start building a larger framework around them. The story they came up with is that Michael has been in a comma for ten years, from which he awakens in order to try to kill seven-year-old Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), who is Laurie Strode's daughter, and thus Michael's own niece. As news of this breaks, Dr. Loomis appears on the scene – with some added scar tissue – to pursue the killer. What results is a run-of-the-mill late '80s slasher with a little extra pop that comes from the fact that Michael and the young Jamie have a kind of psychic connection. This leads to a provocative ending in which he seems to inhabit her body, causing her to kill her stepmother. What the heck's going on? You'll have to see the sequels to find out…
'Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers' (1989)
Critics' Consensus: Not good. Not good at all.
Why you should watch: Because it's fascinating to watch filmmakers screw up their own mythology…or to see Michael get rescued by a hermit who has a parrot.
To be honest, this is the toughest one to justify watching. It's flat, makes bad choices all around, and is a prime example of the downside of '80s slasher films: full of silly plot contrivances, dumb characters and cliched moments. And yes, Michael really does get rescued by the parrot-owning hermit: the film opens with the ending of the previous film in which Michael got blasted by a vigilante mob and fell down a mineshaft, and we now learn he crawled out of the mine and fell into a river where he got washed downstream to the hermit's shack. Other than being poorly made, the film's main sin is that it wastes the intriguing premise of the ending of the previous film, which was that young Jamie was going to turn into a Michael-possessed killer. Instead, she just uses her psychic connection to watch him terrorize various teenagers, until he's caught and put in jail, only to be freed in the end by a stranger in black. Who is this man? Once again, you'll have to watch the sequel to find out…
'Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers' (1995)
Critics' Consensus: Slightly better than its predecessor, and…Paul Rudd!
Why you should watch: Because you're curious about what the heck has been going on in the past two movies, and…Paul Rudd!
Perhaps the second most ridiculous film in the franchise (after 2002's Resurrection), The Curse of Michael Myers goes all-in on trying to come up with a coherent explanation for the mystical elements of the previous two films, and also for why Michael is so bent on killing the members of his own family. The solution it comes up with is an ancient Druidic hex called the "Curse of Thorn." (This is why films 4, 5, and 6 are sometimes called "The Thorn Trilogy" by fans.) Long story short, this curse means that its bearer – Michael Myers – must kill all the members of his family on Halloween. Rudd plays Tommy Doyle (the little kid Laurie Strode was babysitting in the first Halloween, now all grown up) who's obsessed with figuring out what this curse is all about, and thereby defeating Michael. The film is convoluted and borders on the ridiculous. At the same time, though, there are definitely some fun moments, Rudd is entertaining, and the whole thing has a distinct '90s vibe that's entertaining to revisit (it was released only a couple months after Rudd's first big-screen appearance in Clueless).
'Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later' (1998)
Critics' Consensus: A solid reboot.
Why you should watch: Jamie Lee Curtis is back, and the whole story gets reset.
In what would become a recurring motif in the series, H20 decided to completely start over. It essentially pretends that the films of the "Thorn Trilogy" never really happened, and announces itself as a sequel to Halloween II, almost twenty years after the fact. It reintroduces us to Curtis's character of Laurie Strode, who apparently faked her own death after the events of the second movie in order to disappear from sight, and now teaches at a private high school which her son John (Josh Hartnett) attends. Unfortunately, Michael has figured out where she's hiding, and arrives to try to kill her, offing the usual assortment of randoms along the way (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michelle Williams, and LL Cool J all pop up as victims). As usual, Laurie triumphs in the end…but by now we know that even though she chops off his head, Michael won't ever really die. The involvement of Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson – who penned the original story for the film – gives it a cheeky air that departs from the usually somber tone of the franchise, and it's an entertaining watch.
'Halloween Resurrection' (2002)
Critics' Consensus: Utter disaster
Why you should watch: Because gonzo three alarm fires can be fun, particularly when they feature Busta Rhymes.
Resurrection is a direct sequel to H20. It opens with the audience finding out that Laurie is in a mental institution because the man whose head she chopped off at the end of the last film was actually a paramedic that Michael switched places with. Then Michael breaks in and kills her by throwing her off the roof. As if at a loss about what to do next, the film shifts to a group of college kids who are on a reality TV show called "Dangertainment," which is run by Rhymes' character Freddie Harris, and will require them to spend the night in Michael's old house in Haddonfield on Halloween night. What you think is going to happen is exactly what does happen, there's lots of found footage sequences, and Rhymes basically steals every scene he's in. Is it any good? Nope. Can it be a lot of fun, if you're in the right, giddy mood? Yes it can be.
Critics' Consensus: Hard-edged, better when it invents than when it mimics.
Why you should watch: If you're not squeamish about edgy horror, or want to see Michael Myers as a kid.
In the early years of the reboot-mania that has consumed Hollywood for almost two decades now, rocker-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie was brought in to redo the original Halloween. His fans love his over-the-top, gory approach, and his detractors wish there was more to him than that; but here Zombie offers something for both. The early sequences when he shows us Michael's disturbed childhood are the strongest parts of the film. Later on, when he tells the same story Carpenter did almost thirty years earlier – including some shot-for-shot homages – Zombie's limitations show, and it's like he's trying to do with a hand grenade what Carpenter achieved with a scalpel. Disturbing and aggressive, but also with moments of real, discomfiting terror, the film tries hard to drag the franchise into the contemporary world of shock-based horror.
'Halloween II' (2009)
Critics' Consensus: The goriest film in the franchise, and a definite step up for Rob Zombie.
Why you should watch: Raw and violent, the film both packs a punch and creates a surprisingly surreal world.
In his sequel to his own film, Zombie frees himself from the restraints of having to make a reboot, with fascinating results. The movie is mostly set two years after the events of the first, and of course involves Michael trying to track down his sister Laurie. The new twist here is that he's not trying to kill her so much as he's trying to reconnect with her in some way. A further complication comes from the fact that, in a contrivance borrowed from the Thorn Trilogy, Michael and Laurie share a kind of psychic connection, this time funneled through the ghost of their mother, Deborah. What results is a low-fi, assaultive tale of macabre strangeness, filled with odd images and flights into sinister fantasy. Maybe the most realized film Zombie has made to date – which may serve as a recommendation or a condemnation, depending on your view of his filmmaking – this Halloween II has if nothing else the virtue of being completely unrestrained.
Critics' Consensus: A successful, if not quite as clever as it thinks it is, reboot of the franchise.
Why you should watch: It's a solid, entertaining horror flick, with a sequel out soon and a third film out next year.
In the now-hallowed Halloween tradition, director David Gordon Green, along with his co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, decided to start over from scratch…kind of. This Halloween purports to be a sequel to the original 1978 film, consigning every other film in the franchise to the dustbin. It's now forty years after the events of the original, Michael has been in a looney bin the entire time, and Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis, once again) – who is now not his sister – has turned into a kind of doomsday prepper, waiting for the inevitable day when he escapes and comes to try to murder her. He does escape, he does try to kill her, and she has a couple tricks up her sleeve, defeating him in the end…or maybe not quite. Green is a good director and the film is an entertaining watch, but it doesn’t really free itself from the other movies in the franchise so much as calling them back so continually that it becomes almost a pastiche rather than its own entity. From its winking demand that Laurie isn't really related to Michael to its direct lift of Laurie's character from H20, Green's movie is a compendium of references and anti-references that proves that the tropes of the franchise are as unkillable as its main character. Which, for horror fans, is good news.