When John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s indie horror Halloween hit cinemas in 1978, they had no idea it would still be going 44 years later. Their low-budget film about a masked babysitter killer turned a young Jamie Lee Curtis into horror’s favourite scream queen and gave us one of cinema’s most iconic monsters: Michael ‘The Shape’ Myers.
Halloween was the most successful independent film of its time and spawned 13 films across five different timelines. With that many sequels, prequels, and reboots knocking around in its filmography, Halloween has seen some pretty drastic shifts in style and quality over the years.
To honour John Carpenter’s lasting influence on rock and metal, here’s our definitive ranking of every Halloween film. There are spoilers ahead, so be warned!
13. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Resurrection dangles at the bottom of this list like an ill-fated horror heroine from a sanitorium rooftop. With one opening sequence, this film undoes the good work of its predecessor, H20.
Despite having Halloween II’s Rick Rosenthal at the helm, Resurrection doesn’t stand a chance against the heavy hitters in this list. Its over-reliance on early 00s horror tropes makes it unremarkable and the kung fu Busta Rhymes scene is an affront to fans everywhere.
12. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Halloween 5 was written and filmed in such a rush that it comes off as callous and clumsy. The characters are unlikable (we’re looking at you, Tina), and there’s no trace of Halloween’s signature suspense. On the plus side, actress Danielle Harris gives an incredible performance as Laurie’s daughter Jamie, and the laundry chute scene is epic.
11. Halloween II (2009)
Writer and director Rob Zombie reluctantly returned to the Halloween franchise after being promised total creative freedom. And boy, does it show! The result is a classic RZ grindhouse effort — graphic gore, unfiltered violence, kooky quotable dialogue, and surreal music video-style sequences. Objectively, Halloween II is a great standalone film with an incredible cast, but it feels too far removed from the spirit of the franchise to hold its own in this list. It’s more exploitation horror than fun slasher.
10. Halloween Ends (2022)
Halloween Ends is the final film in David Gordon Green’s recent trilogy reboot. Although it was marketed as a ‘Laurie versus Michael’ final showdown, the bulk of the film focuses on a new character called Corey, who — spoilers — is killed before the final act. If you were hoping to spend the run time enjoying your favourite characters in the final film of a trilogy, you’re going to be disappointed.
Halloween Ends is a parade of half-baked, unexplored ideas, making for a pretty confusing watch. Does Michael gain power each time he kills? Was Corey his apprentice? We’ll never know. On the plus side, this is JLC’s Laurie at her very best. Her sassy one-liners and killer ending are a shining beacon in the frustrating mishmash that is Halloween Ends.
9. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
The theatrical cut of Curse is the result of rewrites, reshoots, and blatant studio interference. Even the 2014 Producer’s Cut wasn’t enough to save it. We finally get payoff for the Curse of Thorn subplot seeded in Halloween 5, but it ends up being pretty redundant. To add insult to injury, legacy final girl Jamie Lloyd is killed off after being recast, so there’s zero emotional impact.
Curse has clawed its way up the list thanks to the epic electrocution scene and Donald Pleasence’s final performance as Dr Loomis. It also stars a young Paul Rudd, who reprises the role of Tommy Doyle from the 1978 original.
8. Halloween Kills (2021)
Halloween Kills is a bit of a hot mess, but it brings some interesting contemporary elements into play. This includes the often-unexplored impact of the Halloween murders on the citizens of Haddonfield.
It’s got some great throwback moments, but the dialogue often strays into cringe territory. It also makes the mistake of side-lining fan favourite Jamie Lee Curtis.
7. Halloween (2018)
David Gordon Green’s Halloween picks up 40 years after the events of the original 1978 film. It undoes years of convoluted storylines and punctuates itself with plenty of cool throwbacks.
Although Green and his co-writer Danny McBride introduce interesting new characters and plot elements, they never seem to make full use of them. This film is solid, but it’s not the best we’ve seen from the franchise.
6. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
The name says it all! Return sees The Shape back on our screens alongside long-time nemesis Dr Loomis after their absence from Halloween III. It has a reassuring back-to-basics approach and wins bonus points for allowing Donald Pleasence to go full crazy in his role as Dr Loomis.
George P. Wilbur is formidable as Michael, and we get to see him kill a man using only his thumb. Overall, Return is okay — it goes down easy and has a zinger of an ending.
5. Halloween (2007)
Rob Zombie is a notorious genre fan and had Carpenter’s blessing to take Halloween and give it an overhaul. The result is 50 percent faithful remake and 50 percent stylised backstory. Whether you like the new direction or not, you can’t deny the incredible casting. RZ favourites join horror veterans Ken Foree, Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace, and Danielle Harris. Not to mention Malcolm McDowell as Dr Loomis.
RZ rejects canonistic mystique for a dark, psychological take. This choice reshapes our relationship with Michael and gives us a refreshing new perspective. It’s a bold reimagining, but the ending drags just a bit too much for it to leave a powerful impact.
4. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Initially, Carpenter and Hill’s choice to move away from Michael Myers and branch into an anthology wasn’t well received. Fast forward a few decades and its cult following has burst forth like insects from a Silver Shamrock Halloween mask.
Okay, so the plot drags, and horror legend Tom Atkins plays the most unlikable main character, but the kills are fun and inventive. The plot descends into utter lunacy by the third act, and the less said about the overplayed Silver Shamrock jingle, the better (although this black metal cover by Tjolgtjar is great). This is so bad, it’s good.
3. Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)
As a direct sequel to 1981’s Halloween II, H20 brings back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie and blissfully retcons all the silliness from Season of the Witch onward. It’s loaded with cool throwbacks, and the cast is oozing with late ‘90s teen talent, making it a great nostalgia watch.
H20 secures a place in the top three for managing to hold its own as a solid ‘90s slasher while still feeling like a Halloween film. It also wins a bonus point for the fun soundtrack by Creed.
2. Halloween II (1981)
Halloween II is more than just a sequel; it’s a seamless continuation of the first film. Director Rick Rosenthal does a great job mimicking Carpenter’s trademark style, keeping the creepy tracking shots and long suspenseful takes. It also ups the scare factor by allowing the killer into the sanctity of a hospital.
Halloween II gives us the shock sibling reveal and is beloved for its gruesomeness (shoutout to the face scalding scene) and increasingly loony Loomis action. The only reason Halloween II doesn’t take the top spot is because it can’t replicate the impact and originality of the first film.
1. Halloween (1978)
There’s a good reason this film is considered ‘gold standard’ by slasher fans — it practically kickstarted the entire genre. The iconic four-minute opening shot is a best-in-class example of why the kill is nothing without the build-up. And that’s just the start!
Unlike other slashers, Halloween isn’t afraid to take its time. It builds a sense of dread using long shots that allow us to stalk unsuspecting victims from the killer’s perspective. It drives us to shout at the screen when we see Michael’s white mask emerge teasingly from the shadows behind an unsuspecting Laurie’s shoulder.
Halloween’s characters are also unbeatably good. Although it didn’t invent the ‘final girl’ trope, Laurie Strode is one of the most iconic and long-lasting horror film survivors in the genre’s history. And let’s not forget our masked killer, Michael. The idea of a cute kid murdering his sister is horrific in itself, but Halloween takes it up a notch by graduating him to a silent, emotionless killer who can’t be stopped or reasoned with.
Carpenter’s chilling score is the icing on the Halloween cake, underpinning the suspense and stirring the unshakable sense that anything can happen on Halloween night. When you combine all these elements into one killer (pun intended) film, you get a cultural juggernaut capable of defining a genre. Without it, we wouldn’t have Friday the 13th or Prom Night. Much like Michael Myers, Halloween seems to be unbeatable.