I’ve got to admit it – I’m one of those ranking nerds. Anything I’m fond of, with several entries or versions, be it movies, albums, television episodes or whatever, I like to rank them from best to worst. And I’m clearly not the only one. Every October I start seeing lists like that about horror movies, sometimes centered around a single franchise, other times encompassing the whole genre.
Esquire recently gave the rank treatment to the Halloween franchise, just in time for October. Unfortunately, their list is kind of garbage. They jumped on the Rob Zombie hate train, they called Halloween 3 “so bad it’s good”, and of course, they ranked H20 too highly. I see these trends in most Halloween rankings, and setting aside the fact that one would need to have seen eleven Halloween movies to even make it, those things always strike me as clues that the author isn’t actually a fan of the series at all.
Full disclosure: There are two Halloween movies I haven’t technically seen ALL of – and they’re the two lowest ranked on my list. I did watch parts of both of them but actually found them so inept and boring I couldn’t sit through the whole thing. If that ruins my credibility in your eyes, so be it.
Here’s my ranking. Note: In order to differentiate between Halloween the holiday and Halloween the movie series, I’ve italicized the word when I’m referring to the franchise as a whole.
11. Halloween Resurrection
Yep, Busta Rhymes, Tyra Banks, yadda yadda… It’s easy to point to the ridiculous casting choices as what makes Resurrection so bad, but apart from the kung fu scene, and “trick or treat motherfucker”, and… OK, maybe they ARE what made it so bad. But it also fails as a trashy B-level slasher too, and has one of the series’ worst looking masks.
10. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
I haven’t seen the famed “Producer’s cut”, but the few times I’ve attempted to give this one a fair shake, expecting it to one day reveal hidden pleasures, I’ve become too bored to continue. So sad this was Donald Pleasance’s last film.
9. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
I mostly remember this one as having one of the worst masks I’ve ever seen in a Halloween film, and for the opening in which Michael Myers is nursed back to health by a random hobo in the bottom of the cavern where he allegedly feel to his death in the previous movie. Other than that… it’s kind of a blur.
8. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Halloween 4 and 5 are so closely linked in so many ways that you usually don’t see one without the other. They sold the two movies in two packs both on VHS and DVD. They run the two of them in marathons on basic cable every October. These are the two movies that featured Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd – the fourth most iconic character in the whole series. It makes sense that they would rank together too – even Esquire’s list did this. Halloween 4 did, in fact, breathe new life into the franchise when it was on the brink of death, but it did so in spite of being pretty rote, cheap and predictable. Bringing back Michael Myers after Halloween 3 was their only gimmick. However, it does have a spectacular opening credits scene that easily eclipses anything else in the whole movie.
7. Halloween H20
Now look… I know H20 has its die hard fans. I can understand how, on the heels of 4, 5, and 6, and in the middle of the 90’s slasher rebirth, the return of Halloween with Jamie Lee back on board must have been extremely exciting. But in truth, what kills this one is the timing. Scream was in part a tribute (in part a parody) to the original Halloween, so to see H20 blatantly aping Scream has a bleak, ouroboros quality to it. The soundtrack is too 90’s to function. The characters are forgettable. And you can see Michael’s eyes through the damn mask!
6. Halloween 2 (1981)
I only saw this once, so perhaps I’m in the wrong to rank it this highly. But I treat it like an optional companion movie to the first Halloween. Yeah, it’s a cheap cash grab, but almost ALL of the sequels are. This one at least had the direct involvement of John Carpenter and Debra Hill so that alone elevates it.
5. Halloween 2 (2009)
Here’s the other place where I break from most popular Halloween rankings: I don’t hate the Rob Zombie films. I find them fascinating. They mix brilliance with trash. Good ideas beside atrocious ones. When I first saw Halloween 2 I was deeply offended by it. Not for the reasons Zombie intended either – I found it grating, obnoxious and wrong-headed in the worst possible way. But rewatches have revealed some redeeming qualities. I won’t go into it in detail, but watch the Halloween party scene near the end. It’s spectacular.
4. Halloween (2007)
Honestly, it doesn’t feel right to have Rob Zombie’s Halloween as #4 on an 11 film ranking, but it also doesn’t feel right to have anything else in this spot. There just aren’t very many legitimately great films in the Halloween franchise. What I can say is, when the time comes to re-watch a Halloween movie, this is my 4th choice. So there.
3. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch
I won’t bother rehashing the age-old debate about the Michael Myers-free Halloween 3, about how it should have held as the new direction for the franchise, or shed the Halloween branding entirely, or be dismissed as canon. What I will say is that, as a Halloween-centric horror movie, it’s very good. It also has Tom Atkins. Instant +100.
2. Halloween 2018
I reviewed this in full last year on release, but to revisit the subject a year later, and with the benefit of a re-viewing, I can say it does absolutely hold up as the second best Halloween movie. I could make an argument for swapping this with Halloween 3, but taking into account 3’s status as “technically” a Halloween movie, I must give this one the edge. There was a minor backlash against this shortly after it came out, with a certain segment of the online community nitpicking its flaws. But I think anyone familiar with the entire franchise has to admit to themselves that of all the many sequels to the original Halloween, this one had the most care put into honoring the characters and the integrity of the story (such as it is).