That old walking, stalking figure of pure evil, Michael Myers, returns in director David Gordon Green’s new film (in theaters Friday), a sequel that picks up the narrative 40 years after the original 1978 John Carpenter movie. Michael escapes custody and arrives in Haddonfield, Ill., for another showdown with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the former babysitter who’s now a heavily weaponized warrior grandma.
But wait, you’re thinking: Haven’t there been a bunch of sequels in those four decades? Yep, and thankfully the new film does away with it all, from the weirder mythology (a Man in Black, really?) to Michael’s extended family tree (which he pretty much wants to wipe out). Heck, one “Halloween” film doesn’t even have Michael!
Not that it was all bad. In honor of the latest installment, we’re ranking the entire “Halloween” franchise, though it’s safe to say there’s only one real classic in the bunch.
11.) ‘Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers’ (1989)
10.) ‘Halloween: Resurrection’ (2002)
You don’t kill off national treasure Jamie Lee Curtis in a movie. You just don’t. But, that’s where Laurie – in a moment of weakness – gets stabbed by Michael and thrown to her doom off the roof of a mental asylum. Fifteen minutes into the movie, no less!
9.) ‘Rob Zombie’s Halloween II’ (2009)
The second half of Rob Zombie’s ambitious two-part reboot stumbled with a gore overload and Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) looking more like a gimmicky pro wrestler than “The Shape” of evil. One positive: The appearance of Deborah Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie) as a ghost mom (with a white horse!) who appears to both Michael and Laurie, aka Angel Myers (Scout Taylor-Compton).
8.) ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ (1982)
This very odd little hiccup in the series is the result of a brief flirtation with “Halloween” as a horror anthology instead of a slasher fest. So Michael’s been shelved and in his villainous place is a novelty company that plans to use a mystical rock from Stonehenge to weaponize kids’ Halloween masks and slaughter millions. At least the bad guys had a creepily catchy jingle.
7.) ‘Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers’ (1995)
This one is the guilty-pleasure entry. It’s among Donald Pleasence’s final roles: He died seven months before it came out. It’s Paul Rudd’s second film role, as the kooky Tommy Doyle (one of the kids saved by Laurie in the 1978 flick). There’s a slight “Footloose” angle, with a Haddonfield ban on Halloween. And to make the franchise truly bonkers, it introduces the “Curse of Thorn” and a cult to explain Michael’s bloody anti-family bent.
6.) ‘Halloween’ (2007)
It took some major chutzpah to say, “Let’s remake John Carpenter!” But Rob Zombie’s brutal modern take added some cool backstory about little Michael’s murderous tendencies and extra story foundation before a slash-happy climax. (Also: Malcolm McDowell is a tremendous Dr. Loomis. Worth a watch for him alone.)
5.) ‘Halloween: H2O’ (1998)
In addition to her new 40th anniversary return, Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode also came back to celebrate the 20th. After faking her death to avoid Michael, her old foe finds Laurie working at a private school, and they have a showdown wherein she chops off Myers’ head. (Fun fact: Totally wasn’t him.)
4.) ‘Halloween II’ (1981)
Jamie Lee Curtis actually is underutilized in the first sequel, which picks up where the original left off with Laurie’s hell night. Dr. Loomis is preoccupied with the cops looking for Myers and Haddonfield’s residents start to freak out when they realize a killer’s on the loose, while Michael is busy tracking Laurie to a local hospital (which will be a frequent “Halloween” setting going forward). Oh, yeah, and Laurie is apparently Michael’s sister. Surprise!
3.) ‘Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers’ (1988)
The whole bloodline angle gets wonky in these movies, but the fourth installment does some good in giving Michael a niece in young Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris.) Naturally, she’s the target of the villain’s latest rampage, yet there’s a little bit of Michael – and not just DNA – in Jamie that gives the series a whiff of freshness, as well as a shock ending.
2.) ‘Halloween’ (2018)
The new follow-up is a not very scary but often funny throwback to the simpler slashers of yesteryear while also being a modern look at tragedy and trauma. Like 40 years prior, Haddonfield is totally not ready for Michael, although Laurie is, and Jamie Lee Curtis is the best thing about it as a middle-aged woman who’s just not taking it anymore.
1.) ‘Halloween’ (1978)
By far the best, no question. When John Carpenter opened the movie from the point of view of 6-year-old Michael stabbing his sister to death, then caught up with him 15 years later creepily following Laurie (and unleashing unholy hell on suburbia), it brought the fright factor through an audience’s front door for the first time: How do you escape an unstoppable maniac in your house? And it’s just as timeless now as it was four decades ago.