When it comes to complicated franchises, few can beat the devastation Michael Myers has left in his wake. The Halloween franchise currently spans twelve movies and includes reboots, multiple timelines, and one installment where the infamous slasher only scrapes in with a cameo.
What Is The Halloween Franchise All About?
Except for one entry, the Halloween films follow one of horror’s most memorable killers, Michael Myers. Here’s a 40-plus-year-old spoiler: John Carpenter’s genre-defining 1978 Halloween opens with an iconic sequence shot from a killer’s point of view. Following a horrific murder, the killer is revealed to be a six-year-old Michael Myers, and the victim his older sister. That’s the only time we fully see the killer’s face. Almost every time the adult Myers appears after that point, he wears blue coveralls and an emotionless white mask.
Famously, Michael Myers’s original face covering was a painted Captain Kirk mask purchased just before production of the first film for $1.98 on Hollywood Boulevard. That impassive mask, his lumbering form, and a tendency to stand motionless before his kills (and study the victims afterward) earned him the name “The Shape” in the credits. It’s a fitting nickname⏤Myers is a terrifying force, devoid of humanity. He works best when the films present him as a motiveless force of evil, although the franchise has sometimes explored his origins a little too much.
Each of Myers’ appearances has followed one of his seasonal killing sprees, mostly centered on the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. In the first two films, his focus was on one of the most famous “final girls” in horror cinema, Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode. Living up to her reputation, she has returned throughout the franchise, for various reasons and in multiple states of mind, including the most recent Halloween trilogy that began in 2018.
The only time the films deviated from the Myers formula was with the third installment, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. It was a bold attempt to turn the franchise into an anthology series and a fascinating excursion into science fiction folk horror. But its disappointing performance ensured Michael Myers’ return for the fourth entry. In the layered mythology, resets, and remakes that followed, The Shape has remained the deadly constant.
Why Are There Multiple Halloween Timelines?
Three separate timelines have sparked from a fateful decision made during the production of the first sequel, 1981’s Halloween II. It’s one of the most well-known spoilers in horror cinema. At the climax of the film, after it’s suggested that there’s a supernatural link between Michael Myers and the ancient festival of Samhain⏤the Gaelic precursor of Halloween⏤we also learned that Laurie Strode is Micheel Myers’ younger sister.
Robbing Myers’ regular rampages of mystery, it was a twist that franchise creator John Carpenter blamed on there being too little story left after the pure concept of the original. It gave Myers a new, blood-fueled motivation which proved essential when he returned in the fourth entry. That film kicked off the so-called Thorn trilogy, which brought in further members of Myers’ extended family, confirmed the killer’s supernatural motivation, and marked a descent in the franchise’s quality.
The first divergence from that timeline happened on the 20th anniversary of the original film, when Halloween H2O picked up straight from Halloween II, ignoring the Thorn mythology but still playing heavily on the Strode-Myers sibling rivalry.
In 2007, a franchise reboot reset everything. Rob Zombie’s remake reimagined the original film, suffering in comparison before its sequel headed into a new and intriguing exploration of trauma and consequence.
In 2018, Halloween was a solid update that took its cue from the original film. Crucially, it ignored the events of Halloween II and Myers’ familial connection, serving as a direct sequel to 1978’s Halloween. The mystery of Michael Myers had returned to movie theaters.
The good news is that John Carpenter’s 1978 classic is at the start of three of the following four watching orders. But once you’ve watched that, the choice of where to go next is up to you. Here’s our recommended watchlist for each timeline.
The Original Franchise Watch Order
Halloween II (1981)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (non-Michael Myers, 1982)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
The Self-Referential Watch Order
“Self-referential” is the slasher era that ran approximately between 1994 and the conclusion of the initial Scream trilogy in 2000. Scream writer Kevin Williamson penned Halloween’s 1997 reboot, moving the action away from Haddonfield and ignoring the four previous films. Even though the quality drops off a cliff between the two films, H20 combines with Resurrection to form a knowing if disappointing conclusion to the original franchise.
Halloween II (1981)
Halloween H20 (1998)
Halloween Resurrection (2002)
The Reboot Watch Order
Writer, director, and producer Rob Zombie reset the franchise for his two-film standalone sequence.
Halloween II (2009)
The Halloween Ends Watch Order
David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s update picked up directly from John Carpenter’s original film. A trilogy was announced on the back of Halloween’s success in 2018.
Halloween Kills (2021)
Halloween Ends (2022)
How To Watch The Halloween Films
All the Halloween films are available on home media, with remastered 4K editions of the first five arriving this October. Every Halloween film released so far is also available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime and Apple TV+. Other streaming networks also carry assorted entries, including HBO Now and Shudder.
Halloween Kills is set for a simultaneous release in theaters and on the streaming service Peacock on October 15th, 2021.