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You know how, in slasher films, the individual doing all of the principal slashing tends to advance relentlessly? How that individual never stops never stopping, becoming an unstoppable juggernaut of jump scares and bloodletting? Well, that’s a behavior learned from the slasher film genre itself, which just keeps reappearing with every horror movie cycle. Guns, knives, high voltage, high places, TNT, hexes, curses, seances: nothing stops a slasher, and for 40-plus years, the masked and coveralled psychotic Michael Myers has been the genre’s franchise player.
The Myers character was created by filmmaker John Carpenter for Halloween, a 1978 indie movie that cost $300,000 to make and grossed $70 million, and he has surfaced again and again and again. That first Halloween movie spawned four direct sequels, a Rob Zombie-helmed resurrection of Halloween in 2007 that begat its own sequel, and a 2018 film, also called Halloween, that retconned every other iteration, launched a sequel in 2021 (Halloween Kills), and concludes withHalloween Ends, which is now available to stream on Peacock.
So how does one watch the Michael Myers movies in order? Well, roast some pumpkin seeds, close the blinds, and whip up some spicy Samhain cocktails, because here’s your roadmap to getting slashed, Michael Myers Halloween-style.
DIRECTOR: John Carpenter
CAST: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles
There are lots of lasting signifiers from the slasher film that started it all. The masked killer, for one thing: Michael Myers’s iconic face covering in Halloween was famously rendered from a store-bought William Shatner novelty mask. And one or other distressed teens, whose targeting by slashers has become its own self-aware plot device. The 1978 Halloween movie marked the debut of Jamie Lee Curtis, who went on to more “scream queen” roles in films like Prom Night (1980) and numerous Halloween sequels. (Curtis is also the daughter of Tony Curtis and Psycho actress Janet Leigh, which offered a spiritual connection to the influential Alfred Hitchcock horror classic.) And let’s not forget John Carpenter’s arch, deceptively simple, and decidedly spooky piano score for Halloween — its continued influence is felt today throughout the horror genre.
Where to stream Halloween (1978)
'Halloween II' (1981)
DIRECTOR: Rick Rosenthal
CAST: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Dick Warlock
Stabbed through the eye socket? Shot six times? Thrown from a balcony? Please. That greasy kid stuff from the 1978 Halloween movie isn’t gonna snuff out Michael Myers, and this direct sequel to the original picks up with Michael stalking Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) to a hospital, which subsequently becomes his slayground. Donald Pleasance is back this time around, too, as Loomis, Myers’s psychiatrist. Halloween II didn’t garner the critical accolades of the first film, but it did work to flesh out some of its story. Laurie Strode was revealed to be Michael Myers’s sister, a plot point that held on through many of the ensuing sequels, and Myers was also connected to the occult, alluding to his seemingly supernatural invulnerability. After all, he’s shot a bunch more times in Halloween II, and set on fire for good measure.
Where to stream Halloween II
'Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers' (1988)
DIRECTOR: Dwight H. Little
CAST: Donald Pleasance, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris
What’s with the numbers leap? Well, 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch didn’t feature Michael Myers at all, a decision by the producers that proved to be foolish and which directly led to the masked slasher’s reinstatement for this 1988 sequel to 1978 Halloween movie. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers essentially gave its antagonist and his big return top-line billing, with apologies to all of the unlucky ambulance drivers and service station attendants he murders on his way back to Haddonfield, Illinois. And if there’s anything supernatural fueling Myers’s resilience, that’s also forgotten in favor of amplifying him as a relentless one-dimensional killing machine. By the time of Halloween 4’s release, copycats of the original Halloween had flooded the marketplace, so maybe what The Return of Michael Myers has to offer most is killing in the name of recognition.
Where to stream Halloween 4
'Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers' (1989)
DIRECTOR: Dominique Othenin-Girard
CAST: Donald Pleasance, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell
“Michael lives, and this time they’re ready!” proclaimed the promotional posters for Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, a rush job designed to capitalize on the success of Halloween 4 from a year before. But it’s never very clear who’s “ready” for Myers this time around, since most of those who encounter “The Shape” still don’t survive. That includes an occurrence of the “teens getting frisky” trope, which results in a garden rake impalement and decapitation via scythe. Danielle Harris also returns as Jamie Lloyd, niece of the departed Jamie Lee Curtis character, Laurie Strode; in The Revenge of Michael Myers, Jamie is said to have a telepathic link to her uncle’s squirrelly slasher brain. The Revenge of Michael Myers was eviscerated critically upon release as dull and insipid, and hasn’t fared well over the years. It rests on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at 12%.
Where to stream Halloween 5
'Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers' (1995)
DIRECTOR: Joe Chappelle
CAST: Donald Pleasance, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan
Paul Rudd alert! The ageless charmer debuted as the Tommy Doyle character in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, which was released the same year as Clueless. The sixth installment of the Halloween franchise mostly concerns a cult of druids (yep), an ancient curse, blood sacrifices on the night of Halloween (or Samhain), and the morbid legacy of Michael Myers’ drive to kill. But let’s get back to Paul Rudd. The actor was reportedly offered the chance to play Tommy Doyle again in director David Gordon Green’s recent series of Halloween reboots, but it didn’t materialize, with Anthony Michael Hall instead appearing as Doyle in 2021’s Halloween Kills. Rudd’s involvement gives 1995’s Curse of Michael Myers some contemporary relevance, but it’s also notable that a crowdsourced “Producer’s Cut” appeared on Blu-Ray in 2014, restoring 45 minutes of original footage and featuring an alternate ending.
Where to stream Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
'Halloween H20: 20 Years Later' (1998)
DIRECTOR: Steve Miner
CAST: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams
Here’s where there’s another schism in the Michael Myers Halloween movies. Halloween H20, released 20 years on from the original 1978 Halloween, returns Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode and wipes clean the antics of her niece Jamie Lloyd from the last three films. (That makes it a direct sequel to Halloween II, if you weren’t confused enough about the sequels in this series.) In H20, Curtis’s Laurie Strode has been living under an assumed name, in hiding from her murderous, masked brother. Michael finds her, of course, killing a youthful Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the process, and proceeds to stalk Curtis, her son John (Josh Hartnett), and his girlfriend Molly (Michele Williams). LL Cool J also appears as a security guard. Halloween H20 arrived in the wake of Scream, which had become a cultural phenomenon, and it included the involvement of Kevin Williamson, who contributed story ideas and dialogue rewrites.
Where to stream Halloween H20
'Halloween: Resurrection' (2002)
DIRECTOR: Rick Rosenthal
CAST: Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Thomas Ian Nichols
Holding strong at a Tomatometer rating of 12% on Rotten Tomatoes, the 2002 installment of the Halloween franchise is somewhat notable for returning Halloween II helmer Rick Rosenthal to the director’s chair, but otherwise can’t muster much in terms of slasher film returns. It does however feature an EXTREME early 2000s cast, with the likes of Thomas Ian Nichols (American Pie) and Bianca Kajlich (10 Things I Hate About You, Bring It On), a pre-Battlestar Galactica Katie Sackhoff, and Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks, who appear as the hosts of a competition reality show called “Dangertainment.” Cue an armload of early social media references, with awkward “head camera” points of view and a Very Online friend who tracks Michael Meyers’ movements IRL while “Dangertainment” transforms his childhood home into a murder mystery dinner-meets-lock in. According to reports, Kajlich’s ineffective actual screams had to be overdubbed by a stunt screamer.
Where to stream Halloween: Resurrection
DIRECTOR: Rob Zombie
CAST: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Scout Taylor-Compton
Different concepts were bandied about before this reboot/sequel of the original 1978 Halloween movie appeared with Rob Zombie as writer, director, and producer. Crossovers had been the rage, with Freddy vs. Jason appearing in 2003, and Dimension Studios briefly considered intersecting the Halloween universe and Michael Myers with Hellraiser and the Cenobites. But Zombie ultimately won the project, with the blessing of John Carpenter, and the grim, grisly aesthetic he brought to his 2005 film The Devil’s Rejects informed Zombie’s Halloween, where a Michael Myers origin story blends with traditional sequel elements to reset the franchise and its representative material. Zombie placed Malcom McDowell in the role of Myers psychologist Dr. Samuel Loomis, and filled out his cast with regulars from the Rob Zombie House of Horrors, including Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Bill Moseley, Sybil Danning, and Sid Haig.
Where to stream Halloween (2007)
'Halloween II' (2009)
DIRECTOR: Rob Zombie
CAST: Malcom McDowell, Tyler Mane, Sheri Moon Zombie
Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween cleared $80 million on its budget of $15 million, so for its inevitable sequel, the writer-director was given even more creative freedom. And what he came up with was kill-heavy, awash in gore, and scalded with the abrasive, confrontational aesthetic of such genre horror entries as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I Spit on Your Grave. Much of Zombie’s cast from his Halloween returned for a second round, and this time, the shared psychosis of Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) and Laurie Strode/Angel Myers (Scout Taylor-Compton) was explored in greater detail, to the detriment of many of Laurie’s youthful friends who end up dead in sparklingly awful ways. The film’s ending was Zombie’s doing, too, but he declined to direct a sequel. Then the Weinstein Company imploded, and Blumhouse Productions acquired the rights to Halloween. And with that, we enter the David Gordon Green era.
Where to stream Halloween II (2009)
DIRECTOR: David Gordon Green
CAST: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Will Patton
Don’t call it Halloween 11, even though it is. Or, if “retroactive continuity” is too played, call it a “re-imagining,” even though 2018’s Halloween retcons everything, from the Rob Zombie-directed versions of the property all the way through to the Halloween sequels of the 1980’s and ‘90s. Nevertheless, director David Gordon Green and his co-writer Danny McBride once again set Michael Myers to stalking after Laurie Strode, and their version cleared $250 million in box office to surpass Scream as the highest-grossing slasher film of all-time. Jamie Lee Curtis co-stars with Judy Greer as Karen, Laurie’s estranged daughter, and Will Patton as a sheriff’s deputy with links to Michael Myers’ 1978 killing spree; Green’s Halloween earned critical applause, too, for its thematic links with the John Carpenter original. The showdown between Laurie and Myers, “The Shape,” who come face to face after 40 years, is particularly arresting.
Watch Halloween (2018)
'Halloween Kills' (2021)
DIRECTOR: David Gordon Green
CAST: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Halloween Kills, the sequel to director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride’s Halloween, was shot in 2019, then had its release date delayed repeatedly over COVID concerns, and dropped in theaters and on Peacock in 2021. (Its own sequel, Halloween Ends, also co-written by Green and McBride, will premiere on October 14, 2022.) Kills returns Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak from 2018’s Halloween, and adds Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle, a role played previously by Paul Rudd in 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. As the survivors of Myers’ 1978 murder spree reunite in reflection and mourning, the seemingly un-killable man (this time Michael survived a house being burned down around him) mounts a new massacre against the residents of Haddonfield, Illinois. Fire, knives, and guns — they’ve all failed to kill Myers. Maybe Jamie Lee Curtis’s determination in a role she debuted over 40 years ago is the only thing that can do it.
Where to stream Halloween Kills
'Halloween Ends' (2022)
This is it! The final Halloween movie! (If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.) After the events of Halloween Kills, Halloween Ends promises to … well, end! Laurie Strode and Michael Myers will face off yet again in the conclusion of director David Gordon Green’s trilogy of terror. The movie is now available to watch on Peacock. (And if you’re confused by the movie’s ending, we’ve got just the article for you: ‘Halloween Ends’ Ending Explained: The Last ‘Halloween’ Movie Delivers a Gruesome, Definitive Death)
Johnny Loftus is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges
- Halloween (1978)
- halloween movies
- Stream and Scream