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IGN - How to Watch the Halloween Movies in Chronological Order


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Spoilers follow for the entire Halloween series.

On the night of October 31, 1978, Michael Myers, AKA The Shape, killed three people… and then a whole bunch of other people that same night. Or maybe it was just those first three? One thing’s for sure, his main target, teenager Laurie Strode, was his sister. Well, unless she isn’t. But what we do know is that Laurie went on to have a daughter… No, scratch that, she had a son. No, wait, a daughter!

John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic Halloween was a critically acclaimed breakout hit and created a long-running franchise in the process. But one thing it didn’t create was an easy-to-follow timeline. Even as we approach the release of the next installment, Halloween Ends, there are plenty of people still trying to figure out how the new movie fits in with the other sequels, not to mention how to watch the entire Halloween series in order.

So, ahead of Halloween Ends' October 14 debut, let's break down the series complicated multiverse.

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How Many Halloween Movies Are There?

There are currently twelve Halloween movies. The thirteenth, Halloween Ends, is due out on October 14. The twelve movies, released between 1978 and 2021, exist across five timelines, which we explore below.

Halloween Movies in Chronological Order

There's good news and there's bad news here. The good news is that if you want to watch the Halloween movies in order, you have a few ways you can do that. The bad news is there are several different timelines in the Halloween world at this point, so there's really no right way to watch them all! (Maybe that's good news too, actually.)

You see, at this point, the Halloween series isn’t telling one story. It’s become several stories, usually taking the Michael Myers and Laurie Strode characters and spinning them off into what can best be described as multiple timelines or alternate realities. We'll dig into the details and watch order of each of those timelines below, but you can use this index if you'd just like to jump directly to a specific one:

Halloween Timeline 1

  • Halloween (1978)
  • Halloween II (1981)
  • Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
  • Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
  • Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

When the initial timeline of a movie series still requires you to skip an early sequel, you know things are a bit complicated. And such is the case with Halloween, where you can follow a somewhat serialized story across the first six movies… if you just remove the third one.

The original Halloween depicts Michael Myers as a young boy killing his sister, Judith, in 1963, and then leaps to the 21-year-old Michael breaking out of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium in 1978. Killing a truck driver along the way, Michael makes it back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween, where he stalks and kills three teenagers, though he fails to eliminate his main target, high school student Laurie Strode. He is eventually shot repeatedly by his psychiatrist-turned-enemy, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), before escaping.

Halloween II then picks up immediately after the first film -- immediately as in it’s set the same night! -- with Michael upping the ante and murdering many more people as he continues to pursue Laurie after she’s brought to the local hospital. The audience, and Laurie herself, eventually learns Laurie is actually Michael’s second sister, before Michael and Loomis both apparently die in a massive explosion.

Or so we thought until Halloween 4, which takes place a decade after the first two films, and reveals both Loomis and Michael survived the explosion, with Michael awakening from a long coma to once more return to Haddonfield. We learn Laurie has died, but not before having a daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). Michael is now intent on stalking his young niece, as he once fixated on his sister, with Loomis still determined to stop him. After killing his way through Haddonfield, Michael is tracked down by the police and shot multiple times (again), falling down into a mine shaft -- but not before possibly passing his evil onto little Jamie, who stabs her own foster mother in the same manner her uncle once stabbed Judith Myers.

A year later, in Halloween 5, Michael returns, once more going after Jamie, who we learn has serious trauma from what happened, but isn’t quite as evil as it appeared. This time, after another notable body count, Michael is actually arrested by the police (who kindly let him keep his mask on in his cell), only to be broken out by a mysterious Man in Black who shares the same, previously unrevealed, wrist tattoo as Michael.

This is all explained, sort of, in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, as things get really weird in a movie involving a Druid cult that apparently always controlled Michael, Jamie’s baby, Michael actually killing Jamie (now played by J. C. Brandy) after, very disturbingly, possibly fathering her child, and… Paul Rudd in one of his first roles! It’s also the final appearance for the late, great Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis, as he once more faces off with Michael. Whether you watch the theatrical cut or the Producer’s Cut, with its notable differences, Curse ends on some form of cliffhanger -- though it’s one that would never be resolved regardless, as the series was destined for one of its big resets soon after.

Halloween Timeline 2

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween III is, of course, the infamous, and initially hated, “One without Michael Myers,” though its reputation has deservedly improved in recent years, as people have come to appreciate that this is one fun, crazy movie. While Michael has nothing to do with this tale of Halloween masks that melt kids’ heads and turn them into bugs when a Stonehenge-powered TV signal hits them -- or something? -- one could argue this could be happening in another corner of a Michael Myers-populated universe… were it not for the fact that the original Halloween is a movie within the movie, playing on TV during the course of Season of the Witch. Not to mention that what happens at the end of the movie hints at an apocalyptic-enough event that it would distract people even from Michael Myers himself if he did exist.

That said, the Halloween Kills trailers have shown us that the Silver Shamrock masks from III do exist in the Kills timeline. Hmm...

Halloween Timeline 3

  • Halloween (1978)
  • Halloween II (1981)
  • Halloween: H20 (1998)
  • Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

The 20th anniversary of Halloween in 1998 brought about the big occasion of Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the series as Laurie Strode for the oddly titled “No, it’s not about water” Halloween: H20. But since Laurie was killed offscreen in the fourth movie, how did the filmmakers account for that? By saying the fourth, fifth and sixth films never happened and just using the first two films to continue on from. It was a controversial move, in part because Jamie Lloyd -- despite many feeling she was ultimately mishandled in later movies -- had become a popular character in her own right and this film was removing her from existence. Here, Laurie instead has a son, John (Josh Hartnett), in a film whose cast includes the fascinating likes of Michelle Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and LL Cool J.

Some would argue maybe you could make H20 fit into Jamie’s story, given it does involve Laurie living under a different name, Keri Tate, having faked her own death after Halloween II and moving to California. But not only would you have to then accept Laurie having a daughter she let think her mom was dead, but in H20, it’s clear Michael hasn’t been seen in the past 20 years, making his three subsequent murder sprees in Halloween 4-6 not work at all. No, this has to be a different timeline, as Michael finally makes his presence known again, 20 years after that hospital explosion, returning to take on his sister in a big would-be final battle. After Michael kills several people along the way, Laurie ultimately faces her fears and defeats her brother once and for all, cutting his head off with an axe and ending her long nightmare…

…Until 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection reveals that Michael managed to put a random paramedic in his outfit and mask, and that’s who Laurie actually killed. Jamie Lee Curtis makes a cameo at the start of Resurrection as Laurie, now institutionalized herself, who gives her brother a farewell kiss as he finally kills her (Nooo!!!!) before he returns to Haddonfield to terrorize a group of kids silly enough to participate in an online reality show filming in his childhood home. He then faces his greatest indignity as he is hurt in a fight by a reality show director... played by Busta Rhymes... who knows martial arts. Yep. This version of Michael was seemingly killed at the end of Halloween: Resurrection, only to live up to the title and awaken in the morgue once more, though it would be the last time we’d see him.

Halloween Timeline 4

  • Halloween (2007)
  • Halloween II (2009)

In 2007, Halloween got a true remake/reboot/do-over, as Rob Zombie wrote and directed his own interpretation of the original concept. Starting over with Michael as a boy, this film has no continuity connections to any of the other films, leaning heavily into the Michael and Laurie as siblings concept. Zombie includes more of Michael’s home life -- reinterpreted as far more chaotic than the glimpses in the earlier version -- and what happened to his baby sister after he killed their older sister, Judith, along with several other people in this version of his first childhood kill. After continuing to follow Michael as a child in the aftermath of those murders, where we meet Dr. Loomis (here played by Malcolm McDowell), the second half of the film is a more traditional remake of the original. Once more, Michael stalks a teenage Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and her friends, and Michael is shot at the end, though some details are changed along the way.

Zombie would make a sequel to his film, Halloween II (yes, there are two movies with that title), which would include some nods to the earlier Halloween II with initial scenes set at a hospital right after Michael attempted to kill Laurie. After that, it mostly told its own story, set two years later, that included the unusual sight of Michael Myers -- who is much more of a hulking presence in Zombie’s version than the original, slimmer Michael -- dressed as a wandering vagrant. Zombie’s sequel culminated in Michael killing Loomis before Laurie apparently kills Michael. Laurie, psychologically traumatized, then ends up institutionalized herself, as it seems some things are destined to repeat in the Myers/Strode multiverse… Though in the Director’s Cut of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, Laurie ends up being shot and killed by police after it appears to them as though she has become homicidal herself.

And yes, between the Producer’s Cut of Curse of Michael Myers and the Director’s Cut of Zombie’s Halloween II, arguably you could say two additional timelines exist beyond the five basic ones listed here. But let’s just call those Timeline 1B and Timeline 4B!

Halloween Timeline 5

  • Halloween (1978)
  • Halloween (2018)
  • Halloween Kills (2021)
  • Halloween Ends (2022)

And that brings us to the latest parallel universe that was established with 2018’s Halloween, which rather than wiping the slate clean completely again, as Rob Zombie did, wiped the slate mostly clean. The 2018 film was a sequel to 1978’s Halloween, but only that film -- the first of the proper sequels to ignore the events of 1981’s Halloween II, not only removing Michael’s expanded body count beyond Laurie’s three friends, but also, most notably, removing the revelation that Laurie and Michael are sister and brother.

Once again, as with H20, Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed Laurie later in life for a big anniversary installment when the 2018 film hit on the series' 40th anniversary. But in this timeline, Laurie stayed in Haddonfield and was obsessed with the thought that Michael -- who was locked up for the past 40 years -- would eventually break out of confinement again. This Laurie has a daughter named Karen (Judy Greer), not Jamie, and Karen now has her own teenage daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), making Laurie a grandmother. Of course, in the 2018 Halloween, Michael did break out and wreak havoc once again. He seemingly was defeated at the end of the film by Laurie, Karen, and Allyson, who trapped him in Laurie's burning basement... but come on now! You know that's not how Michael does things.

Michael escapes Laurie's basement, thanks to some poorly timed heroism from the local fire department, and embarks on yet another killing spree. The Haddonfield residents band together to kill Michael once and for all, but, as expected, Michael narrowly avoids death and continues his string of brutal murders, culminating in the film's most significant kill, when Michael stabs Laurie's daughter Karen.

Which brings us to Halloween Ends, the final film in this fiifth tiimeline. It's set four years after Halloween Kills and will be the finale to the 45-year showdown between Michael Myers and Laurie Stode.

How to Watch the Halloween Movies By Release Date

  • Halloween (1978)
  • Halloween II (1981)
  • Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
  • Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
  • Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
  • Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
  • Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
  • Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
  • Halloween (2007)
  • Halloween II (2009)
  • Halloween (2018)
  • Halloween Kills (2021)
  • Halloween Ends (2022)

Looking for more of the best horror movies? We've got you covered with horror movies on Netflix and the best horror movies on Amazon Prime.

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