You can't throw a rock these days without hitting a franchise, and that goes double for the horror genre. The overwhelming success of Freddy and Jason in the '80s made sure that every creep with a butcher knife (or a chain saw) and at least one box-office success was given three or four movies to work out their issues. Some of these beloved horror franchises have delivered the goods for the entirety of their run, while others have sputtered out entirely - but which franchises are the best?
What you'll be voting on is which horror franchise has the best quality of sequels, not necessarily which one has the best original film. Even if you think Alien is the superior horror film, you might find yourself voting for the Friday the 13th series as a whole because it's more tonally consistent, but that's between you and your horror icon of choice. Let the horror franchise wars begin.
- Photo: Scream 2 / Dimension Films1112 VOTES
The Best Sequels: Scream 2, Scream 4
The Worst Sequel: Scream 3
The Ups and Downs of the Franchise: If Scream 3 wasn't gutted during preproduction, there would be no discussion about franchise sequel quality. Every single one of these movies is doing its best to tell the story of Sidney Prescott and the real trauma of being a "final girl." Despite its issues (and it has plenty of issues), Scream 3 genuinely holds up more than you remember - just take a bathroom break when Jay and Silent Bob show up.
Regardless of how you want to rank the movies in the Scream franchise, each one of them features prescient commentary on the current zeitgeist, whether it's discussing the MeToo movement or the way that social media has completely stripped users of their ability to see people as anything but fans.
- Photo: Aliens / 20th Century Fox282 VOTES
The Best Sequels: Aliens, Prometheus
The Worst Sequels: Alien 3, Resurrection, Alien vs. Predator
The Ups and Downs of the Franchise: The Alien franchise is wild. Even if you don't consider the Alien vs. Predator films to be a part of the series, these movies are full of B-movie shenanigans and out-of-the-box moves that will either make you love or hate the sequels to Ridley Scott's original film. More importantly, they'll make you take a hard look at where the movies belong on this list of horror franchises.
The best thing about the Alien movies is that for the first four films, they were handed off to a different director with their own sensibilities and thoughts on what the movies should be. James Cameron made an action movie, and that was followed by David Fincher's claustrophobic study of the prison system and organized religion. You don't get that kind of whiplash from the Saw franchise - but does that make the franchise better?
In recent years, Ridley Scott has returned to the series to make movies about everything but the Xenomorphs or Ellen Ripley. It's been hit-or-miss. Prometheus is definitely about 10 steps up from the Alien vs. Predator movies, but it also takes itself way too seriously. That film's follow-up, Alien: Covenant, is more fun thanks to the gothic horror sensibilities, but it's never been more clear that Scott doesn't want to make an Alien movie. That's a lot to chew on, but these films are always going to remain fan faves.
- Photo: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter / Paramount Pictures396 VOTES
The Best Sequels: Friday the 13th Part II, The Final Chapter, Jason Lives
The Worst Sequels: Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason X
The Ups and Downs of the Franchise: Generally speaking, the Friday the 13th franchise is the most fun slasher series of the '80s and easily the most rewatchable. The biggest sin committed by the worst sequels isn't just that they're kind of a snooze - it's that they refuse to lean into how ridiculous these films can be.
Jason Goes to Hell is a great example of something that can easily be considered the worst of the franchise, but it tries something new. Even though the movie is a failure, it's an engrossing failure that can be watched time and time again. It's hard to say the same for Jason Takes Manhattan.
Something truly unique about this franchise is that there are flashes of brilliance throughout its long life. I, III, and IV are really good slashers, A New Beginning may not be "good" but it is a peek into an alternate dimension where John Waters directed a horror movie, and Jason Lives is Frankenstein in a hockey mask. From there on out, things get dicey, but there's fun to be had with these movies until the end of the line.
- Photo: Dawn of the Dead / United Film Distribution Company464 VOTES
The Best Sequels: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead
The Worst Sequels: Diary of the Dead, Survival of the Dead
The Ups and Downs of the Franchise: Pardon the pun, but this is the one franchise that will never die. Even though the scion of the zombie films, George Romero, has passed on, there are still sequels penned by the director waiting to be filmed. The initial trilogy of films is a breathtaking and brutal look at a kind of slow apocalypse. With each film, Romero's worldview becomes more nihilistic, and by the time Land of the Dead was released in 2005, there's little hope in these films. Not that we come to horror for hope, but woof, these are bleak movies.
Between the original trilogy and Romero's return to zombie storytelling, Tom Savini directed a remake of the original film that's pretty cool even if it's not the best of the franchise. The back half of this series isn't so hot, but it's interesting to see Romero try out new ways of storytelling rather than get stuck in a rut like a lot of older directors. Even if this isn't our favorite franchise, it's one worth returning to again and again.
- Photo: Halloween II / Universal Pictures5105 VOTES
The Best Sequels: Halloween II, The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween (2018)
The Worst Sequels: Resurrection, The Revenge of Michael Myers, The Curse of Michael Myers
The Ups and Downs of the Franchise: Not to tell you how to vote, but the Halloween franchise is a mess. The series has been rebooted three times (H2O sidesteps everything but the first two films), and even in the original six movies, the story is all over the place. But narrative issues aside, when the Halloween franchise is good, it's good.
Mileage varies on most of the sequels. When the series tries something new (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the 2009 director's cut of Halloween II), the films have a life in them that's missing from a dog like The Revenge of Michael Myers. There are also ups and downs in the 2018 Halloween reboot of the series. The first film may take a "back-to-basics" approach, but Halloween Kills is far from the best of the franchise.
The most fascinating thing about Halloween is that it easily has the best initial film in the series, which is followed by a dense collection of films that ride a roller coaster of quality. If this is your favorite franchise, we can only wish you the best.
- Photo: Evil Dead II / Rosebud Releasing Corporation683 VOTES
The Best Sequels: Evil Dead II, Evil Dead (2013)
The Worst Sequel: Army of Darkness
The Ups and Downs of the Franchise: We had to pick something as the worst sequel, but if we're being honest, this entire franchise is solid. There's plenty about Army of Darkness to find fault with. It has pacing issues, and the extreme horror of the first two films is exchanged for a sword-and-sandals vibe that's fun but feels kind of like a franchise killer when you think about it. Somehow, the movie still works, so hats off to Sam Raimi and company for that.
Heck, you can even be mad at Evil Dead (2013) for existing if you hate remakes, but that's also an entirely solid film full of practical effects and a scene where a deadite is set on fire - so what's not to like?