Horror Movie Franchises, Ranked By The Quality Of Their Sequels
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 Films1238 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: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / New Line Cinema2181 VOTES
The Best Sequels: Dream Warriors, New Nightmare
The Worst Sequels: Freddy’s Dead, A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
The Ups and Downs of the Franchise: It's hard to argue about the quality of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Even Freddy's Revenge, the most derided sequel of the original run, has some stand-out effects, and it narratively accomplishes its goals even if it misunderstands the original film. The wheels don't really fall off this series until late in its run, and even the late-period films are fun to watch, even if they don't capture the spirit of the earlier movies.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the more consistent horror franchises of the 20th century. Characters from earlier films return in later entries, and everything from the original film straight through to Freddy vs. Jason tells one continuous story. Even if this isn't your favorite franchise, you still have to tip your hat to that kind of consistency.
- Photo: Aliens / 20th Century Fox3172 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: Final Destination 3 / New Line Cinema4168 VOTES
The Best Sequels: Final Destination 2, Final Destination 3
The Worst Sequels: The Final Destination, Final Destination 5
The Ups and Downs of the Franchise: The Final Destination movies rule. They're big, over-the-top popcorn spectacles, and every single one of them is a blast. That being said, some of these movies where teens are chased down by Death after avoiding an airplane incident/rollercoaster accident/massive pile-up are better than others.
The thing with these big-budget disaster movies is that as the saga continues, it becomes harder to surprise the audience. The third film in the series subverted expectations by not tying into the original film at all aside from a passing reference, and even though the fifth film ranks low on our personal preference list, it still manages to do something different with a pretty fun twist. Where do these movies rank for you?
- Photo: Evil Dead II / Rosebud Releasing Corporation5211 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?
- Photo: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter / Paramount Pictures6192 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.