As much as we enjoy a tightly-knit little horror film, there really is nothing like a bonafide franchise. It’s just something about revisiting your favorite horror film characters time and time again with seemingly endless sequels and prequels. Sometimes these subsequent films tarnish the character sometimes they help them flourish. Today we are going to be counting down the twenty five greatest horror movie franchises of all time. A few things to keep in mind. Firstly, try to remember that we are ranking each franchise as a whole. So while the original Psycho or Exorcist are undoubtedly masterpieces, their sequels are not. Also, while we will be including a few horror action franchises we declined to include a few that are a little more action/sci-fi driven such as Species, Alien, and Predator. Also, while many people consider Rob Zombie’s “Firefly” films (House of 1000 Corpses & The Devil’s Rejects) a sort of mini-franchise it will also not be included. So with all that said, let’s get into it; these are the twenty five best horror movie franchises of all time. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
A tribute to EC Comics such as The Vault Of Horror & Tales From The Crypt, Creepshow epitomize an early ‘80s twist on the horror anthologies of the past. Directed by George Romero, written by Stephen King with makeup by horror marvel Tom Savini, Creepshow is essentially several short horror stories tied together with an animated sequence of a young kid (played by Stephen King’s son, Joseph King) being disciplined by his father for reading a horror comic. A sequel, Creepshow 2 was released in 1987, and was yet again based on Stephen King short stories with a screenplay from Romero. Creepshow III was released in 2007, featuring no involvement from Tom Savini, Stephen King or George A. Romero, was released direct-to-video to mostly negative reviews. Savini has said that he regards Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) the real Creepshow 3.
24. The Toxic Avenger
Troma Entertainments’ landmark film, The Toxic Avenger follows Melvin Ferd III, a 98-pound weakling, who works as a janitor at the Tromaville Health Club in Tromaville, New Jersey. After inadvertently falling into a drum of toxic waste he transforms into a hideously deformed creature with superhuman size and strength. The film generated numerous sequels, a stage musical production and a children’s TV cartoon. The Toxic Avenger or “Toxie” is still the staple of the Tromaverse. A remake of The Toxic Avenger was announced. The remake is said to be aiming for a family-friendly PG-13 release similar to the Toxic Crusaders. For any Troma fan a PG-13 Toxic Avenger movie seems out of the question but series creator Lloyd Kaufman himself has endorsed the idea numerous times so…we’ll see.
23. The Omen
The Omen franchise spawned three theatrical movies: The Omen (1976), Damien: Omen II (1978), and Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981) and a TV movie in 1991, titled Omen IV: The Awakening. The series, of course, centers around Damien Thorn, the spawn of Satan, who wrecks havoc as a child and as an adult Damien attempts to assert even more control. A remake of the first movie was released in 2006, starring Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles was met with mixed reviews (to put it nicely).
22. Jeepers Creepers
Jeepers Creepers (2001) takes its name from the song “Jeepers Creepers” which is featured in the movie. Including the lyric “Jeepers Creepers, where’d you get those peepers?” this is an unnerving and unsettling horror that revolves around an ancient demon known as “The Creeper” that hunts every twenty third spring on the twenty third day for twenty three hours. Several people are devoured in both this film and its sequel in 2003 as the Creeper eats body parts to regenerate its own, thus making it apparently invulnerable. Jeepers Creepers 3: Cathedral was announced and should be gingerly on the way.
21. Resident Evil
Based on the video games of the same name, Resident Evil revolves around a bioengineering pharmaceutical company responsible for a zombie apocalypse after creating a deadly virus. Alice (portrayed by Milla Jovovich) is the main protagonist who is the ultimate enemy of the corporation. Paul W. S. Anderson was hired as director and writer for the first installment, Resident Evil (2002). He continued on with Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) and Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), and returned as director for a fourth installment, Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) and the fifth film Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), in 3D. A sixth installment is intended for a 2015 release date.
The Underworld films follow the secret history of Vampires and Lycans (an abbreviated form of lycanthrope), and their long on-going war. Vampire, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is usually the main protagonist, who, depending on the film, is an enemy of both the vampires and the lycans. The subsequent films include; Underworld: Evolution (2006), Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009), and Underworld: Awakening (2012).
19. The Howling
Based on the novel of the same name by Gary Brandner, The Howling is a 1981 classic werewolf horror film directed by Joe Dante. The film is known for its plethora of inside jokes. Almost every major character is named after a director of an old werewolf movie, such as Terence Fisher, who directed The Curse of the Werewolf and George Wagner, who directed the original The Wolf Man. The sequels include; Howling II: … Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985), Howling III: The Marsupials (1987), Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988), Howling V: The Rebirth (1989), Howling VI: The Freaks (1991), The Howling 7: New Moon Rising (1995), and The Howling: Reborn (2011).
18. Wrong Turn
The Wrong Turn films follow various families of deformed cannibals who pursue a group of people in West Virginia, usually killing them all in appalling ways using a mixture of traps and weaponry for food. Three characters who have repeatedly appeared in the series are: Saw Tooth, Three Finger, and One Eye. The series consists of; Wrong Turn (2003), Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007), Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead (2009), Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011), Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines (2012) and the upcoming Wrong Turn 6 (2014)
The Leprechaun franchise consists of six films (with one in production). beginning with 1993’s Leprechaun (filmed in 1991). the series centers around a malevolent and murderous leprechaun (played by the great Warwick Davis) named “Lubdan”, who, when his gold is taken from him, will do anything necessary to get it back. The one and only so-bad-it’s-good series on this list, Leprechaun tramples the fine line between debatably bad and bad enough it’s not even funny to watch. The films include; Leprechaun (1993), Leprechaun 2 (1994), Leprechaun 3 (1995), Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997), Leprechaun: In the Hood (2000), Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (2003) and Leprechaun: Origins, in which Dylan Postl (known as Hornswoggle in the WWE) replaces Davis in the titular role.
The Blade films are based on the Marvel Comics vampire-superhero-vigilante character of the same name, portrayed by Wesley Snipes. They were written by Gene Colan, David S. Goyer, and Marv Wolfman, directed by Guillermo del Toro, Stephen Norrington, and Goyer respectively, The story, of course, follows Blade, whose mother was bitten by a vampire, who is now a half-vampire hale-human hybrid. He has all the strengths of a vampire and none of their weaknesses. The original 1998 film paved the way not only for comic book movies (paving the way for films like X-Men and Spider-Man) but opened the lane for action horror franchises such as the Resident Evil and Underworld films. Two more sequels followed (Blade II in 2002 and Blade: Trinity in 2004) before (not so gracefully) bowing out. Though, its underrated legacy to its multiple genres cant be denied.
Alfred Hitchcock made the horror genre respectable with his 1960 game-changer Psycho. The film focuses on the life of Norman Bates, a deeply troubled young man who runs the Bates Motel. He’s haunted by the spirit of his deceased mother to the point that he sporadically wears her clothing and occasionally kills people. Four films were loosely based on the Psycho novels by Robert Bloch, namely Psycho (1960), Psycho II (1983), Psycho III (1986) and Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990), We then got the absurd shot-for-shot remake (directed by Gus Van Sant) in 1998 and the rather good Bates Motel TV series more recently.
14. The Amityville Horror
Based on the Jay Anson’s bestselling 1977 novel of the same name The Amityville Horror (1979) is based on the supposed real life occurrence of the Lutz family who buy a new home in Amityville, New York, a house where a mass murder had been committed the year before. After the family move into the house, they experience a series of alarming paranormal events. The film spawned endless sequels and a reboot; Amityville II: The Possession (1982), Amityville 3-D: The Demon (1983), Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989), The Amityville Curse (1990), Amityville 1992: It’s About Time (1992), Amityville: A New Generation (1993), Amityville Dollhouse: Evil Never Dies (1996), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Amityville Haunting (2011), The Amityville Asylum (2013), and the upcoming sequel known simply as Amityville.
Created by filmmaker Adam Green, the Hatchet films revolve around Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) and his bloody rampage in a desolate swamp in New Orleans. The film consists of three films. It also features some of the greatest actors and actresses in the genre, from; Hodder, Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Robert Englund, Sid Haig, Laura Ortiz (briefly), and many more. The violence is completely cartoonish, over-the-top and completely awesome!
12. Final Destination
Created by Jeffrey Reddick. The Final Destination series focuses on groups of people trying to evade Death after surviving past when they were supposed to die causing a crevice in Death’s design. Death itself tries to set things back on course by killing all of those who have unhinged the balance of life and death. James Wong directed Final Destination (2000) and Final Destination 3 (2006) with David R. Ellis directing Final Destination 2 (2003) and The Final Destination (2009). Steven Quale directed the fifth and the most recent installment of the franchise Final Destination 5 (2011) which has surprising garnered the most favorable reviews from critics.
11. The Exorcist
William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is not only one of the greatest horror movies but simply one of the greatest movies ever made. Based on the novel of the same name the film, of course, deals with the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl named Regan (Linda Blair) and her mother’s frantic attempts to win back her child through an exorcism conducted by two priests. The sequels included; Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), The Exorcist III (1990), Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) to varying results.
The Hellraiser franchise consists of nine films, a series of comic books, and plenty of further merchandise. The films are based on the novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker, who would go on to write and direct the adaptation of his story. The films predominantly feature the infamous Cenobite Pinhead (usually played by Doug Bradley). The series’ storyline focuses on a puzzle box that opens a gateway to the Hell-like realm of the Cenobites. While the films did get progressively less and less effective cumulating with the laughable sequel Hellraiser: Revolution in 2011, Pinhead and his numerous macabre one-liners will forever be etched in horror history.
9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
It has been called “sick,” and “perverse,” and “the movie that redefined horror.” It was banned by governments, condemned by churches, and acclaimed by only the bravest of critics. It bewildered audiences worldwide and set a new standard in movie terror forever. In 1974, director Tobe Hooper unleashed his visionary tale about a group of five young friends who face a nightmare of anguish at the hands of a depraved Texas clan. The subsequent sequels, prequels and reboots include; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), and Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013).
In 2003, director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell created a short film to help pitch as a potential feature film. This was successfully done in 2004 with the release of the first Saw film at the Sundance Film Festival. It went on to spawn several sequels. The franchise follows the fictional character of John Kramer, also called the “Jigsaw Killer” or simply “Jigsaw”. Rather than killing his victims out-and-out, Jigsaw traps them in situations that he calls “games” or “tests” to assess their will to live through physical or psychological torture. The film spawned several sequels, cumulating with Saw 3D (or Saw: The Final Chapter) in 2010.
7. Child’s Play
The Child’s Play franchise now consists of six films. The first installment, Child’s Play, was released in 1985. The film has spawned five sequels and has gone into other media, such as action figures, and comic books. The films are all centered on Charles Lee Ray (played by Brad Dourif) a.k.a. Chucky, an infamous serial killer known as the “Lakeshore Strangler” whose soul is trapped inside of a Good Guy Doll following a voodoo ritual to avoid death. The series originally started out as straight horror with the first installment. As the films progressed, they became satirical and campy, until the series, momentarily, became a horror comedy, beginning with 1998′s Bride of Chucky and 2004′s Seed of Chucky. 2013’s Curse Of Chucky saw Chucky getting back to his horror roots; no longer cracking jokes but once again being legitimately frightening.
6. Night Of The Living Dead
The “Living Dead” series consist of six zombie films directed and written by the granddaddy of the genre George A. Romero beginning with his iconic 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. The loosely connected franchise, for the most part, focuses on different groups of people attempting to survive during the epidemic and fruition of a zombie apocalypse. Everybody has their favorite, from; Night Of The Living (1968), Dawn Of The Dead (1978), Day Of The Dead (1985), Land Of The Dead (2005), Diary Of The Dead (2007) and most recently Survival Of The Dead (2009). Romero does not regard any of his Dead films sequels since none of the major characters or story carry on from one film to the next, though they will inevitably always be linked.
Scream seemed to come out of nowhere. During the early ‘90s the horror genre was floundering, we had a few gems but not much. Just like he did with Nightmare On Elm Street during the mid-80s Wes Craven (along with screenwriter Kevin Williamson) came along and gave the genre a face-lift. Basically, a serial killer (or SPOILER ALERT, two killers) who watched way too many scary movies goes on a killing spree. The film was notable because it was one of the few mainstream horror films to acknowledge other horror movies. The film inspired a new wave of meta-horror including; Bride Of Chucky, Urban Legend, Halloween H20, and of course I Know What You Did Last Summer. It has since been parodied endlessly and it’s almost impossible to still find the film frightening but nobody can deny the impact of this ‘90s slasher game-changer. The sequels include; Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000) and Scream 4 (2011).
4. The Evil Dead
The Evil Dead franchise was created by Sam Raimi and currently consists of four films. The films revolve around the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, an ancient Sumerian text which inflict chaos upon a group of cabin populace in a wooded area in Tennessee. The protagonist, Ashley J. “Ash” Williams (Bruce Campbell) is the only character to appear in each installment of the initial trilogy. The original trilogy includes The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and Army of Darkness (1992), all written and directed by Sam Raimi and starring Campbell. The franchise has since expanded into other formats such as comic books, video games and a musical opened in Toronto in 2003 including bits and pieces from all three films. The fourth installment of the Evil Dead franchise in 2013, served as both a reboot, a remake and as a loose continuation of the series; the first neither to have Bruce Campbell as the main star or to be directed by Sam Raimi.
Halloween consists of ten films, novels, and comic books. The franchise focuses on the silent white masked slasher Michael Myers who was committed to a sanitarium as a child for the murder of his older sister. Fifteen years later, he escapes to stalk and kill the people of Haddonfield, Illinois while being chased by his former psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis. Michael’s killings usually occur on Halloween, on which all of the films predominantly take place. From original director John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis and P.J. Soles to the Rob Zombie reboot, Sheri Moon Zombie and Danielle Harris the franchise has definitely seen many ups and downs. Overall, From the iconic John Carpenter score to the iconic William Shatner white mask, the franchise will defiantly have its unchangeable spot in horror history.
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street
A Nightmare on Elm Street consists of nine films, a television show, novels, and comic books. The franchise began with the original film directed by Wes Craven. The franchise is based on the fictional character Freddy Krueger, introduced in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), who stalks teenagers in their dreams and kills them. His motives are to get revenge on their parents, who had burned him alive. Freddy started out generally scary before turning into quite the jokester but his legacy will still live on forever in horror fans’ hearts.
1. Friday the 13th
The Friday the 13th franchise is comprised of twelve slasher films (soon to be lucky thirteen), a television show, novels, comic books, and a bunch of tie in merchandise. The films, of course, focus on the iconic Jason Voorhees who drowned as a boy at Camp Crystal Lake due to the carelessness of the camp staff. Throughout the sequels, Jason has killed his victims with red hot pokers, sauna rocks, and of course machetes. Jason has been doing his part in preventing premarital sex for over thirty years now. Perhaps the most muddled franchise of them all, F13 earns points for variety as well as its compelling history, legacy and cultural impact.
What do you think the greatest horror movie franchise of all time is? Sound off in the comment section below.