Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Horror Movie Franchises

Happy Halloween! This time of year, horror fans often indulge in marathon viewings of their favorite scary movies. For our holiday Roundtable, we thought it would be fun to list off our favorite horror movie franchises.

To be clear, we’re defining “franchise” as any movie series with at least two entries. A horror movie without any sequels is not a franchise on its own.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Although it’s a franchise dragged down by more than a couple lousy installments, I’d absolutely still point to the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street‘ series as a favorite. With more traditional slashers, the formula can be awfully limiting. I mean, I’m a ‘Friday the 13th’ fanatic as well, but there’s only so far you can take “Guy in a hockey mask stabs campers.” You either wind up basically remaking the same movie over and over, you have to risk upending the established structure, or you just go nuts and launch the guy into space.

One of the phenomenal things about the ‘Elm Street’ series is that it lends itself to more imaginative approaches. Instead of continuing to raid a tool shed and lop off different parts of teenaged Red Shirts, Freddy Krueger can… oh, I don’t know, stomp some poor bastard in an 8-bit videogame, rip out another’s ligaments like puppet strings and lead him to his death, or – why not? – whip ’em to death with wet towels in a gym? This is a series that really lets its filmmakers indulge every demented, outlandish idea that courses through their minds, empowering these movies to go places that no other horror franchise ever could.

Everything about the concept of Freddy is brilliant. I’ve never gone camping and have never stopped for BBQ in some Texan stretch of the middle of nowhere, but I absolutely sleep and dream, and the idea of being attacked when I’m at my most helpless really unnerved me when I first discovered the ‘Elm Street’ series. Freddy rightfully ranks among the genre’s most iconic killers with his gruesomely scarred face, razor-edged glove, fedora, and red-and-green sweater. While the murderers in most slashers are dead silent, Freddy prefers instead to toy with his prey, infusing the series with a cacklingly dark sense of humor that further distinguishes it from the rest of the pack. This is a franchise with a premise that should never have to die, and that’s why I’m a little baffled that Freddy was dormant for so long and why the reboot got damned near everything wrong. Oh well. At least I still have the earlier movies on Blu-ray.

Shannon Nutt

I’m not a big fan of horror flicks. I love something tense and scary, but I’ve never cared for any type of slasher flick or movies that substitute blood and gore for a good story and/or character development. With that in mind, my pick for this week’s topic may seem more thriller than out-and-out horror, but I’ve enjoyed almost all of the Hannibal Lecter movies, first and foremost Jonathan Demme’s ‘The Silence of the Lambs‘.

Even before ‘Silence’, I was a big fan of Michael Mann’s ‘Manhunter’, although I suppose it’s not technically considered part of the official series, since Anthony Hopkins doesn’t play Lecter in that film. (It’s Brian Cox and the spelling has been changed to “Lecktor.”) I am, however, one of the few who enjoyed Brett Ratner’s ‘Red Dragon‘, which is both a remake of ‘Manhunter’ and a sort-of official prequel to ‘The Silence of the Lambs’.

I was not of fan of ‘Hannibal’, as neither the ending of the original novel nor the changed ending of Ridley Scott’s movie felt very satisfying to me. (Losing Jodie Foster was also disappointing.) The less we say about ‘Hannibal Rising’ the better; it’s an awful movie created from an awful book.

In case you’re wondering, I have yet to catch up with ‘Hannibal’ the television series, but I hear it’s worth the trouble.

Tom Landy

The main problem with horror movies is that when a studio sees a success on its hands, the property immediately has to get milked for all its worth. This tends to create a cash cow with very little entertainment value. One of the only franchises that hasn’t gone this route is ‘Evil Dead‘. The cult trilogy from the twisted mind of Sam Raimi is still a blast to watch from start to finish. Even the recent remake, which sadly lacks the chiseled chin and impeccable one-liners of Bruce Campbell, is surprisingly entertaining for a reboot. To me, ‘Evil Dead’ is the best all-around franchise that began strong and ends on the same note (so far, that is).

Brian Hoss

When I was little, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ was the movie my family would rent that I could never finish. We rented ‘The Omen’ when visiting my small-town relatives only to find when we went to return the tape that the video store had burned to the ground overnight.

The one franchise that I gobbled up on tape, DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray is ‘The Evil Dead‘. The three movies are all endlessly rewatchable, and I can pick exactly how creepy or funny I want a movie to be by choosing a specific one of the three. There’s no Halloween that isn’t well served by viewing an installment of ‘The Evil Dead’. Not only is the set-up a font of endless horror stories, Bruce Campbell’s Ash is iconic as the smarmy everyman just trying to find the end of the tunnel.

Luke Hickman

This is a hard topic. Because I love the first one so very much and because the two entries are so drastically different in tone and style, I’m going with the ‘28 Day Later‘ franchise. For ‘Days’, director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland went back to the zombie genre’s roots and focused on making the “infected” truly terrifying again (which is what ‘Night of the Living Dead’ did with a completely different tone that was more fitting for the time in which it was made). Boyle made an absolutely beautiful film. I give ’28 Days Later’ full credit for the zombie overkill out there these days. While ‘The Walking Dead’ may be better known now, it wouldn’t exist without the identical intro that ’28 Days Later’ started with.

28 Weeks Later‘ took a smart approach by not trying to be a carbon copy of the first one. Instead, it’s more of a standard zombie flick. While we didn’t get to see the outbreak occur in the first movie, ‘Weeks’ offers it up as the infection spreads through London once again. From that moment on, the movie is anxiety-inducing. My favorite scene is the blacked-out tube station through the lens of a night vision rifle scope. It’s brilliant.

Now that it’s on my mind, what happened to ’28 Months Later’?!

Josh Zyber

As I write this, I’m currently in the middle of reviewing the ‘Exorcist Anthology‘ box set, so it’s my inclination to choose that series. Truth be told, however, only two of the five movies are any good, and that’s a very poor success rate. Aside from the original classic, I find the stories behind the productions of these movies more fascinating than the movies themselves.

The ‘Alien‘ series remains the only horror franchise where I have genuinely liked all the entries. Yes, that includes the much-reviled ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien Resurrection’. I saw ‘Alien 3’ twice during its opening weekend and have always felt it to be very underrated. ‘Resurrection’ is the weakest of the bunch, but I really dig director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s funhouse atmosphere, and that underwater scene is incredibly cool. [Note that I am intentionally excluding the awful ‘Alien vs. Predator’ spin-offs and the excruciatingly terrible prequel/spin-off/reboot/shitstorm-of-incompetence ‘Prometheus’ from my categorization of the ‘Alien’ franchise. I do not consider those to be legitimate ‘Alien’ movies.]

What are your favorite horror franchises? Tell us in the Comments.

38 comments

  1. Friday the 13th. Including the remake and Freddy vs Jason are awesome. They’re certainly far from high art, but they deliver consistently entertaining movies that are so much fun to watch with groups. Of course some are better than others, but overall brainless fun.
    After that I would say Halloween and then Romero’s original dead trilogy from Night to Day are awesome as well.

  2. Chris B

    Finished watching all the films in the Halloween box set last night actually, just in time! If it wasn’t for Zombie’s meddling and Resurrection I’d say it was strong the way through. Other than Halloween I love the Evil Dead trilogy, I really liked the remake as well, even though almost everyone I know shits all over it.

    Since we only need two entries to
    qualify, I gotta mention The Thing, both John Carpenter’s original and the remake are awesome. Although the first one will always be king.

    • Guy

      I do double heresy in that franchise by not only liking Alien 3, but actually preferring it to the original…whilst recognizing its right to have the status it does influence and milestone-wise, though. Preferring 3 is a view born from being young enough that all four movies were out before I was ever old enough to see any of them. Nothing was sacrosanct and so some of the issues fans of the era had don’t apply to me. Hicks and Newt getting jettisoned only got a, “Well, that’s an interesting choice,” out of me. I hadn’t lived with those characters for years like someone sitting in the theater for Alien 3. I’d only seen the first two once before I got around to a full-franchise viewing and soaked in 3 and Resurrection for the first time. For the complete mess that the road to completion was for the third film, a lot made it in there that is up my alley. The prison, the prisoner-monks, the Weaver-Dance-Dutton dynamic, set design and the overall vibe/mood put forth. Sometimes taste is just personal taste and it breaks from the norm.

      • C.C. 95

        I believe there was a FANedit of ALIEN 3 that completely ignores ALL the other films, and tells its story as self-contained.

      • William Henley

        You see, if I could just say the first two Alien movies, I would go with that as a franchise. But I cannot dismiss Alien 3, and with as much as I hated them offing Newt and Hicks, I just don’t like the gore of the third movie. The first one was suspensful. The second one was action. The third one was gore, gore and more gore. I actually could not finish the movie, it literally made me sick. But… If you are a gore fan, I can see someone liking it.

        • Guy

          I’m sort of indifferent to gore. I’m no fan and don’t seek it out, but it doesn’t bother me when it pops up. As a matter of fact, I never would have thought of Alien 3 as gory per se. Now that you mention it, I can see how you’d say that, but you have to get into Saw/Hostel or the fourth Rambo movie levels of dismemberment for me to take notice. Even then, it doesn’t bother me viscerally, I just get put off if I feel like they’re doing it just for shock value.

  3. Ryan

    Is it premature to say Trick R Treat? The sequel hasn’t even entered production yet….but the firs tone is my favorite Halloween movie!

  4. Favorite franchises:

    – The Alien franchise is at the bottom of my favorite three because, yes, I count the underwhelming Prometheus. Worst to favorite: Prometheus, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, Alien, Aliens.
    – For straight horror films, my favorite is Romero’s original Rotation of the Earth of the Dead trilogy. Weakest to favorite: Day of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, and Dawn of the Dead.
    – If you can count Hot Fuzz as a serial killer film (I probably shouldn’t), Pegg and Wright’s Three Flavours of Cornetto trilogy is the most re-watchable set of movies I own. I can’t put them in order, I like them all so well.

    • William Henley

      I really like Prometheus. I don’t think it is as good as Alien or Aliens, but I certainly think it is lightyears better than Aliens 3. Not really sure why so many people dislike Prometheus so much

      • Guy

        For me, there was much to like design and idea-wise, but I cannot for the life of me look past all the idiotic character behavior. It was the worst example of plot dictating actions I can think of in a movie of its pedigree in a good long while. I didn’t need Jurassic Park levels of character wonderment, but none of them seemed to care about what they were discovering. Whatever the worst option was when presented with an obstacle, that’s what a character would do. It eventually all boiled over during the now infamous falling spaceship scene; if a big wheel is rolling at you, just run sideways.

        It’s a shame because the movie looks incredible and I suspect there was some very interesting world-building details thought up during conception and scripting that I’d like to have seen be more of a focus in the movie. I’m in the super tiny minority that didn’t care for either of Ridley’s previous sci-fi outings though. I love his historical epics, but the dude is not my cup of tea when it comes to androids and space.

        • You hit upon what I least liked about Prometheus. The xenomorph as biological weapon for population control was stupid enough, but it was how the characters acted that put me off entirely.

          Instead of a group of scientists exploring and cataloging a strange new world and discovering their origins, they acted like a bunch of teenage camp counselors playing grab-ass. Granted, the scientific method probably doesn’t translate to thrilling cinema, but everyone was so dim it was impossible to let go and enjoy the movie.

  5. PaulB

    We just watched Hellraiser last night for the first time and were surprised how good it was, especially the practical effects. The 80’s cheese acting was at a minimum (vs. something like the first Freddy movie). Can’t speak to the sequels yet but we’ll likely watch them due to this.
    Amusing note is that we watched it as my partner, who is the more the horror movie person, somehow had never watched it back in the day and after our recent re-watch of Cabin in the Woods, she decided we needed to see it (as the Hellraiser analog was shown prominently a few times during Cabin).

      • There still hasnt been a proper unrated release of Hellraiser III, I love that one though. Bloodlines was also good but inevitably failed due to major studio issues, director even removed his name from the movie, but it had its moments, especially the great writing for Pinhead. the 5th, Inferno is one of my personal favorites, thats when they turned Pinhead into an Avenger essentially, taking down all the horrible people from this point on. Inferno embodies what Silent Hill was all about, a waking nightmare that makes the star suffer, which is really what Pinhead has always been about. Hellseeker was also not bad, bringing back Kirsty from the original two films, again more like Inferno was, but I felt Rick Bota did a real good job at directing most of the DTV sequels. Hellworld about online gaming was the worst but it still had its moments if you are a fan of the series. We wont even talk about the one without Doug Bradley, dont bother with that one at all 🙂 But i would have to say its up there with Freddy and Nightmare as my favorite franchise, I hope someday we get a proper release of Hellraiser III unrated and maybe an uncut version of Bloodlines some day, if they can restore Nightbreed, I would hope they could do something with for Bloodlines. Maybe Scream Factory will do some Hellraiser releases or a nice box set.

        • Yep, I saw Hellraiser III and Bloodlines in the theater actually. Of course at the time I loved Bloodlines, but now as an adult cinema fan, you can really see how botched up that movie was, especially all the editing out of a lot of the gore, its so poorly put together. Which is why I’m sure the Director took his name off the film, doesnt happen often thats for sure.

          • Dave Strohmenger

            It ran for a bit longer if you count the bargain theaters. That’s where I saw it. I was aware of the production troubles from reading Fangoria, but this was my first (and it turned out, only) chance to see a Hellraiser film theatrically, so I mad sure to catch it.

  6. Nightmare on Elm Street was my fave as well. I thought it ended quite stupidly because they did the same thing in the original movie, so what was different? New Nightmare should be excommunicated from the franchise.

    Friday the 13th, first 3 or 4 maybe, afterwards somewhat meh.
    Halloween, a couple decent ones, otherwise, meh

    Did not care for other modern attempts at franchises – The Grudge, The Ring

  7. plissken99

    I’m also 100% with Adam Tyner, Freddy is far and away the best slasher movie. Even the bad movies in it’s history are interesting and fun on one level or another. Unlike the other movies which spawned 6+ sequels, all the entries tried something different, didn’t always work, but it was always peculiar. 🙂

    I disagree with you about New Nightmare Krawk, it returned Freddy to his dark roots, gave the character a breath of fresh air. I don’t see how it’s a remake of the original movie, Nancy didn’t confront Freddy in his dream castle in the 1st movie. The idea was it was Nancy who 1st bested Freddy, so she would be the most logical person to beat him for real. I love Freddy’s Dead, but I think most would agree New Nightmare is a much better ending to the franchise. Because they really did repeat the strategy from the 1st movie in Freddy’s Dead.

    And yes Child’s Play rules! I’ll take Chucky over Jason any day, Michael not so much.

  8. William Henley

    Can I include monster movies? I really like the classics, like Frankenstein and The Wolfman. Oh, and the Godzilla movies (they are monster movies – are all monster movies considered Horror movies?). And The Mummy movies.

    As far as more “horror” franchises, I really like Poltergeist. Yeah, the movies continued to go downhill after the first one, but they were all good.

    Could you have a franchise if there was just one movie but there was also a television show? Thinking stuff like The Twilight Zone.

    If I can forget about Alien 3-4, then I will take the franchise including Alien, Aliens and Prometheus.

    The Vampire Chronicles is also okay although Interview with the Vampire is significantly better than Queen of the Damned. Interview With The Vampire I will watch over and over, whereas I have only seen Queen of the Damned once. It wasn’t bad, just no where near as good, and glosses over the second book way too much, pretty much with only a couple of references to it. Its an okay movie, but a huge disappointment after reading the books.

  9. Jakdonark

    Finishing watching the Halloween Deluxe set, didn’t get to the TV cuts of 1 and 2 yet, nor the theatricals of RZs, but overall I thought it was decent. I’m almost done the exorcist anthology. Also, overall okay. I picked up the Nightmare set a few months ago but ran out of time this year. I’ve never seen any of them and never cared to as a kid, but in recent years they have more appeal.

    My favorite though would have to be the Scream series. Still haven’t seen 4 (I own it though) but it was entertaining, had some good humor, lots of pop culture references, and the deaths were often unique. Got the blu set last year, still haven’t watched it yet. So next year it will be a scream and nightmare marathon.

  10. EM

    Frankenstein. Although I respect the 1931 original, it’s not actually a favorite of mine…but Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein are two of the best film sequels ever made, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a fitting tribute to the Universal monsters (even if the Frankenstein monster itself is somewhat shortchanged).

  11. I’ve had a little more time to think about other great horror movie franchises and I almost want to slap myself for not mentioning this one, Demons and Demons 2. Italians have a special knack for bringing cheese to their horror flicks while delivering genuine scares and nasty gore to their flicks. Those two movies are at the tippy top of my horror favs. I also love the Maniac Cop movies. Although they get worse with each movie, they still offer some good kills and impressive stunt work and the blurays were given the royal treatment. Last but not least, I love me some Creepshow and Creepshow 2. That so called third one doesn’t count. I love anthology horror and wish I could see more of it theatrically. They certainly had the right idea with Trick r Treat and I strongly agree with Ryan on wishing that to become a franchise.

  12. dylan

    Man, I’m way late to this discussion but there were a lot of horror flicks I grew up with during the 1980’s. My favorite horror flick is probably The Exorcist and Exorcist lll ain’t too bad, but my favorite franchise is A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was Freddy mania during the 80’s and my first of the slasher icons to see. It’s a shame that the franchise name had to be tarnished by the atrocious remake that came out back in 2010. My only wish is for Craven to write one more and for Englund to take the character out properly!!

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