The 14 Best Horror Movie Franchises, Ranked

Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
(Image credit: Paramount)

Good horror movies, like Barbarian, Smile, and the experimental film, Skinamarink are actually not all that uncommon these days. But good horror franchises? Well, that’s a different matter entirely.  

That's because many horror franchises are driven right into the ground. But, there are some horror franchises that actually do tend to shine, and this is a list of them. Because, hey, it’s not easy to scare people more than once. Just ask Shyamalan.

Oh, by the way, some honorable mentions include: Hellraiser, Final Destination, The Living Dead, Poltergeist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Grudge, and Child’s Play. They just missed the list. 

The Candyman in Candyman, 1992.

(Image credit: TriStar Pictures)

14. Candyman 

  • Number of Movies: 4
  • Best Movie in the series: 1

Talk about reinventing yourself. Candyman is a series that seemed to peter out after the first movie, as the two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, and Candyman: Day of the Dead, just couldn’t match the authentic chills of the original. In fact, while leading up to the remake/sequel, I did an article about six things to remember about the Candyman character, and it made me realize just how far off the beaten path the series had gotten since the classic original movie.   

But then, we got the spectacular 2021 Candyman, which not only adds to the original, but also creates an entirely new mythos of its own. The film does what a lot of modern horror pictures do these days, which is ignore the sequels, and it’s all the better for it. With this latest movie, we get a modern day retelling that focuses on generational trauma, making it feel very relevant and here-and-now. Say my name.  

A scary face in The Exorcist

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

13. The Exorcist 

  • Number of Movies: 5
  • Best Movie in the series: 1

It’s crazy to think that The Exorcist, which is often considered the greatest horror movie of all time, would be toward the bottom of this list. But, out of the five movies in the series, only 1 and 3 are truly excellent. The Exorcist II: The Heretic, features James Earl Jones in a locust suit, and even the first film's director, William Friedkin, calls it the worst movie he’s ever seen. I mean, it’s bad, but I wouldn’t call it that bad. 

I wouldn’t even call it as bad as its two more modern sequels, Exorcist: The Beginning, and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Those two films don’t even come close to the imagination seen in the second movie. And, everybody knows how good the first one is. Every moment of Regan, played by Linda Blair, is etched inside the minds of horror fans. The puking, the stabbing of her lady parts with the crucifix. It’s all there.

But, The Exorcist III, which pretends The Exorcist 2 never happened, and mostly takes place in a psych ward, is both very different from the original, and also just as creepy. We’ll just have to wait and see if David Gordon Green’s new films in the franchise can elevate the series to new heights.   

The first Purge movie

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

12. The Purge 

  • Number of Movies: 5
  • Best Movie in the Series: 4

Here’s what I love about The Purge franchise. Everybody has a different favorite in the series. Do you like the home invasion horror of the first movie? Do you like the city-wide horror of The Purge: Anarchy? Are you a fan of the dystopian fifth movie? Or, do you prefer the ultra-political third movie, Election Year?

Personally, my favorite is the racially-charged fourth Purge. But some people call that the worst! Either way, the premise will always be golden. Once a year, there's a night where pretty much anything goes and crime (including murder) is not only legal, it's encouraged. It doesn't get more horrifying than that. The fact that it seems even remotely possible is what makes it so scary, and even relevant. Horror series that have something to say are always welcome. 

A vampire woman in V/H/S

(Image credit: Magnet Releasing)

11. V/H/S 

  • Number of Movies: 5
  • Best Movie in the Series: 2

As an anthology series, it’s probably easier to judge the five films in this franchise by their individual segments. And, if we’re going that route, then I have to say that V/H/S 2 wins out as the best in the series, as it has quite possibly the greatest segments in the franchise with “Safe Haven,” and “Slumber Party Alien Abduction.”

That said, what makes V/H/S such a wonderfully spooky series is that you really don’t know what you’re going to get with each entry in the franchise. Since each segment is created by a different director, you could get a creepy ghost house one moment, and a terrifying storm drain monster the next. All hail Raatma! 

The first Paranormal Activity

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

10. Paranormal Activity

  • Number of Movies: 7
  • Best Movie in the Series: 3

In a lot of ways, the Paranormal Activity series is a lot like V/H/S in that it’s a found footage horror, similar to The Blair Witch Project. But, whereas V/H/S sometimes seems to stretch the concept to unbelievable heights, the Paranormal Activity series has found footage ingrained in its very DNA, so the chills are a bit more effective, because it truly does feel like total spookiness caught on tape. 

And, whereas a lot of fans like to debate which is the best movie in the franchise, I pick the third film, which takes place in the ‘80s and follows the story of Katie from the first two movies as a child. A lot of people love The Marked Ones, while others find that one to be the worst. But again, it all depends on if you enjoy found footage horror movies. The Paranormal Activity series managed to stay creative throughout its seven-film run, offering prequels and even a sequel in which you could see the ghosts. For horror buffs, sometimes a nice change of pace is enough.   

The original Scream

(Image credit: Dimension Films)

9. Scream 

  • Number of Movies: 5
  • Best Movie in the series: 1

Our very own Alexandra Ramos thinks Scream is the greatest horror franchise ever, and she makes a lot of great points, namely that this is a series that has always been interested in trying something new. From its cheeky beginnings, to its more serious approach in the “requel” fifth entry, the franchise has always been part-funny, part-gruesome, but always interesting.   

There’s a reason why Ghostface is probably the last true horror icon that you’ll see roaming the streets on Halloween nights, and it’s mainly because the mystery of who’s behind the mask is always a big deal. Some entries have been less intriguing than others (I’m looking at you, Scream 3), but fans will always come around for more meta-humor and stabbings. Lots and lots of stabbings. We're pleased to report, that the newest instalment, Scream VI did not disappoint.

The original Halloween

(Image credit: Compass International Pictures)

8. Halloween 

  • Number of Movies: 13
  • Best Movie in the series: 1

Halloween is a really interesting series since it’s had a few revisions. You have the Rob Zombie ones in 2007 and 2009. You had the recent trilogy that came out in 2018 and pretty much erased the entire series (!) save for the first movie, and then you have Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, which doesn’t even have Michael Myers in it at all. 

But the original, John Carpenter Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis is obviously the best in the franchise. It’s slow-paced, it’s unsettling, and it has one of the greatest horror themes in history. The 2018 one was a great return to form, and with at least five legit great movies out of 13, it’s a pretty worthy series to be put on this list. 

The first Conjuring

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

7. The Conjuring 

  • Number of Movies: 3 (Technically. But really, there are 8)
  • Best Movie in the Series: Annabelle: Creation

Okay, so The Conjuring series is kind of cheating, since it’s actually a cinematic universe. Yes, even horror is taking cues from the MCU. There is the original series, with The Conjuring 1,2, and 3, all starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Lorraine and Ed Warren, respectively. These three are period pieces that are deliberately paced and have genuinely good scares. I’m sure nobody will ever forget the infamous Hide-and-Seek scene from the first movie.

But, tucked away inside The Conjuring Universe are also The Nun, The Curse of La Llorona, and the Annabelle trilogy. Out of those side films, Annabelle: Comes Home, and especially Annabelle: Creation are REALLY good. So good that the full series needed a spot on this list. Sure, we know we’re getting The Conjuring 4, and The Nun 2, but can we also get Annabelle 4, please?  

The first Insidious

(Image credit: FilmDistrict)

6. Insidious 

  • Number of Movies: 4
  • Best Movie in the Series: 1

I often mentally link Insidious to The Conjuring series, and for good reason. Both original films were directed by James Wan, both first movies star Patrick Wilson, and both first movies have a similar disturbing vibe. But, out of the two series, I feel the Insidious franchise is tighter and scarier. Fun fact, the scariest moment out of any horror movie I’ve ever seen was in the first Insidious. It was the scene with the photographs. If you’ve seen the movie, you know which scene I'm talking about. 

The series as a whole is fascinating, though. It goes frontwards and backwards, with Insidious: The Last Key probably being the second best movie in the series, as it stars Linda Shaye, the parapsychologist from the first movie, in the leading role. It’s psychological horror at its finest, and with meaningful, spine-tingling jump scares that don’t feel cheap. And would you believe they’re all rated PG-13? That’s no small feat! Bring on the sequel, Insidious: Fear the Dark!  

The first Saw

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

5. Saw 

  • Number of Movies: 9
  • Best Movie in the Series: 2

Another series started by James freaking Wan (honestly, if we’re talking horror directors, it would probably go Craven, Carpenter, then Wan), Saw wore out its welcome with near yearly iterations, but if you watch them again, you can tell why the series was so mainstream for so long. Pretty much popularizing the “torture porn” genre, its ambition was always to up the ante with how to kill hapless victims, and like Jason Voorhees before him, Jigsaw created elaborate kills that got more and more gruesome as the series progressed.

But, the beauty of Saw was always in its creativity. Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw dies in the third movie, but each subsequent film finds a way to toy with the mythology. The series may have worn out its welcome by around Saw V, but Saw VI is one of the best in the series, so it always found new ways to reinvent itself. The upcoming Saw X can’t get here soon enough.  

The first Alien movie

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

4. Alien 

  • Number of Movies: 6 (8 if you count the Alien vs. Predator series)
  • Best Movie in the Series: 1

Alien is the kind of series where you could debate which is the best movie in the franchise all day. Is it the haunted house in outer space original, or, is it the James Cameron war film, Aliens? Well, for the sake of this article, I’ll go with the original because it truly is the more terrifying of the two.

This is a series that likes to jump backward in order to expand its future. Ridley Scott wasn’t content with where Alien: Resurrection went (nor should he have been), so he added onto the mythos with Prometheus, which explains where the Xenomorphs came from, and then Alien: Covenant, which expounds upon the lore. All of the films are as thought-provoking as they are terrifying in their otherness, which lands it so high on this list of the greatest horror franchises of all time.  

C.J. Graham in Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

3. Friday the 13th 

  • Number of Movies: 12
  • Best Movie in the Series: 6

I view the Friday the 13th series like the Halloween series, but way better and with way fewer dips in quality. (Shut up. Jason X is awesome.) If we’re talking horror villains, the hockey mask-wearing Jason Voorhees is right up there with Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula, and The Wolfman when it comes to recognizable monsters. But, how are the actual films? Well, there are 12 movies in the franchise, and at least six of them are amazing (and one of them co-stars Freddy Krueger! That’s a pretty high body count.)

What makes the series work so well is the formula. After Jason got his trademark hockey mask in Part III, the hulking monstrosity has been stalking victims for decades, but it never gets boring. It might get ridiculous, but it’s always engaging, if not entirely frightening. Friday the 13th always made it fun to root for the bad guy. Parts 1 and 2 are also really dynamic and interesting horror films, as well. Even if you don’t like the horror genre, you’re bound to know this series. It’s that iconic. 

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

2. A Nightmare On Elm Street 

  • Number of Movies: 9
  • Best Movie in the Series: 3

Here’s the thing. The bad Nightmare on Elm Street movies are REALLY bad (please don’t make me watch that remake again), but the good ones are probably the best horror movies in the medium, so that’s why this is so high up on the list. Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger was literally nightmare fuel for a whole generation of kids. The idea of a serial killer creeping into your dreams and killing you from inside your head is still probably the most terrifying idea to ever come out of Wes Craven’s messed up head. R.I.P. horrormeister Wes Craven

It's debatable whether the original or Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is the better film, but the fact is, either could be considered one of the best horror movies ever made. New Nightmare was also wildly creative and unique, and I have a soft spot for the super weird Freddy’s Revenge, which many say is an allegory for coming out of the closet. Overall, a flawed series to be sure, but one of the best. 

Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead II

(Image credit: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG))

1. The Evil Dead 

  • Number of Movies: 4
  • Best Movie in the Series: 2

Here it is. The very best horror franchise of all time as far as I'm concerned. Is there any surprise that it has such a low number of sequels? What makes Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead series stand out is cult icon, Bruce Campbell. With most horror movies, you root for the villain. Here, it’s the Ash Williams show. Not to be confused with the actual show, Ash vs. Evil Dead featuring Bruce Campbell, which was also quite awesome.    

What also makes this franchise stand out is that each movie is wildly different, and it really depends on which film you're in the mood for that day. Do you want straight up horror? If so, then the first and the remake are uniquely scary. Evil Dead 2 is both frightening and funny, and Army of Darkness is a flat-out horror comedy. Each has personality to spare, which makes it the greatest horror series of all time, because each film is perfect in its own special way. And that includes the latest instalment, Evil Dead Rise.

Horror is purely subjective, though. Which horror series do you think is the best? 

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.