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The 10 Best Horror Movie Franchises, Ranked

There are a lot of great horror movies out there. And recent ones, too. It Follows, The Witch, Hereditary. Good horror movies are actually not that uncommon these days. But good horror franchises? Well, that’s a different matter entirely.

Horror franchises are usually driven right into the ground. It’s sad to say this, but since horror is such a lucrative genre that is oftentimes made on the cheap, sequels will often be churned out, sometimes yearly, and it gets to the point that the franchise becomes derivative. But there are some horror franchises that actually do tend to shine, and this is a list of those franchises. Now, while some of these franchises did eventually wear out their welcome, if there is more than one great movie in their respective series, then they have earned a place on this list. Because, hey, it’s not easy to scare people more than once. Just ask Shyamalan.

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

Regan, floating in the air

10. 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 at 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. But 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 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 psyche ward, is both very different from the original, and also just as creepy. There's also that hallway scene. Jeez. It may be just a jump scare, but it’s a very effective jump scare.

The Purge

9. The Purge

  • Number of Movies: 4
  • 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 second? 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.

Paranormal Activity

8. Paranormal Activity

  • Number of Movies: 6
  • Best Movie in the Series: 3

This is where our differences may be very clear. It really all depends on how much mileage you get out of found footage horror. Personally, I love the genre and can ignore the internal logic of the films, while others can’t. But like The Purge, nobody can tend to agree upon which PA is the best in the series.

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 six-string run, offering prequels and even a sequel in which you could see the ghosts. And for horror buffs, sometimes a nice change of pace is enough.

Michael Myers

7. 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 one that came out in 2018 that 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.

Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring

6. The Conjuring

  • Number of Movies: 2 (Technically. But really, there are 7)
  • 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 and 2, both directed by James Wan and starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Lorraine and Ed Warren, respectively. These two 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, an especially Annabelle: Creation are REALLY good. So good, that The Conjuring series needed a spot on this list. Bring on Annabelle 4, please.

Patrick Wilson in Insidious

5. 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 what 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!

Jigsaw from Saw

4. Saw

  • Number of Movies: 8
  • 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 nearly yearly iterations, but if you watch them again, you can tell why the Saw series was so mainstream for so long. Pretty much popularizing the “torture porn” genre, Saw’s ambition was always to up the ante with how to kill hapless victims, and like Jason Voorhees before him, Saw’s 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. I’m very much looking forward to Spiral. Very much, indeed.

Jason coming through a window

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 6 of them are amazing (and one of them costars Freddy Krueger! That’s a pretty high body count.)

What makes the Friday the 13th 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

2. A Nightmare on Elm St.

  • 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 Nightmare on Elm Street movies 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. 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 Army of Darkness

1. The Evil Dead

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

Here it is. The very best horror series 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. In The Evil Dead, it’s the Ash Williams show. Not to be confused with the actual show, Ash vs. Evil Dead, which was also quite awesome.

What also makes The Evil Dead stand out was that each movie was 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. But each has personality to spare, which makes it the greatest horror series of all time, since each film is perfect in its own special way.

But horror is purely subjective, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Sound off in the comments section below. Which horror series do you think is the best?

Lover of Avatar (The Last Airbender, not the blue people), video games, and anything 90s, he will talk your ear off about Godzilla, so don't get him started.