It seems like every horror movie gets a sequel or a franchise.  From 80’s favorites like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th to cinematic classics like Psycho and The Exorcist, it is incredibly rare for a horror movie to be a stand-alone, especially in today’s sequel-happy, cinematic universe world. One of the strongest franchises in today’s cinematic world, The Conjuring Franchise, gets another chapter added to it with Annabelle Comes Home. So in honor of that, here are my picks for the best horror movie franchises.

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5 – SAW

  • Films

    • Saw (2004)

    • Saw II (2005)

    • Saw III (2006)

    • Saw IV (2007)

    • Saw V (2008)

    • Saw VI (2009)

    • Saw 3D (2010)

    • Jigsaw (2017)

In 2004, director James Wan shocked the world with Saw, a small, claustrophobic, gory horror film.  With it’s tight script, shocking violence, and surprise ending, Saw became the most talked about horror film of 2004 and revitalized the torture-porn horror genre.  The subsequent film dove deeper into the mythology of Jigsaw (an iconic Tobin Bell) and feature more elaborate and bloodier devices that Jigsaw trapped his victims in.  Though some of the later films get a little bizarre (one of the films has a flashback within a flashback), these films are never boring and always interesting.  There is something to be said about a horror franchise that put a film out every year for seven consecutive years.

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  • Films

    • Alien (1979)

    • Aliens (1986)

    • Alien 3 (1992)

    • Alien Resurrection (1997)

    • Prometheus (2012)

    • Alien: Covenant (2017)

Though the Alien movies take place in outer space and a couple of the films lean a little more on the action than horror, but this franchise is as pure as horror movies get.  Ridley Scott’s Alien is a slow burning haunted house film in space, as an alien being terrorizes a space crew aboard their ship.  It’s a cinematic masterpiece and one of the greatest horror movies ever made.  James Cameron’s Aliens leans a little more on the action side, though the quality of the film could be argued as better than Scott’s first film.  Though the proceeding films weren’t nearly as great as the first two, though Alien: Covenant felt the closest to Scott’s original, the franchise offers up plenty of scares and gave us the Xenomorph, one of cinema’s most frightening villains and arguably the greatest alien in cinematic history.

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  • Films

    • The Conjuring (2013)

    • Annabelle (2015)

    • The Conjuring 2 (2016)

    • Annabelle Creation (2017)

    • The Nun (2018)

    • Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

Between the two Conjuring films and the last two Annabelle films, you would have a perfect franchise that would probably be number one on this list.  Unfortunately, Annabelle and The Nun are both in this franchise and both are scare-less products of hype from the Conjuring films, so the franchise lands at number three.  The four remaining films are pure horror gold.  They’re smart, masterfully made, and most importantly, relentlessly scary.  What this franchise does best is solidify James Wan as a modern horror master.  If you weren’t convinced after Saw or some of his other horror films like Dead Silence and Insidious, his work in this franchise is guaranteed to change your mind.  His filmmaking technique, how he shoots the films, when he pulls out the scares, and conveying more emotion and character depth that elevates this franchise to more than just a scare fest, have influenced the entire franchise and made it a rounded, scary, compelling franchise.

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  • Films

    • Night of the Living Dead (1968)

    • Dawn of the Dead (1978)

    • Day of the Dead (1985)

    • Land of the Dead (2005)

    • Diary of the Dead (2007)

    • Survival of the Dead (2009)

George Romero’s Dead series is a series that can be told in two parts.  The first part is Romero invention phase, in which put the zombie genre on the map with Night of the Living Dead and only grew it with Dawn and Day.  The second part is Romero after the zombie renaissance, which happened in the early 2000’s with films like 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead.  Now while the later three movies, Land, Diary, and Survival are decent zombie movies, it’s Romero’s original trilogy that changed cinema forever.  Romero made films with deep themes of racism, consumerism, and humanity all while scaring the hell out of us.  He elevated the horror genre and influenced filmmakers for decades.  But what Romero does best through all of his films is make every film unique and new.  He makes movies about how a different group of people are dealing with the zombie apocalypse differently.  Every cast is new, every theme and direction the films go are new, and the violence and scares are upped every movie.  The Dead series is one of the most influential horror series ever.

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  • Films

    • Scream (1996)

    • Scream 2 (1997)

    • Scream 3 (2000)

    • Scream 4 (2011)

When thinking about the films and franchises that would make this list, Wes Craven’s Scream franchise was the only franchise which did not have a bad movie in its arsenal, in this critics opinion.  Sure, 3 isn’t as good as the first or second one, but it is still a fun and weird movie with some good jump scares and the franchise rebounded strong with 4, which ranks right up there with the original two and has the best opening sequence since the first film.  But each of the four Scream films feature a great cast and a whip-smart meta script hidden within a whodunit plot.  They’re chilling and violent, yet a blast to watch and wickedly fun.  The first one is a true classic and one of the best slashers ever made. The second one is of the great horror sequels ever made.  I already talked about 3, and 4 doesn’t miss a step after taking a decade-long break.  But what makes Scream the absolute best is how relevant the movies are to this day. Though the first one came out over twenty years ago, the humor and themes stay just as relevant and the movies are endlessly rewatchable, with nothing ever feeling hokey and the scares and thrills holding up every time you watch. The Scream franchise is horror movie royalty and the best horror movie franchise.

Follow Kevin on Twitter and Instagram, @kevflix.

About Kevin Wozniak

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