Hollywood is home to some of the greatest horror movies of all time, as well as most of the worst. And more often than not, when a horror film hits home with audiences, Hollywood is going to drink from that well until it dries right up, resulting in horror franchises that tend to outstay their welcome, although some series manage to stay a little fresher than others. But whether the films are still scaring audiences or have become the newest, laughable installments of a tired series, Hollywood franchises are still alive and well today.
That being said, many Hollywood horror franchises refuse to die, leaving a mound of never ending spinoffs, sequels and, more recently, television series in their tracks. And while some of these films are well deserving of the continued legacy, others should have died off a long time ago. But love them or hate them, they’re still here, and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere anytime soon.
Sometimes, all these series can be hard to keep track of, so here are 17 Hollywood Horror Series That Refuse to Die, in case you need a primer on all the long-in-the-tooth franchises out there.
16 Alien (1979)
The Count So Far: 7 films, including 2 crossovers with the Predator franchise and one prequel.
Alien, the original sci-fi horror film of this franchise, was directed by Ridley Scott. It is set aboard the spaceship Nostromo, where crew members are being hunted and violently murdered by an extraterrestrial stowaway. Alien hit it big in ratings, bringing home over $78.9 million from the box office. It also sparked the career of actor Sigourney Weaver, who played protagonist Ripley – her first leading role in Hollywood.
Since its initial success, Alien has continued on with three direct sequels (with Weaver reprising her role in each) and sparked spin-offs in the form of books, comics and video games. The franchise has also been involved in a crossover with the Predator film series, resulting in two films: Alien vs. Predator and the sequel, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.
Most recently, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise for Prometheus, a prequel to the original Alien that angered many fans for its nonsensical plot. Nevertheless, a sequel is on its way, and it was recently announced that it would be titled Alien: Covenant.
15 Children of the Corn (1984)
The Count So Far: 9 feature films and one made-for-TV remake.
Based on the 1977 short story by Stephen King, the reigning master of all things creepy, Children of the Corn has become a household name over the years. Following a cult of children, led by the creepiest kid of all, Malachai (Courtney Gains), and “He Who Walks Behind the Rows,” the children believe anyone over the age of eighteen needs to be murdered. The film only hit over $14.5 million in the box office, but it didn’t stop there.
The franchise continued on with a total of eight sequels (from the original in ’84 to Children of the Corn: Gensis in 2011), although the last four were released direct-to-video. In 2009, the film was remade into a TV movie on Syfy directed by Donald P. Borchers, although it more closely resembled the short story by King than it did the original film.
14 Child’s Play (1988)
The Count So Far: 6 films.
More commonly known as the Chucky franchise, Child’s Play increased the already present fear of children in horror films, albeit with a somewhat campy touch. The story follows a single mother (Catherine Hicks) and her son Andy (Alex Vincent), who wants a “Good Guy” doll more than anything else for his birthday. Unbeknownst to them, the toy she purchases happens to be possessed by a known serial killer, Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray. The doll goes on a murderous rampage, which still continues to this today.
Child’s Play has resulted in five sequels, two of which - Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky - dropped the first film's horror for a campy, humorous tone. The latest film, Curse of Chucky was released straight to video in 2013 and returned the series to its horror roots. There is a seventh installment currently in the works as well, tentatively named Chucky 7.
13 The Evil Dead (1981)
The Count So Far: 4 films, including 1 reboot, and a TV series.
Following a group of five college students visiting a remote cabin in the woods, Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead is nothing short of a gory masterpiece, as the discovery of an audiotape releases a demonic spirit in the house that picks off the friends one by one by means of possession. Despite the excessive blood and guts, The Evil Dead struck a chord in the horror universe, not only setting up protagonist Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) as a cult icon (and launching Campbell’s career), but also paving the way for horror films to follow.
And with the original film resulting in rave reviews almost universally, the Evil Dead franchise hasn’t given up quite yet. There are two sequels to the film, Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992) – all starring Campbell – as well as a 2013 reboot, also titled Evil Dead – where Campbell makes a cameo appearance as Ash. And in October of this year, Starz premiered a ten-episode series based on the film titled Ash vs. Evil Dead (also starring Campbell as Ash), with a pilot episode directed by Raimi himself.
12 Final Destination (2000)
The Count So Far: 5 films.
In a series where death is constantly lurking, it’s ironic that this franchise is still living and breathing. 2002's Final Destination follows teenager Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) who has a premonition that he and his friends will die in a plane crash, so he prevents it from happening, therefore cheating Death, which then begins hunting the teen and his friends one by one.
With a premise that strong, it only makes sense that the series would continue on, especially following a $53 million box office. There have since been four more films, ending with Final Destination 5 in 2011. There have also been resulting novel and comic series as well as a stand-alone comic book based on the films.
11 Friday the 13th (1980)
The Count So Far: 12 films, including 1 crossover with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and one remake, and a TV series.
Considered one of the first true slasher films, and following closely in the footsteps of John Carpenter’s Halloween, Friday the 13th tells the story of a group of camp counselors that try to reopen a haunted summer camp where a child, Jason Voorhees, drowned years earlier. Things go awry for the group when they’re stalked and murdered by an unknown aggressor, in slasher-like fashion.
The series may not be critically acclaimed, but it’s become such a presence in pop culture that continuing the series hasn’t been a problem in the least. The franchise consists of ten sequels, a crossover film with A Nightmare on Elm Street in 2003 (titled Freddy vs. Jason), a remake of the first film released in 2009 (also titled Friday the 13th), various comic book series, 13 novellas, and a TV series (titled Friday the 13th: The Series, which had almost nothing to do with the series, but shared a producer and attempted to cash in on the name).
Jason even made it to space in 2001's sci-fi-themed Jason X.
10 Halloween (1978)
The Count So Far: 10 films, including one remake and its sequel.
The beginning of the slasher film, Halloween is iconic in many ways, and one of the most recognizable franchises around. The film begins with a long tracking shot (an innovation in every sense of the word) of then six-year-old Michael Myers stabbing his sister to death on Halloween night. On the same night fifteen years later, he’s escaped the mental institution, thus continuing his murderous rampage by stalking Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends in suburban Haddonfield, Illinois.
After the incredibly successful first film, the Halloween series spawned seven sequels (although the third entry, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, has nothing to do with Michael Myers and the rest of the series) and a Rob Zombie-directed remake in 2007. That remake spawned its own sequel of its own in 2009, titled Halloween II (which bore little resemblance to 1981's Halloween II). There is also currently a film in the works tentatively titled Halloween Returns, although there are no release dates set yet.
9 Hellraiser (1987)
The Count So Far: 9 films
The British horror film written and directed by Clive Barker (based on his novella, The Hellbound Heart) and featuring Pinhead (Doug Bradley) was a smash hit for British horror. The story revolves around an unfaithful wife (Clare Higgins), her zombified lover, Frank (Sean Chapman), and their murderous plot to bring him back to life. But the looming presence of the Cenobites, formerly human creatures that torture anyone unfortunate enough to stumble upon a puzzle box that acts as a gateway to their Hellish home, puts a strain on Frank’s plans.
While the first film isn’t largely focused on the iconic character Pinhead, the Hellraiser sequels focus more on him as well as other elements of the story not explained in depth in the first film. There have been eight total sequels, though they started going direct-to-video after the release of the fourth film, Hellraiser: Bloodline.
2011's Hellraiser: Revelations was the only one not to feature Doug Bradley as Pinhead, and rumors have it that The Winstein Company only mad ae it to keep the rights to the character and franchise, suggesting a potential reboot in the future. A Hellraiser TV series is reportedly also in development.
8 Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The Count So Far: 6 films in the main series and another 10 movies that are connected to it in some shape or form.
Night of the Living Dead is the original zombie movie in a long line of zombie movies. The premise is simple enough: seven people are trapped in a farmhouse, trying to stay hidden from the zombies (or “living dead”) lurking right outside, who eventually invade the house and pick off the inhabitants. The film was deemed a huge success, and is now considered a cult classic. A simple mistake in distribution - a copyright symbol was never placed on the prints - ensured that this film would enter the public domain, and any discussion of a series becomes especially knotty.
Five "unofficial" sequels resulted from this film (released between 1978 and 2010) that were all directed by George Romero, and Origins, a prequel to the series directed by Romero's son, is now in production as well.
There have also been two direct remakes of the film, one of which was released in 1990, the other released in 3D in 2006, titled Night of the Living Dead 3D, which resulted in a prequel of its own titled Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation. There’s another 3D retelling of the story in post-production titled Night of the Living Dead: Origins (also known as Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn), which is a computer-animated horror film set in a contemporary setting rather than the rural areas of the original.
In 2004, Zack Snyder made a popular remake of Dawn of the Dead, the second film in Romero's series, while the third film of the series, Day of the Dead, has spawned both a straight-to-video sequel, Day of the Dead 2: Contagion, and its own remake.
Complicating matters further is the fact that John A. Russo, who co-wrote Night with Romero, was involved in the production of Return of the Living Dead, a pseudo-sequel that spawned its own four sequels.
7 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Count So Far: 9 films, including a crossover with the Friday the 13th franchise and remake, and a TV series.
Following along in the slasher film footsteps, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street tells the story of several high school kids who are hunted in their sleep by a notorious serial killer, and iconic villain, Freddy Kreuger (Robert Englund). The film is also A-lister Johnny Depp’s feature film debut as the boyfriend of protagonist Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp).
The original film tiptoes around a child molestation backstory for the killer, a taboo that was briefly referenced, but never fully explained, but in the 2010 remake, where Kreuger is played by Jackie Earle Haley, it’s more explicitly played out on the screen, giving further dimension and maliciousness to the character. Nightmare also went on to create seven more sequels from 1985 to 1994, but Craven only directed the last, titled Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
The franchise also consists of comics and novels, the Friday the 13th crossover film Freddy vs. Jason (2003), and Freddy's Nightmares, an anthology TV series hosted by Freddie Krueger.
6 Paranormal Activity (2007)
the Count So Far: 6 films.
The phenomenon surrounding the first film was suggestive of a promising franchise, as many viewers described it as the scariest movie ever made, but, of course, time has changed this. This extremely low budget ($15,000), found-footage film by first time director Oren Peli follows the story of Katie Featherston and her boyfriend Micah Sloat (portrayed by actors of the same name) as they are haunted by a demonic presence in their home.
While the first film did substantially well, bringing home a whopping $107.9 million from the box office, its sequels progressively made less and less (with the exception of Paranormal Activity 3, which hit around $104 million), and the recent release, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension has only hit about $18 million so far. There have been five sequels to the original to date, the most recent of which is still in theaters.
5 Puppetmaster (1989)
The Count So Far: 13 films, including 3 crossovers with the Demonic Toys franchise.
The original film in this series, known as Puppet Master, Puppetmaster or Puppet Master I, was meant to be a theatrical release, but after consideration from writer Charles Brand, it was released direct-to-video in hopes of bringing in more money, a smart decision on Brand’s part. The film did well in the video realm, quickly becoming a cult classic that would continue on to franchise status. The plot reveals the story of Toulon’s puppets that come to life, a secret Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs) discovers before he kills himself, and now a group of psychics want to know this secret for themselves, a mistake that may cost them their lives.
There have since been nine sequels starting in 1989 and the last of which, titled Puppet Master X: Axis Rising, was released in 2012. However, new viewers should beware – the series is not chronological and is oftentimes referred to as confusing, especially when dates in the films don’t appear to line up correctly with the original. The franchise also houses an unofficial crossover with characters from Demonic Toys (1992) (a franchise housing 3 sequels of its own) titled Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys (2004).
4 Resident Evil (2002)
The Count So Far: 5 films.
Taking on more than just horror, Resident Evil is classified as an action/adventure, fantasy film as well, taking elements from the original video games and turning them into one of the better known franchises in horror. The film follows a military unit that must fight a super-computer and zombified scientists created in a lab accident, pitting protagonist Alice (Milla Javovich) against antagonist the Umbrella Corporation (a fictional, bioengineering pharmaceutical company responsible for the beginning of the zombie apocalypse). The first film also stars The Fast and the Furious’s Michelle Rodriguez as Rain Ocampo.
Resident Evil has since produced four sequels from 2002 to 2012, and the "final" installment of the franchise is currently in the works, produced and directed by Paul Anderson and set to be released in 2017, although no one knows if it'll really be the last film to bear the Resident Evil name. With its success, Resident Evil has become the highest grossing film series to be based on video games, grossing about $915 million worldwide.
3 Saw (2004)
The Count So Far: 7 films.
Gore is the new black, or at least, that’s how Saw sees it. Beginning back in 2004, the franchise began with a horrifying new premise: what would you do to live? The story follows a madman turned serial killer, better known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) that kidnaps people he doesn’t believe value their lives and puts them to the ultimate test, hoping to teach them just how valuable life is. Amongst a series of gory sub-plots, viewers watch as Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam Faulkner-Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) find themselves trapped together in a room with no memory of how they got there and no way of escape without sawing off their own limbs.
Saw has since become a cult classic, and because of its initial box office success, it has resulted in six sequels, all released yearly in October on the Friday before Halloween from 2005 to 2010. While the 2010 release (Saw 3D) was said to be the last film of the franchise, series creators James Wan and Whannell are reportedly still open to continuing the series, although they’d prefer to take it a different direction. Either way, the series known for its plot twists and gory outcomes has a strong following that will always be open to a new beginning.
2 Scream (1996)
The Count So Far: 4 films and 1 TV series.
Another directorial win for Wes Craven, Scream is one of the greatest horror satires ever created, earning itself cult status and going on to become one of the most profitable slasher films ever. Loosely based on the real-life murders of the Gainesville Ripper, Scream follows the story of young Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and her horror-film obsessed friends who are being picked off one by one by a killer known as Ghostface. The film takes an all-new approach to the genre, and by casting already established actors, such as David Arquette, Courtney Cox and Drew Barrymore, it hoped to clinch a successful release, especially in light of the failing horror industry in the early 1990’s. The script was titled Scary Movie early on, which would later become a satirical horror franchise of its own.
Scream’s success prompted three more sequels, all of which Craven directed, and all of which allowed the characters to reprise their roles. Scream 2 and 3 were released in 1997 and 2000 respectively, while Scream 4 didn’t hit theaters until 2011 to capitalize on nostalgia for the series. While rumors of a potential fifth and sixth installment were circling from 2011 to 2013, it was firmly denied in June of this year when MTV released a new TV series titled Scream, which was an 11-episode reworking of the original film, earning itself a second season to premiere April 20 of next year. But while the door on further sequels appears to be closed at the moment, there’s always hope.
1 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The Count So Far: 7 films, including 1 remake and 1 prequel.
Another franchise based on a true story (the real-life killings by Ed Gein), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the most violent slasher films ever, although it helped create some of the more recognizable gimmicks of the genre, such as a large, faceless killer and the use of a single tool as a murder weapon. The story is about five friends that are visiting family but are violently attacked by a chainsaw-wielding killer known as Leatherface.
While the original film is only loosely based on the real murders, the 2013 sequel to the film (Texas Chainsaw 3D) continues the story in the first film as well as the true story surrounding Gein. The previous three sequels (released from 1986 to 2006) aren’t referenced in the 2013 film, and neither are the 2003 remake or the 2006 prequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. The series isn’t over yet however, as another prequel to the series titled Leatherface is set for release in 2016.
The Count So Far: 5 films and 1 TV series.
The film about subterranean, man-eating, worm-like creatures starring Kevin Bacon (Valentine McKee) went on to become a franchise. It’s kind of hard to believe. But believe it or not, it’s real. It took on a western theme, and the first film starring Reba McEntire for added country effect, and though it didn’t bring home a large amount of money by any means, it was considered a huge success on video and TV, sparking the creation of several sequels.
Though the first film only made $16 million at the box office, four direct-to-video sequels were created spanning from 2001 to 2015. Tremors also became a Syfy TV series titled Tremors: The Series in 2003, but was cancelled after only one, 13-episode season.
Did we miss a horror franchise that you love? Share your thoughts in the comments below!