20 Classic Horror Franchises Explained (Guide)

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Classic Horror Franchises Explained

Horror Movie Franchises Explained

In a world full of sequels, prequels, requels, and reboots, it can be hard to keep track of all of the movies in a franchise. Horror films are no exception. Whether you are a horror newbie or a seasoned veteran, there are just too many horror films to keep up with.

Today, we are going to break down classic horror franchises. If we missed any of your favorite horror movie series, let us know on social media!

Horror Franchises - A Nightmare On Elm Street

1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984-2010)

A Nightmare On Elm Street is a horror series created by horror legend Wes Craven. There are currently nine movies in the franchise. A Nightmare On Elm Street has seven movies in its main series. There is also a crossover film with Friday The 13th called ‘Freddy Vs. Jason’. In 2010, a remake of the first movie was released.

Freddy Krueger was a child murderer who was burned alive by his victim’s parents. While Freddy is dead physically, his spirit still lives on. Freddy Kruger has the ability to attack people through their dreams. If you die in a dream while being haunted by Freddy, you die in real life.

A Nightmare On Elm Street Movies In Release Order

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

RELATED: Why Is Freddy Krueger Burned? (A Nightmare On Elm Street)

Horror Franchises - Alien Series

2. Alien (1979 – 2017)

Alien is a science fiction horror film series created by Don O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. There are currently eight movies in the series. The main franchise contains four films. There are two crossover movies with the Predator franchise. Alien also has two modern films serving as prequels to the series.

Ellen Ripley is an officer tasked with exploring outer space. Her trip is interrupted when an alien species comes aboard the space shuttle. This kicks off the Alien franchise, which builds on the lore of humanity’s battles against the Xenomorph species.

The Alien Franchise In Release Order

Alien (1979)
Aliens (1986)
Alien 3 (1992)
Alien Resurrection (1997)
Alien Vs. Predator (2004)
Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
Prometheus (2012)
Alien: Covenant (2017)

More On Alien

Alien (1979): The Xenomorph Design Is Littered With Sexual Symbols In Mind

Alien: Deconstructing Sexual Violence

Fear Incarnate: How Alien Crafted The Perfect Movie Monster

Horror Franchises - The Blair Witch

3. The Blair Witch (1999-2016)

The Blair Witch is a series of found-footage horror films created by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. There are currently three films in the series that span two different continuities. In both continuities, the original film (The Blair Witch Project) should be viewed first. The sequels (Book of Shadows, and Blair Witch) do not recognize each other’s continuity.

There is an urban legend that The Blair Witch lives in the woods around Burkittsville, Maryland. Filmmakers, and other interested parties, head into the woods to capture footage of this mythical creature. However, The Blair Witch doesn’t like people coming into her woods.

The Blair Witch Franchise In Release Order

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
Blair Witch (2016)

RELATED: Found On The Ground – 10 Found-Footage Horror Movies For Beginners

Horror Franchises - Childs Play

4. Child’s Play (1988-2019)

Child’s Play is a series created by Don Mancini that blurs the line between slasher horror and horror comedy. The first three films in the series act as typical slasher films. The next four entries in the series continue the story, but add elements of horror comedy. The newest film, 2019’s Child’s Play, takes a different direction and has its own continuity.

Charles Lee Ray is a serial killer that also dabbles in voodoo magic. When he is wounded and about to be captured by the police, he transfers his soul into a popular Good Guy doll. Now that his soul is possessing a children’s toy, he must find a new body to bring himself into the physical realm.

The Child’s Play Franchise In Release Order

Child’s Play (1988)
Child’s Play 2 (1990)
Child’s Play 3 (1991)
Bride Of Chucky (1998)
Seed of Chucky (2004)
Curse Of Chucky (2013)
Cult Of Chucky (2017)
Child’s Play (2019)

RELATED: Killer Toys – The 10 Greatest Doll Horror Movies

Horror Franchises - The Conjuring

5. The Conjuring Universe (2013-2021)

The Conjuring is a paranormal horror cinematic universe created by James Wan. The series actually spans multiple franchises, including The Conjuring, Annabelle, and The Nun. There are currently eight movies in the series which all follow the same continuity.

The Conjuring series follows the adventures of Ed and Lorrain Warren. The couple, based on their real-life counterparts, are paranormal detectives. Throughout their adventures, they meet many dangerous supernatural entities. As they solve these mysteries, they keep the haunted objects in a museum in their basement.

The Conjuring Franchise In Release Order

The Conjuring (2013)
Annabelle (2014)
The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
The Nun (2018)
The Curse Of La Llorona (2019)
Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

More On The Conjuring Universe:

The Conjuring Films Are Classic Gothic Tales For The Modern Age

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (Review)

Horror Franchises - Evil Dead

6. The Evil Dead (1981-2013)

The Evil Dead series was created by Sam Raimi. The franchise plays the line between paranormal occult horror and horror comedy. There are currently four movies in the franchise. The original trilogy of films stands by itself. The 2013 version of Evil Dead is a reboot, though it can be seen as canon to the originals.

The Evil Dead franchise follows the adventures of Ash Williams. The Necronomicon is a book that can unleash demons around those who read it. Ash finds himself being attacked on multiple occasions by monsters summoned by the book.

The Evil Dead Franchise In Release Order

The Evil Dead (1981)
Evil Dead II (1987)
Army Of Darkness (1993)
Evil Dead (2013)

RELATED: The Weird And Wonderful Career Of Sam Raimi

Horror Franchises - The Exorcist

7. The Exorcist (1973-2005)

The Exorcist is a classic horror movie franchise created by William Peter Blatty. There are currently five films in the series that all share the same continuity.

The Exorcist series surrounds priests and detectives as they investigate people with demonic possession. The demon in question, Puzuzu, continues to return and wreak havoc on Earth.

The Exorcist Franchise In Release Order

The Exorcist (1973)
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
The Exorcist III (1990)
Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist (2005)

Horror Franchises - Final Destination

8. Final Destination (2000-2011)

Final Destination is a supernatural horror series created by Jeffrey Reddick. The series currently consists of five films that occur within the same continuity.

Death has a plan, but not all plans go off without a hitch. For those who have managed to escape their fates, Death must find a way to take them to the other side. This typically includes intricate situations that make the person’s death seem like a bizarre accident.

The Final Destination Franchise In Release Order

Final Destination (2000)
Final Destination 2 (2003)
Final Destination 3 (2006)
The Final Destination (2009)
Final Destination 5 (2011)

Horror Franchises - Friday The 13th

9. Friday The 13th (1980-2009)

Friday The 13th is a slasher horror series created by Victor Miller. There are currently twelve films in the series. They all share the same continuity except for 2009’s Friday The 13th, which reboots the franchise’s canon. There is also a collaboration film with the A Nightmare On Elm Street franchise, titled Freddy Vs. Jason.

A young child named Jason Voorhees drowns at Camp Crystal Lake due to the negligence of his camp counselors. His mother seeks violent revenge on the camp staff. After this doesn’t work out as planned, we learn that Jason’s corpse has become reanimated, and wants to seek his own revenge.

The Friday The 13th Franchise In Release Order

Friday The 13th (1980)
Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)
Friday The 13th Part III (1982)
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Friday The 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Jason X (2002)
Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
Friday The 13th (2009)

Horror Franchises - Halloween

10. Halloween (1978-2022)

Halloween is a slasher horror series created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill. There are currently thirteen films in the Halloween franchise that span three different continuities. Halloween is probably the most famous out of all of the horror franchises.

It is also worth noting that Halloween III: Season Of The Witch does not feature Michael Myers and is often seen as not being canon to any of the movie’s continuities.

The original Halloween through Halloween resurrection tells one story of the history of Michael Myers. The 2007 and 2009 remakes by Rob Zombie are in their own canon. The newer films, 2018’s Halloween, 2021’s Halloween Kills, and 2022’s Halloween Ends make up the third continuity but still have the original 1987 film as part of the canon.

After murdering his sister, a young Michael Myers is sent to live in a mental institution. As an adult, he breaks out and continues his murderous lifestyle. Most Halloween films have Laurie Strode as the main protagonist, who is constantly being targeted by Michael’s attacks.

The Halloween Franchise In Release Order

Halloween (1978)
Halloween II (1981)
Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (1989)
Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Halloween (2007)
Halloween II (2009)
Halloween (2018)
Halloween Kills (2021)
Halloween Ends (2022)

Horror Franchises - Hellraiser

11. Hellraiser (1987-2022)

Hellraiser is a supernatural science fiction horror series based on the works of Clive Barker. There are currently eleven films in the franchise. All of the films share the same continuity, except for 2022’s Hellraiser which aims to reboot the series canon.

The Hellraiser series focuses on a group of monsters called The Cenobites that live in a realm called The Lament Configuration. The Cenobites collect the souls of humans and use them in horrific experiments. The only way to travel between these two realms is through the use of an ornate puzzle box.

The Hellraiser Franchise In Release Order

Hellraiser (1987)
Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)
Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
Hellraiser: Judgement (2018)
Hellraiser (2022)

Horror Franchises - Insidious

12. Insidious (2011-2018)

Insidious is a supernatural horror film series created by James Wan and Leigh Whannell. There are currently four movies in the franchise that all share the same continuity.

The Insidious films center around the Lambert family. After their son enters a coma, he finds himself connected to the spirit world. His parents then investigate the violent forces coming from the other side.

The Insidious Franchise In Release Order

Insidious (2011)
Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)
Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

Horror Franchises - Jaws Series

13. Jaws (1975-1987)

Jaws is a horror series based on the writing of Peter Benchley. There are four movies in the Jaws franchise that spans two continuities. In both timelines, the first two films are canon. However, Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge do not recognize each other as canon. What makes Jaws one of the classic horror franchises is that it deals with animals and natural events as opposed to ghosts and serial killers.

The Jaws series focuses on attacks by multiple great white sharks. Most of the films deal with the Brody family. In the first two films, Martin Brody is the chief of police investigating the shark attacks. The later movies focus on Martin’s legacy through his children.

The Jaws Franchise In Release Order

Jaws (1975)
Jaws 2 (1978)
Jaws 3-D (1983)
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Horror Franchises - Leprechaun

14. Leprechaun (1993-2018)

Leprechaun is a horror comedy slasher film series created by Mark Jones. There are eight films in the series that operate within three or four continuities (depending on who you ask). The first five films in the series make up their own canon. However, the sixth film (Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood) is seen as a sequel to Leprechaun In The Hood, but not necessarily canon to the first four films. The 2014 film, Leprechaun: Origins, is a reboot of the series canon. The 2018 film, Leprechaun Returns, is a sequel to the original 1993 film.

Lubdan Buttowski is a leprechaun that does not like it when is gold is taken from him. Most of the films in this series show Lubdan taking violent revenge on those who steal his riches.

The Leprechaun Franchise In Release Order

Leprechaun (1993)
Leprechaun 2 (1994)
Leprechaun 3 (1995)
Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)
Leprechaun In The Hood (2000)
Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood (2003)
Leprechaun: Origins (2014)
Leprechaun Returns (2018)

Horror Franchises - Night Of The Living Dead

15. Night Of The Living Dead (1968-2009)

Night Of The Living Dead is a zombie apocalypse horror series created by George A. Romero. There are currently six films in the franchise, and they all share the same continuity.

Night Of The Living Dead is the classic zombie apocalypse story. The films follow different groups of survivors as they attempt to navigate this dangerous landscape. The later films also delve into how society can rebuild itself in the wake of this disaster.

The Night Of The Living Dead Franchise In Release Order

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
Day Of The Dead (1985)
Night Of The Living Dead (1990)
Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
Land Of The Dead (2005)
Diary Of The Dead (2007)
Survival Of The Dead (2009)

Horror Franchises - Paranormal Activity

16. Paranormal Activity (2007-2021)

Paranormal Activity is a paranormal found-footage horror series created by Oren Peli. There are currently seven installments of the franchise and all of them share one continuity.

The Paranormal Activity series focuses on hauntings that span the course of decades. All of these hauntings are perpetrated by the same demon, Asmodeus of the Book of Tobit.

The Paranormal Activity Franchise In Release Order

Paranormal Activity (2007)
Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)
Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin (2021)

Horror Franchises - The Purge

17. The Purge (2013-2021)

The Purge is an anthology horror series created by James DeMonaco. The franchise combines elements of dystopian horror, home invasion horror, and political satire. There are currently five films in The Purge franchise, all of which share the same continuity.

The Purge takes place in an alternate version of The United States. In this series, there is one night per year in which all crimes are legal. This causes citizens to go on murderous rampages and crime sprees. While this is a cathartic experience for many, there are also people who would like to see the law overturned.

The Purge Franchise In Release Order

The Purge (2013)
The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
The Purge: Election Year (2016)
The First Purge (2016)
The Forever Purge (2021)

Horror Franchises - Saw Franchise

18. Saw (2004-2021)

Saw is horror film franchise created by James Wan and Leigh Whannell. The series combines elements of slasher films, detective mysteries, and splatter films. There are currently nine moves in the Saw series. All of the movies share the same continuity. The only real deviation is 2021’s Spiral. While this film takes place in the same universe as the other films, it focuses on a new killer inspired by the events of the original movies. Saw is one of the most prolific horror franchises of all time.

The Saw series tells the story of John Kramer. After traumatic events in his life, he begins to resent the average person for taking their life for granted. This misanthropic worldview turns John into The Jigsaw Killer. As Jigsaw, John uses elaborate traps and puzzles to teach his victims to fight for their lives.

The Saw Franchise In Release Order

Saw (2004)
Saw II (2005)
Saw III (2006)
Saw IV (2007)
Saw V (2008)
Saw VI (2009)
Saw 3D (2010)
Jigsaw (2017)
Spiral (2021)

More On Saw

How To Watch The Saw Movies In Order

The Saw Franchise: Personal Philosophy And Perverse Justice

The Top 10 Most Brutal Saw Traps

Horror Franchises - Scream Franchise

19. Scream (1996-2022)

Scream is a slasher film series created by Wes Craven. While the series stands on its own as one of the great slasher horror franchises, it is mostly known for its satirical and meta-commentary on slasher films and horror. There are currently five films in the series that operate in a single continuity.

A year after Sidney Prescott’s mother is murdered, a new series of killings begins. The killer has now turned their sights on Sidney. Over the course of Sidney’s life, many disgruntled people don the Ghostface costume and attempt to murder her.

The Scream Franchise In Release Order

Scream (1996)
Scream 2 (1997)
Scream 3 (2000)
Scream 4 (2011)
Scream (2022)

More On Scream

8 Movies Referenced In Scream (1996)

37 Awesome Scream Quotes

How To Watch The Scream Movies In Order

Horror Franchises - Texas Chainsaw Massacre

20. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974-2022)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a slasher film series created by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper. There are currently nine films in this franchise that spans four different continuities. The first four films follow their own continuity. There is a second continuity consisting of Leatherface (2017), the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973), and Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013). The 2003 and 2022 remakes are in their own continuities, respectively.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre focuses on Leatherface, a serial killer that dismembers and skins his victims. He also has a family, which has been known to cook and eat the victims. Most of the entries in the series follow groups of people who travel to Texas only to find themselves in the grasp of Leatherface.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise In Release Order

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
Texas Chainsaw 3D (2012)
Leatherface (2017)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

More On The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

How To Cook Drayton’s Chainsaw Chili From The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

What Are Your Favorite Horror Franchises?

We hope you enjoyed our breakdown of these classic horror franchises. Which horror movie series is your favorite? Let us know on social media!

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