Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)

All John Carpenter Movies Ranked by Tomatometer

John Carpenter was still a student at USC when he started piecing together what would become his first feature: 1974’s Dark Star, a sci-fi comedy about intrepid goofballs in deep space. Carpenter not only directed, but also wrote, produced, and scored the music — a DIY approach that would characterize his most legendary work.

Indeed, it’s Carpenter’s relentless synth theme that opens 1978’s Halloween, his third feature (made after the claustrophobic Assault on Precinct 13) that would go on to shock audiences with its violation of suburban idyll, break box office records, and change the face of horror for decades to come. Though Michael Myers quickly grew up in the hands of other producers, Carpenter was never too far from his baby in the genre/horror world. 1980’s The Fog was icily efficient, while Escape From New York gave us sardonic action icon Snake Plissken and a blueprint of infiltration-and-rescue movies for plenty of low-budget directors to copy. Carpenter followed that up with his paranoid masterpiece, The Thing, in 1982, a year that gave us a bonanza of other sci-fi influencers like Blade Runner, E.T., and Tron.

Still, Carpenter showed no sign of slowing down in the ’80s, with the release Stephen King adaptation Christine, softening his image with Starman, and putting out beloved goofy lark Big Trouble in Little China. 1988’s They Live, the action/horror hybrid satire that body checked consumerism and media propaganda, would mark his last Fresh movie to date.

Some of his work in the ’90s certainly has its legions of fans — the Lovecraftian In the Mouth of Madness and Escape From L.A. especially — but critics and audiences were losing patience with his cobbled-together filmmaking style. 2001’s Ghosts of Mars was a bomb that effectively sent him to Hollywood jail, insomuch as it would be 10 years before his next (and perhaps final) feature, The Ward. Carpenter has since focused on his moody synth music, putting out albums and performing live. Thus, he was able to return to the Halloween franchise with the Certified Fresh 2018 sequel as composer and executive producer.

#17
Adjusted Score: 25.076%
Critics Consensus: John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars is not one of Carpenter's better movies, filled as it is with bad dialogue, bad acting, confusing flashbacks, and scenes that are more campy than scary.
Synopsis: By the year 2025, the planet Mars, long inhabited by human settlers, has become the manifest destiny of an over-populated... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 30.696%
Critics Consensus: With John Carpenter at the helm and an eclectic onscreen ensemble, this Village of the Damned should be distinguished by more than its improved special effects.
Synopsis: This film is a remake of the classic 1960 science-fiction thriller, Village of the Damned, which was based on the... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#15

The Ward (2011)
33%

#15
Adjusted Score: 34.518%
Critics Consensus: Lacking the hallmarks of his best work, The Ward proves to be a disappointingly mundane swan song for director John Carpenter.
Synopsis: A thriller centered on an institutionalized young woman (Amber Heard) who becomes terrorized by a ghost. -- (C) Arc Entertainment... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 42.221%
Critics Consensus: Nothing but one showdown after another.
Synopsis: After destroying a vampire nest in rural New Mexico, Team Crow is savagely ambushed during the victory celebration by the... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 60.402%
Critics Consensus: Prince of Darkness has a handful of chillingly clever ideas, but they aren't enough to put John Carpenter's return to horror at the same level as his classic earlier outings.
Synopsis: Master of horror John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) directs this terrifying battle between humankind and ultimate evil. A group of... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 61.544%
Critics Consensus: If it fails to make the most of its intriguing premise, In the Mouth of Madness remains a decent enough diversion for horror fans and John Carpenter completists.
Synopsis: This John Carpenter horror movie simultaneously honors and pokes fun at the work of author Stephen King as it depicts... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#11

Christine (1983)
69%

#11
Adjusted Score: 71.032%
Critics Consensus: The cracks are starting to show in John Carpenter's directorial instincts, but Christine is nonetheless silly, zippy fun.
Synopsis: She was born in Detroit... on an automobile assembly line. But she is no ordinary automobile. Deep within her chassis... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#10

Body Bags (1993)
67%

#10
Adjusted Score: 67.104%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper directed this trio of shockers hosted by a small town coroner.... [More]

#9

The Fog (1980)
74%

#9
Adjusted Score: 79.909%
Critics Consensus: A well-crafted return to horror for genre giant John Carpenter, The Fog rolls in and wraps viewers in suitably slow-building chills.
Synopsis: A weather-beaten old fisherman tells an ancient tale of betrayal and death to fascinated children as they huddle together by... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#8
Adjusted Score: 80.785%
Critics Consensus: Brimming with energy and packed with humor, Big Trouble in Little China distills kung fu B-movies as affectionately as it subverts them.
Synopsis: Playing in a manner that can be conservatively described as larger than life, Kurt Russell plays a macho truck driver... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#7

Dark Star (1974)
80%

#7
Adjusted Score: 82.231%
Critics Consensus: A loopy 2001 satire, Dark Star may not be the most consistent sci-fi comedy, but its portrayal of human eccentricity is a welcome addition to the genre.
Synopsis: John Carpenter directed this wigged-out spoof of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film originally began as a 45-minute U.S.C. student... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#6

Starman (1984)
85%

#6
Adjusted Score: 87.097%
Critics Consensus: What initially begins as sci-fi transforms into a surprisingly sweet, offbeat drama, courtesy of John Carpenter's careful direction.
Synopsis: Having crashed to Earth, an extraterrestrial space traveller must assume a human identity lest he be captured by the authorities.... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#5

The Thing (1982)
84%

#5
Adjusted Score: 89.871%
Critics Consensus: Grimmer and more terrifying than the 1950s take, John Carpenter's The Thing is a tense sci-fi thriller rife with compelling tension and some remarkable make-up effects.
Synopsis: John Carpenter's The Thing is both a remake of Howard Hawks' 1951 film of the same name and a re-adaptation... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#4

They Live (1988)
86%

#4
Adjusted Score: 90.667%
Critics Consensus: A politically subversive blend of horror and sci fi, They Live is an underrated genre film from John Carpenter.
Synopsis: A homeless drifter discovers a reason for the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor: a conspiracy by non-human... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 90.941%
Critics Consensus: Featuring an atmospherically grimy futuristic metropolis, Escape from New York is a strange, entertaining jumble of thrilling action and oddball weirdness.
Synopsis: It's 1997 and Manhattan has been turned into a maximum security prison. When the United States president crash lands into... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#2

Halloween (1978)
96%

#2
Adjusted Score: 103.462%
Critics Consensus: Scary, suspenseful, and viscerally thrilling, Halloween set the standard for modern horror films.
Synopsis: A young boy kills his sister on Halloween of 1963, and is sent to a mental hospital. 15 years later... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 102.182%
Critics Consensus: Lean, taut and compellingly gritty, John Carpenter's loose update of Rio Bravo ranks as a cult action classic and one of the filmmaker's best.
Synopsis: Cops, secretaries, and prisoners stuck in a soon-to-be-shuttered L.A. police station fight off a horde of murderous gang members in... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

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