Halloween vs. Friday the 13th vs. A Nightmare on Elm Street… which one I pick and why!

A dissection of the three major original slasher films and which I think is the best and scariest.

One of the most common debates amongst horror movie junkies is which of the three major slasher franchises trumps the rest. All three of the original films Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) were all relatively released around the same time. The seventies and eighties were an era where horror was invading the big screen as special effects and technology were rapidly advancing.

First and foremost, I want to put it out there that I like all three films– I find them all to be scary, entertaining and brilliant in their own ways. However, I do hold one film higher than the other two. As a side-note, I am also not going to count nor really mention any of the three film’s sequels or remakes.


Let’s start with dissecting A Nightmare on Elm Street, which plays on the idea of your nightmares coming to life. The movie is actually even loosely based on a true story– where in the 1970’s several Asian men died suddenly in their sleep. The film’s nemesis is Freddy Krueger who helms knives for hands and has a scar-filled face only a mother could love. A Nightmare on Elm Street follows Nancy, a somewhat sweet and innocent teenager as her and her friends all try to escape the terrifying living nightmare that Freddy has inflicted on them. The film is filled with several creepy and downright scary moments that make you ‘never want to sleep again.’ I find the freakiest scene of the film to be when Nancy dreams of her dead friend Tina walking down the hallways of her school in a bloody body bag.  That scene did a real number on me, along with the creepy and crazy ending. The thing that gripes me about this one though, is that it is very far-fetched, based on a true story or not, it’s just plain unrealistic. Yes, I know thousands upon thousands of horror films are unrealistic, but this is just part of the reason I did not pick this film as the best… You will understand more later on in the article. Another part to mention, is that Freddy talks a lot.. which does indeed make him scary. But the fact that in the other two films, you do not hear much of anything from the killer makes them all the more frightening.


Next on the list is Friday the 13th, where sex-crazed camp counselors try to survive the night as they are randomly sliced and diced one by one. I really enjoyed the setting, a secluded camp out in the middle of nowhere.. and there’s just something about horror movies that take place in the summer that make them all the more creepy. Perhaps it’s because summer usually makes people warm and happy, rather than cold and dead. The film is a very fun and suspenseful watch, but to me lacks some serious scares when compared to Halloween and ANOES. My opinion is they could have skimped out a bit on the sex and nudity and replaced it with more creepy scenes. It’s just that when I think of Friday the 13th, I really can’t come up with that many scary parts.. just crafty kills and a feeling of being trapped with no escape. Don’t get me wrong though– I LOVE this film’s ending, it was very well-crafted and the twist with the resulting kill is just plain awesome. Betsy Palmer plays a terrifying villain as well.. there’s just something about her that gets underneath your skin. The boat scene at the very end never fails to make me jump… if they had more scenes like the boat one in the film, I think it would have been much more frightening.

And now we’ve made our way to Halloween, which I am sure by now you’ve discovered is my top pick of the trio. The pure simplicity of this film is what makes it so effective. There’s no over-the-top graphics, the characters seem real and relatable and movie packs far more scares and intense moments than the other two. And Michael… the emotionless killing machine that just one look at gives you chills. The total lack of unknown regarding Michael is what makes him all the more scary. You don’t know his drive or motivation for wanting to kill people. He just plain does it, almost as if he’s fascinated by it. We find out motives and such of the killers in Friday the 13th and ANOES which makes us understand them more, which in a way, offers reassurance. However, not knowing is not reassuring in the least. Also, the fact that the budget was only a mere $300,000, which is the lowest of the three films also is quite amazing.


I love the atmosphere Halloween creates, the way they show the ordinary random suburb that could be any town in America. The way they portray the three best friends makes it so really could be anyone’s best friends when they were in high school. All the ingredients to the plot were just plain perfect, even if it was a very simple one. I also need to mention the beginning, the first person POV of young Michael as he murders his sister is brilliant, and the film makers spent a great deal of time to make it just right. We also can not forget the amazing score, and the Halloween theme that makes the movie what it is– almost like it’s Halloween’s trademark. All the right music was perfectly crafted and placed at the exact moments it’s needed to be.


One of the scariest and most powerful scene to me is the infamous closet scene. It’s always where people always think of to hide, where people think they can’t be seen. Yet in Halloween, it turns into something much more terrifying. The scene is very tense and makes you want to look away… you can feel Laurie’s fear as it’s so perfectly displayed on Jamie Lee Curtis’ face.

The last few scenes of the film are made of true terror. In my opinion, the other two films lack this very thing. Not saying they don’t all have scary scenes, but Halloween just seems to be swimming in them, when Friday the 13th and ANOES just feature them. I do understand Halloween is what started them all, and filmmakers were most likely inspired by it but to me, no one was ever able to top it.


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  • Evan Baker
    5 November 2014 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    I always find it a little strange that Elm Street is regularly grouped in with Halloween and F13 almost by default. The fundamentally supernatural nature of it, and the personality of the killer, just make it too different to be compared to them on a 1:1 basis. I’d say that I love the originals of ANoES and Halloween equally, but for entirely different reasons.

    F13 is a couple of tiers below the others for me. While I feel like Halloween and ANoES are both brilliant original films, with uneven sequels some of which almost insult the legacy of their origins, the original F13 isn’t even my favorite of its own series; that honor goes to Friday the 13th Part 2 (though, really, I think the two movies make a wonderful complementary pair). The lasting appeal of F13 is in the success of its formula, its near-infinite repeatability with slight variations, and in the fact that the original doesn’t have nearly such a sterling (almost sacrosanct in the cases of Halloween and ANoES) reputation that the occasional really lousy sequel is seen as a legitimate offence by fans.