As we all know, this Thursday is Halloween. And I assume that everyone celebrates the days leading up to this holiday with the same time-honored tradition: re-watching all of the Halloweentown films in consecutive order. My goal here is to provide a ranking of the Halloweentown movies from best to least-best (obviously, none of these can be deemed “the worst,” since they’re all masterpieces), so that we can all maybe switch up our viewing plans and watch the Halloweentown films in a new order.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Annie, all due respect, but this is crazy. I have to watch the Halloweentown films in consecutive order!” If that’s the case, then I respect you. You’re a Halloweentown purist, and that’s fine.
But maybe you’re thinking: “There’s no way your ranking will be accurate. I have a firm belief that Halloweentown 4: Return to Halloweentown isn’t even a part of the Halloweentown canon, so any list that validates Sarah Paxton’s Marnie is #cancelled.” If you fall into this camp, then that’s fine too. It’s deeply problematic that Disney replaced Kimberly J. Brown as Marnie, and you are definitely allowed to skip over Halloweentown 4: Return to Halloweentown if your morals compel you to.
One last group of people could even be thinking: “Halloweentown sucks!” If you fall into this last category, I invite you to enter Kalabar’s evil theatre and get sucked right into his magical death vortex. In other words: disappear forever, snakes.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here is my definitive ranking of the Halloweentown movies, listed from least-best to best.
4. Least-Best: Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge (2001)
Ugh, I know. It’s sad that I have to rank any of these movies in last place, but it simply can’t be denied that Kalabar’s Revenge is the least memorable in the franchise. Like, yes, it is fantastic that Marnie has a torrid love affair with Kalabar’s son. That’s undeniably hot and fun. But, plotwise, not much happens in this film besides the parents turning into their costumes at an otherwise really cool Halloween party.
Actually, on second thought, that scene was really traumatizing to watch as a child, and as an adult it’s still very unsettling. So on a purely terrifying level, this is probably the scariest movie of the franchise. Start with Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge and then watching the others will soothe your mind with their future witchy shenanigans.
3. Better But Not The Best: Halloweentown 4: Return to Halloweentown (2006)
Return to Halloweentown would’ve been so great if Kimberly J. Brown had been invited to reprise her role as Marnie Cromwell. It’s honestly tragic that Disney was too caught up in the Aquamarine hubbub to realize that there are some characters that Sarah Paxton doesn’t need to play (namely, characters who have been played by Kimberly J. Brown for the past three installations and do not need a new actress to play her collegiate self).
Sarah Paxton-induced drama aside, Return to Halloweentown is a full bop. It’s got inexplicable college bullies, it’s got a villain whose last name is “Sinister,” and—most importantly—it’s got Lucas Grabeel returning as Ethan, the morally compromised hottie of the century. Return to Halloweentown expands the Halloweentown universe by showing us both its (confusing) education system and its (also confusing) history as a medieval monarchy. What more could we want? (Besides Kimberly J. Brown, of course. Justice for Kimberly J. Brown!)
2. Even Better Than That But Still Not The Best: Halloweentown (1998)
The first Halloweentown is so good. It establishes the Halloweentown lore without feeling like it has to make any sense. It’s a classic, it’s spooky, and it makes clear who the real star of the franchise is: Aggie Cromwell.
Honestly there’s not much else to say here. This movie holds up.
1. Best: Halloweentown 3: Halloweentown High (2004)
Remember the scene when Marnie is sucked into her locker and into a hidden lounge full of teenage ghouls? Yeah, me too. That’s still the coolest thing to ever happen in the history of cinema.
Halloweentown High is the perfect Halloweentown film because it has everything we could possibly want: high school drama, Lucas Grabeel as a morally compromised hottie, spooky knights, and, of course, a very important lesson about discrimination based on appearances! Also, everyone goes to the mall at one point, and it’s very fun to watch.
I think we all understand that every Halloweentown movie is perfect and wonderful, but now we can also think of them as a hierarchy and watch them in a fun new order.