John Carpenter has been considered one of the masters of horror for decades, and this John Carpenter films list is the perfect resource for finding out which ones you’ve already seen, and which ones you need to check out.

I think it is safe to say that I am a huge fan of John Carpenter. As far as directors are concerned, he is easily one of my favorites.

I think you will find our top 20 favorite John Carpenter films below will have a little bit of everything for everyone’s taste.

Let us know what some of your favorite John Carpenter films are in the comments section at the end of this article.

Best John Carpenter Movies

This is the list of John Carpenter movies in order of best to worst with movie trailers when available.

John Carpenter is a director whose body of work has had a major influence on the film industry.

This list includes The Thing, Halloween, and many more. This list answers the questions “what are the best John Carpenter movies?”

The Thing (1982)

So, what is The Thing? My best description would be that it’s a slasher movie set in an isolated Antarctic research facility whose inhabitants are under siege by an alien creature who looks like a human being but isn’t quite human.

It cuts, chops and slices its victims until they’re unrecognizable and then moves on to the next victim leaving a bloodbath in its wake.

What a fun movie! I didn’t expect it to be so comedic but it is. The script was written by Bill Lancaster and W.D. Richter from the story by John W. Campbell Jr.I’ve seen this movie twice now and still want to go back for more.

The first time I saw The Thing, it was the 1982 edition with Kurt Russell. It scared me silly.

I had nightmares for weeks after watching it for the first time. When I heard about the prequel coming out, I was excited but skeptical at the same time because I knew that nothing would be as terrifying as my first encounter with The Thing from Another World.

But then I watched The Thing (2011) and loved it just as much as my first viewing of the 1982 version.

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The Thing [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director)
  • French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

Halloween (1978)

Welcome to Halloween (1978) by John Carpenter. This is my favorite movie and I am so happy that I get to introduce it to you.

This film is the first installment in the Halloween horror franchise created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, which consists of the original 1978 film, its 1981 sequel, two sequels that took place after the original storyline, and a remake of the original film from 2007.

The films focus on the fictional character of Michael Myers who was committed to a sanitarium as a child for the murder of his older sister, Judith Myers, who Michael was said to have watched as she bled out.

Fifteen years later Michael escapes and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois where he stalks teenage babysitters on Halloween night while being pursued by his former psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis.

A year later, Michael’s psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis is at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium attempting to convince Michael’s mother that her son should be moved to another facility with better care so that he can be rehabilitated until Sam calls his secretary at home and learns that there have been several violent murders in Haddonfield on Halloween night, which prompts him to drive there immediately with Sheriff Leigh Brackett in tow.

Halloween (35th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, P.J. Soles (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Escape From New York (1981)

John Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape from New York is a dystopian action film about the United States of America, which has been converted into a giant maximum security prison after a massive crime wave.

The title of the film refers to the main setting, the island-city of New York City, which has been walled off and turned into a giant maximum security prison.

The story revolves around an ex-soldier turned criminal (played by Kurt Russell) who is sent to rescue the President of the United States after Air Force One crashes in New York City.

Toward that end, “President” Donald Pleasence heads a group of exiled US officials living in luxurious exile on Manhattan Island while the rest of the country sinks further and further into squalor.

The plot involves a rescue mission by Snake Plissken, a former war hero benched for taking matters into his own hands and trying to rescue his commanding officer rather than sticking to his orders.

The movie was filmed on location in Manhattan, New York City over a period of eleven weeks in summer 1981 under a budget estimated at $10 million.

The filming encountered many difficulties, including constant interference by Studio Warner Brothers. Many scenes had to be reshot numerous times and some plot elements were changed drastically from their original conception.

Escape from New York
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - John Carpenter (Writer) - Debra Hill (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

The film Big Trouble in Little China was released in 1986 and directed by John Carpenter. It stars Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, and James Hong.

Trouble begins when truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) and his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) get involved in a local conflict where they have to battle the three Storm brothers.

The Storm brothers are trying to take over San Francisco as well as call forth an evil god named Lo Pan (James Hong). Jack must stop this from happening or he will suffer from eternal damnation.

The movie was a box office success with a total gross of $11 million on its $10 million budget.

Big Trouble in Little China was praised for its acting, story, and humor. However, the film received negative reviews for the special effects. In 1998 Big Trouble in Little China was released on VHS which grossed $10 million on video and laserdisc sales.

In 2012 it was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and HD DVD where it sold 890,000 units. The film’s soundtrack consists of rock music by John Carpenter and was released in 1986 as well.

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Big Trouble in Little China [Blu-ray]
  • Kurt Russell, James Hong, Kim Cattrall (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - Gary Goldman (Writer) - Larry Franco (Producer)
  • Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)

 

Best John Carpenter Movies

Who Is john carpenter?

John Carpenter is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, musician, editor and composer.

Although Carpenter has worked in numerous film genres, he is most commonly associated with horror and science fiction films from the 1970s and 1980s.

He spent a large part of his childhood moving around different places including Schenectady and Florida. John’s father owned a dry cleaning business.

After graduating high school, John went to college to study music at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He quickly lost interest in this field of study and began to pursue a career in cinema instead.

 

 

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

Sam Neill stars as insurance investigator John Trent, who discovers that a horror writer’s novels are having a strange effect on his readers. The film was inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s novella, At the Mountains of Madness (1936).

The plot of the film concerns an insurance investigator who travels to a remote location in search of a missing author. He eventually concludes that the author’s new novel is somehow responsible for the disappearance.

The film was a box office bomb and received mixed reviews from critics. However, it has gained a cult following.

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In the Mouth of Madness [Blu-ray]
  • Brand New in box. The product ships with all relevant accessories
  • Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - Michael De Luca (Writer) - Sandy King (Producer)
  • English, Spanish, French (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Assault on Precict 13 is an action thriller film by John Carpenter.

It stars Austin Stoker as a police officer who defends a defunct precinct against an attack by a relentless criminal gang, along with Darwin Joston as a convicted murderer who helps him.

Laurie Zimmer and Tony Burton co-star as other defending officers, while the criminals are portrayed by Martin West, Tony Burton, Charles Cyphers and Nancy Loomis.

The film was Carpenter’s first major success and one of the most influential exploitation films of the decade.

Although it is often compared with Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo for its similar premise, Carpenter has said he was heavily influenced by the Westerns of Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (1954) as well as Richard Condon’s 1964 novel The Manchurian Candidate.

During production, Carpenter was working part-time at a movie theater to earn money to finance Assault on Precinct 13.

This film is considered the first installment of Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy. The film was re-made in 2005 under its original title.

Assault On Precinct 13 (1976) [Blu-ray]
  • Polish Release, cover may contain Polish text/markings. The disk has English audio.
  • German (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

They Live (1988)

They Live is a 1988 science fiction film written and directed by John Carpenter. It stars Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster.

The film follows a nameless drifter (Piper) who discovers the ruling class are in fact alien creatures with a plan to take over the Earth via subliminal messages in mass media.

Roddy Piper plays Nada, a homeless American drifter who has come to Los Angeles trying to find work as an actor.

He gets by on the fringes of society, doing odd jobs for cash where he can find them.

One night, he discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see that most of the people around him are not human beings at all, but hideous monsters in human disguise.

Nada finds himself caught in a massive conspiracy between an invading extraterrestrial race and their collaborators in the United States government.

With his new-found knowledge about what’s really going on in the world around him, Nada joins forces with Frank Armitage (Keith David), another lonely drifter who has also discovered the truth about their illusory reality.

Together they wage war against the aliens and their collaborators, and soon learn that they must make sacrifices if they are to succeed.

They Live [Blu-ray] [2018]
  • Polish Release, cover may contain Polish text/markings. The disk has English audio.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a 1992 American comedy film directed by John Carpenter. It stars Chevy Chase as an invisible man who is dating the president’s daughter.

The supporting cast includes Sam Neill, Daryl Hannah, Michael McKean, Jane Sibbett, and Stephen Tobolowsky. The film was released in the United States on March 14, 1992.

The film was a commercial failure, grossing only $9 million against a budget of $25 million. It received mixed reviews, with many critics pointing out that it failed to live up to its potential.

Ex-spy Nick Halloway (Chevy Chase) has been turned invisible by a botched government experiment. He is forced to go on the run with his girlfriend Sandy (Daryl Hannah).

They soon realize that their relationship needs work and they break up. Nick must also thwart the plans of his old nemesis Teddy Leopold (Sam Neill) to create an army of invisibility-inducing super soldiers.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man ( 1992 ) ( Les aventures d'un homme invisible ) [ Blu-Ray, Reg.A/B/C Import - Italy ]
  • Memoirs of an Invisible Man ( 1992 ) ( Les aventures d'un homme invisible )
  • Memoirs of an Invisible Man ( 1992 )
  • Les aventures d'un homme invisible
  • Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Chevy Chase (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - Memoirs of an Invisible Man ( 1992 ) ( Les aventures d'un homme...

Ghosts of Mars (2001)

“Mars is the most earthlike planet in our solar system.” If you’re going to make a movie about Mars, you might as well just go ahead and say that.

It’s a simple statement that would go along way toward explaining why Ghosts Of Mars is such an interesting, compelling, and ultimately frustrating film.

In the future, Earth’s environment is so polluted that people have to live underground. But they can’t live underground forever, so the space agency sends them to the red planet.

There’s only one problem: there are Martians living on Mars. And since these Martians don’t like visitors so much, they’ve come up with a rather unique way of dealing with them: they turn them into zombie slaves.

Despite what you might expect from a science fiction story set on Mars, though, this isn’t really a horror film at all. Instead, it’s more of a western: there’s Sam (Ice Cube) and his brothers John (Christopher Eccleston) and Erol (Brian Van Holt), who are sent to Mars to rescue some scientists.

Sam has no idea what he’s gotten himself into when he gets there; John knows exactly where he’s been sent but has reasons for going anyway, and Erol is just along for

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Ghosts of Mars
  • Angela Athayde, Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - Sandy King (Producer)

The Ward (2010)

A mental institution holds a dark secret. Science is a wonderful thing! This is a story about science gone wrong and how it can be used as a tool for doing good, as well as evil.

I’ll try not to give too much away, but don’t worry. The film reveals all pretty early on. The Ward begins with two sisters, Kristen and Lisa who are doctoring their way through their psychiatry internship at Evans State Mental Hospital.

The hospital was built in the 1920s and has been around for decades. It has been known for its questionable practices and questionable experiments on patients who have no choice but to stay in order to receive treatment for mental illnesses.

The first thing we see is Kristen in her dorm room listening to her iPod on her bed, staring at the ceiling until something catches her eye in the corner of the room.

She turns off the iPod and goes over to investigate what it was she saw…a man behind the door that looked like he was holding a camera.

After this peculiar sighting she heads off to work where she meets up with her sister Lisa and they begin their rounds with Dr. Chavez, their boss at Evans State Mental Hospital.

The Ward
  • Amber Heard, Lyndsy Fonseca, Jared Harris (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Vampires (1998)

Vampires (1998) is an American comedy horror film directed by John Carpenter, and starring James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, and Peter Fonda.

It is a parody of the vampire genre that features Woods as the Count, the world’s oldest vampire, who must find a way to protect his castle from real estate developers.

Northern California has been ground zero for the undead since Count Dracula relocated there in 1879, but now the East Coast is planning to build a freeway through Transylvania. This would be bad news for the vampires, except that they don’t actually exist.

The Count has been in America more than a century, and he’s fought hard to keep his true identity secret, but now he faces an even bigger threat — the Holmby Hills Rat Pack Club, an up-and-coming group of young bloodsuckers led by Jack Colton.

The Count isn’t ready to go gently into that good night; he’ll battle these punks to the death using his wits and whatever weapons are at hand — including his own coffin and wooden stakes made from trees on his property.

He’s also got some ace henchmen at his disposal: Edgar Allan Poe (Daniel Baldwin), Dr. Frankenstein (David Warner) and Inspector Lestrade

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John Carpenter's Vampires [Blu-ray]
  • James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - Don Jakoby (Writer) - Sandy King (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Village of the Damned (1995)

Village of the Damned is a 1995 science fiction film directed by John Carpenter, and starring Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, and Linda Kozlowski. The story is inspired by the 1960 film Village of the Damned.

A team of scientists led by Dr. Jacobson (Christopher Reeve) has been studying the strange case of a small village in Norway where all women have become mysteriously pregnant at the same time.

A child would then be born without any signs of life before suddenly “coming alive” to the horror of its mother who would die after screaming in agony as if in great pain.

The team follows the trail to another such village in Romania where they find themselves facing off against an unknown species that sees humans as food so they can reproduce.

They eventually learn that these creatures are children from another world who are able to control people’s minds and bodies with their minds which allows them to use their human hosts as incubators for their kind.

Village of the Damned (Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]
  • Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Mark Hamill (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Escape from L.A. is a 1996 science fiction action film starring Kurt Russell and Steve Buscemi, directed by John Carpenter.

It is a sequel to Escape from New York (1981). The box office failure of this film ended the planned Escape from… trilogy, though in 2013 Carpenter said he may make another Escape film.

Federal Agent Frank “Snake” Plissken (Kurt Russell) is given 24 hours to find the President of the United States, who has been captured during a visit to Los Angeles and imprisoned in an underground facility called “The Tomb”.

Snake must retrieve a briefcase labeled “the football” from a gang lord named Crazed (Peter Fonda), who has taken over the city after a series of environmental disasters that occurred on July 4, 1997.

 

John Carpenter's Escape From L.A. [Blu-ray]
  • Polish Release, cover may contain Polish text/markings. The disk has English audio and subtitles.
  • Russell, Kurt (Actor)
  • Carpenter, John (Director)
  • French, Portuguese, Spanish, English (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978)

Someone’s Watching Me! is a 1978 American television film directed by John Carpenter.

The film stars Lauren Hutton as Leila, a woman who believes she is being stalked by a stalker named David (David Birney).

The title of the film and the plot were inspired by the song of the same name, performed by Rockwell in 1984. It was originally aired on NBC on November 30, 1978 and was followed by two sequels: a made-for-TV sequel entitled The Eyewitness in 1981 and a feature film When Someone Is Watching in 1998.

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Someone's Watching Me! [Blu-ray]
  • Lauren Hutton, Adrienne Barbeau, Charles Cyphers (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - John Carpenter (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Elvis (1979)

A chronicle of the last two years of the life of Elvis Presley, from his rise to superstardom in the 1950s to his death.

Although the film fails to show much of the real Elvis, it does a good job of showing how he died and how he lived. It is done in a chronological order which is easy to follow.

The film also includes some interviews with close friends, family members, and former girlfriends of Elvis Presley as well as various other people who knew him personally or were part of his inner circle.

There are also brief clips and performances by Elvis Presley himself. Some of the most interesting scenes are when they show his drug addiction, interactions with women, and his paranoia toward doctors.

Kurt Russell gives a good performance as Elvis Presley – though not quite like any other actor could – in this made-for-television movie that provides an interesting look at Presley’s life.

The script sometimes gets bogged down in minutiae, but it is an overall satisfying picture of an American legend.

Prince of Darkness (1987)

It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. This is a lesson that an art student and his girlfriend learn the hard way when they unwittingly release a demon from a canister of chemicals in Prince of Darkness, John Carpenter’s foray into terror.

Tucked away in an isolated church basement, the two graduate students (a very young Donald Pleasance and a pre-Beetlejuice Dennis Dun) are working on their thesis project—an experiment designed to prove the existence of God by injecting fluid into a clay statue and letting it rot.

Unfortunately for them, their theory is proven by the arrival of an all-powerful evil from beyond space and time.

Aided by a pair of dorky priests (the great Victor Wong and Jameson Parker), the grad students decide to try and destroy this unearthly menace before it takes over the world.

But as with all Carpenter films, Prince of Darkness has more than one surprise up its sleeve.

An unusually dark film for Carpenter, Prince of Darkness is also unfortunately bogged down by some awkward pacing issues — including an interminable stretch when most of the cast wanders off to look for more ammunition while Pleasance waits around at the church.

Prince of Darkness Blu-Ray | John Carpenter's | Region B
  • Donald Pleasence, Lisa Blount, Jameson Parker (Actor)
  • John Carpenter (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Christine (1983)

Christine is a 1983 American horror film directed by John Carpenter and starring Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky, and Harry Dean Stanton. The film also features supporting performances from Roberts Blossom and Kelly Preston.

It is based on Stephen King’s novel Christine, published in 1983, about a vintage Plymouth Fury possessed by an evil paranormal entity that terrorizes the new owner and his friends.

Christine was a commercial success at the time of release, although reviews were mixed.

The film received three Saturn Award nominations for Best Horror Film, Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Gordon) and Best Writing (King).

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Christine [Blu-ray]
  • Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Harry Dean Stanton (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - Richard Kobritz (Producer)
  • Thai, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Japanese, English (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Starman (1984)

When a family’s car breaks down in the rural farmlands, they are helped by an alien named Starman, who has come to Earth seeking a new heart for his dying son. Starman is a 1984 American science fiction romance film starring Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, and Charles Martin Smith.

It was written and directed by John Carpenter and produced by Michael Douglas.

The film was nominated for two Saturn Awards: Best Science Fiction Film and Best Writing, but lost both to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).

After its release on December 1, 1984, the film initially received mixed reviews; however, it has since been reappraised as “a modestly scaled science-fiction parable that still packs an emotional punch”, with several critics citing Jeff Bridges’ performance

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Starman - Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
  • Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - Bruce A. Evans (Writer) - Larry J. Franco (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

The Fog (1980)

The Fog is a 1980 horror film directed by John Carpenter. It is the second feature film to have been based on the writings of American horror novelist, Stephen King.

The Fog was written by Carpenter and Debra Hill and stars Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook.

The story takes place in Antonio Bay, California on the centennial anniversary of its settlement. A thick fog settles over the town following a shipwreck involving the arrival of a strange creature aboard the vessel.

As members of the town begin to disappear, a journalist named Dave (Tom Atkins) and a marine biologist named Elizabeth (Adrienne Barbeau) team up with police officer/former sea captain Nelson (Hal Holbrook) to unravel what exactly is happening before it is too late.

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The Fog (Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - Debra Hill (Writer) - Barry Bernardi (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

Dark Star (1974)

Dark Star is a 1974 American comedy science fiction film with elements of surrealism. The film was written by John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon and directed by Carpenter.

It tells the story of the crew of the “Dark Star”, a futuristic spaceship that is ordered to destroy unstable planets.

O’Bannon had co-written the screenplay for Ridley Scott’s Alien, which went into production shortly after Dark Star’s release and both films share more than a few similarities in plot, though Dark Star contains more comedic elements than Alien.

The movie had a troubled history due to interference from producers, but eventually gained a cult following through cable TV showings and home video releases.

The film was intended as an expansion of a student project that Carpenter had made at the University of Southern California called “Dark Star: The Hoffman Tapes”.

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Dark Star [Blu-ray]
  • Dark Star ( 1974 ) ( John Carpenter's Dark Star ) (Blu-Ray)
  • Dark Star ( 1974 )
  • John Carpenter's Dark Star
  • Dan O'Bannon, Andreijah Pahich, Brian Narelle (Actors)
  • John Carpenter (Director) - John Carpenter (Producer)