(NEXSTAR) — It’s been 44 years since the horror classic “Halloween” was first released in 1978 — when the world got its first glimpse of one of cinema’s scariest boogeymen, the un-killable Michael Myers. As the franchise prepares to release its 13th installment, “Halloween Ends,” you may want to catch up with the story so far.

With the “Halloween” franchise, however, that isn’t as simple as you might expect.

In total, there are three separate timelines stemming from the original movie, one remake timeline, and one standalone anthology film. Confused?

Films by release date

  • “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)

While this is the order the films were released in, it’s not the order you’re meant to watch them in — especially if you want the story to make sense.

Original timeline

Movies in order: “Halloween” (1978); “Halloween II” (1981); “Halloween 4”; “Halloween 5”; and “The Curse of Michael Myers”

Key differences: Sequels in this timeline end with “Curse.” Movies 4-6 do not feature franchise star Jamie Lee Curtis or her character Laurie Strode. Instead, they center on Laurie’s young daughter, Jamie Lloyd, among other new characters.

Spoiler-free overview: Michael Myers terrorizes the town of Haddonfield, Illinois, over a period of about 20 years, beginning with the events of the first film.

Trivia: While widely panned to this day, “Curse” later received a second release in the form of a much mythologized “Producer’s Cut.” This version — which features some substantial plot differences — existed in bootlegs traded among fans for decades before an official release in 2014. The movie also stars future “Ant Man” superstar Paul Rudd.

‘H20’ timeline

Movies in order: “Halloween” (1978); “Halloween II” (1981); “Halloween H20”; and “Resurrection”

Key differences: All sequels included in this timeline are only sequels to the first two “Halloween” movies. Jamie Lee Curtis appears in all four of these films.

Spoiler-free overview: Over the course of one Halloween night, Laurie Strode (Curtis) narrowly escapes death. Still traumatized by the events, Laurie has faked her own death and relocated to California where she comes face-to-face with Michael 20 years later.

Trivia: A contract stipulation resulted in both the creation of “Resurrection” and Curtis’ appearance in it. Curtis had returned to the series under the impression that “H20” would be the end of it all. Franchise owner/producer Moustapha Akkad, however, had other plans. If you happen to watch the much-disliked “Resurrection,” you’ll see just how much Curtis didn’t want to be in the movie.

‘H40’ timeline

Movies in order: “Halloween” (1978); “Halloween” (2018); “Halloween Kills”; and “Halloween Ends”

Key differences: All sequels in this timeline are only sequels to the very first movie. The events of “Halloween II” (1981) never happened.

Spoiler-free overview: After a murderous rampage on Halloween night in 1978, Michael Myers is captured and imprisoned. Forty years later, Laurie Strode (Curtis), still alive and in Haddonfield, must face her fears after Michael escapes and returns on Halloween. The recently released “Halloween Ends” trailer reveals its events will take place four years after the events of the 2018 movie and “Kills.”

Trivia: Many original cast members aside from Curtis returned for the three new films, including Nick Castle, the first Michael Myers, and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Kyle Richards, who was a child in the first film. Original director Carpenter returned for all three new films — this time co-producing the scores.

Rob Zombie remake timeline

Movies in order: “Halloween” (2007) and “Halloween II” (2009)

Key differences: The 2007 movie is both a remake of the 1978 movie and a semi-prequel. While much of the film follows the same story as the original, it also expands upon Michael’s childhood and psyche. Jamie Lee Curtis does not appear in either of these films, though Laurie Strode (played by Scout Taylor-Compton) does. Another key difference: lots and lots more gore.

The 15-disc ‘Halloween’ franchise box set released in 2014 by Anchor Bay/Scream Factory contained all films up to that point (Courtesy of Russell Falcon)

Spoiler-free overview: Events of the first film are pretty much the same as the original. Its follow-up centers on the connections between Laurie and Michael. Both survivor and killer attempt to reconcile their pasts while experiencing mysterious hallucinations.

Trivia: Danielle Harris, who played Laurie Strode’s child in the original timeline, stars in both Zombie films but as a different character.

‘Halloween III’

Only movie: “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” This isn’t even a sequel to the first movie.

Key differences: No Michael Myers. The masterminds behind the first “Halloween,” director/writer John Carpenter and writer/producer Debra Hill, weren’t all that interested in continuing the Strode-Myers story beyond “Halloween II.” But, as Inverse explains, Universal wanted a third movie. Since the series was originally planned as an anthology (with each movie featuring a different story centered around the Halloween season), Carpenter and Hill forged ahead with a new sci-fi/supernatural story.

Story continues below

Spoiler-free overview: The Silver Shamrock novelties company is releasing three new Halloween masks for children to enjoy during a televised giveaway. Based on the fact that this is a horror movie, you can probably guess there’s more to the story.

Trivia: Although it was both a critical and commercial flop upon its release, “Halloween III” has become somewhat of a cult classic — and even re-evaluated and considered a good movie by some. Fondness for this outlier even made its way into the most recent films, with Silver Shamrock masks appearing briefly in the 2018 movie and prominently in “Kills.”

All-in-all, the “Halloween” franchise has earned over $700 million since 1978. The series has spawned not only films but several tie-in and standalone books, graphic novels and even a very-pixelated Atari video game.

“Halloween Ends” hits both theaters and Peacock on Oct. 14. If you’re still lost, maybe it’s best to just put on one of the “Friday the 13th” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street” movies.