Directors: John Carpenter

BIOGRAPHY (from Wikipedia)

John Howard Carpenter is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, musician, editor and composer. Although Carpenter has worked with various film genres, he is associated most commonly with horror, action and science fiction films of the 1970s and 1980s.

Most films of Carpenter’s career were initially commercial and critical failures, with the notable exceptions of Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York and Starman. However, many of Carpenter’s films from the 1970s and the 1980s have come to be considered as cult classics, and he has been acknowledged as an influential filmmaker.

Carpenter is also notable for having composed or co-composed most of his films’ music; some of them are now well-known, with the main theme of Halloween being considered a part of popular culture. He won a Saturn Award for Best Music for the film Vampires. Carpenter has released three studio albums, titled Lost Themes (2015), Lost Themes II (2016), and Anthology: Movie Themes 1974–1998 (2017).


1974 – Dark Star
1976 – Assault on Precinct 13
1978 – Halloween
1978 – Someone’s Watching Me! (TV Movie)
1979 – Elvis (TV Movie)
1980 – The Fog
1981 – Escape from New York
1982 – The Thing
1983 – Christine
1984 – Starman
1986 – Big Trouble in Little China
1987 – Prince of Darkness
1988 – They Live
1992 – Memoirs of an Invisible Man
1993 – Body Bags (TV Anthology Movie)
1995 – In the Mouth of Madness
1995 – Village of the Damned
1996 – Escape from L.A.
1998 – Vampires
2001 – Ghosts of Mars
2010 – The Ward


Assault on Precinct 13 1976 A great 70's crime thriller, with suspense, good acting, and a great finish all adds up to a classic old school 'them or us' movie. 8 Simon
Halloween 1978 The original template for dozens of mediocre slasher films that followed. Carpenter's film is a masterpiece in the art of building up suspense and 'less is more' horror, with not a scene wasted, and perfectly accompanied by his chilling score. 10 Mat
The Fog 1980 The whole film is spelled out in the opening scene killing any excitement or intrigue. The excellent score deserved a better film. 5 Gordon
Escape From New York 1981 The pacing is uneven, but at its best this is a great action movie with a smart story and interesting characters, while Snake Plissken has endured as one of cinema's coolest anti-heroes. 8 Mat
Escape From New York 1981 An abundance of camp and cheese does not necessarily make a bad film (just ask Flash Gordon). But add in gratuitous overacting and a plot that isn't as good as its concept and you have a 'classic' only for the Cult of Carpenter. 5 Gordon
The Thing 1982 It will always be remembered for the amazing gross-out effects, but beyond that is a clever, claustrophobic thriller that still has you wondering who is human or not even after repeated viewings. 9 Mat
Starman 1984 A real anomaly in John Carpenter's 80s output, and it's clear he had minimal creative input. The film is humorous and touching despite being a bit soppy at times, thanks to a superbly nuanced performance from Jeff Bridges in the lead role. 6 Mat
Big Trouble in Little China 1986 One of John Carpenter's more commercial offerings, and as a result the subtlety and suspense of his earlier films is replaced by overblown action, dodgy special effects and a large helping of 80's cheese. Enjoyable, but not one of his best. 6 Mat
They Live 1988 Smart and funny political-Sci Fi-satire with a brilliant turn by Roddy Piper and THAT fight scene. 8 Gordon
In the Mouth of Madness 1994 Some of the acting is terrible and the effects have aged badly, but this is still one of the better offerings from John Carpenter's post-80s output, with an story that is as interesting as it is crazy. 6 Mat
Escape from L.A. 1996 Few directors get the chance to remake their own films, and most of us probably wish John Carpenter hadn't bothered, as this rehash of Escape From New York offers nothing new and features some pretty awful special effects. 5 Mat
Ghosts of Mars 2001 An admittedly limited B-list cast manages to deliver sub-standard performances across the board in a thinly-disguised rehash of Assault on Precinct 13 that had 280 times the budget but none of the class of the original. 3 Mat
The Ward 2010 Convincing John Carpenter to direct this film probably helped with its marketing, but even he couldn’t stop this mediocre psychological horror being instantly forgettable. 5 Mat

The Verdict

  • Assault on Precinct 13
  • Halloween
  • The Fog
  • Escape From New York
  • The Thing
  • Starman
  • Big Trouble in Little China
  • They Live
  • In the Mouth of Madness
  • Escape from L.A.
  • Ghosts of Mars
  • The Ward


Very much a career of two halves, Carpenter’s first two decades of filmmaking saw him responsible for some genre-shaping cult classics, many produced on a shoestring. Sadly when the budgets and expectation increased, he generally failed to deliver the goods and the stark reality is that it’s been 30 years since the last truly great Carpenter film. Now as good as retired from the director’s chair and focused on his iconic music, hopes for one last great film from this respected movie maker have all but faded.
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This page will be updated as we watch more John Carpenter films and therefore his overall rating will change over time. You can see where John sits in the Directors League here.


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