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5. The Thing (1982) More of a nostalgia pick than anything else, but I find a lot of value in Carpenter's reappraisal of not only 50s sci-fi movies, but Hawksian ideals of male group dynamics.
4. In the Mouth of Madness (1994) The final installment of Carpenter's "Apocalypse" trilogy, and perhaps his bleakest film. The twofold narrative technique and overall metaphysical quality stand as testaments to Carpenter's formal techniques.
3. They Live (1988) Much has been said and written about the satirical elements of this wondrously bizarre sci-fi horror—such wide-ranging topics as Reaganism, class segregation, and government surveillance work their way into the narrative—but I'll be damned if its most enduring quality isn't the five-minute fight scene between Roddy Piper and Keith David, noted for its spatial cohesion and calibrated, almost elegant choreography.
2. Big Trouble in Little China (1986) Carpenter's exceedingly clever deconstruction of Hollywood, western myth, and American heroes. Unfairly written off by many as hokey genre fare (Dave Kehr called it "fake Spielberg"), this is easily one of Carpenter's most eclectic films.
1. Halloween (1978) A resilient and truly singular work, whose reputation has only solidified as countless sequels, remakes, spin-offs, and rip-offs have proliferated. Like all great horror films, Halloween is rife with allegory and symbolism in addition to being genuinely frightening and entertaining. Over the years, the character of Michael Myers has been said to represent everything from repressed sexuality to suburban malaise, but the film stands on its own as a moody and altogether frightening midnight movie. Timeless.