A series that came to life in 1989, Puppet Master has been the cornerstone of Full Moon Features for nearly 30 years. The series has seen 12 films with the latest coming in 2018 as well as a number of spinoffs & collaborations with other Full Moon films.
The series story focuses on a group of puppets that are brought to life by their master, Andre Toulon. Initially the puppets are portrayed as the villains, killing anyone that crosses their path with their already-equipped device (Blade has a blade, Six-Shooter has guns etc). However, in later movie they take on the roles as heroes then eventually anti-heroes.
The puppets are the stars & as the timeline got more & more confusing, they were at least the mainstay of the series.
When people think of great horror franchises, Puppet Master isn’t one that instantly jumps to mind and like many long-serving franchises the presumption is of diminishing quality the longer they go on. That’s not actually the case with the Puppet Master films.
This is our definitive ranking of the Puppet Master franchise. Every movie ranked based off our initial review score. Should several movies have the same score then they will be ordered by our own personal preference.
12 – Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003)
Our Score: 2/10
If you didn’t know any better you could almost believe that this 8th instalment of the Puppet Master series was actually the final film. Even though it isn’t, it does wrap up the Andre Toulon story in the cheapest, laziest way possible.
You know those episodes of long-running sitcoms where they get bored & just show clips & jokes from the series so far? Will that’s what we have here with Puppet Master: The Legacy. A film coming in at 73 minutes long with 60+ of those minutes just using clips from the previous films so far.
Barely worthy of a mention let alone a watch. Read our full review here.
11 – Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994)
Our Score: 3/10
Unsurprisingly not the actual final chapter but the last time a number would appear in the title!
Shot back to the back with the 4th & opening with a lengthy recap of what took place in that movie ensuring there is no reason to watch it. The Final Chapter sees the demon lord, Sutekh return again. Having failed in the 4th film he decides to send one final Totem to finish the job. The difference this time being that this Totem will have his life-force controlling it.
Puppet Master 5 pretty much tells the same story as the fourth with the same ending & the same pointless cameo from Toulon. Read our full review here.
10 – Puppet Master 4 (1993)
Our Score: 4/10
The 4th film in the franchise focuses on Rick Myers. A young, smart scientist experimenting with artificial intelligence. He is currently the caretaker of the Bodega Bay Inn, a regular haunt for the Puppet Master movies. Rick’s colleagues are killed one night as they draw closer to the Toulon’s secret formula. The demon lord, Sutekh (the costume is so plastic looking yet it has a certain charm) is trying to stop those who might discover the power which Toulon got hold of a long time ago.
Sutekh sends 3 small servants called Totems to take care of Rick who finds Toulon’s diary & some of the life-giving formula inside. After reading his diary he decides to try the formula out on the puppets & brings several of them to life. Blade, who was already running around, Pinhead, Six Shooter, Tunneler & Jester are all active now just in time for Sutekh’s minions to arrive & finish the job. Read our full review here.
9 – Retro Puppet Master (1999)
Our Score: 4/10
The 7th instalment of the Puppet Master series takes us back to the origins of how Andre Toulon found the power to animate his puppets. Telling a story that has been told numerous times in the early films but changing parts to fit the continuity of some of the later films.
Disappointingly this might be the first Puppet Master movie to not have any gore; instead deaths come via magical powers that see people just dropping down dead.
By this stage of the series, few people wanted to see yet another re-telling of the Andre Toulon story & it’s only saving grace are the cool-looking early builds of some of the puppets. Read our full review here.
8 – Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010)
Our Score: 5/10
The first of the Axis trilogy begins once again showing the original death of Andre Toulon. However, this time we see it from the point of view of Danny. A young man who is bitter that his limp stops him being able to go to war so has decided to help Toulon.
Danny finds Toulon dead in his room & discovers his puppets hidden behind a secret panel so takes them home with him. When Danny sees that the new employee at the factory is actually one of the assassins he realises that he has to stop whatever they are planning.
With the re-awoken puppets at his side, Danny goes to war with Nazi Germany!
The first in the new trilogy is an average entry with bad acting, terrible accents & a nonsensical story. Read our full review here.
7 – Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017)
Our Score: 5.5/10
The final entry in Axis trilogy ends things with a whimper rather then a bang. It sees a group of gifted (psychic) individuals working alongside the series regular puppets (Blade, Pinhead etc). Their goal is to stop a group of Nazis’ from obtaining Toulon’s formula (the original Puppet Master) but they have their own puppets too.
The best looking of the series so far, its biggest fault is that it’s a boring entry with not enough puppet action. Read our full review here.
6 – Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)
Our Score: 6/10
Like all good franchises that have been going on for too long, The Curse of the Puppet Master drops the number from the title (this is the 6th in the long-running series). The story focuses more on an attempt to create a human-hybrid puppet, something that hadn’t been fully explored before in the series.
The nicest surprise about The Curse of the Puppet Master is that it’s a decent movie moving away from the lengthy & often boring Andre Toulon side of the story. The story told here, while obvious from the start, is exciting & well-acted. The puppets take a back seat for most of the movie only getting major scenes when it comes to murdering someone. Read our full review here.
5 – Puppet Master 3: Toulon’s Revenge (1991)
Our Score: 6/10
The 3rd Puppet Master movie is a prequel to the first movie showing how Andre Toulon first came to the Nazi’s attention & offering a more detailed backstory regarding his puppets.
Puppet Master 3 is a better film then you might expect, as always the star of the show are the puppets & getting a little history about them (in particular Leech Woman) is really interesting. Each seems to have their own personality & their devotion to Toulon makes them sympathetic characters.
A solid entry, Puppet Master 3 boasts the series’ best villain to date! Read our full review here.
4 – Puppet Master (1989)
Our Score: 6/10
Where it all began!
André Toulon can make puppets that are alive & the Nazis want them. Before they can get to Toulon he commits suicide. Many years later a group of psychics are called to a mansion where one of their friends has committed suicide. Together with the widow they try to unravel the mystery behind his death & the secrets behind the mansion.
Considering its age it looks really good & has some genius moments. As a starting point for the franchise it does a good job of introducing the puppets but is let down by a complex & un-interesting plot. Read our full review here.
3 – Puppet Master: Axis Rising (2012)
Our Score: 7/10
The second in the Axis trilogy, Axis Rising is a vast improvement over what came before & what comes after.
Continuing directly after the events of Axis of Evil, it delves deeper into the Nazi obsession with the occult. They want to reanimate the dead to use as soldiers & see Toulon’s puppets/formula as the answer.
Story-wise Axis Rising is a much more coherent & enjoyable tale compared to the previous movie. The Nazi obsession with the occult is used to great effect here. Almost everyone excels in their roles with comic relief coming from Sergeant Stone, a crusty old solider with a heart of gold.
Axis Rising ups the puppets screen time & we get a lot more action involving them especially when it comes to facing off against the new Nazi puppets. One of which is Kamikaze, Japanese suicide bomber with far too many racist undertones.
That puppet & the disappointing ending stop Axis Rising taking the number one spot. Read our full review here.
2 – Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018)
Our Score: 8/10
They’re back! The 12th movie in the Puppet Master franchise is a reboot. A shockingly gory reboot.
Thomas Lennon stars as Edgar, a recently divorced man forced to move back in with his parents. While looking through his brother’s (deceased) old room he finds a puppet. this movies version of Blade. It seems like it might be worth some money so he decides to sell it a convention celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Toulon Murders.
Regular watchers of the series will recognise that name. Andre Toulon, the original puppet master. Whereas the series mostly painted him as good guy (a Holocaust survivor), this film tells us that he was a Holocaust perpetrator who hid behind the charade of a puppet show.
This fact is important as it’s the reason why the convention sees those who come bringing their own dolls. That night, in the hotel the dolls all animate and go on a bloody killing spree. Their targets making it clear that the puppets are mini-Nazis.
Hold on to your lunch, things are going to get nasty.
As a new direction for the franchise…I’m on board. It’s not perfect but when you look at the state of the franchise to this point this is an interesting direction to go in. It ends with a ‘to be continued’ graphic so it certainly looks like we’re going to be getting more Puppet Master in the future! Read our full review here.
1 – Puppet Master 2 (1990)
Our Score: 8/10
The second movie in the Puppet Master franchise kind of restarts the story again. Andre Toulon has been resurrected by his puppets to help them prolong their lives. To do this he needs human brain tissue & utilises the puppets homicidal nature to get what he needs.
His task is made easier by the arrival of a group of paranormal investigators at his home – a rundown hotel that they believe to be empty. They are there to either prove or disprove the legends that surround André Toulon however one of them, Carolyn, bears an uncanny resemblance to the Toulon’s late wife…something that doesn’t go unnoticed by the man himself.
A clever story, great effects & gore and a interesting bunch of well-acted characters makes this the best in the franchise so far. Puppet Master 2 is a movie of moments & the many that it has are a blast to watch! Read our full review here.