You may have (reluctantly) grown out of trick-or-treating, but many of us never really grow out of Halloween itself. There’s something about a holiday dedicated to evil, morbid and gross things that just feels right at this time each year. After you’ve finished carving Freddy Krueger’s face into a pumpkin and decorating your front doorstep with carefully-arranged severed heads, you’ll want to watch something that puts you in the mood for Halloween cheer.
We consulted a crack team of social media fans and Shout! Factory employees to compile a perfect Halloween watch list that will serve you well for years to come. So hop on the couch, shovel a few handfuls of candy corn into your mouth and get ready to feel the fear of the season.
15. Young Frankenstein
As we’ll see several times on this list, comedy can be creepy, too. This Mel Brooks classic takes the beloved tale of Dr. Frankenstein (that’s pronounced FRON-ken-steen) and puts a hilarious spin on it, all while tipping its hat to early horror films and keeping things appropriately moody in black-and-white.
14. It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Peanuts nailed the nostalgia of a cherished childhood holiday in this TV special better than anything since — well, since Peanuts nailed the nostalgia of a cherished childhood holiday in A Charlie Brown Christmas. There are weird and oddly-depressing details: Linus ruins Sally’s Halloween by waiting in a pumpkin patch for what very likely could just be Pumpkinhead coming to kill them, and Charlie Brown exposes the fact that all of his neighbors are awful people who give rocks to unpopular kids. But these are the very things that make Peanuts specials so good, so unique and so damn funny.
I can’t quite figure out whether a Halloween party that winds up with a bunch of teenagers getting possessed by demons and trying to kill each other during the most terrifying night of their lives is the worst possible outcome or the ideal outcome. It certainly makes for an ideal Halloween movie.
12. Twilight Zone
My favorite thing about The Twilight Zone is that it often has the look and feel of an idealistic, golden-age American sitcom like Leave It To Beaver, but it’s just a bunch of creepy stories with the most depressing endings possible. It’s not: “Son, you’d better do your homework if you’re going to have time to be the captain of the basketball team, and have I mentioned that I love you?” It’s: “Son, I think you’re just swell because if I have any bad thoughts you’re going to turn me into a horrible monstrosity forever.” If that doesn’t make you want to marathon this show at Halloween, nothing will.
11. MST3K: Werewolf
Let’s take a break from all the dark and evil stuff and get ourselves laughing again by watching a great MST3K monster flick. Werewolf is our top pick because it “stars” the lesser Estevez and there’s a main character with the inability to properly pronounce the word “werewolf.” Yes, they can’t even say the one word that’s in the title of the film.
The incredibly gory adaptation of Re-Animator is well-balanced with darkly comedic elements and strong performances from the cast, perfectly capturing the surrealist, dreadful and yet morbidly humorous tone associated with many ofH.P Lovecraft’s works. Did I mention it’s incredibly gory? Yeah that’s probably enough to make this list.
9. Treehouse of Horror
The Simpsons now has dozens of Halloween specials to choose from, but if you reach back into the earlier days you find a lot of genuine gems. While the fifth installment just might be one of the funniest Simpsons episodes ever, it doesn’t get much more Halloween-y than that very first special which featured bleeding houses, hungry aliens and, of course, the perfection that is Homer Simpson inThe Raven.
8. Trick ‘r Treat
Trick ‘r Treat takes place on Halloween night and follows four separate stories of horror. Its mixture of scares and fun has helped earn the movie a big cult following since its 2007 release. It will make you nostalgic for your nights trick or treating, but also kind of afraid of trick or treating. In other words, perfect Halloween flick!
7. Rocky Horror Picture Show
For many, the musical horror comedy Rocky Horror Picture Show is their indoctrination into the world of cult cinema. No matter where you are, every Saturday night at midnight you can find local fans dressed up as their favorite characters, newspapers and flashlights in hand, ready to throw rice at the screen and dance the time warp. Rocky Horror Picture Show’s perfect blend of community, costume and camp make it a perennial Halloween favorite. Bonus: fans will probably also appreciate Shout! Factory’s own Phantom Of The Paradise.
6. Night of the Living Dead
The zombie movie that started it all, George A. Romero’s classic was deemed obscene at the time of its release (1968) but has since been preserved by the National Film Registry for its significance, thereby making it the rock ‘n’ roll of horror films. It, of course, spawned Dawn Of The Dead, Day Of The Dead and many other sequels and remakes.
Tim Burton seems to have Halloween pumping through his veins. Beetlejuice is wacky and fun, but also dark and weird. Plus, it features an inimitable Michael Keaton in one of his greatest film roles. It spawned a popular cartoon series, which is also a great Halloween entertainment choice.
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Wait, did someone mention Tim Burton? The Nightmare Before Christmas is the only movie to perfectly capture the feel of both Halloween and Christmas. All Hallow’s Eve-lovers will delight in getting to spend time in Halloween Town, a whimsical location that is literally Halloween personified. With non-stop fun and an immortal score by Danny Elfman, the film bridges the gap from one holiday season to the next. Not that there’s any gap left these days with Christmas commercials being played in September.
3. The Exorcist
I would write so much about this movie if I weren’t terrified that it would put some sort of curse on me. “Terrified” is a good descriptor of people who are in the act of watching this classic of shock-horror. Other good words are “horrified,” “mortified,” “petrified” and just about any “-ified” you can come up with. Good thing I never liked pea soup to begin with.
2. The Shining
Stephen King may not have been the biggest fan of how this Kubrick staple turned out, but pretty much everyone else who’s seen it is. I distinctly remember the first time I watched The Shining as a teenager: after gaining an irrational fear of playful twins and realizing I’d never wipe the “decaying bathtub woman” image out of my head, I decided it was pretty much the scariest movie I’d ever seen. It still might be.
1. Halloween (Complete Collection)
Well, duh. The holiday’s titular film series may be the obvious choice to watch on Halloween, but it’s also the right one. It launched the now-unstoppable slasher genre and became the definition of what a scary movie should be. And it will probably never get dethroned as the ultimate Halloween flick.