The 30 Best Halloween Movies of All Time

The 30 Best Halloween Movies of All Time
Halloween is upon us, which for previous years meant knocking on strangers’ doors with materials covering your face and this year means exactly the same thing—though for less fun reasons. Get your Dr. Fauci-approved masks ready.

And while you might not be able to crowd into theaters and inadvertently toss popcorn this year, you can still stream all the best Halloween movies at home.

What makes a movie a “Halloween movie”? Is that even a genre? Is it different from a horror movie? Are all horror movies Halloween movies? Does a Halloween movie have to be a horror movie? Why do we even associate the holiday with things that jump in the night and on the screen?

While the latter question is historical and somewhat straightforward (ancient autumn celebrations marked moments when the threshold between living and spirit realms broke down—and so when ghosts jumped out), the question of movie genre can get a bit tricky.

We’re calling “Halloween movies” those films set around the October holiday or featuring themes of the celebration across culture, including burial, harvest, and communion with the dead. So even if it’s summertime (or Christmastime), there can still be Halloween. Also just films that are essential viewing come All Hallow’s Eve.

Here are our picks for the best Halloween movies.

1

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

It’s also the best Christmas movie that’s not named Die Hard, but that’s a discussion for another list. For now, and if you haven’t already done so for whatever reason: Watch this masterpiece.

WATCH HERE

2

Coco (2017)

Coco was inspired by the Mexican holiday “Day of the Dead,” which begins November 1. About memory, death, tradition, and family, Coco is just about as Halloween as a movie can possibly be.

WATCH HERE

3

Halloween (1978)

The classic 1978 slasher film introduces one of the most iconic figures of cinema and the holiday: Michael Myers.

WATCH HERE

4

The Halloween Tree (1993)

Based on Ray Bradbury’s novel, the made-for-TV film follows four children across culture and time as they quest to save the soul of their dying friend. It might be said Bradbury did for Halloween what Charles Dickens did for Christmas. We agree.

WATCH HERE

5

The Vvitch (2016)

The Vvitch chronicles all the harvest-time horror of colonial New England. The cinematography looks like a series of oil paintings and the film’s supernatural storyline will make you thank the gods for electricity. And science.

WATCH HERE

6

Over the Garden Wall (2014)

So it’s technically a miniseries, but Cartoon Network’s animated Dante-esque adventure runs at about 2 hours, which is basically a movie. Set on Halloween night, the series follows two boys inexplicably lost in the woods. It’s one of the most original Halloween stories we’ve seen, and not too too scary for the kids.

WATCH HERE

7

A Ghost Story (2017)

While A Ghost Story doesn’t take place on Halloween, it’s basic concept (a man wearing the lamest Halloween costume of all time) explores all the themes of death and loss and time that make Halloween Halloween.

WATCH HERE

8

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Based on maybe the most famous New England folk tale ever, this Tim Burton adaptation expands the story in ways somehow creepier than the original tale.

WATCH HERE

9

The Exorcist (1973)

The story is based on a series of apparent demonic possessions in 1949. While not explicitly a Halloween story, The Exorcist more than qualifies as the Super Scary Classic Movie That Must Be Watched In October.

WATCH HERE

10

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

In the same spirit is The Silence of the Lambs, which is just a Halloween must watch.

WATCH HERE

11

Scream (1996)

Inspired by the Gainesville Ripper, a serial killer who killed five Florida students in August 1990, Scream is essential fright night viewing, and the iconic mask worn by the killer is maybe the most famous American Halloween image there is.

WATCH HERE

12

Donnie Darko (2001)

Halloween means doomsday in the classic cult film, which we never get tired of watching.

WATCH HERE

13

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

While you’re in the fright spirit, take a look back at some classics. George A. Romero’s low-budget cult hit shocked movie-goers when it hit theaters in 1968. It also summoned a zombie mania that is still going strong, but probably needs to actually die.

WATCH HERE

14

Ring (1998)

While you’ve got your cinema studies hat on, check out the Japanese original Ring—upon which the American classic is based. Scarier than the American version while also being a commentary on Japan’s end of the century technological fears, Ring is worth the watch. Make it the smart Halloween movie you theorize over with all your fiends.

WATCH NOW

15

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

The Persian vampire western horror epic features just enough costume parties and horror for us to call it a Halloween movie. And just enough social and sexual subtext for us to call it a modern classic.

WATCH HERE

16

Poltergeist (1982)

The 1982 horror classic features just the sort of realm crossing beings the Celtics feared during ancient times. The new threshold is TV.

WATCH HERE

18

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The found-footage horror touchstone shows events after a group of students who go missing in October. It’ll make you keep your costume party indoors.

WATCH HERE

19

Scary Movie (2000)

The spoof horror film turned into a massive franchise and pop culture classic. Beware of middle school humor.

WATCH HERE

20

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

The Halloween flight of Elliott and E.T. makes the film not only a cinema but also an October classic

WATCH HERE

21

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The film features the birth of Freddy Krueger and the most overused Halloween costume ever.

WATCH HERE

22

The Crow (1994)

It’s a superhero film all about death and Halloween and revenge was also the last performance for star Brandon Lee.

WATCH HERE

23

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

After turning 13 on Halloween, Rynn Jacobs must protect a family secret.

WATCH HERE

24

Song of the Sea (2014)

The fantasy film follows Saoirse and Ben who are caught up in a supernatural battle one Halloween.

WATCH HERE

25

Corpse Bride (2005)

Another necessary Tim Burton entry. And a good one.

WATCH HERE

26

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

An absolute classic full of tricks and rocks.

WATCH HERE

27

Trick ‘r Treat (2009)

Trick ‘r Treat is a Halloween horror anthology that pays tribute to some of the holiday’s many legends.

WATCH HERE

28

Frankenweenie (2012)

Another necessary Tim Burton addition. C’mon does anyone capture the spirit of costumed childhood better?

WATCH HERE

29

Pet Sematary (1989)

Not every Stephen King work takes place around Halloween (it’s too easy a setting). Pet Sematary is one of the few.

WATCH HERE

30

The Adams Family (1991)

31

Casper (1995)

It’s the cutest and most wholesome of Halloween tales.

WATCH HERE

32

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Three witches return to comedic life after a teenager resurrects them on Halloween. Now a cult classic. But not as culty as our last pick ….

WATCH HERE

33

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The film that will forever be associated with Halloween even if it’s hard to tell just what the hell is actually happening on screen.

WATCH HERE


Joshua St Clair is an editorial assistant at Men’s Health Magazine. 

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