Halloween is possibly the internet’s most favored holiday, with streaming services packing on extra spooky-themed films of all types and trend sites like Buzzfeed.com enriching their many lists and quizzes. As a true lover of the season and of film, and with so many options available, it’s hard to know which films will leave your creepy cravings satisfied; these are the ten I found most satisfying to watch and are the films I felt I couldn’t end the season without viewing at least once, whether they be horror or comedy or even children’s flicks. While this list is in no particular ranking order, I found this viewing order to be the most satisfying. Watch our countdown with us and let us know what your favorite spooky season watch is!
10. Kenny Ortega’s HOCUS POCUS (1993)
Ortega’s children’s classic starring Bette Middler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy is a fun and easy way to kick off the season for all audiences. On Halloween night, Danny accidentally resurrects three witches (Middler, Parker, and Najimy) who have until midnight to ingest a virgin’s soul in order to permanently remain on earth. Yes, it is cheesy, and no, it may not be the greatest film ever made, but it does have a certain charm that sets off the Halloween mood in its own unique way. And while it’s not a musical, what kind of Middler film would it be if she didn’t expertly belt out one tune?
9. Tim Burton’s THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)
This usually makes the Halloween or the winter holiday season list depending on who you ask; I personally watch it during both. A children’s stop-motion animated musical, the story centers on Jack Skellington, Halloween Town’s ‘Pumpkin King,’ who has grown increasingly tired of his title and responsibility. When he stumbles upon Christmas Town, Jack becomes captivated by the holiday and soon convinces the rest of his town to hijack Santa Claus’ job. The film is one of creator Tim Burton’s, director Henry Selick’s, and musical composer Danny Elfman’s earlier endeavors together, but remains one their most beloved and popular, and would solidify Burton’s auteur status. NIGHTMARE is a satisfying watch for its catchy musical numbers, distinct style, and characters that are both lovable and repugnant. No Halloween or winter holiday season is complete without Burton’s classic.
8. Tim Burton’s BEETLEJUICE (1988)
The Tim Burton, Henry Selick, and Danny Elfman team make the list again with another classic starring Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Catherine O’Hara, and Jeffrey Jones, with appearances by Annie McEnroe, Robert Goulet, and Glenn Shadix. When newly deceased couple Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) find the new residents of their home distasteful, they enlist the help of “bio-exorcist” Beetlegeuse (Michael Keaton) to extricate them. Complications arise, however, as they develop affections for the teenage girl (Winona Ryder) that sees them. Another beloved Burton film, BEETLEJUICE enjoys renewed affection every Halloween through television airings and streaming sites. While there is no Halloween theme to this film, it seems as though Burton’s aesthetic happily complements the day’s celebration.
7. Jim Sharman’s THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)
The final musical on the list, ROCKY HORROR forever remains a Halloween cult classic, finding its roots in interactive viewings held in theaters every year on the night for decades, which even included squirting water guns, snapping rubber gloves, and rice throwing. Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) find themselves stranded on a dark and stormy night and wander into Dr. Frank N. Furter’s (Tim Curry) diabolical mansion where he unveils his latest creation to fellow misfits. While it certainly isn’t terrifying, it is a campy and fun transition into the adult genre that adults have enjoyed viewing for decades.
6. Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960)
Hitchcock’s psychological horror classic changed the way audiences would see films forever. Not only did he break many classical Hollywood narrative conventions, but also disallowed viewers to arrive late to the film as significant plot points happen early on. After Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals a substantial amount of money from her boss, she finds herself staying at a secluded motel run by the nervous and sheltered Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). When Marion cannot be located, it falls to her sister, Lila (Vera Miles) and boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), to find her. Despite its premiere dating sixty years ago, the film is still an effective and chilling watch, making it a perfect segway into more terrifying and graphic features leading up to Halloween.
5. Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING (1980)
Kubrick’s masterpiece remains a top contender on almost all horror and classic film lists to this day. His vivid manipulation of the camera, colour, and all types of editing processes signifies the film’s endurance over time. The film is based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel about writer Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) descent into madness and the consequences this has for his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), while caretaking the luxurious Overlook Hotel in the Colorado mountains during the harsh winter season. While King is known for disapproving of Kubrick’s adaptation, it is widely considered one of the best horror films ever made. It’s the perfect blend of psychological horror and haunting film, rounding out your Halloween watchlist with variety and suspense.
4. William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST (1973)
Another classic on the list, Friedkin’s piece was once considered to be the scariest film ever made, and rumoured to have been cursed during production. Based on William Peter Blatty’s novel inspired by true events,THE EXORCIST documents the possession of young girl Regan (Linda Blair), and Father Karras’ (Jason Miller) faltering piety as he attempts to perform her exorcism. Featuring performances by Ellen Burnstyn and Max von Sydow, Friedkin’s film also showcases masterful makeup and editing techniques- especially that of sound. The team even went so far as to disguise animal growls and swarming bees in order to elicit a primal fear response from viewers. If the visual and audio mastery isn’t enough, the film also features a murderer (and possible serial killer) during a medical test performed on Regan- of course no one involved with the production knew, but the fact adds yet even more dark allure to the film.
3. James Wan’s THE CONJURING (2013)
James Wan has been known for his ability to craft gripping horror films and is one of the minds behind the SAW franchise(2004- 2017) and directed the first two INSIDIOUS films (2010, 2013). THE CONJURING has spurned it’s own franchise now with several spin-off films and sequels also in production. Based on the real lives and cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), the film centers on the case of the Perron’s when they encounter entities after moving into a secluded home. Wan paid significant homage to Stuart Rosenberg’s THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979) throughout the piece, causing quite the stir amongst classic horror fans. While the rest of the franchise hasn’t managed to impress viewers quite as well, the first is an enjoyable watch with an intriguing background and script, and thankfully manages to avoid tired and pointless jump scares for the most part.
2. Jordan Peele’s GET OUT (2017)
Jordan Peele made his directorial debut with GET OUT to almost exclusively rave reviews. Usually known for his stellar work and talent in the comedy arena, the horror flick came as a surprise to audiences and has solidified his reputation as a serious filmmaker and auteur with a prowess for combining history with drama and horror. When Amanda (Allison Williams) and her boyfriend, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) visit her white family in upstate New York, Chris worries how her family will the receive the interracial couple and soon discovers it’s far worse than anything he could imagine. GET OUT is an expertly crafted film filled with semiotics and historical reference, giving it substance and style. It is widely considered as one of the best modern horror films to date and will likely remain for some time. The film has captivating color-scaping and is incredibly well composed. GET OUT will not only frighten and intrigue, but any viewers that enjoy pulling meaning from the films they watch, will have significant material to analyze.
- John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978) & David Gordon Green’s HALLOWEEN (2018)
This is no doubt a controversial double first choice as the Michael Meyers franchise, while beloved, is not considered the scariest by any means. These are both my number one choices because they not only take place on Halloween, but also because it’s just fun to pick out the many motifs and homages between the two. Jamie Lee Curtis, who was still a relatively unknown actor at the time of the original, stars in both and many of the other films. Carpenter originally casted her partially due to the fact that her mother, Janet Leigh, played Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, which is also on our list; Dr Loomis’ character is even named after Marion’s boyfriend, Sam Loomis, in PSYCHO, and Leigh even briefly appeared alongside Curtis in Steve Miner’s HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER (1998). The first and original film had a very low budget and starred Curtis as Laurie Strode, a quiet high school girl tasked with babysitting the night of Halloween. Meanwhile, Michael Meyers has escaped from a psychiatric hospital and returns home, resulting in a mass of teenaged victims. While Meyer’s motivations are never fully explained in the horror classic, there have been many films since that have proffered explanations. The sequel and all others following, asserted that Laurie is actually Meyers’ younger sister and his return was fueled by the need to kill her, as well. Green’s latest addition to the franchise refuted this and has effectively wiped out every storyline except the original. The latest HALLOWEEN follows very much the same premise as the first, Meyers once again escapes and heads home. Laurie is his intended victim this time, only now they are both much older and much tougher (and much crazier). Green’s loyalty to the first film and many references to the others make for an enjoyable experience for any fans of film or just the franchise itself. The Michael Meyers franchise has always been a little cheesy and unafraid to make fun of itself, and the involvement of Curtis has always given it a self referential tone. Green’s decision to add these homages to the latest installment makes for a fun viewing experience while keeping the franchise true to itself and not taken too seriously.
Halloween is a fun and cheesy holiday itself so it’s absolutely okay that your watchlist reflects that. I like to balance all types of films in my holiday repertoire and this is one of the most fun to celebrate, so allow the films you watch to be fun as well. Let us know below what you view during the season and what you think should have made the list and have a happy Halloween!