The 13 Most Spooktacular Flicks for Halloween

Without question, Halloween is my favorite holiday. You can keep your cupids and leprechauns, I'll stick with my ghosties and ghoulies, thanks. Although Halloween's origins date back to Celtic times with the festival of Samhain, the modern celebration of the holiday celebrates the strange, weird, and macabre. There's just something about having one night to be a little spooky (or spoopy, if that's more your speed) that makes me excited every year when the weather starts to change and the carved pumpkins, and skeleton and zombie decorations start popping up everywhere.

And, of course, Hollywood has capitalized on movie-goers need to get a good scare. Every year, I get my snacks and binge on my favorite Halloween films—sometimes with the lights on if I'm feeling brave. So, in anticipation of October 31st, I wanted to compile a—clearly unbiased and comprehensive—list of the best Halloween-themed movies, covering everything from hauntingly good-natured fun to scare-your-pants-off fright.

What are your favorite Halloween-themed movies? Let me know what you'll be watching this All Hallows Eve!*

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

A classic since the 1960s, and for good reason, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown follows Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang as they celebrate with trick-or-treating and a Halloween party. All, that is, but Linus, who waits patiently for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin, a mystical figure who will rise out the pumpkin patch, fly into the air, and deliver presents to good children all over the world.

STARRING: Bill Melendez, Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Sally Dryer, and Cathy Steinberg

DID YOU KNOW? After this special originally aired, children from all over the United States sent candy to Charlie Brown out of sympathy.

WHERE TO WATCH: YouTube | Amazon Prime

The Exorcist (1973)

I couldn't make a Halloween-themed movie list and not include this film; The Exorcist was the first genuinely frightening movie I ever saw...and I've been a scaredy cat ever since. When actress Chris MacNeil's 12-year-old daughter Regan's behavior changes dramatically, and supernatural phenomenon happens in the home after she uses an Ouija board, she seeks the help of two priests to perform an exorcism.

STARRING: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, and Linda Blair

DID YOU KNOW? When Regan infamously projectile vomits on Father Karras, the "vomit" is actually Pea Soup Andersen's split pea soup. The production crew tried Campbell's pea soup, but it didn't have the same consistency and effect.

WHERE TO WATCH: YouTube | Amazon Prime

Young Frankenstein (1974)

A Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder classic, Young Frankenstein is a comedic take on Mary Shelly's monster tale, Frankenstein (pronounced "Fronk-en-steen"). An American grandson of the infamous scientist Dr. Victor von Frankenstein, struggling to prove that his grandfather was not as insane as people believe, is invited to Transylvania, where he discovers the process that reanimates a dead body.

STARRING: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Kenneth Mars

DID YOU KNOW? In 1974, Aerosmith took a break from a long night of recording to watch Young Frankenstein. Allegedly, Steven Tyler wrote "Walk This Way," inspired by Marty Feldman's "walk this way...this way" scene.


Halloween (1978)

While the Halloween franchise has had its ups and downs over the last forty years, it's truly incredible that it has spawned eleven films, several novels and comic books, merchandise, and a video game. And its' latest installment, starring Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode, premiered as the biggest Halloween opening ever, earning $100 million in a week, the second biggest October movie opening, and is the biggest movie opening with a female lead over 55 (heck yeah, JLC!). But none of this would be possible without the original 1978 slasher film, which follows Michael Myers, who escapes from a mental hospital fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night and returns to the small town of Haddonfield to kill again.

STARRING: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, and Tony Moran

DID YOU KNOW? Because of Halloween's limited $300,00 budget, the prop department had to use the cheapest $2 mask that they could find in the costume store: a 1966 Star Trek William Shatner mask. The team spray-painted the face white, teased out the hair, and reshaped the eye holes.

WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime

Frankenweenie (1984)

While Tim Burton's short film Frankenweenie is the source material for the 2012 stop-animation remake, the 1984 version is still my personal favorite. Victor Frankenstein, after learning about electrical impulses in muscles at school, tries to bring his recently deceased dog Sparky back to life. His experiments successful, Victor decides to reintroduce Sparky as the dog they all knew and loved to his family and neighbors, but they quickly become scared and angry.

STARRING: Shelley Duvall, Daniel Stern, Barret Oliver, Joseph Maher, and Sofia Coppola

DID YOU KNOW? Director Tim Burton was initially fired from Disney for "wasting" their resources on shorts like Frankenweenie, which was initially supposed to air with the 1984 re-release of Pinocchio (1940), which they deemed too scary for family viewing. However, after Burton's success with Beetlejuice (1988) and Batman (1989), Disney released a censored Frankenweenie and other Burton-directed shorts on VHS. When The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) was released on DVD, Frankenweenie was included in its first uncensored version.

WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime | YouTube

Ghostbusters (1984)

The OG ghost hunters, parapsychologists Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, and Egon Spengler are scientists working for Columbia University who have a fascination with the paranormal. After they lose their jobs, they establish Ghostbusters, a paranormal investigation and elimination service. With their first recruit Winston Zeddemore, they rid New York of unwanted paranormal activity.

STARRING: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts

DID YOU KNOW? Almost none of the scenes were filmed as scripted and, in fact, nearly all of the scenes had at least one or two ad-libs. Of all of the actors, Bill Murray's lines were the most ad-libbed.

WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime | YouTube

Beetlejuice (1988)

In one of Michael Keaton's best performances, Beetlejuice follows the story of newly-deceased newlyweds Adam and Barbara, who commission a bizarre demon to drive an obnoxious new family out of their home. This film is the kind of visual feast you'd expect from a Tim Burton film.

STARRING: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, and Jeffrey Jones

DID YOU KNOW? Warner Bros. originally wanted to call the film "House Ghosts." As a joke, Tim Burton suggested the name "Scared Sheetless" and was horrified when the studio actually considered using it.

WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime | YouTube

Hocus Pocus (1993)

"It's just a bunch of hocus pocus!" This film is a Halloween favorite of mine, and this year marks Hocus Pocus' 25th anniversary! A curious youngster moves to Salem, where he struggles to fit in before awakening a trio of diabolical witches that were executed in the 17th century, and he has until dawn to set things right.

STARRING: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz, Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw, Doug Jones, and Jason Marsden

DID YOU KNOW? Actor Sean Murray of NCIS fame played the human Thackery Binx. He was dubbed over by actor Jason Marsden, the voice of the cat Binx, for consistency.

WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime | YouTube | Freeform

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Another film celebrating its 25th anniversary, in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town, but his attempts to bring Christmas to his home causes confusion. And the best part about this film? You can start watching in October for Halloween and just keep on cruising through December for Christmas!

STARRING: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, and Ken Page

DID YOU KNOW? It took a group of about 100 people three years to complete the stop-motion animation for this movie. For one second of film, up to 12 stop-motion moves had to be made.

WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime | YouTube | Freeform

Paranormal Activity (2007)

In my opinion, while the franchise has spiraled out of control, the first installment of Paranormal Activity is so successful because of its simplicity — director Oren Peli shot the entire film in ten days with a camcorder, making for an intimately scary movie. After moving into a suburban "starter" home, a young couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence.

STARRING: Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat

DID YOU KNOW? Paramount acquired the U.S. rights to the film for $350,000. The film went on to make $193 million worldwide, making Paranormal Activity the second most profitable movie ever made based on a return of investment as it cost $15,000 to produce. The first most profitable film is The Blair Witch Project (1999) which cost $22,000 to make and earned $240.5 million.

WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime | YouTube

ParaNorman (2012)

Laika Studio's second film, after Caroaline (2009), ParaNorman's stop-animation is gorgeous and the story, despite being about the dead, has a lot of heart. A misunderstood boy who can see the dead takes on ghosts, zombies, and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old witch's curse.

STARRING: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse

DID YOU KNOW? Animating the cheesy horror movie that Norman is watching at the start of the film was reportedly very difficult for the filmmakers to produce as they had to intentionally make a bad movie with bad camera angles, poor focus, bad "acting," etc. while still working within the very technically demanding confines of stop-motion animation.

WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime | YouTube

The Babadook (2014)

I absolutely would not recommend watching this one with the lights off. Jennifer Kent's directorial debut, The Babadook follows Amelia, a widowed mother plagued by the violent death of her husband, who battles with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.

STARRING: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, and Daniel Henshall

DID YOU KNOW? William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, has said, "I've never seen a more terrifying film than The Babadook."

WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime | YouTube

It (2017)

Responsible for giving people coulrophobia since 1986, Stephen King's Pennywise the Dancing Clown is never not scary. I debated whether to include the 1990 mini-series starring Tim Curry as Pennywise or the 2017 version starring Bill Skarsgård, but there's something about Skarsgård's performance that really takes it over the top for me (plus, the 2017 version has a lot more freedoms to work with without the confines of television, making it extra scary). In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids bands together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.

STARRING: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Sophia Lillis, and Jeremy Ray Taylor

DID YOU KNOW? William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, has said, "I've never seen a more terrifying film than The Babadook."


*Remember to keep the lights on! Happy viewing.

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