Halloween is right around the corner, and we sincerely hope that you’ve been cramming as many spooky, scary and ghoulish movies in the month of October as possible. Wait, you haven’t? Don’t worry, as we’ve created a list of the movies you absolutely need to watch in anticipation of Oct. 31, before the calendars roll over to November. Here are the 25 best Halloween films of all time.
Sure, “The Craft” is a mostly a female-oriented movie, but it has something for everyone who likes this genre of scary. Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell and Rachel True combined to form the core cast of this supernatural horror film, which actually raked in $55 million at the box office.
When you really think about it, most animated children's films center on death, be it “Bambi,” “The Jungle Book,” “The Lion King” and even “Frozen.” So why not make one about a dead girl trying to romance a living dude? And since it’s rated PG, the whole family can get in on the fun!
Kids and millennials alike are fans of the 1993 Disney comedy “Hocus Pocus.” Anchored by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, “Hocus Pocus” is darkly funny, and for many Halloween fans, watching it is an annual tradition — even if it did kind of freak us out as kids.
The legend of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman dates all the way back to an 1820 story by Washington Irving, but interestingly, it has only graced the big screen a couple of times. One of those is a 1999 Tim Burton adaptation that stars Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci and Christopher Walken. Not only did it earn $206 million worldwide, but it won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction.
The "Blair Witch Project" earned a trio of Golden Raspberry nominations — and Heather Donahue even took home a Razzie for worst actress — but it actually received critical acclaim, owns an 86 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is credited for pioneering the “found footage” genre of horror that was later used in films like “Cloverfield” and “Paranormal Activity.”
With seven feature-length horror films under his belt (and an eighth on the way in 2019), director/musician Rob Zombie needs at least one movie in this list, and we have to go with his debut, 2003’s “House of 1000 Corpses.” Not only is it a modern-day horror classic with a retro '70s feel, but it features excellent (albeit sadistic) performances by Sid Haig, Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon Zombie, as well as appearances by Chris Hardwick and Rainn Wilson.
When there’s something strange in your neighborhood… just board up your windows and doors and watch 1984’s “Ghostbusters” until the chaos subsides. After all, you can’t go wrong with a formula that includes Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis...and Slimer!
Few horror movies can be laugh-out-loud funny and scary as heck all within a 97-minute run time. Then again, few people are as talented as John Landis, who wrote and directed the 1981 film. Keep in mind, this is the same guy who directed both “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
Bruce Campbell kicks deadite derriere in Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead 2” (1987), “Army of Darkness” (1992) and the recently canceled series on Starz, but it all started with “The Evil Dead” in 1981. The film is absurdly violent and gory to the point of camp, and is often cited as one of the first splatter films. To us, it’s simply a horror film that’s downright groovy.
Boys and girls of every age, wouldn’t you like to see something strange? If so, check out 1993’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which is set in a place called Halloween Town. Contrary to popular belief, the film wasn’t actually directed by Tim Burton, but Henry Selick. Burton did, however, conceive of and produce the stop-motion musical fantasy film, which features a fantastic score by Danny Elfman.
When Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson get together, it’s magical — assuming your idea of magic is a psychotic, cabin fever-stricken father who snaps and decides to murder his wife and son by stalking them through the corridors of an enormous hotel and hedge maze while freaky, old-timey ghosts party it up. For the record, that’s absolutely our definition of magical. Come play with us.
They’re heeeeere. Some people see 1982’s “Poltergeist” as a scare-your-pants-off supernatural horror film, but isn’t it really about the strong bond between family members? Either way, it’s worth mentioning this little fact: “Poltergeist” was created, co-written and co-produced by the one and only Steven Spielberg. In fact, rumor has it that Spielberg also directed the film but couldn’t receive credit because he was under contract with Universal Studios while shooting “E.T.”
Most classic horror movies tend to lose their scariness as time goes on, yet 1922’s “Nosferatu” is still pretty darn creepy in 2018. In fact, the influence of Max Schreck’s chilling portrayal of the vampire Count Orlok coupled with the general gothic tone is still referenced and idolized today. Not bad for an unauthorized Dracula adaptation.
“Young Frankenstein” isn’t just notable for being a classic Halloween comedy — it’s one of the greatest comedies ever made, and it came courtesy of the legendary Mel Brooks. Of course, this entry wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the acting contributions of Gene Wilder (who co-wrote the screenplay with Brooks), Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman and Teri Garr.
Bela Lugosi took Dracula out of the pages of Bram Stoker’s famous 1897 novel and brought him to life on the big screen — well, as much as you can bring the undead to life, that is. “Dracula” is now 87 years old but still the most famous vampire film in Hollywood history.
“Scream” wasn’t the first slasher film by a long shot, but it almost instantly became one of the most memorable movies in the genre after being released in 1996. Not only was it directed by horror mastermind Wes Craven, but it perfectly walks the line between a genuine horror film and a tongue-in-cheek parody of other slashers. Plus, we must give credit for the ruse that was pulled on viewers everywhere when Drew Barrymore was billed as a star, but was killed off in the opening scene.
The 1980 slasher masterpiece “Friday the 13th” basically has it all: partying teens, lots of gore, a creepy soundtrack, and even a young Kevin Bacon. The only thing it’s missing? The man for which the franchise is best known, Jason Voorhees. He’s briefly shown at the very end, but the real killer in "Friday the 13th," the first of a dozen installments, is not Jason, but instead his mother. Her son doesn’t appear as an actual killer until 1981’s “Friday the 13th Part 2,” and doesn’t don his signature hockey mask until 1982’s “Friday the 13th Part III.”
1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was the debut of Freddy Kruger, and, coincidentally, also the feature film debut of a 21-year-old actor name Johnny Depp. (Spoiler: don’t get too attached to his character.) Rave reviews for this first installment eventually led to eight spooky sequels. Sweet dreams!
Although the late George A. Romero’s debut film, “Night of the Living Dead,” seems tame by today’s standards, it was actually so shocking in 1968 that it earned criticisms for its explicit violence. “Night of the Living Dead” wasn’t the first zombie movie by far, but it greatly influenced the genre by being the one of the first films to depict zombies as cannibalistic.
If you watch only one silent German horror movie not named "Nosferatu" this Halloween, make it 1920’s “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” Not only was it one of the most far out and visually freaky silent movies in film history, it also inspired the Universal Studios' monster classics, avant-garde cinema, and even Rob Zombie’s music video for “Living Dead Girl.”
If you don’t think “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is one of the best holiday cartoons of all time, consider the fact that is was actually nominated for an Emmy Award in 1966. Charles Schulz made us all believe in the Great Pumpkin (not just Linus), and also made us realize that the worst trick-or-treating item isn’t an apple or dental floss, it’s a rock.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is one of the best Halloween films of all time, and there are plenty of theatergoers around the country that dress up like characters from the film who can tell you why. Not only does it star the likes of Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick, but they all sing incredibly catchy and fun songs like “The Time Warp”!
Boris Karloff portrayed Frankenstein’s Monster in three separate films, and the first was 1931’s “Frankenstein,” which is often called the most iconic horror film of all time. A countless number of kids will dress as Frankenstein’s Monster this Halloween, as they have done for decades prior, and will likely continue to do for as long as the holiday exists.
In the realm of demonic possession, there’s no greater film than “The Exorcist,” based on William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel of the same name. It scared scores of kids (kids whose parents actually let them watch the totally inappropriate film, that is), disturbed adults, and made sure no one would ever look at pea soup the same way again.
Is there a better Halloween film than John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic “Halloween?” No. No, there is not. Michael Myers made his murderous debut in this movie, which starred Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, and although the subsequent sequels got progressively worse as the years went on, they did nothing to taint the reputation of the original. Hopefully the newest, which will feature the return of Curtis, will restore some dignity to the franchise with a fresh installment on Oct. 19!