With October 31st fast approaching I figured I’d better get my butt in gear and put together my list of the best Halloween movies of all time. I am a huge movie buff, and horror in particular is a favorite genre of mine. However, though horror movies are the most popular at this time of year, I know that families also like to sit down together and watch a Halloween favorite or two once the kids have returned from pillaging the neighborhood for candy. With that in mind I’ve tried to balance my list with both classic terror films and family friendly films that kids can watch without having nightmares afterwards. Here are my picks of the greatest Halloween films ever made:
50 – Pumpkinhead – With the Jack-o-Lantern one of Halloween’s most recognizable symbols it only seems appropriate to include a movie about a demon with a carved pumpkin head. This is an underrated, underappreciated 80s horror movie.
49 – Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone – Really, any of the Harry Potter movies could fit in here. They are great family films that are entertaining for all age ranges, and just spooky enough to give kids a bit of a chill without giving them nightmares.
48 – Child’s Play – Though a movie about a doll might sound like a kid’s movie, this particular doll is homicidal and foul-mouthed. Chucky is one of the most recognizable horror movie villains in the history of the genre, and though the premise of the film might sound ludicrous the films are actually pretty scary.
47 – Carrie – No surprise to see Stephen King’s name come up on a list of scary Halloween movies. This 1976 film about a girl with telekinetic powers who terrorizes her fellow prom-attendees is one of the best movies based on his books.
46 – Monster House – Our first animated movie on the list, Monster House falls in the family film category, but might be pretty scary for young kids, so some pre-screening might be necessary if you’ve got young ones who scare easily.
45 – The Black Cauldron – Based on the Chronicles of Prydain novels by Lloyd Alexander The Black Cauldron is another animated movie. However this one, unlikeMonster House is traditionally animated Disney movie in the style of films like Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book. That doesn’t mean it is light-hearted fluff though. The film was the first animated Disney movie to receive a PG rating.
44 – The Ghost and Mr. Chicken – Comedy and Halloween need not be mutually exclusive, and when Don Knotts is involved you know they won’t be. Looking for a true classic for your family’s Halloween movie viewing? Check out this 1966 comedy spookfest.
43 – Corpse Bride – This one certain has a name that sounds like it should be synonymous with a Halloween horror movie, but again falls on the side of family film. Tim Burton directs and Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter lend their voice talents to this animated film about a man whose marriage vow inadvertently wakes a woman from the dead. She assumes he has pledged his undying love to her and now he is caught in a nightmare situation as he must choose between his living and his dead wife.
42 – The Amityville Horror – Now 30 years old this film is starting to show its age, but it is still one of the all time classic “Haunted House” movies, and the creepy music will definitely make you want to turn on the lightsin you are watching it alone in the dark.
41 – Dracula – Though vampire tales today in books like Twilight and on TV shows like True Blood portray (some) vampires as good or as misunderstood back in the old days a vampire was an evil creature who drank the blood of humans, pure and simple. The incomparable Bela Lugosi stars as Count Dracula in this black and white 1931 classic.
40 – Hellraiser – With a mind as dementedly twisted as his contemporary, Stephen King, Clive Barker has been terrifying readers and movie audiences for the past 2 decades. Though he has had his hand in severalhorror movies 1987’s Hellraiser is the best work of his film career today, and the twisted plot is intellectually more than a few notches above the usual Hollywood splatter-fests.
39 – Ghostbusters – Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd team up in this 1980s classic comedy about a group of paranormal scientists who decide to enter the private sector as ghoul exterminators and wind up in a supernatural battle with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
38 – Monsters Inc. – Okay, not a typical Halloween movie by traditional standards, but hey, it’s got monsters in it. From Pixar, the new masters of animation, Monsters Inc.is a fun movie that the kids will love, and there are plenty of jokes that will give entertained throughout as well.
37 – The Addams Family – Based on the 60s TV series of the same name, this 1991 film about an unusually creepy family is pretty funny and the performances by Angelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci are all top notch.
36 – The Dark Crystal – Yes, they are puppets, butMuppets creator Jim Henson’s story is so compelling that you completely suspend your disbelief. Though it is almost 30 years old The Dark Crystal and it’s “muppets” can hold its own against most of today’s CGI blockbusters.
35 – Scream – Yes, a pair of sequels and a bunch of copycat films have tarnished this Wes Craven film a little bit, but if you are looking for a film that will literally make you jump out of your seat there are few better. If you haven’t seen the film in a while give it a rent this Halloween. Just stay away from the sequels.
34 – Dawn of the Dead – No surprise to see a zombie flick on this list of the best Halloween movies ever made. This 1978 George A. Romero classic is a must own for any self respecting horror movie fan.
33 – The Ring – Not a gore-fest like some of the films on this list, but what it lacks in blood and guts it makes up for in disturbing creepiness. Much like Poltergeist did before it this film will have you thinking twice before you turn on the TV.
32 – The Hills Have Eyes – Speaking of disturbing films there are few that can match this one for making viewers squeamish. Whether it is Wes Craven’s 1977 original or the recent 2006 remake this story about a family who is trapped in the desert and terrorized by psychopathic mutants will definitely turn your stomach.
31 – Young Frankenstein – You wouldn’t expect legendary comedy director Mel Brooks’ name to show up on a list of Halloween movies, but this clever take on the Frankenstein legend is a classic in multiple film genres. Want a movie to break up the tension between The Shining and Psycho? This classic 70s comedy definitely fits the bill.
30 – House on Haunted Hill – When a classic horror film has Vincent Price in it you know it is going to be a cut above. 1959’s House on Haunted Hill is no exception. Would you spend the night in a haunted house for $10,000? You might change your mind after watching this film.
29 – Evil Dead 2 – All 3 of the movies in this classic horror trilogy by director Sam Raimi are fantastic, and both the original Evil Dead and Army of Darkness could have made the list. I settled on Evil Dead 2 which I believe struck the perfect balance between horror and comedy. Has there ever been a better horror movie hero than Bruce Campbell?
28 – Hocus Pocus – Back to the best family Halloween movies with this 1993 witch comedy starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker. Like all good witch stories this one is set in Salem and includes a black cat. This one is not for your diehard horror fans – the witches fly on vacuum cleaners – but if you want a live action movie you can watch with the kids Hocus Pocus is a great choice.
27 – The Descent – One of the more underrated films on this list and one of the best horror movies of the 2000sThe Descent will give the claustrophobic folks in the crowds nightmares. Imagine being trapped in a cave with bloodthirsty predators that want to tear you apart. Definitely not one for the kids.
26 – Coraline – One of the most clever and refreshingly original movies to come out in any genre in some timeCoraline is another animated movie that is just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. Ranging from quirky to downright strange at times the film might leave you scratching your head in bemusement at parts, but the overall story is clear and concise, and though there are some scary elements to the film it is tame enough that even very young children can watch it.
25 – 28 Days Later – I’ve said before that the only thing scarier than zombies are speedy zombies. These aren’t your father’s shambling corpses. 28 Days Later does an excellent job of keeping the tension high and the audience’s knuckles white.
24 – Saw – Though the million or so sequels that have come out in the past few years have definitely dimmed the brilliance of the original it is still one of the horror genre’s contemporary classics. Brutal, gory, and twisted this film has already become a cult horror classic despite its relatively recent release in 2004.
23 – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Speaking of cult horror films few movies can stack up against this one when it comes to diehard fans. Featuring one of the most recognizable killers in the horror genre in Leatherface, the film is not only gory, but will leave you feeling vaguely disturbed days after watching it.
22 – Casper – I jump from a chainsaw wielding psycho who wears the skin of his victims to a cute and cuddly friendly ghost who is about as scary as a Purex pillow. Obviously this particular film is back in the realm ofHalloween movies for kids. Adults might find this one a bit nauseatingly cute, but this is another one that the children will happily watch over and over again.
21 – Se7en – Most horror films star relative unknowns or fringe celebrities, have questionable acting, and miniscule budgets. However, this 1995 psychological thriller bucks all those trends. Featuring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey this disturbing film features a star-studded cast. Want your horror a little more highbrow this Halloween? Give Se7en a rent.
20 – Bride of Frankenstein – One of the most popular Halloween costumes of all time, the Frankenstein monster certainly deserves more than one spot on this list. Bride of Frankenstein is considered by many classic horror movie fans as the best movie made about the Frankenstein monster, and stars horror movie king Boris Karloff who delivers another powerfully chilling performance.
19 – Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – Probably a lot of people reading this list haven’t even heard of this film, but despite its relative obscurity it is fully deserving of its high spot on this list. Though the absent-minded inventor and his dog previously starred in 4 short films this is the first full length movie featuring the duo. The movie is great fun for kids, and has plenty of laughs for adults as well, particularly those who appreciate British humor.
18 – Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie – Any movie with the word Heffalump in it is guaranteed to be a kid’s movie. This one is purely for the kids (unless you are a closet Winnie the Pooh fan) and will keep them still instead of destroying the house under the influence of a super sugar buzz.
17 – Nosferatu – Max Schreck stars as Count Graf Orlok in this classic vampire tale based on the legend of Dracula. Despite the fact that this is a silent film it remains to this day, more than 80 years after its release, one of the creepiest movies ever made.
16 – An American Werewolf in London – We’ve had vampires, witches, ghosts, demons, and Frankenstein. It just wouldn’t be right to compile a list of the bestHalloween movies ever and not include a werewolf movie. Sorry Teen Wolf fans, this one gets the nod as the best werewolf flick.
15 – Beetle Juice – Arguably Michael Keaton’s best comedic performance, this film was one of the best movies of the 80s. Tim Burton directs this live action film that resembles in parts his animated films like Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas. This is a great family film that is good any time of year.
14 – The Omen – If I was making a list of the creepiest movie children then Damien from The Omen would merit a high spot. Any time religion is introduced in a horror movie plot the tension just seems to thicken that much more, and Damien, as a walking, talking Antichrist makes one of the most chilling, disturbing villains in horror film history.
13 – Friday the 13th – No surprise that my number 13 spot would be occupied by this particular film. This film franchise has spawned tons of sequels, and the hockey mask wearing killer Jason Voorhees is arguably the most famous horror movie villain of them all. However, in the original classic it is his mother doing the killing as she avenges her (once) dead son.
12 – Bedknobs and Broomsticks – Another timeless Disney classic starring Angela Lansbury Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a fantastic family film in the spirit of Mary Poppins that can be enjoyed by the whole family. This is definitely one of those rare films that becomes part of annual family Halloween traditions, much like It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas time.
11 – A Nightmare on Elm Street – If anyone can give Jason Voorhees a run for his money as Hollywood’s most recognizable killer it is Freddy Krueger, the “burnt up like a weenie” sweater and hat wearing dream killer with metal claws. Definitely don’t let the kids watch this one or they won’t sleep for a month.
10 – Night of the Living Dead – As far as I’m concerned there couldn’t be a better choice to mark our entrance into the top 10 Halloween movies. As good as Dawn of the Dead is it is this 1968 low budget black and white zombie flick that is George A. Romero’s masterpiece. This film definitely should have a spot of honor in any horror fan’s DVD collection.
9 – The Thing – No other horror movie scared me more as a kid than John Carpenter’s 1982 thriller/horror The Thing. This time it is a shape shifting alien that is doling out the carnage, and it is doing so in particularly gruesome ways.
8 – The Nightmare Before Christmas – Tim Burton’s best work to date, in my opinion, this film can be watched at both Halloween and Christmas time. It is certainly quirky (what Tim Burton movie isn’t?) and might not be every adult’s cup of tea, but the kids will absolutely love it and will demand to watch it again and again.
7 – Rosemary’s Baby – Now we are getting to the seriously disturbing movies on the list. If your goal of Halloween horror movie watching is being scared, creeped out, or emotionally disturbed then this 41 year old film will more than meet your needs.
6 – The Shining – Stephen King and Jack Nicholson team up to deliver one of the most chilling films ever seen on screen. Written by the legendary horror novelist and starring one of the best actors of the past 40 years The Shining stands up as one of the true classics of the genre, and was an easy choice for a top 10 spot on this list.
5 – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Originally part of Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad this 1958 short film is one of the legendary animation company’s scariest releases. Yes, it falls on the family side of the ledger on this list, but be prepared for a few nightmares after your kids watch this one.
4 – Psycho – Alfred Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece about a demented motel manager who kills his guests features the most famous murder scene in Hollywood history. Anthony Perkins is perfectly cast as killer Norman Bates. This movie has truly withstood the test of time and stands up well even today when much of society has become numb to the shock factor of horror movies.
3 – The Exorcist – No other movie on the list is as disturbing as this one. As I mentioned earlier horror movies just seem that much creepier when religion is the central theme. This film is not for the faint of heart, and many may find themselves feeling physically ill and/or severely emotionally disturbed at the content of this movie. To a guy that might sound like a ringing endorsement for the perfect Halloween movie, but be warned that your wife or girlfriend might be less than impressed.
2 – It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown – The best family Halloween film in my opinion. No, it is not a full length movie, but despite its short length it is fully deserving of its number 2 nod. This is definitely a short film that should be part of every family’s Halloween tradition, and is one of those rare animated shows, like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas that you can watch every year and never get tired of.
1 – Halloween – There was only one clear choice to take top spot on the list of the best Halloween movies of all time. Not only does its title share the same name as the trick or treating day, but it is also one of the scariest movies ever made, features the scariest music in a movie, and has a villain in Michael Myers that is one of the most terrifying ever created. Sounds like a recipe for scariness if I’ve ever heard one. If, for some reason, you’ve never seen this film and you are looking for a classic horror movie to scare yourself silly this October 31st then look no further. Horror films don’t get any better than this.