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When warm, late-summer nights give way to earlier sunsets and cooler temperatures (and Halloween season kicks into its spookiest gear!), it's time to switch up your entertaining style—and, ultimately, a scary movie marathon is the perfect activity for an October evening.
With hundreds of films that can fall into the Halloween movie canon—from the friendly ghosts of Casper and Harry Potter to the terrifying scares of Psycho and Rosemary's Baby and new-age classics like Midsommer—you can create a movie marathon for any cinematic taste that's a true blockbuster.
Plan Your Showtimes
For a one-night-only movie marathon, Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events recommends narrowing your list to four or five films, allowing guests to vote, and then screening the top two or three. "I am a fan of mixing movies with food, drinks, and time to discuss," says Meyer. "Save the best for last, to ensure you get to it, and also plan for time between for fresh snacks and fun chats!"
If you just can't narrow down your must-watch list, create a month-long viewing schedule. "To create a movie club, break up the list throughout the month, and do a couple of movies per weekend, changing the theme and décor each time—really lean into it all!" he says.
Set Up Your Theater
Crisp fall weather, a fire pit, and plenty of cozy blankets are an ideal backdrop for an outdoor movie marathon, if your space allows. "I love a projector moment," says Meyer.
It's most important, however, to prepare your yard for bugs. "Spray in advance and have tiki torches ready so guests do not spend the evening swatting away annoying insects," says Meyer. "And do be mindful of your neighbors if you watch movies late into the night!"
If you prefer to watch indoors, think outside the family room. "If you have multiple places in your home for this party, pick the one that best fits your theme. Maybe a dark basement adds to the horror of the night, or perhaps a spooky garage leans into it," says Meyer.
Then hand out custom ticket-inspired invitations to your favorite movie buffs. "I suggest keeping it small—movies are best watched in intimate groups," says Natalie Pinney of Whim Events, who says to keep things outdoors if possible. "I think it makes it spookier to plan for an outside viewing experience, starting at dusk and going into the evening!"
Choose the Right Seating
Recreate the plush loungers at your local theater with an array of seating options, whether you are indoors or out. "While you don't need a chair for everyone, you do need cozy options for people to get comfortable and relax," says Pinney. "I love creating floor lounges with rugs, pillows, and fleece blankets, or groupings of bean bag chairs throughout the lawn for the kiddos. Be sure to place eclectic groupings of outdoor camping or Adirondack chairs with side tables for those interested in quietly catching up during the flick."
Guest experience should be the main focus when you're planning your seating, says Meyer: "Guests should feel like they can settle in and be super comfortable. If you have a couple of soft seating pieces that everyone loves, make sure to rotate guests between films so everyone gets to enjoy."
Choose Your Scary Movies
A Halloween movie marathon doesn't have to mean a night full of jump scares and serial killers. "Scary movies come in all styles and types, so I would decide which you want to lean into first, so you can then build your party on that theme," says Meyer.
You can, of course, expand your selections to accommodate your guest list. If you're inviting families, opt for kid-friendly films like The Addams Family or Hotel Transylvania earlier in the night, and save the true horror classics for after the little ones have fallen asleep.
Pinney recommends starting with Disney's original Hocus Pocus for a families-included event—and Meyer agrees, noting that you should also let these lighthearted flicks inform the entire evening. "Fill the house with kitschy décor and cheeky snacks that are fun for all ages—not really scary, but more spooky!" he says. Planning a spooky, not scary family party? Consider one of the films below.
The Addams Family
It's a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Scary or Campy Movies
For an adults-only movie marathon, the same is also true: You don't need to stick to just horror. But if that is the route you want to take, consider one-off classics like The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, It, or The Shining (see a full list, below!)—or opt for a series of flicks that fall into a particular scary movie niche or theme. You can try "100% Horror, which is not for the faint of heart; Classic Slashers (we all know them and, even so, get scared!); Faux Scary Movies, the ones you do not need to cover your eyes to watch; or classic Hitchcock horror films," says Meyer.
Friday the 13th
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Serve the Right Snacks
It's not a movie night without snacks. For a Halloween-themed marathon, you can stick to the classics or invent your own cinematic treats with the holiday in mind.
"I'm a big fan of renting a popcorn machine for nights like this and keeping it simple with throwback sleepover snacks—pizza, cheese puffs, chocolate covered pretzels, and s'mores," says Pinney.
Meyer suggests leaning into Halloween-themed snacks, too, and matching them to your movie, if possible: Try string cheese on the end of a pretzel for broom-shaped snacks during Hocus Pocus or an apple pie topped with a Friday the 13th hockey mask. Pinney recommends Ecto Cooler inspired-cocktails for the adults at your Ghostbusters screening—"a hilarious throwback, and a must!" she says.
Looking for more ideas? "Spaghetti with creepy eyeballs is always a fun one—the eyeballs are mozzarella balls with olives in the middle," Meyer says. "Create a very dark red punch, to appear as blood, and if, you want to go the extra mile, create hand-shaped ice cubes to float around in there." Finish your buffet of spooky snacks with prosciutto-wrapped fig hearts, cupcakes topped with pumpkins, or shrunken apple "heads" floating in warm cider—and then hunker down for a spooky evening with friends.