Our list includes comedies, classic thrillers and family-friendly fare.
For this list, we've selected theatrically released feature films and TV movies set on Halloween night—or at least where the holiday is a significant plot point. Of course, we've included classic Halloween movies like Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas and the long-running eponymous slasher franchise.
There are lesser-known gems here, too. This list of the best Halloween movies includes comedies, thrillers, ghost stories, family-friendly scary fare, Netflix Halloween content, Disney Halloween movies—and of course, lots and lots of scary horror.
Here are the 50 best Halloween movies of all time.
Best Classic Halloween Movies
Made with elegance and artistry, haunting music, a high level of taste and—crucially—unrelenting suspense and scares, John Carpenter's classic about a masked madman terrorizing babysitters remains an untouchable genre staple. It doesn't feel like hyperbole to call Halloween one of the best movies of all time—and perhaps the single most ripped-off film in history. The most successful independent film for decades, Halloween spawned countless slasher imitators. It's never been bettered.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Distributed under Disney’s Buena Vista banner (that’s for fare aimed at older kids and even adults), this horror/comedy/musical hybrid initially tanked with critics and audiences, losing Disney as much as $20 million at the box office. Now, Hocus Pocus is a perennial essential on TV and home video, with a Halloween presence comparable to A Christmas Story over the holidays. It's safe to say the film has turned a hefty profit by now.
Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and pre-Sex & the City Sarah Jessica Parker star as the Sanderson sisters, 17th-century Salem witches who survive by sucking the life out of small children. Yeah, it’s kind of surprising this ever got greenlit. Thank goodness it did, though. Minor quibbles with anachronistic references and other details aside, this enterprise is a lot of fun, plain and simple. And a Disney+ exclusive sequel is coming soon! Fingers crossed for lightning to strike twice.
Related: 50 Best Hocus Pocus Quotes
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Like fellow holiday classic Gremlins, director Tim Burton’s Halloween-Christmas mashup is one of the scariest movies ever aimed—ostensibly—at kids. The stop-motion musical has grown so iconic and popular that it’s become its own brand, but it’s important to remember just how special the film is on its own merits. Film critic Roger Ebert even compared the picture to Star Wars.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Tim Burton‘s head-spin on the 1820 story is a successful blend of gore, humor, exceptionally strong production values and a twisted plot. Johnny Depp stars as Ichabod Crane, a squeamish constable investigating horrific murders within the sleepy titular town. A substantial box-office hit, Sleepy Hollow won an Oscar for its sublimely atmospheric art direction.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Richard Kelly's science fiction thriller stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a high schooler suffering from doomsday visions. The movie received a limited release with little publicity (the plot heavily features a plane crash, and the movie was released in October 2001). But the enthralling storytelling proved popular over time, and Donnie Darko became one of the ultimate independent films. Some circles even consider this to be one of the best movies of all time.
Best Old Halloween Movies
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Yes, Frank Capra's classic black comedy is set on Halloween day. Cary Grant stars as a writer who marries into a majorly crazy family. It's based on Joseph Kesselring's 1941 stage play.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
The first half of this early, RKO-released Disney novelty is winsome and poetic; the back half becomes fairly chilling. An adaptation of The Wind and the Willows leads into Disney’s take on Washington Irving‘s story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Bing Crosby voices Ichabod Crane, an 18th-century dandy who courts the affections of the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel. Ichabod is antagonized by the Headless Horseman, and it all leads to a conclusion that’s surprisingly grim for Disney fare. The projectile flaming pumpkin is a giddy 3D-without-3D scary treat, so striking and memorable it was referenced in Tim Burton‘s 1999 R-rated Oscar-winner.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
The all-time Peanuts classic first aired in Oct. 1966 on CBS. It's aired near Halloween of every year since. This is the first Peanuts special with a title whose phrase ends with, "Charlie Brown." This remained the formula for nearly every subsequent special.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
No list of the greatest family films ever made is complete without Steven Spielberg's science fiction heartstring-tugger. E.T. captured the hearts and imaginations of millions, dethroning 1977’s Star Wars to become the highest-grossing film at the time. Like so many of Spielberg’s finest films, much of E.T.‘s greatness comes from the sweeping orchestral score by John Williams.
The Monster Squad (1987)
Over three decades before they teamed up for the nostalgia-heavy, fairly entertaining and undeniably disappointing The Predator, Fred Dekker and Shane Black helmed this PG-13, mostly kid-friendly fantasy adventure about five boys who find themselves facing off against the Universal Monsters. Though it’s not on the same level in terms of quality, the mildly scary Monster Squad has a tone similar to that of Gremlins. Catch a Monster Squad poster in a bedroom background in Netflix's The Haunting of Bly Manor.
Horror maestros Stephen King and George Romero collaborated on this horror-comedy anthology film. Creepshow was shot primarily on location in Pittsburgh and Monroeville, and Friday the 13th's makeup wizard Tom Savini was hired to give the picture a comic-book feel.
Related: Scream Cast, Where Are They Now?
Creepshow 2 (1987)
King and Romero once again collaborated on the follow-up—which contains only three segments (the original had five) due to budget constraints. Creepshow 3 was released direct-to-video without the involvement of King or Romero; you can skip that one.
A Creepshow original series is now streaming exclusively on the very-awesome horror app Shudder.
Best Halloween Horror Movies
Halloween II (1981)
The first sequel to the long-running series, a continuation of that Halloween night that picks up moments after the first film ended, Halloween II did alright at the box office, but didn't receive the rave critical reception of the first. Ironically, the sequel fell back on the tropes of the dime-a-dozen imitators the first one inspired: over-reliance on gore over suspense, excessive nudity, dumb characters...that kind of thing. Still, many fans regard Halloween II with esteem.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
After chapter two, Carpenter and Debra Hill experimented with the franchise, with the intention of making it an anthology series with no Michael Myers. The first attempt was this gory sci-fi yarn about deadly masks for children. A box-office and critical dud on release, Season of the Witch gradually became a cult classic with a big following—perhaps most famous for the graphic on-screen death of a small child. Yep, Halloween went there.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
After the anthology approach failed to take off, Halloween brought back "The Shape," now hellbent on terrorizing Laurie Strode's daughter Jamie (Danielle Harris). Many horror fans love this movie, best-known for its fantastic downbeat stinger ending.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Rushed out by producers without taking the time to—ya know, make it good—part five is a mess that merely checks the boxes of a standard slasher. Still, the picture has its loyal defenders to this day. The best part without a doubt is the strong performance of young Harris.
Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Best enjoyed in its recently unearthed "producer's cut," Curse takes Halloween into weird supernatural cult territory (really all the fans of this series want is big scares and The Shape), and provided an early starring vehicle for Paul Rudd (the same year as Clueless).
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Inspired perhaps just as much by the runaway genre-reinventing success of Scream as the 1978 Halloween, H20 retconned the death of Laurie, and brought back Jamie Lee Curtis. H20 was the best of the sequels up to that point, with suspense, meta-humor and a touching cameo from Janet Leigh (star of Psycho and mother of Curtis).
The early aughts gave us a tsunami of horror remakes, jumpstarted by the success of Marcus Nispel's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. One of the most financially successful was Rob Zombie's re-staging of Halloween, which made over $80 million worldwide despite mixed (at best) reviews.
Halloween II (2009)
Producers urged Zombie to return for a sequel; the musician/filmmaker turned the violence up to 11 (frankly this is more nauseating than suspenseful or fun), and made a cult-y film that's far more in the vein of House of 1000 Corpses or The Devil's Rejects than Carpenter.
Trick r' Treat (2007)
An anthology film that takes a humorous, non-linear Pulp Fiction-y approach to small-town Halloween, Trick r’ Treat is a triumph of simple horror pleasures, with a deft balance of laughs, surprise and scares. Director Michael Dougherty most recently helmed underrated, wonder-filled Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins play sisters obsessed with death in this Canadian horror film. Ginger Snaps gets bonus points for subverting the tropes (weak female characters, uninspired storytelling) of lesser teen slasher movies that were surging in popularity at the time.
Ginger Snaps received significant critical praise upon release, and its reputation with horror fans has only grown. Two sequels, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, followed.
Related: Best Horror Movies on HBO Max
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Rob Zombie's directorial debut (the first Firefly film) centers on a group of teenagers who are tortured and killed on Halloween night. Followed by a superior film (Zombie's best) called The Devil's Rejects. That one doesn't have anything to do with Halloween, though.
This horror anthology features segments from Kevin Smith, Gary Shore and Matt Johnson—and the subject matter weaves throughout the most iconic and popular American holidays.
Created by Brad Miska and Bloody Disgusting, V/H/S is an anthology picture comprised of short horror films by several directors including Adam Wingard (You’re Next) and Ti West (The House of the Devil). The central conceit is that four thugs are hired to steal a VHS tape from a house they’ve broken into, where they discover disturbing found-footage shorts on tape—and frightening disturbances within the house as well.
V/H/S runs nearly two full hours, and one of these shorts probably should have been a DVD extra. There’s serious talent behind the camera here though, and V/H/S definitely offers enough chills and bona fide scares to merit our hearty recommendation.
Hell Fest (2018)
A meat-and-potatoes slasher from CBS Films and Lionsgate follows a group of teens stalked by a serial killer at a Halloween carnival.
Produced by Eli Roth, Haunt is a refreshingly to-the-point slasher picture that will please the target audience. The scare show was written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who wrote A Quiet Place with John Krasinski.
The Houses October Built (2014)
Bobby Roe's found-footage horror film follows a group of friends on an excursion to haunted American attractions. It's equal parts scary slasher and heartland travelogue.
The best gay horror movie out there—to date, anyway—is obviously A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, but this sexy, campy slasher was a modest success on the festival circuit.
The Guest (2014)
Writer/director team Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard won over critics and audiences with this ripper of a mystery, centered on a handsome stranger who shows up on a family‘s doorstep. Neon-hued, techno-accented nostalgic fever dream The Guest also was a breakthrough for stars Maika Monroe and Dan Stevens.
Confusingly titled but astoundingly successful, David Gordon Green's Blumhouse-produced soft reboot was one of the red-letter box-office stories of 2018. Halloween retcons in the extreme, eliminating all canon after the first film. The back-to-basics approach received warm reviews and simply insane box-office returns. The best part of the movie, unequivocally, is Jamie Lee Curtis, who scorches through every scene as a woman scorned. This is an actress you should never underestimate.
Halloween Kills (2021)
Pushed back from an originally intended 2020 release due to coronavirus, the follow-up to the massive hit reboot picks up moments after that film. We got chills hearing Laurie scream, "Let him burn!" Again: Jamie Lee Curtis. Irreplaceable.
Halloween Ends (2022)
Slated for an Oct. 14, 2022 release, and billed as the conclusion of the Laurie-Michael saga, Halloween Ends was shot back-to-back with Halloween Kills. Frankly, we hope this franchise doesn't kill off our beloved Laurie Strode again, but if it happens, here's hoping she gets a better send-off than the shameful events of Halloween: Resurrection's alternate timeline.
Family-Friendly Halloween Movies
The House With a Clock in Its Walls (2018)
Cate Blanchett and Jack Black star in Eli Roth's haunted house movie aimed at children and families (the Hostel helmer's only non-R-rated picture). The House With a Clock in Its Walls received mixed-to-positive reviews and was a financial success.
Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci star in this highly lucrative adaptation of the comic strip about a friendly ghost. The movie is darker than its source material, unafraid of bringing death and philosophy into the game. That's why the fans like it.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)
Not as good as the 2015 big-screen hit Goosebumps—though still recommendable as harmless kid-friendly fun—the sequel centers on a trio of small-town kids who join forces to thwart a haunted dummy’s nefarious antics on Halloween night. Jack Black returns as R.L. Stine.
Monster House (2006)
Kids and parents looking for a creepy thrill will find a lot to love in this motion-capture CGI comic thriller. In the spirit of the best Goosebumps stories, Monster House is a superior haunted-house story for two big reasons: it takes its horror elements seriously (it's genuinely scary, but stays within PG bounds), and the child protagonists are believable, smart and relatable.
Hotel Transylvania (2012)
The vocal talents of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg and Selena Gomez fill this family-friendly hit from Sony Pictures Animation. Two sequels followed in 2015 and 2018. And a fourth installment released on Amazon Prime in February 2022.
Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)
In the sequel to the 2015 animated hit, Dracula's hotel is open for humans as well as the supernatural, and the voice cast is joined by none other than legendary Mel Brooks.
Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar starred in this big-budget live-action update of the classic cartoon. Despite negative-to-mixed critical notices, the family-friendly detective comedy was a huge hit and spawned a sequel.
Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge (2000)
In the family-friendly follow-up to the 1998 ratings hit, the Piper clan takes on an angry warlock with a nefarious plan to transform all mortals into whatever their Halloween costume is.
Halloweentown High (2004)
In Halloweentown High (aka Halloweentown 3), good witch Marnie organizes a student exchange program between Halloweentown High and her mortal high school.
Return to Halloweentown (2006)
This Disney saga was originally planned as a trilogy, but Return to Halloweentown revamped the franchise, with Sara Paxton taking over the role of Marnie Piper.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
Guillermo del Toro and André Øvredal reanimated the red-blooded horror books ostensibly aimed at tweens (once banned from libraries across America) for the big screen. The PG-13 feature is seriously freaky at times, skillfully toeing the line of an R.
Funny Halloween Movies
Hubie Halloween (2020)
Adam Sandler's comedy slasher was once the top streaming film in the world, yet another smash for the king of Netflix comedy.
Mean Girls (2004)
As surely as fetch never happened, some of our favorite moments from Tina Fey's iconic comedy take place at a Halloween party. Cady (Lindsay Lohan)'s scare-ifying rather than sexy-fying at a high school shindig is a classic scene.
Related: Mean Girls Quotes
Boo! A Madea Halloween (2016)
Tyler Perry's signature character took on All Hallow's Eve—and a bunch of unruly, hard-partying students—in this box-office smash. The idea for Boo! actually originated from a fictitious film within the world of Chris Rock's stellar rom-com Top Five.
Boo 2! A Madea Halloween (2017)
The follow-up to Boo!, rushed into release less than a year after the original, was a critical disaster (4 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—ouch!), but was a modest box-office success.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
A film that will remain in infamy (it's occasionally awesomely bad). This is the one where Michael Myers kung-fu fights with Busta Rhymes. Oof. This one can be entertaining—just not for the right, intended reasons.
Looking for more big scares? Check out the best horror movies on Netflix right now.