The Ultimate Halloween Movie List for a Spooky Night In
By Sarah January
My most favorite time of the year is fall. The leaves are changing, the weather cools down, and it’s time to break out your favorite fall clothes. With fall comes one of the year’s most popular holidays: Halloween. The costumes, candy, and other traditions are some of the best things about this day. One tradition I have had since high school is having a Halloween / scary movie marathon with my bestie. In the spirit of sharing this tradition with you, below is a list of movies that include something for everyone, friends and family alike. I know it will put a little fright into your night this Halloween season.
This is hands down my favorite movie on this list. Every autumn I watch this film at least a dozen times and it never gets old. This 1993 classic starring Bette Middler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters is the quintessential Halloween flick. The story follows character Max Denison as he accidentally awakens the 300-year-old Sanderson sisters who were hanged after being accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. The sisters are on a mission to gain immortality by taking the souls of children on Halloween night. Max, his sister Dani, love interest Allison, and a magical talking cat named Binx are the only things that stand between the witches and immortality.
If slasher style horror movies are more your speed, the movie Halloween may be right up your alley. Originally released in 1978 and rebooted in 2018, this horror movie tells the awful tale of young Michael Meyers who is committed to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium after murdering his sister one Halloween night. He manages to escape fifteen years later and go on a killing rampage in his home town of Haddonfield, killing the friends of high school student Lauri Strode. While he kills, he wears a recognizable white hockey mask. This movie is the first in a franchise that spans the last three decades.
Watching the Disney channel was essentially a right of passage when I was a kid. During the second half of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Disney created a series of DCOMs ( Disney Channel Original Movies), including Halloween Town. Starring Debbie Reneyolds and Kimberly J. Brown, this Halloween-themed movie is fun for the whole family. 13-year-old Marnie is struggling, as most teenagers do. Her latest beef with her mother is that she and her siblings aren’t allowed to go out for Halloween. That is until her grandma Aggie shows up and turns everything on its head with her witchy powers. The whole family ends up on an adventure in which they try to stop the evil Kalabar from taking over Halloweentown forever.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a big fan of the actor Johnny Depp. One of my favorites of his films is Sleepy Hollow. Directed by Tim Burton, this gothic time period film is a modern retelling of Washington Irving’s short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Depp plays Ichobod Crane, a detective sent to the village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a murder spree reportedly tied to a “Headless Horseman.” The more Ichobod investigates, the more he begins to uncover a trail of deceit, lies, and family secrets that show that all is not as it seems. The film went on to win an Academy Award for Best Art Direction and received rave reviews from critics and fans alike.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
This movie is a great one because it puts two of my favorite holidays together on the same screen. Part Halloween, part Christmas, part musical, part fantasy, this 1993 film has become a household favorite for many over the last twenty-six years. This stop-motion animated film introduces us to Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town, and the events that befall him when he accidentally stumbles down a portal into Christmas Town.
If you are a fan of the classics, Dracula is a film to add to your list. Though there have been many versions produced that tell the story of the creepy Count, the original was produced in 1931 by Tod Browning. Featuring the legendary Bela Lugosi as Dracula, this depiction of the world’s most popular vampire is based on a 1924 stage production of Dracula. The story begins with a man named Reinfeld who is on a journey to visit the Count’s castle on a business trip. The local people have fears of vampires and are suspicious of the castle’s inhabitants, so they warn Reinfeld not to go there. Reinfeld of course thinks that this is all nonsense and goes to visit Dracula anyway. What he finds is beyond his wildest dreams and ends in deaths, hauntings, and absolute insanity. Dracula ended up being Universal's highest grossing film in 1931, despite rumors that it was so horrific that people fainted at the site of the horrible vampire.
A devious and mischievous spirit risen from hell, Beetlejuice is intent upon ridding the home of Barbara and Adam Maitland of its new inhabitants. Nevermind that the Maitlands are dead and the new family living there needs a home. Shenanigans - including seances, exorcisms, ghosts, witch doctors, and arranged marriages between a teenager and a poltergeist - ensue. Beetlejuice became one of the highest grossing films of 1988, partially due to the star-studded cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Gina Davis, Winona Ryder, and Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice.
It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
In my household, I know it really isn't the holiday season until the Peanuts gang make their seasonal appearances on tv. This holiday favorite is a family friendly cartoon that will help get your little ones in the Halloween spirit without scaring their socks off. It stars Charlie Brown, the rest of the Peanuts characters, and the mythical Great Pumpkin. While most of the group is convinced the Great Pumpkin doesn’t exist, Linus is such a believer that he sits out in the pumpkin patch all night long hoping to see this creature. As with all of the seasonal Peanuts specials this one will make you laugh, but it also imparts a heartfelt lesson about how we treat each other.
One of the most recognizable films involving witches has got to be Practical Magic. Based on the novel by the same name, in 1998 we were lucky to get the amazing pair of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman to portray sisters Sally and Gillian Owens. The pair have always known that there was something unusual about them and their family, especially with their eccentric aunts who show them the uses of what they call “practical magic.” Unfortunately, the sisters are cursed when it comes to the men in their lives and embark on a journey to not only find love that lasts, but also save their family as well. Though the movie did not farewell at the box office, it has become an underground cult classic for those who love witches, magic, and romance.
Double Double Toil and Trouble
Another family movie to add to the list is this Halloween-themed movie with 90s sensations Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. These twin girls dominated my childhood with movies and tv shows for every season and situation. One of my favorites of their films was Double Double Toil and Trouble, featuring the twins on a Halloween adventure. The girls find out that their great-aunt Sofia is trapped in a mirror by her evil sister Agatha. If Sofia isn’t freed by Halloween night on the seventh year of her imprisonment, she will be doomed to the Netherworld forever. Kelly and Lynn ( Mary-Kate and Ashley) embark on a journey filled with witches, magic, and monsters in order to get the magical moonstone to free Aunt Sofia.
Sweeney Todd : The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
I know, I know. Another Tim Burton film has made the list. Bear with me though because this one is a tad different from the others. Though it is a bloody and dark slasher type film, it is very unique because it is also a musical. You heard me. A horror movie musical. Based on the 1979 award-winning musical of the same name, Sweeney Todd takes you on an emotional yet bloody journey through the life of barber Benjamin Barker in 19th century London. When he returns to London after a fifteen-year exile as a result of a wrongful conviction, he has lost everything and embarks on a mission of revenge. Barker returns to business as a professional barber and systematically begins killing folks while waiting for a chance to kill his foe, the corrupt Judge Turpin. To dispose of the bodies he enlists his obsessed lover and meat pie shop owner Mrs. Lovett, who begins using them in her pies. Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Jamie Campbell Bower, and Alan Rickman, the film went on to win two Golden Globes and was nominated for three Academy Awards.
The Addams Family
It wouldn’t be Halloween without the world’s favorite monster family, the Addams. Since their creation, the Addams family has made many different appearances in the media, including TV shows, movies, and video games. I grew up watching episodes of the 1964 TV series and then fell in love with the 1991 film. Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, and Pugsley have many unusual quirks and hobbies, so they are not your typical family unit and stand out among their neighbors. In the 1991 movie, someone impersonating Gomez’s long lost brother Fester plots to steal the family fortune. Of course many weird things begin to happen and as you can imagine, this heist did not go according to plan.
To keep this list from getting insanely long, below are some more movies that didn’t make the top twelve, but that you should definitely watch over this Halloween season. When the weather is too cold to be out, or you just can’t be around people for the night, pull up this list, grab some hot cocoa, and get yourself in the Halloween mood with the Ultimate Halloween Movie List.
Psycho - 1998, Remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960’s film starring Vince Vaughn, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy, and Julianne Moore
Amusement - 2008, Horror film starring Katheryn Winnick, Laura Breckenridge, and Jessica Lucas.
Hotel Transylvania - 2012, Family animated film starring Adam Sandler, Adam Samberg, Selena Gomez, and Kevin James
The Craft - 1996, Supernatural horror film starring Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True
Ghostbusters - 1984, Spooky comedy film starring Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis, and Bill Murray
Interview With The Vampire - 1994, Romantic gothic horror film starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Kirsten Dunst
Poltergeist - 1982, Horror film starring JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O'Rourke, and Beatrice Straight.
Scream - 1996, Slasher style film starring David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, and Drew Barrymore.
Edward Scissorhands - 1990, Dark fantasy romance film starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder
Casper - 1995, Fantasy spooky drama film starring Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, and Cathy Moriarty
Frankenstein - 1931, Monster horror film starring Colin Clive, Mae Clark , John Boles, and Boris Karloff
The Covenant - 2006, Supernatural horror film starring Steven Strait, Sebastian Stan, Taylor Kitsch, Toby Hemingway, and Chace Crawford
Sarah is a California girl who has an obsession with all things historical in or travel related. She holds a M.A.in Human Performance and Sport, a B.S in Athletic Training as well as a minor in History. In addition to her love of history and culture, she has a passion for health and fitness and is also a hardcore bibliophile with an ever growing book collection. Since finishing her Master’s Degree in 2015, she has become a teacher who is growing her career as a writer. When she isn’t teaching or honing her writing skills, you can find her with her nose in a new book, binge watching Supernatural, or planning her next getaway to the beach. If you want to talk about writing, books, history, travel, Disney movies, puppies...or anything in between, feel free to connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and IG.