It’s bitter cold outside, it’s becoming dark faster every night, and pumpkin-flavored anything is consistently craved. This can only mean one thing: It’s time for Halloween!
With kids at your front door all night, pleading for tricks or treats as witches and vampires, how can life get any better?
The Halloween season is one of my favorite times of the year, bringing thrills, chills and — above all else — spooky films! As much fun as it is to dress up and get sick from the overconsumption of chocolate, I prefer to make this holiday last longer than one brisk evening. To me, there’s no better way to get into the Halloween spirit than to watch films that inevitably amuse and haunt you all month long.
Even if you’re like myself, and you don’t enjoy being scared to the point you can’t sleep at night, there are plenty of Halloween movies out there that bring fun rather than horrifying frights. For, more often than not, these films strive to bring entertainment to a time of year that can often feel bleak and foreboding of the winter months ahead.
Let's take a look at some of the films that represent the October season best, whether they be creepy, compelling or irresistibly frightening!
1. “The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)." Directed by Henry Selick, starring Chris Sarandon and Danny Elfman (Jack Skellington) and Catherine O’Hara (Sally). All hail Jack, the Pumpkin King! In this Halloween classic, produced by Tim Burton, Jack Skellington has gotten tired of the same old routine. He wants something new to prepare for. He needs a unique, not-so-scary holiday to celebrate. His solution: steal Christmas! With the help of the people of Halloween Town, Jack gives the world a Christmas they’ll never forget, for better or for worse.
2. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966).” Directed by Bill Melendez, starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown) and Christopher Shea (Linus van Pelt). Join good ol’ Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang as they indulge in the Halloween celebration. As Chuck comes back from trick-or-treating with a bag full of rocks, and the Great Pumpkin appears to Linus in the pumpkin patch as a World War I flying ace, this film — inspired by the Charles Schulz comics — is an October must-see.
3. “The Sixth Sense (1999).” Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment. With the greatest surprise ending I’ve ever seen, this film is both thought-provoking and terrifying. Nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, Shyamalan’s film brings a perfect mixture of subtle horror and psychology to the season. After all, when you’ve got a psychiatrist trying to help a young boy claiming to “see dead people,” how could you go wrong?
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4. “Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1983)." Directed by John Landis, starring Michael Jackson and Ola Ray. Although this is technically a music video, there’s nothing that brings the Halloween spirit more than Michael Jackson busting out some wicked zombie dance moves. Inspired by the hit single “Thriller,” Jackson and Landis pulled out all the stops to make this one of the most successful music videos ever made. Originally premiering on MTV in 1983, “Michael Jackson’s Thriller” is still relevant in pop culture today — the video has accumulated more than 445 million views on YouTube.
5. “The Addams Family (1991).” Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, starring Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston and Christina Ricci. “They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky. They’re all together ooky; the Addams family!” Whether you watch it for Wednesday’s goth-inspired humor, Cousin Itt’s inspirational dialogue, or Gomez and Morticia’s uncanny parenting skills, the Addams capture this season in one fell swoop.
6. “Beetlejuice (1988).” Directed by Tim Burton, starring Geena Davis, Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder. Do you have annoying humans living in your house, making you wish you could just scare them away for good? Never fear ... Beetlejuice is here! Though comedic and creative, this unsettling Burton film gives us a unique take on life after death, and the ominous world of a ghost. A word of advice: Make sure to read your "Handbook for the Recently Deceased" beforehand.
7. “Toy Story of Terror (2013)." Directed by Angus MacLane, starring Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear) and Joan Cusack (Jessie). In this family friendly Halloween special, the “Toy Story” gang is back, but this time they must escape a hotel where toys are suspiciously going missing. With the bravery of Jessie, the grit of Woody and the whimsy of Buzz, the toys pull one of their greatest escapades yet.
8. “Scared Shrekless (2010).” Directed by Gary Trousdale and Raman Hui, starring Mike Myers (Shrek) and Dean Edwards (Donkey) in place of Eddie Murphy. Though Christmas might’ve been a disaster, Shrek is well in his comfort zone when it comes to scaring helpless trick-or-treaters! In this Dreamworks short, Shrek, Donkey, Puss in Boots and other friends participate in a scary story contest. What does the winner receive as a prize? The privilege of being crowned the King of Halloween. But, with every spook and story told, it becomes harder to decipher who will make it to the end of the night.
9. “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).” Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore. This film isn’t your conventional Halloween movie, but it has its moments of sci-fi thrills and eerie situations. Plus, you can’t forget the classic scene where E.T. is disguised as Gertie (Barrymore), who’s supposedly dressed up as a ghost for Halloween. One of my favorite parts of the movie, this scene introduces E.T. to Yoda as he, Elliot (Thomas) and big brother Michael head for the forest through a swarm of young trick-or-treaters.
10. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" (2001). Directed by Chris Columbus, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. Another unconventional movie included on our list, this first Harry Potter film gives us one of the most classic Halloween celebrations to date. As the Hogwarts students are munching away at candy in the Great Hall on Halloween, a troll "escapes" from the castle’s dungeon, heading for the girls’ bathroom. Who should be in there, you may ask? None other than Hermione Granger. But, with Harry and Ron proving victorious over the troll and saving Hermione, their friendship is forever bound for the greater adventures that await them.