Many people argue that the magic of Halloween disappears once you’ve grown up, but let’s be honest: dressing up is always fun. Pop culture provides us with endless ideas for Halloween costumes, whether it’s a favorite TV character, the many iterations of Lady Gaga, or some clever take on an Internet meme. And because TV writers are just as informed by media as we are, their fictional television characters will often also end up in pop culture-inspired costumes. From Bob’s Burgers to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, here are 15 of the best pop culture costumes in television.
Bill Haverchuck as the Bionic Woman Freaks and Geeks — “Tricks and Treats” (Season 1, Episode 3)
It’s an obvious choice but, 15 years later, “Tricks or Treats” remains one of the greatest Halloween episodes of all time and Haverchuck’s “Hold on, I’m gonna put the phone on my bionic ear” line is still funny.
Tom Haverford as T-Pain Parks and Recreation — “Greg Pikitis” (Season 2, Episode 7)
The characters on Parks and Recreation have consistently great Halloween costumes, but T-Pain is an early standout, both because of Ann confusing him with the Mad Hatter and because of Aziz Ansari’s great impression.
Ben and Leslie as Princess Buttercup and Dread PirateParks and Recreation — “Recall Vote” (Season 6, Episode 6)
The best thing about Ben and Leslie getting together might be the fact that we now get couples’ costumes, such as Season 6 when they went full Princess Bride — and then got hammered in costume.
Troy as Eddie MurphyCommunity — “Introduction to Statistics” (Season 1, Episode 7)
Considering its obsession with pop culture, it’s no surprise that Community has countless great costumes to choose from, but one of my favorites is Troy as Eddie Murphy in his Delirious special.
Gabe as Lady GagaThe Office — “Costume Contest” (Season 7, Episode 6)
The Office is another NBC sitcom that’s great with Halloween episodes and costumes, whether it’s Kelly imitating celebrities or Jim going the bare minimum. Gabe actually shines in Season 7 with this perfect Lady Gaga ensemble.
Jess as Joey Ramona QuimbyNew Girl — “Keaton” (Season 3, Episode 6)
Leave it Jess to pick out one of the most adorable costumes of last year’s TV season: a combination of Joey Ramone and Ramona Quimby, resulting in a punk version of the children’s book icon.
Richard Castle as Captain Mal
Castle — “Vampire Weekend” (Season 2, Episode 6)
Castle goes full-meta with its lead, played by Nathan Fillion, dressing up as one of Fillion’s previous TV characters: Captain Mal from Firefly. Claiming he’s a “space cowboy,” his daughter remarks, “Didn’t you wear that like, five years ago? Don’t you think you should move on?”
Dave as Austin PowersHappy Endings — “Spooky Endings” (Season 2, Episode 5)
An Austin Powers costume has been eye-rolling since the movie was actually popular which is why it’s so funny that Dave chose this as his 2011 costume, fully committing to the bit while struggling to remain relevant with out-of-date references.
Detective Boyle as Mario BataliBrooklyn Nine-Nine — “Halloween” (Season 1, Episode 6)
Who knows what posessed Boyle to dress up as Mario Batali for Halloween in the first place, let alone to go to work in full costume, just begging for ridicule from his coworkers. But either way, it easily provided one of the best gags of the first season.
Tessa, Lisa, Ryan, and Malik as the Scooby Doo Gang
Suburgatory — “The Witch of East Chatswin” (Season 2, Episode 2)
What really works with Suburgatory is that it didn’t just include a cute group costume for the friends, but went with the gag with an episode that followed the basic beats and cues of a Scooby Doo mystery.
Carlton as Macaulay CulkinThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air — “Hex and the Single Guy” (Season 4, Episode 7)
Bless whoever came up with the idea of Carlton Banks dying his hair blonde and spending Halloween as his “idol,” Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.
Dan as The Three StoogesRoseanne — “Trick or Treat” (Season 3, Episode 7)
Roseanne is, without a doubt, the sitcom queen of Halloween episodes. Most of the costumes went more for fright but I’ve always loved Dan’s Three Stooges costume, proving you don’t need two friends to pull it off.
Gene Belcher as Queen LatifahBob’s Burgers — “Full Bars” (Season 3, Episode 2)
It took a little while for Bob’s Burgers to do a Halloween episode but the writers nailed it on the first try, especially with costumes that perfectly reflected the children like Tina as a Mummy Mommy and Louise as Edward Scissorhands. The winner, however, is Gene, who proudly announces that he’s “Queen Latifah from her U.N.I.T.Y. phase.”
Barney Stinson as a Top Gun fighter pilot
How I Met Your Mother — “The Slutty Pumpkin” (Season 1, Episode 6)
Most of the gang had lackluster Halloween costumes — a pirate, a hanging chad — but Barney’s Top Gun-inspired costume was a fun highlight because Neil Patrick Harris knows how to sell it.
Mindy Lahiri as Lil Wayne on the PrairieThe Mindy Project — “Halloween” (Season 1, Episode 4)
Mindy had a few costumes to choose from, including Dirty Harry Potter and Tinkerbell Tailor Soldier Spy, but the most clever and visually hilarious is her “Lil Wayne on the Prairie”