10. Once Bitten (1985)
An ‘80s sexy comedy starring a horny vampiress played by Lauren Hutton, who sets her sights on virgin high schooler Mark, played by pre-fame Jim Carrey. Mark’s girlfriend won’t put out, but since this was made in the ‘80s, there’s a dance off between her and the Countess at the school Halloween dance that’s too good to miss.
9. WNUF Halloween Special (2013)
Fictional found-footage film WNUF Halloween Special is billed as a lost local TV program recorded during Halloween in 1987. TV personality Frank Stewart takes a team of supernatural investigators into the haunted Webber House where creepiness ensues. Director Chris LaMartina took great care to make the footage look authentic, adding the necessary static and recreating a series of fun commercials from the time period. The movie was also given a limited release on VHS.
8. The Worst Witch (1986)
There’s something incredibly charming and fun about The Worst Witch, based on the children’s book of the same name by Jill Murphy. The cast alone makes it worthy: Fairuza Balk (as a fledgling witch in witch school), Diana Rigg (as the saucy teacher), Charlotte Rae (in a dual role), and Tim Curry (as a pink-caped, flying “Grand Wizard”). And who can resist Curry breaking out in song, complete with tambourine? Not us.
7. Lady in White (1988)
A small-town folktale becomes frighteningly real when a young boy is haunted by ghosts from the past in Frank LaLoggia’s eerie tale that resurrects childhood scares for all ages. Think atmospheric mystery over blood-soaked horror tale. The Lady in White feels like something Ray Bradbury might write.
6. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Hocus Pocus has plenty of “meh” moments, but the film starring a larger-than-life Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as a trio of witches has become a ‘90s cult gem. Roger Ebert gave the movie a cranky review in 1993, writing:
It’s one of those projects where you imagine everyone laughing and applauding each other after every scene, because they’re so convinced they’re wild and crazy guys. But watching the movie is like attending a party you weren’t invited to, and where you don’t know anybody, and they’re all in on a joke but won’t explain it to you. . . . Of the film’s many problems, the greatest may be that all three witches are thoroughly unpleasant. They don’t have personalities; they have behavior patterns and decibel levels. A good movie inspires the audience to subconsciously ask, “Give me more!” The witches in this one inspired my silent cry, “Get me out of here!”
5. Night of the Demons (1988)
We have to award any movie that uses Bauhaus’ “Stigmata Martyr” in a dance scene a spot on our list. Night of the Demons eventually expanded into a series of horror sequels and a remake (part two is a little goofier, but also worth a watch). A bunch of teens head to a haunted mansion for a Halloween party (aka to have sex), but a lurking demon has other plans. The gore is fun if you’re into that sort of thing (scream queen Linnea Quigley does something with a tube of lipstick that you won’t soon forget).
4. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
A Halloween-set screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, starring Cary Grant and legendary spookmeister Peter Lorre? Don’t mind if we do. “There’s nothing in Arsenic and Old Lace but sheer comedic insanity, glazed over with a coat of diabolical darkness that, in comparison to more free-spirited comedies of the era, makes it seem nothing short of ahead of its time,” writes Classic Movie Guide.
3. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
This anthology tale featuring four Halloween-themed stories has become a recent classic for horror fans. From Sound on Sight:
Trick ‘r Treat isn’t afraid to get under your skin while simultaneously entertaining. Like a good set of ghost stories told between friends, all the tales in Trick ‘r Treat are guaranteed to give both goosebumps and giggles. With a great cast and a great script full of spooky atmosphere, Michael Doughtery crafts a true Halloween movie that should be mandatory viewing every year on the night of Samhain. Ghosts, goblins, and ghouls abound should find more than their fair share of frightful delight in this horror anthology as Trick ‘r Treat is a bag of Halloween goodies that has already been thoroughly checked and approved. Dig in!
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
We hit peak Tim Burton with his stop-motion Halloween fantasy film that shifts between Halloween and Christmas themes. Characters Jack Skellington and rag doll Sally are the patron saints of young mall goths everywhere. The Danny Elfman score is nothing short of addictive, and Burton’s visual effects are pure magic.
1. Halloween (1978)
There’s some kind of unwritten law that everyone must watch John Carpenter’s influential classic horror film Halloween on October 31. Starring a young Jamie Lee Curtis, who would become recognized as one of horror cinema’s first and most important “final girls,” Carpenter’s stalk and slash epic continued the precedent that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho set for the slasher movie — and like its predecessor, Halloween’s power is in its tension, as the film is relatively bloodless. The character of Michael Myers, a silent, lumbering man in a mask wielding a knife, embodied pure evil — and would go on to terrorize people in nearly a dozen films. The tropes and style of Halloween inspired a wave of modern horror movies and has left an indelible mark on filmmakers and audiences since its release.