Holidays bring with them a comforting sense of tradition, and during Halloween, our tradition is to immerse ourselves in classic horror films. Amidst the vast array of chilling cinema, we tend to gravitate toward the tried and true when this season arrives. We seek the guidance of our familiar directors, spanning from the legendary talents of James Whale and Stanley Kubrick to contemporary favorites such as Jordan Peele and James Wan. We long for that strangely comforting sensation of wandering through a dimly lit, eerie house, bracing ourselves for the next unexpected scare.
These, when the mood is right, are the best Halloween movies of all time. Most of them have endured the test of time because they tap into our underlying anxieties, whether it's something as minor as creepy dolls or the overarching fear that, despite our best efforts, we can never fully protect our loved ones. Some are more recent favorites destined to stand the test of time, owing to the unique voices they bring to the world of horror. Others blend the old and the new, introducing fresh entries, reboots, or remakes into beloved long-running franchises. They encompass a plethora of horror elements, from witches, vampires, haunted houses, and ghosts to psychological terrors, which is another reason these films become our October go-tos.
Let's discover the best Halloween movies of all time!
The Best Halloween Movies of All-Time
Retable's "The Best Halloween Movies of All-Time" is a list that spans decades of cinematic history, offering a diverse range of films to cater to every taste and preference during the spooky season. From timeless classics like "Halloween" and "Night of the Living Dead" that set the standards for the horror genre, to beloved family-friendly titles such as "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," this collection is a testament to the enduring appeal of Halloween on the silver screen. It covers chilling tales of the supernatural, heartwarming animations, psychological thrillers, and even comedies with a spooky twist. These films have become iconic in their own right, each contributing to the rich tapestry of Halloween traditions that both terrify and enchant audiences around the world. Whether you're a horror aficionado or simply looking for some seasonal fun, these movies have something to offer for everyone, making them the best Halloween movies to revisit year after year.
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- Halloween (1978), Horror
This iconic film featuring the unstoppable killing machine that is Michael Myers is a classic. It's worth it for the atmospheric John Carpenter score alone. A new trilogy refreshed the series with its original star, Jamie Lee Curtis. In Halloween, Director David Gordon Green re-focused the series on the Strode women and their reaction to the return of Michael Myers. A sequel, Halloween Kills, followed in 2021, and the trilogy concluded last year with Halloween Ends.
- It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966), Animation, Family
For many, it's simply not Halloween season until the whole family has gathered on the couch to watch this animated special starring the Peanuts gang. Will the Great Pumpkin finally show up this year?
- Rosemary's Baby (1968), Horror, Mystery
Mia Farrow is chilling as the pregnant young Rosemary, who must face the truth about the secret origins of the mysterious child she's carrying. It's a true, slow-burn terror.
- Nosferatu (1929), Horror, Silent
Can a horror movie from 1929 still hold up close to 100 years later? Take one look at F. W. Murnau's creature, embodied brilliantly by actor Max Schreck, and you'll say the answer is a resounding yes.
- Poltergeist (1982), Horror
Even now, if you say, "They're heeeere," in a creepy voice, people will shudder. It's all thanks to this story about a house possessed by angry spirits.
- Psycho (1960), Horror, Thriller
Everything about Hitchcock's Psycho, from its string-filled score to its creepy twist ending is classic. And yet, when you watch it, whether it's for the first time or the hundredth, it still brings up feelings of dread.
- Beetlejuice (1988), Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
A Tim Burton invention, Beetlejuice is a family-friendly horror film tracing a couple who find themselves stuck haunting their home in the afterlife. It's one of the few movies that puts you on the side of the ghosts haunting the house.
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Horror, Thriller
Leatherface stands up there with the greats when you talk about horror-movie franchise icons. The first one is a grimy, seedy tale of five friends who pick up a hitchhiker, only to be drawn into a house where a chainsaw-wielding killer lurks. The film launched a host of sequels, reboots and sequels to the reboots, including 2022's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a Netflix film that has Leatherface pitted against influencers seeking to gentrify his neighborhood.
- Get Out (2017), Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Jordan Peele's masterpiece, which uses horror as a vehicle to explore racism, is an absolute must-see. You'll be thinking about this one long after you turn the lights out.
- Child's Play (1988), Horror, Thriller
Imagine Toy Story, but without, well, all the things that give it Disney's stamp of approval. Instead of Woody and Buzz, this movie follows a young boy who receives a doll that takes on a possessed life of its own. When you're finished with the film series, you can move on to the Chucky TV show that ran on SYFY recently (and now streams on Peacock).
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Animation, Family, Fantasy
It's up for debate whether this classic falls into the Halloween or Christmas category. Either way, Tim Burton's imaginary world is a sheer delight. (So maybe watch it once a week from October to December?)
- Night of the Living Dead (1968), Horror
George A. Romero has made his career directing the best zombie movies, usually using the undead as a stand-in to say something about mass culture at large. But even if the metaphors go over your head, just watching the flesh-eating creatures is scary enough on its own. There are six sequels: Dawn of the Dead (which is sadly not streaming, but the 2004 remake is), Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead.
- M3GAN (2023), Horror, Sci-Fi
The Model 3 Generative Android — that's M3GAN to you — was designed to relate to kids and protect them. But when the prototype is paired with a girl grieving her parents, she takes her directive too far in one of the most fun horror movies to come out in years.
- Young Frankenstein (1974), Comedy
Heralded as one of the funniest movies of all time, the jokes in this hilarious Mel Brooks spoof still hold up. It's perfect for when you want to watch something in the Halloween spirit, but don't feel like being scared.
- The Conjuring (2013), Horror, Mystery, Thriller
When paranormal investigators are called to search an isolated farmhouse, they think they can handle the less-than-horrifying hauntings there. But, if we know anything from the horror movies of yore, it's that spirits should never be underestimated. The movie is based on the real-life exploits of paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren. If you like it, you can follow up with the sequels or the spin-offs, including the Annabelle and The Nun franchises.
- The Shining (1980), Horror, Thriller
Easily one of the most recognizable entries on this list, The Shining features Jack Nicholson's breathtaking performance as the writer-turned-madman Jack Torrance. It's a Stephen King classic that director Stanley Kubrick truly makes his own.
- X (2022), Drama, Horror
A group of friends decide to rent a barn on the grounds of a farmhouse and try to surreptitiously film a dirty movie, which would chagrin the farm's elderly owners. When the aged Pearl catches wise to what the group is doing, she starts stalking the filmmakers, including young ingénue Maxine. Mia Goth plays a dual role as both Pearl and Maxine in a movie that has a lot on its mind about aging, art, and how to make a legacy. After X debuted in spring 2022, a surprise sequel, Pearl, immediately followed before the end of the year. A third movie, MaXXXine, is also on the way.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Horror
Even little kids who don't watch scary movies know who Freddy Krueger is. (And they kind of should!) A Nightmare on Elm Street introduces the world to the dream-haunting, claw-gloved villain, Freddy, in one of the most enduring and iconic horror franchises.
- Trick 'r Treat (2007), Horror, Comedy
What happens when you don't follow the rules of Halloween traditions? The residents of a small Ohio town find out in this horror flick that weaves together four intertwining tales. While it had a small release, this movie has had a cult following — Trick 'r Treat Sam, the kid with the burlap mask and the orange PJs, is a surprisingly enduring kids' Halloween costume.
- House on Haunted Hill (1959), Horror
No doubt you've heard the premise before: A wealthy eccentric offers five guests a big cash prize if they can survive the night in a haunted house. Vincent Price plays the millionaire in this classic film by William Castle. When it was shown originally, Castle, who was known for his in-theater gimmicks, had a skeleton with red, glowing eyes float over the audience at the end of the movie. There was also an ill-regarded remake made in 1999.
- A Quiet Place (2018), Horror, Drama
This inventive post-apocalyptic thriller takes place in a world where even the slightest sound can spell your imminent death. Real-life couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski play the parents in this tale of how we can never really keep our children safe. After many pandemic delays, A Quiet Place Part II followed in 2021, and picks up immediately where the first movie leaves off.
- Barbarian (2022), Horror, Drama
The premise is simple: A woman shows up to the house she rented for the weekend, only to find a man inside who says he had already booked it. It's late, there's rain pouring down, and the man offers to share the space for the night. Do you go in? This movie plays with your expectations for what happens in a typical horror movie, and has an astute eye toward the way men and women respond to different threats differently, which keeps a seemingly no-frills setup fresh.
- Hocus Pocus (1993), Comedy, Family, Fantasy
The campy Disney Halloween classic makes chatty black cats and goofy witches the epitome of Halloween fun. And now that the much-anticipated Hocus Pocus 2 is out on Disney+, you can plan a double feature this Halloween.
- The Babadook (2014), Horror, Drama
Besides being a great Halloween costume, the Babadook — a menacing figure in a top hat and coat — also represents an ambivalence to parenthood. (Not that any parents out there can relate!) But, kids or no, the way it menaces the family in this movie is very, very frightening.
- Orphan (2009), Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Esther earns her place among the Creepy Horror Movie Children pantheon, right alongside Danny from The Shining and all those kids from Village of the Damned. In the movie, she's adopted into a new family and starts to exhibit strange behaviors that start to want to drive the family apart. A sequel, Orphan: First Kill, came out last year — and the same actress plays Esther, despite it being 13 years later. (How? The other actors wore heels and lifts in their shoes to make her seem like she was still kid-sized.)
- Scream (1996), Horror, Mystery
This clever classic reinvigorated the slasher genre with deadly wit. Watch to learn the rules of the genre, like why you should never get too close to the man in the mask, only to have those tropes be subverted. A sixth entry in the franchise, Scream IV, came out earlier this year, and moves the action to New York City for the first time.
- Cat People (1942), Horror, Fantasy
Film critic Roger Ebert says this movie, "wasn't frightening like a slasher movie, using shocks and gore, but frightening in an eerie, mysterious way that was hard to define; the screen harbored unseen threats, and there was an undertone of sexual danger that was more ominous because it was never acted upon." It's a good one to watch with someone who wants to see scary movies, but can't handle jump scares or gore.
- Hellraiser (1987), Horror, Fantasy
Okay, gore fans, this one's for you: Hellraiser is about a puzzle box that, if solved correctly, is said to open a portal to a realm of pleasure. But when a man buys it and tries to solve it in his attic, he suffers some gnarly consequences. This movie is also the originator of the Cenobites, including the "Pinhead" figure, which are their own horror icons. The film spawned nine sequels, and last year it received the reboot treatment.
- Hereditary (2018), Horror, Fantasy
An absolutely terrifying paranormal horror — featuring Toni Collette in impeccable form as the Graham family matriarch — Hereditary is what you watch if you don't want a wink of sleep on Hallow's Eve.
- Death Becomes Her (1992), Comedy, Fantasy
Frenemies played by Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep discover the secret of eternal youth — but as it turns out, living forever isn't all it's cracked up to be. More comedy than horror, this Robert Zemeckis classic is a fun ride.
- Terrifier (2016), Horror, Thriller
Move over, Pennywise there's a new creepy clown in town — Terrifier's Art the Clown. The Terrifier franchise is known for being low in budget but extra high in gore, blood, and kills, living up to its name. The sequel, Terrifier 2, made headlines because it cost a mere $250,000 to make (some of it crowdsourced from Indiegogo) but earned more than $15 million at the box office last year. A third movie is in the works.
- The Monster Squad (1987), Comedy, Horror
Here's one that you can watch with the tweens (maybe) and teens (most likely). In the vein of something like The Goonies, this film has a bunch of kids who have to go up against the classic Universal monsters, including Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
- The Ring (2002), Horror, Mystery
A remake of the 1999 Japanese horror film Ringu, this classic takes the whole "creepy child" trope to a whole other level. Trust us: You'll have a hard time watching any old cassette tapes ever again.
- The Blair Witch Project (1999), Horror
The movie that popularized the concept of "found footage" horror, this cult favorite follows a group of documentary filmmakers who venture into the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland, to investigate the legend of the Blair Witch. As they delve deeper into the woods, they find themselves lost and terrorized by unseen forces.
- The Purge (2013), Horror, Thriller
One night a year, all laws are suspended, and everything becomes legal so people can blow off steam — what can go wrong, right? The Purge is the backdrop for five movies and a TV series — each with their own creepy masks — which show you all the different ways society can break down when there are no rules keeping everyone in line.
- Insidious (2010), Horror, Thriller
Directed by James Wan, who co-created Saw and would go on to do The Conjuring, this film follows a family that's haunted by an unfriendly presence after moving to a new house. When their oldest son, Dalton, falls into a coma, they have to consult a psychic and enter an unearthly realm of existence to find his soul and bring it back. This film already has three sequels, and a new one, Insidious: The Red Door, comes out in July.
- Practical Magic (1998), Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock as sibling witches? Sign us up. This delightful cult-classic rom-com is a perfect pick for anyone who wants a gentle, lovelorn Halloween.
- The Sixth Sense (1999), Drama, Mystery, Thriller
"I see dead people" is by far one of the most popular Halloween movie quotes to this day, and rightly so. In this paranormal drama, Haley Joel Osment plays a 9-year-old boy who has to help spirits move on, in sometimes unexpected ways.
- Friday the 13th (1980), Horror, Mystery
There's a reason so many of us are wary of Friday the 13th whenever it comes up on our calendars. We can owe a lot of that nervousness to this eerie fan-favorite and the franchise that followed.
- Coraline (2009), Animation, Fantasy, Family
Follow young explorer Coraline through a door into an alternate dimension, where she meets characters who seem much like those in her real life ... but maybe a little off (even as they promise her everything she wants). Even though it's made for children, Coraline's creepy button eyes will make even adults a little unsettled.
- Sleepy Hollow (1999), Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
Loosely based on Washington Irving's 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp star in this gothic romance directed by Tim Burton. It has plenty of macabre touches, but also some silliness, too.
- Us (2019), Horror, Thriller
A brilliant invention from Jordan Peele, this allegorical horror features a family who discovers their violent doppelgängers while on vacation. The only thing scarier than a monster is ... yourself.
- Ghostbusters (1984), Action, Comedy, Fantasy
This is a good one to throw on for a mixed-aged group, since it's a mix of funny and scary (and hopefully not too terrifying). Make it a month-long Ghostbusters marathon with the sequel, the re-do, and 2021's Ghostbusters: Afterlife — plus a sequel to that coming out this year.
- Happy Death Day (2017), Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Think of it as the Groundhog Day of Halloween movies: A young woman wakes up to find it's her birthday, every day, and she has to experience her own murder over and over. She begins to investigate her own death, hoping she can break the time loop. A sequel, Happy Death Day 2 U, followed in 2019 and goes in even more of a sci-fi direction.
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Comedy, Horror, Musical
Host your own midnight showing of this musical comedy horror film starring a young Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry — then just try to hold yourself back from dancing along to the "Time Warp."
- Edward Scissorhands (1990), Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Another Tim Burton cult classic, this surprisingly heartwarming tale of a young man makes us re-think the definition of what a "monster" really is. Is it the grotesque human with scissors for hands, or the "normal"-looking suburbanites who gossip and back-stab around him?
- The Evil Dead (1981), Horror
Before he dipped into the MCU, Dr. Strange, and the Multiverse of Madness director Sam Raimi toyed with overlapping timelines and alternate takes in his Evil Dead series. The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness all feature hero Ash going up against a series of deformed creatures after running afoul of The Book of the Dead. And, without a Marvel-sized budget, they're all done with B-movie verve.
- Pet Sematary (1989), Horror, Thriller
Pretty much any Stephen King adaptation — and there are a lot of them — makes for good Halloween viewing. This one follows a man who, wracked with grief over the death of his toddler, buries the kid in a pet cemetery that is said to bring dead things back to life. It works — but his son comes back wrong. This film also has a sequel and a more recent remake.
- Halloweentown (1998), Adventure, Comedy, Family
If your kids wish that Halloween could be every night of the year, you’re in luck: In the magical Disney classic Halloweentown, that’s basically how it goes.
- The Addams Family (1991), Comedy, Fantasy
This kid-friendly classic is an easy choice for a spooky — but not nightmare-inducing — Halloween movie night. There's a recent cartoon version with a road-trip-themed sequel, but you can't beat the OG — and its 1993 follow-up, Addams Family Values — for its chemistry between Raul Julia and Anjelica Houston.
In the realm of Halloween entertainment, these films stand as enduring classics that capture the eerie spirit of the season. From the spine-tingling suspense of "The Shining" to the infectious humor of "Beetlejuice," and the supernatural charm of "Hocus Pocus," each movie adds its unique touch to the tapestry of Halloween. They offer something for everyone, from the aficionados of heart-pounding horror to those who prefer a dose of family-friendly fun. Whether you're seeking a scare, a laugh, or a combination of both, these best Halloween movies of all time are perennial favorites that have delighted audiences for generations and continue to cast their spell every October. So, dim the lights, grab your popcorn, and get ready for a spooktacular movie night this Halloween season.
Quick tip: Remember that you can also access the categorized list of all these Halloween movies by checking the "views" section of this table.
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