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It is officially spooky season, so it’s time to start planning your costume, decorating your house, and watching classic Halloween movies. From tried-and-true standards Hocus Pocus and Halloween to newer thrillers like Get Out, we’ve got your movie nights covered with scary and not-so-scary flicks to get you in the spirit. This list is by no means exhaustive (our apologies to Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein, for example. We’re sure it’s a great cinematic work.) Instead, it’s a collection of the films we at the Cut love to watch this time every year. Here you have it: 40-plus movies to get you in the Halloween mood.
An all-star comedy cast gathers in a big, spooky mansion where the lights are constantly going out and the guests are constantly dying. Everyone’s a suspect, and everyone’s incredibly funny.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
In this Disney classic, the witchy Sanderson sisters are accidentally brought back to life by meddling kids. The gang, along with their black-cat companion, must destroy the trio before they suck the life out of all the children in Salem. Major camp points for Bette Midler’s and Sarah Jessica Parker’s acting in this. And it was really filmed in the famed Massachusetts town, so points for New England authenticity.
The Addams Family (1991)
Who can resist the charms of the delightfully macabre Addams family? The dialogue is sharp and the antics are downright fun. Plus, all kookiness aside, it’s fundamentally a story about a family unit that genuinely loves and cares for one another. Tack on the 1993 sequel, Addams Family Values, for the perfect family-friendly double feature.
In this John Carpenter feature, masked killer Michael Myers escapes from an asylum and returns to his hometown to stalk a babysitter and her friends on — yes — Halloween Night. It’s Jamie Lee Curtis’s film debut, starting her on her path to all-time-great Scream Queen. Plus, there are plenty more installations in the franchise to enjoy, though we suggest skipping to Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, which marks JLC’s return to the series, and the 2018 revival, which is getting a sequel in October.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
This stop-motion gem will make you wish it were Halloween and Christmas all at once. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, discovers Christmas Town and decides he wants to be in charge of a new holiday for once. Hilarity and frights ensue.
Young (newly dead) couple Alec Baldwin (at peak cuteness, pre-anger issues) and Geena Davis (perfect, as always) recruit a poltergeist to help them extricate an unwelcome living family from their house. The standout performance is Michael Keaton’s, but Burton prodigy Winona Ryder is a goth treat, as is comedy legend Catherine O’Hara’s iconic “Day-O” performance.
Corpse Bride (2005)
A nervous groom gets more than he bargained for while practicing his vows, when he accidentally summons a (really very nice) corpse bride. Composer Danny Elfman outdoes himself with the score, so definitely add this one to your viewing queue and your Spotify spooky-jams playlist.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
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This Tim Burton drama is based on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” by Washington Irving. Johnny Depp’s Ichabod Crane is a police constable brought in to save the town from the murderous headless horseman. If you’re looking for a dark, highly stylized period drama with a touch of romance, this is the one for you.
Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s horror thriller follows a Black man (played by Daniel Kaluuya) meeting his girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) family for the first time. What begins as social discomfort about their interracial relationship quickly turns into racial alienation, ultimately exposing the family’s true motive. No spoilers, but then again, you’ve probably already seen it. This dark film’s commentary, poignant twists, and precisely placed scares will have you thinking about it for weeks after.
An amateur heist goes terribly wrong when Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) checks into the Bates Motel and never checks out. This classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller about a boy’s obsessive relationship with his mother will leave you on the edge of your seat. You also may be a little hesitant to draw the curtain next time you get in the shower.
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In this Disney Channel Original Movie, 13-year-old Marnie finds out she’s a witch and then is tasked with saving the perfectly autumnal Halloweentown from “the bad thing.” Hollywood royalty Debbie Reynolds plays the loving, stylish grandmother in this film and its three sequels. Kids these days may expect higher production values, but for the DCOM generation, this is as good as it gets.
The Haunted Mansion (2003)
No joke, this one’s an underrated treasure. This Disney movie is loosely based on the titular theme-park ride and was truly ahead its time. The Evers family ends up at a haunted mansion filled with zany ghosts and must find a way to escape. Eddie Murphy’s dad jokes will have you cracking up. Now that we mention it, you should definitely watch this one with your dad.
Practical Magic (1998)
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More than anything, this is a movie about the loving friendship between two sisters. That said, those sisters are also witches who attempt to use their powers to end their family curse, finding love and killing (and un-killing) someone in the process. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman epitomize a certain cute-’90s-girl look with their long hair and flowy skirts.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
In this 25-minute cartoon, Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts” gang celebrate Halloween. The wholesome plot and bouncy soundtrack of this nostalgic short make it perfect for all ages.
Photo: Disney Channel/Courtesy Everett Collection
Your favorite sister duo, Tia and Tamera Mowry, play twin witches who must return to their birthplace to save it from impending darkness and meet their birth mom, who happens to be a queen. Y’know, teen stuff. This movie isn’t the most sophisticated, but it’s fun. If nothing else, it’ll leave you wanting to binge watch Sister, Sister on Netflix.
For a children’s movie, this one is seriously unsettling. Even the opening credits are enough to give you chills. Coraline is unhappy about moving to a new town with her family, until she discovers a secret door in the house that leads to a magical world. But, of course, everything is not as it seems.
The Exorcist (1973)
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Don’t worry, it’s as scary as you remember. When Linda Blair’s young Regan exhibits signs of possession, her mother seeks out a priest to rid her of the demon. It’s a testament to the film that, as dated as it is, the special effects are still effective today and will leave you shaken.
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
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In this highly quotable, chilling film, an FBI trainee picks the brain of Hannibal Lecter, a psychopathic killer and cannibal, in order to solve a disturbing case. If you love listening to true-crime podcasts, you’ll love this hair-raising classic.
The Village (2004)
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This M. Night Shyamalan thriller is often overlooked in favor of that other M. Night Shyamalan thriller (which also appears on this list), but it’s worth watching in its own right. What you need to know: There are monsters lurking in the woods that surround an insular community. Then just wait for the MNS twist. Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Adrien Brody have great chemistry in this eerie film.
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Every 27 years, Pennywise the clown returns to Derry, Maine, to torment the poor kids who live there. The 1990 miniseries starring Tim Curry is child’s play and a fun trip down ’80s memory lane compared with the truly terrifying version from 2017 starring Bill Skarsgård as the clown that forever haunts our nightmares.
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John Cusack’s depressed writer checks into a hotel room that doesn’t want him to check out. This one leans more into psychological scares than blood and gore. You won’t be able to look away from the screen.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Here it is, the M. Night Shyamalan film that started it all. An adorable, introverted boy begins seeing a psychologist to address his visions of dead people. Come for top-of-his-game ’90s-movie-star Bruce Willis, stay for the twist of all twists.
In this kid-friendly flick, Casper the Friendly Ghost is a bit of an outcast and new to the whole haunting thing. He falls in love with Halloween Queen Christina Ricci. And she kinda falls in love with him too. And he’s … actually kinda cute? Weird, right? But also sweet.
House on Haunted Hill (1999)
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In a tale worthy of Agatha Christie, a group of dinner guests visits an asylum and must make it through the evening’s events alive in order to win a million-dollar prize. FWIW, $1 million in 1999 would be $1.6 million today, but is that really enough to risk your neck?
Crimson Peak (2015)
A young woman marries a sexy engineer (Tom Hiddleston, back when he was the internet’s boyfriend) and moves to his estate, Crimson Peak, unaware of its haunted past and dirty secrets. This movie offers a sexy romance, a twisted one, and a hot twist.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
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Forget what you’ve heard about the series as a whole. The original is a classic horror film. This slasher follows Freddy Kruger as he visits teens in their dreams. It’s perfect for those with an ’80s-teen-flick itch to scratch.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Here’s one to relieve the tension you’ll get from all these other Halloween movies: a Mel Brooks send-up of the classic creature feature. Gene Wilder may have you screaming with laughter, but not fear.
Both the OG film and its 2016 remake feature badass ghost-busting squads. You can’t help falling in love with the fun-loving, comedic casts and their family-friendly take on the paranormal, even if Bill Murray’s character’s hounding of Sigourney Weaver hasn’t aged well.
Scooby-Doo (2002) and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
We liked these movies when they came out, and we still like them today, now that the adult jokes don’t go over our heads. Grab the popcorn and the Scooby Snacks and enjoy this humorous, family-friendly romp with Mystery, Inc., as the squad busts bad guys. You might just fall in love with Matthew Lillard.
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Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you can probably describe Carrie’s prom night more vividly than your own. A tormented high-schooler has supernatural powers and uses them to take revenge on her malicious classmates.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
This celebrated cult classic is a Halloween tradition for so many people — why not you too? Either dress up and attend the live picture show or just watch at home, where you can laugh and sing along from the comfort of your couch.
Why is it that movies set in New England always feel autumnal? In this Robin Williams vehicle, Jumanji is one board game you definitely don’t want to play, but the film is touching, exciting, and thrilling.
This film is based on the spooky children’s novels by R.L. Stine. It won’t send chills down your spine, but it’s a chance to revisit some of the ghosts and ghoulies that gave you nightmares as a child. Give Jack Black a chance.
Scream is the suburban slasher film: a masked murderer torments the attractive teens of Woodsboro, California. This one is filled with all the gory goodness you could need.
The Witches (1990)
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It’s Anjelica Huston’s second appearance on this list. Roald Dahl had a real talent for terrorizing children, and this story of a young boy who discovers a convention of witches set on turning children into mice is no exception.
Double, Double, Toil and Trouble (1993)
Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection
More creepy twins! Just kidding. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen team up in this Halloween flick that is perfect for youths. This made-for-TV movie is charming and bursting with wonderment that will make you wish you could go trick-or-treating.
Photo: Peter Sorel, SMPSP/Summit Entertainment
The first film in the Twilight saga is a safe pick for a Halloween movie night. It can even be the start of a movie marathon if you can’t get enough. Half vampire story and half romance, the movie chronicles the beginning of Bella and Edward’s love affair and is just as popular now as ever.
Photo: LAIKA-Focus Features
From the makers of Coraline, this children’s movie is a little less creepy and just as good. In a fictional Salem-adjacent Massachusetts town, 11-year-old outcast Norman can talk to the dead. When he receives word from his uncle that an old curse is about to come true, he has to use his skill to save everyone.
Photo: Claudette Barius/B) Universal Pictures
Jordan Peele’s second film has everythingGet Outhas — plus it created a new fear of red jumpsuits and scissors. When Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) returns with her husband and children to a beach she used to frequent as a kid, the family runs into four strangers who look a lot like them. If you like horror movies with political commentary, this should be your pick.
- tim burton
- spooky szn
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