The 20 Best Halloween Movies to Watch This Year

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though most people associate the Halloween season with horror movies, there are movies in every genre—from cartoons to comedies—that take their inspiration from the spookiest time of year, either in a pivotal scene or as an overall theme. Here are 20 of our favorites.

1. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)

One of the most iconic scenes in this adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic novel is the night Scout (Mary Badham) walks home in a clumsy ham costume after a Halloween party: She and brother Jem are saved by Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) after being attacked by a man looking for revenge on their father, attorney Atticus Finch. Trapped in the awkward ham costume, Scout is both defenseless and defended—the heavy exterior thwarts the man’s attack and saves her from serious injury. —Jake Rossen

2. IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN (1966)

Though slightly less famous than its yuletide counterpart, this Halloween-themed Peanuts special is just as heartwarming, and introduces us to a whole new benevolent holiday figure: the Great Pumpkin. The 25-minute TV special—one of only three animated by Bill Melendez and featuring a classic score by Vince Guaraldi—follows Linus’s much-mocked Halloween traditions surrounding the Great Pumpkin, like writing him an annual letter and waiting patiently at the local pumpkin patch to try to catch a glimpse of him. You also get to see the whole Peanuts gang partying in their best Halloween costumes (well, most of them opt to be ghosts), including a brief diversion as Snoopy’s Flying Ace takes on the Red Baron. —Shaunacy Ferro

3. HALLOWEEN IS GRINCH NIGHT (1977)

The Grinch is well-known for his animated Christmas special, but in 1977 he made a second television appearance around Halloween. Halloween is Grinch Night takes place on a night when “the sour-sweet wind” is sweeping over Whoville, forcing the Whos indoors and giving the Grinch free rein to terrorize the town. The special lacks the moral lessons and heartwarming ending of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but it does feature some catchy songs and wordplay from script writer Dr. Seuss. And unlike his Christmas story, this special culminates with a trippy horror sequence that’s legitimately scary. —Michele Debczak

4. HALLOWEEN (1978)

John Carpenter's Halloween wasn’t the first slasher flick, but it did help solidify the genre for the next 40 years. The movie established the need for an iconic piece of big screen villainy, which it found in the lumbering, ghostly Michael Myers. Predictably, the movie takes place on Halloween and features all the staples: a knife-wielding maniac, some hysterical teenagers (a young Jamie Lee Curtis among them), and plenty of gruesome kills performed with machine-like precision. Whether you watch it with horrific enthusiasm or through the openings of your petrified fingers covering your face, Halloween is a slasher film that has to be seen by any self-respecting movie fan. —Jay Serafino

5. DARK KNIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1981)

This little-seen TV movie stars Larry Drake (L.A. Law) as Bubba Ritter, a man of impaired intellect who is wrongly accused of attacking a girl in their small southern town. After being murdered by an angry vigilante group, Ritter’s vengeful presence sends the offenders into a paranoid spiral. At a Halloween party, mob leader Otis (Charles Durning) menaces the young victim, who knows he was responsible for Ritter’s murder. All three meet their fates in the climactic chase through a pumpkin patch. —JR

6. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)

Come for the catchy jingle, stay for the legitimately solid storytelling. Though the third entry in the Halloween franchise has been widely mocked for decades, strip away all the cheesiness of its early '80s-ness and you're actually left with a pretty interesting allegory about the power of corporate America (in this case, a popular Halloween mask-maker that has rigged its product to kill off the American population). —Jennifer M. Wood

7. E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL (1982)

In addition to making Reese's Pieces a trick-or-treat staple, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial also gave us one of the most iconic Halloween sequences in cinema. On Halloween, Elliott dresses E.T.—the outer space visitor who has been crashing in his closet—as a bedsheet ghost to sneak him out of the house for the night. The plot device makes for some delightful scenes, like when E.T. tries to heal the fake knife wound on Elliott's brother's head, or when he bumps into a kid dressed as Yoda and confuses him for a fellow alien. (George Lucas returned Steven Spielberg’s shout-out 17 years later by including an E.T. cameo in The Phantom Menace.) —MD

8. ONCE BITTEN (1985)

Ok, so it would probably be more accurate to call Once Bitten—the mid-1980s horror comedy that put Jim Carrey on the map—more of a guilty pleasure than a genuinely great flick. But the film, which features Lauren Hutton as a 400-year-old vampire who requires virgin blood to maintain her youthful glow, offers a genuinely interesting first glimpse at the actor (and huge box office star) Carrey would become in the decades that followed. —JMW

9. THE WORST WITCH (1986)

Before there was Harry Potter, there was Mildred Hubble (Fairuza Balk), a student at Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches whose greatest talent seems to be in turning everything she touches into a catastrophe (hence the title). But when Miss Cackle's evil sister Agatha (both played by Charlotte Rae) makes a sneaky play to take over the school and turn its students into fellow evildoers, it's Mildred who ends up saving the day. —JMW

10. GHOSTWATCH (1992)

This BBC special was broadcast on Halloween night from a supposedly haunted residence in the UK, with the channel’s familiar on-air personalities lending credence to the prank. What starts off as a reality TV stunt quickly goes off the rails, as the ghost (nicknamed Pipes) causes a number of unsettling disturbances for both the family and viewers. The program was so scary it was scolded by British broadcasting officials for not making it clear it was a work of fiction. —JR

11. HOCUS POCUS (1993)

Roger Ebert may have given Hocus Pocus a one-star rating, but the campy film—starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and a pre-Sex and the City Sarah Jessica Parker—is now considered a Halloween cult classic, with an upcoming TV movie reboot (sans original cast) currently in the works. For the uninitiated, the original 1993 flick is set in Salem, Massachusetts, where teen Max Dennison (Omri Haim Katz) accidentally resurrects a trio of murderous witches while trying to impress his crush. Max bands together with love interest Allison (Vinessa Shaw); Thackery Binx, an immortal black cat; and his little sister, Dani (played by a tiny Thora Burch) to thwart the witches' quest to suck out the souls of Salem's children. —KF

12. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas could be billed as either a Halloween movie or a Christmas flick, depending on how macabre you like your holiday films. The 1993 claymation musical features Pumpkin King Jack Skellington—Halloween’s answer to figures like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny—who’s tired of always celebrating the same holiday in his native Halloween Town. When Jack accidentally discovers a portal to Christmas Town, he learns about the unfamiliar holiday and decides to adopt some of its trademark cheer. Jack’s plans go awry, however, when he kidnaps Santa and tries to take over his job. —KF

13. ED WOOD (1994)

Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994) stars the late Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, one of the most famous horror actors of all time, and Johnny Depp as Ed Wood, one of the most infamous directors of all time. Their chemistry is on full view during the film’s Halloween portion: Ed and Bela spend the night watching—what else?—Bela’s own acting when the latter tries to hypnotize the TV host Vampira through the screen, Dracula-style. Later in the night, a group of trick-or-treaters visits the house and Bela dons his cape to answer the door in full character. When one of the children isn’t scared by his antics, Ed shows up and removes his dentures, which sends the kid running. —MD

14. THE CROW (1994)

This comic book-inspired tale of revenge kicks off on the night before Halloween, which also happens to be the day before their wedding, as a young couple (Brandon Lee and Sofia Shinas) is brutally murdered as part of a blood-soaked Devil’s Night ritual. One year later, the would-be groom is resurrected via a mystical crow, turning him into a one-man army as he hunts down those responsible for his fiancée's death. Lee’s sometimes sullen, sometimes wrathful performance anchors the movie in humanity, while director Alex Proyas’s stylish visuals rival those found in Tim Burton’s much more expensive Batman. Though Hollywood’s obsession with comic book properties was still a few years off, Proyas’s work on The Crow would certainly go on to influence the likes of the grim and gritty world of Blade and the rundown Narrows of Gotham City in Batman Begins. —JS

15. CASPER (1995)

Not all ghosts have to be bad—and since his animated debut back in the 1940s, Casper has been advertised as being downright friendly. So a 1995 big-budget family film was a no-brainer for Sony. The movie stars Christina Ricci as a young girl Casper befriends as she prepares to throw a Halloween party at her house for her classmates. Despite being a movie for the family, Casper gets surprisingly dark, even going as far as to show that the friendly ghost was actually a friendly human kid before he got pneumonia and died. Though it’s a bit of a downer, Casper has retained a following over the years, spawning a handful of direct-to-video follow-ups that brightened the franchise up. —JS

16. HALLOWEENTOWN (1998)

This Disney Chanel Original Movie has turned into a bona fide hit. It follows a young girl named Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) whose mom has never allowed her to go trick or treating and who has forbidden her from going to a classmate's costume party. Eventually, Marnie learns that her mom's reluctance to let her indulge in the Halloween spirit is because her own mom (Debbie Reynolds) is a witch—which is a pretty big family secret to drop on a kid. With this newfound knowledge that she is part witch, Marnie and her siblings secretly follow their grandmother back to her home in Halloweentown, and are forced to take on a powerful demon. This is family-friendly Halloween-watching at its best. —JMW

17. GINGER SNAPS (2000)

Teen sisters Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle) are having some issues slightly outside of the norm: Ginger was bitten by a werewolf, and a cure isn’t easy to come by. As Brigitte scrambles for a solution, Ginger embraces her inner animal and makes their Halloween night one to remember. (And dismember.) —JR

18. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

Played by a young Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko’s titular character is a troubled high school student in Middlesex, Virginia, who’s dealing with school, love, and—oh yeah—the world’s pending demise. Donnie’s convinced that existence as he knows it will end in 28 days, as predicted by Frank, a mysterious nighttime visitor in a rabbit suit. Meanwhile, a jet engine has crashed into Donnie’s room, and authorities can’t figure out where it came from. Be prepared for a seriously trippy plot, and to finish the film with lots of lingering philosophical questions about time travel. —KF

19. HALLOWEEN (2007)

Many fans of John Carpenter's inimitable 1978 horror classic still have a chip on their shoulder about this 2007 remake, and understandably so. But if you separate the film from its source material, and go into it thinking of it as a semi-original piece of horror content, there's actually a fair amount of pleasure to be derived from it by serious horror fans. Yes, it retreads some of what Carpenter already did, but it also works as more of an origin story for Michael Myers, depicting why he became the sadistic serial killer he did. Is it unnecessary? Sure. But Rob Zombie's dark deep dive into the psyche of such an infamous slasher is one of the more stylish and interesting entries in the classic-horror-movie-remake subgenre—even if it doesn't come close to being the masterpiece that the original was. —JMW

20. TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)

Despite being one of the more celebrated horror films of the last decade, 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat never got a full theatrical release. Instead, it amassed a sizable cult following through limited screenings and at film festivals. This is an anthology movie in the vein of 1982’s Creepshow and, like it, Trick ‘r Treat remembers to pack its share of black humor into each vignette. The movie is as much a love letter to horror as a genre as it is to the Halloween holiday, and it’s become required viewing for genre junkies every October 31. —JS

10 Unforgettable Facts About The Notebook On Its 15th Anniversary

Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams star in The Notebook (2004).
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams star in The Notebook (2004).
New Line Cinema

In 1996, Nicholas Sparks published his first book, The Notebook. He would go on to write several more romance novels, many of which would be adapted into films. But 2004’s film adaption of The Notebook remains the highest-grossing Sparks adaptation, making $115 million worldwide against a $25 million budget. It was Rachel McAdams's breakout lead role (it was released just a few months after Mean Girls); it solidified Ryan Gosling as a “hey girl” heartthrob; and it swept all eight categories it was nominated for at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards, winning in categories like Choice Movie Love Scene and Choice Movie Liplock.

The book and movie follow a young couple named Noah (Gosling) and Allie (Adams) in 1940s North Carolina (the movie was filmed in South Carolina). Despite some obstacles, the couple fall in love, marry, and spend the next 60 years together. In present day, it’s revealed that Allie, now an old woman (played by Gena Rowlands), has Alzheimer’s, and her doting husband (James Garner, as an elderly Noah) helps her remember their storied past. In 2003, Sparks published a loose sequel called The Wedding, featuring the characters Allie and Noah. Here are 10 facts about the beloved romance, which arrived in theaters 15 years ago today.

1. It was based on a true story.

Nicholas Sparks’s book was based on his then-wife Cathy's grandparents, who spent more than 60 years together. Cathy was close to her grandparents, and visited them frequently. The grandparents were too ill to attend their wedding, in 1989, so the newly-married couple brought the wedding to them. They dressed up in their wedding clothes and surprised them at their house. Cathy's grandparents told the Sparks how they met and fell in love, decades ago.

“But though their story was wonderful, what I most remember from that day is the way they were treating each other,” Sparks wrote on his website. “The way his eyes shined when he looked at her, the way he held her hand, the way he got her tea and took care of her. I remember watching them together and thinking to myself that after 60 years of marriage, these two people were treating each other exactly the same as my wife and I were treating each other after 12 hours. What a wonderful gift they’d given us, I thought, to show us on our first day of marriage that true love can last forever.”

Unfortunately for Nicholas and Cathy, their love didn’t last forever—they divorced in 2015

2. Nicholas Sparks thinks the book was successful because it was relatable.


Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

“It seems that nearly everyone I spoke with about the novel knew a ‘Noah and Allie’ in their own life,” Sparks wrote on his website. He also said the book was short enough (224 pages) for people to read it quickly. “I think that readers also appreciate that the novel didn’t include foul language and its love scene was tasteful and mild compared to what’s found in many other novels,” he said. “These factors made people feel comfortable about recommending it to others.”

3. The screenwriter had to work hard to make the characters seem real.

The Notebook screenwriter Jeremy Leven had the daunting task of adapting Sparks's book into a script. “The problem with the book is that it’s melodramatic and sweet, and you have to find a way to appeal to an audience that is apprehensive about yet another sweet movie,” Leven told The Harvard Crimson. “So you have to give it an edge, make it real, and make the choices the characters face real.” That “edge” probably includes the love scene in the rain.

4. Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling didn't get along—at first.


Melissa Moseley/New Line Cinema

Even though they played lovers in the movie and then began dating in real life, the couple clashed during production. Director Nick Cassavetes told MTV a story about an incident when Gosling and McAdams weren’t getting along on the set one day: “Ryan came to me, and there’s 150 people standing in this big scene, and he says, ‘Nick come here,’” Cassavetes shared. “And he’s doing a scene with Rachel and he says, ‘Would you take her out of here and bring in another actress to read off camera with me?’ I said, ‘What?’ We went into a room with a producer; they started screaming and yelling at each other ... The rest of the film wasn’t smooth sailing, but it was smoother sailing.”

5. McAdams and Gosling's on-screen chemistry probably wasn't real.

“[Our later relationship] certainly wasn’t something that either of us had expected would come out of that filmmaking experience,” McAdams said, “which goes to show you that you can engineer chemistry on-screen just by telling the audience that these two people love each other.” She said it was attributed to the acting. “As an actor you don’t have to feel it. You don’t have to feel anything. Just imagine it.”

6. Jessica Biel was bummed she didn't get to play Allie.


Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NBC

Unlike Gosling, McAdams had to audition for the role of Allie, and so did Jessica Biel. “I was in the middle of shooting Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I auditioned with Ryan Gosling in my trailer—covered in blood,” Biel told Elle. “That’s one that I wanted so badly. But there’s a million that get away. We’re gluttons for punishment. It’s just rejection.”

7. McAdams felt a lot of pressure to deliver a great performance.

The actress told Film Monthly she knew she had to be good in the movie, because she had to carry it. “At first I put way too much pressure on myself and realized that it wasn’t getting me anywhere,” she said. “I was just a ball of stress, and eventually the character kicked in where she’s sort of free-spirited, doesn’t care what people think, and chases down those things she wants.” She eventually found the right balance.

8. James Marsden thought the movie was going to be "schmaltzy."


Melissa Moseley/New Line Cinema

James Marsden played Allie’s fiancé—and Noah’s rival—Lon Hammond Jr. The actor told Out Magazine how he tries not to make a bad movie, but they sometimes turn out that way. “Then there are some movies that I’ve been in that I was sure people would laugh at, that have become huge,” he said. “I thought The Notebook was going to be a schmaltzy Movie of the Week–type thing, and here we are!”

9. Nick Cassavetes was the fourth choice to direct the movie.

New Line Cinema acquired the rights to Sparks's novel in 1995, before the book was even published. In 1998, Variety reported that Steven Spielberg wanted to direct the film. Jim Sheridan was also interested, but he decided to direct In America instead. In 2001, The Mask of Zorro and GoldenEye director Martin Campbel almost signed on, but in 2002 New Line brought Cassavetes aboard.

10. James Garner ruined his first take shooting with Gena Rowlands.


Melissa Moseley/New Line Cinema

Nick Cassavetes—son of legendary director John Cassavetes—cast his mother, the great Gena Rowlands, as the elderly Allie. Garner recalled the first day he and Gena filmed together. “She's going to come out and I’m sitting on the porch in a chair or something. And I hear Nick say, ‘Okay, mom. Action.’ Well, I ruined that take because I just broke up. That was so funny. That tickled me to death. But he showed his mother great respect. He was gentle with her and worked with her. What I loved about it is that she listened to him. Here’s a professional actress who’s one of the best ever, and she’s listening to her son tell her about things. I really admired that in both of them.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

Alexander Skarsgård Could Have Played Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Larry Busacca, Getty Images
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

Marvel fans may have trouble imagining Thor played by anyone other than Chris Hemsworth, but apparently, Alexander Skarsgård was pretty darn close to getting the role. How close, you ask? He tried on the costume, held the hammer, and even filmed an audition in the garb.

In 2009—just a year after True Blood premiered—the actor told MTV that he met with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and Thor director Kenneth Branagh about the part. “Yeah, I met with Kevin [Feige] a few times and the director,” he said. “There was definitely some truth in that, yeah.”

When the MTV interviewer said he thought the actor had the perfect look to bring Thor to life, Skarsgård simply replied, “So did I.”

But before you start to feel too sorry for Skarsgård, let's not forget the number of impressive roles the True Blood alum has landed. At the moment, he’s playing Perry Wright in HBO’s Big Little Lies, for which he won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

As for the Thor role, Hemsworth went on to play the God of Thunder in multiple films, and although his future in the MCU is not certain after Avengers: Endgame, the Australian actor confirmed he’d love to keep playing the character.

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