Top Halloween Movies
Updated: Oct 10
In the spirit of the spooky season with Friday the 13th fast approaching and the Dia de Los Muertos right around the corner, I thought I’d share my list of favorite Halloween movies.
Most of these are older – as am I – as these were the movies I watched growing up. I haven’t seen all the recent horror movies, though I know there is quite a renaissance of scary movies underway. In fact, in many cases the movie I liked has been remade, somtimes more than once, but in nearly all cases I prefer the original.
For me, these are as comforting to watch as they are scary or funny. They may not be the scariest, gruesome-ist, or violent-ist, but it wouldn’t be Halloween for me without watching them. Here are my twenty faves in no particular order (some mild spoilers ahead):
The Shining: Stephen King may not have liked it – it is quite different from his book – but Jack Nicholson is just disturbing. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Poltergeist: Great moments of terror and humor for a totally relatable family. And Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina steals every scene she’s in. They're here!
Amityville Horror: When the house tells you to get out, just get out. I saw this when I was about seven and it has scarred me for life.
Fright Night: What do you do when your neighbor is a vampire? Roddy McDowall is fantastic. Welcome to Fright Night, for real.
IT: Here is one of the remakes I prefer. The recent two-part version is disturbing on many levels and Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise is outstanding.
Creepshow: A little campy, but I love watching Stephen King as a country bumpkin discovering a meteor. And roaches taking over the world? Yeesh.
The Exorcist: A classic with Max von Sydow and Linda Blair's spinning head. The power of Christ compels you!
Planet Terror (Grindhouse): Though I could have gone with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, this is a well-done homage, plus it has Rose McGowan with a machine-gun leg.
Young Frankenstein: That’s Frahnkensteen. Peter Boyle is the greatest monster in Frankenstein history even if his brain is from Abby Somebody.
The Frighteners: Jeffrey Combs is fantastic as the unhinged Milton Dammers, and with roles from John Astin and R. Lee Ermey, the cast is outstanding. Also excellent effects and some really scary scenes.
An American Werewolf in London: Okay, I have to say up front that I’ve always loved Jenny Agutter, and she is spectacular here. Groundbreaking werewolf effects, dreams within dreams, and annoying visits from a zombie. Stay off the moors!
Shaun of the Dead: Somehow it seems an accurate portrayal of how a couple of guys would face the zombie apocalypse – with a trip to the pub.
They Live: Wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper using special sunglasses to see aliens infiltrating humanity? And he’s all out of bubble gum. Yes, please.
Nightbreed: A lesser-known Clive Barker movie, it actually shows some compassion for the creatures we call monsters.
Nightmare on Elm Street: The Wes Craven classic that introduced a young Johnny Depp and a psychotic Freddy Krueger.
The Thing: Though not the original, I really enjoy the Kurt Russell version of this movie. What I hate most is the dog is the bad guy.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Also preferring the version from the 70s, it’s fascinating to see Leonard Nimoy in a non-Spock role. And the look on Brooke Adams’ face at the end is soul-crushing.
Gremlins: You’d think the instructions would be easy to follow, but everyone seems to play it fast and loose with these little guys. Spike shows them what’s what.
From Dusk ‘til Dawn: The second half of this flick, when it becomes a monster movie, is where it finds its groove. And with Salma Hayek and Danny Trejo, what could go wrong?
Army of Darkness: The last and best of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. Bruce Campbell’s jawline makes this movie. This is my boom-stick!
What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments.