Halloween is about many things – costumes, candy, carving pumpkins, ghosts, egging people’s houses, etc. – but it’s also about the movies, y’all!
While many of you might be out trick-or-treating tonight or breaking out your best Monster Mash at a costume party, some of you might prefer a quieter night in with some spooky flicks. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
I asked our team of YH contributing writers what their favorite Halloween movies are – the ones that they just cannot get through October without watching at least once. See their picks below, then pop some popcorn, turn out all the lights, and fire up some (or all) of these seasonal classics! (Spoiler alert: 1993 was an excellent year for Halloween flicks!)
Amanda Baltazar: Hocus Pocus (1993)
Hocus Pocusis my favorite and the best Halloween movie because it embodies the true spirit of Halloween with the balance of both a character- and plot-driven story of the Sanderson sisters (evil witches) being brought to life by an unsuspecting teenager. In this case, don't listen to Rotten Tomatoes! Hocus Pocus is dynamic in its story, comedy, and exploration of Halloween. Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Bette Midler all give outstanding performances that are both hilarious and creepy and had me shaking under my blanket when I was a kid. It's a great family movie for introducing everything about Halloween to your children. But most of all, it features the only Halloween song I will tolerate.
Brittany Taormina: Halloweentown (1998)
This Disney classic is the best film to watch on Halloween, especially if you’re a ‘90s kid. I was only 5 years old when the movie came out, and I still want to move to the fictional world of Halloweentown. It’s one of my favorites because it definitely brings back a sense of nostalgia during this time of year, and I love that the core of the movie is based around good witches. Who doesn’t want to have magic powers? I know I do! I loved that Marnie and her grandmother, Aggie, always believed in helping others. It was just plain good fun, and to this day, I still live by the famous quote from Aggie Cromwell: “Being normal is vastly overrated.” It’s true! Happy Halloween!
Caroline Thayer: Double, Double Toil and Trouble (1993)
Double the Olsen, double the fun. Mary-Kate and Ashley know how to do movies right. The young child stars made a plethora of fun-family flicks to watch for any occasion, and they obviously made an epic Halloween movie that rocked my world when I was five years old (and even now). Double, Double Toil and Troublefollows the story of Kelly and Lynn (played by Mary-Kate and Ashley, respectively), a pair of twins who make it their mission to rescue their banished Aunt Sophia, who was permanently “locked away” by her evil twin sister, Agatha. Their attempts to help their aunt is triggered by their parents’ financial problems, who have just unsuccessfully received a loan from the spewing Aunt Agatha, who was quick to reject their request. Kelly and Lynn are also just adorable little people, who, out of the goodness of their hearts, want to help not only their parents, but their aunt too.
I love the contrasting symbolism of twins in this movie -- the young girls work together to achieve righteousness, while the older women (specifically Agatha) view having a twin sister as a disability and a strain on individuality. Mary-Kate and Ashley always made me WISH I had a twin after multiple excellent portrayals of the twin life in their movies! This is definitely my favorite Halloween movie, as nostalgic feelings for my childhood arise and I am reminded that the kindest of souls can be found in the littlest of people, thereby restoring my faith in humanity.
Greg McIver: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
When it comes time to celebrate the season of Samhain, I never limit myself to just one traditional watching. Many films, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, and The Eye (the original Asian version) grace my television screen in an attempt to capture that special macabre mindset that Halloweenies like myself revel in. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll limit my pick to just one, and the one in question is actually a new tradition. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy, was a revelation a year ago when I first saw it and has quickly become my new favorite scary movie. It wastes no time and dives immediately into the heart of matters -- alien seeds from space land on earth and grow into pods which produce replicants that take the place of their human counterparts. A wild-sounding story to be sure, but the film makes no apologies for this, and instead spends its energy cultivating a paranoiac atmosphere and allowing us to really absorb the humanity of our lead characters, for that very humanity is what is at stake in this horror/sci-fi classic. I could go on and on about how great this film is, but you’ll just have to fire up Netflix and see for yourself!
Kevin Donaldson: Pet Sematary (1989)
My favorite horror movie is one that you may or may not have heard of. It’s the classic adaptation of the Stephen King novel Pet Sematary. I can tell you firsthand that, if you are going into this looking to have the socks scared off your feet as you chomp your finger nails down to unusable stubs… then you’re looking at the wrong movie here. Pet Sematary is almost a dark comedy with a horror twist. It follows the mishaps of a father named Louis Creed. When Louis accidentally kills the family cat, he enlists the assistance of his elderly neighbor Jud (played by Fred Gwynne, who played a monster in his own right as Herman Munster on “The Munsters”) in helping to resurrect the cat by burying it in the darkly magical Pet Semetary. Things get really interesting, however, when Louis’s son Gage dies, and he tries the exact same thing. I have a special relationship with this movie. It does have a couple of disturbing parts, but it isn’t necessarily scary. It’s a movie that launched my best friend and I into the rabbit hole of our obsessive need to watch ridiculous horror movies. Plus, seeing Herman Munster trying to shank an undead child is always a good Halloween treat!
Sarah Osman: Addams Family Values (1993)
While the first Addams Family has its charms, nothing can compare to how wonderfully twisted Addams Family Values is. And not only is it perfect to watch on Halloween, you can watch it pretty much all the way through November too, thanks to the demented Thanksgiving play that the Addams children take a part in at summer camp. Tell me that isn’t the best take on the first Thanksgiving you’ve ever seen. Wednesday Addams literally takes down an entire summer camp and contemplates burning the lead actress alive. If that’s not fitting for a Halloween film, then I’m not sure what is.
Addams Family Values revolves around Fester (Christopher Lloyd) as he falls in love with (unbeknownst to him) a black widow by the name of Debbie (Joan Cusack). She convinces the Addamses to send their eldest children to summer camp, where Wednesday (Christina Ricci) finds love with an extremely awkward camper who is basically a real-life Milhouse (David Krumholtz) and wrecks havoc on the camp. Meanwhile, Gomez (the late great Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston) attempt to help Fester with his new bride all while raising a brand new baby, Pubert. The results are hilarious, and each character has some truly classic lines (In regards to Debbie’s new home, Morticia mutters, “But really, Debbie, pastels?”), and there’s even a spectacular dance sequence between Gomez and Morticia. #RelationshipGoals. You don’t even need to watch the first film for this one to make sense -- dare I say, the sequel may actually be better than the original!
As for yours truly, this was a fairly difficult decision. I was first inclined to say Halloween, since, you know, it’s right there in the title, and really no October 31 is complete without hearing John Carpenter’s ultra-creepy score for this 1978 classic. But it just seemed a little too on-the-nose… Then I thought about Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but let's be real, I watch that year-round. But after noticing a trend of many of our writers picking films that gave them a sense of childhood nostalgia, then my pick became clear: the 1986 HBO movie The Worst Witch.
The film takes place at an academy for young witches (basically a Hogwarts for Girls) where one of the students, Mildred Hubble (Fairuza Balk), can’t catch a break – she’s the titular “worst witch” in the school and a total hot mess. Her black cat isn’t even black, for Satan’s sake!! After completely wrecking the school’s annual Halloween pageant (though she was framed by the school bully, Ethel Malfoy Hallow), she runs away and chances upon a coven led by the evil twin sister of her school’s principal, Miss Cackle, who is plotting to overthrow her and take over the school! Long story short, Mildred saves the day and flies off on Tim Curry’s huge tie-dyed cape. Yes, the film is totally bonkers, and the cheesy ‘80s special effects leave much to be desired, but if you’re a kid, the charm of this film can’t be denied, and it perfectly captures what it feels like to be a kid on Halloween, since it's basically Halloween 24/7 at this school. Oh, and did I mention Tim Curry? Tim Curry, guys…