When it comes to Halloween, nothing puts you in the spooky mood faster than a classic horror movie. There's something about turning the lights down low and watching a film that has your heart racing, your mind checking all the shadows for threats and your body jumping off the couch at every loud noise. But Halloween movies come and go every year, and some wash away like the fake blood off a costume, while others crawl their way into your bones and stick around forever.
The best Halloween movies stand the test of time because they pick at a nagging anxiety, be it something small (like creepy dolls) or something larger (the looming dread that, no matter how hard you try, you'll never be able to keep your family totally safe). Whether you're looking for movies about witches, vampires, haunted houses, ghosts or psychological scares, these are the best, most popular Halloween movies ever made, a.k.a. the ones that are worth re-visiting every October. (And maybe throughout the year? Horror really has no season.) Some are full of extreme gore, some are scary movies for kids and others are horror comedies, but they'll all have you double-checking the locks before you go to bed.
Looking for more scary movies to watch? Check out these flicks:
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- 38 Best Disney Halloween Movies
According to video-on-demand service Vudu, Hocus Pocus is the most-watched Halloween movie of all time. The campy Disney Halloween classic makes chatty black cats and goofy witches the epitome of Halloween fun. And now that the much-anticipated sequel is out on Disney+, you can plan a double feature this Halloween.
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 show up this year? Find out October 28 through 31 when Apple TV+ makes this classic available to stream for free (even if you don't subscribe)!
Given that this iconic film — featuring the unstoppable killing machine that is Michael Myers — shares a name with the year's spookiest holiday, it's just about as classic as they come. It's worth it for the atmospheric John Carpenter score alone.
If you're looking for something a little more modern, this remake of the 1978 thriller gives the tried-and-true series a refresh with its original star, Jamie Lee Curtis. Director David Gordon Green re-focuses the series on the Strode women, and the way they react to the return of Michael Myers. A sequel, Halloween Kills, followed in 2021, and the trilogy came to a conclusion this year with Halloween Ends, streaming now on Peacock.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
Since she was a child, Christina Ricci has reigned supreme as the queen of Halloween movies. In this one, she befriends the friendliest of ghosts ... Casper!
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).
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 Krasinksi 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 last year, and picks up immediately where the first movie leaves off.
Heralded as one of the funniest movies of all time (full stop), the jokes in this hilarious Mel Brooks spoof still hold up.
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.
Even little kids who don't watch scary movies know who Freddy Krueger is. (And they kind of think he's cool?) But if you sing, "One, two, Freddy's coming for you," even the tough ones will run away.
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.
Jordan Peele's masterpiece, which uses horror as a vehicle explore racism, is an absolute must-see. You'll be thinking about this one long after you turn the lights out.
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 fifth entry in the franchise, confusingly titled Scream, came out earlier this year, and brings back fan-favorite characters from the original movie.
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.
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.
The movie that popularized the concept of "found footage" horror, this cult favorite follows a group of film students who get lost in the woods while investigating the local "Blair Witch." Try not to think about it next time you're off in the woods.
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.
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 Conjuring 2 and last year's The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, or check out the spin-off Annabelle franchise. (Right now, The Conjuring 2 is also on Netflix.)
"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.
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.
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.
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.
A brilliant invention from Jordan Peele, this allegorical horror features a family who discover their violent doppelgängers while on vacation. The only thing scarier than a monster is ... yourself.
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 singing along to the "Time Warp."
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 the scissors for hands, or the "normal"-looking suburbanites who gossip and back-stab around him?
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.
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.
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.
This Jonathan Landis horror-comedy is worth it for the werewolf transformation alone — the movie won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Makeup. (The famed Rick Baker created the looks.)
In this high school horror story, a young misfit shows her bullies the terrible power that she possess. But who is the real monster?
A couple moves into their dream home, only to discover the previous tenants met a deadly end. Really, this drama teaches an important life tip: If the house you’re buying seems too good to be true, call the ghostbusters before you settle in.
Get prepared to look at your suburban home — and your home security system — in an all-new light. This movie focuses on a young couple who suspect a paranormal presence after moving into their tract home in suburbia. They set up video cameras to pursue their hunch and, well, horror ensues.
Disneyland built the house, but Eddie Murphy makes the movie. By the end of this heart-warming Disney classic, you may just change your mind about those grim, grinning ghosts. Watch this one before they reboot it — a new version is planned starring Owen Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish, Lakeith Stanfield and Danny DeVito.
Teenage angst goes supernatural when the new girl at school falls in with a coven of witches — and things go off the rails.
This famous paranormal horror from 1973 is based loosely around actual events. Loosely. Reassuring, right?
Stephen King has a penchant for making the mundane mortifying, so it’s no surprise this adaptation of his 1978 short story made corn fields become one of the creepiest places to spend Halloween.
This movie, about a family rejected by their Puritan church and sent to live away from the safety of their community, has a rhythm and a cadence all its own. It may not hit you with jump-scares, but it'll get under your skin.
While most remember the Saw franchise as the one that ushered in an era of movies high on gore and violence, the original Saw movie felt novel for its mixture of horror and police procedural — and for its killer twist.
This Dario Argento film shows you can fill your movie with bright colors and still have it be totally unsettling. When a student travels abroad to study dance, she finds the school is not what she thought it would be. In 2018, Amazon released a remake starring Dakota Johnson.
There is nothing more classic than Bela Lugosi as Dracula himself. If you're looking for the iconic Universal monsters, here's the place to start.
If ghosts are more your flavor than slashers or monsters, this is your jam. It's a classic, New England haunted house movie.
Both an entry within and a satire of the horror genre, this fascinating film features classic tropes — college students trapped in a cabin, zombies, werewolves and evil rituals — but cleverly turns them each on their head. It's a good one to watch after you've seen a bunch of horror movies and have the tropes in the front of your mind.
Francis Ford Coppola does for Dracula what he did for The Godfather before it, using his Coppola magic to bring the book to the screen. This ornate, gothic movie features swing-for-the-fences performances by Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves.
How many decades have Halloween partygoers been teasing their hair and trying to add the white streak to emulate this bride? After watching the James Whale film, you can see why she's endured.
Remote location? Check. Shape-shifting villain? Check. Kurt Russell to the rescue? Check. This satisfying sci-fi/horror movie manages to entice even Halloween skeptics.
Classic horror doesn't always have to creep you out. If you want to get into the mood but also want to sleep at night, try this monster-filled comedy.
A high school senior is forced to babysit her little brother on Halloween night — and chaos ensues after she loses track of him while out trick-or-treating.
This gilled creature adds more of a sci-fi element to the classic lineup of Universal monsters. When it falls for a beautiful lab assistant, the film takes on a beauty-and-the-beast quality, but fishier.
James Wan, the creator of the Saw and Insidious franchises, returned to the horror genre with this film. It follows a woman who starts to have visions of horrible murders, and then starts to suspect they're happening in real life.
Although it's a newer addition to the horror genre, The Invisible Man has earned its place among like classics, including the original that bears its name. Leigh Whannell, one of the Saw creators, manages to wring intense drama while focusing mostly on the Invisible Man's victim, instead of the monster himself.