The Best Halloween Movies of All Time
In celebration of the run up to Halloween, here at ABCA Sky we have selected our favourite Halloween-y movies of all time! Whether it’s gore and horror you’re after, or perhaps something a little more family friendly, this comprehensive list will help you to decide on the perfect film to watch on a cold and autumnal October eve.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
We couldn’t start off this list without the classic family favourite that is Hocus Pocus. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy as the three Sanderson sisters – the resident witches at Salem, who are accidentally resurrected on Halloween night by a curious youngster who moves to the area, 300 years after they were executed for practicing dark witchcraft. Whilst the film wasn’t a commercial success at the time – it apparently cost Disney $16 million in losses when it was first released – the nostalgic annual revisiting of this movie on Halloween, by those born in the 80s and 90s, is what gives Hocus Pocus it’s cult classic status. Fans of the 1993 Disney movie will be happy to know that a sequel is already in development, and is set to be released in 2022!
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
This well-loved Tim Burton fantasy stars Johnny Depp as Edward, a human-like, unfinished creation who has scissor blades instead of hands. Edward meets Peg, a friendly saleswoman who unassumingly turns up at the mansion where Edward lives, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. Peg attempts to integrate Edward into society and introduces him to her family and friends – including her daughter, Elizabeth (Winona Ryder).
The film was inspired by Burton’s own sense of seclusion as a young teenager growing up in California, and he considers it his favourite and most personal work. It was financial and critical success, and was also where Depp and Ryder started their iconic 90s relationship.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Another Tim Burton film on the list, this 90’s musical animation tells the story of Jack Skellington, King of Halloween town, who develops an obsession with Christmas after witnessing life at Christmas Town, and wants to celebrate it. However, Christmas comes as a bit of a culture shock to the monster’s, beasts and supernatural beings of Halloween Town, and the festivities cause some confusion. Originally a poem by Burton that grew into something much bigger, The Nightmare Before Christmas garnered a huge cult following and won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
The Addams Family (1991)
No Halloween movie list would be complete without mention of The Addams Family. If not known for its uber-catchy theme tune, then for its witty one liners and iconic and bizarre characters, the film follows the events of the macabre and mysterious, yet wealthy and powerful family. After father Gomez’s long-lost brother Fester attempts to reconnect with them, all is not what it seems when it is revealed that he is actually the son of a loan shark who is trying to swindle the family out of their fortune. The Addams Family was originally created by cartoonist Charles Addams in the 1930’s, and has recreated and reproduced many times. The 1990’s version is possibly the most well-known and critically acclaimed, with a cast that includes Anjelica Huston, Cristina Ricci and Christopher Lloyd.
Scary Movie (2000)
Scary Movie is a noughties spoof comedy that parodies the horror films Scream 1 and 2, and I Know What You Did Last Summer, as well as referencing films like ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘The Blair Witch Project’, ‘Halloween’, ‘The Matrix’, ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Usual Suspects’, as well as High School Movies of the nineties and early noughties. It was written and produced by the Wayans brothers, two of whom play the lead characters (think, White Chicks) and also stars American Pie actors Shannon Elizabeth and Anna Faris. The film was a surprising success, having grossed $278 million worldwide on a $19 million budget, and has since been followed by four sequels.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Another comedy film in the list, Shaun of the Dead stars Simon Pegg as Shaun, a rather unfortunate salesman, who unexpectedly gets caught in a Zombie apocalypse with his best friend Ed (Nick Frost). A true reflection of ironic British comedy, it is considered a Horror Rom-Com and also one of the best comedy films of all time (ironic that it’s on a Halloween movie list, but it does include Zombies). It was part of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, and followed by Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, produced by both Pegg and Frost.
I think it’s well-established by now that Tim Burton is the king of Halloween movies, at least in this list anyway. His creation of the character Beetlejuice comes to life in this 1980’s fantasy comedy, starring Alec Baldwin and Winona Ryder (again!) Baldwin plays the recently deceased Adam Maitland whom, along with his wife, tries to claim back their house as a ghost living in the attic, to no avail. Their desperation results in the ‘hiring’ of a poltergeist named Betelgeuse, who’s extreme measures of haunting the new inhabitants leave the Maitland’s to believe they may have made a mistake. The film was a critical and commercial success and even inspired a stage musical in 2008.
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbuster’s! This family favourite is one of the most well-known films of the 1980’s and due to its ghost hunting nature is strong contender in this list of the greatest-of-all-time Halloween movies. It centres around a trio of eccentric parapsychology professors who study the paranormal, and follows their first encounter with ghost that develops into their paranormal investigation and elimination service. The film is considered as a cultural phenomenon and has a fan-base spread over generations and all over the world; it grossed an unexpected $295.2 million, and launched a multimedia franchise that is still relevant in pop culture nearly 40 years later.
Adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, this supernatural horror film features Carrie, a 16-year-old girl who is consistently mocked and bullied at school, but gets her own back when she unexpectedly develops powers and seeks revenge on her abusers. Some critics regard it as one of the best horror films of all time, and it’s influence on popular culture is significant; the famous prom scene alone was voted in the top 10 the scariest movie moments, and has inspired many a Halloween costume. It was the first film in the Carrie franchise, and the first of more than 100 film and television productions adapted from, or based on, the published works of Stephen King.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Considered a ‘supernatural slasher’ film due to its gory nature, A Nightmare on Elm Street centres around four teenagers (including Johnny Depp in his acting debut) living in Ohio, who have nightmares about being killed, and thus are murdered in real life, by Freddie Krueger – a man with burnt face with a leather bladed glove. Critics praise A Nightmare on Elm Street’s ability to transgress the boundary dreams and reality, in the most terrifying way, and it is widely considered as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It also part of the slasher sub-genre, with several films produced as sequels in the franchise.
Harry Potter (2001-2011)
Possibly the most well-known and well-loved film and book franchise in the world, Harry Potter needs no introduction but is a must-have on any Halloween themed movie list. An eight-part film series based on the works of J K Rowling, the fantasy blockbusters follow Harry and his best friends Ron and Hermione, in their fight against the dark wizard Voldemort. With all the magic fun you could ever want or need in a movie, it’s perfect for all ages to enjoy, especially in the colder months!
When a 6-year-old Michael Myers murders his 17-year-old sister on Halloween night, he is sent to a sanatorium where he will spend the next 15 years of his life. However, on Halloween night in 1978, he escapes and returns to his hometown in Illinois, plotting revenge and seeking his next victims. Another slasher movie, it spawned a film franchise that constructed a back story of the antagonist Michael Myers. It was the acting debut for Jamie Lee Curtis and garnered critical appraisal for John Carpenter’s score and directing.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
A first in supernatural horror movies of its kind, the Blair Witch Project was something of a phenomenon back in the late 90’s, mainly due to its great marketing and advertising tactics that lead many to believe it was a true story, and the footage that was used to create the movie was real. It wasn’t, of course, but that doesn’t mean the Blair Witch Project isn’t a deeply unsettling movie that plays on the fact that it is very realistic, as it’s all filmed through the lens of a home video camera. It follows three young film makers as they go in search of the local legend – the Blair Witch, but who then go missing, with the footage being found a year later. The movie has achieved a cult status and is one of the most well-known films of the 90’s.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Another film that was marketed as being based on true events is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It is a 1974 American horror movie that follows a group of friends who fall victim to a family of cannibals, and a man with a Leatherface, with terrifying and disastrous consequences. A highly successful, low-budget film, it is another in the list that is well regarded as one of the best horror movies of all time. Interestingly, the film was created with intention of gaining a PG-13 rating, but due to obvious reasons it wasn’t – it was however, banned in several countries across the world and also in many movie theatres, due to its violent and sadistic nature.
The Exorcist (1973)
‘Somewhere between the world of science and superstition, there is a world of darkness’. This is the world where Regan MacNeil finds herself when her body is possessed by the devil. When the 12-year-old starts to display signs of demonic behaviour, a priest is called in to perform an exorcism, and hell truly breaks loose. When the film was released in the cinema, viewers in the theatre were so terrified they suffered from adverse physical reactions, including fainting and vomiting. Heart attacks and even a miscarriage was reported, and a psychiatric journal published a paper on the ‘cinematic neurosis’ that was caused by viewing the film. It was also the first horror film to be nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay.
Famous for its iconic shower scene, this Alfred Hitchcock classic is often considered one of the greatest films ever made, and set a new precedent for the genre in cinema due to its violent and sexually deviant themes. It centres around Marion Crane, who steals money from her employer, goes on the run and end up at the Bates Motel, where all is not as it seems. 60 years after it was made, we still see influences in pop-culture; it is said to have inspired the entire slasher genre and was the first movie society ever saw that combined sexuality with horror. Hitchcock’s impeccable directing and the film’s thrilling score make this movie a masterpiece that has stood the test of time.
Based on the 19th century Gothic novel by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein is a 1930’s silver screen American Pre-Code science fiction film about an obsessed scientist who creates a living being from human body parts, without realising it has the brain of a mad man. Probably the most famous and iconic fictional ‘monster’ in history, the book in which the film was based tells the story of Frankenstein the doctor being so ashamed of creating his monster that he abandons it, meaning the monster becomes evil, thus igniting a long-time debate of how nature vs. nurture defines humanity. The movie version simplifies the novel, and also created the iconic figure of the green, square-headed monster Frankenstein that we know so well today.
Similarly to Frankenstein, Dracula was a movie based on a novel that came out in the 19th Century, who’s character developed into one of the most iconic monster figures of all time. It was a 1958 British Gothic horror film that focused on the film’s multiple protagonists encounters with the blood-sucking vampire, Count Dracula, a member of the Transylvanian Nobility. It can be said that the figure of Dracula completely ignited the vampire subculture of the 20th and 21st century, placing this folklore creature firmly into the fascination of modern pop culture that we still see today; and that particularly resurfaced in the 90s and early 21st century.
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