Ten Halloween-themed Movies
Ah, Halloween. A time when it is ok to get dressed up as your favorite superhero, go door to door getting lots of candy, and waking up the next morning with a massive stomach ache from eating too much. Also a time for some really awesome, scary movies. While not all the movies in this list have to do with Halloween, most of them do, and since a large part of what makes Halloween fun is getting scared, some fear-inducing movies are included as well.
10.) It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! (1966)
While this one is not quite as good as ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’, this Halloween special with the peanuts gang encapsulates the world of Charlie Brown and Co. very nicely, from the humor to the mythos that Linus creates around the Great Pumpkin, to what happens when the Great Pumpkin finally arrives. Not very scary at all, but still a classic.
9.) The Wicker Man (1973)
The music throughout this movie sets the tone very nicely, particularly towards the second half when Sergeant Howie starts to realize what exactly is going on, and the audience begins to realize what exactly Howie’s fate will be. While the end is foreshadowed somewhat during the course of the movie, it is still powerful and horrifying. Christopher Lee is amazing, as always. The less said about the more recent remake of this movie, the better.
8.) Halloween (1978)
I must preface this review by saying that I have not seen the Rob Zombie helmed remake of this movie, though it is in my Netflix queue. That being said, Halloween is an excellent movie with a soundtrack that deftly ratchets up the tension. It definitely can be said to be one of the first very successful slasher-type movies. The acting in this movie is great, especially in Jamie Lee Curtis, who gained major star power from this and subsequent sequels.
7.) Sleepy Hallow (2016)
Sleepy Hallow has a lot going for it; great acting from Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, with support from such greats as Miranda Richardson, Christopher Lee, Christopher Walken, Michael Gambon and Ian McDiarmid, and the fact that it is directed by a man who knows Halloween like the back of his hand, Tim Burton. The pace and tone are excellent, and some of the background scenery in the forests, especially when the Headless Horseman is involved, conjure up a very Halloween-type feel. The whodunit case that is threaded throughout the film is very nicely done as well.
6.) Hocus Pocus (1993)
Even though this movie did not perform well in theaters when initially released, it has amassed a huge following over the years thanks to frequent airings on television in the month of October. It is a fun, and funny movie, from start to finish. It never takes itself too seriously, and does not try for cheap laughs like so many kid-friendly films of today. Bette Midler is the star of this movie, hands down, with support from Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker. Midler’s rendition of ‘I put a spell on you’ is a high point in a movie that is a high point all on its own.
5.) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
While this movie owes certain props to ‘Halloween’, this movie spawned a ton of sequels and imitators and has stood the test of time very well. The villain, Freddy Krueger, is very scary, and has earned his place in the top slasher-movie villains of all time. Unlike Michael Myers, he is not constrained to wrecking havoc and slaughter while we’re awake, Freddy can also use our very dreams to kill us. Scary stuff. It’s also worth mentioning that this was Johnny Depp’s first feature film debut.
4.) The Thing (1982)
This movie is the only one on this list that is set in Antarctica, and given how stark, alone and terribly vulnerable this film made Antarctica feel, I’m surprised that more horror films don’t take place there. The tension and the blood and gore in this movie is very visceral and at times terrifying, and it was all done without the aid of computer technology. Kurt Russell was very good in this movie. The cinematography in this movie was particularly well done, and definitely added to the tension.
3.) Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
This is just another all around great movie. Even though it was produced with stop-motion animation, it looks gorgeous and the script is funny and poignant. Even though we don’t spend as much time in Halloweentown in the movie’s seventy-six minute running time, it feels like a real, flushed out, immersive place. As with the majority of films directed or produced by Tim Burton, the entire soundtrack is amazing and a pleasure to listen to year-round.
2.) Seven (1995)
Oh wow, this movie. This is one of those rare movies that stays with you long after the credits start rolling. Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt and especially Kevin Spacey all turn in nuanced, believable, and very visceral performances. While the ending is not really a twist, it is definitely a shocker, and one that most audience members will not see coming in their first viewing. New York City is a perfect setting for this movie, very grim, shabby and dirty, and helps the entire movie shine even brighter. The score, by Howard Shore, is yet another perfect example of a musical composition in a movie that helps set tone and mood without becoming too noticeable.
1.) Psycho (1960)
This is arguably Hitchcock’s greatest and most suspenseful masterpiece. Next year the movie will be 50 years old, and while it might be considered tame by today’s standards, it still has survived the test of time better than most movies, because of how great and suspenseful it really is. Everything about this movie is spot on amazing, from the acting, to the setting, to the infamous Shower Scene, to the revealed psychological twist towards the end of the movie, to the very last superimposed seconds right before the end. Even though I’ve seen this movie several times, I love watching it again and again to feel the slow build up of suspense and to catch little details that you don’t really notice on your first viewing. Even though I know what’s coming and how things will play out, the tension is palpable.