50 Essential Movies for Spooky Season

If you read that headline and thought to yourself “isn’t it a little too early to be thinking about Halloween?” then you’re definitely in the wrong place. As far as I’m concerned, spooky season started at least a month ago. Am I basic? Probably. Do I care? Hell no. Fall has always been my favourite season. Plus, 50 movies is a lot to get through, so I say the earlier the better!

Every year around this time, my partner and I create a list of movies we want to watch before Halloween is over. Our spooky movie nights are one of my favourite parts of the season, so I thought I would gift you all with a list of my all-time favourites so you can have one (or many) of your own. You’re welcome, and strap in. This is going to be a long one.

Note: These movies are in no particular order, so don’t come for me over their placement on the list. Some are kid-friendly, some are absolutely NOT. Some are Halloween classics and others are just downright terrifying. Some also include disturbing scenes that may be triggering, so please do your own research before watching.

1. The Halloweentown Movies (1998-2006)

This Disney Channel Original movie series is the cornerstone of many 90s kids’ childhoods. I’ve watched these movies every single year around Halloween for as long as I can remember, and I don’t plan on ending that tradition. The first installment of the series was released in 1998, following rebellious teen Marnie Piper, her siblings and her Grandma Aggie (played by the incomparable Debbie Reynolds) on their adventures in Halloweentown, where every day is Halloween. Sounds like my kind of place.

There are four movies in total, but after the third installment they tried to pull a fast one and replaced Kimberly J. Brown (who played Marnie) with Sara Paxton for the final film. We all noticed, Disney. We noticed.

Where to Watch: Disney+

2. Hereditary (2018)

The first scary movie on our list, and I started with a doozy. This movie stuck with me for a long time after I watched it for the first time. My partner and I live within walking distance of our local movie theatre, but opting for the late show in this case was a mistake… We were both looking over our shoulders for the entire walk home. No matter how many times I watch it, that scene still makes my soul wither up inside my body every time. If you know, you know.

Where to Watch: Netflix

3. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This is a classic, and if it’s not already on your Halloween movie list then I question your taste. When I was a kid, my mom told me this was her favourite scary movie. I begged and begged her to let me watch it, and when she finally caved we sat together in front of the TV with a big bowl of popcorn and the lights off, and screamed our faces off for an hour and 40 minutes. It’s one of my most cherished childhood memories, and even now when I watch it I pull out all the punches: snacks, mood lighting, the works.

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger is one of the most chilling slasher performances I can think of. He makes your skin crawl. Surprisingly (as far as 80s sequels go, anyway) the rest of the movies in this series weren’t terrible, either.

Where to Watch: Shudder, Hulu, or for rent on Prime Video

4. Halloween (1978)

If you’re a fan of slasher films, I’d bet my entire pillowcase full of Halloween candy that you at least know who Michael Myers is. And if you don’t know the name, then you definitely know his theme song. There’s something about the way he walks so slowly (but you know he’s still going to catch you in the end) that makes Michael scarier than your average movie monster. Also, Jamie Lee Curtis (our horror queen!) kills it in her role as the OG Laurie Strode.

There have been a bunch of sequels and remakes to this movie, but the only one worth watching (in my opinion) is the direct sequel that came out in 2018, also starring Jamie Lee Curtis.

Where to Watch: Shudder or rent on Prime Video

5. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

We have this movie to thank for the entire “found footage” horror movie genre. This was the one that started it all, and it was iconic. The film follows a doomed group of college students who venture into the hills near Burkittsville, Maryland (formerly known as Blair) to shoot a documentary about a local legend: the Blair Witch. Needless to say, the students were never seen or heard from again. But fortunately for us, their footage was.

This movie was truly frightening for its time. I remember watching it as a teen and thinking that it felt a little too real. The lore was well-developed, and the notorious close-up-runny-nose scene inspired many memes and parodies. This is a must-watch!

Where to Watch: Hulu, Epix or rent on Prime Video

6. Hocus Pocus

Duh. It’s got black cats, witches, zombies and an unforgettable musical number; what more could you want in a Halloween movie? This is another 90s staple. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker dazzle as the legendary Sanderson sisters, and it’s probably the most quotable movie on this roster. Calming circle, anyone?

And I would be remiss not to mention that the Halloween gods have finally blessed us – Hocus Pocus 2 is FINALLY happening! It will premiere on Disney+ in Fall 2022, and will feature a few familiar faces including the Sanderson sisters themselves.

Where to Watch: Disney+ or rent on Prime Video

7. The Conjuring (2013)

As far as newer horror movies go, this is a great one if you’re looking for real scares. At this point, The Conjuring has enough sequels and spinoffs to constitute its own cinematic universe, including the Annabelle movies. The series follows the accounts of famed paranormal investigating team Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens were also best-selling authors and owners of The Warrens’ Occult Museum (now closed) which they ran out of their home, featuring artifacts from many of their most famous investigations.

Where to Watch: Rent on Prime Video

8. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

This one’s for the girls, the gays and the theys. Yes, I’m talking about the original movie musical starring Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter… Not the Fox remake of which we shall not speak. Sorry Laverne Cox, not even you could save that disaster. You may say I’m a purist, and to that I say “guilty as charged.”

The thing that made Rocky Horror great in its time was the fact that it sent a message. Cases of HIV/AIDS were beginning to crop up globally, a precursor to the looming crisis that would strike in a matter of years. Rocky Horror was so iconic because it didn’t shy away from celebrating queer bodies and queer voices. It was a celebration of individuality and sexuality. It was campy, goofy and outlandish, and immediately began amassing a global fanbase.

Crowds flocked to the cinemas armed with toast and rubber gloves, ready to yell and pantomime along with the fan rituals that made this movie such a cult classic. Even today some movie theatres still do showings of this movie, usually throughout October, and the fans are just as rabid for it as they were when it first came out.

Where to Watch: Disney+ or rent on Prime Video

9. Beetlejuice (1988)

Have you ever wanted to watch Michael Keaton play a chaotic, belligerent, hilarious demon from the pits of hell? Beetlejuice, which also stars a young Winona Ryder as the strange and unusual Lydia Deetz, explores big themes like death, grief and Harry Belafonte. It follows recently deceased couple Adam and Barbara Maitland as they try to rid their home of its new living owners.

This is another cult classic, chock-full of unforgettable moments, amazing costumes and over-the-top dialogue that will be sure to put you in a Halloween mood. And when you’re done, if you still haven’t had enough, you can listen to the Broadway musical soundtrack!

Where to Watch: Hulu, Netflix or rent on Prime Video

10. Scream (1996)

Scream is the quintessential 90s slasher movie, and it’s one of my favourites. It’s a perfect mix of horror, comedy and camp. Scream features iconic lines like “do you like scary movies?” and “my mom and dad are gonna be so mad at me!” It also has a stacked cast, including Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Skeet Ulrich and (briefly) Drew Barrymore. The plastic white Scream masks can be found on almost any Halloween retail display, even now, and for good reason. Watch. This. Movie.

Where to Watch: Shudder or rent on Prime Video

11. The Addams Family (1991)

Don’t click away for this, but if I had to choose between The Munsters and The Addams Family, it would be no contest. I adore this creepy, kooky mysterious and spooky family, from the way Gomez and Morticia worship one another to Wednesday’s homicidal tendencies. And let’s not forget the antics of Lurch, Thing, Cousin Itt and Grandmama. The 1991 film and its 1993 sequel, the Addams Family Values, complement the TV show perfectly. Anjelica Huston, I think, was born to play Morticia. And Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester is just *chef’s kiss*

Where to Watch: Netflix, Paramount Plus or rent on Prime Video

12. The Haunted Mansion (2003)

I look forward to this one every year. This is a child-friendly (but still ooky spooky) ghost story based on Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride. I may have lied earlier; THIS is definitely the most quotable movie on the list. My family sings the cringy “anniversary song” at each other whenever an anniversary for anything pops up, and Eddie Murphy’s hilarious one-liners make the movie.

There are also some unexpectedly wholesome moments, which make it a great family movie night option. Terence Stamp is genuinely chilling as the butler, Ramsley, Jennifer Tilly shines as the mysterious Madame Leota and Nathaniel Parker plays the lovesick Master Gracey (I always had a crush on him as a kid!).

Where to Watch: Disney+

13. The Shining (1980)

I couldn’t exclude this Kubrick classic. Capping out at a whopping two hours and 26 minutes, this is a slow burn but also one of the scariest movies on this list. Based on Stephen King’s novel, The Shining follows the Torrence family, who spends the winter at the haunted Overlook Hotel when Jack Torrence (played by Jack Nicholson, the king of creepy) gets a job as the caretaker. The isolation slowly begins to take hold of Jack, and as his sanity deteriorates the family begins to experience horrifying apparitions and visions on the hotel property.

I should note that there are some real-life scary stories associated with this movie as well. A fire destroyed most of the sets during filming, and actress Shelley Duvall says she was never quite the same after the borderline abuse she suffered at the hands of director Stanley Kubrick, who was notoriously hard on the actors during production. Apparently the scene on the stairs with the baseball bat (when Jack says “I’m not going to kill you, I’m just going to bash your brains in!”) took 127 takes.

And if you’re not too exhausted after this marathon of a movie, you can also watch the sequel, Doctor Sleep, which follows young Danny Torrence as an adult dealing with the demons that followed him from the Overlook Hotel.

Where to Watch: Crave or rent on Prime Video

14. Friday the 13th (1980)

Nothing says “Halloween” like a psycho in a hockey mask. My partner likes to talk about the sleepaway camp he went to as a kid at Christie Lake, but every time he brings it up I can’t help but think of how eerily close that sounds to Crystal Lake. It’s a no from me. Anyway, Jason Voorhees is another classic movie slasher. It wouldn’t be a Halloween movie list without including him.

Where to Watch: Starz, Shudder or rent on Prime Video

15. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

This is definitely my favourite Halloween-specific movie of the horror variety. It’s a little more obscure to the average viewer, but most avid horror lovers will tell you it’s a classic. Trick ‘r Treat is one of those anthology movies where everyone crosses paths at the end. It’s all tied together by our terrifyingly adorable Diamond of the Season, Sam, who acts as the demonic enforcer of the rules and traditions of Halloween throughout each story. It has everything: ghosts, gore, serial killers and even sexy werewolves.

Where to Watch: Hulu, Shudder or rent on Prime Video

16. Carrie (1976)

This was the movie that truly started the “good for her” horror genre. Once again it’s based on the Stephen King book of the same name, following social outcast and telekinetic Carrie White, bullied by her classmates, teachers and even her own mother until she’s finally pushed over the edge. This was another one I watched when I was probably too young, and Sissy Spacek’s blood-curdling facial expressions during the prom scene alone are why I will always recommend this version as opposed to any of the remakes.

Where to Watch: Hulu

17. The Exorcist (1973)

This movie was so scary when it first came out that people were literally traumatized by it. If you’re going to watch any demon possession movie, let it be this one. Linda Blair’s acting chops as 12-year-old Regan MacNeil were unmatched for child actors at the time. This is a Halloween MUST.

Where to Watch: Crave (Starz) or rent on Prime Video

18. The Craft (1996)

I swear this movie had every 90s kid playing “light as a feather, stiff as a board.” If you were to ask me about my favourite movies of all time, this one would definitely be in the Top 3. Everything from the aesthetic to the cinematography to the dialogue is just so iconic.

The Craft definitely shaped my entire personality as a teen and even well into adulthood. It depicts witchcraft as a neutral force of nature that can be used for either good or evil, depending on who wields it, and I find that so refreshing–especially in film, where witchcraft tends to be either hyper-sensationalized or demonized. Also, Nancy Downs may be seriously unstable, but she’s still a style icon and I will not apologize for saying so.

There’s also the recently released sequel, The Craft Legacies, which I actually enjoyed quite a bit. It was a cute little modern update for The Craft universe.

Where to Watch: Prime Video

19. Practical Magic (1998)

Practical Magic is another one of my all-time favourite movies, period. I think it may actually take the top spot, and not just for Halloween. It’s my go-to comfort movie, especially when I’m hit with a case of the depressies. Practical Magic is a feel-good yet somehow also spooky thriller/drama about romantic love, sisterly ties and just a hint of manslaughter.

Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman give a stunning performance as witchy sisters Sally and Gillian Owens, and the movie has a killer soundtrack. It also incorporates realistic depictions of real-life witchcraft, such as the power of intention (“Your badge – it’s just a star, just another symbol. Your talisman. It can’t stop criminals in their tracks, can it? It has power because you believe it does.”).

And obviously we have to talk about the house. I can’t be the only one who wants desperately to run away and live in the Owens house, right? Right!? It seems like paradise! And who wouldn’t go for chocolate cake for breakfast, midnight margaritas and dancing naked under the full moon?

Where to Watch: Crave (Starz) or rent on Prime Video

20. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Everyone hail to the pumpkin king! My favourite thing about this Tim Burton classic is that you have an excuse to watch it not once, but twice a year: Halloween AND Christmas. When our melancholy hero, Jack Skellington, grows bored of his life ruling Halloween Town and wanders off, he stumbles upon a magical place called Christmas Town. Jack then decides to kidnap “Sandy Claws” and bring a little Christmas Spirit back home.

And if you’re the kind of person who reads way too much into things (hi, it me!) this movie is also a subtle lesson in the dangers of appropriating cultures and traditions that you don’t fully understand. And obviously, the soundtrack is full of bangers.

Where to Watch: Disney+

21. The Corpse Bride (2005)

Another Burton classic! I personally love the animation in this movie; it’s dreamy and so visually appealing, which really helps draw you into the story. In this film we have our protagonist, Victor, who accidentally marries… well, you know. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

Where to Watch: Crave

22. Coraline (2009)

The first time I saw this movie, I thought to myself “there’s no way this is a kids movie.” Coraline is a stop-motion animated film based on the book by one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, and it’s creepy as hell. The title character, an adventurous young girl who crawls through a magic door she finds while exploring her new home, discovers another world where not everything is as it seems. This is another movie with a theme song that’s immediately recognizable. If you watch this movie and the Beldam doesn’t at least give you a little chill down your spine, you’re a braver soul than I.

Where to Watch: Netflix

23. The Witches (2020)

Normally I wouldn’t recommend a remake over the original, but this is a rare exception. Anne Hathaway reprises Anjelica Huston’s infamous role as the Grand High Witch, leader of a coven of stylish, child-hating witches (which, same) and she absolutely kills it. The movie is about a boy and his grandmother (played by Octavia Spencer) who retreat to a fancy hotel to escape the aforementioned coven of child-hating witches, but not for long.

The hero boy (played by Jahzir Bruno) meets some friends along the way, and they are tasked with foiling the witches’ plans to turn all the children into mice. If you’re a fan of the original movie, you probably remember the face peeling scene. Yeah, that scene. Don’t worry, they do it justice in this version as well. This is another good option for family movie night. And Stanley Tucci is in it, which should be reason enough alone to watch it.

Where to Watch: Crave, HBO Max

24. The VVitch (2015)

Any movie that involves creepy puritan children is a yes for me. This is definitely not a child-friendly movie, though, so maybe wait until the kids are asleep for this one. The story is about a 17th century family that builds a homestead at the edge of some dark, scary woods (a bad idea right off the bat) after being banished from their village. Soon after, the family’s youngest children begin talking to their goat, Black Philip–the real star of the show, as far as I’m concerned–and the family is stalked by evil forces.

This movie actually really scared me, and that doesn’t happen much with horror movies these days. The VVitch sucks you in from the first few minutes and doesn’t let you go until the credits roll. It’s intense. I’d give it a 9/10.

Where to Watch: Netflix

25. Midsommar (2019)

If you’re watching this movie for the first time, I’ll warn you right now: Midsommar is probably the most disturbing movie you’ll see this year. Some consider this another “good for her” horror movie, but since the main character’s vulnerabilities are literally exploited as she’s indoctrinated into a white supremacist cult, I’m inclined to disagree.

Either way, this movie manages to terrify you despite the fact that the whole thing takes place in broad daylight. It was directed by Ari Aster (who also directed Hereditary, see #2) so you know it’s going to be a wild ride. I won’t lie, it took a few watches for me to fully understand what I was seeing in this movie. Each time I watched it I discovered more and more subtle little elements that made the whole thing better and somehow worse at the same time.

Where to Watch: Netflix or rent on Prime Video

26. Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Yes, this inclusion is obviously another tribute to the girls, the gays and the theys. I don’t know why this became such a cult classic among the LGBTQIA+ community, but I’m glad it did because it slaps. This is probably the best role I’ve ever seen Megan Fox in, and I’m not just saying that because she plays a succubus who spends most of the movie in a cheerleading outfit, covered in blood. Okay, it might be part of the reason.

In general, there’s so much to love about this movie that I don’t even know where to start. It’s campy, it’s gory, it’s completely and utterly ridiculous and the dialogue is just hilariously bad. It also has bisexual representation! If you try to tell me the “I will eat your soul and shit it out” line isn’t iconic, sorry, but we can’t be friends.

Where to Watch: Hulu, Disney+

27. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

I was going to try and get through this section without bringing up my toxic, unhealthy attraction to Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in this movie, but I just can’t do it. Do I need psychological help? Maybe. ANYWAY. Silence of the Lambs isn’t your typical horror movie. It’s a slasher film mixed with a psychological thriller, following FBI trainee Clarice Starling as she enlists the help of ‘Hannibal the Cannibal’ to help bring in serial killer Buffalo Bill.

This movie was based on the book by Thomas Harris, one in a series about Hannibal Lecter. The books have inspired several film and TV adaptations, and for good reason. Lecter is intelligent, manipulative, diabolical, deeply disturbed and eerily classy. The blood-chilling scene depicted in the GIF above is immediately preceded by the iconic line “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” It gives me chills to this day.

Where to Watch: Netflix

28. The Scary Movies (2000-2013)

I’m not normally a fan of parody movies, but I could watch this series over and over again and still laugh. Basically, they take popular scary movies and turn them on their heads. If you’re not a fan of stupid humour, you might want to stay away, but for those of us with the maturity of a 12-year-old boy they’re pretty damn funny. The only exception, I would say, is Scary Movie 5 starring Charlie Sheen and Lindsey Lohan. You can probably afford to just skip that one.

Where to Watch: Netflix

29. The Saw Movies (2004-2021)

This one’s for my fellow gore wh*res. Fair warning, these movies aren’t for the faint of heart… or the faint of stomach. But if you like to partake in an over-the-top gorefest every once in a while, the Saw movies are a reliable go-to. Pictured above we have our twisted mastermind, Jigsaw. Jigsaw likes to play games. For these games he designs and builds elaborate traps that force his victims to test themselves under “do or die” conditions. I’ll give you a hint–it doesn’t usually end well for them.

Fun fact: the traps in these movies are all designed to function in real life. For example, the horrific reverse bear trap device was based on a real medieval torture device. Life-sized, functioning models of some of these traps were actually built. Yikes.

Where to Watch: Crave, Netflix, Prime Video (Starz)

30. Poltergeist (1982)

This is the first horror movie I ever remember watching. When I tell you I didn’t sleep for weeks afterward, I’m not exaggerating. This was the first horror movie to use the haunted house trope since The Amityville Horror was released three years prior, and it was met with major commercial and critical success. It was written by Steven Spielberg, so you can be confident that not only will it be creepy but it’s also going to have a solid story.

Where to Watch: Crave (Starz), Shudder or rent on Prime Video

31. Us (2019)

Every horror fan reading this list is probably nodding along with me on this one. This was Jordan Peele’s second feature-length horror film, so we all had high expectations after the wild success of Get Out in 2017. I’m also a huge fan of Lupita Nyong’o, so when I heard she would be starring in this movie I knew it was going to be great. As far as I’m concerned, Us gave me everything it promised and more. The storyline is fresh, the acting is next level and it has that little dash of comedy that you expect from Peele. I’d definitely recommend saving this one for Halloween night!

Where to Watch: Netflix

32. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

If you have brave older kids who like a family-friendly movie that are a little on the scarier side, this is a great one to consider for your Halloween movie night! This movie is based on the 1981 anthology of short horror stories by Alvin Schwartz. It was heavily promoted when it was coming out, so you probably remember seeing the trailer for it. I’d say it lived up to the hype.

Most millennials who grew up reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark could tell you that the illustrations in that book were like something out of a nightmare. They were terrifying. Well, the geniuses behind the movie adaptation must remember that, too, because the creature designs stick a little too close to their illustrated counterparts for comfort. They look JUST like the original illustrations come to life. It’s blood-chilling, without being too graphic for families. All in all, a cute and surprisingly spooky viewing experience!

Where to Watch: Prime Video

33. Ready or Not (2019)

I just watched this movie recently for the first time, and let me tell you–it was awful. That said, I do think it has all the makings of a future cult classic and I absolutely LOVED it. Another “good for her” horror flick to add to the growing genre, Ready or Not is about a bride who is forced to play a high-stakes game of hide and seek with her new in-laws.

The premise of this movie is that the husband’s family, a wealthy dynasty who made their fortune on board games, claims to have made a deal with the devil (known in the movie as Mr. Le Bail) to achieve success. In return, whenever someone marries into the family they have to draw a card and play a game. Usually the games are harmless, but every so often it turns lethal. The movie is designed to make the viewer question throughout the viewing whether a deal had actually been struck… or is the family just a bunch of twisted, disturbed, superstitious rich people? Hell, even some of the family members don’t seem to know for sure, and that’s what makes it all so entertaining.

Where to Watch: Prime Video

34. Sweeney Todd (2007)

I just love when worlds collide. As both a certified Spooky Bitch and an avid musical theatre fan, I remember absolutely freaking out when I heard that Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was getting a movie adaptation. I was in the seventh grade when this came out, so I got to experience it at my angstiest. The experience remains unparalleled.

A lot of people give this movie a hard time because the singing wasn’t good enough. Are Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter the most technically proficient singers in the world? Maybe not. But I think it actually suits the roles, and that is a hill I don’t mind dying on. And we all know Depp and Bonham-Carter go together like bread and butter, so I don’t even have to say how incredible the acting is. It’s a little gory (you know, because of all the homicide) so you may want to skip this one if you can’t handle a little throat slitting.

Where to Watch: Hulu, Paramount+ or rent on Prime Video

35. It & It Chapter 2 (2017-2019)

Let me tell you a story. One time when I was really young, I went to a classmate’s birthday party at the park. Her parents had hired a birthday clown. Turns out that was a mistake, because the birthday girl was terrified of that clown. The clown tried to make her feel better by giving her a hug, but to me, all I saw was this horrible clown chasing my friend across the park with his arms out like he was going to grab her. Ever since that day I’ve had a serious case of coulrophobia, and this movie didn’t help things.

To clarify, it’s not the clowns that are supposed to look scary that freak me out the most. It’s the friendly, happy-looking ones. I just know they’re hiding something. And that right there is the only reason I was able to get through these movies without crying; the same reason why I still have trouble getting through the 1990 miniseries version. Anyway, without my phobia interfering as much with the experience, I actually really liked these movies. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, and to me they definitely did the book justice. And they even did it without including the child orgy!

I could seriously talk about these movies all day. They manage to be absolutely petrifying while also not feeling like you’re watching a horror movie. The casting and writing are both so perfect that it feels more like you’re watching an award-winning drama. It has the same vibes as Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House in that sense. And Bill Skarsgård, needless to say, crushes his role as Pennywise. How does he do that with his face?

Where to Watch: Netflix or rent on Prime Video

36. The Lost Boys (1987)

Best. Vampire movie. Ever. Seriously. With a stacked cast including Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Dianne Wiest, Jason Patric and Edward Herrmann, you can’t go wrong. It also has arguably the best score/soundtrack of the decade, which is really saying something since most 80s movies are strong in that department.

The movie follows brothers Michael and Sam Emerson, who move to the fictional coastal town of Santa Carla with their mother. The family quickly becomes caught up in the dark, dangerous world of bikers, vampires and vampire hunters. Although it’s technically a black comedy, it definitely does have some horror elements to it. This is also in my top 5 favourite movies of all time!

Where to Watch: Shudder

37. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Another Halloween QUEEN. To the average movie-watcher, Elvira might be a bit of an acquired taste. But if you like a little bit of ooky spooky and a whole lot of camp (not to mention pure hilarity) then why don’t you let me turn you onto something:

Elvira has been a horror icon for over 40 years now. The character is both created and played by Cassandra Peterson. She’s sarcastic, witty, satirical and delightfully risqué. Before she hit the silver screen, Elvira was made the host of the late-night horror show Fright Night (later Elvira’s Movie Macabre) on KHJ radio station in Los Angeles back in the 80s. She would later star in two movies, a TV series and even a home video series.

Where to Watch: Prime Video, Shudder, Hulu

38. Interview With the Vampire (1994)

If The Lost Boys didn’t exist, this would be my all-time favourite vampire movie. And no, not because it stars two iconic 90s heartthrobs. I’m a huge fan of The Vampire Chronicles book series by Anne Rice. The movie adaptation takes some creative liberties and changes a few storytelling elements to better fit the big screen, but from an entertainment perspective this is a solid film. Plus, even though it’s not exactly a horror movie, it’s still bound to get the Halloween vibes flowing.

In case you live under a rock and you’ve never heard of this movie, it follows our protagonist, Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) as he recounts his very long life story in an interview with a journalist. Tom Cruise holds his own as the roguish Lestat de Lioncourt, and Kirsten Dunst’s performance as Claudia is the single best performance I’ve ever seen from a child actor.

Where to Watch: Crave (Starz) or rent on Prime Video

39. Scooby Doo: Zombie Island (1998)

I’ve been excited to talk about this one since I thought of it. Many actual film critics will agree with me when I say Scooby Doo: Zombie Island is hands down the best animated Scooby Doo movie ever made. Please, I dare you to try and change my mind. That “Terror Time Again” song that plays during the montage when everyone’s running from the zombies through the bayou goes on every single one of my Halloween playlists. It’s a banger.

Not to mention, the plot twist in this movie shook me to the core as a kid. I still chase the dopamine rush I got from that big reveal as a kid. I honestly don’t know what else to tell you–this movie is just good vibes all around. It gives me that warm, fuzzy nostalgic feeling. I also remember begging my mom to let me eat a chili pepper because the ones Shaggy and Scooby ate in this movie looked so good… All I’ll say is that it didn’t end well.

Where to Watch: Rent on Prime Video

40. Scooby Doo & the Witch’s Ghost (1991)

Yes, I know–another Scooby Doo movie. But the Mystery Incorporated gang are mandatory invites for any Halloween party; I don’t make the rules. Plus, I couldn’t not include the Hex Girls. Was Thorn my bi awakening? Maybe. Let’s move on. This movie is an oldie but a goodie. It’s your classic Scooby Doo flick, popular among kids and aging millennials alike. This is another one I could watch over and over again without getting bored.

Where to Watch: Rent on Prime Video

41. The Babadook (2014)

My partner and I both watched this movie for the first time together a few years ago, when my best friend dressed up as the Babadook for Halloween. By then the Babadook was already a notorious LGBTQIA+ icon, which ruined the horror experience for me a bit, but I’m not going to lie… The sound he makes is deeply unsettling. The whole storybook thing also adds an extra layer of creepy. I think it’s because a lot of people, including me, associate books with safety. Storybooks especially. But not this storybook…

Where to Watch: Crave (Starz), Prime Video

42. Insidious (2010)

Ahh, yes… The movie that brought Tiptoe Through the Tulips out of obscurity and made it the horror anthem we know and love today. I have very specific memories of being terrified out of my mind while watching this movie with my friends as a teen. In fact, the scene featuring Tiptoe Through the Tulips has been seared into my psyche as one of the scariest scenes I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. This movie really messes with you psychologically, my dudes. It’s filled with jump scares, and it made me terrified of astral projecting for many years. The sequels are pretty good, too! Watch this one with a pillow to hide behind.

Where to Watch: Netflix, Prime Video (with Super Channel subscription)

43. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

It wouldn’t be Halloween without our pal Edward Scissorhands. I don’t know what to tell you, Tim Burton just knows Halloween. You may remember Dianne Wiest in the GIF above from The Lost Boys (see #36), and once again she just slam dunks the campy-black-comedy-with-a-twist-of-horror role, even as a secondary character. We also have Winona Ryder as Kim and Johnny Depp as Edward himself. I don’t need to tell you what this movie’s about; it’s pretty self-explanatory. All you need to know is that it deserves a spot on any Halloween movie list.

Where to Watch: Disney+, Crave (Starz) or rent on Prime Video

44. The Strangers (2008)

This one was my partner’s suggestion, and I’m 100% with him on it. This movie exploit’s everyone’s biggest fear: feeling unsafe in our own homes. There’s just something deeply terrifying about the idea of being helplessly stalked for sport in the one place where you should always feel safest. This is another one to watch with the lights off, after the kids are safely tucked into their beds. Safely… Right?

Where to Watch: Prime Video

45. Monster House (2006)

I couldn’t tell you how many times my younger brother and I watched this one when we were kids. It didn’t even have to be Halloween, we just loved it. I watched it recently to make sure it was still as awesome as I remember it being, and it was. The animation left something to be desired, but the story covered all the spooky bases. Only, as an adult, I found myself sympathizing with poor old Mr. Nebbercracker. We love a body positive king. Is it just me, or were those kids definitely acting out of line? Or… Am I just getting old and out of touch?

Where to Watch: Netflix or rent on Prime Video

46. Ghostbusters (2016)

Yes, I’m purposely recommending the one with the all-female cast. Yes, I’m bringing feminism into this casual, ridiculously long listicle. Listen, growing up I had zero interest in the Ghostbusters. None at all. And do you know why that was? Because I couldn’t relate to it at all. Everything about it screamed “masc” and it just seemed like a boy’s club that I wanted no part of. Having a female cast got me interested in a universe that I previously had no desire to explore, and it earned the ghost-busting quartet a permanent spot on my spooky season movie list. Also, Kate McKinnon. So there.

Where to Watch: Netflix or rent on Prime Video

47. 28 Days Later (2002)

I’m not normally a fan of Zombie movies, but I wanted to include at least one on this list. After all, Zombies are a staple for any creature feature. My partner actually suggested I pick Dawn of the Dead, but I have two words for why I chose this one instead: fast zombies. Zombie movies with fast zombies are the only ones that actually manage to scare me, because the idea of a reanimated corpse sprinting full-speed at me, ready to tear me limb from limb, makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

Where to Watch: Disney+, Crave (Starz) or rent on Prime Video.

48. Scooby Doo: The Movie (2002)

I know, I know. Another Scooby Doo movie. But give me a break, I’m a 90s kid. Mr Doo is my lord and saviour, and I’m not talking about Melvin Doo. This movie is quoted pretty much daily among my family, and for good reason. It has gifted us with gems like “are you challenging me?” and “Look, I’m a man of substance. Dorky chicks like you turn me on, too.” This is the pinnacle of early 2000s entertainment. If you, by some miracle, have not seen this movie… I do have to warn you that it’s totally and completely unhinged. The whole thing is like one big acid trip, and it never gets old. In fact, I think I’m going to go watch it right now.

Where to Watch: Netflix or rent on Prime Video

49. Zombieland (2009)

I snuck another zombie movie in last minute because I forgot how amazing Zombieland was, and not including it would be a chargeable offence. I’m not the biggest fan of Jesse Eisenberg as an actor, but the chemistry between him and Woody Harrelson was just incredible. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin vibed really well together, as well. This movie took your typical zombie movie tropes and turned them on their heads in the most hilarious, ridiculous way possible.

I also found that the more “fun” elements of this movie made it that much more realistic, like when they were goofing off in Bill Murray’s house, the search for the last box of twinkies or the scene where they’re smashing everything at the store just to let off steam. We’re still human, after all, so if there were to be a zombie apocalypse we wouldn’t be morose and serious all the time the way most zombie movies portray. That’s physically impossible. We’d have to find little ways to have fun, and I feel like Zombieland portrayed that in a pretty realistic way.

Where to Watch: Netflix, Prime Video

50. Orphan (2009)

This movie disturbed me. Period. I don’t think it’s talked about enough. I don’t remember there being much hype around it when it came out, and I don’t think it did particularly well in the box office either. Or with the critics, for that matter, who called it “formulaic and predictable.” That may be so, but to me the formula worked. The ending was sufficiently mind-melting, and Isabelle Fuhrman’s performance of the creepy, malicious orphan Esther reinforced my decision to never be a parent. Kids are scary, dude.

Where to Watch: Crave or rent on Prime Video

What are your annual must-watch Halloween movies? Leave a comment below and let me know!

© Victoria St. Michael 2021

5 thoughts on “50 Essential Movies for Spooky Season

  1. Biren says:

    Great choice, I would say! Though I haven’t watched any of them but the way you’ve outlined all of those 50 movie, it seems pretty much awesome watch list! So nicely described and depicted, Vic! I always enjoy reading your work!

    Liked by 2 people

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