As all Halloween fans patiently wait to grab a hot cider, zip up their hoodies and participate in the fun fall actives that represent this fantastic season, October 1st has finally arrived. To celebrate, I compiled a list of 20 films (in NO particular order) that should be watched and commemorated all throughout this cherished month.
Although I start celebrating around August 31st (but who doesn’t, really), I felt this list would be a great kickoff for October, with chosen films that I feel best represent Halloween and its atmosphere. There’s a little something for everyone on here, from classic monsters to family films, to 80s cult hits and everything in between. I also added an extra 11 movies at the end of the list for anyone wanting to partake in a full-blown 31 days of October marathon!
TRICK ‘R TREAT
Start the season off right with Michael Dougherty’s 2007 horror hit, TRICK ‘R TREAT. One of the best horror anthologies since Creepshow, TRICK ‘R TREAT pushes all the right buttons to get you in the seasonal spirit. From werewolves to zombies, to even the spirit of Halloween himself, this movie has something for all horror fans and proceeds to be one of my favorites for this time of year.
Definitely one of the movies I’ll only watch when fall hits, SLEEPY HOLLOW produces that feeling of Halloween that we all know and love. It contains all-things seasonal, leaving you feeling nothing short of excitement towards the best time of the year. And this goes for Disney’s 1949 animated short, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as well, which is also a must-watch.
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA
My favorite of any of the Dracula films, Francis Ford Coppola’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA is a beautiful filmmaking tour de force. The way this film was put together is incredible, and offers a mesmerizing new take on a classic tale using all old school techniques and beautiful sets and costumery.
I love this movie and grew up watching it frequently when it came out, as we had a family friend who worked in the effects department on set. CASPER is such an ambitious movie and holds up greatly through its impressive animation, set design, and well-picked and likable cast. To me, this is a seasonal classic.
FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)
Being a film that would make my top ten or fifteen favorite horror films of all-time, FRIGHT NIGHT houses handsome vampires, great practical effects, and one of the cheesiest soundtracks you’ll ever hear. Not enough can be said about my love for this movie, showcasing the talents of Chris Sarandon and the late, great Roddy McDowell.
THE LORDS OF SALEM
I really enjoy this movie and find it to be very underrated. This film stands next to Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects as being my two favorites of his. THE LORDS OF SALEM feels like a pinnacle turning point in Zombie’s filmmaking approach, giving his audience a taste of something creatively different within his storytelling abilities. Having the context revolve around the Salem witch trials, and containing a Massachusetts setting makes for a great September/October viewing.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
It wouldn’t be Halloween without Romero’s black and white zombie masterpiece. If you look hard enough, you can find a ton of horror movies that showcase this film playing in the background on Halloween. I always see it as a fun little tradition to try and spot out.
This eerie movie is such an early 2000s gem and remains to be one that I revisit often. It’s great all year round, but is particularly fun to watch once fall rolls around, as seeing the asylum engulfed in an autumn setting is particularly pleasing. It’s spooky, psychological, and contains a great cast and premise.
If you know me at all, then you know my strong passion for stop-motion animation (and animation in general), with Laika Studios producing some of the best out there. PARANORMAN is such a fun and unique seasonal film with so much to offer - beautiful artistry, hilarious jokes, and enough zombies and early Halloween set design to catch anyone’s attention. If you haven’t seen this one, I highly recommend adding it to your autumnal watching list.
THE WOLFMAN (1941)
Not the best of the Universal films, but it’s definitely my favorite for nostalgic purposes (and for the simple fact that I love all-things werewolf). It’s such a classic story of love and loss presumed by fate, and is told rather well through the late, greats that is Claude Rains, Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi.
Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN
You either love it or you hate it, but I find Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN to be enjoyable due to its own approach and taking a different direction than the average remake. Some people are so passionate about despising remakes, but I see it as just another version of a film you already love, so why not enjoy both for what they are?
THE MONSTER SQUAD
It wouldn’t be Halloween without MONSTER SQUAD! Classic monsters are the embodiment of Halloween, and this 80s cult hit has all of that, and more. Think Goonies, but with monsters.
Who doesn’t like HALLOWEEN III? This is such a campy classic that has absolutely nothing to do with the franchise and has become a cult hit amongst horror fans everywhere. Just remember to wear your masks from Silver Shamrock and start counting down the days till Halloween!
HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES
Rob Zombie is just all over this list, isn’t he? HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES is a great watch for October, and introduces you to the hell raising trio that go on to showcase themselves in The Devil’s Rejects.
Not your typical animated feature, MONSTER HOUSE demonstrates animation brought to a whole new level. The way they put this together was through a technique called performance capture, utilizing both live action and CGI animation. It’s a really fun film and great for October.
If you didn’t grow up in the 90s, you may not care about this movie as much as some of us do. But whether you did or not shouldn’t take away from the fact that if the late and great Debbie Reynolds is in it, you need to watch it. She was one of my all-time favorite actors, and really brings this little Halloween film to life. Just watch it.
THE WOLFMAN (2010)
I have a love/hate relationship with this movie. It has tons of elements for the makings of a good horror remake, which include traditional effects by the legendary Rick Baker, production design by Rick Heinrichs, and a well-known cast of actors. But unfortunately, all of these positives get drowned out through overly-used negatives, such as terrible CGI and some really bad writing (amongst many other things). As previously stated, the original Wolfman is one of my favorite Universal pictures, so I can put up with the bad to appreciate the good.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
This was the movie that turned me on to all-things animation and Halloween. I always felt this was more of a Halloween movie, but it’s a great watch for Christmas, too. What an impressive piece of artwork for its time, with Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s team breaking new boundaries in the animation world. After all, this is Halloween!
Also one of my favorites (as a lot of these on this list are), HOCUS POCUS is a gem that needs to be watched every Halloween season. Several times. I love everything about this movie- from the cast of characters to the set and costume design, this movie IS Halloween (more so, the fun aspects of Halloween).
Saving the best for last, John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN epitomizes the entire season. This film broke new grounds and is in almost every horror fan’s top favorites list, with good reason. It remains to be immensely scary, tense, and produces the most terrifying killer of all-time, alongside one of the greatest female horror film protagonists, i.e. Laurie Strode. I could write an eighty page research paper on why HALLOWEEN is so great, but I’ll spare you all and say, If you're not watching this at least a couple hundred times during the month of October, well, then you’re doing Halloween wrong.
If you’re going for a full marathon of 31 days of October, I would also suggest:
Beetlejuice, The Guest, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949), The Addams Family, Donnie Darko, Halloween II (1981), American Werewolf in London, Dracula (1931), The VVitch, Frankenstein (1931), and Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire.