• Devin Gackle

My Favorite Halloween Movies

I’m more of a cozy, spooky, whimsical Halloween than scary, slasher Halloween kind of person. When it comes to Halloween movies, I love me some classic horror films, some fun Halloween antics, tales of magic and mystery, gothic vibes, and anything that invokes some Halloween nostalgia.


I try get a little bit of all that in every October, so here are at least 10 Halloween movies I always make sure to watch.


Halloweentown


Remember what I said about nostalgia? This Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM for short) was a staple of my childhood Halloween routine—still is. I mean, a girl who discovers she’s a witch in a long line of witches, and that there’s a world where it’s Halloween all the time? Sign me up! And no, I don’t think I’m now too old for this movie—and if anything, the iconic giant Jack-o-Lantern in the middle of Halloweentown’s square is as recognizable for adults as it is for kids.


Hocus Pocus


I mean, DUH. Another nostalgic staple, Hocus Pocus is, in my opinion, the perfect Halloween movie—I even used to watch on VHS at my grandma’s house, sometimes when it wasn’t October. (I bet she still has that tape, too.) Quirky witches, spellcasting, a sassy black cat, a grumpy zombie, a magic song, a magic book, all the autumn in New England vibes, and three ordinary kids on a quest to save Salem? I’m here for it, and my Halloween is not complete until I watch Hocus Pocus. Funny how it’s got kind of a cult following now (along with other previously underrated Halloween films, like The Nightmare Before Christmas.)




Dracula (1931)


Though there’s much about this first film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s gothic novel that doesn’t follow the original story, it’s still fascinating. And, it launched Dracula as one of the most recognizable monsters of all time. I always watch it at Halloween because these days the character of Dracula is such an iconic Halloween presence that it would be strange not to watch anything with in it. And as I mentioned, classic horror films and monster flicks are food for my Halloween soul. There have been many iterations of Dracula over the years, but Bela Lugosi’s Dracula is cemented in my mind as the “real” Dracula.



Phantom of the Megaplex


While this underrated DCOM doesn’t take place during Halloween, it has always inspired Halloween vibes, and I only remember it being aired during the month of October. Includes: Haunted happenings, creepy, chaotic catastrophes, a secret room in the theater basement, midnight mayhem, mystery-solving kids who believe in the magic of movies, a giant inflatable dinosaur, and more.


Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost


Just FYI in advance, there may be a fair amount of Scooby-Doo on this list.


I’ve realized most of my favorite Scooby-Doo movies are ones where the monsters are real, and such is the case with Witch’s Ghost (although there is also a fake ghost witch.) I just love everything about his movie—the idyllic New England town in autumn, Ben Ravencroft and the legend of his ancestor (and also his cool name), the Hex Girls and their awesome music, you name it. In my opinion, this film is from an era of Scooby-Doo films that were more rounded plot-wise, and Mystery, Inc. themselves were brought to life in a more in-depth way. And for some reason it always cracks me up when, after escaping the witch’s ghost, Shaggy grips the collar of Fred’s shirt, shakes him, and yells, “She throws fireballs, man!”


The Addams Family (and Addams Family Values)


I think it’s safe to say the Addams’ are the embodiment of Halloween. They’re quirky and fun, dark but guileless, and of course, they’re all about family. This film adaptation and its sequel in particular hold a special place in my Halloween heart. Like, these movies make me feel like I would fit right in—the weird side of me that revels in the macabre and sometimes daydreams about living in a gothic mansion, you know? If I’m ever invited to an Addams family party, I’d be sure not to miss it.



Penelope


This movie is just so…cozy. And magical. It’s a modern fairytale take on the legend of the pig-faced women, and yet it still manages to feel a little bit out of time—or rather, it has a vintage vibe to it while still being modern-day. In fact, some of the setting and styles are vintage, which is one of things I like about this movie, despite not being sure when it’s supposed to take place. But it’s one of the things that makes it feel cozy; as far as I can tell, the story takes place in autumn, but don’t quote me on that. But Penelope does get the latter half of her happy ending at a Halloween party. It’s a story about loving and accepting yourself for who you are, based on the book Penelope by Marilyn Kaye, and it’s just heartwarming, funny, and delightful.


Classic Scooby-Doo Films


I mean, I did warn you there would be an inordinate amount of Scooby-Doo here. In this case though, I decided to lump a few of my favorite classic Scooby movies together, since they’re all from the same era. These films have only Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy as the main characters; the rest of Mystery, Inc. is never mentioned, so it’s interesting to me to see Shaggy and Scooby’s life without them (and also to see Shaggy and Scooby kind of get used to the world of ghosts and monsters.) Part of it, I think, was they seemed more grown up compared to other iterations—especially more recent adaptations in which their characters appear to lack some brain cells…


-Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School


Another one I had a VHS recording of. As a girl, I enjoyed that the story in this movie revolved around “girl ghouls” instead of the regular male monsters, and they were such fun. They’re weird and adventurous, loyal and brave, and they embrace our three heroes like family. Plus it’s just full of spooky goodness that’s perfect for Halloween.



-Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf


Whoever thought having Dracula turn Shaggy into a werewolf so he could have a werewolf in his annual monster car race was a genius. All the Halloween monsters are in attendance, Shaggy is apparently the greatest racecar driver of all time, and there’s an extra character—Shaggy’s girlfriend, Googie, an element to the story I still rather enjoy. (Fun fact: Googie is voiced by B.J. Ward, who would later be the voice of Velma in future Scooby movies, including Witch’s Ghost.) It’s like if the Monster Mash were a movie, and all the monster were racing instead of dancing.


-Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers


What’s fun about this is the Boo Brothers are very obviously inspired by the Three Stooges. There’s actually a lot going on in this movie, and Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy are constantly being chased by someone or something. If you’re in the mood for a ghost-filled treasure hunt and some wacky Halloween hijinks, as I am around Halloween, then this is the movie for you.


Tales of Terror


This is actually three shorter films in one, all based on Edgar Allen Poe stories, and all starring our spooky lord and master Vincent Price, the king of Halloween. (I mean, if you don’t watch something with Vincent Price in it around Halloween, what are you doing with your life?) The three stories are “Morella,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” although I think I usually only watch the first two; the copy of this my library has also includes an adaptation of The Raven separate from Tales of Terror. Either way, I just need my Poe fix around this time, and these stories tick all the boxes.



Other films I like to watch in October, but don’t always:


  • Rocky Horror Picture Show

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas

  • Creature from the Black Lagoon

  • The House on Haunted Hill

  • Corpse Bride

  • Beetlejuice

  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

  • Sleepy Hollow

  • The Scream Team

  • Van Helsing

  • Monster House

  • Elvira

  • And more…

Happy Spooky Season!