13 of Our Halloween Movie and TV Favorites

by IMDb-Editors | created - 21 Oct 2013 | updated - 29 Oct 2013 | Public

In the autumn, IMDb editors' thoughts turn darkly to thoughts of terror - more specifically, the frights that only certain movies and TV shows can inspire. Behold, our list of essential titles that we include in our own Halloween viewing.

(P.S. Our sincerest apologies to Lord Tennyson, on our Halloween repurposing of his classic poem.)

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1. Hellraiser (1987)

R | 94 min | Horror, Thriller

57 Metascore

An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; the demonic cenobites are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld.

Director: Clive Barker | Stars: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman

Votes: 91,990 | Gross: $14.56M

Not long after the Rubik's cube was introduced to Americans came this tale of a different kind of puzzle box, the kind you really don't want to solve...or open. While the creepy Cenobites promise their victims eternity in a world of pleasure, pain and suffering, we only get see the pain and suffering part of that guarantee, underscored by the demon Pinhead's assurance that, in his words, "WE'LL TEAR YOUR SOUL APAAAAART."

Watch now on Amazon Instant Video

2. The X-Files (1993– )
Episode: Home (1996)

TV-MA | 44 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

The remains of a murdered deformed infant lead the agents to a family of murderous, inbred, animal-like brothers living on a secluded farm in a remote section of Pennsylvania.

Director: Kim Manners | Stars: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Tucker Smallwood, Chris Nelson Norris

Votes: 4,259

There are many episodes of "The X-Files" that will keep a person up at night, but "Home" took the show's queasiness factor to new levels of ickiness by liberally playing with the horror trope of backwoods murderous maniacs. Here, we are introduced to the Peacocks, a small-town family consisting of three brothers who keep to themselves... mainly in order to hide a family secret that will make you shudder for hours (or days) after the end-credits roll. Especially if you have space under your bed.

Watch now on Amazon Instant Video

3. Donnie Darko (2001)

R | 113 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

88 Metascore

A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after he narrowly escapes a bizarre accident.

Director: Richard Kelly | Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne

Votes: 696,318 | Gross: $1.48M

Watch now on Amazon Instant Video

This film is not your typical scary movie, but Halloween plays an important role in the film. If you haven't checked it out yet, Halloween would be a great time to do so-- and you may also get a few cool costume ideas.

4. House of Wax (1953)

GP | 88 min | Horror

An associate burns down a wax museum with the owner inside, but he survives only to become vengeful and murderous.

Director: André De Toth | Stars: Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones

Votes: 14,433 | Gross: $23.75M

While Vincent Price is a horror deity, it is not only his performance that makes House of Wax one Halloween must-see. No, what makes this movie a sinister classic is the very idea of murdered people encased in wax, used in displays of historical figures; watching the major characters and the visiting public walk amongst these tableaux, commenting in awe on how real the figures seem only makes the squick factor gradually intensify. The most inexplicably horrifying scene of all comes near the beginning: the visuals of wax figures melting in a fire is at least as disturbing as many axe or chainsaw scenes filmed in the years since. P.S The actor playing Igor, billed here as Charles Buchinsky, might look a wee bit familiar to you.

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5. Häxan (1922)

Not Rated | 91 min | Documentary, Fantasy, Horror

Fictionalized documentary showing the evolution of witchcraft, from its pagan roots to its confusion with hysteria in modern Europe.

Director: Benjamin Christensen | Stars: Benjamin Christensen, Elisabeth Christensen, Maren Pedersen, Clara Pontoppidan

Votes: 10,122

Ostensibly a practical look at the history of witchcraft - and the punishments meted out for practicing it through the ages - this little silent gem is lent a veneer of menace by the visual age of the footage, the bizarre costuming of the witches and the mismatching of the music to the topic at hand. While the title card translations from Swedish to English are fanciful and a riot to read all on their own, juxtaposing that with visual demonstrations of how medieval implements of torture were used is a potent psychological horrorshow. Note: this is an ideal film to screen at your Halloween party, as the visuals alone will set the mood while both entertaining and unnerving your guests in the right proportions.

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6. Alien (1979)

R | 117 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

89 Metascore

After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright

Votes: 711,365 | Gross: $78.90M

The original Alien is first-and-foremost a sci-fi movie. However, its last hour or so is a classic haunted house scenario – with a spaceship serving as the house – and director Ridley Scott masterfully ratchets up the tension to an unbearable level. For further proof that this is a great horror choice, look no further than the movie’s iconic tagline: “In space no one can hear you scream.”

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7. The Shining (1980)

R | 146 min | Drama, Horror

63 Metascore

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers

Votes: 778,000 | Gross: $44.02M

The elevator! The twins! Room 237! Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King novel The Shining is legitimately terrifying, and it always makes for a strong choice around Halloween. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also a pretty great movie – it ranks 48th on IMDb’s Top 250 list, which is second-best for a Kubrick movie behind Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick has eight movies on the list, six of which are in the Top 100).

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8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003)
Episode: Hush (1999)

TV-PG | 43 min | Action, Drama, Fantasy

When everyone in Sunnydale loses their voice, the Scooby Gang must silently solve the mystery of the monsters who stole their ability to speak.

Director: Joss Whedon | Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, James Marsters

Votes: 5,344

For the most part, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was not a scary show. Even the vamps died cleanly: One stake in the general region of the heart, and they neatly dissolved into a puff of ash.

Not the case for The Gentlemen: floating, ghoulish creatures with sunken-in eyes and unnaturally tight smiles whose modus operandi was the stuff of nightmares. Using magic, The Gentlemen rendered mute the citizens of Sunnydale in order to harvest their still-beating hearts without having to deal with any inconveniences like screaming. But that doesn't mean you can't yelp a little while you're watching.

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9. Trilogy of Terror (1975 TV Movie)

Unrated | 72 min | Horror, Thriller

Three bizarre horror stories all of which star Karen Black in four different roles playing tormented women.

Director: Dan Curtis | Stars: Karen Black, Robert Burton, John Karlen, George Gaynes

Votes: 5,178

Trilogy of Terror may have consisted of three separate stories, each starring Karen Black playing markedly different characters, but the one that stuck with me through the years is the finale piece, in which an African tribal doll comes to life and hunts a woman in her apartment.

As a child who grew up in a home filled with small African sculptures, this film added a more sinister dimension to one's fear of the dark. And dolls.

Buy now on DVD

10. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966 TV Special)

Not Rated | 25 min | Animation, Short, Comedy

The Peanuts gang celebrates Halloween while Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin.

Director: Bill Melendez | Stars: Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Sally Dryer, Cathy Steinberg

Votes: 14,201

No Halloween is complete without a viewing of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", arguably one of best Charlie Brown specials (after "A Charlie Brown Christmas"). And don't forget Lucy's wise advice: A person should always choose a costume which is in direct contrast to her own personality.

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11. The Imposter (2012)

R | 99 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

77 Metascore

A documentary centered on a young man in Spain who claims to a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who has been missing for 3 years.

Director: Bart Layton | Stars: Adam O'Brian, Nicholas Barclay, Carey Gibson, Bryan Gibson

Votes: 42,123 | Gross: $0.89M

As unnerving as the best fictional horror is this true story of a pathological Frenchman's successful attempt to pass himself off as a Texas family's long-missing child. His deceit sets the stage for what translates as a potential murder cover-up, and the mix of documentary and re-created footage adds serious ick factor thanks to Adam O'Brian's portrayal of Frederic Bourdin, also known in the real world as "The Chameleon".

Watch now on Amazon Instant Video

12. American Horror Story (2011– )

TV-MA | 60 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

An anthology series centering on different characters and locations, including a house with a murderous past, an insane asylum, a witch coven, a freak show, a hotel, a possessed farmhouse, a cult, and the apocalypse.

Stars: Lady Gaga, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Sarah Paulson

Votes: 248,408

IMDb Editor Michelle started watching the first season of "American Horror Story" when the first five episodes were replayed on Halloween. By the end of the marathon, she was hooked and it's still one of her favorite shows. The series has only gotten creepier over time, and this season has taken the gore to a new level. Be forewarned: you may experience some strange dreams after viewing.

Watch now on Amazon Instant Video

13. Dracula (1931)

Passed | 75 min | Fantasy, Horror

The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.

Directors: Tod Browning, Karl Freund | Stars: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye

Votes: 41,133

Watching Dracula each Halloween serves as a fine mental palate refresher of sorts from all of the vampire variations that have come along in the decades since it was filmed. We're fans of so many of those different vampire incarnations, but there's just something perfect about Bela Lugosi's interpretation of Count Dracula as a mysterious, menacing continental gentlemen, complemented by the gorgeously gloomy visual atmosphere created inside the Abbey by Tod Browning and Karl Freund. The chilling work of these three early horror masters combined makes this an ideal film to watch in the dark long after the trick-or-treaters have gone home.

Watch now on Amazon Instant Video

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