Halloween horror flicks may be able to transport us into all-new, terrifying worlds, but there’s something uniquely eerie about witnessing the spirit of Hallow’s Eve overtake your weekly television watch. Seeing our favorite characters in a supernatural environment is a lot like seeing familiar friends dressed up in costume. Sometimes it’s hilarious; sometimes it’s charming; sometimes it’s just downright unsettling.
No matter what genre you’re going for, Halloween TV specials are a great way to add some festivity to your typical routine—or, if you’re on this list right now, in the dead of summer, to beat the heat with fantasies of fall temperatures ahead. From ultra-Halloween series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Stranger Things, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch to everyday favorites like Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, Glee, and How I Met Your Mother to childhood throwbacks like Danny Phantom, Charlie Brown, and Freaks and Geeks, there’s always room for a trick or a treat in the plot. These are the best Halloween TV episodes of all time.
Scream Queens, “Chanel-‘o-ween”
Throwing it back to this 2015 show that deserved to be on air for more than two seasons, Scream Queens. “Chanel-‘o-ween” was the first of the two-episode halloween special. It begins with a laugh-out-loud satire scene of Emma Roberts’s character, Chanel, doing the “nicest” things for her fans and somehow only escalates. (Fun fact: The scene was rumored to be Ryan Murphy’s diss at Taylor Swift.)
Glee, “The Rocky Horror Glee Show”
This Glee special, a must watch episode of TV, is centered around the Glee club performing The Rocky Horror Picture Show for Will Schuester only. With the Glee club putting their spin on the ’75 original, including Mercedes playing Frank N. Furter and John Stamos performing “Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?”, you’re in for a treat.
Danny Phantom, “Fright Knight”
Danny. Phantom. That’s right, we’re throwing it all the way back to your childhood with this gem. Even though every episode of Danny Phantom has a dark, Halloween vibe, the actual fright fest special—which includes Danny trying to beat Dash at a haunted house—will have you right in the mood for spooky season.
The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special
Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, “A Halloween Story”
Buffy is down below, so it’s only right Sabrina is right here as well. While there are seven Halloween episodes in the series, we have to stick with the original. Sabrina duplicates herself when her calendar is double booked between a family gathering and a party with friends attended by her crush.
How I Met Your Mother, “The Slutty Pumpkin Returns”
Every year the crew goes to a Halloween party where Ted looks for the long lost “Slutty Pumpkin,” the woman he saw wearing a risque pumpkin costume at the same gatherine 10 years ago and… surprise! It’s Katie Holmes.
Parks and Recreation, “Halloween Surprise”
Diane, Ron, and Andy all take their kids to go trick or treating and, after an argument between Diane and Ron, Ron spends most of the night alone. How do they make good on the mess? By trying again a week later.
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, “The Ghost of Suite 613”
Another throwback you either watched with your kids—or when you were a kid. For a show with a young audience, this episode is surprising very creepy, now that we think about it…)
Degrassi, “The Curse of Degrassi”
Yes, the Canadian show where Drake and Nina Dobrev got their start had a Halloween special. Chaos ensues with ghosts, pig’s blood, and horror cliches. A perfect re-watch.
Euphoria, “The Next Episode”
The stylish Euphoria cast come dressed all the way up here. Jules and Rue transform into Romeo and Juliet. Kat becomes a provocative nun. And Lexi takes the cake as Bob Ross.
My So-Called Life, “Halloween”
Angela (played by a young Claire Danes), Rickie, and Rayanne break into school on Halloween night when they learn of a student in the ’60s, Nicky Driscoll, who died. They crew then starts to see visions of the moments leading up to his death.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Arguably the Halloween television special, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” has been a yearly cable classic since it first aired in 1966. Something tells us that even after over 50 years, Linus’s faith in the Great Pumpkin is still loyal.
The study group attends a college-wide costume party, where Pierce’s ingestion of some mystery meat sparks a zombie-esque outbreak among partygoers.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Halloween”
If you’re a Buffy fan, then you already know this one is a good time. This is the one where Buffy and her vampire-fighting crew all pick out Halloween costumes that reflect the exact opposite of their personalities. But no one in this series can have a normal experience doing anything, including buying a Halloween costume. The costumes are cursed, and the group of friends spend the night as the actual characters they’ve portrayed. You didn’t sign up for U.S. military references, but by the end of this episode, you’ll get a lot of them.
30 Rock, “Stone Mountain”
With a cast so caricatured they were practically made to be Halloween costumes, it’s no wonder the spirit of 30 Rock shines in its Halloween episode. Among the various characters’ antics, the plot follows closely with Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy on their visit to Kenneth’s hometown in Georgia.
Stranger Things, “Trick or Treat, Freak”
Few shows capture the mischievous and chilling wonder of spooky stories from childhood quite like Stranger Things. Of course, few spent their childhoods inside of the spooky stories. This episode unravels at the start of Season 2, when Will witnesses something suspicious while trick-or-treating.
The Office, “Halloween”
There is a wide variety of holiday episodes in this series, but this Halloween episode is truly at the top. The corporate office tells Michael Scott he has until the end of the day to fire someone in the office, but true to character, he drags his feet. The hilarity and drama are amped up when Michael tries and fails to terminate several of his employees. This is maybe one of the best Creed moments of the series.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Halloween III”
At their annual Halloween heist, the group tries to decide who is “Ultimate Human/Genius,” which involves Jake attempting to steal Holt’s Medal of Valour, only leading to more nonsensical holiday hijinx.
Friends, “The One with the Halloween Party”
Friends truly does holiday episodes right. Its many Thanksgiving episodes are on a whole other plane, but “The One with the Halloween Party” has merits of its own. The friends are throwing a costume party, and when Phoebe runs into her twin sister, Ursela and meets her fiance (played by Sean Penn), she invites them to the party. Sean Penn is dressed as the solar system, so at least watch for that.
Freaks and Geeks, “Tricks and Treats”
This show was only on for one glorious season, so it only has one Halloween episode, but it’s a very quality one. Lindsay thinks she’s too cool to get into Halloween, but her mom wants her to stay home and pass out candy to trick-or-treaters. Meanwhile, we get some good ’80s costumes from Sam, Bill, and Neal, who take to the streets for one last childhood Hallow’s Eve.
American Horror Story, “Halloween”
This is a two-part episode that aired on two separate nights in 2011, during the series’ first season. There’s infidelity, bloody teens showing up out of nowhere, and secrets from the past that have come back to the surface—because that’s what secrets do, especially on Halloween.
Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Trick or Treat”
If your head immediately popped to a vision of Larry David delivering a typical Larry David rant to trick-or-treaters, whom he believes are rigging the system, then you’re in for a treat. This holiday-themed episode features Larry in his typical antics, but with a festive twist.
That 70’s Show, “Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die”
This episode opens with the gang watching a Hitchcock Halloween marathon in Eric’s basement, which is a reminder that watching Hitchcock is the only proper way to spend Halloween. The rest of the episode is a take on famous Hitchcock films, including but not limited to a version of Psycho involving red shampoo. You also get a great revamp of the theme song.
South Park, “Pink Eye”
Kenny is killed, but that’s pretty par for the course with South Park. This time, he come back as a zombie, which is … a change of pace. The boys don’t notice that Kenny is now Zombie Kenny, and when other people become zombies they are thought to have pink eye, which is a new and different take on the undead.
The Simpsons, “Halloween of Horror”
A take on The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror” series, this one features Lisa and Homer being stuck in a den of horrors of their own creation. They use their various holiday decorations to signal for help when two men trying to exact revenge chase them through their own home.
Bob’s Burgers, “The Hauntening”
Louise is that one annoying kid who can’t get scared on Halloween no matter what you try. Her family tries all the ways they can to frighten up a good scare—including devising a haunted house of their own design.
Modern Family, “Halloween”
There have been many Modern Family Halloween episodes, but this first one is a true treasure. Claire really, really loves Halloween and puts a lot of pressure on her family to have a very! Fun! Time! Forced fun is everyone’s favorite way to spend Halloween, right?
BoJack Horseman, “Mr. Peanut Butter’s Boos”
It’s BoJack Horseman’s 25th annual Halloween party, which actually just becomes a vehicle for us to learn about Mr. Peanutbutter’s twisted and storied dating past. One clue: Jessica Biel is his one of his exes. And Mr. Peanutbutter is a dog. This whole show is wacky, which makes it the best Halloween watch.
Black-ish, “Jacked O’Lantern”
Dre’s nieces and nephews are on the wild side when it comes to behavior, and when they come to his neighborhood to trick-or-treat for Halloween, he hopes they can make his kids toughen up a bit. Then, he encounters his cousin, June Bug, who used to bully him when they were young.
The Vampire Diaries, “Haunted”
In case Buffy isn’t enough for you, here’s another one with some vampire action. Vicky can’t control her bloodlust as a new vampire, and she has to learn to crave animal blood over human blood, which, as a vampire, is not an easy task. But somehow she ends up at a Halloween party where drama is already unfolding, and things are…not good.
New Girl, “Keaton”
Schmidt is in a sour mood on Halloween, and in an effort to cheer him up, the friends help Nick in a decades-long catfish scheme involving his childhood icon, Michael Keaton. Yes, a Batman costume makes an appearance.
Hilary Weaver is a freelance writer based in New York who writes about politics, queer issues, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, and every woman the Queen has ever made a dame.
Lexi Carson is a writer from Orlando, Florida, with an interest in movies, music and culture.
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