Just like dressing up or eating candy, watching spooky movies is a quintessential Halloween activity. The movies I have compiled on this list range from sentimental favorites to contemporary horror, so everyone is sure to find something that interests them.
1 – Practical Magic (1998)
Two witch sisters, raised by their eccentric aunts in a small town, face closed-minded prejudice and a curse that threatens to prevent them from ever finding lasting love. You know that feeling when you find a movie and you think, how did I not know this existed? That is what happened to me a few years ago when I discovered “Practical Magic.” Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, witches, a beautiful Victorian house, 90s bops, shall I go on? The movie can be a little cheesy at times, but it is so charming that you forgive it for its faults. The strongest aspects of “Practical Magic” are the sisters’ bond, midnight margaritas, and of course, magic.
2 – Halloween (1978)
For any slasher movie lovers out there, this movie is a spooky season must. “Halloween” follows 17-year-old Laurie Strode and her friends as they are attacked by escaped mental patient and murderer, Michael Myers on Halloween night. As the first slasher film to really popularize the genre, “Halloween” has a special place in horror movie history. The movie was Jamie Lee Curtis’ breakout role and she does an excellent job conveying vulnerability and strength. John Carpenter has created a horror film that is just as scary today as it was forty years ago. Make sure to add this horror classic to your list.
3 – Scream (1996)
A year after the murder of her mother, Sidney Prescott is terrorized by a new killer, who targets her and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game. The best thing about “Scream” is that it comments on slasher movie tropes while diverting from them. The film has the ability to make fun of the genre, while also being pretty terrifying. It can make you laugh one minute and scream in terror the next. My other favorite aspect of the series is we are not following the murderer from one film to the next, we are instead following the characters we know and love. Because of this, the series is able to explore how the Final Girl processes her trauma. I found this to be a refreshing take on the slasher genre.
4 – Casper (1995)
“Casper” may be one of the kid-friendly picks on this list, but it sure as hell terrified me as a child. Casper’s three uncles, known as the Ghostly Trio, really gave me the creeps. Regardless, I still loved it. The movie follows an afterlife therapist and his daughter Kat, who meet a friendly young ghost when they move into a crumbling mansion in order to rid the premises of wicked spirits. “Casper” is quirky, funny, and charming. It has what any classic spooky movies need, a big haunted house. The casting of Christina Ricci as Kat and Bill Pullman as Kat’s dad, James Harvey, is the cherry on top of this delightful 90s classic.
5 – Halloweentown (1998)
Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) and her siblings get a big shock when they follow grandma home to Halloweentown – and find out they come from a family of witches. The town is the only place where supernatural beings can lead a “normal” life, but trouble is looming in this spooky town. For a lot of millennials, this Disney Channel Original Movie is a classic they watched as kids. I did not have this experience but I have watched “Halloweentown” a couple times in the last few years and I have genuinely enjoyed it. Debbie Renolds as Aggie Cromwell has to be a highlight for me. She is equal amounts kooky and wise, making her not only a joy to watch but also a dream grandma. I guess what I’m saying is, I get the hype.
6 – The Craft (1996)
A newcomer to a Catholic prep high school falls in with a trio of outcast teenage girls who practice witchcraft, and they all soon conjure up various spells and curses against those who anger them. I will start my thoughts on “The Craft” by saying that there should have been more women behind the scenes. Instead of fighting each other, these teen witches should have been fighting their oppressors. Regardless, this movie is full of witchy fun and I would still recommend it. The film had mixed reviews from critics but has developed a cult following over the years. “The Craft” is the perfect movie for someone who wants to be spooked but still be able to sleep at night. Also, a love of witches and 90s fashion is preferred, but not required.
7 – The Witch (2015)
A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic, and possession. “The Witch” is a perfect selection for this list because it is very dark and creepy. The film is set sixty-two years before the infamous Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts, but fear and disdain of witches is still very much present. The film focuses on the eldest daughter in a family named Thomasin, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. You won’t find any jump scares in “The Witch,” but instead you’ll feel the slow build-up of dread. The prospect of no electricity and being stuck in a small home with your crazy religious family is sure to terrify anyone.
8 – Matilda (1996)
I recently rewatched this sentimental favorite and let me tell you, it is much darker than you remember. “Matilda” follows a wonderful little girl (Mara Wilson), who happens to be a genius with telekinetic powers, and her wonderful teacher (Embeth Davidtz) vs. the worst parents ever (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman) and the worst school principal imaginable (Pam Ferris). Miss Trunchbull is a truly terrifying villain and even though Matilda’s parents, Zinna and Harry are horrible people they definitely bring the comedic relief. What makes this movie perfect for spooky season? Murder, hautings, and magic are just some of the reasons. This black comedy is worth the watch this October!
9 – The Conjuring (2013)
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. I went through a couple of phases with horror movies. Up until the age of 18 I had refused to watch them, then I watched a ton and wondered why people found them so scary. When I saw “The Conjuring” I was still pretty sure that horror movies would never live up to the hype; I was wrong. What is more classic than a haunted house story? “The Conjuring” is a riveting film with some truly terrifying scenes that you’ll wish you could forget.
10 – Hocus Pocus (1993)
This film is a sentimental favorite for many people, me included. After moving to Salem, Massachusetts, teenager Max Dennison (Omri Katz) explores an abandoned house with his sister Dani (Thora Birch) and their new friend, Allison (Vinessa Shaw). After dismissing a story Allison tells as superstitious, Max accidentally frees a coven of evil witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy) who used to live in the house. When you’re a kid you think the Sanderson Sisters are the villains, but these witches are what make “Hocus Pocus” the classic that it is. The slapstick humor of the film is amplified by the unforgettable performances of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. Spooky season just wouldn’t be the same without this spellbinding classic.