BOO! If that scared you, you’re not alone. Halloween can bring out the scaredy-cat in all of us. But if horror really gives you the heebie-jeebies, or jump scares bring you down with a serious case of the jitters, it can be tough to join in on the spooky season. It doesn’t have to be that way. For the easily-terrified among us, here are the best Halloween-themed movies, TV shows, and series you can enjoy – without having to hide behind the sofa.
A scaredy-cat's guide to Halloween: the best TV shows to watch
Bob's Burgers – "Full Bars"
Bob’s Burgers always does Halloween right, often focusing on the time-tested tradition of trick or treating. After all, the Belcher offspring – Tina, Gene, and Louise – are the perfect companions for a spooky door-to-door adventure that very often spirals out of control.
“Full Bars,” though is the best of a very, very good bunch – the plot wouldn’t look out of place in the upcoming Bob’s Burgers movie as the kids head to King’s Head Island and must avoid the fearsome teenage group terrorising children with The Hell Hunt. Elsewhere, a whodunnit transpires as Teddy’s hamster dies at a Halloween party, with the pedantic handyman becoming increasingly frantic as the night wears on.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Halloween episodes
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is here. Noice. Instead of leaning on scares over the Halloween season, the former NBC comedy goes one better by one-upping itself every year and pulling off increasingly elaborate heists. The fifth season’s Halloween episode even shakes things up by having Jake jump through several heist-themed hoops (and a pyramid scheme) to propose to Amy. D’aww.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – "Fear, Itself"
Buffy’s monster of the week could often act as an excuse to switch up genres or celebrate certain holidays. “Fear, Itself” is not only a characteristically overblown episode (with the Sunnydale gang being a little looser around each other given the premise of a demon conjuring up their worst fears), but also an unmissable peek into the motivations of each character that helps inform the show moving forward. Halloween has never been so ‘90s.
Community – "Epidemiology"
Best known for its meta humour and fourth-wall breaking tendencies, the Dan Harmon-created series has dived into Halloween on a couple of occasions, with the second season episode “Epidemiology” proving the standout.
Greendale is overcome by zombie-like students after their drinks are spiked – and it’s left to Troy, in the words of the show, to become the first black person to survive ‘til the end. What follows is a love letter to zombie flicks, Halloween, and all-round horror, Community-style.
Want to give your kids an early horror headstart? You could do a lot worse than Goosebumps, the ‘90s anthology series based on the works of R.L. Stine. Its mostly schlocky, low-budget episodes have the right amount of cheese to hold up on a rewatch today, and younger generations may well lap it up – especially as it doesn’t pull any punches with its myriad monsters and ghoulish special effects. The Haunted Mask, anyone?
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
A Halloween classic you should revisit every year, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will consistently delight with its childhood capers and Halloween hallmarks, such as playing dress-up, apple bobbing and, uhh, pretending to be a World War One fighter pilot. Maybe forget that last one.
To cap it off, it all comes bundled with the simplistic, if a little crudely-drawn, animation that is filled with the sort of personality you don't get from today's CGI affairs. At its heart, though, it’s a story about how we each bring out the best – and sometimes worst – in each other.
Over The Garden Wall
What if Studio Ghibli and Ni No Kuni had a Halloween baby? It would probably look something like Over The Garden Wall, a heart-warming miniseries that sees two half-brothers traverse the world of The Unknown with just enough wide-eyed wonder to fill the darker, broodier moments with enough magic for it to be suitable for all ages. If you haven’t seen this, you owe it to yourself to watch all 10 episodes of this hidden classic.
The Office (US) Halloween episodes
Everyone loves a good work Halloween party… right? Right? Don’t all leave at once – because The Office’s handful of Halloween episodes come packed with outrageously inventive costumes (Gabe as Lady Gaga, anyone?) and even some heartfelt moments thrown in there too, like Jim finally admitted how he wouldn’t want to work without Pam. Despite all the odds, this is one work gathering where people making a fool out of themselves is entertaining to relive over and over again.
The Simpsons - "Treehouse of Horror"
The Simpsons has perfect Halloween homages with its Treehouse of Horror run, now spanning 30 episodes. From a perfectly-weighted parody of The Shining to Pierce Brosnan standing in for a murderous HAL, it could be argued that America’s Most Famous Family have brought Halloween kicking and screaming back into the mainstream on television in the mid-to-late ‘90s. Its influence is undeniably still being felt years later, judging by how popular standalone Halloween episodes are in the 21st Century.
Read more: The best Treehouse of horror episodes, ranked!
The Twilight Zone
While it may not scream Halloween at first glance, The Twilight Zone has sent more shivers down spines than any other show or movie on this list. For years, it perfected the art of presenting the viewer with surreal, scary situations while also hammering home a moral lesson for those watching at home at the end of the episode. It’s a simple format, sure, but one that worked so effectively for years – and helped launch the careers of the likes of William Shatner and Robert Redford.
Click through to the next page for the best non-scary Halloween movies