No one does Halloween quite like The Simpsons. The best Treehouse of Horror episodes await you below, from 1990s original trio of terrifying tales right through to 2018’s Treehouse of Horror 29. Along the way, there’s not only some of the best Simpsons episodes ever, but also a few creepy clunkers that manage to stink up the spooky niche that the animated sitcom has managed to carve out for itself over the past three decades. Below, we rank them all. That’s right. The best Treehouse of Horror episodes, from the ones that make you snooze right through, to the episodes that keep you up at night.
All 29 episodes and 87 skits are ranked here. There’s Homer doing a deal with the devil and ending up with a donut for a head; several sci-fi parodies, and, of course, what the Treehouse of Horror episodes do best: bring the spine-tingling chills while adding on a dash of Simpsons magic. Does your favourite make it to the top of our list? There’s only one way to find out, but beware: the path is littered with frights, scary sights, and that fog that turns people inside out...
29. Treehouse of Horror 22
Worst. Treehouse of Horror. EVER. I don't enjoy actively hating on The Simpsons, but every segment here leaves a bad taste in the mouth. 7 minutes of fart jokes is bad enough, but the first vignette is also a cruel, niche parody of The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, a real-life, tragic story of locked-in syndrome. Flanders as a serial killer sounds like fun, but is delivered like terrible fan-fiction with a weirdly mean-spirited take on religion, and, yes, there's an Avatar parody with Bart having tentacle sex. Because that's exactly what we wanted.
28. Treehouse of Horror 29
Nearly every criticism thrown at latter-day Simpsons can apply here. Everything feels simultaneously rushed, yet lazy in its execution, and there’s nary a joke that lands without another quickly coming along to try and tickle our funny bones before inevitably falling flat.
There’s an Invasion of the Body Snatchers parody that barely rises beyond a couple of mildly amusing sight gags (with Otto transforming into a marijuana leaf a right highlight) and a bizarre Split-style short with Yeardley Smith rattling through a bunch of passable impressions and kooky accents after Lisa loses the plot over getting a Bart-concocted F.
At least Geriatric Park – a suitably lazy Jurassic Park rip-off – offers up a pretty damn hilarious (literal) flyover of the Jurassic Park parks and their increasing ludicrousness, plus the elderly-turning-into-dinosaurs bit surprisingly doesn’t outstay its welcome. But, all in all, this feels like an episode that barely knows what to do with itself. It feels like the Treehouse of Horror formula is, unfortunately, wearing really thin, really fast. Could next year’s 30th Treehouse of Horror (also its 666th episode) be its last?
27. Treehouse of Horror 19
You'd think someone on the Simpsons staff would do their research. Not only does this episode kick off with a skit surrounding a toy that's not what it seems, it also murders other toys. You're not suffering déjà vu, they've both been done before on the show. How to Get Ahead in Dead-vertising at least brings the traditional guts and gore, even if it's a lazy Mad Men parody. The Charlie Brown homage, however, manages to tick all the right nostalgia boxes, but this episode is filled with montages and corner-cuts everywhere. One to avoid.
26. Treehouse of Horror 27
Oof. It's always a bad sign when an episode is stalling for time three minutes in. It doesn't get much better from there. Dryhard is a try-hard Hunger Games parody about a drought. Apt, then, that it's running empty on jokes. BFF RIP is almost as painful to watch as the various murders Lisa's imaginary friend Rachel commits. And if you're expecting a funny and smart Bond parody from Moefinger, you'll be overjoyed to know all you're getting is a one-dimensional Kingsman parody. The Bond theme send-up, to celebrate 600 episodes, just about keeps this one from plummeting to the very depths of the Halloween canon.
25. Treehouse of Horror 16
The warning signs are there from the beginning. A 2-minute long preamble about how boring baseball is gives way to a trio of uninspiring and downright unfunny tales. Bartificial Intelligence seems to have been a case of come up with a crap pun first, a story second and Survival of the Fattest doesn't know whether it wants to have a jab at reality TV, FOX, or hunting (it fails at all three). At least I've Grown a Costume on Your Face is fun to look at, even if it comes packed with, in hindsight, one of the most awkward jokes in the show's history. You'll know it once you hear it.
24. Treehouse of Horror 26
I want to like this episode, I really do. It's just that homages and tributes to other properties have been done countless times up to this point in other episodes, and none amounted to a setup for a terrible joke and were as borderline offensive (what's up with those Japanese accents?) as Homerzilla. Sideshow Bob killing Bart isn't nearly as funny as you'd hope, and Telepaths of Glory is a pale imitation of Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl. Boo-urns.
23. Treehouse of Horror 28
The latest Halloween offering is the Simpsons equivalent of a well-worn jacket. It's comfortable, you know what you're getting, but you really want that looser, more garish-looking one from a few decades ago. This episode reads like a checklist of typical Treehouse of Horror segments: an old movie property? Check. Different animation styles on occasion? Check. Meta moments and callbacks? Double check. After 28 of these, the premise is wearing a little thin…
22. Treehouse of Horror 21
If the opening segment – War and Pieces, a fun frolic through board games past – was in any other episode further up the list, it'd make for an instant classic. It's just that the rest of the episode doesn't stack up. Master and Cadaver is a tired old plot that limps through its 7 minutes, and why the writers thought it'd be a good idea to ape Twilight, I'll never know.
21. Treehouse of Horror 17
This feels like an early-season Treehouse of Horror wrapped in modern-day sensibilities. But that's not quite the compliment it sounds. The stories cut to the chase far quicker than some of the show's later episodes but that still doesn't excuse the crude, shock humour more akin to Family Guy and meandering plots that don't go anywhere. There's only so many times you can watch Homer eat more Springfieldians in Married to the Blob, after all. However, the show's use of older influences, such as Golems and War of the Worlds, feel far more refreshing than they would have had this aired during the first 9 seasons.
20. Treehouse of Horror 9
Treehouse of Horror 9 is a strange beast. On one hand, it features a perfect fit with Itchy and Scratchy bringing the blood and guts, but, on the other it presents a show in the death throes of its most creatively fulfilling period. Hair Toupee is a fairly decent effort, if a little too reliant on a tertiary character, but Starship Poopers gives us a glimpse at a Simpsons future that relies heavily on guest stars and shock value. This being The Simpsons, it's still 22 minutes of great animated fare, it's just a middle-of-the-road Treehouse of Horror outing.