9. Treehouse of Horror 18
Treehouse of Horror 18 is a love letter to the show's past. Not only is it a fitting tribute to The Simpsons Halloween canon, with neat spins on well-established narratives, it has some fantastic references for long-time fans of the show, too. The Kodos/Homer shower scene is awkward as hell and you'll be laughing throughout, Mr and Mrs Simpson is a parody that lets the action and Marge's chemistry with Homer do the talking, and Heck House is joyfully anarchic, finally shining a spooky light on Springfield's kids. Don't let the season fool you, this is just as good as the classics.
8. Treehouse of Horror 15
Treehouse of Horror 15 is the best Simpsons Halloween episode in the last 15 years. It's a sorry state of affairs that over half the show's output has been relegated to constant comparisons to its older, funnier brother, but 15 proves it still has jokes and scary scenarios in abundance. Flanders steals the show with his futile attempts to stop Homer from dying; the Jack the Ripper parody has enough of that sweet, sweet Simpsons flavour to keep it fresh, and Homer *ahem* entering Mr. Burns through a shrunk-down ship is just as silly as you'd imagine.
7. Treehouse of Horror 2
God bless Bonerland. The second serving of Treehouse of Horror mines its Twilight Zone influences to good effect as Bart's mind-bending powers steal the show with multiple alternative history test answers about the good ol' US of A. Homer's misuse of the monkey paw is only made funnier by the kicker that his last wish being a turkey sandwich that's a little dry. Oh, the humanity. Mr. Burns' robot slave story, though, is barely played for laughs and stops this episode from cracking the top 5.
6. Treehouse of Horror 4
While Bart Simpson's Dracula and Terror at 5 ½ feet rarely stray away from tried and tested material – including a William Shatner Twilight Zone episode – it's Homer's deal with the Devil that generates the most laughs and raises it from a very good Treehouse of Horror to an outstanding one. It certainly stakes (ahem) a claim for the best one-shot Halloween story in the show's history; Flanders as the Devil is a genius concept and the animation – including the Devil's Fantasia flourish – is up there with the show's very best. Lionel Hutz, though, steals the show. He's at his most brilliantly incapable here – and proves the format works best when it leans on Springfield and its characters rather than real-world horror influences.
5. Treehouse of Horror 7
The best seventh instalment of a beloved franchise since Rocky 7: Adrian's Revenge, Treehouse of Horror 7 does away with its framing device altogether to craft an episode packed with some of the show's best, most ghoulish work. Misdirection a-plenty is the name of the game with both The Thing and I and The Genesis Tub but, while they both provide irony and scares in equal measure, it's Kang and Kodos' first full short in years that amazes. Filled with one-liners that are still used today, and a genuinely funny commentary on American politics, Citizen Kang is worthy of appearing on Treehouse of Horror's Mount Rushmore.
4. Treehouse of Horror
The original Treehouse of Horror, if not quite the best, still stands the test of time – and then some. The Raven is, for my money, the definitive version of Edgar Allan Poe's poem. Elsewhere, Bad Dream House is a bit tame by later standards but features some delightfully spooky imagery and one of the show's greatest jokes: a haunted house that would rather implode than live with The Simpson family. The debut of Kang and Kodos is also wrapped up in a nice bait-and-switch story, in what would prove to be a longstanding Treehouse of Horror tradition.
3. Treehouse of Horror 10
I know, I know. Putting something from post-season 10 this high up the list may amount to sacrilege for many a Simpsons stalwart, but Treehouse of Horror 10 deserves it. Being one of the most consistently fun (and funny) episodes isn't enough for you? There's Homer accidentally spilling the beans on Ned's death, a madcap Y2K story, and a campy comic book caper to boot. All in all, this well-rounded anthology proved The Simpsons hadn't missed a step in the Halloween department as its lustre began to fade.
2. Treehouse of Horror 6
The sixth Treehouse of Horror not only had some of the most inventive imagery found in any Halloween spin-off, it carries with it a playful, brighter tone that puts it head and shoulders above most episodes, old and new. Attack of the 50ft Eyesores and Homer3 showcase Homer's selfish arrogance in a way that sees him get an entertaining comeuppance and, in case you thought things were getting too light, Groundskeeper Willie's there to give you the heebie-jeebies in a Nightmare on Elm Street homage. This episode is, Halloween or otherwise, a classic. It even comes with some great advice: do not touch – Willie.
1. Treehouse of Horror 5
Simply put, this is the best Treehouse of Horror. The love and care put into The Shinning, with its litany of Kubrickian nods, would ordinarily be enough to elevate it to greatness on its own, but every story is filled with belly laughs and increasingly gory deaths. Groundkeeper Willie's trio of axe-related deaths will still make you laugh, two decades later, as will Moe playfully poking at his brain matter, Homer leaving Grandpa at the gas station, Skinner's groan-worthy murderous puns, and many, many more. If you watch this and don't think it's the best, I owe you a Coke.