buffy, xander, & willow in "Fear Itself" episode

The 11 Best Halloween TV Episodes of All Time (Plus Some Honorable Mentions)

*Plays the "Silver Shamrock" commercial song*

For us horror nerds the fact remains: Halloween is all year round. We exist in a consistent state of creepiness one way or another. Therefore, once this time of year rolls around it feels like another month. Of course, this month has much excitement, depending on how you celebrate the month of October. After all, there are several ways to celebrate, like Samhain, Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) etc. Every celebration is valid in its own way. And what’s also valid is indulging in Halloween episodes.

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It’s easy to mention It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown because who doesn’t know about that? To some it’s iconic and that’s fine. It’s also easy to talk about iconic series like Courage the Cowardly Dog (every episode could be Halloween). But what I’m talking about is—you guessed it—horror series. What can I say? I’m a nerd for the genre.

Some of these series straddle the lines of other genres, though every one of these Halloween episodes have a certain level of scariness to them. No, I’m not including animated series and I may have missed something worthy. If so, my bad. Alright, let’s do the monster mash!

“Halloween” (Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 2, Episode 6)

buffy, willow, & xander in "Halloween" ep
(The WB/Tumblr)

Not including this episode would render this whole list useless. That’s right, I’m making a bold statement off the bat. “Halloween” is one of those episodes that most Buffy fans think fondly about. Especially since season 2 is up there in terms of the best seasons of the show. Having Ethan Rayne (Robin Sachs) be the messy bitch he is by literally casting a spell that turns people into their costumes is everything.

Overall this episode gives us humor, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s attempt at a British accent, Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) wearing iconic costumes, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) being useful, and a cute Bangel (Buffy and Angel) moment at the end. Bonus is Spike (James Marsters) trying to take advantage of Buffy’s vulnerability, only to get his ass kicked when she’s herself again. Also, the scene with the kids turning into demons because of their costumes is still hilarious as hell.

“Fear Itself” (Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 4, Episode 4)

buffy, xander, & willow in "Fear Itself" episode
(The WB)

As much as season 4 is my least favorite season, there are still episodes that I love, including this iconic episode. “Fear Itself” is a classic and it’s not just because it captures the spirit of Halloween. Just like the title suggests, fears are majorly highlighted throughout the ep. The Scoobies are forced to face their fears because of a fear demon. The setting of a haunted house where supernatural occurrences are happening is gold. And almost every costume that the gang wears is memorable—especially Anya (Emma Caulfield) in her bunny costume.

Of course, there are things that haven’t aged well (what Giles wears in the beginning) but it’s an episode that’s actually pretty scary, until the end when the demon isn’t as intimidating as his abilities. Let’s be honest, the whole reveal scene is perfection. Even the horrible CGI works for me! Watching this on Halloween is bound to entertain you.

“Life of the Party” (Angel Season 5, Episode 5)

the gang seeing angel indisposed in Angel season 5
(The WB/Tumblr)

Season 5 of Angel is great all around, but this episode in particular is so gut busting it’s not even funny (see what I did there?)! Lorne (Andy Hallett)’s lack of sleep as an empath demon causes catastrophe for everyone around him, and everything he tells the crew to do is taken literally. It’s such a break from the darkness that’s coming for everyone. Poor Fred (Amy Acker) and Wesley (Alexis Denisof) are stumbling around like they’re drunk, Gunn (August J. Richards) is peeing everywhere, Spike (James Marsters) is being way too positive, and Angel (David Boreanaz) is…well getting dirty with someone he despises. All around it’s just a good time! There’s nothing wrong with a Halloween episode being silly and a tinge scary in spots.

“Haunted” (The Vampire Diaries Season 2, Episode 7)

vicki coming undone in The Vampire Diaries
(The CW)

The first season of The Vampire Diaries is when the show was really good. And it’s back when Bonnie (Kat Graham)’s character wasn’t reduced to a total punching bag. Something that the show ultimately struggled with was the treatment of its Black characters and other characters of color, which is an entirely different conversation. This episode in particular is really tragic and it’s absolutely a domino effect. Nobody wins in the end and everything explodes on Halloween. Poor Vicki (Kayla Ewell) is turned into a vampire and ends up killed for a final time, though the episode gives those glimmers of hope when you first watch. Almost like maybe she can conquer her bloodlust, only for that not to be the case. She’s just another casualty that acts like a mosnter on a night where monsters aren’t meant to be.

“Halloween Part 1+ 2” (American Horror Story: Murder House Episode 4 + 5)

larry being a weirdo in American Horror Story: Murder House

How could anyone not include this intense and chaotic two-parter on a list like this? For a first season it sure didn’t hold back on shocking moments. This particular 2-part episode made this list because of how genuinely scary it is. Not only are the deceased characters unpredictable by nature, but they are also capable of extreme violence, with some having more reason to act out (such as the kids that Tate murdered in the schools shooting) than others. The confusion and anger that the ghosts feel is right on the money. And the tone is very much in line with how some people like their Halloween: freaky and strange.

“Halloween Special” (Scream Season 2, Episode 13)

shallow grove slasher in Scream Halloween Special
(The Weinstein Company)

Say whatever you want about it, but the Scream MTV series still holds up and is actually pretty damn good. Comparing it to Scream too much will only lead to disappointment. It’s merely based on the film franchise, and it does its own thing. This episode happens to feel like a full-on slasher film. There’s something special about having episodes like this in a series. Not to mention there’s no unnecessary dragging of the Brandon James plot. It’s simply about a new killer that the Lakewood gang has to deal with on their trip, with Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) naturally being positioned as a final girl in this mini film of sorts. This show is pretty gory and gruesome with its kills and as a lover of slashers, I think it’s fantastic.

“Halloween Blues” (Scream Queens Season 2, Episode 4)

denise the chanels in Scream Queens season 2
(20th Century Studios)

Bet you’re surprised that I didn’t include “Pumpkin Patch” (Season 1, Episode 5) on this list, considering that that episode introduces us to Chanel-O-Ween. However, I find this season 2 episode is somewhat better! While season 2 is a bit of a trainwreck compared to season 1, it’s fucking hilarious. Chad (Glen Powell)’s recent passing has (almost) everyone grieving (if it can be called that for a few characters). And then there’s ridiculous costume choices, the usual killings at the hospital and usual insanity that is Scream Queens. Who doesn’t love seeing Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) and Denise (Niecy Nash) perform a seance?

“Burn,Witch Burn!” (American Horror Story: Coven, Episode 5)

marie levitating in American Horror Story: Coven

Witches are a solid symbol of Halloween. American Horror Story: Coven feels like one endless October and that works for me. This episode’s events are a continuation of the previous episode, which is when shit hits the fan for the girls at Robichaux because of Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). It feels like nobody is really safe throughout the episode, which is something that American Horror Story in general does well. We’re constantly wondering who’s next, which is something that should happen when bitter and violent zombies come strolling through. All in all, it’s the perfect spooky episode. And the clear homage to Ash (Bruce Campbell) and the Evil Dead franchise in general with the chainsaw scene is so fucking cool.

Here are the other AHS Halloween episodes that are some of the best:

  • “Edward Mordrake, Part 1 + Part 2” (American Horror Story: Freakshow, Episode 3 + 4)
  • “Curtain Call” (American Horror Story: Freakshow, Episode 13)
  • “Devil’s Night” (American Horror Story: Hotel, Episode 4)
  • “Forbidden Fruit” (American Horror Story: Apocalypse, Episode 3)

“Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak” (Stranger Things Season 2, Episode 2)

max scaring the party in Stranger Things 2

Stranger Things 2 deserves a lot of appreciation (maybe I’m biased because it’s still my favorite season). Though Halloween in Hawkins isn’t fun like it should be. In this episode people are either enjoying themselves or they’re really not.

Trick or treating is somewhat of a disaster for the Party (minus Max being her amazing self). Steve (Joe Keery) finally hears the truth about how Nancy (Natalia Dyer) feels, and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown /Hopper (David Harbour) as a unit are going through it. But there are some great moments like the house party where Billy (Dacre Montgomery) and Steve have their homoerotic stare-off, Nancy’s rant in the bathroom, Max (Sadie Sink) dressing up as Michael Myers, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) taking Nancy home, and just all the other little things that make the episode excellent.

“Give Me Something Good to Eat” (Chucky Season 1, Episode 2)

chucky dressed as Hello Kitty in Chucky

What happens when a killer doll wants to kill your current nemesis, your love interest makes you nervous, you’re an orphan living in their emotionally distant relatives’ home, and you have to deal with the complexities of being a gay teenager? Nothing good. Jake (Zackary Arthur)’s Halloween is horrible because he doesn’t get to be a kid. Instead, he’s dealing with being pressured by a serial killer and dealing with being mocked by Lexi (Alyvia Alyn Wood). It goes to show how Chucky as a series isn’t trying to be kind, which is something that the Child’s Play franchise has done so well. The tone is so consistent in this episode, and it sets the stage for many of the dynamics. And also it’s just a killer (pun maybe intended) Halloween episode!

“Chapter Five: The Night He Came Home” (Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin Season 1, Episode 5)

faran, noa, & tabby in Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin
(HBO Max)

Listen, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin is one of the best horror series to come out this year. I’ve said it multiple times already, but hey, I’m saying it again. Hard not to love this slasher series that hits all the right notes. The episode is like if Halloween exploded in your kitchen, but in a good way. It’s that magnificent blend of scary and dramatic. All of the girls do exactly what they’re supposed to do in the episode, with Tabby (Chandler Kinney) going off on a piece of shit jock especially. I’d go on and on but you know the deal already!

(featured image: The WB)

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Image of Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.