Believe it or not, scary movies can be traced all the way back to the late 1800s — although the term “horror” wasn’t used to describe movies until the 1930s. Before that, scary movies were often referred to as “spook tales.”
The term “Spooktober” is what we call spooky movie season in my house. Every year, I compose a list/schedule of my favorite spooky movies to watch over the 31 days in the month of October. Some are fun, some are classics, and some are more spooky than others. My friends bring their friends and it’s a fun excuse to bring people together around the TV during the month of October.
Whether you’re super into spooky movies or you’re someone who jumps during the opening credits, I’ve selected 10 of my must-watch additions to your October movie nights and divided them into three categories: very spooky, kinda spooky, and not spooky at all. Find the ones that work for you, and happy watching!
To me, John Carpenter’s original Halloween from 1978 is the quintessential Halloween movie. I know, crazy right? How could I be so bold? It’s scary, creepy, and downright unsettling at times. It also has the best scary movie score in history, and stars the scream-queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis. If you’re down to be spooked, add this classic to the rotation this Halloween. As the character Loomis famously says, “It’s Halloween; everyone’s entitled to a good scare.”
Simply put, Us is about a family vacation that goes seriously backwards when a group of doppelgängers show up at their front door and attacks. Director Jordan Peele expertly brings together layers of mystery into the film and slowly unravels them with every scene. Us is a scary movie that is sure to spark some lively conversation once the credits start to roll.
Based off the famous Stephen King novel of the same name, It is often mischaracterized as “the freaky clown movie.” Now, don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of freaky clown scares in It, but I’m here to set the record straight. It is about more than just a scary clown. It’s a coming-of-age story about facing your own demons, and the kid actors have enough charm to carry you all the way through to the end credits. This is a scary movie with so much heart, it’s worth the watch this season, if you can handle the clown.
Okay, so I’m double-dipping when it comes to Jordan Peele movies. How could I resist? Get Out is not only one of the best scary movies of all time, it’s one of the best movies of all time, period. Not only did director Jordan Peele take home the Oscar for best original screenplay for Get Out in 2018, but the film was also nominated for best picture of the year, despite coming out in February 2017, a whole year before the Academy Awards (something unheard of when it comes to award-season movies). Get Out, similar to Us, will scare you, but it will also inspire you to reflect, to think, to ask questions, and then watch it again.
A Quiet Place answered the question: What happens when you put real-life married couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski in a movie together that features them defending their family from a dystopian world crawling with monsters who hunt off sound? The answer: a massively entertaining and original creature-feature. A Quiet Place was John Krasinski’s directorial debut as well, so hats off to him. He managed to make a spooky thriller that will put you in your feels. So if you like your thrills with a dash of feels, A Quiet Place is your movie. The film was also a critical and commercial success, leading to the announcement of a sequel that is currently in production. So, no better time to watch than now, really.
Little Shop of Horrors is honestly my favorite movie on this list. It’s a goofy, spooky comedy rock-musical directed by Frank Oz (the Muppets!) with music by *the* Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast — Little Shop of Horrors is actually the movie that got him hired by Disney). Basically, the film is about a florist-shop worker named Seymour who discovers and raises a plant from outer space that feeds on human blood. Sound ridiculous? That’s because it totally is. But it’s also charming, emotional, and so much fun. The movie is also a broadway show — Jake Gyllenhaal took on the lead role of Seymour in NYC during the summer of 2015, and Jonathan Groff (Mindhunter, Hamilton) is currently starring as Seymour in an off-broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors. If you like musicals, fun, and ridiculous plots, Little Shop of Horrors is a must watch this season.
Did you own this spooky book when you were younger? I didn’t, but I remember seeing this book in the library and being terrified by just the pictures. Now, this movie is my dark-horse of this year’s Spooktober list. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it’s the perfect movie for people who want to be scared but aren’t looking for things to get too crazy. The film is essentially about a group of kids who discover a book of scary stories that starts to get the better of them. It’s produced by Academy Award-Winner Guillermo Del Toro, and the practical effects/designs for some of the featured spooky creatures are just surreal, well-done adaptations from the drawings of the book. If you’re looking for some PG-13 scares, look no further than Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Not Spooky At All
It would almost be blasphemous to not include Hocus Pocus on this list, although do I really even have to say anything? It’s a Halloween classic that isn’t going anywhere, ever. It will continue to be played in the background of all your Halloween parties and nights of pumpkin carving until you grow old. People will come over and ask to watch it and you will be forced to because that’s just what you do in the month of October. The sooner you accept that, the better. This movie is completely over-the-top and completely harmless, and is also without a doubt a cult classic. If you’re looking to have some fun this Halloween and set the Spooktober vibe, Hocus Pocus is your go-to.
Monsters Inc is often overlooked as a potential Spooktober movie, and that upsets me. Because it has everything you need — monsters, Billy Crystal, and John Goodman. The big three of Spooktober. It’s a perfect movie to watch during this season if you’re just looking to have some fun and reminisce on a movie that still holds up so strongly to this day. Monsters Inc is one of Pixar’s finest works and has one of the more powerful endings in their repertoire. Go ahead and put it on right now; you know you want to.
It’s been a question since the film’s release: is it a Christmas movie? A Halloween movie? I guess my question is, why can’t it be both? The Nightmare Before Christmas released in theaters nearly 30 years ago (feel old?), and yet it still captivates viewers all this time later. Full of some of the best and creative stop-motion animation you’ll ever see, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a holiday classic, period. Add it to your must-watch list.