Everyone has their own rituals for Halloween. Children go trick-or-treating, college kids get dangerously drunk on State Street and old folks decide between giving out candy or toothbrushes. For me, Halloween means carving out jack-o’-lanterns, eating bags of discounted candy Nov. 1 and watching all my favorite childhood Halloween films, specials and music videos. For any 90s kid, there are many exemplary films that we watch every year without fail. Here are the best and most beloved nostalgic Halloween films.
There’s a reason this seminal classic has a recently announced sequel in the works. Winnie, Mary and Sarah were frightening witches who sucked the souls out of children and giggled maniacally while they doing it. We were not only frightened of being eaten alive, but also of being chased down by mute Billy Butcherson. Aided by a talking cat and the hope of sunrise, the three titular children thwart the Sanderson sisters and send them back to hell.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
This Tim Burton-produced horror classic was one of the first stop-motion animated films to really take off and move the genre from simple, childlike fancy to adult fare. Helmed by director Henry Selick (“Coraline”), the film features unforgettable imagery, entertaining songs and the iconic figure of Jack Skellington. Not only did the film make our skin crawl as children, but it’s resonated with many lovers of stop-mo and animation alike. It still stands as one of the creepier nostalgic choices every Halloween.
While this film may be trying to say a lot about societal pressures and the middle class’ strange obsession with “othering,” as children we were much more excited about the appearance of Johnny Depp (“Transcendence”). Strapped to scissors, scarred on every inch of his face and rendered mute, the “uncommonly gentle man” was a very strange fellow to see onscreen. His escapades with the Boggs family have been made legendary, as well as his romance with Kim, played by Winona Ryder (“Frankenweenie”). This film is really great for any time of year, but it lives on in heavy television rotation this time of year.
Though there have been many sequels on the Disney Channel, we all love and remember the original best. A town filled with ghouls and goblins, doing everyday things? Sounds too good to be true, and it seems that way when some of the citizens start disappearing. A family of witches, led by teenager Marnie and grandmother Aggie (Debbie Reynolds, “Behind the Candelabra”), must stop the evil demon Kalabar from taking over the town for good. This film was great for a number of reasons, including the costuming and sets. But above all the film featured a great variety of weird and wonderful characters, which is why everyone I know brings it up to re-watch every Halloween.
The Addams Family/Addams Family Values
Each of these films gets pulled out every year for the simple reason that the Addams Family is spooky and insatiably odd. They shock, maim and torture one another for sport, and they have a fun time doing it. While the first film deals with Fester’s (Christopher Lloyd, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”) return to the family after years of absence, the second film revolves around his marriage to a serial killer (Joan Cusack, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”). The second film is much more beloved, mostly because of the scene of the Thanksgiving play at summer camp, which I won’t spoil. Trust me though: It’s quite hilarious and worth the watch.
Yet another Tim Burton-helmed masterpiece, this film has to do with the very unsettling and unthinkable paralysis that persists when you die. Death may not seem like a fun or entertaining prospect, but this film makes it so. With some unforgettable visuals behind it, “Beetlejuice” is my absolute favorite Burton film. It’s also by far his grossest. Also, Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) as the eponymous Beetlejuice, who at this point was known for his comedy and not suiting up as Batman, is always a treat.
“Thriller” music video
When I was younger I came across this music video while channel surfing, and it scared the pants off me. The scary part comes when the zombies crash through the house, trying to get to the lead girl — not when they’re all dancing in the streets. The dancing may have put my young mind at ease. Nonetheless, this is the song that gets played at every Halloween party and blares from every minivan taking trick-or-treaters to the suburbs to get full-sized candy bars. The video is great, and features the talented vocal talents of horror legend Vincent Price.
Everyone understood poor little ghost boy Casper, left mostly alone in an abandoned old house with his three mean old uncles, Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso. Human teenager Kat (Christina Ricci, “The Smurfs 2”) and her father (Bill Pullman, “Lola Versus”) come in and try to exorcise the ghosts from the old place. It’s a very sweet story about friendship and loneliness, with the added bonus of gross ghosts and a snarled villain.