The 10 Best Halloween TV Episodes
‘Friends,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Modern Family,’ and more gave viewers tricks and treats with their spooktacular classic episodes.
- Brad Witter
- When the air begins to turn crisp, leaves begin to change colors and scents of pumpkin spice begin to fill homes, at least two things are certain: Fall has arrived and Halloween is right around the corner. Evoking childhood memories of everything from haunted houses to trick-or-treating, the holiday is the perfect opportunity to both resurrect old traditions and create some new ones.
The flip of the calendar not only heralds in a new season in nature, but it also marks the beginning of often much anticipated new seasons of television shows, of course. So what better way to scare up some holiday fun than by combining the two? With this in mind, some of the most beloved TV shows have either hit pause for standalone Halloween-themed episodes or found a way to masterfully weave the festivities into already-established storylines.
Sure, wearing costumes and makeup are already in actors’ job descriptions, but this is one time of year that they can get free rein to really dial up their onscreen looks and step outside of the realm of more realistic storytelling conventions. Whether silly, sexy or spooky, these 10 Halloween episodes are worth grabbing some apple cider and donuts and revisiting, in honor of October 31.
1. How I Met Your Mother, “The Slutty Pumpkin”
The classic 2005 episode of the sitcom finds Josh Radnor’s Ted Mosby hilariously returning to the same rooftop Halloween party where he met a “perfect” woman four years prior. The catch? Ted didn’t get her phone number and only knows her by her “slutty pumpkin” costume, which he hilariously described as having been “carved in strategic places.” A few Slutty Pumpkin episodes later, Katie Holmes made an appearance on the show as the woman inside the costume.
2. The Simpsons, “Treehouse of Horror”
In October 2018, the animated series will air the 29th installment of its annual horror parody. Broken into three segments, the episodes feature the Simpson family irreverently playing the roles of character from pop culture classics, ranging from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” to Alfred Hitchcock films, such as 1954’s Dial M for Murder.
3. Parks and Recreation, “Halloween Surprise”
While the comedy gave fans plenty of Halloween laughs over the course of its nearly six-year run, Season 5’s installment was a standout. While not devoid of the series trademark comical antics, this 2012 episode didn’t pull any tricks at the end, instead giving viewers the treat of seeing Amy Poehler‘s Leslie Knope get engaged to Ben (played by Adam Scott).
4. Stranger Things, “Trick or Treat, Freak”
Something may always be strange (and seriously scary) in the neighborhoods of Hawkins, Indiana, but seeing the youngsters trick-or-treating as Ghostbusters adds some lighter nostalgia to the ’80s-set Netflix hit’s dark plot. And the proton pack definitely came in handy when Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) discovered a baby Demogorgon in the Season 2 episode.
5. Friends, “The One With the Halloween Party”
Over the course of 10 seasons, the comedy surprisingly only aired one Halloween episode. The crew’s costume party in 2001 naturally has hilarious hiccups, with Sean Penn guest-starring as the fiancée of Phoebe’s twin sister Ursula. The best costume prize should probably go to the punny satellite-potato hybrid, “Spudnik,” worn by David Schwimmer’s Ross.
6. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “Hex and the Single Guy”
Fans are well aware of how Will Smith “became the prince of a town called Bel-Air,” but in this 1993 episode of the show, viewers learn how his titular character got the whole family cursed after mocking a medium Hilary (Karyn Parsons) enlisted for a séance to contact her dead fiancée. Even just seeing Alfonso Ribeiro’s Carlton Banks dressed as Macaulay Culkin is worth the re-watch.
7. American Horror Story: Murder House, “Halloween”
The 2011 two-part episode from the anthology series’ inaugural season is on par with the spine-tingling scares that have become synonymous with the show as a whole. The haunting holiday only serves to magnify classic horror hallmarks from gore, murder, and, yes, even a bit of campiness. The faint of heart may want to leave on the lights for this one.
8. The Office, “Halloween”
Nothing scares Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) more — to comedic effect, of course — than having to fire a Dunder Mifflin employee on Halloween, having already procrastinated for a month. While the three-hole-punch look thrown together by John Krasinski’s Jim Halpert is a classic last-minute costume, Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute dressed as Darth Sidious scored the biggest laughs on the NBC comedy.
9. Modern Family, “Halloween”
What could possibly go wrong when the Dunphys try to host an over-the-top monster bash? With Claire (Julie Bowen) at the helm and her sometimes-inept family playing their own roles, hilarity naturally ensues in the 2010 episode of the award-winning sitcom. Bonus points go to subplots involving Gloria (Sofia Vergara) causing confusion due to her accent (“gargoyle” becomes “gargle”), and also Cam (Eric Stonestreet) lamenting a childhood pants-wetting Halloween “trauma.”
10. Frasier, “Halloween”
A true comedy of errors, a literary-themed Halloween party hosted by a Cyrano de Bergerac-clad Niles (David Hyde Pierce) is wrought with comical misunderstandings — and more amazing costumes. Titular star Kelsey Grammer‘s now-ex-wife and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alum Camille even makes a memorable cameo as nude Biblical character Eve in the 1997 episode.