‘The Duke’s’ shortlist of must-watch Halloween classics

Courtesy of Compass International Despite only having a budget of $300,000, 'Halloween' grossed $70 million at the box office. Many immitators since its release in 1978 have tried to replicate its success, spawning what is the widely-popular, and often criticized, slasher genre.
Courtesy of Compass International
Despite only having a budget of $300,000, ‘Halloween’ grossed $70 million at the box office. Many immitators since its release in 1978 have tried to replicate its success, spawning what is the widely-popular, and often criticized, slasher genre.

By Salena Moran & Evan Penrod | Staff Writers


With the start of the spookiest season, watching classic horror flicks never fails to get one into the Halloween festivities. Among the multitudes of scary movies to choose from, the six movies listed below each exhibit their own sort of eerie, thrilling and nostalgic attributes that indisputably evoke the spirit of fall.

Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter’s original slasher flick still holds up to this very day. Weaving a story that is not only original (for its time), but scary, Halloween created almost all of the tropes that we know today — for better and for worse. The actors perform believably well, and since the movie takes place on Halloween, spooky settings and props — like children trick-or-treating and carving pumpkins — really add to the film’s ambiance. In the story, psychiatric patient Michael Myers breaks out of his hospital, returns to the location of his very first murder and pays the young teenagers of Haddonfield, Illinois a visit. The story follows high school students, including protagonist Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), and also incorporates details of Myers’ psychiatric doctor, Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence), who works with police to find him and put a stop to his rampage. There are enough twists and turns to keep viewers invested, and the characters, especially Laurie, present a very smart and responsible dynamic in comparison to her boy-crazy friends. This movie is ideal for Halloween, not only because it is in the title, but because it creates the atmosphere and mood for any horror fan.

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Trick ‘r Treat is somewhat of a lesser-known entry on this list, even though it is beloved by horror and Halloween lovers everywhere. This movie is told as an anthology covering several different intertwining stories that all revolve around Halloween. The film also features a guide through the different tales in the form of Sam, a child-like character donned in an orange jumpsuit with a sack tied around his head. From pranks, to werewolves to Halloween folklore to the chill of a crisp autumn night, Trick ‘r Treat offers something for everyone. What this film lacks in true horror it makes up for in creating a fantastic atmosphere and simply just feels like Halloween. This movie continues to grow a strong following, but since it never received an official theatrical release, it never got the attention that it so-obviously deserved. Starring some mildly famous actors, Trick ‘r Treat excels in its creative writing and clever plot. If you’re a fan of Halloween decorations or aesthetic, then you will simply faint over this delight of a film.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

While watchable during both Halloween and Christmas, this Tim Burton classic surely leans toward the customs and traditions of Halloween. As a stop-motion film (an extremely underused craft), The Nightmare Before Christmas has risen to legendary status with its catchy music and original, vivid sets. The movie’s branding was once relegated to the racks of Hot Topic but soon expanded to other outlets, and for a very good reason. In the film, Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown, has become bored with scaring individuals and decides it’s time for a change of view. He stumbles upon Christmastown and soon becomes infatuated with the sights and sounds of his findings. Eventually, he tries to introduce the hope and joy of Christmas to a society that only knows and understands Halloween. The citizens of Halloweentown then try to create their own version of Christmas, only to discover that their plans caused a bigger mess than they anticipated. Regardless of the season, there isn’t another movie that can appeal to both Halloween and Christmas lovers alike.

The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubrick’s ingenious vision of Stephen King’s novel is revered as one of the best thriller/horror movies ever made. In the beginning, Jack Torrence takes his family to a mysterious hotel in its off season to serve as grounds keeper while curing his writer’s block. With the winter chill keeping them inside for weeks on end, Jack grows increasingly restless and frightening to his son who has the ability to sense the past and future. The strange little girls and the forbidden room number 237 all provide clues to the hotel’s history and Jack’s imminent wrath on his family. The dramatic and intense tension built in the first two thirds of the story leads to an eerie and haunting ending that really takes advantage of the suspense between Jack and his family. The Torrence’s interpersonal conflict and the plot seamlessly work together to create an unnerving sense of dread in the audience. From the maze-like Overlook Hotel to its iconic mise-en-scene to its framing, The Shining proves that there is true terror in not scaring someone but building on the atmosphere as well as psychological fear for a strong payoff.

The Evil Dead (1981)

Before Sam Raimi directed the original Spiderman Trilogy, his breakout film was The Evil Dead. Although it definitely is rough around the edges and lacks the overall polish of films today, the classic horror movie is still an entertaining and frightening product. In the film, Ash and his friends rent a cabin in the middle of the woods for a weekend camping trip. Inside the cabin, they find an ancient book and read aloud from it, awakening a demonic presence. The ruin and reckoning it causes for Ash and his friends represents the primary reason for watching the movie, as it offers a great mix of both classic horror scares in addition to new and innovative ones. This movie is one of the first horrendously gory movies to come out, and even after the series spawned second and third installments (which got even more ridiculous and over the top), the first one still holds up well.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

Despite only ever seeming to be on once or twice a season, this Halloween special always attracts a nostalgic audience. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown follows the Peanuts gang in their Halloween adventures, including the anticipated arrival of the Great Pumpkin. This special has all the elements of a classic Halloween story, from the costumes to the trick-or-treating to traditional party games. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown really showcases what it means to be a kid this time of year and evokes the true spirit of the season.