Entertainment Weekly

Subscribe

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

Every 'Simpsons' 'Treehouse of Horror' short, ranked

Posted on

Treehouse Of Horror
Fox

Update: The list has been amended to include the three segments from “Treehouse of Horror XXV.”

That’s right: In honor of The Simpsons‘ 25th (!) annual Halloween special, EW didn’t just rank the top 25 “Treehouse of Horror” segments. We took things a step further by ranking every single “Treehouse” segment ever seen on the show—and you’ll find entries 72 through 26 in the list below.

Even when longtime fans sniff that The Simpsons‘ Golden Age is long past, they can agree that late-period Simpsons Halloween shows still pack a punch. Why? Because “Treehouse” segments give the series’ writers a break in two ways: First of all, they’re short, which means that they can explore plot threads that are amusing but too flimsy to support an entire half-hour. And secondly, they’re not bound by the laws of canon (or taste), giving the show’s staff an opportunity to follow their wildest whims—transforming Springfield into a town as drawn by Dr. Seuss, or putting a gremlin on the side of Bart’s schoolbus, or transforming Homer’s head into a giant doughnut.

What makes a good “Treehouse” short? Punchy one-liners and visual gags help, but the best of the bunch have two more things in common: Novel premises (which, admittedly, get increasingly difficult as the show ages) and a genuine stab at including a few real scares. (In other words: The recent trend toward parodies of random movies that have little or nothing to do with horror as a broad category just doesn’t do it.) You’ll find what made the cut in the list below, as well as what maybe should have been left on the cutting-room floor.

75. “The Diving Bell and Butterball”

“Treehouse of Horror XXII,” 2011

This is it: the absolute nadir of the “Treehouse” franchise, and possibly of the show itself. The segment is an inexplicable, years-late parody of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (you know, the noted scary movie) that devolves into an extended, painfully unfunny fart joke. Then, for some reason, the show throws Spider-Man into the mix. The whole thing feels like a bit from a rejected Family Guy spec script.

74. “In the Na’Vi”

“Treehouse of Horror XXII,” 2011

Not to pile on “XXII,” but: If you’re going to spoof a recent cultural phenomenon just because it’s popular, at least try to do it in a timely manner. Unfortunately, “In the Na’Vi” came out two years after Avatar fever swept the globe. What’s worse, the segment trades true wit for cheap shock humor. (Bart, who even in this alternate universe is presumably 10 years old, discovers that he’s impregnated a lady alien.)

73. “The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms”

“Treehouse of Horror XIII,” 2002

That labored groaner of a title should tell you all you need to know. Points have also been deducted for treading ground that other Simpsons episodes covered earlier and better, including zombie versions of famous historical figures (“Treehouse of Horror III”‘s “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies”) and gun control (“The Cartridge Family”).

72. “Untitled Robot Parody”

“Treehouse of Horror XIX,” 2008

A toothless sendup of the Transformers franchise, which a) yup, still isn’t a scary movie and b) definitely deserves a sharper takedown than this.

71. “Mr. & Mrs. Simpson”

“Treehouse of Horror XVIII,” 2007

Another lame movie parody. Sensing a pattern?

70. “Wiz Kids”

“Treehouse of Horror XII,” 2001

The writer of this segment admitted on a DVD audio commentary that most of the show’s staffers were unfamiliar with the Harry Potter series when they crafted their weak parody of it, and that lack of knowledge shows. The show’s spoof is disappointingly vague, especially considering how many specific details in J.K. Rowling’s universe are worth lampooning. Also, the denouement happens at a “big magic recital.” Nope.

69. “Hex and the City”

“Treehouse of Horror XII,” 2001

There are some fun visuals here—Bart’s stretched-out neck comes to mind—but the plot is weak (Homer is cursed by a gypsy; he decides to try to get it lifted by… capturing a leprechaun, for some reason) and so are the one-liners.

68. “How to Get Ahead in Dead-vertising”

“Treehouse of Horror XIX,” 2008

Speaking of weak plots: Homer accidentally kills Krusty via wood chipper. He’s then propositioned by a pair of Mad Men-esque ad men, who ask him to murder a bunch of celebrities so that they can use their likenesses in ads without getting their permission. Huh? (At least the Simpson-ified Mad Men credits are cool.)

67. “Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind”

“Treehouse of Horror XX,” 2009

It’s yet another zombie spoof… and this one ends with Bart inoculating everyone against the undead virus by bathing in their food. That’s not funny or scary; it’s just gross.

66. “E.T., Go Home”

“Treehouse of Horror XVIII,” 2007

Kodos as a Spielbergian extraterrestrial should be a slam dunk, but there’s a lazy, mean undercurrent here that keeps the segment from gelling.

65. “Dial D for Diddly”

“Treehouse of Horror XXII,” 2011

Another great opening credits parody—this time, casting Ned Flanders as serial killer Dexter Morgan—that leads to a middling, overly cruel segment. (Would even Halloween-ified Homer be casually sociopathic enough to impersonate God and sic Flanders on his enemies?)

64. “Frinkenstein”

“Treehouse of Horror XIV,” 2003

Casting Jerry Lewis as Dr. Frink’s long-lost father is a long-awaited coup; too bad the stuff that surrounds his performance is pretty pedestrian.

63. “Survival of the Fattest”

“Treehouse of Horror XVI,” 2005

Something you notice after watching 26 “Treehouse of Horror” specials in a row: Homer resorts to cannibalism a lot. There’s not much else to this Most Dangerous Game sendup, a festival of gentle puns (“Must Flee TV!”), violence, and a particularly shrewish turn from Marge.

62. “In the Belly of the Boss”

“Treehouse of XV,” 2004

Continuing the “meh” trend: The Simpson family goes on a Fantastic Voyage into Mr. Burns’ body to save Maggie, who’s accidentally been stuck inside him. The source material’s been spoofed so many times—perhaps most notably by Simpsons descendent Futurama—that it’s tough for this parody to find anything new to say. And it ends with a twist that will be familiar to those who have seen number 58:

61. “Homer’s Nightmare” (“If I Only Had a Brain”)

“Treehouse of Horror II,” 1991

Hey, even Golden Age Simpsons had its “meh” points! This segment starts out promisingly (Homer gets a new job as a grave digger) before devolving into a pretty basic Frankenstein parody. There is, however, one flash of brilliance: “Look at me, I’m Davey Crockett!”

60. “Master and Cadaver”

“Treehouse of Horror XXI,” 2010

It’s that Dead Calm parody nobody asked for! (You know, Dead Calm? Phillip Noyce’s 1989 thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane? Not ringing a bell?) Fun guest turn from Hugh Laurie, though.

59. “You Gotta Know When To Golem”

“Treehouse of Horror XVII,” 2006

Richard Lewis as a nebbish Jewish killing machine? Solid casting. But the segment itself is nothing more than semi-funny Borscht Belt humor, with one nice concluding twist: The Simpsons make a lady Golem to keep their monster company, and she is, of course, voiced by Fran Drescher.

58. “Heck House”

“Treehouse of Horror XVIII,” 2007

A.K.A. “Hey, it was fun when Flanders was the Devil that one time; maybe we should do that again!” “The Devil and Homer Simpson,” from season 5, is an all-time classic; “Heck House” is amusing, but lacks the same punch. The good: Moe’s representation of three Deadly Sins—lust (he goes to a strip club), greed (he steals a stripper’s money), and envy (he gets kicked in the crotch, then moans “Oh, how I envy the crotchless”)—and a closing rendering of Springfield as Hieronymus Bosch’s Hell.

57. “Reaper Madness”

“Treehouse of Horror XIV,” 2003

Homer accidentally kills Death himself, then finds himself filling in for the Grim Reaper—a task he enjoys until he’s commanded to kill Marge. It’s a neat idea, but there’s one problem: Family Guy already did it.

56. “Easy-Bake Coven”

“Treehouse of Horror VIII,” 1997

Hint: A super cutesy title often means a so-so short, and this one’s no exception; like many a middling SNL sketch, it also sort of peters out without bothering to find a real ending. But the sight of a green-skinned Marge Witch is fun, and it does a good job of poking fun at Salem logic: “If they’re really witches, why don’t they use their powers to escape?” “That sounds like witch talk to me, Lisa.”

55. “The Ned Zone”

“Treehouse of Horror XV,” 2004

Stephen King has given The Simpsons plenty of great Treehouse material; this one’s a more minor effort, but Ned (who suddenly begins to have visions of impending doom) and Homer (whom Ned spies destroying Springfield in one of his visions) generally make a winning combination.

54. “B.I.: Bartificial Intelligence”

“Treehouse of Horror XVI,” 2005

This is a parody of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence only in the loosest sense; the sole real similarity is that both feature a cute robot child named David. (The Simpsons bring David home after Bart winds up in a coma; when Bart awakens, he feels threatened by David and assembles himself a new robot body out of the parts of a bunch of other cyborgs.) Maybe it feels less perfunctory than so many “Treehouse” movie parodies because it diverges from the film so much; either way, it’s got some solid Futurama-esque robot humor. (“I was a lawnmower. I could cut grass at three different heights. But I couldn’t love.”)

53. “War and Pieces”

“Treehouse of Horror XXI,” 2010

Speaking of half-baked movie parodies: In this Jumanji riff, Bart and Milhouse get in trouble when they decide to start playing a board game called “Satan’s Path”—and the rest of the games in the attic suddenly spring to life. It’s… fine.

52. “Scary Tales Can Come True”

“Treehouse of Horror XI,” 2000

The title’s generic, and so’s the fairy-tale-inspired segment—despite a few clever twists. (The witch from “Hansel and Gretel” holds her house up with “load-bearing candy canes;” Bart accepts his and Lisa’s fate, while she urges him to “at least stop basting yourself.”)

51. “Dead and Shoulders”

“Treehouse of Horror XXIV,” 2013

Bart and Lisa become a thing with two heads after an unfortunate kite string decapitation. It’s nice to see the show devote some time to their bond as siblings, especially this late in its run. (Though the fact that they do try to kill each other dampens that a bit.)

50. “G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad”

“Treehouse of Horror XI,” 2000

Homer dies after choking on a piece of broccoli—the deadliest vegetable known to man—and goes to heaven. (Wait—how could that possibly be right? Is this an All Dogs Go to Heaven-type situation?) But before he can enter the pearly gates, St. Peter commands him to perform a single good deed. (As Homer explains, “I’m just trying to get in. I’m not running for Jesus.”) It’s funny but gets a demerit for eventually sending Homer to Hell—which just makes you want to watch “The Devil and Homer Simpson” instead.

49. “UNnormal Activity”

“Treehouse of Horror XXIII,” 2012

A cunningly animated Paranormal Activity parody with a few great jokes (“Note to self: Edit out my lies”) that actually packs a few scares, or at least some genuinely creepy moments. Marred by an unnecessarily dirty coda. (Two words: Demon threeway.)

48. “Bad Dream House”

“Treehouse of Horror I,” 1990

The very first Treehouse segment ever was decently transgressive for its time, and its ending still resonates—the haunted house the Simpsons have moved into eventually decides that it’d rather self-destruct than live with Homer, Marge, and co. But although it laid a good foundation for shorts to come, its gags and imagery are both pretty boilerplate.

47. “The Day the Earth Looked Stupid”

“Treehouse of Horror XVII,” 2006

The Simpsons‘ stabs at political commentary are naturally hampered by how long it takes to produce a single episode; by the time the show gets to a joke, chances are Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert or anybody else made a similar one months ago. Case in point: This War on the Worlds riff, which morphs partway through into a not-especially-stinging critique of the Iraq War. (Arrested Development did it better a few years earlier.) But the Orson Welles stuff is funny, especially for those who recognize voice actor Maurice LaMarche from his work as the Welles-inspired mouse on Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain.

46. “Tweenlight”

“Treehouse of Horror XXI,” 2010

Sure, it came out a few years after the first Twilight movie, but the franchise was still enormously popular in 2010—and the references here are a lot more precise than they were in that Harry Potter parody. Plus, there’s the meta thrill of Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe voicing hot vampire Edmund and a real stab at injecting heart into the story at its conclusion.

45. “Fly vs. Fly”

“Treehouse of Horror VIII,” 1997

Professor Frink, Professor Frink, he’ll make you laugh, he’ll make you think, he’ll sell you a highly sophisti-ma-cated doo-wacky that might turn your son into a horrifying boy-fly hybrid. Pretty standard stuff for a Simpsons Halloween.

44. “The Raven”

“Treehouse of Horror I,” 1990

The final segment of the show’s first Halloween special is moodier than it is funny, although English teachers should give it credit for helping a generation accidentally memorize Edgar Allen Poe’s best-known poem.

43. “I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face”

“Treehouse of Horror XVI,” 2005

It’s like that episode of Buffy where people turn into what they’ve dressed up as on Halloween, only this time, it’s happening on The Simpsons! The idea does let the show’s animators stretch their creativity, though, and it’s always nice to see Maggie save the day. Plus: Martin as Oberon, King of the Fairies.

42. “There’s No Business Like Moe Business”

“Treehouse of Horror XX,” 2009

Who doesn’t love a musical, especially one that pays tribute to Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece Sweeney Todd? (You don’t love that? Get out.) The songs here aren’t as catchy as “See My Vest” or “We Put the Spring in Springfield,” but they’re well-crafted all the same—and the trick of presenting the story as though it’s actually being performed on a stage, complete with an audience of Springfielders, is a neat touch.

41. “The Others”

“Treehouse of Horror XXV,” 2014

The basic concept—the Simpson family is being haunted by their Tracey Ullman-era selves—is neat, but the execution isn’t totally there; why turn even the modern-day Simpsons into ghosts? What message, exactly, is the short trying to convey? (The joke about Marvin Monroe—”I’m in some horrible limbo. I can walk halfway through walls and get stuck”—is one that long-term fans of the show will certainly appreciate.)

40. “Hell Toupée”

“Treehouse of Horror IX,” 1998

Aaaand I just got the pun in the title. Yeesh. (It’s about a killer head of hair.)

39. “The Island of Dr. Hibbert”

“Treehouse of Horror XIII,” 2002

Speaking of awesome animation: Transforming the people of Springfield into anthropomorphized animals in this Island of Dr. Moreau parody gives the show’s talented artists a chance to run amok, designing fanciful creatures that cleverly reflect the personalities of dozens of Springfieldians. Seriously—dozens. The attention to detail is amazing, even if the jokes rarely rise above “good.”

38. “The Greatest Story Ever Holed”

“Treehouse of Horror XXIII,” 2012

How can a black hole be cute? Somehow, this one manages—and though the satire of consumerism is as gentle as a butterfly kiss and the big reveal (the Simpsons get sucked through the black hole that they’ve been tossing their trash into; it leads them to another dimension) has a pretty lazy Zune joke, the gags that do hit (“Magic Craphole Waste Removal,” “A black hole! I’m sorry, can we call it that?”) hit well.

37. “Married to the Blob”

“Treehouse of Horror XVII,” 2006

Like I said: A loooot of cannibalism in the “Treehouse universe,” though in this case we can blame it on Homer’s decision to ingest a glowing green extraterrestrial goo—which, naturally, transforms him into an insatiable terror. It’s not a short for the faint of heart (“Must eat, then poop, then eat some more, then eat while pooping”), but if you can get past the gross-out humor and Dr. Phil’s pointless cameo, there’s lots of fun to be had here. “If I can keep down Arby’s, I can keep down you!”

36. “Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off”

“Treehouse of Horror XIV,” 2003

Ahhh, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: The Simpsons takes on Clockstoppers! Fine; really, it’s a parody of another Twilight Zone episode, featuring a watch that can literally stop time. And Bart and Milhouse have plenty of fun with their newfound treasure, leading to a few excellent visual gags and a strong indictment of the mobs that form in too many fantastical stories: “Come, let us kill them before learning of the magical secret they possess!”

35. “The Terror of Tiny Toon”

“Treehouse of Horror IX,” 1998

Another one to place in the “visually inventive, less solidly written” pile: A plutonium-powered remote transports Bart and Lisa into Itchy and Scratchy’s world, opening the door to a lot of cartoonish graphic violence. You can tell the show’s having a blast embracing the possibilities of an animated universe that doesn’t operate on real-world principles, as canon episodes of The Simpsons generally do.

34. “A Clockwork Yellow”

“Treehouse of Horror XXV,” 2014

An elaborate Stanley Kubrick homage that transports the Simpsons and their ilk—most notably, Moe, Lenny, and Carl—to a disturbing dystopia of “glugs” (droog-esque hoodlums) and “twiggywinks” (ladyfriends, like Marge). The writers’ stabs at Nadsat are consistently amusing, as are the references to the director’s various films—including 2001Eyes Wide Shut, and even Barry Lyndon.

33. “Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die”

“Treehouse of Horror X,” 1999

Another popular “Treehouse” trope: apocalypse scenarios. This one revolves around a meltdown caused by the Y2K bug, although the concept of a global meltdown is general enough that it doesn’t feel too dated. And it’ll always be funny to watch Lisa, Marge, and Maggie step aboard a spaceship carrying the Earth’s best and brightest—while Bart and Homer get stuck on a ship carrying the dregs of humanity (including Tom Arnold, playing himself) into the sun. That’s the hottest place on Earth!

32. “Bart & Homer’s Excellent Adventure”

“Treehouse of Horror XXIII,” 2012

Yes, it’s fan service to bring back “The Way We Was”-era Homer and Marge, not to mention Homer’s onetime romantic rival Artie Ziff (smarmily voiced, as ever, by Jon Lovitz). But the segment works as more than cheap nostalgia, thanks to the strength of Homer and Marge’s bond—which is completely unbreakable, for better or for worse.

31. “I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did”

“Treehouse of Horror X,” 1999

A straightforward parody of I Know What You Did Last Summer—and briefly, ghoulishly, Weekend at Bernie’s—elevated by gags both classic (Homer: “Hey, we just got away with murder. And it was so easy! You know, I never liked that little wiener Milhouse…” Marge: “No more murders!”) and inexplicable (why is Homer’s “guess I forgot to put the fog lights in” song so funny?).

30. “Terror at 5 1/2 Feet”

“Treehouse of Horror IV,” 1993

The genuinely disturbing Twilight Zone episode on which it’s based loses some of its zing when you get a good look at the goofy gremlin that’s been terrorizing William Shatner. The Simpsons version subs in a much creepier little creature and doesn’t skimp on the buildup—Bart has a vision of impending doom before boarding the schoolbus—leading to a segment with a great arc as well as great jokes. (Skinner: “Hello, Simpson. I’m riding the bus today because Mother hid my car keys to punish me for talking to a woman on the phone. She was right to do it.”)

29. “Bart’s Nightmare” (“The Bart Zone”)

“Treehouse of Horror II,” 1991

More Twilight Zone spoofery of another all-time classic: “It’s a Good Life,” in which a six-year-old boy with mysterious supernatural powers uses them to discipline anyone who displeases him—even if it’s just by thinking unhappy thoughts. “Omnipotent Bart” is a tantalizing setup, and the show around him doesn’t disappoint. Plus, a visit from everyone’s favorite character: Dr. Marvin Monroe!!

28. “Oh The Places You’ll D’oh”

“Treehouse of Horror XXIV,” 2013

This Dr. Seuss spoof is more clever than it is laugh-out-loud funny—but you can tell that great care was put into its perfectly calibrated visuals and rhythmic, Seussian dialogue. (“Take all that you want, I don’t want any trouble/Take Jims that are Slim and gum of the bubble.”)

27. “Four Beheadings and a Funeral”

“Treehouse of Horror XV,” 2004

You had us at “Lisa as Sherlock Holmes”—but the premise works even better thanks to the show’s ridiculous interpretation of common Brit-speak (“And he drops this and runs, cor blimey, skip to me loo!”).

26. “Desperately Xeeking Xena”

“Treehouse of Horror X,” 1999

Thanks to a faulty X-ray machine, Bart and Lisa become comic book-style superheroes—and must face off against a supervillain who calls himself The Collector. (Naturally, his ”secret identity” is Comic Book Guy.) It’s a sharp skewering of geek culture that feels particularly prescient given today’s nerd-forward entertainment landscape. Plus the ”Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl” song is really catchy.

Want to see what we picked for the 25-1 slots? Find the gallery here.