21 of TV's best Halloween episodes
Halloween shows with extra howls
Make no mistake about it, Hollywood loves Halloween, Outrageous costumes, over-the-top makeup, and storylines that wild changes? Why, one would think "dressing up and pretending to be someone you're not" is everyone's job in this town. A solid Halloween episode is more than just a change of clothes though, and EW's favorites move the entire story of the show forward among all of the spooky silliness. From Greasers to gremlins, some of the best Halloween episodes of TV are ahead.
Angel, "Life of the Party"
Halloween may be the one day a year it really pays to be a green-faced, horned demon with a flair for the dramatic à la Lorne (Andy Hallett) in Angel. However, things go a little awry when he throws a party for the gang and his spoken advice literally starts happening. This leads to Fred (Amy Acker) and Wesley (Alexis Denisof) getting drunk when Lorne suggests they loosen up, Gunn (J. August Richards) urinating all over the office in an attempt to "stake out his territory," Angel (David Boreanaz) and Eve (Sarah Thompson) hooking up, and Spike (James Marsters) and Harmony (Mercedes McNab) tearing up the dance floor. But then a huge hulking demon form of Lorne appears as a manifestation of his subconscious and puts a general damper on the festivities. Still, not really a bad result for a Wolfram and Hart shindig. —Ruth Kinane
Black-ish, “Jacked o' Lantern”
The Johnsons always do it up on Halloween, with black-ish making creative use of its cast, dressing them up as the Obama family (though Junior and Jack get the short end of the stick dressed as a Secret Service agent and Bo the dog, respectively). This season 2 episode has everything that makes the show work, taking a common occurrence like a wealthy neighborhood attracting trick-or-treaters from all over the city, and some visiting cousins who like to roughhouse a little too hard (including guest star Michael Strahan dressed as 50 Cent), and churning out a relatable story both hilarious and heartfelt. —Marcus Jones
BoJack Horseman, “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos”
For some shows, Halloween is a reliable annual episode premise; for BoJack Horseman, it was an opportunity for one of the show’s most structurally ambitious entries (which is really saying something). “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” dexterously weaves between four different Halloween parties in four different years, exploring the relationships between Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) and his various romantic partners (including the very game Jessica Biel as herself). BoJack usually traffics in existential terrors rather than anything befitting spooky season, and this episode is no exception (“Do you mean in the sense that we all wear costumes every day, such as we reveal facets of ourselves to those closest to us, but our truest selves remain hidden?”). But, as ever, it remains a laugh riot. (“I’m ready for my close-up!” “Nice! Sunset Boulevard?” “I usually take Fountain.”) —Tyler Aquilina
Boy Meets World, “And Then There Was Shawn”
What is it about high schools after dark that gives them an extra creep factor? In this Halloween special, Cory (Ben Savage), Topanga (Danielle Fishel), and company all end up in detention and things get creepy when the words "No one gets out alive" appear in blood on the classroom’s chalkboard. Ugh, like, detention wasn’t bad enough. Then, pretty much everyone dies: Kenny (Richard Lee Jackson) is stabbed through the head with a pencil (ouch), Feeny (William Daniels) takes some scissors to the back, Feffy (Jennnifer Love Hewitt) and Eric (Will Friedle) are killed by an avalanche of books in the library and Angela (Trina McGee) and Jack (Matthew Lawrence) are pushed from a window ledge by the killer. Luckily, it’s all part of a vivid nightmare Shawn’s (Rider Strong) having in detention. Still, you can’t un-hear the lyrics to the creepy song playing over the PA system: “Welcome to John Adams High, Where you are gonna die, That's right, fall right this way. Here's a knife, here's a gun, There'll be fun for everyone, Death is on the menu tonight." Yikes. —RK
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Halloween”
Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s annual Halloween Heist is one of TV’s best recurring traditions, and the season 1 episode that kicked it off remains a classic, even when stacked up against its six successors. On the spookiest day of the year, Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) bets Capt. Holt (Andre Braugher) that he can steal Holt’s Medal of Valor from his office for the title of “Amazing Detective/Genius.” What ensues is a dizzying array of goofs and fake-outs, as Jake proves his cunning through an elaborate plan involving a trash can fire, pigeons, and royal baby costumes. And though it’s Jake show, Santiago (Melissa Fumero), Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), and Terry (Terry Crews) all get to shine during the episode. And in each subsequent Halloween Heist, the writers manage to elevate the original premise with higher stakes, new players, and better jokes. And let’s not that forget that this episode gave us the gift of the “title of your sex tape” running joke. Noice. —Rachel Yang
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Halloween”
When the inhabitants of Sunnydale are turned into their Halloween costumes all hell breaks loose in the small Californian town (not literally — though that's pretty standard for a Tuesday in Sunnydale). Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) becomes a Victorian damsel in distress and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) disappears completely when her not-so-sexy-sheet-over-the-head costume turns her into a ghost. Thankfully, Xander's (Nicholas Brendon) army getup gives him the skills and the cool head to calmly navigate the frightening turn of events. It's definitely the not most "wiggins"-inducing episode of Buffy out there ("Hush"!), but it is as much fun as cramming your face with candy nonetheless. —RK
Charlie Brown, “It's the Great Pumpkin”
It's on television every Halloween. It's a classic. There's a pumpkin patch. Need we say more? Check your local listings. —RK
It's time for the annual Greendale Halloween party! Dressed as David Beckham, Jeff (Joel McHale), and Pierce (Chevy Chase), arrive at the gathering to discover that all the songs being played are by ABBA because they’re using Pelton’s (Jim Rash) iPod for music, and that the snacks are subpar because they were purchased at an army surplus store. If that wasn't terrifying enough, a mysterious sickness strikes, inciting guests to bite one another zombie-style. Panic ensues and ultimately the army has to intervene and erase everyone's memory. The main takeaway? A thermostat set to just the right temperature can stop the spread of infection. Somebody tell the kids over on The Walking Dead. —RK
Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Trick or Treat”
Hand it to Larry David. Over the run of Curb Your Enthusiasm, no one has been shown to be a bigger stickler for rules, regulations, and social contracts than Larry, even if it’s to his own detriment. Case in point: when are kids too old to go trick-or-treating, and what if teenagers’ “subtle” costumes look like regular clothes? Do you give them candy? Well, if you’re Larry David, lines are lines, even if you end up being the victim of a trick by not offering every visitor to your door a treat on Halloween. —Sarah Sprague
Friends, “The One with the Halloween Party”
This episode of Friends has everything — adults complaining about having to wear Halloween costumes, an A-list cameo care of Sean Penn, amazing Phoebe and Ursula twin drama, a young Emily Osment, and Ross being the worst. Come for the Halloween party hijinks, but stay for Matt LeBlanc as Joey doing a spot-on impression of Chandler. —Sydney Bucksbaum
Happy Endings, "Spooky Endings"
The gang hits up a warehouse party putting maximum effort into their costumes, only to have them largely misinterpreted. Dressed as Marilyn Monroe, but suffering from a sore throat, Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) is mistaken for a transvestite, and Dave (Zachary Knighton) isn’t quite as groovy as he hoped in a dated Austin Powers costume. The real scene stealer, however, is Penny (Casey Wilson) and Max's (Adam Pally) mommy-and-baby-combined costume which, while certainly a serious contender in any best costume competition, isn’t the most practical when it comes to using the bathroom or flirting. A+ for effort though, and an A+ episode all round. —RK
How I Met Your Mother, "Slutty Pumpkin"
In an age when any object/person/animal can be turned into a slutty costume version (see the Sexy Mister Rogers getup) it's not surprising that Ted (maybe one of the most basic dudes on television) is enamored with a girl (Katie Holmes) dressed as a Slutty Pumpkin. He bumped into her back in 2001 and has been entranced by her strategically carved holes ever since. Each year he's waited at the same party in the hope of meeting her again. But this is Ted and he's not exactly the luckiest in love so, of course, she doesn't show. But, it's not the end of the Slutty Pumpkin — she returns to more deeply carve out her role in later seasons. —RK
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Who Got Dee Pregnant?”
The big scare in this episode is the revelation that one of the guys is the father of Dee's (Kaitlin Olson) unborn child. To try and figure out who it might be, the guys cast their minds back to a recent halloween party, but their various versions of events are massively impaired by alcohol. Through the different characters' recollections, they try to piece together the "Who’s the Daddy" mystery. The best part of the episode isn't the reveal though, it's the fact that Dee becomes more and more bird-like in each guy's memory. She starts off with just a few feathers and ends up portrayed by a real-life ostrich just pecking about at the party. —RK
Modern Family, “Halloween”
If you ever dreamed of being part of the Dunphy household, this episode seals the deal. Obsessed with Halloween, Claire (Julie Bowen) transforms the family home into a haunted house with an abundance of decorations in a single-minded attempt to scare trick-or-treaters. Meanwhile, Phil (Ty Burrell) is experiencing his own personal horror, when he learns of his neighbor's divorce and becomes terrified his marriage will end the same way. Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is delighted then horrified to discover his firm allows employees to dress up for Halloween, only to show up as Spider-Man and learn that "only tools and douches wear costumes." —RK
New Girl, “Halloween”
There's no place like a haunted house to DTR. Dressed as a Joey Ramone-a Quimby — let's pause one moment to fully appreciate the genius of a costume that combines a '70s punk rocker and a fictional character from a series of children's novels —Jess (Zooey Deschanel) heads to her annual gig working at a haunted house in the hopes of telling Sam (David Walton) she wants their relationship to be more serious than the occasional hook-up. Sadly he doesn't have the same outlook and Nick (Jake Johnson), who is already aware of Sam's position, bids to overcome his fear of haunted houses to warn Jess. In the end he gets so agitated that he accidentally punches Jess in the face. But, hey, he had good intentions. —RK
The Office, “Halloween”
Halloween at the Dunder Mifflin office means obligatory costumes, a mandatory party (with Michael approving overages for extra decorations) and unfortunately an employee dismissal. "And somehow I'm supposed to put on a costume and smile?" asks a highly-stressed Michael (Steve Carell). The highlight of the episode is the costumes: Dwight (Rainn Wilson) comes as a very convincing Sith Lord, Michael as a two-headed man (one regular, one paper mache), and Jim (John Krasinski) as three-hole-punch Jim — perhaps a joke that's only funny if you work at a paper supply company. Meredith (Kate Flannery) may be the unsung hero, though — try to catch a glimpse of her exposed brains as she leaves the office. And of course there's also some Jim and Pam (Jenna Fischer) gooey moments to keep the horrors at bay. —RK
One Day at a Time, “One Halloween at a Time”
The Alvarez family gets into the Halloween spirit in the season 4 episode “One Halloween at a Time” featuring lots of adorable couples costumes, surprise guests, and a baby bombshell. With Penelope (Justina Machado) and Max (Ed Quinn) back together, it’s precious to see them get into the spirit of the holiday dressed as Sandy and Danny from Grease. (It’s a shame Machado wasn’t already on DWTS or audiences may have been treated to an impromptu dance-off. Tell me more!) Alex (Marcel Ruiz) opts not to wear a costume but instead chooses to debut his newly-dyed silver hair which pleased his grandmother Lydia (Rita Moreno) to no end. The reason? Lydia thinks Alex looks so much like her dead husband Berto (Tony Plana) — much to her grandson’s chagrin. As excited as Lydia was to see Alex, she and Dr. Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky) dressed up as Belle and The Beast from Beauty and the Beast. —Rosy Cordero
Parks and Recreation, “Meet ’n Greet”
Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza) decide to throw a Halloween party at their house but despite sharing every detail of how awesome the party’s going to be with the camera crew, they fail to let their roommate Ben (Adam Scott) know it’s happening. Instead of confronting them about it he opts for a healthy dose of passive aggression instead. Since Ben won’t admit that he is annoyed about the party, Andy wrestles with him, puts him in a headlock and drags him around the party with him until he snaps and says that he’s mad. Then there’s this sound logic from Ron (Nick Offerman), when asked by Andy if he wasn't also a pirate last year: "Yes. This is my Halloween costume.” A great money-saving tip to keep in mind. —RK
Sabrina the Teenage Witch, “A River of Candy Corn Runs Through It"
You'd think a teenage witch would be a pro when it comes to Halloween, but Sabrina is more than a little stressed when she somehow finds herself hosting a party at her aunts' house. You see, there's talking furniture (a mix up with the delivery), an accidental river of candy corn when a spell goes awry, and some monstrous "Halloween carolers" decide to come to visit from the Other Realm. Think a deluge of candy sounds kinda fun? Think again. Melissa Joan Hart told EW it was one of the more difficult episodes to shoot. "There was literally a dump truck full of candy corn dumping it on us,” she said, "and the talking furniture — that was hard to do." —RK
Supernatural, “It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester"
While investigating two mysterious deaths in a small town, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) discover a witch is sacrificing people to summon a dangerous demon. Turns out that demon is Samhain who has the nifty ability to raise other frightening things from hell. Yay, a pending unstoppable bloodbath! Well, it is Halloween. On his arrival, Samhain comes across some high schoolers partying in a mausoleum, and locks them inside to be attacked by zombies and ghosts. The bros manage to put a stop to the demon's shenanigans though doing so takes a great physical toll on Sam. —RK
Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, “Two Guys a Girl and a Psycho Halloween”
With Psycho Breg (Ryan Reynolds) on the loose, this may be one of the best Halloween episodes to ever haunt television sets. Everyone dies. Gruesomely. But, it's oh so funny. For example, Psycho Berg kills Sharon (Traylor Howard) then stuffs her in the pizza oven, leaving only the tail of her mermaid costume on display, Johnny (Nathan Fillion) ends up dead in the jukebox, and Pete (Richard Ruccolo) has a painful showdown with a meat cleaver and some cornflakes. By the end, there's no guys, no girls, but there's still a pizza place, and that is the most important thing. —RK