Best Halloween Movies, Ranked by Metacritic

Discover the best Halloween movies, ranked by Metascore
by Hedy Phillips — 

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Halloween movies, though perfect for the spooky season, don't always have to be viewed in October. And sometimes, movies that are perfect to watch on Halloween don't actually have to be about Halloween.

These movies, whether they're gruesome or mind-bending thrillers, are a staple piece of cinema that can be enjoyed anytime you need a fright — including a date night scare. Some of the best Halloween movies, though, aren't even scary. A few of the best movies associated with the October 31 holiday simply deal with the lore surrounding Halloween or have lighthearted ghost stories in them. 

However, the most notable Halloween films are those with twisted stories that supply nightmares for days and an unwillingness to sleep with the lights off. And though there is an endless number of scary movies and Halloween-centric films to go around, these are the 10 best based on their Metascores. Here you'll find spookiness, ghosts, and even an animated feature. Every movie will delight the Halloween fan — no matter the time of year.

Psycho (1960)

Metascore: 97
Best for: Alfred Hitchcock fans
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, , Vudu
Runtime: 109 minutes

Based on the novel of the same name, this 1960 Hitchcock film introduces Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) to the movie-going public. He's an unhinged man who oversees the Bates Motel, a seedy location that a woman named Marion (Janet Leigh) checks into while she's trying to steal money to help her husband. Though she questions Norman and the motel, she stays anyway, only to meet her demise. What follows is Marion's family and a private investigator trying to find answers about her whereabouts, which leads to a much more sinister backstory about Norman (and his mother) than they expected.

"This is a first-rate mystery thriller, full of visual shocks and surprises which are heightened by the melodramatic realism of the production." — Jack Harrison, The Hollywood Reporter

Halloween (1978)

Metascore: 87
Best for: Michael Myers devotees
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 91 minutes

The first film in a long film franchise introduces Michael Myers (Nick Castle) as a deranged killer. He first killed his older sister when he was just a child and was put away for 15 years, but he eventually escapes captivity and sets out to kill again, targeting local babysitters. Though they think he's the boogeyman, they soon realize he's a very real person who is determined to kill them. This movie led to numerous sequels and remakes. It even inspired a book and video game.

"Arguably, the greatest horror film of the past thirty years." — David Grove, Film Threat

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Metascore: 82
Best for: Animated movie fans, Tim Burton fans
Where to watch: 

, , Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 76 minutes

On a less scary note, this stop-motion animation movie combines elements of both Halloween and Christmas. Created by Burton, the movie sees Jack Skellington (voiced by Chris Sarandon), the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, growing weary of his home and the holiday, so he sets off to find something new. In his exploration, he discovers the door to Christmas Town, which he's completely fascinated by. Though he desperately wants to share Christmas with Halloween Town, he's unsuccessful — so he tells Sandy Claws (aka Santa Claus) that Halloween Town will handle Christmas this year. What Jack's not prepared for is the Oogie Boogie (Ken Page) to capture Santa and for his own life to be at risk as well.

"Visually a macabre knockout, this 75-minute fantasy boasts some of the wittiest, most vigorous stop-motion animation effects in the history of the process."  John Hartl, The Seattle Times

Carrie (1976)

Metascore: 85
Best for: Stephen King fans
Where to watch: 

Google PlayiTunesVudu
Runtime: 98 minutes

In this film based on King's novel of the same name, teenager Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is struggling both at school and at home. At school, she doesn't fit in, and at home, her mother is abusive. She soon realizes, though, that the unusual activity happening around her might actually be because of her. But rather than use her newfound powers for good, they come out in the worst way on prom night when she's the subject of a cruel joke played by her classmates.

"The best scary-funny since Jaws — a teasing, terrifying, lyrical shocker." — Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

The Exorcist (1973)

Metascore: 81
Best for: Fans of vintage horror
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Runtime: 122 minutes

Based on the novel of the same title by William Peter Blatty, this supernatural horror movie finds its terror in how realistic it is. When 12-year-old Regan (Linda Blair) starts acting out of character — from using profanity to urinating on the floor — her mother (Ellen Burstyn) grows concerned. All the while, there is questionable paranormal activity around the house, from weird noises to things moving around. It finally becomes clear that Regan is probably possessed by the devil, so her parents call a priest who then brings in an exorcism expert to try to rid the child of the devil without hurting her. 

"Rarely do movies affect us so deeply. ... This movie doesn't rest on the screen; it's a frontal assault." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Metascore: 78
Best for: Fans of slasher films
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Tubi, Vudu
Runtime: 83 minutes

Loosely based on the crimes of Ed Gein, the 1974 film features a killer known as Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen). When a group of friends are trying to figure out why graves are being vandalized, they're confronted with Leatherface, who has seemingly set out to kill anyone in his path. Using a variety of weapons — including a chainsaw — Leatherface picks off the friends one by one in a gruesome show of murder. This movie spawned eight more movies, released from 1986 to 2021.

"The film has outstanding sound effects, art direction, and editing, and a clutch of effective, if necessarily, one-note performances." — Kim Newman, Empire

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Metascore: 76
Best for: Fans of slasher films and Wes Craven
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Runtime: 91 minutes

As the first film in this franchise, this is the debut of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and his nightmare-inducing story. The movie straddles the line between dreams and reality, where teens are attacked in their sleep but feel the damage even as they wake. Freddy was once captured for murdering children but eventually released, only to be killed by parents in the town. Now he's a ghost seeking revenge and a need to satiate his hunger to continue killing children. This terrifying film is also the introduction of Freddy's song — "1, 2, Freddy's Coming for You" — which is as disturbing as it is catchy.  

"A Nightmare on Elm Street is tailor made for those who like their gore leavened with thought-provoking ideas — something that is a rarity in this genre." — James Berardinelli, ReelViews

Edward Scissorhands

Metascore: 74
Best for: Johnny Depp fans
Where to watch: 

, , Google Play, , iTunes, Paramount+, Tubi, Vudu
Runtime: 105 minutes

Depp stars as Edward Scissorhands in this Burton-directed fantasy film. Edward is an experiment gone wrong, leaving him with scissors for hands and a permanent place on the outs. When the mastermind behind his creation dies, he's taken in by a woman named Peg (Dianne Wiest), and he promptly falls in love with her daughter (played by Winona Ryder). What ensues is an oddball film that is actually quite a sweet story of learning about yourself and struggling to fit in — all while wielding large scissors for hands.

"Like a great chef concocting an exquisite peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, Mr. Burton invests awe-inspiring ingenuity into the process of reinventing something very small." — Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

Ghostbusters (1984)

Metascore: 71
Best for: Fans of lighthearted paranormal movies
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 105 minutes

Who you gonna call when you have some problematic ghosts? The Ghostbusters, of course. In this 1984 classic, Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) get booted from their jobs studying the paranormal at Columbia University and set out to create their own organization — Ghostbusters. Soon Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) joins the group, and the team is complete. They're not taken seriously at first, even taking the blame for paranormal occurrences, until the city calls on them to save everyone. 

"Praise is due to everyone connected with Ghostbusters for thinking on a grandly comic scale and delivering the goofy goods, neatly timed and perfectly packaged." — Richard Schickel, Time


Metascore: 70
Best for: Fans of horror-comedy
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 92 minutes

A young couple (played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) moves into a beautiful new home before dying suddenly in a car accident. However, they can't cross over to the other side and are stuck in their house. When a new family moves in, the young couple decides they want to do whatever they can to keep them out — and they're not afraid to use their new ghost status to do it. For help, they summon a poltergeist named Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) to scare out the new tenants. Instead of succeeding, though, the family's daughter Delia (Ryder) ends up befriending the couple and becoming beholden to the poltergeist himself.

"By the time this irresistible treat is over, it has created some of the funniest moments and most inspired visual humor and design we may expect to experience at the movies all year." — Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times