Halloween is the time of year that special spooky episodes are all over TV, and The Simpsons Halloween episodes are always some of the best.
Began as a parody of The Twilight Zone and Tales From The Crypt, the segments in each year’s Treehouse of Horror is when the show cuts loose. Characters die, famous films are parodied, and big-name guest stars appear. But out of the dozens of segments produced over the last 25 years, which segments are the best? We whittled it down to a list of the ten best Simpsons Halloween segments, starting with its most political.
Most Simpsons episodes try to be timeless, but this politically charged segment from 1996 is a rare exception. Just as American voters were about to choose between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, the politicians are replaced by Kang and Kodos. And it’s all Homer Simpson’s fault! While the rest of the world doesn’t notice how out of character the candidates are acting, Homer has to fix this nude conspiracy.
It’s a fun adventure full of social commentary on America’s two-party system, and, it has the rare moment where Homer accidentally kills the president.
“Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores”
When The Simpsons goof on Godzilla, they don’t just do the obvious destruction and death. The show also makes room to mock America’s most famous/annoying ads. This episode made Lard Lad Donuts a staple of the series, and the segment even adds a new song to the series’ soundtrack. “Just Don’t Look” is a catchy song, especially when sung by Paul Anka, and it’s good advice too. Even in the age of social media, the best way to end a bad ad campaign is to ignore it.
“The Homega Man”
Based on Charleton Heston’s underrated post-apocalypse film The Omega Man, this episode is Homer at his most selfish. After France blows up Springfield and seemingly kills everyone but Homer, Mr. Simpson is slow to notice all the death around him. When he finally does, he’s ready to party hard, but not if a cult of mutants has anything to say about it. Homer’s battle against his former friends is one of the most violent segments the show ever did. It’s great all the way up to the twist ending; a must have for any great Halloween tale.
“Terror on Evergreen Terrace”
This parody of the Nightmare on Elm Street series is more modern than the other parodies on the list but no less good. Groundskeeper Willie is horrifically killing Springfield’s children in their dreams, and it’s (again) all Homer’s fault.
This is one of the most visually impressive Halloween segments, with the animators going all out in the dream sequences. This segment is also home to the classic Simpsons quotable, “Lousy Smarch weather.”
The Simpsons have recreated moments from virtually every Stanley Kubrick film, from 2001 to Eyes Wide Shut. Perhaps the series’ greatest Kubrick tribute ever is this segment recreating The Shining in all its most grisly moments. The elevator full of blood, the empty bar, even the boxes of oatmeal is lovingly made in Simpsons form. Also, Homer channels Jack Nicholson’s performance for some of the craziest Homer animation ever seen. A must-watch for any lover of horror, Kubrick, or people who hate hedge mazes.
King Kong has been remade many times, but it’s the timeless original that The Simpsons lovingly spoofed in 1992. Homer is smartly recast as the big ape, and Marge as the bait — I mean, the bathing beauty. This black-and-white adventure condenses the whole film into its most violent moments, with Homer eating everyone in sight, from Smithers to Shirley Temple. But it all ends in a happy wedding scene, so all the bloodshed worked out in the end.
“Clown Without Pity”
Compared to the rest of the list, “Clown Without Pity” seems too simple. Homer is fighting a killer Krusty Doll. So what, right? But Homer’s war with the deadly toy is a visual delight, with the knife-wielding Krusty a real challenge for Homer. Some might think Krusty’s switch turning from good to evil is a bit of a copout, but it’s such a silly ending that it keeps the humor sharp until the last moment.
“Terror at 5 1/2 Feet”
Bart gives William Shatner a run for his money in this Twilight Zone parody. Bart is trying to save the rest of the school bus from a deadly gremlin, but no one believes him. Bart’s battle against a monster and his distrustful classmates is surprisingly intense. But there’s still time for great jokes, including Ned hugging the gremlin and the first ever appearance of German exchange student, Üter. Ned’s severed head at the end is also some memorable nightmare fuel.
“Time and Punishment”
Time travel is a long tradition in science fiction, so it’s only natural a Simpsons Halloween segment would deal with it. Homer accidentally builds a time machine, and thanks to the butterfly effect, timelines are changed left and right. That leads to seeing some disturbing universes, including one where Ned Flanders rules the world and another where donuts don’t exist (or do they?). Though the best joke in the whole segment has to be Homer finally cutting loose and smashing all the prehistoric stuff he wants.
“The Devil and Homer Simpson”
This entry might just be the best Halloween sequences in the show’s history. It’s a high watermark in animation, particularly all the hellish imagery. It also gets to involve the whole family in the plot, as well as mock both Richard Nixon and Philadelphia. Plus, Lionel Hutz makes an appearance. The segment concludes with a double whammy of love and ridiculousness. Marge’s love of Homer saves the day, but Homer is also stuck with a donut for a head. A win-win for The Simpsons‘ commitment to absurdity and sentimentality.
A version of this article was previously published on October 31, 2016.