Aside from Christmas, it seems like no holiday has gotten as much TV screen time as Halloween. It makes sense: it’s an opportunity for shows to play with fun costumes and makeup, perhaps revealing something about a character’s personality or perhaps just an excuse to jazz things up on set for a week.
With Halloween just around the corner, we’re counting down 15 of our favorite Halloween episodes. Be sure to tell us what we missed in the comments section below.
The holiday serves as an excuse to poke fun at junior high romance here, as Vanessa spends all of her Halloween party freaking out about the fact that her crush Robert—the coolest boy in the seventh grade—is at her party. She relays messages (“tell Scott to tell Robert that he heard that I might like him”), awkwardly slow-dances and nearly dies of embarrassment when she accidentally breaks some glassware. Besides all the hilarious teen angst, we get Claire Huxtable rocking a super timely Tina Turner costume.
The costumes are what make this episode a real treat; we get Chandler in a pink bunny outfit, Joey in a sweater-vest as Chandler and—best of all—an antennae-wearing Ross in a potato suit as “Spudnik” who constantly gets mistaken for poop.
Her identity wouldn’t be revealed until much later in the series (and, surprise, she’s Katie Holmes), but the mythical Slutty Pumpkin was first introduced in the first season of How I Met Your Mother when Ted recalls how he met the girl in a strategically carved pumpkin outfit at a Halloween party only to lose her number and fruitlessly returns to the same party in his hanging chad costume every year with the hopes of running into her again.
Perhaps no show is better suited for this spooky holiday than Buffy The Vampire Slayer, so it should be no surprise that this episode knocks it out of the park. The gang attempts to unwind by attending a frat party on Halloween, but freaky stuff starts happening when the demon Gachnar is accidentally conjured.
This season two episode reveals Claire Dunphy’s obsession with Halloween as she works tirelessly to turn the family home into a haunted house. Along the way she has to deal with Haley’s revealing costume choices, Phil’s fears about their marriage and a self-conscious Gloria attempting to do an “English” accent.
Nostalgia-hungry twentysomethings who grew up with this show will be pleased to discover that it’s just as entertaining to watch as an adult. The coming-of-age storylines here make this one extra relatable, as Big Pete, who feels he’s too old to trick-or-treat, must decide whether to join the neighborhood vandals the Pumpkin Eaters or help Little Pete on his quest to break the record for most houses visited on Halloween. Plus, Iggy Pop turns up as Nona’s dad!
Unreliable narrators and differing points-of-view make this It’s Always Sunny episode one of the series’ all-time best as the gang tries to piece together their memories of a Halloween party that got a little out of control to try and figure out who knocked up Sweet Dee. Come for appearances by hilarious supporting characters like Artemis and the McPoyles, stay for Frank in a Spiderman outfit.
Louie takes his daughters—dressed as a fairy and Frederick Douglass—trick-or-treating. But this wouldn’t be an episode of Louie if something dark didn’t happen, and as the girls insist on staying out late to get more candy, the freaks start to come out and Halloween’s seedy underbelly is revealed. The trio is nearly mugged, but Jane saves the day with her fairy wand and Louie’s left to question his own masculinity.
The Office’s Halloween episodes have become something to look forward to every year, but none pack the emotional punch that the one that started it all does. Michael, who, as we all know, wants nothing more than to be a pal to his employees, is forced to lay someone off. Devon gets axed, and he reacts badly, but the episode wraps up sweetly, with Michael smiling and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Poor guy just wants to be loved. Meanwhile, Jim steps out in the first of a long line of hilariously minimalist costumes, this time appearing as “Three Hole Punch Jim.”
OK, so this one’s technically more of a TV special than an episode, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t include this classic Peanuts tale. That Charlie Brown is such a sad-sack that he somehow manages to get rocks instead of candy. Typical.
In which Larry does battle with two teenage girls who show up at his door out of costume demanding candy. He refuses to give them candy, insisting that they’re too old for Halloween and that they have to wear costumes. The next morning, he wakes up to find his house TP’d and “BALD ASSHOLE” spray-painted across his door. Watch him hilariously try to convince the cops that this is a hate crime below.
This TGIF sitcom’s beloved Halloween episode serves almost as a ‘90s time capsule these days. Super timely “Oh my God, they killed Kenny” South Park reference? Check. Cameo by Jennifer Love Hewitt (hot on the heels of I Know What You Did Last Summer) as new student Jennifer Love Fefferman? Present. Most of all, however, Scream gags abound, as Shawn must use his horror movie knowledge to help the John Adams High gang outwit the killer, who at one point calls up Jack and asks what his favorite scary movie is. “Ooh, I like that one with the hottie-hot-hot from Party of Five,” he responds before Hewitt asks, “Neve Campbell?”
Perhaps no show has become so synonymous with the Halloween episode as The Simpsons, and back when the show was still fresh, they delivered this memorable spoof of The Shining in “Treehouse of Horror V.”
Halloween is used as a plot device here, as all the Weirs are forced to come to terms with their age in different ways. Lindsay ditches her mom—who must deal with the fact that her daughter’s growing up—to go raise a little hell with the freaks, trashing mailboxes, smashing pumpkins and throwing a few eggs. Sam clings to his youth and forces Neil and Bill to go trick-or-treating with him one last time, but their night is ruined when Lindsay unwittingly eggs him. It’s a touching episode that also delivers plenty of laughs, with Bill’s incredible Bionic Woman outfit and Harris’ tales of hippies passing out chocolate-coated poop to protest the Reagan administration.
No other show does genre parody quite like Community, and “Epidemiology” is one of the best examples of this, as Greendale becomes infested with zombies. As Sean Gandert wrote when he initially reviewed the episode, “This may be the best episode of the show so far…In general it’s this sort of boundary-pushing episode that’s about the most interesting thing a sitcom has done since the great Newsradio went off the air. From the all-ABBA dance music to the gang’s study room becoming a “mall” of sorts to be barricaded to the cat jumping around the basement like an Alien, all the jokes were nailing it. There’s not much you can say about good comedy besides that the jokes work, but Community at its best manages to become almost transcendent in the way one joke flows to the next so naturally despite the insanity of its plot.”