10. “Scream” (1996)
8. “The Exorcist” (1973)
This Oscar-winning bone-chiller about a possessed girl (played by Linda Blair) went the 1973 equivalent of viral, inspiring around-the-block lines at movie theaters. But does “The Exorcist” hold up for Halloween viewers of the 21st century? According to Fico Cangiano of the CineXpress podcast, it does.
“Scary then, scary still,” judged the critic. “Without a doubt one of the most frightening films ever made.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%
7. “The Blair Witch Project”
Shot for $35,000, “The Blair Witch Project” doesn’t boast big stars or bloody set pieces. But the film has something better: a killer concept. The 1999 sensation about a trio of ghost-hunting filmmakers basically invented the found-footage movie.
“The actors never put a foot wrong; the video diary form allows no artifice, so that as terror mounts, the dread is infectious,” Time Out’s Tom Charity wrote.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%; 163 reviews
6. “It” (2017)
Bill Skarsgård stars as Pennywise, the ultimate scary clown (and Halloween costume favorite) in this big-screen take on the Stephen King novel of the same name.
“You’ll scream bloody murder!” Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers wrote of “It.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%; 386 reviews
5. “The Witches” (1990)
In the original, big-screen version of the same-titled Road Dahl children’s novel, star Anjelica Huston has occasion to disappear under fright makeup. The result is scary, but, as ET Online judged, “The Witches” is “scary [in a] good way.” (And that’s not unlike Halloween itself.)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
4. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”
Clocking in at only about 25 minutes, there’s no briefer work in this countdown. There’s also no more Halloween-y entry here than “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”
Produced in 1966, the animated special features Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts” characters trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples — and anticipating the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.
“No matter how often we see it, we’ll still be happy to wait in the pumpkin patch with Linus,” Matt Roush wrote for TV Guide.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%; 22 reviews
3. “The Nightmare Before Christmas”
This Christmas-y Halloween (or Halloween-y Christmas) tale is told via song and stop-motion animation.
Wrote ReelViews’ James Berardinelli in praise of director Tim Burton’s 1993 film, “‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ has something to offer just about everyone.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%; 97 reviews
2. “Halloween” (1978)
“Halloween” isn’t just on this list because it’s called “Halloween.” The 1978 film from John Carpenter pioneered the teen-slasher film, made a movie star of Jamie Lee Curtis, introduced audiences to iconic villain Michael Myers — and, per Vox’s Aja Romano, is “[s]till creepy as hell.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%; 73 reviews
1. “What We Do in the Shadows” (2014)
The No. 1 Halloween film on our list is a comedy — an occasionally bloody comedy. “What We Do in the Shadows” stars Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement as vampire roommates whose workaday monster lives in the capital of New Zealand are documented by a film crew. Waititi, the Oscar-winning moviemaker of “Jojo Rabbit,” and Clement, formerly of the musical-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, wrote and directed — and won near-universal acclaim from critics.
“If ‘Twilight’ made you queasy and ‘Dark Shadows’ felt like a missed opportunity,” USA Today’s Claudia Puig wrote, “this pitch-perfect genre spoof is worth relishing.”
“What We Do in the Shadows” launched the same-titled TV series, which is available to stream on Hulu.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%; 187 reviews