TAGGED AS: ABC, Cartoon Network, CBS, Disney Channel, Horror, NBC, Netflix, streaming, Warner Bros.
(Photo by Disney/Pixar 2013)
Halloween might not fall until the end of October, but the most fervent fans of the horror holiday start celebrating the minute the calendar turns to Oct. 1 — or even before. Hey, if you can buy a pumpkin-spiced latte, then spooky season has begun.
New horror releases hit the big screen throughout the month, but you can find even more scream-worthy programming on the small screen. What better way to gear up for trick-or-treating than with a marathon of scary creatures, horror specials, and other Halloween-centric TV programming available to stream online (or hunt down on YouTube)?
Rotten Tomatoes has rounded up 31 Halloween specials so you can watch one daily, or stockpile them for a Halloween night marathon.
What Made It Special: Back in the ’70s every popular children’s character got their own special, so you’ll see a lot on this list. In this one, a staple of Disney Channel’s annual Halloween rotation, Raggedy Ann and Andy’s neighbor Ralph had a mean aunt who wouldn’t let him go trick-or-treating — so they found the perfect pumpkin to make him happy.
What Made It Special: Shrek had already been in four movies by 2010, along with a Christmas special, Shrek the Halls. In the ogre’s Halloween outing, Shrek, Donkey, Puss in Boots, and their fairy tale friends tell three scary stories (with commercial breaks in between).
What Made It Special: Even before Donkey Kong and Mario, Pac-Man was the first video-game celebrity, complete with his own Saturday morning cartoon show. In 1982 the character got an ABC prime-time Halloween special that still airs on Cartoon Network and Boomerang today. Two animated stories include “Pacula,” about a pac-vampire, and “Trick-or-Chomp,” which has the ghosts interrupting the Pac family’s trick-or-treating.
What Made It Special: The gang from the ’70s cartoon got its own prime-time special where they skip the treat and go right for the “trick” by scaring their neighbors. It’s available on DVD.
What Made It Special: The Flintstones never met a Stone Age pun they didn’t like, and in this hour-long NBC special, Dracula and Frankenstein get the punny treatment. Rockula awakens to complete his Frankenstone monster — and only the Flintstones and Rubbles can stop them. This special has been sold on VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD.
What Made It Special: Animator Will Vinton had previously done the California Raisins commercials and music videos, plus animation for Michael Jackson’s Captain EO attraction and Disney’s Return to Oz. This claymation Halloween special’s animation won him an Emmy.
What Made It Special: When your whole thing is being a friendly ghost, you’ve got to do something special for Halloween. It’s the one night of the year when Casper can dress up as a real boy, and he makes friends with some orphans who accept him for what he is. Later available on VHS as Casper Saves Halloween, you can still get it on DVD.
What Made It Special: This was the very first Disney Channel movie for Halloween, so it’s the one that started it all. Three 12-year-olds accidentally bring a mummy back and try to keep it… under wraps. Get it?
What Made It Special: This animated TV movie was Ray Bradbury for kids. Bradbury narrated the tale of children traveling the world to learn about different celebrations that influenced Halloween, also featuring the voice of Leonard Nimoy. It won an Emmy, was released on VHS and DVD, and continues to air on Cartoon Network.
What Made It Special: Years after his death, this CBS special gave the King of Pop a chance to sing again. The star-studded musical special featured an animated Jackson (with his actual voice) and 28 classic Jackson songs, and was made in collaboration from Jackson’s estate. More than 5.6 million people watched on CBS when it aired.
What Made It Special: One year after her Olympic silver medal win (and her recovery from her attack by Tonya Harding’s goons), Nancy Kerrigan led a Halloween-themed figure skating show at the Boston Garden featuring skating routines inspired by Dracula, Frankenstein, and other creatures. It aired on NBC and Kerrigan continued to perform the live show through 2015.
What Made It Special: Readers of the funny pages in the ’80s would always look for The Far Side, a single image that would crack you up every day. Creator Larson animated a Halloween special of Far Side shorts that was released on DVD and sold out on the official Far Side website.
What Made It Special: The Addams Family had been off the air since 1966, so this 1977 Halloween special was a welcome reunion with the original cast. Airing 14 years before the movie reboot, it’s been immortalized online via fans’ YouTube uploads.
What Made It Special: Sister Sister twins Tia and Tamera Mowry got their own Disney Channel movie as twin witches, or twitches for short. They also got a sequel, Twitches Too.
What Made It Special: Everyone loves to marathon Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, but here’s a Halloween movie to try out. Don’t worry, it’s still about a workaholic (Sam Jaeger) who finds love with a carefree nanny (Ashley Williams) and it’s available to watch on Netflix.
What Made It Special: While most of the Disney Channel Halloween movies are fun, Don’t Look Under the Bed actually scared kids — and their parents — so much so that some parents asked Disney to stop airing it and the network obliged. In the film, a teenage girl (Erin Chambers) has to stop the Boogeyman (Steve Valentine) who lives under her bed. The Boogeyman makeup was a bit too intense for some, especially when the character possesses the girl’s imaginary friend (Ty Hodges).
What Made it Special: The most successful of the Disney Channel Halloween movies, Halloweentown spawned a franchise that kept going until 2006’s Return to Halloweentown. The original that started it all introduced Marnie Piper (Kimberly J. Brown) to a world of witches, monsters, ghosts, and teenagers. Brown would star in three Halloweentowns, through 2004’s Halloweentown High.
What Made It Special: The Olsen twins, Mary Kate and Ashley, were the queens of ’90s children’s movies. Many went straight to video, but the sisters’ Halloween movie, in which they tried use their mean aunt Agatha’s (Cloris Leachman) witch magic to save their family, aired on TV.
What Made It Special: How the Grinch Stole Christmas was such a Christmas classic that the Grinch tried to get in on ruining other holidays too. There’s been much speculation whether this is a prequel or sequel to Stole Christmas. It would have to be a prequel since it’s before Grinch’s heart grew three sizes, right? This Emmy-winning special re-ran through the early ’80s and was eventually released on video.
What Made it Special: “The Tale of the Twisted Claw,” a take on the familiar story of “The Monkey’s Paw,” served as both the pilot for this long-running Nickelodeon series (airing as a Halloween special in its native Canada on Oct. 31 of 1990) and also aired as the fourth episode of the show when it began broadcasting on Nickelodeon.
(Photo by ABC/Courtesy Everett Collection)
What Made It Special: Judd Hirsch played Dracula, rallying all the monsters to stop Halloween from being cancelled. Back in the ‘70s, TV movies were events, so Dracula doing Saturday Night Fever had a lot of eyeballs on it, especially with Hirsch fresh off the first season of Taxi.
What Made It Special: As the host of Nickelodeon’s Double Dare, Summers was the king of slime and goop. His Halloween special, filmed at The Magic Castle, costarred then-child actors Jonathan Brandis and Shiri Appleby plus John Astin (the original Gomez Addams). Kids would see this special every October in the early days of cable.
What Made it Special: Elvira herself is the draw for this one. The sexy, macabre comedienne became a horror personality as a host of B-movies and brought her sense of humor to MTV’s scary programming with this special. Though never officially re-released, the special can be found in dark corners of the internet if you look hard enough.
What Made It Special: The variety show was another staple of ’70s television (see: The Star Wars Holiday Special), so comedian Paul Lynde led skits featuring Wicked Witch Margaret Hamilton, Witchiepoo Billie Hayes, KISS, Florence Henderson, and the Osmonds. It’s now on DVD so you can watch it year round.
What Made it Special: In the ’80s, Disney made Sunday night family-TV-night with the Disney Sunday Night Movie, and this Halloween movie introduced the ghosts of an entirely original haunted house. It was so popular the network made a sequel, The Bride of Boogedy, the next year!
What Made It Special: Fans of the book were excited to see The Worst Witch come to life with Fairuza Balk, Tim Curry, Charlotte Rae, and Diana Rigg. In the film, Balk plays Mildred, a girl who has trouble casting a spell. It was especially fitting casting since Balk went on to star as a teen witch in The Craft.
What Made It Special: Garfield hates Mondays, but loves Halloween because he can dress up and eat candy. Airing along with Charlie Brown’s family Halloween special made Garfield a memorable addition to the double bill, and it won an Emmy in 1986.
What Made It Special: Rankin-Bass were most famous for their animated Christmas specials Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Their Halloween show included Boris von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff), the Werewolf, Dr. Jekyll, and Invisible Man and is available on Blu-ray.
What Made It Special: Pixar favorites Woody and Buzz and their menagerie of animated toy friends turn up in a road-trip thriller when Mr. Potato Head goes missing at a roadside motel. Apparently even toys can make ill-fated accommodation decisions. Considered “charming” and “engaging,” critics agreed that family members of all ages would enjoy the TV special, starring the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.
What Made It Special: The Simpsons has made its annual Halloween specials a viewing event. Critics agree “Treehouse of Horrors V” is the best one, featuring “The Shinning,” “Time and Punishment,” and “Nightmare Cafeteria.”
What made it special: Cartoonist Charles Shulz turned the ordinary lives of elementary school children into magical adventures, featuring daring anthropomorphized beagle Snoopy. In this perennial Halloween classic, Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the kids enjoy the gifts of the season — making costumes, trick-or-treating, and having a party — while Linus and Sally pass the night in a pumpkin patch awaiting the mythical Great Pumpkin.
What is your favorite Halloween classic? Tell us in the comments.