I’ve been waiting a long time to do this list! The Simpsons is without doubt my favourite TV show of all time. I don’t watch it much anymore (lack of pay TV), but on the rare occasion I do catch it, it’s not that bad. Of course, the show is nowhere near as good as it was but I wouldn’t call it terrible. The characters are still there, I still laugh, and there’s the occasional good joke.
But of course, what we’re talking about today is the Halloween episodes. When I was growing up, Halloween was purely an American tradition, and all I really knew about it came from, you guessed it, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror.
Even today, the Halloween specials are a must. From parodies to an all-out cartoon gore-fest, we wonder what the writers will do this year. And I’m going to count down the best segments today.
A quick disclaimer. This was probably the hardest list to select. They’re that good. ALL of the segments are great in their own way.
These are the ones that I personally enjoy the most. For a moment to qualify, I need to have seen it entirely.
What will be on the list? Let’s get started!
10. The Shinning (Treehouse of Horror V)
The family become winter caretakers at Mr Burn’s hotel. However, he has cut off the cable TV and destroyed any Duff Beer in the house, causing Homer to go crazy.
The Simpsons have done hundreds of great parodies over the years but this is one of their best. Even people who have never seen The Shining are able to appreciate the jokes.
From the blood in the elevator to the iconic “No TV and No Beer Make Homer Go Crazy”, there’s never ending laughs while still paying homage to Stanley Kubrick.
9. Easy Bake Coven (Treehouse of Horror VIII)
In the year 1692, the town of Springfield is now Salem in the grip of the infamous witch trials. At a town meeting, Goody Simpson is accused of being a witch, and later at her kangaroo trial, it’s revealed that she actually is. Marge joins her fellow witch sisters Patty and Selma, and they plan to eat the town’s children. Thanks to the Flanders’ quick thinking, the witches start asking for treats instead, thus beginning the trick or treat tradition of Halloween.
Maybe it’s because The Crucible is one of my favourite plays, or maybe it’s the fact that as an Australian I never got to go trick or treating as a child. But this segment really does make me laugh years later, and I get more of the references now that I’m in my twenties.
Incidentally, is there an age restriction on trick or treating? Now that Halloween has come to Australia in a big way, I may just get my chance…
8. Time and Punishment (Treehouse of Horror V)
Remember this classic? Homer, while repairing the family toaster, accidentally creates a time machine. Despite his best efforts, he manages to alter the future in horrifying ways. Swatting a mosquito makes Ned Flanders the maniacal world dictator. Accidentally killing all the dinosaurs causes a seemingly perfect world, but donuts apparently don’t exist.
Yes, like everyone else, the scene where Homer misses that donuts rain from the sky absolutely breaks my heart every single time. And I will always laugh at “Oh, I wish I wish I hadn’t killed that fish,”
The scenarios the writers and animators come up with here are beyond ingenious and hysterically funny. James Earl Jones’ cameo as Maggie’s voice is great. And you really do wonder how Homer is going to get out of this mess. The ending of course, is perfect and while it’s unlikely any of my readers haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it here. It’s just a wildly creative and fun segment.
7. Homer3 (Treehouse of Horror VI)
How could I not put this one on the list? It may be a tad dated now, but the computer animation of this episode was absolutely groundbreaking for 1995.
While attempting to hide from Patty and Selma, Homer stumbles upon the third dimension behind the bookcase, but sadly makes the world collapse on itself and he ends up in – how could we ever forget? – the real world.
The set up is great, the animation still looks cool, the background is crammed with in-jokes and easter eggs, and it’s still hilarious 21 years on. Homer’s foray into our world is probably the most memorable in the history of the show and despite the lack of closure in the ending, nobody really cares. It’s one of the most famous segments in all the Halloween episodes and for good reason.
6. The Devil and Homer Simpson (Treehouse of Horror IV)
For a long time, this was my favourite Treehouse of Horror segment. While I may have changed my mind about that, I still adore this segment.
Homer, in sheer desperation, sells his soul to the Devil (Ned Flanders), for a donut. Later, when the Devil comes to claim what is his, Lisa asks for a fair trial. But Homer first has to spend a day in Hell, where he is subjected to eating all the donuts in the world (we all know where that would end up). By the end, Homer’s soul is legally found to be Marge’s property.
I love this episode for the set up, the clever jokes and the scenes where Homer is in Hell. Even the deleted scenes revealed in ‘The Simpsons’ 138th Episode Spectacular’ are a riot. I may have a new favourite now, but I will always have a special place in my heart for this one.
5. Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace (Treehouse of Horror VI)
I will freely admit that I have never seen A Nightmare on Elm Street because I am too much of a coward. And when I first saw this episode at twelve, it did freak me out slightly (I was a sensitive child, ok?)
But now that I’m older and slightly braver (well, brave enough to not get spooked by The Simpsons), I can appreciate the merits of this segment. The parody. The hilarious indifference and bureaucracy of the parents and teachers at the school. The scenarios where the children die, and how Maggie ultimately saves the day with her trademark pacifier. It’s a ton of fun every time.
4. Nightmare Cafeteria (Treehouse of Horror V)
Yeah, I know I’ve put all three segments from Treehouse of Horror V on, but hey, give me a break. It’s arguably the best Halloween Special of all.
Due to budget cuts and overcrowded detention halls, Principal Skinner and the faculty at Springfield Elementary start cooking and eating the misbehaving students, and soon only Bart, Lisa and Milhouse remain.
This one is just straight up funny. Despite the horrifying scenario and gore, the jokes come thick and fast. And they’re all great. The Joy of Cooking Milhouse. The free-range children. Grade F meat. And of course, one of my favourite jokes involving Marge ever!
“Listen, kids, you’re eight and ten years old now. I can’t be fighting all your battles for you…no buts! You march right back to that school, look them straight in the eye and say ‘Don’t eat me!'”
3. Bart Simpson’s Dracula (Treehouse of Horror IV)
The Simpsons are invited to dinner at Mr Burns’ mansion. Lisa begins to suspect that Burns is a vampire. Bart and Lisa stumble upon his secret lair, and Bart is turned into a vampire.
Vampires are a staple in horror, and The Simpsons take full advantage of all the possibilities here. And of course, there’s some of the most memorable jokes in the show’s history here.
“Kill my boss?!? Do I dare live out the American dream?”
“Oh Lisa, you and your stories. Bart is a vampire. Beer kills brain cells. Now…let’s go back….to that building thingy…where our beds and TV….is,” the attempt to kill Mr Burns and then of course the ending where the head vampire is revealed.
2. Dial Z for Zombies (Treehouse of Horror III)
While attempting to resurrect Lisa’s dead cat, Bart accidentally unleashes zombies….sorry, the living-impaired, on the town. The citizens are turned one by one and it’s up to the Simpson family to reverse it.
There’s little need to go into detail here. We all know this episode. We all know the jokes. We all know every single moment. It’s just a complete riot.
It’s time to unveil number one, which you may have already guessed, but first, some
Monkey’s Paw (Treehouse of Horror II)
Terror at 5 1/2 Feet (Treehouse of Horror IV)
Attack of the 50ft Eyesores (Treehouse of Horror VI)
Desperately Xeeking Xena (Treehouse of Horror X)
1. The Raven (Treehouse of Horror I)
Admit it. You all knew this one was coming. And how could I not select this as my number one? Ask anyone in my generation and I guarantee that this episode is how we know about Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.
A simultaneous parody and homage to a masterwork, The Raven manages to give us everything we love about the Halloween Specials right at the very beginning. It’s funny, full of clever references and still maintains that slightly spooky feel which keeps us on edge. It satirises the work but never to a point that’s insulting or degrading. It managed to give us a genuinely new take on a very old work and keep it alive in our memories to this very day.
With Halloween well and truly dusted and a nasty horror story looming over America for the next four years, I can’t help but wonder what the Simpsons will have in store for next Halloween….