Halloween is just around the corner, and as the leaves change, the air cools, and that brisk fall breeze picks up, alarming all of the quickly approaching winter. For now, however, there is something special about savoring this season, sipping on a PSL, carving pumpkins, wandering around corn mazes, and most notably, watching movies.
We like movies too, so some of our editors have put together a list of the top five must-watch films before Halloween — in no particular order.
The classic horror-comedy Beetlejuice, released in 1988, continues to generate laughs almost 35 years later. With great performances from some of Hollywood’s biggest names — Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton, and Alec Baldwin, this film is a must-watch during fall. When newlyweds Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) Maitland meet an untimely death, they find themselves struggling to adapt to their new surroundings in the afterlife. They haunt their old home, attempting to scare off the new residents. Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder), is the only member of the new family that is able to see the ghosts, and befriends them. The Maitlands seek help from Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), but this quickly becomes dangerous to both the Maitlands and Lydia. Riddled with both humor and horror, Beetlejuice’s unique approach to the afterlife makes this a must-watch before Halloween.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
This timeless classic – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – was first released in 1966, and continues to bring laughter and joy through it´s charm, adult-wit and humor. This short, 25 minute film, features animated characters based off of the Peanuts comics by Charles M. Schulz and still proves to be a universal entertainment 56 years later. This classic ¨Peanuts¨ tale focuses on the blanket-holding, thumb-sucking Linus and his unpopular belief in the ¨Great Pumpkin¨ – a myth similar to Santa Claus. His determination to spot The Great Pumpkin – a supernatural figure who rises from a pumpkin patch on Halloween evening and flies around bringing toys to sincere and believing children – is what causes him to completely miss out on the traditional Halloween festivities. This short film is family-friendly and perfectly encapsulates the festive feeling necessary to kick off the Halloween season.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
The 1993 film Hocus Pocus has cemented its status as a Halloween classic, combining witchery and magical elements with a cliché love story that’s all based on the real-life tale of the Towne Sisters. Despite the minor teen romance, the film’s main attraction is the relationship between siblings Max (Omri Katz) and Dani (Thora Birch). After moving to Salem, Massachusetts, Max and Dani, along with Max’s school crush, Allison (Vinessa Shaw) explore the house of three witches who were hanged after absorbing the soul of a young girl 300 years prior. After accidentally freeing these witches on Halloween night, the trio must stop them from becoming immortal before the break of dawn. Campy but entertaining and nostalgic, Hocus Pocus combines humor, love, and classic horror to remain a staple of the Halloween season.
A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
In one of his most unforgettable works, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas continues to stand out against all animated films even with its 1993 release date. With its unique stop-motion animation, every small movement leads to an extraordinary payoff. Audiences follow Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown as he struggles with his monotonous routine of scaring people. What makes this movie a classic fall film is not just its autumnal to spooky artwork, but the film’s undying sense of gratefulness, a lesson in gratitude is overwhelmingly pushed by Jack’s harrowing journey. Sally and Dr. Finkelstein’s ability to create healthy boundaries with their families ties in with the familial feel of the upcoming holiday season. With the overall help from Jack’s spooky friends and the crisp and cool hints of late fall that are embedded within the film, make The Nightmare Before Christmas a must watch film during the fall season.
Starting in 1978, the original Halloween terrified viewers for the first time, and to this day it continues to do just that. This classic horror movie provides a relentlessly eerie tension suitable for any late night viewing. Following the murderous -and now infamous-, Michael Myers (Nick Castle) 15 years after murdering his sister on Halloween night to kill again. Combining the all too familiar suburbia feel and slasher thrill along with a sociopathic murderer makes Halloween a dominant pillar in the horror genre. The unique creepiness of Michael’s lack of consciousness, personality, and motivation all allow for Halloween to withstand the test of time and continue to be an iconic film that is a must watch every Halloween season.
Grace Praxmarer, Samantha Trujillo, and Jackson Wezeman are staff editors for Oswego East’s online news magazine The Howl