We have so many scary movies to help us get into the Halloween spirit, but so few of them actually involve Halloween, costumes, or trick ‘r treating. In honor of this wonderful gory holiday, here are nine great examples of Halloween in film. Some are horror films, some are kids films, and some are respected classics.
ET – Yoda and ET
What better way for Steven Spielberg to illustrate 1980s suburbia than with Halloween? It’s daytime and the streets are overrun with dressed up kids looking for candy. We get a great cultural illustration of what middle class childhoods looked like in the 1980s and it seems almost like a different planet.
There’s so much strangeness involved in this moment. Some kid sees Elliott walking around with what looks like a drunk midget and takes a closer look only to be chased off by said drunken midget who keeps repeating “Home” (though it sounds more like ET’s saying “Homer”). We see his peering from ET’s perspective, which offers us plenty of time to ogle the kid’s sweet Yoda costume and its battle with proportions. It’s cute, it’s weird, and it’s nostalgic all in one.
Donnie Darko – Donnie Loses his Virginity
Since Donnie Darko’s journey into adulthood ends with him knowingly sacrificing his life, it’s nice that he gets to have some sex before shuffling off his moral coil. And what better place than a Halloween party?
Donnie Darko’s Halloween party also supplies the film with its biggest piece of iconography as it explains Frank’s awesome handmade bunny costume, though no amount of exposition can explain how Frank became such an incredible mask sculptor.
Ed Wood – Ed Shows his Teeth
As Ed Wood develops his friendship with aged horror icon Bela Lagosi, the two find a moment of togetherness via frightening children on Halloween. Bela takes the first crack at it, using his professional know-how to chase off two of three young trick or treaters.
But that third kid is a jerk who claims Bela’s vampire teeth don’t scare him since they’re clearly not real. This is when Ed Wood comes in, terrifying the boy with his very real dentures. It’s both hilarious and heartwarming. And just a little bit gross.
To Kill a Mockingbird – Boo Radley Saves Some Ham
One of To Kill a Mockinbird’s biggest moments arrives via Halloween. Jem and Scout walk home alone from a Halloween pageant where Scout had to dress as a big hunk of ham. On their way they are attacked by bigoted Bob Ewell and consequentially saved by Town Idiot Boo Radley. The entire attack is obscured to Scout because of her big ham costume.
Hey, wait a minute! Boo’s name is “Boo!” This whole damn To Kill a Mockingbird thing may have been solely about Halloween this whole time. We were just too caught up on its message of small time prejudices and the power of morality to notice.
The Nightmare Before Christmas – This is Halloween
You’d be hard pressed to find a more enthusiastic scene imparting the themes and fun of Halloween than this opening number/mission statement from Tim Burton/Henry Selick/Danny Elfman’s holiday heavy stop motion animation masterpiece.
There’s a reason this movie stays on the Hot Topic shelves whole generations after its release. No film has ever gone so wacky for the Halloween spirit. Imagery from it has power to feed attention deprived teens all year round. Even without the imagery, this song’s lyrics thoroughly translate the monstrosity and mischief inherent to the holiday.
The Karate Kid – Cobra Kai vs Daniel-San
Poor Daniel-San. Not only goes he get beaten up by a whole group of kids, but thanks to Halloween, he gets beaten up by a group of kids dressed as skeletons. One skeleton by itself is hardly scary at all. But with five of them, especially when they’re punching and kicking you, the lame-o costume takes on sinister notes.
Luckily, Mr. Miagi saves Daniel and then teaches him how to fight skeletons better. Rule number one? Don’t go to Halloween parties dressed as a shower.
Halloween 3 – The World Ends
Halloween 3 spends its entire running time leading up to the big night (aided by the creepiest jingle of all time). And when the big night finally arrives, the film delivers one of the most memorable Halloween movie moments ever.
It’s surprisingly rare to find Halloween moments that involve murdering children. Halloween 3’s ambition is to kill all the children, an ambition so strong not even Tom Atkins can stop it. It might be the most anti-Halloween film ever made, which also makes it one of the best.
Trick Or Treat – Razor Blade Kill
How many times did your mother warn you to be careful of razor blades in your candy? 100. Did you ever have your candy X-rayed at the police station just to make sure? Yep. Have you ever known anyone who ate a razor blade? Nope. Does that kind of bum you out?
Luckily for you, we have horror films. And Trick ‘r Treat offers us a great illustration of what would happen if someone treated your candy with razors. It looks… somewhat unpleasant.
Halloween – Opening Scene
How could anyone talk about Halloween movie scenes and not include the opening to John Carpenter’s seminal Halloween, the mother of all films associated with the holiday. We voyeuristically witness a young Michael Myers murder his sister through the eye holes of his Halloween costume. It’s one of the boldest opening statements in all horror. And it’s steeped in Halloween imagery.
Of course, there are other great moments. I’m partial to all the daytime stuff myself, with Michael Myers is just hanging around Haddonfield like any other dude with a costume. Oh, and the killing. That’s important as well.