In my humble opinion, Halloween episodes are the best episodes of television. Showrunners have permission to get weird, and many take advantage. I love them so much that I’ve often thought Netflix and other streaming services should have Halloween episode playlists, but most of them don’t offer that kind of curation. (Disney Plus is the only streaming service I’ve seen do anything like this.) So I figured I’d offer my own curated playlist of the best Halloween episodes you can stream right now.
Sitcoms are generally the kings of this format, which is why this list skews heavily towards sitcoms. They usually have more freedom to set aside storylines for fun, gimmicky episodes. But there are a few dramas to make the list, as well as kids shows like Arthur. Some are spooky, some are just silly, and some are a bit of both.
30 Rock, “Stone Mountain”
30 Rock’s only Halloween episode packs a lot of spooky fun into its B-plot. When Jack and Liz head to Stone Mountain, Georgia in search of a new cast member for TGS, Jenna tries to cozy up to the writers so that she doesn’t get overshadowed by the new addition. Frank, Lutz, and Toofer leverage Jenna’s newfound friendliness into an invite to a gay halloween party, because that’s where all the
gay guys hot girls will be. Meanwhile, Tracy is avoiding all festivities because he doesn’t want to be the third celebrity who dies in a “Rule of Threes” scenario.
Fun fact: “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” is a throwaway joke in a non-Halloween episode, but that shouldn’t stop you from adding it to all of your Halloween playlists.
Arthur, “The Fright Stuff”
The lesson of Arthur’s season 4 Halloween episode is about taking pranks too far, as the boys and girls of Mr. Ratburn’s third grade class divide into factions and try to scare each other at a Halloween party. But it also introduces a family of actual ghosts to the world of Arthur, and that’s pretty cool.
Bob’s Burgers, “Full Bars”
Most of Bob’s Burgers’ Halloween episodes are classics, but the season 3 episode “Full Bars” is the best of the lot. The kids head to the ritzy part of town, King’s Head Island, in hopes of procuring full-sized candy bars, but they stay out too late and have to run from a group of high school boys armed with pee-filled balloons. Back at home, Teddy throws a Halloween party that turns into a whodunnit when his beloved guinea pig turns up dead.
Bob’s Burgers is streaming on Hulu.
Boy Meets World, “And Then There Was Shawn”
Though it technically aired in February, “And Then There Was Shawn” aired in re-runs around Halloween for years after. The slasher parody guest stars ‘90s scream queen Jennifer Love Hewitt, and serves as a vehicle for Shawn working out his feelings about Cory and Topanga’s breakup. As I wrote last week, “It’s high-concept, it’s appropriately scary, and it tells us something interesting about the characters, which for my money is the best a Halloween episode can do.”
Boy Meets World is streaming on Disney Plus.
Brooklyn 99, “HalloVeen”
The Halloween Heist is a Brooklyn 99 tradition, but the fifth edition is its best. As each member of the the 99th precinct attempts to prove that they’re the “ultimate detective slash genius,” the heists get more and more elaborate and silly. This episode features some ceiling-based maneuvers, a Handmaid’s Tale flashmob, and a trained corgi, which are all silly fun, but ends with a sweet proposal when Amy wins the heist only to find that Jake swapped out the championship belt with a replica engraved to say, “Amy Santiago, will you marry me?”
Brooklyn 99 is streaming on Hulu.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Halloween”
Apparently vampires and demons take the night off on Halloween (who knew?) but that doesn’t stop Buffy the Vampire Slayer from going all out on Halloween. This time Buffy and friends are cursed by their Halloween costumes: Willow turns into a ghost, Xander is a soldier, and Buffy loses her slaying powers and turns into an 18th century noblewoman.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is streaming on Hulu.
Community is known for its pop-culture homages, and its season 2 Halloween episode is one of its best. “Epidemiology” takes on the zombie outbreak genre by infecting the students of Greendale Community College with tainted government “taco meat.”
Community is streaming on Netflix.
Goosebumps, “The Haunted Mask”
The first episode of the beloved kids horror anthology series based on the even more beloved R.L. Stine books is a two-parter. It’s basically The Mask for kids. An 11-year-old girl named Carly Beth buys a scary mask to intimidate her bullies, but it starts to attach to her face and take over her personality. Instead of tango dancing with Cameron Diaz, though, she’s just generally causing mischief like destroying Halloween decorations and scaring young children.
Goosebumps is streaming on Netflix.
Happy Endings, “Spooky Endings”
The criminally underrated sitcom Happy Endings also happens to have a great Halloween episode in its second season. Married couple Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Jane (Eliza Coupe) housesit in the suburbs and are terrorized by trick-or-treaters when they run out of candy. Penny (Casey Wilson) and Max (Adam Pally) find that their mom and baby costume really dampens their flirting abilities. Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) is mistaken for a drag queen. Dave (Zachary Knighton) is annoyed when everyone thinks his Austin Powers costume is an Elton John costume. It’s more sweet than spooky, and very, very funny.
Happy Endings is streaming on Hulu.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Who Got Dee Pregnant?”
The It’s Always Sunny gang took full advantage of Kaitlin Olson’s real-life pregnancy with the season 6 episode “Who Got Dee Pregnant?” Dee reveals her pregnancy and claims that one of the group got her pregnant at their last drunken Halloween party. They try to piece together the nights events in flashbacks, but they were all so drunk that no one remembers. As it turns out, Dee was lying and just wanted them to care about her pregnancy. Of course, they don’t, and it’s not revealed until the finale that Dee was acting as a surrogate for Mac’s ex-girlfriend Carmen (Brittany Daniel) and her husband Nick (Windell Middlebrooks).
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is streaming on Hulu.
New Girl, “Keaton”
In “Keaton,” Schmidt (Max Greenfield) reveals that he’s been sustaining a years-long email friendship with Michael Keaton. But Nick (Jake Johnson) has a secret — he’s the one who’s been masquerading as the Beetlejuice actor since they were in college, taking over from Schmidt’s mom. Schmidt finds out and, rather than confronting him, decides to write back to mess with him, resulting in Jess (Zooey Deschanel) dressing up as Batman and pretending to be Keaton.
New Girl is streaming on Netflix.
The Office, “Spooked”
This may be a controversial pick, since later seasons of The Office without Michael Scott (Steve Carell) are generally considered to be pretty weak. But “Spooked” is one of the strongest episodes in the Robert California era, since James Spader seems to have been born to psychologically torment the employees of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton.
The Office is streaming on Netflix.
Parks and Recreation, “Halloween Surprise”
Parks and Rec is yet another Michael Schur-produced sitcom to end a Halloween episode with a sweet proposal. This time it’s Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) proposing to Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) after getting a new job offer. The Halloween-themed plot that proceeds it is also a lot of fun, with Ron (Nick Offerman) getting overwhelmed at the prospect of joining Diane’s (Lucy Lawless) family, but eventually coming around and taking her daughters trick-or-treating a week after Halloween.
The Simpsons, “Treehouse of Horror V”
The Simpsons’ annual Treehouse of Horror is an opportunity for the show’s writers to get super weird with it. Each episode consists of three horror-themed segments, many of them parodies, that aren’t part of the show’s canon. It seems to be universally agreed upon, though, that the “Treehouse of Horror V” segment “The Shinning” is the series’ best. A parody of The Shining, Homer is hired to be a groundskeeper for Mr. Burns and slowly goes insane after being deprived of his two favorite things: TV and beer.
The Simpsons is streaming on Disney Plus.
Stranger Things, “Trick or Treat, Freak”
Any episode of the spooky Stranger Things is good Halloween viewing, but the show’s actual Halloween episode comes in the second episode of season 2. Come to see the kids continue to fight the creatures from the Upside Down, stay for the very ’80s halloween references, down to the Ghostbusters costumes and teen basement parties.
Stranger Things is streaming on Netflix.