Ever since The Simpsons did a Halloween episode in their second season, it became an annual tradition. That means there are now 27 “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, and even casual fans of The Simpsons make it a point to see what they do for Halloween. I happen to have seen all 602 episodes of The Simpsons ever made, and that includes all the “Treehouses of Horror”—each featuring three macabre spoofs of famous horror movies or stories, and occasionally an original. However, if you’ve never seen any Simpsons Halloween episodes, or have only seen a few, they are all available to view immediately on the FXNOW app. So why not break with convention and forego the scary by having a funny Halloween marathon? I like the recent ones as much as the classics, so you can’t really go wrong, but if you’re in need of some steering, I present to you: the top 10 Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episodes.
10. Season Seven, Treehouse of Horror VI
The third segment of the sixth Halloween special makes it a classic. In “Homer3” (That’s Homer cubed) Homer enters a three dimensional dimension and the 3D animation was groundbreaking at the time. Now it looks quaintly simple. Homer is sure to comment on how expensive it all looks for burp jokes. “Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores” has giant marketing figures come to life and rampage like Godzilla, led by the Lard Lad Donuts mascot but with some familiar ones like Mr. Peanut in there. “A Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace” is of course a Nightmare on Elm Street spoof with Groundskeeper Willie as Freddy Krueger. It gets by on the absurdity of that alone, plus some Simpsonized surreal nightmares.
9. Season 26, Treehouse of Horror XXV
Here’s an example of how later Simpsons episodes can go deeper given the history of their characters. In “School is Hell,” Bart goes to Hell where he actually becomes a genius student. 25 years of delinquency pays off in a Halloween episode where he can excel. “A Clockwork Yellow” is of course a Clockwork Orange spoof, with Moe, but it ends up spoofing all the Kubrick movies brilliantly and organically. Barney even comments he doesn’t know which one he’s spoofing (it’s Barry Lyndon). They did The Shining in a classic “Treehouse” special so it’s about time they did the rest of Kubrick’s oeuvre. Finally, in “The Others,” the Simpsons are visited by ghosts of their Tracey Ullman Show animation style. To reference The Others as the changing animation style is actually pretty deep and introspective about how families and marriages change. And it’s hilarious.
8. Season 21, Treehouse of Horror XX
In “Dial M For Murder or Press # to Return to Main Menu,” they actually spoof Strangers on a Train as Bart and Lisa prank each other’s teachers, but Bart actually kills Mrs. Hoover. “Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind,” a 28 Days Later spoof, has Hans Moleman and Disco Stu as zombies. Those are two of my favorite background characters so they’ve won me over already. The next level winner of this trio is “There’s No Business Like Moe Business,” a Sweeney Todd spoof animated as an actual stage production with characters moving between multiple levels as if they were live actors on a stage. That shows how The Simpsons continue pushing what they can do with animation (like their earlier 3D episode), but they constantly find ways to mock the format and make it funny.
7. Season 20, Treehouse of Horror XIX
The Halloween episodes have long proven they can spoof a movie that’s no horror and make it scary. Here their “Untitled Robot Parody” mocks Transformers with absurd vehicles transforming and destroying Springfield. You really wouldn’t think Mad Men was horror but the Simpsonized spoof “How to Get Ahead in Dead-vertising” has Homer killing celebrities, and it jokingly implies that Abraham Lincoln was gay. “It’s The Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse,” spoofs the classic Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, turning the Great Pumpkin into a giant killer vegetable. The opening of this spoof truly mimics the Charles Schultz animation beautifully.
6. Season 15, Treehouse of Horror XIV
In “Reaper Madness,” when Death visits The Simpsons it becomes a Benny Hill slapstick chase with Yakety Sax playing. With Death gone, watching Springfield struggle to cope with nobody dying is a hoot until Homer takes over for death. “Frinkenstein” turns Professor Frink into Dr. Frankenstein, taking body parts from other Simpsons supporting characters, and Jerry Lewis as the voice of Frink’s Dad. Pretty great to have the original Nutty Professor as the Simpsons’ professor’s dad. Finally, in “Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off” Bart and Milhouse get a stopwatch that can freeze time in an homage to a classic Twilight Zone episode.
5. Season 12, Treehouse of Horror XI
“G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad” has one of my favorite Simpsons jokes ever. Homer chokes on a piece of broccoli and dies, his ghost floating up to heaven. When his ghost returns, he eats the broccoli again, chokes and dies again and the ghost has another ghost float up to heaven. The overly specific horoscope is also brilliant, as is Homer throwing shade at snakes. Then “Scary Tales Can Come True,” a Hansel and Gretel spoof, also mocks many other fairy tales. “Night of the Dolphin” has dolphins exact their revenge on humans. I was always surprised and impressed how bloody this story was. Willie gets impaled by a dolphin!
4. Season Nine, Treehouse of Horror VIII
“The Homega Man” was a spoof of Charlton Heston’s The Omega Man, but now you can look at it as a pre-spoof of I Am Legend which was the book Omega Man was based on anyway. “Fly Vs. Fly” is a brilliant spoof of both the Jeff Goldblum The Fly and the Vincent Price original. Bart’s big idea to turn himself into a superfly is blessed with his assertion, “I’d be stupid not to do this.” Homer’s fun with teleportation pots includes an incredible bathroom joke. Finally, “Easy-Bake Coven” sees Marge at the Salem Witch Trials. Marge, Patty and Selma get revenge on medieval Springfield.
3. Season 16, Treehouse of Horror XV
Falling during an era of The Simpsons few fans talk about, this Treehouse of Horrors has some pretty inspired stuff, beginning with a Kang and Kodos sitcom set to the Perfect Strangers theme song! “The Ned Zone” is what it sounds like, Ned Flanders in the Christopher Walken role of The Dead Zone. Homer is such an A-hole he provokes Ned to fulfill his prophecy of murdering Homer. “Four Beheadings and a Funeral” is a Jack the Ripper spoof featuring The Simpsons with British accents! Check out the opium den with Disco Stu and Ralph Wiggum. “In the Belly of the Boss” is a Fantastic Voyage parody in Mr. Burns’ body. A visit to the World’s Fair has an invention that translates the Crazy Cat Lady, and it ends with a dance. I don’t know why Hans Moleman is dancing with an alligator but I love it.
2. Season Six, Treehouse of Horror V
Many Simpsons fans may expect this to be the number one Treehouse of Horrors because everyone remembers the classic “The Shinning,” “Time and Punishment” with Homer’s time traveling toaster and “Nightmare Cafeteria” with soylent student lunches. I was just as surprised to discover there’s one “Treehouse of Horror” that’s even better, but you can’ go wrong with Treehouse V. Homer’s variations on “Here’s Johnny,” alternate Simpsons realities, and Groundskeeper Willie’s death in each of the three stories make this a classic.
- Season four, Treehouse of Horrors III – This may be where Treehouse of Horror found its groove after two fun but forgettable beginnings. “Clown Without Pity” is a Child’s Play spoof with a killer Krusty doll, and a little bit of Cape Fear thrown in. It’s also got the quotable non sequitur lines “Ew, dog water” and “I was a fool to think anyone would want naked pictures of Whoopi Goldberg.” Plus there’s Homer replying to the cursed shopkeeper “That’s good. That’s bad.” “King Homer” is of course King Kong with Smithers’ classic line on the boat, “I think women and seamen don’t mix.” Homer Kong is also too out of shape to climb to the top of any building. “Dial Z for Zombie” way predates the current zombie craze with Springfield’s best supporting characters turning into zombies. Homer gets to kill the zombie Flanders, and reveals he would’ve done it anyway.