12 Spooky Films I Watch Every October

To kick off the sacred Halloween Time, here’s a listicle that I thought would be fun. Like countless others, I love watching classic horror films around Halloween (spooky, atmospheric ones, not those gory slasher films), and there are certain classics that make up my “must see” list. Now, these aren’t just twelve films I watch every October. Oh no, these are twelve films I have to watch religiously every October, or Halloween will be RUINED (maybe). Plot twist: just a few of them are silent, mainly because I had to narrow the list down to twelve.

12. The Cat and the Canary (1927)

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We all love “old dark house” movies, and this is one of the earliest that did it best. I especially love the opening montage showing the backstory of the house–that gloomy hallway, that brooding mansion, those superimposed cats hissing at the maddened Cyrus West…!

11. Faust (1926)


I tend to kick off October with this masterful, operatic film–one of my favorite silents overall. It calls to mind old legends, old Biblical tales, and strange stories in dusty, neglected books. It’s an Experience, is what I’m saying.

10. Sleepy Hollow (1999)

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While it can be silly in parts and there’s a little too much exposition, does Sleepy Hollow ever have that spooky Halloween atmosphere! There’s some gross parts, because Tim Burton, but I know where they are and can look away. Plus, it has Johnny Depp. I like Johnny Depp.

9. The first half or so of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

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What? I watch until Jack Skellington falls through the Christmas Town door, and just before he hits the snow, I turn it off and then watch the rest of the film in December. When it’s Christmastime. What?!

8. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

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This is one of the most perfect dark comedies ever conceived by man, and it stars Cary Grant, and it has Peter Lorre in it. This film makes me happier than I can describe.

7. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

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This quintessential piece of German Expressionism is usually one of the first films I’m eager to watch in October. And I can confirm that the newest restoration is absolutely stunning, allowing us to enjoy every brushstroke on the cardboard sets and every hair of Cesare’s goth ‘do.

6. The Haunting (1963) 

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I watched this psychological ghost tale for the first time while alone in my apartment one night, which was both the dumbest and the smartest decision I’ve ever made. Dumbest, because it’s genuinely terrifying and I was all by myself. At night. Smartest, because dang it, the film was so brilliant that I have no choice but to revisit it every year. Thanks a lot, Robert Wise.

5. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

Not only is this one of my favorite horror films (so to speak), it’s one of my favorite films, period. It’s an unusual, meditative, evocative drama which ponders the core of the vampire legend. And it was Werner Herzog’s homage to the original Nosferatu, which he considered the single greatest German film.

4. The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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I always tell people that Singin’ in the Rain is my favorite movie. My number two choice? The Southern gothic thriller The Night of the Hunter. If you ask me, it’s a giant among American films–and having Lillian Gish in the role of Rachel was nothing short of genius.

3. Psycho (1960)

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Such. A. Classic. If there’s any movie I save for watching on October 31st itself, it’s usually this one. Need I even explain why? (If you’ve somehow never seen it I won’t dare give the plot away–let’s just say Hitchcock himself would applaud my discretion.)

2. Nosferatu (1922)

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Man, there is just something about Nosferatu. A film old enough to predate Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Halloween vampire costumes, and even the idea of a vampire being sexy. I don’t know what it is about the compositions, the tinting, the costumes, and so on, but every single frame of this film screams “Halloween” to me.

1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

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Because duh. What would Halloween be without this deceptively simple classic?

There are, of course, other films I try to watch every October too (Dracula, The Old Dark House, Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) but these top my list of films that must be watched. What about you? What are some horror films you make a point of watching this time of the year?

23 thoughts on “12 Spooky Films I Watch Every October

  1. Excellent choices! I too have films that I have to see or it’s just not Halloween. A couple that aren’t on your list are The Innocents (1961), the best film version of Henry James’ classic The Turn of the Screw, and IMO the best of the old dark house films, The Old Dark House (1932). It’s funny and scary at the same time, and it’s scary because the things that make the characters funny are the things that make them dangerous. Great cast, with Boris Karloff, Gloria Stewart, Melvyn Douglas, and Charles Laughton; but the best performances are by Ernest Thessiger, Eva Moore, and Bember Wills as the Femm siblings. Have a potato!

    • Ah, THE INNOCENTS–I watched it for the first time just last year, which is why I didn’t have it on the list (I felt like that was cheating somehow, lol). It’s just phenomenal. And yes, I did watch it by myself while alone in my apartment at night, which was yet another smart yet incredibly dumb decision. 😀 It’s so scary, ,you guys. SO SCARY.

  2. Sorry, I didn’t see that you had The Old Dark House at the end. Glad to see there are others who love it. Thanks for posting about these.

  3. I make sure to watch Gaslight, as the efforts of Boyer to drive Bergman totally mad along with the wonderful shadowy images keep me riveted all the time. Likewise Strangers on A Train, as you see the Drama unfold early along with the fabulous Merry GO Round scene at the end. I also pull out my old Blackhawk print of Harold Lloyd’s Haunted Spooks just so everything isn’t gloom and doom. Your choices are excellent also, and are a great mix of styles .

  4. Sometimes I’ll watch the silent Phantom of the Opera, and I do always try to watch Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. 🙂 More often I’ll pull out one of my creepier video games to play in bits during the month, something like Bioshock: Infinite (which, actually, I’ve never finished because I get too creeped out) or System Shock 2 (empty spaceship full of zombies with a psychological manipulation twist? Yes, please). Hmm, I haven’t yet, but I think it should be System Shock 2 this year… 😀

    • Ooo–thanks for reminding me that I have to get around to watching A PAGE OF MADNESS this month! It’s one of those classics I haven’t actually seen yet.

  5. Arsenic and Old Lace is my favorite Halloween movie. This may sound silly, but I actually avoid watching it the rest of the year because it’s my Halloween “thing.”

    • Oh I’m right there with you!! Some movies I ONLY watch in October, end of story. To me, watching them at the “proper time” is no different from having your Christmas tree up only around Christmas!

  6. Nice listicle! Some of these are on my list as well, especially Caligari and Nosferatu, and yes, the Charlie Brown special. 🙂 There is a version of Sleepy Hollow I watch every year that was made back in the ‘80’s. It stars Ed Begley, Jr., and is really kind of a kid’s thing played mostly for laughs. But there’s just something I love about it. And speaking of the lighter vein, I’ll put in a good word for Harold Lloyd’s Haunted Spooks, as well!

  7. Hey Lea- I love Halloween time mostly for the movies they show on TV. 😁 My big thing each October is to watch ones I haven’t seen. Your site helps a lot with silent suggestions (I am finally going to watch “The Cat and the Canary” this year!) and I love Svengoolie’s show for the obscure stuff. I also really dig the Hammer ones! But there is one movie I go back to more often than others and that’s “Young Frankenstein”. That bit with the soup kills me!
    Love your list!

    • Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman are a hoot. Hammer horror I haven’t seen much of–maybe I’ll have to add it to the list this year! Thanks for stopping by, Debbe.

  8. And how about a Hallowe’en shout out to the gobble-uns in Little Orphant Annie?—especially the ones with the giant heads. Because they’ll get you, you know, EF YOU DON’T…

    • Nope, I have yet to sit down and watch the entire Haxan. To be honest, some of the imagery is a bit too unsettling for me…gives me a weird vibe. Plus, the treatment of the Church is a sensitive point for me since I’m Catholic. Not that I won’t ever see it (it would make for a very interesting article) but it’s not my first choice for a night of Halloween viewing!

      • Ahh, fair enough! It truly IS creepy! Highly disturbing imagery, the like I have never seen before or since in a movie. It is worth finishing one day definitely, but i completely understand your trepidation and more to the point: i now know it wasn’t an oversight to leave it off the list!

  9. Pingback: Top 20 Best Classic Horror Movies of All Time | Tiffany’s Diary

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