Halloween-themed TV specials are an essential part of Halloween. Sure, watching scary movies, carving jack-o-lanterns, and going apple picking are up there too, but no autumn is complete without watching the many Halloween-centric episodes your favorite television shows has to offer.
With how many shows there are in the world, it’s safe to assume there are a ton of Halloween specials available for your viewing pleasure. To narrow the possibilities down a bit, we put together a list of some of the most popular Halloween-themed episodes of TV shows we recommend watching this autumn.
The Simpsons — “Halloween of Horror” (Season 27, Episode 4)
As one of the longest-running television shows of all time, The Simpsons has made an annual tradition of releasing a Halloween-themed episode per season. These episodes, referred to as The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, are short anthology episodes, taking on a more horror, science fiction, or fantasy-based approach per episode.
With over 30 seasons behind them, it’s safe imagine a ton of Halloween-centered episodes The Simpsons has produced under the “Treehouse of Horror” bannerhead. Rather than listing any of the incredibly fun “Treehouse” episodes, we decided to go with The Simpsons’ “Halloween of Horror” episode instead. In lieu of the usual anthology-style format of “Treehouse of Horror,” “Halloween of Horror” is more akin to any of the other Halloween-themed entries on this list.
After Lisa suffers a fear-induced nervous breakdown while attending a Halloween-themed festival at an amusement park, the family tries to ignore the holiday altogether (much to Bart and Homer’s disappointment). The family’s calm Halloween is interrupted, however, by three vengeful Halloween store-workers who blame Homer for being fired. It’s a fun, heartwarming episode, and a refreshing change of pace from the regular “Treehouse of Horror” Simpsons episodes.
Bob’s Burgers — “Full Bars” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Like The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers has had an impressive string of Halloween-centric episodes over the years. While certain Bob’s Burgers specials like Season 8’s “The Wolf of Wharf Street” or Season 9’s “Nightmare on Ocean Avenue Street” are worthy of note, it’s impossible to take anything away from season 3’s classic episode, “Full Bars.”
In this episode, the kids decide that they’re old enough to trick-or-treat on their own, leaving Bob and Linda free to attend a holiday party thrown by Teddy. However, the party soon turns into a murder investigation after Teddy’s beloved hamster winds up dead after someone steps on her, leading a devastated Teddy to go ballistic and prevent everyone from leaving.
The Office — “Halloween” (Season 2, Episode 5)
The Office might have a better track record of holiday-themed episodes for their Christmas specials, but the show still offers some great Halloween-centric episodes here and there. Take, for example, the show’s first special, Season 2’s “Halloween,” now considered one of the better episodes in an already strong season.
In this episode, the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin attempts to celebrate Halloween with their annual holiday party. The mood around the branch is anything but celebratory, however, when Michael begins facing pressure from his superiors into making a last-minute decision about who to fire in the office.
While season 1 of The Office might had a bit of a rough start, the earlier episodes of season 2 (such as this one) helped the series win audiences over, differentiating itself from the original British sitcom. It’s cringey, funny, and so awkward at times it’s often difficult to sit through — all essential features in any remarkable Office episode.
Parks and Recreation — “Greg Pikitis” (Season 2, Episode 7)
It’s a shame Parks and Rec didn’t have more holiday-centered episodes during its seven-season run. With a track record of memorable episodes like “Halloween Surprise” and “Greg Pikitis,” who knows how many other great Halloween-themed episodes the show could have produced. Yet viewers can remainder thankful for the limited amount of specials they did receive, starting with season 2’s “Greg Pikitis.”
In Parks and Rec‘s first Halloween special, Leslie tries to stop a troublesome high school teenager who pulls an annual prank on the Parks Department every year. Meanwhile, Anne throws an underwhelming Halloween-themed party, relying on Tom is save it from becoming a complete disaster.
One of the better episodes during the early seasons of Parks and Rec, “Greg Pikitis” makes a fantastic, lighthearted watch that displays everyone’s strengths and character quriks — whether it’s Andy shouting “5-0” and jumping into bushes to avoid being caught egging someone’s house, Ron’s boring Halloween costume, or Leslie showing complete dedication to her job instead of enjoying the holiday.
New Girl — “Halloween” (Season 2, Episode 6)
An earlier episode in this beloved Fox series, New Girl‘s Halloween-themed episode, “Halloween,” remains one of the show’s best holiday-themed episodes period. Focusing on the strange dynamic between the loft mates and their respective significant others (at this point, they’re all dating or interested in other people), the episode finds each of the main cast facing some sort of romantic crisis that manifests on Halloween.
Jess, who has begun seeing a pediatrician, develops more serious feelings for him, despite only wanting a non-committal fling at first. Nick reunites with an old college crush whom he quickly grows more intimate with, only to have second thoughts about the whole thing.
It’s a bittersweet episode, tackling some pretty heavy issues like romantic mismatches and the characters coming to terms with their relationship goals in life, making it one of more serious, albeit still very funny, Halloween-themed episodes on this list.
Community — “Epidemiology” (Season 2, Episode 6)
“Epidemiology” opens with Greendale Community College’s annual Halloween party, which most of the main student body and faculty are attending. When a strange virus from the Dean’s military surplus food causes some of the students to turn into zombies, the study group must try and escape before they too are infected.
Dan Harmon’s cult-favorite Community has produced quite a number of episodes hilariously spoofing distinct genres. With “Epidemiology,” the showrunners turn their attention to the zombie movie, making an episode as fun and lighthearted as it was often terrifying.
Modern Family — “Halloween” (Season 2, Episode 6)
The Emmy Award-winning sitcom Modern Family is one of the shows on this list to offer more than its fair share of Halloween-themed specials, featuring a total of seven episodes centered around the holiday. There are quite a few runner-ups that may have earned the title of “best Modern Family Halloween special,” but far and away the most popular is the show’s first Halloween-inspired episode, Season 2’s “Halloween.”
As Claire sets out to plan her annual haunted house, she soon realizes the family might not be that into it this year. As she continues preparing for the big day, Phil faces a crisis of his own when his neighbor announces his sudden divorce, leading Phil to wonder about his future with Claire. At the same time, Gloria becomes mad at Jay for an insult about her frequent mispronunciations, while Mitchell wears a costume to work and finds himself as the only one dressed up.
Like most Modern Family episodes, there’s plenty of laughs in “Halloween,” but also some tender moments the main characters share with one another, proving that — especially when they’re dysfunctional — they still manage to pull through for one another in the end.
Malcolm in the Middle — “Halloween Approximately” (Season 2, Episode 2)
In “Halloween Approximately,” the Wilkerson family’s eldest troublemaking son Francis comes home from military school a few short days after Halloween. Making up for lost time, the boys attempt to cause a little holiday mischief by building a large slingshot that they plan on firing at unsuspecting neighborhood residents. As they set out to create their ultimate weapon, Hal becomes obsessed with catching the owner of a blue sports car racing down his street, recruiting Lois to help him find the obnoxious driver.
Nowadays, Malcolm in the Middle is most well-known for its breakout star, Bryan Cranston, whose starring role on Breaking Bad unfortunately tends to overshadow his earlier comedic work on shows like this one. Yet, as you’ll see with this episode, Cranston’s comedic style is still an impressive thing to watch, making the character of Hal one of the most hysterical television sitcom dads ever — not to take anything away from any of the other main cast.
South Park — “A Nightmare on Facetime” (Season 16, Episode 12)
In “A Nightmare on Facetime,” Randy buys a Blockbuster video store and has the family work the holiday shift, despite it being 2012 and no one renting movies on DVD anymore. As he continues to deny the impact streaming services are having on video rental stores, Randy soon spirals into insanity, reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. As this goes on, the boys dress up as the Avengers for Halloween, and are soon targeted by a group of criminals after they fail to stop a robbery while under the guise of their superhero counterparts.
Although South Park fans might view this one as a controversial choice — with such notable contenders as “Halloween Special” or “Pinkeye” also in the running for the series’ best Halloween episode — “A Nightmare on Facetime” episode remains a hilarious spoof of notable movies like The Avengers and The Shining, as well as then-current cultural topics like the continuing success of streaming services.
Seinfeld — “The Frogger” (Season 9, Episode 18)
Technically speaking, Seinfeld doesn’t have any episodes that are strictly Halloween-themed. Regardless, the show has had its fair share of darker episodes that might’ve earned a spot on this list, with season 9’s “The Frogger” serving as the closest thing the series has to a Halloween episode. Equal parts funny as it is creepy, “The Frogger” finds George trying to transport a vintage Frogger arcade game from an old pizza restaurant he frequented as a boy, all the while Elaine tries to hide the fact that she has eaten her boss’s expensive cake.
The true Halloween-centric element in the episode, though, is Jerry trying to stay one step ahead of an infamous serial killer in the neighborhood known as the “Lopper.” While that may sound a little dark, “The Frogger” manages to retain the trademark sense of humor found in almost every Seinfeld episode.
Freaks and Geeks — “Tricks and Treats” (Season 1, Episode 3)
Canceled after a mere single season, Freaks and Geeks has since achieved a renewed appreciation among modern TV audiences, owing to its relatable themes, emotional undertones, and the performances of its breakout cast (Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Busy Philipps, among others). Though limited in its episode count, the show still managed to cover certain holidays like Halloween in its series run, as seen from “Tricks and Treats.”
Fearing the encroaching end of childhood, Sam convinces his fellow freshmen friends to go trick-or-treating one last time. Trying to branch out on her own, Lindsay agrees to go along with Daniel and his friends as they wreak havoc on their neighborhood, smashing pumpkins and pelting eggs at unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.
Harking back to the main overtones of the series, “Tricks and Treats” does an excellent job showcasing Sam and Lindsay’s continuous evolution as characters. Attempting to reinvent herself by hanging out with Daniel, Lindsay only loses further touch with herself, causing a deep rift in the family. At the same time, Sam faces his first major brushes with adulthood, coming to terms with the end of childhood traditions like trick-or-treating in a mature, cathartic manner.
Curb Your Enthusiasm — “Trick or Treat” (Season 2, Episode 3)
Attending the movie premiere for their close friend, Larry unknowingly initiates an extramarital affair with the friend’s wife. As he contends with that, he also finds himself facing down a pair of mischievous teens on Halloween night.
Like Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm thrives off breaking down the subtle rules that make up society – something Larry delights in doing and time again, as seen in season 2’s “Trick or Treat.” Whether he’s wearing golfing clothes for leisure wear or denying kids candy on Halloween, “Trick or Treat” features David at his peak hilarity, living up to the best Curb Your Enthusiasm has to offer.
Friends — “The One with the Halloween Party” (Season 8, Episode 6)
Despite airing for a whopping 10 seasons, Friends has a somewhat meager number of Halloween specials, the one clear example being season 8’s standout episode, “The One with the Halloween Party.”
Throwing a last-minute costume party for their friends, Monica and Chandler invite everyone to their apartment for Halloween, where Chandler and Ross clash over who is stronger, Rachel contends with her growing maternal instincts, and Phoebe discovers her sister is dating a handsome teacher (Sean Penn) under false pretenses.
A satisfactory Halloween addition to Friends, “The One with the Halloween Party” may be low on frights, but it more than makes up for it through its clever theming and inclusion of the holiday. In particular, Chandler and Ross steal the show with their embarrassingly-bad costumes – with Chandler sporting a bright pink bunny suit and Ross hamming it up as “Spud-nik” (a potato-themed solar satellite mash-up).
Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).