Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

"If you have sensitive children, maybe you should tuck them in early tonight..."

Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best
The Simpsons (Fox)
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It’s hard to believe that it’s been three decades since Marge Simpson first stepped out from behind that curtain to warn viewers about the spooky scenes they were about to witness. Yet that warning started a proud and hilarious tradition for The Simpsons, and 30 seasons later, the show has offered a triple-dose of tales to fright and delight each year.

The Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials allow The Simpsons to spoof classic movies, indulge in a little blood and guts, and have some macabre fun in a non-canon setting. With that in mind, we found the courage and chutzpah to watch and rank each and every one of these scary stories, and we hope you can handle it.

Otherwise, you may be stuck watching 200 Miles to Oregon.


31. Treehouse of Horror XXII

Season 23, Episode 3

treehouse of horror xxii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 30, 2011

Best Line: “I take your sugary sweets and give you healthy items…” –Marge “This is exactly why kids need a union.” –Bart

After rallying for a genuinely great 20th edition of their annual Halloween frightfest, The Simpsons entered into a steep autumn stall that wound up being scary for all the wrong reasons. The show’s Treehouse of Horror series hit its nadir in 2009 with this dog of an episode that’s already stale enough to feel twice as old as it actually is. There’s something to hate in just about every segment (including the dull two-years-too-late Avatar bit and a Dexter-inspired Flanders story that wastes a good premise on a predictable Dumb Homer payoff that’s shockingly similar to the one feature in “Treehouse of Horror XV”‘s “The Ned Zone”), but the worst offender is the first. Building an entire segment around crummy fart jokes is one thing, but “The Diving Bell and Butterball” doesn’t even have the decency to stay focused on its own bad idea. Instead, it swerves into a half-baked Spider-Man send-up, completing a trifecta of worn-out parodies that sink far, far below the standards set by its source material. –Tyler Clark


30. Treehouse of Horror XXIX

Season 30, Episode 4

The Simpsons, Treehouse of Horror XXIX (Fox)

Premiere Date: October 21, 2018

Best Line: “An eating contest against the monstrous Cthulhu? To him, the Great Barrier Reef is just an average barrier reef.” -Unnamed sea captain

A regrettable trend of latter-day Treehouse of Horror installments continued in 2018. Much like 2008 and 2015 before it, this episode’s high point comes during the opening gag, in which Homer bests Cthulhu himself in an oyster-eating contest held in the suitably spooky New England hamlet of Forgburyport (“Birthplace of Green Clam Chowder!”). Five more minutes spent dunking on grim-faced Yankee weirdos might’ve been fun; instead, we got what follows. The episode’s worst segments do their source material a disservice: “Multaplisa-ty” goes through the motions with a belatedly lukewarm rehash of M. Night Shyamalan’s surprise 2016 smash Split, while “Intrusion of the Pod-Y Switchers” squanders the series’ return to classic horror by shoehorning in social commentary about self-absorbed tech users that would’ve felt banal 15 years ago. Only “Geriatric Park”, and its tale of the dinosaur-ification of Springfield’s oldest residents, manages a few chuckles and even fewer scares. If two out of three ain’t bad, what do you call one out of four? –Tyler Clark


29. Treehouse of Horror XXVI

Season 27, Episode 5

treehouse of horror xxvi Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 25, 2015

Best Line: “Just ‘cause it looks like Season 4 doesn’t make it Season 4.” Preach, Kang.

It’s a shame when the best thing an episode has to offer is a two-minute intro created by a guest contributor, but for this installment, you can probably change the channel after John Kricfalusi’s characteristically loopy, spooky prelude. What’s unfortunate about this episode is that all three segments feature solid premises done in a less-than-inspired fashion. “What if Sideshow Bob finally killed Bart?” is a fun idea that could only be explored in the “what if?” confines of a Simpsons Halloween special, but it gets bogged down in meta gags and quickly spins out. The Godzilla parody starts out as a charming companion to “King Homer”, but then devolves into a toothless riff on Hollywood’s reboot-happy corporate culture. And a Chronicle spoof is a natural fit for the Simpson kids, with the found-footage style allowing for some unique animation choices, but it’s just too rushed to leave any impact. –Andrew Bloom


28. Treehouse of Horror XXI

Season 22, Episode 4

treehouse of horror xxi Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 7, 2010

Best Line: “Aww, I’m always the thimble.” – Milhouse

In recent years, The Simpsons’ writers have come to heavily rely on whatever the moment’s most popular franchises might be. In “Treehouse of Horror XXI”, the bottom of the barrel is repeatedly scraped for a trio of segments inspired by Twilight, the 1989 Australian thriller Dead Calm, and yes, the fictional board game Jumanji. While “Tweenlight” at least does a bit of clever genre swapping by using the voice of Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe as vampire hunk Edmund, it’s hard to spoof something that is itself a joke. Likewise, “Master and Cadaver” misses a chance to go full House M.D. in a story featuring the voice of Hugh Laurie. There’s some enjoyable nostalgia at seeing childhood board games come to life and wreak havoc, but it’s not enough to make “War and Pieces” a worthy successor to its much better precursor, “Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores” from “Treehouse of Horror VI”. –Zack Ruskin


27. Treehouse of Horror XIX

Season 20, Episode 4

treehouse of horror xix Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 2, 2008

Best Line: “After you, Mr. Pennyface.” –Homer

Once more a two-minute opener, this time lightly riffing on the 2008 election, proves to be the most amusing part of a half-decent-at-best Treehouse of Horror installment. Homer’s ill-fated attempt to vote for Obama (and warn “President McCain”) brings the laughs before the episode starts in earnest. A Transformers parody kicks the trilogy off, and it’s a story with no middle and no real take on the source material beyond some easy gags. The middle act imagines Homer as a celebrity assassin for an ad agency, with the denizens of “Celebrity Heaven” returning to this mortal coil for some payback. Sadly, it’s mostly an excuse to trot out impressions and one-note jokes. But the best segment is the last one, which can coast on the stylistic trappings of borrowing from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and its Guaraldi-backed charms, as “The Grand Pumpkin” seeks revenge on humans for their gourd-gutting ways. –Andrew Bloom


26. Treehouse of Horror XXIII

Season 24, Episode 2

treehouse of horror xxiii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 7, 2012

Best Line: “Oh sweetie, sometimes a mysterious invisible being from hell waits for a family to go to sleep and kills them. Now go to bed.” –Homer

While “Treehouse of Horror XXIII” takes on both Back to the Future and Paranormal Activity, it is actually a segment involving a rogue black hole that is easily the best of the bunch. “The Greatest Story Ever Holed” features Lisa stashing a black hole created from Springfield’s Subatomic Supercollider in her basement after it starts sucking up everything in its sight. Little does she know that Homer has agreed to let the entire town throw their trash into the galactic anomaly, which of course becomes unstable and devours Springfield. Another highlight is the ending of “Unnormal Activity,” which finds Homer engaging in three-way with two devils that almost at once scream the safe word (which of course, is “cinnamon”). “Bart & Homer’s Excellent Adventure” is mostly a miss but does feature Marge confusing Caveman Homer for Renaissance Homer, and a room full of Homers nominating Egyptian Slave Homer to take out the garbage. –Zack Ruskin


25. Treehouse of Horror XXX

Season 31, Episode 4

The Simpsons, Treehouse of Horror XXX (Fox)

Premiere Date: October 20, 2019

Best Line: “Still better than a boy.” – Homer, upon learning that Maggie is the antichrist

What does it say when the first two minutes of a Halloween episode are miles better than the next 20? Suffice it to say, the opening riff here, featuring a malevolent Maggie (a la The Omen), packs in more laughs, more over-the-top cartoon violence, and more amusing digs at The Simpsons’ new corporate overlords than anything that follows. Sadly, the episode proper begins and ends with a pair of toothless pop culture parodies. Whatever the show gains in timeliness with its spoofs of Stranger Things and The Shape of Water, it loses in lacking a real take on the material or any particularly clever way to integrate Springfield’s residents into it. The most creative segment is the middle one, which sees a deceased Homer possessing human hosts via a heavenly Tinder app, but even that offers mixed results. The Simpsons‘ 30th Treehouse of Horror special (and 666th episode) gamely tries for some spooktacular fun, but unfortunately peaks with its first step out of the crypt. –Andrew Bloom


24. Treehouse of Horror XV

Season 16, Episode 1

treehouse of horror xv Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 7, 2004

Best Line: “You may examine my curios, but do not touch my oddities. Use your judgment with my gewgaws.” –Comic Book Guy

I’m a known sucker for any story that places the Simpsons gang in a historical or mythological setting, so “Four Beheadings and a Funeral” is tailor-made to my own weird proclivities. It’s also the highlight of this episode; whether it’s Homer using opium addicts as projectile weapons or Comic Book Guy chewing up his scene as a weirdo oddities merchant, the middle segment of “Treehouse of Horror XV” achieves that quality combination of inventive irreverence and faithfulness to the source material. Aside from zhooshing up Arthur Conan Doyle, this episode doesn’t have a lot to offer; both “The Ned Zone” and “In the Belly of the Boss” tread oft-trod fantastical landscape (in this case, the Cronenberg/Walken freak-out The Dead Zone and vintage sc-fi adventure Fantastic Voyage, respectively), but never quite add enough of The Simpsons‘ unique perspective to make these settings their own. Ultimately, they wind up as by-the-numbers retellings of stories we all know, which isn’t necessarily bad, but also isn’t necessarily interesting. –Tyler Clark


23. Treehouse of Horror XXIV

Season 25, Episode 2

treehouse of horror xxiv Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 6, 2013

Best Line: “Now hop on my cycle, there’s nothing to fear. And we shall have candy…and maybe some beer.” –Homer

The best thing “Treehouse of Horror XXIV” has to offer is its extended couch gag created by horror virtuoso Guillermo del Toro. Featuring a Simpsonized take on a variety of del Toro’s own films and dozens of other scary classics, it’s a perfect blend of styles and tribute to all things macabre. The first full segment is a grab bag of enjoyable Seussian doggerel, less a story than a loose collection of riffs on the children’s book classics in a Halloween guise. The second sees Bart’s head sewn onto Lisa’s body, with a series of weak jokes spinning off that solid promise. And the last and best segment is a takeoff on the movie Freaks, centered on a love triangle between Strongman Homer, Acrobat Marge, and Freakshow (i.e. normal) Moe, which earns points for its sepia-toned style and fidelity to the 1930s original. –Andrew Bloom


22. Treehouse of Horror XVIII

Season 19, Episode 5

treehouse of horror xviii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 4, 2007

Best Line: “You just can’t get Russian gangster blood out. Must be something they eat.” –Marge

In one of the more memorable openings for the latter Treehouse of Horror installments, The Simpsons riffs on the obnoxious advent of TV ads that appear from the corners of the screen. In this case, Marge grabs tiny versions of characters from shows like 24 and American Idol and bakes them into bread. “E.T. Go Home” brings frequent Treehouse of Horror cameo character Kodos into a more substantial role but offers few real laughs. “Mr. & Mrs. Simpson” is another of the moment parody for the series that has failed to age well. However, “Heck House”—a spoof of Seven that returns friendly Christian Ned Flanders to his rightful place as Lord Satan—is definitely a winner. We even get yet another Groundskeeper Willie death, this time via tractor decapitation. –Zack Ruskin


21. Treehouse of Horror XXXI

Season 32, Episode 4

 Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 1, 2020

Best Line: “I’m gonna do what clowns do best — kill!” – Krusty the Clown Doll

With this entry, enterprising Simpsons fans can officially watch a Treehouse installment for every day in October. The episode itself doesn’t quite rise to the level of that lofty milestone, but at least shows some ambition in its choices. The opening skit riffs of apocalyptic fears over the 2020 election with a touch of bite. The first full segment spoofs Toy Story, imagining a grimmer fate for Sid the toy abuser and reprising The Simpsons’ CGI makeover from “Treehouse of Horror VI”. The middle segment parodies Into the Spider-verse with a heap of random jokes built around different versions of Homer (the funniest being a series of homages to classic Hannah Barbera characters). And the final segment plays on Russian Doll and other grim Groundhog Day-type films via Lisa. Most of these bits play more like a loose series of so-so gags than complete stories, but at least The Simpsons can boast some creativity in what it attempts to tackle with its grand thirty-first visit to the Treehouse. –Andrew Bloom


20. Treehouse of Horror XVII

Season 18, Episode 4

treehouse of horror xvii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 5, 2006

Best Line: “That’s what we call Jewish humor. You don’t have to understand it ’cause the words sound funny. Meshuggeneh! Hilarious!” –Golem

The Simpsons rarely courts controversy in its later years, but this episode caused a stir when the ending to its third segment — an amusing War of the Worlds parody — leaked. The story features Kang and Kodos invading after Orson Welles’ (Maurice LaMarche, reprising his impression from Ed Wood) radio hoax lulls Springfield into complacency. The leaked ending showed Springfield in ruins, featuring heavily-underlined parallels to the Second Gulf War and a closing line, “This sure is a lot like Iraq will be,” that was cut from the final broadcast. The other two segments are gentler and sillier. The first sees Homer eating a “space marshmallow” and turning into a voracious, cannibalistic blob who gets down to his own Sir Mix-a-Lot jam. And the second features Bart commandeering a golem voiced by Richard Lewis, giving the show plenty of opportunities to sprinkle in a little mayhem and riff on Yiddish lore. –Andrew Bloom


19. Treehouse of Horror IX

Season 10, Episode 4

treehouse of horror ix Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 25, 1998

Best Line: “I got a question for that gross thing, whatever it is.” –Audience Member “Homer?” –Jerry Springer “Nah, the green dude.” –Audience Member

The ’90s were pretty ugly, so it’s fitting that the final Treehouse of Horror from that decade showcases some of 1999’s least appetizing cultural artifacts. Some of these references, such as Snake’s three-strikes-induced execution in “Hell Toupée”, actually move the plot in a direction that’s both scary and satirical. Others, such as that segment’s reality TV nods and the extended Jerry Springer digression in “Starship Poopers”, only serve to remind us what a trashy drag that cultural moment could be. Also, I still haven’t forgiven the wasted opportunity of “The Terror of Tiny Toon”; you have a golden chance to send Bart and Lisa through a Stay Tuned-level TV hellscape, and the best you can do is a paltry bit with Regis and Kathie Lee? C’mon, gang. At least the Itchy and Scratchy bits landed, I guess. –Tyler Clark


18. Treehouse of Horror XXVII

Season 28, Episode 4

treehouse of horror xxvii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 16, 2016

Best Line: “Man, who’d have thought a funeral for a couple of kids would be such a downer?” –Homer

“Treehouse of Horror XXVII” gets underway with a nod to the dystopian Hunger Games franchise. “Dry Hard” has Mr. Burns stepping in as the ruler of a post-apocalyptic Springfield where children must battle for a chance to win a day of fun at his private reservoir. Naturally, Ralph dies before the battle begins. “BFF R.I.P.” finds Lisa’s former imaginary friend Rachel murdering her childhood acquaintances (it’s hard to believe Lisa would really consider Sherri and Terri friends). The highlight comes when Rachel must deal with Homer’s own imaginary friend, Sargent Sausage. The James Bond parody “Moefinger”, rounds out the fairly unmemorable trio. Notable as the 600th episode of the show, “Treehouse of Horror XXVII” also brings back Frank Grimes (or “Grimey” as he liked to be known) in ghost form, who informs the Simpson family that, in hell, everyone is forced to watch all 600 episodes in a row. –Zack Ruskin


17. Treehouse of Horror X

Season 11, Episode 4

treehouse of horror x Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 31, 1999

Best Line: “Okay, Marge, you hide in the abandoned amusement park. Lisa, the pet cemetery. Bart, spooky roller disco. And I’ll go skinny-dipping in that lake where the sexy teens were killed a hundred years ago tonight.” –Homer

“Whenever you notice something like that…a wizard did it.” Even if there were nothing else to champion from “Treehouse of Horror X”, that immortal dismissal of nerd nitpickery would still make this one worthwhile on its own. Thankfully, Bart, Lisa, and Lucy Lawless deliver plenty more comedy in their wild and wacky Superfriends parody. The tale of Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl is rife with amusing geek gags, and is the rare middle segment that proves to be the strongest of the bunch. The episode’s first story is an I Know What You Did Last Summer spoof, which brings some quality gallows humor when Marge accidentally runs over Ned Flanders. But the segment goes off the rails a bit after the reveal. And the final story is a dated, Y2K-inspired disaster romp that trades in a decent if too-quickly-escalating premise for a bevy of weak celebrity jabs. –Andrew Bloom


16. Treehouse of Horror XXV

Season 26, Episode 4

treehouse of horror xxv Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 19, 2014

Best Line: “The bed is lifting me! The elevator at work can’t even do that!” –Homer

It seems like the only reliable predictor for the quality of latter-day Treehouse of Horror episodes is whether or not the show is approaching a milestone anniversary. While not as good as the surprisingly excellent 20th edition, “Treehouse of Horror XXV” still stacks up better than most of its contemporaries. “School Is Hell” leverages an original concept into ghoulishly fun character designs and genuinely clever jokes; “A Clockwork Yellow” strikes the right balance of homage and goof in its take on the Kubrick classic; and “The Others” takes a potentially limp plot idea (Evergreen Terrace is haunted…) and injects it with a dose of unexpectedly effective meta-humor (…by the ghosts of the Simpsons from The Tracey Ullman Show!) As anniversary content goes, it’s a fitting victory lap. As a Halloween episode, it ain’t too shabby, either. (Plus, I’ll take all the guest spots from Dr. Marvin Monroe that I can get.) –Tyler Clark


15. Treehouse of Horror XI

Season 12, Episode 1

treehouse of horror xi Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 1, 2000

Best Line: “Hmm, Bottlenose bruises. Blowhole burns. Flipper prints. This looks like the work of rowdy teens. Lou, cancel the prom.” –Chief Wiggum

Ah yes, the one with the dolphins. Believe it or not, “Night of the Dolphin” is actually based on a 1973 George C. Scott film that’s even more insane than this Simpsons parody that also borrows from Free Willy and The Birds. The concept is classic Simpsons, as Lisa’s attempt to do right by Snorky by releasing him from captivity immediately backfires. Also featured in “Treehouse of Horror XI” is “Ghost Dad”, where Homer’s horoscope informs him he will die today (and receive a compliment from someone at work). Broccoli is the culprit, which Dr. Hibbert explains is “the deadliest plant on Earth—why it even tries to you itself with its terrible taste!” Fairy tales galore populate “Scary Tales Can Come True” and recalls the tragic incident involving Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo (“The Last Temptation of Homer”) with Suzanne the Witch’s suspiciously named boyfriend George Cauldron. –Zack Ruskin


14. Treehouse of Horror XIII

Season 14, Episode 1

treehouse of horror xiii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 3, 2002

Best Line: “Then after World War II, it got kind of quiet till Superman challenged FDR to a race around the world. FDR beat him by a furlong. Or so the comic books would have you believe. The truth lies somewhere in between.” –Grampa

One Homer is plenty. That’s the lesson of “Treehouse of Horror XIII” and its opening tale, which sees Homer buying a magic hammock that lets him duplicate himself to epidemic proportions. The steady escalation of the clone escapades, enjoyable jabs at Family Guy and The Simpsons’ earlier years, and a Twilight Zone-style twist make it a winner. The middle segment is a confused story about Billy the Kid and his zombie cowboy cohorts coming back to take over Springfield after Lisa’s campaign to rid the town of guns. It lacks a real perspective despite its gun-control focus. And the final segment, an Isle of Dr. Moreau spoof, is mainly an excuse to reskin Springfield’s residents in animalistic splendor, but the exercise is a fun one, and the zoological jokes land. Sadly there’s no spooky credits in this one, but it does feature the return of a ghoulish Maude. –Andrew Bloom


13. Treehouse of Horror XVI

Season 17, Episode 4

treehouse of horror xvi Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 6, 2005

Best Line: “Homer, Burns has only been chasing us for six hours and you already resorted to cannibalism.” –Carl “And there’s bananas in that tree up there.” –Lenny “Uh, they look a little green.” –Homer

Before this review, I remembered this edition of Treehouse of Horror best for its opener, in which Kang and Kodos finally take aim at the baseball games that once regularly pushed these Halloween traditions well into the first weekend of November. Respect to those aliens, but on my most recent rewatch, I found plenty of other bits to like, too, especially when it comes to some of Springfield’s bit players. While the evil cyborg brother schtick of “B.I. Bartificial Intelligence” never gets fully off the ground, the episode’s other segments shine: “Survival of the Fattest” gives Homer the chance to play both buffoon and betrayer with some of the town’s other menfolk during Mr. Burns’ The Most Dangerous Game-style hunt, while “I’ve Grown a Costume to Your Face” sets loose a stupidly simple premise (what if everyone in Springfield dressed up for Halloween, and then actually became their costume?) and lets it play out to its satisfying, sight-gag-heavy conclusion. –Tyler Clark


12. Treehouse of Horror XII

Season 13, Episode 1

treehouse of horror xii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 6, 2001

Best Line: “Hey, you know what’s even better is Jesus. He’s like six leprechauns!” –Lenny

I think it’s fair to say that we would all love to live in a house with the voice of Pierce Brosnan. In the “Treehouse of Horror XII” segment “House of Whacks”, this fantasy comes to life after the Simpsons give their home an upgrade. Of course, Pierce, aka Ultrahouse 3000, goes all 2001: A Space Odyssey on the family, spurred on by a major crush on Marge (it’s cool Ultrahouse 3000, we’ve all been there). Kudos are also due to Matthew Perry for voicing himself as an inferior option that the Simpsons quickly move on from. A Harry Potter spoof was inevitable, and “Wiz Kids” delivers for the most part, from Milhouse turning his toad not into a prince but rather a lewd drunk who flirts with Edna Krabappel to Montymort’s weakness being an enchanted shin. Never one to pass up a cheap Irish joke, “Hex and the City” goes all in with the Simpsons strolling through Ethnictown and Homer later tormented by a squirrely leprechaun. –Zack Ruskin


11. Treehouse of Horror XXVIII

Season 29, Episode 4

The Simpsons, Treehouse of Horror XXVIII (Fox)

Premiere Date: October 22, 2017

Best Line: “Spider wife, dead son, two girls with button eyes – I think this marriage has finally gotten out of its rut!” -Homer

The best Treehouse installment of the ’10s boasts winners in all three of its installments. While “The Exor-sis” suffers slightly from a creaky setup, Maggie’s inevitable possession produces plenty of fun, particularly Homer’s Pazuzu lullaby and the accompanying sight gags of Maggie’s now-haunted toys. By contrast, “Coralisa” is strong throughout, building upon a classic series character trait (in this case, Lisa’s feeling like the odd Simpson out within her family) to produce a creative Coraline riff complete with a suitably eerie animation switch that Lisa notes by exclaiming, “Woah! For a Halloween show middle segment, this is amazing!” “Coralisa” would be this episode’s easy winner if not for the closer: “MMM… Homer” might be the grossest segment ever produced for a Treehouse of Horror episode. After a days-long binge leaves Homer nothing to eat but himself, we’re treated to an inspired body-horror montage of the Simpson patriarch hacking himself to bits, all set to a jaunty jazz-funk soundtrack. It’s genuinely, surprisingly unsettling, and a great bit of freshness from the venerable series. Perhaps the scariest part of all? The segment also includes a cameo by now-disgraced chef Mario Batali, proving once again that the worst monsters are the ones that come in human form. –Tyler Clark


10. Treehouse of Horror XIV

Season 15, Episode 1

treehouse of horror xiv Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 2, 2003

Best Line: “No way, forget it. I might occasionally kill out of anger, or to illustrate a point. But I am not a Grim Reaper!” –Homer

“Treehouse of Horror XIV” begins with a classic opening that sees the Simpson family straight-up murdering each other (Grandpa complains about still being cold after being decked with a log on fire). Taking a page from Family Guy, “Reaper Madness” sees Homer taking up the Grim Reaper’s mantle. Homer with powers is always good fodder, and The Simpsons patriarch doesn’t disappoint here, using his touch of death to cut in lines and rid himself of daily nuisances. “Frinkenstein” proves that Professor Frink doesn’t have the character depth to anchor a storyline, but is the only dud of this episode’s trio. The final segment, “Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off”, places Bart and Milhouse in a Twilight Zone conceit with a stopwatch that freezes time. The now-25-year-old Bart trying to act like nothing has happened once he and Milhouse unfreeze the world after 15 years is pure gold. –Zack Ruskin


09. Treehouse of Horror XX

Season 21, Episode 4

treehouse of horror xx Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 18, 2009

Best Line: “To the panic room!” –Homer “We don’t have a panic room.” –Marge “To the panic room store!” –Homer

After two decades of doing Halloween specials, The Simpsons writers could’ve been forgiven for half-assing the 20th edition of Treehouse of Horror. They didn’t, though, and we’re better off for it. Part of that hinges on the writers’ ability to mine new material from choice subject matter; from the Hitchcockian references in “Dial “M” for Murder or Press “#” to Return to Main Menu” to the Sweeney Todd-inspired musical numbers of “There’s No Business Like Moe Business”, the episode teems with a successful synergy of Simpsons weirdness and well-chosen horror touchstones. This one even works when it returns to the well-plumbed well: After tackling the dread of Night of the Living Dead-style home invasion in “Treehouse of Horror III” and the terror of historical zombies in “Treehouse of Horror XIII”, this episode’s “Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind” successfully converts the disconnected urban dystopia of modern zombie properties like 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead into an appropriately gross (and funny) tale. –Tyler Clark


08. Treehouse of Horror I

Season 2, Episode 3

treehouse of horror i Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 25, 1990

Best Line: “For a superior race, they really rub it in.” –Marge

This is the one that started it all. The original “Treehouse of Horror” can boast the first appearance of Kang and Kodos, the venerable space aliens who’ve since become fixtures in the show’s Halloween specials. The middle segment sees them abducting the Simpsons and getting into one of those classic mix-ups over who’s trying to eat whom. The episode’s first ghost story features the Simpsons moving into a haunted house, and includes some legitimately scary moments when the evil spirit who lurks within taunts and goads the new residents. It’s the peak of the stellar animation in this first installment, with heaving walls, moody colors, and more. The final segment, however, is the pièce de résistance. It’s a lovingly-crafted tribute to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”, which combines the macabre author’s lyrical prose, The Simpsons’ wry sensibility, and even some Looney Tunes-style mayhem without ever missing a beat. –Andrew Bloom


07. Treehouse of Horror VIII

Season Nine, Episode 4

treehouse of horror viii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 26, 1997

Best Line: “Oh, I’ve wasted my life.” –Comic Book Guy

Homer Simpson hardly shows any self-restraint to begin with, so when he becomes the last man on Earth in an Omega Man spoof, the newly “uninhibited” Homer just watches Chris Farley movies and dances naked in church. But he carries a funny spoof, full of goofy and gross monster humor and post-apocalyptic fun. The middle story of “Treehouse of Horror VIII” features Bart going entomological in a parody of The Fly. An accident with a device from Professor Frink’s garage sale puts Bart’s spiky head on an insect’s body, and it takes an assist from Lisa to fight the bug-eyed creature who’s commandeered his own. And the last story turns a witty take off on the Salem Witch Trials into an amusing, apocryphal tale of the first Halloween. Between a mutant-fighting Homer, an insectoid Bart, a witchy Marge, and a butchered Fox Network censor, “Treehouse of Horror VIII’ has it all. –Andrew Bloom


06. Treehouse of Horror II

Season 3, Episode 7

screen shot 2017 10 25 at 12 05 22 pm Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 31, 1991

Best Line: “Sir, do you know what this means? He is alive!” –Smithers “Oh, you’re right, Smithers. I guess I owe you a Coke.” –Burns

After setting a suitably spooky standard with the inaugural anthology, the second edition of Treehouse of Horror amplifies its predecessor’s uneasiness while simultaneously producing even more moments of indelible comedy. Maybe you remember the board-with-a-nail-in-it arms race (or the merchandising burn-out meta-jokes) of “The Monkey’s Paw,” or the worn-down Krusty of “The Bart Zone”. Maybe you dig Mr. Burns as a matter-of-fact mad scientist in “If I Only Had A Brain”. Maybe, like me, you’re struck by the moments of family realness (Homer chowing down on the kids’ Halloween haul, Bart allowing Lisa to sleep in his bed for the price of a coveted candy necklace) that creep into the episode’s framing device. Whatever the case, the likelihood remains high that, if you have favorite memories of this weird Halloween tradition, at least a couple of them probably come from this episode. Also of note: This Treehouse of Horror is the first of only two episodes to actually debut on Halloween night itself. That’s gotta count for something, right? –Tyler Clark


05. Treehouse of Horror IV

Season 5, Episode 5

treehouse of horror iv Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 28, 1993

Best Line: “Mr. Simpson, don’t you worry. I watched Matlock in a bar last night. The sound wasn’t on, but I think I got the gist of it.” –Lionel Hutz

Subjectively, this is my personal favorite of the Treehouse of Horror series. Objectively, it ranks pretty damned high, too. A lot of that comes from the strength of its first segment. From presenting wholesome Ned Flanders as Satan himself to giving us the great sight gag of Homer eating Hell completely out of donuts (RIP, James Coco), “The Devil and Homer Simpson” remains one of the anthology series’ single best segments. “Terror at 5½ Feet” is equally great, giving Bart the chance to wig all the way out in an expert send-up of yet another classic Twilight Zone bit. “Bart Simpson’s Dracula” doesn’t age quite as seamlessly (thanks in large part to its Bram Stoker’s Dracula trappings and a gay joke that wasn’t funny then and is jarringly tone-deaf now), but even it finds redemption in the sheer dumb virtue of the Super Fun Happy Slide. As Halloween episodes go, this is almost as good as it gets. –Tyler Clark


04. Treehouse of Horror III

Season 4, Episode 5

treehouse of horror iii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 29, 1992

Best Line: “Your doll is trying to kill my husband! Yes I’ll hold.” –Marge

“Treehouse of Horror III” offers one of the most quoted scenes in Simpsons history. In “Clown Without Pity”, Homer wanders into House of Evil in desperate need of a birthday gift for Bart. It’s here the proprietor warns him that the Krusty Doll Homer intends to buy is evil, but does come with a free frogurt. Unfortunately the frogurt is cursed, but it comes with a choice of toppings (which contain potassium benzoate … that’s bad). The full segment is brilliant, from the revelation that someone has left the Krusty doll switched to “evil” to the plaything’s ultimate fate living in a dollhouse with Malibu Stacy as a working stiff. “King Homer” is a charming throwback to the classic King Kong that affords the Simpsons writers the chance to make ape Homer immaculately dim-witted. “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies” includes a scene where Homer shoots a zombiefied Flanders only to ask, “He was a zombie?” –Zack Ruskin


03. Treehouse of Horror VI

Season 7, Episode 6

treehouse of horror vi Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 29, 1995

Best Line: “Lousy Smarch weather.” –Homer

The sixth edition of the Treehouse of Horror series is best remembered now for its much-hyped final segment (“Homer3”), in which the Simpson patriarch falls, Twilight Zone-style, into a parallel 3D dimension, complete with eye-popping-for-1995 computer graphics and, eventually, our very own live-action world. That segment still shines, but so do the two before it: “Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores” pairs a monstrous rampage filled with clever sight gags (three Pep Boys lookalikes faltering under the weight of their mammoth heads; Mr. Peanut cracking open a car, shell-style, to feast on the people within) with equally wry commentary about the limits of advertising power (and a Paul Anka guarantee, to boot), while “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace” stirs up some genuine Elm Street fear thanks to the gristly designs used for Groundskeeper Willie’s infernal Krueger-esque powers. At this point, The Simpsons was just about at the height of its powers, and so was Treehouse of Horror. –Tyler Clark


02. Treehouse of Horror V

Season 6, Episode 6

treehouse of horror v Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 30, 1994

Best Line: “Oh, relax kids. I’ve got a gut feeling Uter’s around here somewhere. After all, isn’t there a little Uter in all of us? In fact, you might say we just ate Uter and he’s in our stomachs right now! Wait. Scratch that one.” –Principal Skinner

When Treehouse of Horror is at its best, the tropes and parodies are second to the jokes and characters. While later entries in the series declined as the thing being spoof informed the humor, “Treehouse of Horror V” is a perfect example of how much better the opposite approach fits the format. In “The Shinning”, we are treated to crazy Homer, who rapidly loses his mind after learning that there’s no more beer and TV. Narrowing down a highlight is nearly impossible, from the blood that usually gets off on the second floor to Homer reeling off the intro to 60 Minutes with axe in hand. “Time and Punishment” plays with the concept of the butterfly effect as Homer continually alters the future by sneezing on dinosaurs and swatting mosquitos thanks to his magical toaster. Let us hope we never live in the world in which Ned Flanders has seized control and offers citizens a glass of milk, a lie down, and a full frontal lobotomy. Finally there’s “Nightmare Cafeteria”, where the teachers solve their budget woes by eating the children (Üterbraten anyone?). That all three segments include Groundskeeper Willie trying to help and being brutally murdered and conclude with a musical number in which the Simpson clan has their skin turned inside-out makes “Treehouse of Horror V” a true benchmark of the series. —Zack Ruskin


01. Treehouse of Horror VII

Season 8, Episode 1

treehouse of horror vii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 27, 1996

Best Line: “My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball; but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!” –Bill Clinton

The idea of Bart having an evil twin is a scary prospect in and of itself given Bart’s already hellraising demeanor. But “Treehouse of Horror VII” turns that premise into a delightful kid mystery with the sort of funny, absurd twists that could only work in these non-canon Halloween environs. And having Lisa create a miniaturized society a la The Twilight Zone creates plenty of opportunities for pint-sized humor and fun, with her and Bart standing in for “God” and “The Devil” for their Lilliputian pals. The final story is as pithy, incisive, and hilarious a satire of American politics as you’ll ever see. The “Citizen Kang” segment is a master class in blending sci-fi homage, specific-but-universal observations on political discourse, and great gag after great gag. Forget about Kodos and vote for this as the best Treehouse of Horror episode of all time. No one will blame you. –Andrew Bloom

Want more Treehouse of Horror terror? Join Psychoanalysis below as they revisit their favorite segments, quotes, and scares in celebration of the special’s 30th anniversary. Very little is left untouched — and it’s even got Paul Anka’s guarantee.

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