5 – The Wolfman (1941) - "Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."
Lon Chaney Jr. plays Lawrence Talbot, the grounded, practical man who returns home after the death of his brother and is faced with a rather supernatural problem. I've always enjoyed Chaney's portrayal of the Wolfman as a sympathetic character who has no control over his change and desperately wants to be free of his curse. The time-lapse makeup transformation scenes are a definite treat as is the music. Overall, the mood of this film is perfect for Halloween viewing.
(70 minutes - NR - 1941) (Netflix)
4 – The Nightmare Before Christmas - "This is Halloween, everybody scream, won't you please make way for a very special guy. Our man Jack is king of the pumpkin patch, everyone hail to the pumpkin king"
Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween, is tired of the same old thing every year and desires a change. When he stumbles upon the doorway to another world, he is given his chance. This is a fun, musical adventure through Halloween and beyond! I've always been a fan of Tim Burton (who wrote but did not direct, contrary to popular belief). His movies generally have a great atmosphere to them, among other good qualities, and Nightmare is no exception.
(76 minutes - Rated PG for some scary images - 1993) (Netflix)
3 – Creepshow^ - "Oh, Jordy Verrill, you lunkhead!"
Written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero, this anthology of Five Horror shorts is a grab bag of horror goodness. From a story about a mysterious crate to one about a loner who discovers a strange meteor, this movie is full of various frights, gore and even some laughs. King himself even makes a cameo. Great Halloween fun.
(120 minutes - Rated R for adult content and graphic language - 1982) (Netflix)
2 – Sleepy Hollow - "There is no Horseman, never was a Horseman, and never will be a Horseman."
Tim Burton's very dark take on Washington Irving's classic Halloween tale. Instead of a teacher, Ichabod Crane is a constable sent to investigate a recent string of murders in the small town of Sleepy Hollow. The scenery and overall feel of the movie definitely resonate with Halloween deeply, as is the case with many of Burton's works.
(105 minutes - Rated R for graphic horror violence and gore, and for a scene of sexuality - 1999) (Netflix)
1 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)^ / Dawn of the Dead (1978) / Day of the Dead (1985) - "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth"
George A. Romero's classic zombie trilogy is a must watch when it comes to Halloween. If it weren't for these movies, it's hard to say where zombie cinema would be today. While it is a bit of a cheat to list three movies as one entry, I wanted to include them all without making the list basically a "top zombie movies" list. All three are great horror movies that include interesting characters, great makeup effects, a few scares here and there and even a bit of social commentary. My personal favorite of the bunch is Dawn, but all three are horror masterpieces and are great for building a Halloween mood. Don't watch the remakes (or the 30th anniversary recut of Night), watch the originals!
(Night: 96 minutes - NR - 1968) (Dawn: 128 minutes - NR - 1978) (Day: 102 minutes - NR - 1985) (Netflix: Night / Dawn / Day)
Honorable Mention: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), Evil Dead 2, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead
^Netflix Instant Play
^Netflix Instant Play