I love Halloween and I love The Simpsons. So the annual Treehouse of Horror episode is something I look forward to every year. Each episode contains three separate, non-canonical stories that often satirize horror movies, TV shows, or tropes. Originally, "Treehouse of Horror" episodes included wraparound segments that involved the Simpsons telling stories or having nightmares. Eventually the stories just became standalone segments, though each episode opens with a spooky "couch gag" or similar opening sequence. There is a special haunted version of the theme song that plays, and the crew credits often contain special Halloween names, like "Bat Groening."
"Treehouse of Horror" episodes didn't start until Season 2 of The Simpsons, and that year it was simply labeled "The Simpsons' Halloween Special." Since then, it has become a cultural phenomenon, with its own merchandise and comic books. The first few years there were messages at the top of the episode that warned that the episode might be too intense for younger viewers, but they stopped with that nonsense less than a decade in. Season 27 was the first time that The Simpsons had a non-"Treehouse of Horror" Halloween episode.
I have gone through and selected my 25 favorite segments, out of over 80 segments so far. It was surprisingly difficult, as with each episode I watched, I would remember just how good one segment or another is. At some point I just had to cut myself off. So I present to you my 25 favorite Treehouse of Horror segments. Is your favorite in here?
Season 2: Hungry are the Damned
In a parody of The Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man," Kang and Kodos abduct the Simpsons clan and try to fatten them up while they take them to their home world. Lisa finds a cookbook titled "How to Cook Humans," and they go back and forth, clearing off dust that would eventually reveal the title was "How to Cook for Forty Humans."
Season 2: Bad Dream House
The Amityville house meets its match in the Simpsons. When the family moves into a suspiciously inexpensive house, they don’t question it – until the walls start to bleed. The house attempts to destroy the family, but then Lisa starts psychoanalyzing the house, and the house decides it would rather self-destruct than live with the Simpsons.
Season 4: Clown Without Pity
When Homer forgets to buy Bart a birthday present, he rushes to the local evil shop where he buys a Krusty the Clown doll who turns out to be evil. This leads to one of the classic exchanges in The Simpsons history: “But you get a free frozen yogurt, which I call frogurt! The frogurt is also cursed.” Anyway, it turns out the Krusty doll was just set at “evil.” The repair guy flips the switch to “good,” and the attempted murder stops.
Season 5: Bart Simpson's Dracula
This parody of Bram Stoker's Dracula (with nods to other vampire movies, including Lost Boys, thrown in for good measure) includes a Super Fun Happy Slide and the "reveal" that Marge is actually the head vampire, not Mr. Burns.
Season 5: The Devil and Homer Simpson
Homer would sell his soul for a donut, but on Halloween, this offer is especially ominous. Ned appears as the devil, and gives Homer a donut with the caveat that he would own Homer's soul once he is finished with the donut. Homer leaves one bite untouched, thinking he outsmarted the devil, but while sleepwalking one night, he eats it. Always the fair one, devil Ned agrees to have a trial for who owns Homer's soul. Turns out that Homer gave his soul to Marge in their wedding vows, so Homer is set free.
Season 6: The Shinning
That’s The Shinning, not The Shining – you don’t want to get sued do you? This pitch-perfect spoof of the Stanley Kubrick classic sees Bart use his “shinning” to contact Groundskeeper Willie when his father goes crazy and tries to kill the family. My favorite moment is the end, when Homer rushes out into the snow and is sated when he finds a portable TV. “Teacher! Mother! Secret lover! Urge to kill fading… fading… growing! Fading… gone.”
Season 6: Nightmare Cafeteria
What is a principal to do when his detention is overcrowded? Figure out a different way to discipline kids? Not if this is a Treehouse of Horror segment. Principal Skinner decides to kill two birds with one stone when detention is stuffed to the gills and budget cuts prevent nutritious meals from being served in the cafeteria. The detention kids become lunch. This segment doesn't have a "happy ending:" Bart and Lisa are dropped into the meat grinder. However, Bart does wake up from a "nightmare." Then an unholy fog rolls in and turns the Simpsons inside out.
Season 7: Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores
On his quest for the largest donut, Homer steals the donut that Lard Lad holds in front of his restaurant. This happens during a freak storm, during which Lard Lad is hit by lightning. He and the other advertisements come to life and terrorize Springfield. Lisa figures out that advertisements “die” when people don’t pay attention to them. Now she just needs a catchy theme song.
Season 7: Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace
In this Nightmare on Elm Street spoof, Groundskeeper Willie plays a version of Freddy Krueger that terrorizes the kids in their dreams.
Season 8: The Thing and I
Bart discovers he has an evil twin living in the attic. Hugo was hidden there and fed a bucket of fish heads once a month by Homer and Marge. When finally confronted with the truth, Dr. Hibbert comes in and admits that he separated the conjoined twins and that the left, or "sinister" twin is always the evil twin, so into the attic Hugo went. Upon closer inspection, Dr. Hibbert realizes that Bart was actually the left twin, thereby making him the evil twin. Hugo gets to live with the family, while Bart is put into the attic with only fish heads to keep him company.
Season 9: Easy Bake Coven
It's 1649, Salem, and Marge is accused of being a witch. She denies this until she is threatened with being burned at the stake. Then she reveals her ability to fly and the fact that she is indeed a witch. She heads back to her sisters' house and the trio decide to go out, looking for children to eat. Ned and Maude decide to sway them into eating treats, like cookies. The witches decide this is more fun and, as the Sea Captain's voice over proclaims, this is the story of the first Halloween.
Season 13: House of Whacks
The Simpsons get an “Ultrahouse” automated house. After dismissing the voice of Dennis Miller (who caused a bunch of murder-suicides) Marge settles on the charming voice of Pierce Brosnan. The AI house starts to develop feelings for Marge, and tries to kill Homer so she could be his. The family attacks the computer heart of the Ultrahouse, but Marge takes “pity” on Ultrahouse and gives it to Selma and Patty, which drives Ultrahouse to try to kill itself.
Season 14: The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms
Lisa works for a Springfield without guns - and succeeds. Even the police turn over their weapons. Things are kumbaya for a minute... then the dead rise from their graves and start terrorizing the town. Professor Frink creates a time machine, and Homer goes back in time to prevent Springfield from banning guns.
Season 14: Send In the Clones
When Homer discovers that his new hammock creates clones, and he quickly sets about creating multiples of himself to do his chores. When one of the clones kills Ned Flanders, Homer decides it is time to get rid of the clones, so he drives them out to a cornfield and abandons them. He also abandons the hammock, and the clones figure out how to clone themselves. Soon, there is a horde of Homers spreading across the country. Lisa suggests a solution: luring the Homer clones via airborne donut into Springfield Gorge. The solution works, but that night in bed, Marge realizes that her Homer has been replaced by a clone - a kind, sensitive clone. She shrugs and accepts him.
Season 14: The Island of Dr. Hibbert
The Simpsons take a vacation to the Island of Lost Souls, where they discover Dr. Hibbert has turned all of their friends and colleagues into animal/human hybrids. Marge becomes a cat, Bart a spider, Lisa an owl, and Maggie an anteater. Homer is at first horrified at the idea, until he remembers that animals do nothing but eat and sleep and mate. Then he is all in and lets Dr. Hibbert turn him into a walrus.
Season 18: The Day the Earth Looked Stupid
It is 1938 and Springfield is fooled into believing that the Orson Welles' broadcast of War of the Worlds is true. Marge suggests that aliens will only kill humans, so the townspeople start acting like animals. It isn't until the next day that Lisa informs them that it was all a hoax. But seeing the stupidity of humans inspires Kang and Kodos to invade.
Season 19: Heck House
Ned Flanders hosts a “Hell House,” a religious-themed haunted house that shows “sinners” being tortured for their infractions. When Bart, Lisa, and their friends start playing pranks around town, Ned decides to teach them a lesson. When his “Heck House” isn’t scary enough, he sends the kids to Hell, where they come face to face with the real repercussions of sloth, gluttony, wrath, lust, greed, envy, and pride.
Season 20: How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising
When Krusty insists his likeness cannot be used to decorate a daycare, Homer gets mad and accidentally kills him. Advertising agencies start flocking to Homer and hire him as a celebrity assassin. If a celebrity is dead, advertisers don't have to pay to use them in ads.
Season 20: It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse
In a spoof of the classic Charlie Brown cartoon, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Milhouse decides to wait in the pumpkin patch for the Grand Pumpkin. Milhouse's tears bring the Grand Pumpkin to life, but the benevolent pumpkin soon turns evil when he realizes that humans carve pumpkins (which are the babies in the pumpkin world). As the pumpkin kills humans, Lisa makes up a tale of Tom Turkey for Milhouse to believe. His belief summons the turkey, but the turkey becomes equally violent when he discovers that humans eat turkey.
Season 22: War and Pieces
Marge makes Bart and Milhouse play board games, worrying that their video games are too violent. The boys finally settle on one called Satan's Path, and, much like Jumanji, the game comes to life and the boys must play dangerous, life-sized versions of games like Ravenous, Ravenous Rhinos, Funopoly, Battleboat, Taffy Land, and Mouse Catch. The boys finally get out of the monstrous toyverse, and wish they had played hangman instead - which of course would have led to similarly horrible consequences.
Season 25: Guillermo del Toro's opening credit sequence
This wasn't a specific segment, just the opening sequence designed by Guillermo del Toro. Nearly 100 horror films and horror people are referenced in the less-than-two-minute opening, including references to Pan's Labyrinth, Mimic, Hellboy, Blade, Stephen King, The Shining, four different Phantoms of the Opera, Phantom of the Paradise, The Car, Freaks, Rod Serling, the Universal monsters, Ray Harryhausen, Cthulhu, Nosferatu, and many, many more.
Season 25: Freaks, No Geeks
In a parody of the controversial, beautiful 1932 film Freaks, Homer plays the strongman who is having an affair with acrobat Marge, and convinces her to marry sideshow freak Moe for his money.
Season 25: Oh, the Places You'll D'oh
In an ode to Dr. Seuss, the three Simpsons kids are forced to stay home on Halloween due to the mumps. But they are visited by the Fat in the Hat, who takes them out for an evening of murder and destruction. The kids eventually escape, and when the Fat in the Hat returns home, Maggie steps up and stabs him.
Season 26: School is Hell
Bart and Lisa are transported to a version of their school that is in Hell, and Bart discovers that he is really, really, really good at Hell school. “Mom, please tell me I can go to Hell!” Bart begs. He becomes the school “maledictorian.” Fun fact: the title of this segment is a play on Matt Groening's pre-Simpsons cartoons, "School is Hell" and "Work is Hell."
Season 26: A Clockwork Yellow
This pitch-perfect take on A Clockwork Orange sees Moe as the leader of the droogs whose life becomes normal after Homer takes up with Marge. But when Nelson and the bullies pick up where the droogs left off, Moe gets the gang back together. It turns into an ode to other Stanley Kubrick films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eyes Wide Shut, and Barry Lyndon.