HBO Max is great for many things, so it's not exactly surprising to find out that it's also the best home for Halloween movies right now. It's just so much fun to watch something scary during the spookiest season, and we've put together a list of the best HBO Max has to offer this year.
From older classics like Poltergeist to newer classics like The Witch to family-friendly films like Corpse Bride, our list should help you find something spooky to watch, no matter what kind of mood you're in. And if you're looking for even more, we also rounded up the best Halloween movies to watch on Netflix, Hulu, and more platforms this year.
The found-footage genre of horror films wasn't that big until 1999's revolutionary The Blair Witch Project, which was told entirely through unearthed videotapes of three ghost hunters exploring the legend of the Blair Witch in the deep woods of Maryland. The set-up is simple — something weird and scary is going on, basically — but the tension that's built by relying on the audience's imagination is a masterwork of filmmaking that none of its imitators have managed to replicate. Yes, it's over 20 years old, but it's still genuinely scarier than almost anything else. The heart-pounding final minutes still haunts me. -Tim Surette
Most old movies just aren't scary. Most. The Night of the Living Dead, George Romero's zombie classic, came out in 1968 yet is still one of the most chilling horror films ever created. Even if you don't appreciate Romero's keen sense of doom, it's a blueprint from which many of the most famous horror films was made and a must-watch for movie buffs. Filmed in eerie black and white, it follows seven people trapped in a Pennsylvania farmhouse that's beset by zombies who emerge from the ground for no specified reason. It also makes great background noise for your Halloween party! -Tim Surette
Like Michael Myers, the Halloween franchise will not die. The film saw its biggest revival yet starting in 2018 when David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and Scott Teems relaunched the series with Halloween and continued it in 2021 with Halloween Kills. Look, Halloween Kills isn't as good as Halloween, but it does feature a masked maniac lumbering through people's houses and killing them in inventive, brutal ways. Halloween (2018) isn't streaming for free, so you can watch this one instead before Halloween Ends, the "final" movie in the new trilogy, is on Peacock now. -Tim Surette
More Halloween recommendations:
If your idea of getting into the Halloween mood is watching a movie so scary that you need to wear four pairs of underwear, you can't do much better than The Witch (or The VVitch, if you're cool). Robert Eggers' 2016 film is arguably the best horror film of the decade, and tops the list of A24's incredibly strong scary lineup that includes Midsommar, The Lighthouse, and Hereditary. Set in 1630, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen's Gambit) stars as a teenager whose family relocates to a remote countryside where a strange presence lives in the nearby forest (can you guess what it is?) and threatens to turn the family against itself. The unnerving film is a masterclass in mood, rattling viewers to their core through Eggers' impeccable direction. I LOVE this movie. -Tim Surette
The 2017 adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name takes us back to Derry, Maine, where a group of kids -- self-dubbed The Losers -- are trying to figure out what a terrifying entity that they're all witnessing actually is. Though one kid saw the terror as Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård), others have seen things like a leper, a painting come to life, and a ghost. They soon realize this entity that they're calling "It" manifests as their worst fears.
In this 1980 classic thriller, author Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a job at a remote hotel but is warned that it has a bit of a sketchy history. Jack starts to slowly lose his mind while he's in the building, rapidly falling back into his old alcoholic, abusive ways. He'd previously given up his vices after accidentally hurting his son Danny (Danny Lloyd), but the hotel and its inhabitants pushed him off the edge and into maniacal insanity. When his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), finally clues in to what's happening with him, she attempts to make an escape with Danny, but the remote location of the hotel proves to be much more of a hindrance than they could have ever realized. If a mind-bendingly creepy thriller movie is what you want to fill your Halloween evening with, you cannot go wrong with The Shining, because it's truly one of the best scary movies of all time.
Scary clowns? Check. Scary little girls? Check. Corpses in the swimming pool? Check. This classic 1982 horror film that was written by Steven Spielberg has it all. When a family moves into a new house in a planned community, their daughter gets kidnapped into another dimension by malevolent ghosts and every family member faces their own horrors. It was terrifying in 1982 and it's terrifying today. The two sequels are also on HBO Max, but are only for the desperate.
Freddy Kreuger is a household name now, but in 1985, he broke into the echelon of horror film villains with Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street with ease, thanks to this instant scary movie classic. The film follows a group of teenagers who are stalked (and sometimes murdered!) in their dreams by an unknown killer with burnt skin and knife-fingers. But when they die in their dreams, often gruesomely, they die in real life, too. Much fake blood was used in this one. The sequels are also on HBO Max, but as is the case with most of these, nothing is as good as the original.
In this lighthearted yet spooky 2005 animated film created by Tim Burton, Victor (Johnny Depp) and Victoria (Emily Watson) are set to be married. At their wedding rehearsal, Victor gets nervous for the big day and ferrets off into the forest to practice his vows. But he unknowingly placed Victoria's wedding ring onto a tree branch, quickly finding out that it was actually the hand of a dead woman named Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), who snatches him and brings him to the underworld as her husband. Desperate to return to Victoria, Victor tricks Emily into letting him go back to the land of the living, but Emily doesn't give up that easily. Time is ticking for Victor, as he finds out Victoria's parents are trying to marry her off to another man, and he'll do whatever he can to get back to her.
In this 1958 classic sci-fi horror movie, Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and his girlfriend, Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut), are enjoying date night when what appears to be a meteor crashes down to Earth. Barney (Olin Howland) goes to investigate -- big mistake -- and finds a small gelatinous blob coming from the meteor. The space goo latches onto him and eventually consumes him, growing larger and larger in size. The blob continues to overtake the people in town, growing more and more massive. The town comes together to try to take down this weird creature, finally realizing that if they don't, it could mean the end for them.
Rand (Hoyt Axton) has the best intentions when he buys his son Billy (Zach Galligan) a mysterious pet from an antique store in this 1984 film. The instructions for taking care of this furry creature were clear: Keep it out of sunlight, keep it away from water, and don't feed it after midnight. Billy names his new friend Gizmo, and things are going fine until Gizmo gets wet and suddenly multiplies. Soon after, the new creatures trick their humans into feeding them after midnight, turning them into pesky, evil gremlins. The gremlins quickly take over, wreaking havoc on the entire town, but Billy wants to take them all down, because despite how cute they are, these gremlins are pure evil. It's a mostly family-friendly fun film with some scares that might be too much for little ones.