With its mix of recent releases, blockbuster franchises, and classic movies, HBO Max has a wide selection of films for any occasion, and that includes Halloween. Here are the best Halloween movies to watch on HBO Max.
Director Tim Burton honed his signature spooky-cute style with supernatural comedy Beetlejuice. Michael Keaton plays the title character, a mischievous ghost who offers to help a recently deceased couple (played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) rid their home of its new inhabitants.
Burton creates a wonderfully phantasmagorical world that is creepy but never scary, full of endearingly morbid characters. Keaton is a delight as the slovenly “ghost with the most,” and Winona Ryder gives her breakout performance as deadpan goth teen Lydia Deetz.
How scary can a reddish gelatinous mass really be? In The Blob, the answer is “not very scary,” but this 1958 monster movie is still fun to watch. Steve McQueen makes his feature-film debut as Steve Andrews, a teenager who spots a meteor crashing outside his small town.
Inside the meteor is the titular blob, which grows exponentially as it kills and absorbs various town residents. The special effects are charmingly dated, and there’s some unexpectedly sharp commentary in the scenes of the arrogant adults dismissing the teens’ blob-related concerns.
Everyone knows the iconic moments from The Exorcist, including possessed girl Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) spinning her head around 360 degrees and spewing green goo. A movie that has been so extensively referenced and parodied could lose some of its impact, but The Exorcist remains stark and chilling in its account of Regan’s possession by the demon known as Pazuzu. It’s also an affecting examination of faith, exploring the different approaches of two priests who come together to help Regan.
Horror comedy Gremlins is part of the grand tradition of Christmas horror movies, but its story of mischievous critters wreaking havoc on an idyllic small town is perfect for Halloween, too. Director Joe Dante evokes old-fashioned monster movies in his depiction of the devious green creatures running amok in the fictional town of Kingston Falls. Gremlins mixes monster mayhem with sardonic humor, and it even captures a bit of the Christmas spirit, to send viewers from one holiday season into another.
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If people were skeptical about rock star Rob Zombie becoming a filmmaker, he easily proved himself with his debut feature House of 1000 Corpses. The movie synthesizes Zombie’s influences from grindhouse horror movies and classic hard rock, and it’s not surprising that it was developed while Zombie was putting together a haunted house attraction.
The title location is the home of a demented family who kidnap and torture a group of young people on a road trip. Zombie creates a gruesome, sleazy nightmare in the tradition of the disreputable movies he grew up watching.
A precursor of sorts to supernatural sitcoms like Bewitched, René Clair’s effervescent romantic comedy I Married a Witch stars Veronica Lake as a witch who falls in love with the descendant of a family she cursed centuries earlier. Lake brings a goofy yet sensual presence to the witch Jennifer, and Fredric March is her perfect match as smitten politician Wallace Wooley. The movie is full of amusing magical misunderstandings on the main characters’ road to romantic bliss.
A low-budget Roger Corman movie became a stage musical that then became the movie musical Little Shop of Horrors. All of them are about a sentient plant named Audrey that hungers for human blood. Nerdy Seymour (Rick Moranis) tries to placate the plant while wooing his human co-worker, also named Audrey (Ellen Greene). The songs are catchy, the animatronic plant is a marvel, and the story is dark and grotesque while also strangely heartwarming.
Still one of the most popular costumes on Halloween, Freddy Krueger has never been more terrifying than he is in Wes Craven’s original A Nightmare on Elm Street. Before becoming a quippy pop-culture icon, Freddy (played by Robert Englund) began as a lurking presence in the dreams of teenagers in the placid small town of Springwood, Ohio.
But when Freddy harms them in their dreams, they get hurt or even die in real life. Craven taps into primal fears for this horror classic, led by a fantastic performance from Heather Langenkamp as brave, determined teenager Nancy Thompson.
Filmmaker Robert Eggers proves that history was terrifying in The Witch. Yes, there’s a supernatural threat in the wilderness where a Puritan family moves after being banished from their 17th-century New England colony, but the harsh living conditions are harrowing enough on their own.
The family suffers from cold weather and lack of food, and they accuse eldest child Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) of being corrupted by evil forces. Eggers uses meticulously recreated period details to immerse the audience in the unforgiving environment, making the arrival of actual witchcraft even more unsettling.
Parents can scare their kids with Nicolas Roeg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel The Witches. Of the two film versions of Dahl’s book, Roeg’s 1990 take is superior, with a gloriously horrific performance from Anjelica Huston as the hideous leader of a secret society of witches. It’s the disturbing, darkly funny story of a young boy who is turned into a mouse as he attempts to stop the witches from eliminating every child in the world.
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