Ever since The Simpsons first burst onto our screens, it has captured the world as we all tune in each and every week to see the antics of Homer and his family. The Simpsons first started as a series of sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show, but the sketches took off and in 1989, The Simpsons got its first full season. Since then it has become the longest running American sitcom as well as the longest running animation show on television. With season 28 soon upon us, The Simpsons is as popular and loved today as it has always been and that never looks likely to stop.
Not only has The Simpsons become a landmark show, it has also made its own traditions and specials which have become legendary in their own right. One of those is their Halloween special. Although many shows have specials for the holiday season, The Simpsons has gone one further than those and branded their own specials as the Treehouse of Horror series.
Many will argue that these Halloween specials have become the highlight of the season. So with that in mind, we look at the best Treehouse of Horror episodes and rank the 15 best.
15. Treehouse of Horror I
We start our list with the very first Treehouse of Horror episode. The episode starts with Lisa and Bart sitting in his treehouse and trying to scare each other with spooky stories, unaware that Homer is outside listening and is in fact the only one who gets scarred.
The three segments in this episode are simple and fun, and the reason we all fell in love with these specials in the first place. “Bad Dream House” tells the story of a possessed house that does everything it can in order to scare the Simpsons into leaving; including the traditional bleeding walls and even getting them to turn on each other. But the Simpsons don’t leave and the house destroys itself rather than having to live with them.
The other notable segment is a re-telling of the classic Edgar Allen Poe poem “The Raven.” With the help of James Earl Jones, and Bart as The Raven, it was a great move to mix classic literature with a Simpsons twist.
14. Treehouse of Horror XIII
The first segment in this episode must be the worst nightmare for the residents of Springfield as they are over run with loads of Homers. After buying a cursed hammock, Homer discovers that he can clone himself. So he puts it to good use and makes his clones do all the things he can’t be bothered to do. But soon there are too many of them and Homer sets them loose only to have them multiply and start to take over the country. Soon the army has to get ride of them, and how can they do that? By having a large donut fly over a cliff and letting the Homers follow (with the original Homer leading the pack).
The next two segments see the return of Billy the Kid as he takes over the town; the town has just passed a law to get rid of guns by the way. This segment is the weakest in the episode by a long way. Lastly, the Simpsons are treated to a free trip to the mysterious Island of Lost Souls. Run by Dr. Hibbert, the island is actually a front for him to experiment on humans and splice them with animals. Homer is appalled at first, until he learns the advantages of being an animal and the lazy lifestyle he can have.
13. Treehouse of Horror XIV
Treehouse of Horror XIV starts with an unusual parody and reference to The Simpsons’ rival, Family Guy. This time, instead of Peter Griffin taking the role of the Grimm Reaper, it’s left up to Homer. After Death comes to collect Bart’s soul, Homer kills Death instead. Suddenly having a world without death isn’t right, so Homer takes up the mantle and goes to work collecting souls.
The second segment isn’t the best or most memorable. In another parody of Frankenstein, Professor Frink brings back his dead father, who then goes on a rampage harvesting people’s organs and body parts.
This segment however, is by far the best of the bunch and is the reason that this episode is on the list. While the first two are forgettable, this segment is pure fun. When Bart and Milhouse get their hands on a magic watch, they mange to stop time. The first thing they do with this power is set up some serious pranks. Pure mischievous fun.
12. Treehouse of Horror XVI
We open up on this episode with Kang and Kodos destroying the universe. After watching a baseball game, they try to speed it up as it seems boring to them. In doing so, they destroy existence and just leave a note.
The first segment is a parody of the movie A.I. When Bart tries to jump into the swimming pool from the hotel window, he misses and ends up in a coma. With Bart gone, the Simpsons replace him with a robot child. But when Bart wakes from his coma, he seeks revenge on the robot boy. The last segment seems a bit lazy as the residents of Springfield dress in their favorite costumes only to be turned into them for real by a witch.
However, sandwiched in between these two is a great little segment packed full of social comments. When Homer and the other male residents of Springfield are invited to Mr. Burns’ house, they are unaware that it is in fact a trick and he plans to hunt them. After Mr. Burns’ killing spree, it’s Homer who is left alive after being saved by his wife, as he often is.
11. Treehouse of Horror XV
While Treehouse of Horror XV doesn’t stick to its Halloween theme, it’s still full of three decent segments that work together well. The first being a parody of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. When Ned Flanders has an accident, he suddenly has the power to see people’s futures when he touches them. But when he touches Homer, Flanders sees the end of the world and the only way to stop Homer is to shoot him.
The other two segments are parodies of Jack the Ripper and Fantastic Voyage, respectively. When London is terrorized by a serial killer, it’s left up to brilliant detective Eliza Simpson to solve the case and bring the murderer to justice. Then we have a science expo in which Maggie becomes miniaturized and ends up inside Mr. Burns. The Simpsons must follow to save her and shrink down to enter Mr. Burns. Once they find Maggie, they can’t come back as they’re too heavy, so Homer is left behind. Homer then grows back to his full size and has to share a body with Mr Burns.
10. Treehouse of Horror VII
Treehouse of Horror VII is a bit hit and miss in comparison to other episodes. The best segment in this episode is also one of the best segments of them all. “The Thing and I” tells the story of Bart’s conjoined twin that has been locked in the attic and is only fed fish heads. That is until he breaks out and tries to stitch Bart back to himself. As it turns out, Bart was the evil twin all along and is forced to spend the rest of his days in the attic while Hugo takes his place in the family.
The other two segments do feel a little bit like filler segments and are easily forgettable. As Lisa prepares for her science fair, she accidentally creates life in a tub of mold. Lisa soon finds herself as a God to a miniature life form. Unfortunately for her, she ends up being trapped in her own creation and forced to live in her tub.
The last segment is all about the then up and coming election between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. When Kang and Kodos invade, they want to be taken to Earth’s leaders. They kidnap Dole and Clinton and take their place as they prepare to take over the world. Homer tries to save the day but ends up making it easier by ejecting Clinton and Dole into space.
9. Treehouse of Horror VI
An episode that’s full of parodies of classic stories. The first segment takes its inspiration from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, in which adverts and mascots come to life to attack the town. Everyone has Homer to thank for this. The only way to destroy the giant adverts is to ignore them and hope they go away.
The next segment and the gem of this episode, is a parody of A Nightmare on Elm Street. This time it’s Willie as the bad guy and attacking the children of Springfield in their sleep. All because he was made to wait while he was on fire! The parents and teachers had more important things to talk about, like the repetition of school meals, rather than Willie’s impending death. So he vows to take his revenge on the children.
Lastly we get another treat form the Twilight Zone box. This time Homer is sucked into the 3rd dimension, which ends with Homer landing in our world. The idea and the special effects are good in this segment, although the story is a bit on the thin side.
8. Treehouse of Horror II
Many people say that the earlier episodes are better because they focus more on a theme. Whether it’s telling spooky stories or, in the case of Treehouse of Horror II, having bad dreams. At the start of the episode Marge warns them all that eating too much candy will give them nightmares. Obviously they don’t listen, so each segment is one of their nightmares.
We start with Lisa’s dream and the tale of The Monkey’s Paw. The story maybe a little obvious and predictable as it tells the dangers of wishes, but it’s still fun nonetheless and sets us up nicely for Bart’s dream, a take on the Twilight Zone. Bart finds himself with incredible powers, such as the ability to warp reality, which leaves the residents of Springfield in a state of fear as Bart can make them do anything he wants, including turning Homer into a Jack in the Box.
Then comes Homer’s dream and a take on the Frankenstein story. Mr. Burns needs a brain for his robot and takes Homer’s. Unfortunately this backfires on Mr. Burns and his robot crushes his body. Homer wakes from his dream to find the head of Mr. Burns sewn onto his body.
7. Treehouse of Horror X
Treehouse of Horror X was the last Halloween special that aired on Halloween. All the ones that followed aired in November, which is why many of the later episodes were more about telling different stories rather than focusing on the Halloween theme.
Starting with a parody of slasher movies such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream, The Simpsons end up running over a man in the middle of the night. Only the man isn’t dead and comes back to torment them. Spoiler alert! The man was Flanders.
The next segment is one of the fun stories rather than a Halloween tale. Bart and Lisa gain super powers and must stop Comic Book Guy as the Collector. They do this with a little help from Xena.
The episode ends with a Y2K tale, as this episode was aired in 1999, when Y2K was a real worry for some people. In this tale Homer doesn’t do his job and the computers rebel, causing the end of the world. However, there is hope as a rocket is set for Mars. But taking only the best and brightest, Homer and Bart are left behind and sneak onto another rocket. Unfortunately this rocket is destined for the Sun as it has all the worst people on it.
6. Treehouse of Horror IX
A great couch gag starts off this episode beginning with the traditional Simpsons opening, only this time no one makes it home. Bart trips over while skateboarding, Lisa gets catapulted onto the roof and Homer gets run down by Marge. All the while Jason and Freddie Krueger are waiting on the couch for their victims.
When jailbird Snake is arrested and executed, Homer’s dreams come true as a donor becomes available for a hair transplant. Unaware by Homer, Snake’s dying words were to exact revenge on those who wronged him. This includes Bart. So with Homer’s new hair channeling the spirit of Snake, Homer goes about killing those Snake vowed to. That segment is probably the best of the three, but the others round off the episode nicely.
This includes Bart’s improved remote control, made with some Plutonium lying around. It transports Lisa and Bart into the TV to fight off Itchy and Scratchy. Then we discover that Maggie is the child of an alien. Who can sort out this kind of family madness? Jerry Springer of course. With each segment hitting the right spot, Treehouse of Horror IX is one of the best.
5. Treehouse of Horror III
This episode starts with all the kids in Springfield dressed in their favorite costumes telling scary stories. It’s possibly one of the few Treehouse of Horror episodes that sticks solely to the Halloween theme. With each segment perfectly written to amuse, and above all, scare us.
While the “King Homer” segment isn’t the best parody The Simpsons has done, it’s still an entertaining watch. However, the other two in this episode more than make up for it. “Clown Without Pity” takes the tradition evil doll story and puts a Simpsons twist to it. When Bart receives a Krusty doll for his birthday, the doll comes to life and tries to kill Homer. The other segment is a great take on the zombie genre. After Bart finds a book of black magic, he convinces Lisa to raise their dead cat, Snowball I. However, the spell goes wrong and all the dead humans come back to life instead. After barricading themselves in their house, Homer sacrifices himself for his family. Only his lack of brains turns the zombies off. A classic Simpsons tale.
4. Treehouse of Horror V
Out of all the parodies that The Simpsons, and in particular The Treehouse of Horror series have done, “The Shinning” is one of the best. When Mr. Burns goes away and leaves Homer and his family to look after his place, he cuts the cable TV and empties the place of beer. This of course makes Homer go crazy and he tries to kill his family. With Willie as the hero, he tries to save them but ends up with an axe in his back for his troubles. Willie also takes an axe to the back in every segment in this episode.
The next two segments aren’t quite as good. When the toaster breaks, Homer fixes it and somehow he can now travel through time, which results in one possible reality in which Flanders is lord and master of the whole world and lobotomizes the population. The other segment involves the teachers of Springfield dealing with the overcrowded detention class by eating the children. These segments are good and in fact better than some of the earlier ones, but this episode is all about “The Shinning” which is a classic in the Simpsons world.
3. Treehouse of Horror VIII
This episode starts with a jab at the TV censorship as the censor for Fox is stabbed to death. This sets the tone of comic violence and gore for this episode.
The segments start with Homer being the last man left alive after France destroys Springfield. He has the whole town to himself and can do whatever he wants, including rocking out naked in the church! Homer soon discovers that he’s not alone and flesh eating mutants now inhabit the town.
Next is a great parody of the movie The Fly. After The Simpsons get their hands on a two teleporting pods, from a yard sale of all places, Bart then uses it and swaps his head with a fly. This sends Homer into a murderous rage as Bart dared to touch his “doohickey.”
Then we have “Easy Bake Coven,” A clever and funny take on the birth of Halloween. With Marge and her sisters as witches, they terrorize the town and eat the children. That is until they are offered something sweet instead and thus begins the tradition of candy and Halloween.
2. Treehouse of Horror IV
Using the classic themes of Halloween such as the Devil, vampires and goblins, Treehouse of Horror IV has to go down as a classic in the Halloween genre.
Starting with “The Devil and Homer Simpson,” Homer sells his soul to the Devil, and what could he possibly want more than his soul? A donut of course. However, Homer doesn’t finish the donut and therefore thinks he’s outsmarted Satan. That is until Homer becomes hungry in the middle of the night, eats the forbidden donut and is damned for it.
The episode also has two re-tellings of classic stories. Firstly, it’s one of the most popular Twilight Zone episodes, with Bart stuck on the school bus as a goblin tries to destroy it and no one believes him. Then comes Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Mr. Burns as the blood sucking vampire who turns Bart. Bart then tries to turn Lisa by knocking on her window in the middle of the night. A great reference to The Lost Boys as Bart crashes through the window to get to Lisa.
1. Treehouse of Horror XXII
The number one Treehouse of Horror episode on our list is Treehouse of Horror XXII. Many may feel that the newer episodes aren’t as good and fall more on the side of silly and even lazy, rather than scary or witty. A lot of the later episodes are like that, however this episode has one of the best segments out of any of the Treehouses of Horror.
The two other segments aren’t that great. With Homer pretending to be God, he convinces Flanders to kill all the people he doesn’t like. The other is a parody of Avatar in which Bart tries to infiltrate an alien’s home world in order to strip it of its natural resources.
However, it’s the segment “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” that saves this episode. When Homer is bitten by a spider, he becomes paralyzed and can only communicate via flatulence. Homer then gets bitten a second time and gains the powers of Spider-Man, only the web is shot from his butt. Catching criminals with butt web is comedy gold. This segment is The Simpsons at its funniest and even the most stone hearted people will be rolling with laughter at this one.