Can any TV series rival The Simpsons for the sheer number of Halloween episodes? Since Season 2, the series has given fans one new “Treehouse of Horror” anthology episode every single year. Early on, these stories were more directly horror-centric, but since then “Treehouse of Horror” has become something of a clearinghouse for stuff the writers can’t do during a “regular” episode. And we love it. Well, usually…
In honor of this Halloween tradition, we’ve ranked every single “Treehouse of Horror” episode so far, up through Season 33’s “Treehouse of Horror XXXII.” Some of them are good enough to rival the best episodes from the show’s golden years. Others… well, it’s hard to bat a thousand over almost three decades. Read on for our full list, and after you’re done, be sure to check out our recently updated Top 34 Simpsons Episodes list and see how the series will be spoofing Death Note in its latest Halloween episode.
33. “Treehouse of Horror XXII” (2011)
“The Diving Bell and the Butterball” is the single-worst “Treehouse of Horror” segment ever, and it’s not particularly close. It’s essentially one long, profoundly unfunny fart joke. The final segment is an Avatar parody that, like Avatar, has not aged well.
32. “Treehouse of Horror XXXII” (2021)
We’ll give this episode a slight bit of credit for trying to shake up the formula and tackle five segments instead of the usual three. But predictably, that only means this batch of horror spoofs feels even more rushed and underdeveloped than usual. The biggest disappointment here is “Bong Joon Ho’s ‘This Side of Parasite,'” which adds absolutely nothing to the satirical horror film it lampoons.
31. “Treehouse of Horror XXIV” (2013)
Guillermo del Toro was responsible for the opening sequence of this episode, but after that it’s really bland. None of the segments are good in the slightest. In particular, the second segment, “Dead and Shoulders,” involves Bart’s head being attached to Lisa’s body, which is a trope that has been handled seemingly dozens of times before, including in a previous “Treehouse of Horror” episode.
30. “Treehouse of Horror XXXI” (2020)
This episode is particularly frustrating in that it probably could have been a winner had the concepts been fleshed out more. “Toy Gory” is a deeply uninspired spoof of the Toy Story movies, and “Be Nine, Rewind” misses the mark with its time travel humor. This episode does at least have the somewhat amusing Marvel parody “Into the Homer-Verse,” but even that ultimately recycles a similar premise from the much more successful “Treehouse of Horror XIII.”
29. “Treehouse of Horror XXV” (2014)
“The Others” is a fun segment where the “ghosts” of the original Simpsons designs haunt the current Simpson family. It’s fun to hear Dan Castellaneta do his old Walter Matthau-esque Homer voice again. On the other hand, “School is Hell” is an example of an unfortunate trend that started to plague these episodes as things went on; super gory gross-out humor that is unsubtle and unpleasant. Call it a mixed bag.
28. “Treehouse of Horror XXVII” (2016)
This recent addition to the series is so unmemorable you may very well not recall a single segment. That means none of them are particularly good, but also none of them are particularly bad. It’s thoroughly mediocre. Also, this is the 600th episode, which feels unfortunate, but it did get us a semi-fun song tacked onto the end. You’d like such a significant milestone to be marked by something other than a bland collection of stories that includes an uninspired James Bond/Kingsman parody.
27. “Treehouse of Horror XXX” (2019)
The 30th Treehouse special also happens to be the show’s 666th episode, a fact that yields some comedic gold in the Omen-inspired intro sequence. Beyond that, however, there’s not much to write home about with this one, even as The Simpsons finally gets around to spoofing Netflix’s Stranger Things in “Danger Things.”
26. “Treehouse of Horror XXVI” (2015)
Sideshow Bob finally got to kill Bart. That’s amusing in concept, although the segment isn’t actually all that enjoyable. For such a “momentous” event, it didn’t really stick the landing. “Homerzilla” is no “King Homer,” but it’s decent enough. One imagines it can be hard to keep coming up with new “Treehouse of Horror” segments, but it’d be nice for the execution to be a bit higher than these more recent ones, nevertheless.
25. “Treehouse of Horror XXIX” (2018)
Like many of the more recent specials, Treehouse XXIX tries and mostly fails to do justice to the classic horror fare it spoofs. It’s particularly frustrating seeing the series struggle with classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Jurassic Park (though the latter got all the parody it ever needed way back in Season 6’s “Itchy & Scratchy Land”). But this episode does hit paydirt with a much more recent film, as “Multiplisa-ty” turns out to be a surprisingly entertaining riff on M. Night Shyamalan’s Split.
24. “Treehouse of Horror XVIII” (2007)
“Mr. & Mrs. Simpson” is a parody of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which has nothing to do with Halloween. However, it’s also the best segment in this episode, and a good, entertaining one overall. It’s certainly an argument in favor of “Treehouse of Horror” stepping out of the Halloween and horror world. That’s also true of the final segment “Heck House,” which is definitely spooky, but equally mundane. The opening segment is an E.T. parody that’s fine.
23. “Treehouse of Horror XX (2009)
The opening segment is really fun, especially if you like the idea of Frankenstein’s Monster dressing like SpongeBob. “Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind” is a solid zombie story, although not as good as “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies,” which we’ll talk about in a bit. The final segment is weird, because it’s quite meta. It’s basically the characters from the show putting on a parody of Sweeney Todd. However, that also makes it feel fresh, which is impressive 20 episodes in.
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22. “Treehouse of Horror XIII” (2002)
The clone story is funny, especially the dig at Family Guy they sneaked into it. On the other hand, “The Island of Dr. Hibbert” isn’t funny in the slightest, and is one of the worst “Treehouse of Horror” stories. The first two segments are carrying that one to make this a middle-of-the-road outing.
21. “Treehouse of Horror XXI” (2010)
This episode features an of-the-moment parody of Twilight, a very much not-of-the-moment parody of Dead Calm, and a — now, anyway — suddenly of-the-moment parody of Jumanji. They are all fine, although the Jumanji bit is surprisingly dark. That is if you consider the idea of two 10-year-olds being hanged dark.
20. “Treehouse of Horror XII” (2001)
There is a lot of potential in a Harry Potter parody, even in 2001 when that franchise was still mostly known in book form. But “Wiz Kids” only partially succeeds. Pierce Brosnan is fun as the voice of a killer house in “House of Whacks,” and the first segment is decent enough. This particular edition of “Treehouse of Horror” came at a time when popular opinion was starting to turn against The Simpsons, and also at a time when these Halloween episodes were airing in early November. Both of these things went against this episode, but time has revealed it as being an OK half-hour of TV.
19. “Treehouse of Horror XVII” (2006)
“The Day the Earth Looked Stupid,” a parody of the (alleged) panic stemming from Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” broadcast, has an interesting idea it doesn’t execute in ideal fashion. It does eventually turn into a satire of America’s invasion of Iraq, which you would think would date things, but… On the other hand, Richard Lewis voicing a neurotic golem is quite funny. Then Fran Drescher shows up and this Halloween episode gets rather Jewish (to its tremendous benefit).
18. “Treehouse of Horror XV” (2004)
“The Ned Zone” is really good, because it builds on Ned Flanders’ mild-mannered personality, and also his sometimes antagonistic relationship with Homer. When a story is a flight of fancy, it’s a lot easier to accept Homer being a complete jerk and doofus, and the stakes can be higher. Like, the destruction of Springfield through nuclear meltdown higher. The other two segments are pretty good, and we do get to hear Yeardley Smith put an English accent onto her Lisa voice.
17. “Treehouse of Horror XVI” (2005)
Here is a case where every single segment could be met with “Eh, I guess that was OK.” That makes for a decent episode of television, but also one that is somewhat difficult to discuss critically at length. At least The Simpsons got to take a shot at baseball in its opening sequence. At this time, the MLB playoffs were pushing “Treehouse of Horror” into November, which one imagines the folks on the show weren’t too happy about.
16. “Treehouse of Horror XXVIII” (2017)
This episode is easily among the best of the more recent Treehouse specials. That’s thanks in no small part to the fact that the series finally gets around to lampooning The Exorcist (with Maggie as the demonically possessed child, naturally). This episode also gets props for its visually ambitious tribute to Neil Gaiman’s Coraline in “Coralisa.”
15. “Treehouse of Horror XIV” (2003)
“Reaper Madness” is one of the top 10 “Treehouse of Horror” segments of all time. Maybe even top five. Homer becomes the Grim Reaper, and the story ends with Homer trying to outrun God on a motorcycle in a parody of action chases everywhere. It’s hilarious and a delight. On the other hand, the other two segments (including one with the late Jerry Lewis) aren’t up to that level. In fact, the final segment kind of blows. This ranking is almost entirely thanks to the excellent “Reaper Madness.”
14. “Treehouse of Horror” (1990)
Where it all started. At the time, this idea was fresh. The Simpsons stepping out of their real world and telling stories was remarkable. We were introduced to Kang and Kodos! This is definitely a noteworthy episode. It just isn’t quite as funny as other installments. Hey, it was a new idea. They had some kinks to work out. It may have been cool to hear James Earl Jones recite “The Raven” on The Simpsons, but is anybody going to try and argue that segment is funny at all?
13. “Treehouse of Horror X” (1999)
A parody of I Know What You Did Last Summer. A story built around Xena: The Warrior Princess. A segment all about Y2K. Yes, this “Treehouse of Horror” is very much of its time. That being said, all these bits are at least pretty good. It has some memorable lines, and features a funny appearance from Tom Arnold. This episode will remind you of the importance of putting your fog lights in, and also maybe make you crave some Sugar Crisp.
12. “Treehouse of Horror II” (1991)
Since the idea of “Treehouse of Horror” was still fresh, The Simpsons decided to put these fantastical stories into context. As such, here Homer, Bart, and Lisa all eat too much candy and then have sugar-induced nightmares. The stories are all strongly geared towards the horror and Halloween theme, which is nice, and the twist at the end of Bart’s story (he awakes in horror because he has a tender moment with Homer) is clever.
11. “Treehouse of Horror IX” (1998)
“Hell Toupee” and “The Terror of Tiny Toon” are both good segments. The latter is particularly strong, because Bart and Lisa are sucked into the television, which leads to a lot of fun stuff, including interactions with a live-action Regis and Kathy Lee. The last segment, though, wherein we find out Maggie is an alien and the family goes on Jerry Springer, is a little lackluster. The overall episode is good, though. That’s why it’s in the top 10.
10. “Treehouse of Horror XIX” (2008)
For a later “Treehouse of Horror,” this edition is particularly amusing. There is a funny segment where Homer kills celebrities so that their images can be used in ads without their consent. Alas, two of the people he killed are the now actually dead Prince and Neil Armstrong (watch your back, George Clooney). However, the final segment, a violent parody of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” is the highlight. It’s a pitch-perfect spoof, but also funny and clever beyond that.
9. “Treehouse of Horror XI” (2000)
None of these three stories are iconic standouts, but they are all good. The opening sequence, a Munsters parody, is also cool, at least if you remember The Munsters. Homer as a ghost is entertaining, and so is the tale of dolphins rising from the oceans to overtake humanity. Additionally, a Hansel and Gretel parody includes a great twist on the old gag of somebody making up a fake name based on something they see in the room. This feels like one of the first instances of that twist, perhaps the very first.
8. “Halloween of Horror” (2015)
Maybe this episode is more of an honorable mention, since it’s not technically part of the Treehouse series. But considering that it’s also one of the best Halloween-themed Simpsons episode of the 21st Century, it really deserves a place here. “Halloween of Horror” bucks the anthology format for a single, more straightforward story about Homer trying to help a badly spooked Lisa learn how to enjoy the holiday again. It’s a surprisingly heartfelt celebration of their father/daughter bond.
7. “Treehouse of Horror III” (1992)
For all the talk of “Treehouse of Horror” getting away from horror stuff in recent years, that trend really started almost as soon these specials became a thing. The third edition of the series features a (decent enough) parody of King Kong. The other two segments are horror-centric, and also better, including “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies,” which allows Homer to finally shoot Flanders. The evil Krusty doll story is particularly good, and features Homer’s iconic “That’s good/That’s bad” conversation with a mysterious shopkeeper.
6. “Treehouse of Horror XXIII” (2012)
This special proves there’s still gold to be found even with the more recent seasons. The middle segment, a Paranormal Activity spoof, is decent, and probably necessary. They couldn’t avoid doing a found footage horror parody around this time. Meanwhile, the other two segments are really good, especially for being from the 23rd edition. The first one isn’t really a parody. It’s just a smart, amusing story about a black hole. Then there is “Bart and Homer’s Excellent Adventure,” which is one of the best segments ever. There’s time travel, Artie Ziff, and “The United Federation of Homers Through History.”
5. “Treehouse of Horror VIII” (1997)
The top five really take things to another level. “Fly vs. Fly” is great. It features the hilarious line, “The pants are a dead giveaway.” Sure, without context that may not be funny, but in context it’s great. Watch the episode. It’s wall-to-wall wonderful. Homer as the (seemingly) last man on Earth is also a joy. Even “Easy Bake Coven,” which isn’t quite as good as the other two segments, is memorable and as satisfying as a caramel cod.
4. “Treehouse of Horror IV” (1993)
“The Devil and Homer Simpson” is definitely memorable. After all, Homer sells his soul for a donut. It may not be side-splittingly funny (or groin-grabbingly transcendent), but the execution is still a lot of fun. That being said, “Terror at 5 ½ Feet” and “Bart Simpson’s Dracula” are both really strong. Plus, there are the wraparounds, which were written by Conan O’Brien. Need you be reminded of the most horrifying painting of all? The one of the dogs playing poker? Of course you don’t, because it’s iconic (and hilarious).
3. “Treehouse of Horror V” (1994)
All of these episodes are great, and feature iconic “Treehouse of Horror” segments. This is the episode where Groundskeeper Willie gets an axe in the back in all three stories. There’s the one where the adults of Springfield Elementary kill and eat all the children. Homer building a time machine out of a toaster and experiencing the perils of the butterfly effect is super funny. Then, of course, we can’t forget “The Shinning.” No TV and no beer make Homer something something…
2. “Treehouse of Horror VI (1995)
All three of these segments are impeccable. You can try and quibble with them, but your quibbles are faulty. Lard Lad coming to life to get his donut back? Awesome. Groundskeeper Willie as Freddy Krueger in the segment that gave us the quote “Lousy Smarch Weather?” Fantastic. Homer in 3D? Super cool and incredibly fun, even before he enters the real world (and then enters an erotic cake store). This isn’t just a great “Treehouse of Horror.” It’s one of the very best Simpsons episodes period. And yet, it isn’t quite the best “Treehouse of Horror” of the bunch.
1. “Treehouse of Horror VII” (1996)
That’s because of this episode. “The Thing and I,” with Bart’s long-lost twin Hugo, is really good. So is “The Genesis Tub.” However, if we are all being honest, this is mostly about “Citizen Kang.” “Citizen Kang” is the best “Treehouse of Horror” segment, hands down. It’s brilliant. It’s one of the most iconic bits of Simpsons history, period. From beginning to end, it’s hilarious and full of memorable moments and lines. “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos” is one of the quintessential Simpsons lines. Thanks to the power of “Citizen Kang” this is the best of all the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes. Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others!
What’s your favorite “Treehouse of Horror” episode? Let’s discuss in the comments…
Chris Morgan is the author of The Ash Heap of History and The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Wisely or not, he’s also on Twitter.
https://www.ign.com/articles/the-simpsons-halloween-episodes-ranking-every-treehouse-of-horror-special The Simpsons Halloween Episodes: Ranking Every ‘Treehouse of Horror’ Special