Rank and File

Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

on October 26, 2017, 12:00am

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly three decades since Marge first stepped out from behind that curtain to warn viewers about the spooky scenes they were about to witness. But that warning started a proud, hilarious tradition for The Simpsons, and 28 seasons later, the show has offered a triple-dose of tales to fright and delight featuring Our Favorite Family each and every year. The Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials allow The Simpsons to spoof classic movies, indulge in a little blood and guts, and have some macabre fun in a non-canon setting. With that in mind, we found the courage to watch and rank each and every one of these scary stories, and we hope you can handle it. Otherwise, you may be stuck watching 200 Miles to Oregon.


27. Treehouse of Horror XXII

Season 23, Episode Three

treehouse of horror xxii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 30, 2011

Best Line: “I take your sugary sweets and give you healthy items…” –Marge “This is exactly why kids need a union.” –Bart

After rallying for a genuinely great 20th edition of their annual Halloween frightfest, The Simpsons entered into a steep autumn stall that wound up being scary for all the wrong reasons. The show’s Treehouse of Horror series hit its nadir in 2009 with this dog of an episode that’s already stale enough to feel twice as old as it actually is. There’s something to hate in just about every segment (including the dull two-years-too-late Avatar bit and a Dexter-inspired Flanders story that wastes a good premise on a predictable Dumb Homer payoff that’s shockingly similar to the one feature in “Treehouse of Horror XV”‘s “The Ned Zone”), but the worst offender is the first. Building an entire segment around crummy fart jokes is one thing, but “The Diving Bell and Butterball” doesn’t even have the decency to stay focused on its own bad idea. Instead, it swerves into a half-baked Spider-Man send-up, completing a trifecta of worn-out parodies that sink far, far below the standards set by its source material. –Tyler Clark


26. Treehouse of Horror XXVI

Season 27, Episode Five

treehouse of horror xxvi Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 25, 2015

Best Line: “Just ‘cause it looks like Season 4 doesn’t make it Season 4.” Preach, Kang.

It’s a shame when the best thing an episode has to offer is a two-minute intro created by a guest contributor, but for this installment, you can probably change the channel after John Kricfalusi’s characteristically loopy, spooky prelude. What’s unfortunate about this episode is that all three segments feature solid premises done in a less-than-inspired fashion. “What if Sideshow Bob finally killed Bart?” is a fun idea that could only be explored in the “what if?” confines of a Simpsons Halloween special, but it gets bogged down in meta gags and quickly spins out. The Godzilla parody starts out as a charming companion to “King Homer”, but then devolves into a toothless riff on Hollywood’s reboot-happy corporate culture. And a Chronicle spoof is a natural fit for the Simpson kids, with the found-footage style allowing for some unique animation choices, but it’s just too rushed to leave any impact. –Andrew Bloom


25. Treehouse of Horror XXI

Season 22, Episode Four

treehouse of horror xxi Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 7, 2010

Best Line: “Aww, I’m always the thimble.” – Milhouse

In recent years, The Simpsons’ writers have come to heavily rely on whatever the moment’s most popular franchises might be. In “Treehouse of Horror XXI”, the bottom of the barrel is repeatedly scraped for a trio of segments inspired by Twilight, the 1989 Australian thriller Dead Calm, and yes, the fictional board game Jumanji. While “Tweenlight” at least does a bit of clever genre swapping by using the voice of Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe as vampire hunk Edmund, it’s hard to spoof something that is itself a joke. Likewise, “Master and Cadaver” misses a chance to go full House M.D. in a story featuring the voice of Hugh Laurie. There’s some enjoyable nostalgia at seeing childhood board games come to life and wreak havoc, but it’s not enough to make “War and Pieces” a worthy successor to its much better precursor, “Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores” from “Treehouse of Horror VI”. –Zack Ruskin


24. Treehouse of Horror XIX

Season 20, Episode Four

treehouse of horror xix Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 2, 2008

Best Line: “After you, Mr. Pennyface.” –Homer

Once more a two-minute opener, this time lightly riffing on the 2008 election, proves to be the most amusing part of a half-decent-at-best Treehouse of Horror installment. Homer’s ill-fated attempt to vote for Obama (and warn “President McCain”) brings the laughs before the episode starts in earnest. A Transformers parody kicks the trilogy off, and it’s a story with no middle and no real take on the source material beyond some easy gags. The middle act imagines Homer as a celebrity assassin for an ad agency, with the denizens of “Celebrity Heaven” returning to this mortal coil for some payback. Sadly, it’s mostly an excuse to trot out impressions and one-note jokes. But the best segment is the last one, which can coast on the stylistic trappings of borrowing from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and its Guaraldi-backed charms, as “The Grand Pumpkin” seeks revenge on humans for their gourd-gutting ways. –Andrew Bloom

23. Treehouse of Horror XXIII

Season 24, Episode Two

treehouse of horror xxiii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 7, 2012

Best Line: “Oh sweetie, sometimes a mysterious invisible being from hell waits for a family to go to sleep and kills them. Now go to bed.” –Homer

While “Treehouse of Horror XXIII” takes on both Back to the Future and Paranormal Activity, it is actually a segment involving a rogue black hole that is easily the best of the bunch. “The Greatest Story Ever Holed” features Lisa stashing a black hole created from Springfield’s Subatomic Supercollider in her basement after it starts sucking up everything in its sight. Little does she know that Homer has agreed to let the entire town throw their trash into the galactic anomaly, which of course becomes unstable and devours Springfield. Another highlight is the ending of “Unnormal Activity,” which finds Homer engaging in three-way with two devils that almost at once scream the safe word (which of course, is “cinnamon”). “Bart & Homer’s Excellent Adventure” is mostly a miss but does feature Marge confusing Caveman Homer for Renaissance Homer, and a room full of Homers nominating Egyptian Slave Homer to take out the garbage. –Zack Ruskin


22. Treehouse of Horror XV

Season 16, Episode One

treehouse of horror xv Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 7, 2004

Best Line: “You may examine my curios, but do not touch my oddities. Use your judgment with my gewgaws.” –Comic Book Guy

I’m a known sucker for any story that places the Simpsons gang in a historical or mythological setting, so “Four Beheadings and a Funeral” is tailor-made to my own weird proclivities. It’s also the highlight of this episode; whether it’s Homer using opium addicts as projectile weapons or Comic Book Guy chewing up his scene as a weirdo oddities merchant, the middle segment of “Treehouse of Horror XV” achieves that quality combination of inventive irreverence and faithfulness to the source material. Aside from zhooshing up Arthur Conan Doyle, this episode doesn’t have a lot to offer; both “The Ned Zone” and “In the Belly of the Boss” tread oft-trod fantastical landscape (in this case, the Cronenberg/Walken freak-out The Dead Zone and vintage sc-fi adventure Fantastic Voyage, respectively), but never quite add enough of The Simpsons‘ unique perspective to make these settings their own. Ultimately, they wind up as by-the-numbers retellings of stories we all know, which isn’t necessarily bad, but also isn’t necessarily interesting. –Tyler Clark


21. Treehouse of Horror XXIV

Season 25, Episode Two

treehouse of horror xxiv Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 6, 2013

Best Line: “Now hop on my cycle, there’s nothing to fear. And we shall have candy…and maybe some beer.” –Homer

The best thing “Treehouse of Horror XXIV” has to offer is its extended couch gag created by horror virtuoso Guillermo del Toro. Featuring a Simpsonized take on a variety of del Toro’s own films and dozens of other scary classics, it’s a perfect blend of styles and tribute to all things macabre. The first full segment is a grab bag of enjoyable Seussian doggerel, less a story than a loose collection of riffs on the children’s book classics in a Halloween guise. The second sees Bart’s head sewn onto Lisa’s body, with a series of weak jokes spinning off that solid promise. And the last and best segment is a takeoff on the movie Freaks, centered on a love triangle between Strongman Homer, Acrobat Marge, and Freakshow (i.e. normal) Moe, which earns points for its sepia-toned style and fidelity to the 1930s original. –Andrew Bloom


20. Treehouse of Horror XVIII

Season 19, Episode Five

treehouse of horror xviii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 4, 2007

Best Line: “You just can’t get Russian gangster blood out. Must be something they eat.” –Marge

In one of the more memorable openings for the latter Treehouse of Horror installments, The Simpsons riffs on the obnoxious advent of TV ads that appear from the corners of the screen. In this case, Marge grabs tiny versions of characters from shows like 24 and American Idol and bakes them into bread. “E.T. Go Home” brings frequent Treehouse of Horror cameo character Kodos into a more substantial role but offers few real laughs. “Mr. & Mrs. Simpson” is another of the moment parody for the series that has failed to age well. However, “Heck House”—a spoof of Seven that returns friendly Christian Ned Flanders to his rightful place as Lord Satan—is definitely a winner. We even get yet another Groundskeeper Willie death, this time via tractor decapitation. –Zack Ruskin

19. Treehouse of Horror XVII

Season 18, Episode Four

treehouse of horror xvii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: November 5, 2006

Best Line: “That’s what we call Jewish humor. You don’t have to understand it ’cause the words sound funny. Meshuggeneh! Hilarious!” –Golem

The Simpsons rarely courts controversy in its later years, but this episode caused a stir when the ending to its third segment — an amusing War of the Worlds parody — leaked. The story features Kang and Kodos invading after Orson Welles’ (Maurice LaMarche, reprising his impression from Ed Wood) radio hoax lulls Springfield into complacency. The leaked ending showed Springfield in ruins, featuring heavily-underlined parallels to the Second Gulf War and a closing line, “This sure is a lot like Iraq will be,” that was cut from the final broadcast. The other two segments are gentler and sillier. The first sees Homer eating a “space marshmallow” and turning into a voracious, cannibalistic blob who gets down to his own Sir Mix-a-Lot jam. And the second features Bart commandeering a golem voiced by Richard Lewis, giving the show plenty of opportunities to sprinkle in a little mayhem and riff on Yiddish lore. –Andrew Bloom


18. Treehouse of Horror IX

Season 10, Episode Four

treehouse of horror ix Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 25, 1998

Best Line: “I got a question for that gross thing, whatever it is.” –Audience Member “Homer?” –Jerry Springer “Nah, the green dude.” –Audience Member

The ’90s were pretty ugly, so it’s fitting that the final Treehouse of Horror from that decade showcases some of 1999’s least appetizing cultural artifacts. Some of these references, such as Snake’s three-strikes-induced execution in “Hell Toupée”, actually move the plot in a direction that’s both scary and satirical. Others, such as that segment’s reality TV nods and the extended Jerry Springer digression in “Starship Poopers”, only serve to remind us what a trashy drag that cultural moment could be. Also, I still haven’t forgiven the wasted opportunity of “The Terror of Tiny Toon”; you have a golden chance to send Bart and Lisa through a Stay Tuned-level TV hellscape, and the best you can do is a paltry bit with Regis and Kathie Lee? C’mon, gang. At least the Itchy and Scratchy bits landed, I guess. –Tyler Clark


17. Treehouse of Horror XXVII

Season 28, Episode Four

treehouse of horror xxvii Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 16, 2016

Best Line: “Man, who’d have thought a funeral for a couple of kids would be such a downer?” –Homer

“Treehouse of Horror XXVII” gets underway with a nod to the dystopian Hunger Games franchise. “Dry Hard” has Mr. Burns stepping in as the ruler of a post-apocalyptic Springfield where children must battle for a chance to win a day of fun at his private reservoir. Naturally, Ralph dies before the battle begins. “BFF R.I.P.” finds Lisa’s former imaginary friend Rachel murdering her childhood acquaintances (it’s hard to believe Lisa would really consider Sherri and Terri friends). The highlight comes when Rachel must deal with Homer’s own imaginary friend, Sargent Sausage. The James Bond parody “Moefinger”, rounds out the fairly unmemorable trio. Notable as the 600th episode of the show, “Treehouse of Horror XXVII” also brings back Frank Grimes (or “Grimey” as he liked to be known) in ghost form, who informs the Simpson family that, in hell, everyone is forced to watch all 600 episodes in a row. –Zack Ruskin


16. Treehouse of Horror X

Season 11, Episode Four

treehouse of horror x Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 31, 1999

Best Line: “Okay, Marge, you hide in the abandoned amusement park. Lisa, the pet cemetery. Bart, spooky roller disco. And I’ll go skinny-dipping in that lake where the sexy teens were killed a hundred years ago tonight.” –Homer

“Whenever you notice something like that…a wizard did it.” Even if there were nothing else to champion from “Treehouse of Horror X”, that immortal dismissal of nerd nitpickery would still make this one worthwhile on its own. Thankfully, Bart, Lisa, and Lucy Lawless deliver plenty more comedy in their wild and wacky Superfriends parody. The tale of Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl is rife with amusing geek gags, and is the rare middle segment that proves to be the strongest of the bunch. The episode’s first story is an I Know What You Did Last Summer spoof, which brings some quality gallows humor when Marge accidentally runs over Ned Flanders. But the segment goes off the rails a bit after the reveal. And the final story is a dated, Y2K-inspired disaster romp that trades in a decent if too-quickly-escalating premise for a bevy of weak celebrity jabs. –Andrew Bloom


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