Rank and File

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

on October 26, 2017, 12:00am

15. Treehouse of Horror XXV

Season 26, Episode Four

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

Premiere Date: October 19, 2014

Best Line: “The bed is lifting me! The elevator at work can’t even do that!” –Homer

It seems like the only reliable predictor for the quality of latter-day Treehouse of Horror episodes is whether or not the show is approaching a milestone anniversary. While not as good as the surprisingly excellent 20th edition, “Treehouse of Horror XXV” still stacks up better than most of its contemporaries. “School Is Hell” leverages an original concept into ghoulishly fun character designs and genuinely clever jokes; “A Clockwork Yellow” strikes the right balance of homage and goof in its take on the Kubrick classic; and “The Others” takes a potentially limp plot idea (Evergreen Terrace is haunted…) and injects it with a dose of unexpectedly effective meta-humor (…by the ghosts of the Simpsons from The Tracey Ullman Show!) As anniversary content goes, it’s a fitting victory lap. As a Halloween episode, it ain’t too shabby, either. (Plus, I’ll take all the guest spots from Dr. Marvin Monroe that I can get.) –Tyler Clark


14. Treehouse of Horror XI

Season 12, Episode One

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

Premiere Date: November 1, 2000

Best Line: “Hmm, Bottlenose bruises. Blowhole burns. Flipper prints. This looks like the work of rowdy teens. Lou, cancel the prom.” –Chief Wiggum

Ah yes, the one with the dolphins. Believe it or not, “Night of the Dolphin” is actually based on a 1973 George C. Scott film that’s even more insane than this Simpsons parody that also borrows from Free Willy and The Birds. The concept is classic Simpsons, as Lisa’s attempt to do right by Snorky by releasing him from captivity immediately backfires. Also featured in “Treehouse of Horror XI” is “Ghost Dad”, where Homer’s horoscope informs him he will die today (and receive a compliment from someone at work). Broccoli is the culprit, which Dr. Hibbert explains is “the deadliest plant on Earth—why it even tries to you itself with its terrible taste!” Fairy tales galore populate “Scary Tales Can Come True” and recalls the tragic incident involving Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo (“The Last Temptation of Homer”) with Suzanne the Witch’s suspiciously named boyfriend George Cauldron. –Zack Ruskin


13. Treehouse of Horror XIII

Season 14, Episode One

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

Premiere Date: November 3, 2002

Best Line: “Then after World War II, it got kind of quiet till Superman challenged FDR to a race around the world. FDR beat him by a furlong. Or so the comic books would have you believe. The truth lies somewhere in between.” –Grampa

One Homer is plenty. That’s the lesson of “Treehouse of Horror XIII” and its opening tale, which sees Homer buying a magic hammock that lets him duplicate himself to epidemic proportions. The steady escalation of the clone escapades, enjoyable jabs at Family Guy and The Simpsons’ earlier years, and a Twilight Zone-style twist make it a winner. The middle segment is a confused story about Billy the Kid and his zombie cowboy cohorts coming back to take over Springfield after Lisa’s campaign to rid the town of guns. It lacks a real perspective despite its gun-control focus. And the final segment, an Isle of Dr. Moreau spoof, is mainly an excuse to reskin Springfield’s residents in animalistic splendor, but the exercise is a fun one, and the zoological jokes land. Sadly there’s no spooky credits in this one, but it does feature the return of a ghoulish Maude. –Andrew Bloom


12. Treehouse of Horror XVI

Season 17, Episode Four

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

Premiere Date: November 6, 2005

Best Line: “Homer, Burns has only been chasing us for six hours and you already resorted to cannibalism.” –Carl “And there’s bananas in that tree up there.” –Lenny “Uh, they look a little green.” –Homer

Before this review, I remembered this edition of Treehouse of Horror best for its opener, in which Kang and Kodos finally take aim at the baseball games that once regularly pushed these Halloween traditions well into the first weekend of November. Respect to those aliens, but on my most recent rewatch, I found plenty of other bits to like, too, especially when it comes to some of Springfield’s bit players. While the evil cyborg brother schtick of “B.I. Bartificial Intelligence” never gets fully off the ground, the episode’s other segments shine: “Survival of the Fattest” gives Homer the chance to play both buffoon and betrayer with some of the town’s other menfolk during Mr. Burns’ The Most Dangerous Game-style hunt, while “I’ve Grown a Costume to Your Face” sets loose a stupidly simple premise (what if everyone in Springfield dressed up for Halloween, and then actually became their costume?) and lets it play out to its satisfying, sight-gag-heavy conclusion. –Tyler Clark


11. Treehouse of Horror XII

Season 13, Episode One

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

Premiere Date: November 6, 2001

Best Line: “Hey, you know what’s even better is Jesus. He’s like six leprechauns!” –Lenny

I think it’s fair to say that we would all love to live in a house with the voice of Pierce Brosnan. In the “Treehouse of Horror XII” segment “House of Whacks”, this fantasy comes to life after the Simpsons give their home an upgrade. Of course, Pierce, aka Ultrahouse 3000, goes all 2001: A Space Odyssey on the family, spurred on by a major crush on Marge (it’s cool Ultrahouse 3000, we’ve all been there). Kudos are also due to Matthew Perry for voicing himself as an inferior option that the Simpsons quickly move on from. A Harry Potter spoof was inevitable, and “Wiz Kids” delivers for the most part, from Milhouse turning his toad not into a prince but rather a lewd drunk who flirts with Edna Krabappel to Montymort’s weakness being an enchanted shin. Never one to pass up a cheap Irish joke, “Hex and the City” goes all in with the Simpsons strolling through Ethnictown and Homer later tormented by a squirrely leprechaun. –Zack Ruskin


10. Treehouse of Horror XIV

Season 15, Episode One

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

Premiere Date: November 2, 2003

Best Line: “No way, forget it. I might occasionally kill out of anger, or to illustrate a point. But I am not a Grim Reaper!” –Homer

“Treehouse of Horror XIV” begins with a classic opening that sees the Simpson family straight-up murdering each other (Grandpa complains about still being cold after being decked with a log on fire). Taking a page from Family Guy, “Reaper Madness” sees Homer taking up the Grim Reaper’s mantle. Homer with powers is always good fodder, and The Simpsons patriarch doesn’t disappoint here, using his touch of death to cut in lines and rid himself of daily nuisances. “Frinkenstein” proves that Professor Frink doesn’t have the character depth to anchor a storyline, but is the only dud of this episode’s trio. The final segment, “Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off”, places Bart and Milhouse in a Twilight Zone conceit with a stopwatch that freezes time. The now-25-year-old Bart trying to act like nothing has happened once he and Milhouse unfreeze the world after 15 years is pure gold. –Zack Ruskin


09. Treehouse of Horror XX

Season 21, Episode Four

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

Premiere Date: October 18, 2009

Best Line: “To the panic room!” –Homer “We don’t have a panic room.” –Marge “To the panic room store!” –Homer

After two decades of doing Halloween specials, The Simpsons writers could’ve been forgiven for half-assing the 20th edition of Treehouse of Horror. They didn’t, though, and we’re better off for it. Part of that hinges on the writers’ ability to mine new material from choice subject matter; from the Hitchcockian references in “Dial “M” for Murder or Press “#” to Return to Main Menu” to the Sweeney Todd-inspired musical numbers of “There’s No Business Like Moe Business”, the episode teems with a successful synergy of Simpsons weirdness and well-chosen horror touchstones. This one even works when it returns to the well-plumbed well: After tackling the dread of Night of the Living Dead-style home invasion in “Treehouse of Horror III” and the terror of historical zombies in “Treehouse of Horror XIII”, this episode’s “Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind” successfully converts the disconnected urban dystopia of modern zombie properties like 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead into an appropriately gross (and funny) tale. –Tyler Clark


08. Treehouse of Horror I

Season 2, Episode Three

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

Premiere Date: October 25, 1990

Best Line: “For a superior race, they really rub it in.” –Marge

This is the one that started it all. The original “Treehouse of Horror” can boast the first appearance of Kang and Kodos, the venerable space aliens who’ve since become fixtures in the show’s Halloween specials. The middle segment sees them abducting the Simpsons and getting into one of those classic mix-ups over who’s trying to eat whom. The episode’s first ghost story features the Simpsons moving into a haunted house, and includes some legitimately scary moments when the evil spirit who lurks within taunts and goads the new residents. It’s the peak of the stellar animation in this first installment, with heaving walls, moody colors, and more. The final segment, however, is the pièce de résistance. It’s a lovingly-crafted tribute to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”, which combines the macabre author’s lyrical prose, The Simpsons’ wry sensibility, and even some Looney Tunes-style mayhem without ever missing a beat. –Andrew Bloom


07. Treehouse of Horror VIII

Season Nine, Episode Four

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

Premiere Date: October 26, 1997

Best Line: “Oh, I’ve wasted my life.” –Comic Book Guy

Homer Simpson hardly shows any self-restraint to begin with, so when he becomes the last man on Earth in an Omega Man spoof, the newly “uninhibited” Homer just watches Chris Farley movies and dances naked in church. But he carries a funny spoof, full of goofy and gross monster humor and post-apocalyptic fun. The middle story of “Treehouse of Horror VIII” features Bart going entomological in a parody of The Fly. An accident with a device from Professor Frink’s garage sale puts Bart’s spiky head on an insect’s body, and it takes an assist from Lisa to fight the bug-eyed creature who’s commandeered his own. And the last story turns a witty take off on the Salem Witch Trials into an amusing, apocryphal tale of the first Halloween. Between a mutant-fighting Homer, an insectoid Bart, a witchy Marge, and a butchered Fox Network censor, “Treehouse of Horror VIII’ has it all. –Andrew Bloom


06. Treehouse of Horror II

Season 3, Episode Seven

screen shot 2017 10 25 at 12 05 22 pm Ranking: Every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episode from Worst to Best

Premiere Date: October 31, 1991

Best Line: “Sir, do you know what this means? He is alive!” –Smithers “Oh, you’re right, Smithers. I guess I owe you a Coke.” –Burns

After setting a suitably spooky standard with the inaugural anthology, the second edition of Treehouse of Horror amplifies its predecessor’s uneasiness while simultaneously producing even more moments of indelible comedy. Maybe you remember the board-with-a-nail-in-it arms race (or the merchandising burn-out meta-jokes) of “The Monkey’s Paw,” or the worn-down Krusty of “The Bart Zone”. Maybe you dig Mr. Burns as a matter-of-fact mad scientist in “If I Only Had A Brain”. Maybe, like me, you’re struck by the moments of family realness (Homer chowing down on the kids’ Halloween haul, Bart allowing Lisa to sleep in his bed for the price of a coveted candy necklace) that creep into the episode’s framing device. Whatever the case, the likelihood remains high that, if you have favorite memories of this weird Halloween tradition, at least a couple of them probably come from this episode. Also of note: This Treehouse of Horror is the first of only two episodes to actually debut on Halloween night itself. That’s gotta count for something, right? –Tyler Clark


05. Treehouse of Horror IV

Season 5, Episode Five

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

Premiere Date: October 28, 1993

Best Line: “Mr. Simpson, don’t you worry. I watched Matlock in a bar last night. The sound wasn’t on, but I think I got the gist of it.” –Lionel Hutz

Subjectively, this is my personal favorite of the Treehouse of Horror series. Objectively, it ranks pretty damned high, too. A lot of that comes from the strength of its first segment. From presenting wholesome Ned Flanders as Satan himself to giving us the great sight gag of Homer eating Hell completely out of donuts (RIP, James Coco), “The Devil and Homer Simpson” remains one of the anthology series’ single best segments. “Terror at 5½ Feet” is equally great, giving Bart the chance to wig all the way out in an expert send-up of yet another classic Twilight Zone bit. “Bart Simpson’s Dracula” doesn’t age quite as seamlessly (thanks in large part to its Bram Stoker’s Dracula trappings and a gay joke that wasn’t funny then and is jarringly tone-deaf now), but even it finds redemption in the sheer dumb virtue of the Super Fun Happy Slide. As Halloween episodes go, this is almost as good as it gets. –Tyler Clark

04. Treehouse of Horror III

Season 4, Episode Five

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

Premiere Date: October 29, 1992

Best Line: “Your doll is trying to kill my husband! Yes I’ll hold.” –Marge

“Treehouse of Horror III” offers one of the most quoted scenes in Simpsons history. In “Clown Without Pity”, Homer wanders into House of Evil in desperate need of a birthday gift for Bart. It’s here  the proprietor warns him that the Krusty Doll Homer intends to buy is evil, but does come with a free frogurt. Unfortunately the frogurt is cursed, but it comes with a choice of toppings (which contain potassium benzoate … that’s bad). The full segment is brilliant, from the revelation that someone has left the Krusty doll switched to “evil” to the plaything’s ultimate fate living in a dollhouse with Malibu Stacy as a working stiff. “King Homer” is a charming throwback to the classic King Kong that affords the Simpsons writers the chance to make ape Homer immaculately dim-witted. “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies” includes a scene where Homer shoots a zombiefied Flanders only to ask, “He was a zombie?” –Zack Ruskin

03. Treehouse of Horror VI

Season 7, Episode Six

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

Premiere Date: October 29, 1995

Best Line: “Lousy Smarch weather.” –Homer

The sixth edition of the Treehouse of Horror series is best remembered now for its much-hyped final segment (“Homer3”), in which the Simpson patriarch falls, Twilight Zone-style, into a parallel 3D dimension, complete with eye-popping-for-1995 computer graphics and, eventually, our very own live-action world. That segment still shines, but so do the two before it: “Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores” pairs a monstrous rampage filled with clever sight gags (three Pep Boys lookalikes faltering under the weight of their mammoth heads; Mr. Peanut cracking open a car, shell-style, to feast on the people within) with equally wry commentary about the limits of advertising power (and a Paul Anka guarantee, to boot), while “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace” stirs up some genuine Elm Street fear thanks to the gristly designs used for Groundskeeper Willie’s infernal Krueger-esque powers. At this point, The Simpsons was just about at the height of its powers, and so was Treehouse of Horror. –Tyler Clark


02. Treehouse of Horror V

Season 6, Episode Six

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

Premiere Date: October 30, 1994

Best Line: “Oh, relax kids. I’ve got a gut feeling Uter’s around here somewhere. After all, isn’t there a little Uter in all of us? In fact, you might say we just ate Uter and he’s in our stomachs right now! Wait. Scratch that one.” –Principal Skinner

When Treehouse of Horror is at its best, the tropes and parodies are second to the jokes and characters. While later entries in the series declined as the thing being spoof informed the humor, “Treehouse of Horror V” is a perfect example of how much better the opposite approach fits the format. In “The Shinning”, we are treated to crazy Homer, who rapidly loses his mind after learning that there’s no more beer and TV. Narrowing down a highlight is nearly impossible, from the blood that usually gets off on the second floor to Homer reeling off the intro to 60 Minutes with axe in hand. “Time and Punishment” plays with the concept of the butterfly effect as Homer continually alters the future by sneezing on dinosaurs and swatting mosquitos thanks to his magical toaster. Let us hope we never live in the world in which Ned Flanders has seized control and offers citizens a glass of milk, a lie down, and a full frontal lobotomy. Finally there’s “Nightmare Cafeteria”, where the teachers solve their budget woes by eating the children (Üterbraten anyone?). That all three segments include Groundskeeper Willie trying to help and being brutally murdered and conclude with a musical number in which the Simpson clan has their skin turned inside-out makes “Treehouse of Horror V” a true benchmark of the series. —Zack Ruskin


01. Treehouse of Horror VII

Season 8, Episode One

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

Premiere Date: October 27, 1996

Best Line: “My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball; but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!” –Bill Clinton

The idea of Bart having an evil twin is a scary prospect in and of itself given Bart’s already hellraising demeanor. But “Treehouse of Horror VII” turns that premise into a delightful kid mystery with the sort of funny, absurd twists that could only work in these non-canon Halloween environs. And having Lisa create a miniaturized society a la The Twilight Zone creates plenty of opportunities for pint-sized humor and fun, with her and Bart standing in for “God” and “The Devil” for their Lilliputian pals. The final story is as pithy, incisive, and hilarious a satire of American politics as you’ll ever see. The “Citizen Kang” segment is a master class in blending sci-fi homage, specific-but-universal observations on political discourse, and great gag after great gag. Forget about Kodos and vote for this as the best Treehouse of Horror episode of all time. No one will blame you. –Andrew Bloom

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