In honor of its anniversary, we celebrate a 33-year Halloween tradition with a look at five of our favorite “Treehouse of Horror” episodes.
Say what you will about the newer seasons, but there’s no arguing that The Simpsons is a cultural phenomenon.
With thirty-five seasons and more than three decades under its belt, it’s an absolute powerhouse that doesn’t seem to be slowing down yet. It is America’s longest-running sitcom, and it holds a very special place in my heart.
Ask any Simpsons fan, and they will almost certainly tell you that the Halloween Specials are their favorite ones. Full of goofy parodies and even the occasional splatter-fest, Treehouse of Horror is just as iconic as the show itself.
In the spirit of Halloween and on this day, October 25th, the thirty-third anniversary of the original Halloween special, I present my top five Treehouse episodes!
5. XIV (2003)
Being nominated for an Emmy in 2004 for Outstanding Music Composition in a Series, this episode is also the last to have a traditional organ-paced variant of the theme song at the ending credits. Reaper Madness is probably my favorite of any Treehouse of Horror shorts. When Homer accidentally kills death, the world becomes death-free… that is, until Homer dons the robe and ultimately abuses the power.
The scene with Homer literally outrunning God (who is portrayed as a beam of light pursuing him) on a motorcycle before he loses him on the other side of a speeding train is absolute peak Homer Simpson.
I can still vividly remember watching it for the first time and laughing until my sides were sore.
4. VII (1996)
This was the first Treehouse of Horror episode to be a season opener. There are two incredible highlights from this episode.
After Bart’s evil twin, Hugo, is unleashed from the attic, Bart is captured, and the formerly conjoined twin tries to reattach itself to him. Dr. Hibbert tricks Hugo by offering him a chance to look in the mirror, only for it to be an empty picture frame that Dr. Hibbert punches through to knock him out cold.
The other highlight is from Citizen Kang when Kang and Kodos descend to Earth to take the place of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. Because of the two-party system, no matter who they vote for… we lose.
This episode offers a comical yet poignant criticism of the US electorate while also giving the incredible line, “I voted for Kodos,” which became the name of a pop-punk band.
3. XIX (2008)
Many fans refuse to even touch newer Simpsons material, and this episode shows exactly why such a mentality is silly.
This episode of The Simpsons is extremely relevant today and has aged surprisingly well. Not only do we see voter fraud (I know, a touchy subject for some folks), but we are also shown a dilemma where large corporations are profiting off of the likeness of dead celebrities via artificial intelligence-like technology– sound familiar? (Writer’s strike anyone?)
But social commentary aside, this episode is an instant classic with its parody of one of Halloween’s most beloved specials, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. We see Milhouse with the ability to bring creatures to life through sheer force of innocence, where he conjures a great pumpkin. After the pumpkin discovers the atrocities afflicted on his kind by humanity, it becomes evil, forcing Lisa to trick Milhouse into believing in Tom The Turkey to come and save the day… until he hears about Thanksgiving.
Easily, the best gag belongs to Marge, who impersonates the parents using a trombone.
2. V (1994)
If you are a typical fan of the show, you would have expected this to be my number one pick, and I completely understand why you would feel that way.
The Shinning is typically the gold standard when it comes to Treehouse of Horror. Without beer and television and encouraged by a phantom Moe, Homer goes crazy and attempts to kill his family. Willie comes to the rescue and is immediately cut down. The only thing that causes the murderous Homer to calm down is Willie’s television device. With the murderous urges gone, the Simpsons are frozen together outside… until the Tony awards and Homer’s rage returns.
Entertainment Weekly ranked this episode as the ninth best in the series, with many other publications also ranking it within the top ten. The showrunner David Mirkin put as much blood and guts in as he could, sticking it to Congress, who had complained about the show and had tried to get it censored.
The result was an incredible Halloween episode to be enjoyed by generations to come.
1. II (1991)
Treehouse of Horror 2 was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a Special and Alf Clausen for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series.
We are given references out the wazoo; where do you even start? We get a reference to the Peanuts gang in the opening; In The Monkey’s Paw, we get Jasper turning into a man-faced dog just like that freaky thing in Invaders of the Body Snatchers; we get a Twilight Zone parody with a similar narrator where Bart has psychic powers and turns Homer into a giant Jack-in-the-box; lastly, we have Homer’s brain transferred into a robots body, where more than just his mind happens to transfer over.
I named this one as my all-time favorite because none of the stories felt like a “weak link” — each one carried its own weight in spooks and laughs alike.
Note this list is just for fun. I don’t think there has been a bad Treehouse of Horror. The Simpsons have been with us for so long and for so many Halloweens that they’ve intertwined themselves with the holiday, bringing a little bit of dark humor to the spooky season.
Let me know what your favorite Treehouse of Horror segment/Episode is in the comments below.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN SPRINGFIELD!