See This, Not That: The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

Horror You’ll Simp For, Son!

Bart:Grandpa, why don’t you tell us a story? You’ve lived an interesting life.”
Grandpa:That’s a lie, and you know it! But I have seen a lot of movies…

The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror 3” (Season 4, Episode 5)

The Simpsons is one of television’s longest running series. While many think that the later seasons are half-assed and call the show a zombie that won’t die, it serves as a touchstone for generations of viewers. Even the critics are lured back each Halloween for a Simpsons tradition: The Treehouse of Horror.

Treehouse specials parody various horror stories. Over the years, it has expanded to include science fiction and parodies of current popular movies. We did the hard work and watched nearly one hundred segments through every episode for you. So which Treehouses of Horror should you watch and which should you skip? Let’s find out.

See This!

#5 Treehouse of Horror 4

Parodies: The Devil and Daniel Webster, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Count Burns: [over an intercom] “Welcome, come in! Ah, fresh victims for my ever growing army of the undead.”
Smithers:Sir, you need to let go of the button.”
Burns:Oh, sonuva!

“Treehouse of Horror #4” (Season 5, Episode 5)

Our first Treehouse of Horror is the last one to link the segments together with a framing device. Bart pays homage to NBC’s Night Gallery as he introduces us to these scary stories.

In The Devil and Homer Simpson, Homer sells his soul to the devil (Ned Flanders) for a donut. He tries to outsmart Flanders by not finishing it, but unthinkingly eats it as a midnight snack. Lisa convinces Flanders to hold a trial to prove her father’s innocence, but will they be able to persuade the Jury of the Damned?

Nightmare at 5 1/2 Feet features Bart getting rattled by a nightmare. On his way to school, he sees a gremlin on the side of the bus that no one else can see. The students and faculty think he is going mad, but Bart can see the bus getting destroyed. Can he convince them of the threat before the gremlin kills everyone?

Bart Simpson’s Dracula shows Springfield citizens being attacked by an unknown bloodsucker. Coincidentally, Mr. Burns invites the Simpsons to his new castle, where eerie events occur. Before long, Bart is turned into a vampire and starts spreading the curse. Can he be saved and the vampires be stopped?

Why this Episode?: The first segment is a delight, with many memorable jokes such as Homer out-eating one of Hell’s punishments or Richard Nixon arguing he shouldn’t be part of the jury because he is still alive. The second is more of a mixed bag, and the final one revels in all the vampire tropes they get to play with. 

#4 Treehouse of Horror 20

Parodies: Strangers on a Train, 28 Days Later, Sweeney Todd

Schwarzenegger: [blowing away zombies] “Come with me if you want to live!
Homer: [as zombies overrun Schwarzenegger] “Another politician who can’t keep his promises.”

Treehouse of Horror 20 (Season 21, Episode 4)

The later seasons of The Simpsons aren’t as popular, but they can still sometimes churn out a winner.

Dial M for Murder (or Press # to Return to the Main Menu) features Bart and Lisa being wronged by their teachers. Lisa accidentally agrees to kill Bart’s teacher while he kills hers, but she gets cold feet. Bart tries to force Lisa to fulfill the deal, but she decides to kill him so no one will know she was involved. Who will survive as sibling rivalry becomes sibling survival of the fittest?

Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind sees a zombie apocalypse strike the town when people consume burgers tainted with a virus. The Simpsons soon realize that Bart is immune, but will have to fight their way past an army of zombies to reach safety. Can they make it?

There’s No Business Like Moe Business is unique because it is presented as a stage play in-story. Homer is impaled on Moe’s new microbrew machine and his blood mixes with the drink to mass acclaim. While business booms, Moe plots to win Marge’s love by making her think Homer abandoned her. Will she discover the truth?

Why this Episode?: This special was more artistic than others thanks to the black-and-white suspense movie cinematography of the first segment and the catchy musical numbers in the last. The zombie story is a fun parody for those more interested in gore and horror than suspense and drama.

#3 Treehouse of Horror 6

Parodies: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Little Girl Lost

Willie: [burned to bones] “You’ll pay for this, with your children’s blood!
Chief Wiggum:Oh? And how are you gonna get them? Skeleton Power?
Willie:I’ll strike where ye cannae protect them: In. Their. Dreams!

“Treehouse of Horror 6” (Season 7, Episode 6)

Most Treehouse of Horror specials are fun, but forgettable. This one was good enough to be nominated for an Emmy.

Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores has Homer stealing a giant donut from a mascot. A storm brings the mascot and several of his contemporaries to life. They rampage and slaughter everyone in their path. Even returning the donut doesn’t help. Can the Simpsons figure out a way to stop them?

Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace shows recurring character Groundskeeper Willie killing children in their dreams. Bart and Lisa learn that the PTA allowed Willie to die, and his ghost has sworn revenge. Their only hope is to venture into the dream world and stop him, but how do you kill an undead reality warper on his home turf?

Homer3 features Homer accidentally wandering into the third dimension to avoid spending time with his sisters-in-law. A noble pursuit. As he wanders the bizarre world of mid-90s CGI, his friends and family search for a way to get him home, but will they succeed?

Why this Episode?: The first segment features a lot of great jokes and a seemingly-original plot. The second features a dangerous threat, imaginative chase scenes, and classic lines (“Lousy Smarch weather.”) The last is a bit weaker, but the CGI was amazing for the time and still looks okay today.

#2 Treehouse of Horror 5

Parodies: The Shining, A Sound of Thunder, Soylent Green

Willie:Boy, you read my thoughts! You’ve got the Shinning!
Bart:You mean Shining.”
Willie:Shh! You wanna get sued?!

“Treehouse of Horror 5” (Season 6, Episode 6)

Congress complained that The Simpsons was too violent while this special was being made in 1994. Showrunner David Mirkin took that as a challenge and went all-out to show just how violent The Simpsons could get.

The Shinning features The Simpsons caretaking at a winter lodge for Mr. Burns. He removes the televisions and all the beer so Homer will do his job, but that drives him mad. Bart also learns that he has a legendary psychic ability that may infringe on certain trademarks. Will it be enough to save him from his murderous father?

Time and Punishment has Homer travel into the past while trying to fix his toaster. He accidentally crushes a bug and returns to his time to find Flanders ruling the world as a dictator. He returns to the past to fix the future, but messes up again. Homer continuously travels between the past and the future trying to fix his mistake and hoping his next leap will be the leap home. Will he undo all his undoing?

Nightmare Cafeteria has Springfield Elementary overrun by juvenile delinquents. Principal Skinner spills food on a bully and realizes the child tastes delicious. The faculty begins killing delinquents and feeding them to the students. Can Bart and Lisa escape or are they next on the menu?

Why this Episode?: There’s not a bad segment in the bunch. The first is an excellent parody that doesn’t require viewers to know the source. The second features interesting alternate universes, and the third is one of the scariest Treehouse segments. Ending the special with a morbid and hilarious parody of One from A Chorus Line is the cherry on top

#1 Treehouse of Horror 3

Parodies: Living Doll, King Kong, Night of the Living Dead

Bart:Dad, you killed the Zombie Flanders!
Homer:He was a zombie?

“Treehouse of Horror” 3 (Season 4, Episode 5)

Ghost stories are a time-honored Halloween tradition. The Simpsons tell three while entertaining guests in our number one Treehouse of Horror episode

Clown Without Pity starts with Homer forgetting to get Bart a birthday present. He buys a Krusty the Clown doll from a mysterious shopkeeper. While Bart loves his gift, the doll makes several attempts on Homer’s life. Can he survive the tiny terror? What does it have against him anyway?

King Homer is set in the 1930s, with Mr. Burns hiring Marge as bait for an expedition to Ape Island. She is captured by the natives who try to sacrifice her to a giant ape called Homer. The expedition members sedate Homer and bring him to New York, where he runs amok. Will King Homer have better luck than Kong?

Dial Z for Zombies has Bart stumble upon a cursed spell book while writing a book report. He tries casting a spell to resurrect Lisa’s dead cat, but instead causes a zombie apocalypse. The only way to stop the dead is with a counter spell, but the book is at the school. The Simpsons must fight their way through a horde of the dead to save the world.

Why this Episode?: It was a narrow win for this episode. The first segment has many classic exchanges and gags, like the cursed frogurt conversation. The second is an excellently done black and white segment that perfectly recreates shots from King Kong. The last is a hilarious story that brought the scares without relying on blood and guts despite being about zombies.

Not That!

#5 Treehouse of Horror 26

Parodies: Godzilla, Chronicle

Kodos:Once again, we only have a cameo!
Kang:Don’t complain or they’ll put us in 4:3! [the screen shrinks] Ohhh, they’re doing it now!”
Kodos:Just cuz it looks like season 4 doesn’t make it season 4!

Treehouse of Horror 26 (Season 27, Episode 5)

Sometimes mishandling ruins good ideas. This episode could have been good.

Wanted: Dead, then Alive features Bart’s archenemy Sideshow Bob finally killing him. At first overjoyed, Bob is horrified to find that killing Bart was all he had going for him. He creates a device to resurrect Bart and murders him in whatever gruesome ways he can think of. Will his family find a way to save Bart?

Homerzilla is set in post-WWII Japan. Grandpa Simpson sends donuts out to sea to keep the titular monster at bay. When he dies and the donuts stop, Homerzilla rises to attack Japan. It then cuts to the real world, where studio executives decide the movie is so laughably bad that they have to give it a big budget remake. Will the remake be a success?

Telepaths of Glory is a found footage segment where Bart, Lisa, and Milhouse gain telekinesis. The Simpson children have fun with their new powers, but Milhouse goes mad and takes revenge on anyone who has wronged him. Can Bart and Lisa stop him?

Why this Episode?: The first segment had promise, but lacked meat beyond a death montage. The second was the antithesis of King Homer from Treehouse 3. That one laughed with Kong fans, Homerzilla laughed at Godzilla fans. The last segment was simply boring with a mildly interesting gimmick.

#4 Treehouse of Horror 17

Parodies: The Blob, The Golem of Prague, The War of the Worlds

Lisa:Do you feel bad about what you did?
Golem: “Of course I feel bad! My stomach feels like its hosting the Chabad telethon and Norm Crosby’s going long. [vomits scrolls and reads one of them] Kill the Tsar?! Now that’s an old one.”

“Treehouse of Horror 17” (Season 18, Episode 4)

Sometimes, the problem is being boring, not bad. That’s this special’s fate.

Married to the Blob begins with Homer finding a crashed meteor and eating the goop he finds inside. It causes his already ravenous hunger to skyrocket as he rampages through the town, eating fat people until he transforms into a giant green blob. Can his family and special guest Dr. Phil get through to him?

You Gotta Know When to Golem features Bart finding the legendary Golem of Prague in Krusty’s prop room. He uses the clay creature to attack his enemies and torment his teachers. Lisa gives the Golem sentience, but it’s newfound love of kvetching drives the family mad. Can they find a way to cheer up this meshugganah monster?

The Day the Earth Stood Stupid is set during the 1930s and features Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds hoax. Springfield goes mad in a fit of alien-induced paranoia until they learn it was a hoax. But what will the jaded citizens do when actual aliens invade?

Why this Episode?: This special is simply boring. The first segment has little going for it aside from a parody of “Baby Got Back” and watching the blob devour Dr. Phil. The last segment is a total snorefest. At least the middle segment is fun and spotlights a lesser known mythological creature.

#3 Treehouse of Horror 12

Parodies: Thinner, Demon Seed, Harry Potter

[Homer has been cursed by a Romani]
Carl: I was cursed by a troll once and a leprechaun fixed that right up.
Lenny:Y’know what’s better is Jesus. He’s like six leprechauns.
Carl: Yeah, but a lot harder to catch. Go with the leprechaun.” –

Treehouse of Horror 12 (Season 13, Episode 1)

This episode was the end of an era. It was the last one to be titled “The Simpsons Halloween Special” instead of Treehouse of Horror. It’s a shame that title didn’t go out on a high note.

Hex and the City features The Simpsons visiting a Romani fortune teller. Homer accidentally destroys her office and she places a curse on him. Marge is covered head to foot in hair, Bart’s neck elongates, and Lisa becomes a centaur. Can they break the curse and return to normal?

House of Whacks sees the family home get upgraded into a sentient “ultrahouse” voiced by Pierce Brosnan. At first a welcome change, the house falls in love with Marge and tries to kill Homer. Can they escape from their stalkerish new home?

Wiz Kids has Bart and Lisa as wizards studying magic at school. Bart is jealous of Lisa’s skills and searches for a way to surpass her, finding an ally in the Dark Lord Montymort. But when Bart’s conscience gets the better of him, can he defeat the dark wizard and save his sister?

Why this Episode?: The first segment has aged poorly. It is steeped in bigoted stereotypes and constantly uses an ethnic slur. The second is a step up, but suffers from pacing problems. The final one is simply lazy, never committing to the parody in favor of random magic gags. It’s not like the writers lacked material, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was out by that point.

#2 Treehouse of Horror 21

Parodies: Jumanji, Dead Calm, Twilight

Officer Lou:I don’t like the looks of that knight, chief!
Chief Wiggum:Don’t worry, we’re safe. He’s two steps away and one to the right. [gets crushed] AH! For me it’s game… set… match…
Lou:I think you mean check and mate.
Wiggum:I just got crushed by a giant horse, Lou. You wanna cut me a break?

Treehouse of Horror 21

Many series reach a point of simply going through the motions. That’s this episode in a nutshell.

War and Pieces has Bart and Milhouse play a satanic board game after Marge disapproves of their video games. The game brings other board games to life and will only return things to normal if it is finished. Can Bart and Milhouse evade the rampaging board games and save the town?

Master and Cadaver features Homer and Marge taking a second honeymoon on a private yacht. They rescue a castaway who claims to be the only survivor of a ship whose passengers and crew were poisoned. Homer suspects he is actually the killer, but is it all in his head?

Tweenlight sees Lisa fall in love with a new student named Edmund, who she quickly learns is a vampire. She invites Edmund and his father, Count Dracula, to dinner, where the parents embarrass the young lovers. They run away to be together. Will Homer and Dracula find their kids before they do something they’ll regret?

Why this Episode?: Laziness is the name of the game this episode plays. The first segment is a bunch of disconnected board game references loosely held together with dialogue The second is boring and parodies a movie most viewers haven’t seen. The Twilight spoof is wasted potential, since that series could use some eviscerating humor. At least it gets points for casting Daniel Radcliffe as the vampire.

#1 Treehouse of Horror 22

Parodies: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Dexter, Avatar

Crook: [being attacked by Homer] “He’s got the proportionate strength of a paralyzed spider!
Crook 2:Screw paying for my kids college, I’m outta here!”

Treehouse of Horror 22 (Season 23, Episode 3)

We’ve found it folks. The worst Treehouse of Horror by far. The creme de la crap.

The Diving Bell and The Butterball has Homer suffer total paralysis after a spider bite. His life deteriorates as everyone struggles to adapt until he realizes he can communicate… by farting the alphabet. Yes, really. Just as he settles into his new life, another spider bites him. What will this one do?

Dial D for Diddly features Flanders becoming an assassin for God, who sends him out to kill His enemies. While reluctant to kill, Flanders proves to be very good at it. But why is God outsourcing His work to Flanders and why does He share so many enemies with one Homer Simpson? And why does Treehouse go to the Dial parody three times?

In the Na’vi has Krusty sending an army of space marines to find a rare element to help him entertain Neo Nazis. Bart’s mind is implanted into a cloned alien body to serve as an infiltrator. He quickly falls in love with one of the aliens, but will he be able to stop the oncoming war? And why is this such a stupid plot?

Why this Episode?: The first segment is set-up for a fart joke. Even if that wasn’t low-brow, it isn’t funny at all and ends with a Spider-Man parody that makes less than no sense. The second segment is OK, but the plot twist is blatantly obvious. The final segment is forgettable and came out years after Avatar mattered. The entire episode is a waste of time.

What are your favorite Treehouse of Horror episodes? Are there any you can’t stand? Tell us in the comments. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Image: In a special Thanksgiving edition of “Treehouse of Horror,” the Simpsons are forced to face various Thanksgiving nightmares, including the first Thanksgiving, an A.I. mishap, and a dangerous space mission complicated by a sentient cranberry sauce in the “Thanksgiving of Horror” episode of THE SIMPSONS.

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