The 10 Best Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

By William Fletcher

The Simpsons has been one of my all-time favourite shows since childhood, and the Treehouse of Horror episodes are some of its finest episodes. They often manage to be surprisingly scary for a show known for its silliness without ever losing its sense of humor. This year, I watched through every Treehouse of Horror episode and decided to write about my 10 favourite individual segments.

10. "Hungry Are the Damned"

The Twilight Zone is one of the most frequently parodied shows in the Treehouse of Horror segments. Many of the classic Treehouse of Horror episodes from the early days feature at least one Twilight Zone parody in it. “Hungry Are the Damned” is a parody of one of the few Twilight Zone episodes I’ve seen, “To Serve Man”, which is a fairly solid episode in its own right. Kang & Kodos are some of the most entertaining side characters in the entire show and their presence in this segment is an easy highlight. The jokes all land, and this memorable segment stands out amongst the other two somewhat weak ones that accompanied it. 

Oh, and James Earl Jones voices one of the aliens. You can’t get a better voice actor than that.

9. "The Bart Zone"

The 9th best Treehouse of Horror segment is another Twilight Zone parody that I find superior to “Hungry are the Damned” thanks to how much more it lands comedically. It has solid jokes throughout that are enhanced by a fantastic premise. I’m also genuinely impressed how easily the show packs as much suspense as possible in the opening thirty seconds alone. The opening narration is also a highlight, with exquisite lines like “And did I mention that the monster is a 10-year-old boy? Quite a twist, huh? Bet you didn’t see that one coming”. 

With its chef’s kiss of ending, this is one of the best segments of any anthology episode.  

8. "The Terror of Tiny Toon"

I always enjoy seeing animation crossover with live action, and while this episode admittedly doesn’t do a whole lot with it, it’s nonetheless a delight. The concept of a cartoon show going into a cartoon show the characters watch is a stellar one that innately provides many opportunities for the segment to flourish. This segment recognizes this fact and uses this concept solidly. 

This segment’s great jokes and wonderfully unique animation places it up there as one of the greatest.

7. "Bart Simpson's Dracula"

It’s surprising how little vampire media there is compared to zombie or alien invasion movies. The vampire sub-genre is fairly starved for content, so this segment is a blessing as one of the best pieces of vampire media I’ve ever seen. Another blessing this segment bestows upon us is a lot of Mr. Burns screen-time. Mr. Burns is one of my favourite characters in The Simpsons and as per usual, he is an absolute joy in this. There are some concepts in this that sound stupid but just work ridiculously well. And with lines like “Today, he’s drinking people’s blood - tomorrow, he could be smoking”, few segments can come close to topping this one comedically. In short, The Simpsons doing vampires is great! I’m confident it even tops Coppola’s Dracula. 

6. "Dial Z for Zombies"

Zombies are very hit or miss for me in terms of how much I enjoy their portrayal. Rampaging zombies, for example, can fuck right off. But surprisingly, “Dial Z for Zombies” completely won me over and solidified its place as a zombie staple of mine. This segment combines various zombie stories (with Pet Sematary being the main inspiration) and takes advantage of many zombie clichés by turning certain elements on its head.

There are so many moments that shouldn’t get me as much as they do, like ‘All Zombie Radio’, the line “Is this the end of zombie Shakespeare?” and one of funniest exchanges of the episode:

Bart: “Dad, you killed the zombie Flanders!”

Homer: “He was a zombie?”

This segment has no reason to work as well for me as it does, but it’s so effortlessly entertaining that I can’t help but love it!

5. "Citizen Kang"

This was a segment I always loved as a kid despite having no knowledge of the 1996 US Presidential Election. As an adult, I have to say this might be the most hilarious Treehouse of Horror segment of the whole show. Kang and Kodos taking over the bodies of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole is just excellent TV, resulting in comedy platinum like “We are merely exchanging long protein strings. If you can think of a simpler way, I’d like to hear it” and “As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball”. 

The ending is also top-notch, with an on-point jab at how truly pointless and nonsensical American politics can be.

4. "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace"

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of those films that I’ve never truly understood the love for. But as is fairly common whenever the Simpsons does a parody/homage/pastiche of a genre or film, this segment absolutely does it better than the original. There are some witty ideas at play here that work wonderfully together. 

The death that sets off the entire story oddly manages to both be really funny and explain why the villain is taking the measures he is. The final confrontation between the kids and Willie is a blast, and the writers take full advantage of the scenario at play. With an abundance of knee-slappers throughout, this is one of the best segments of the entire show. 

3. "Time and Punishment"

Time travel is one of my favourite storytelling concepts. There’s so much you can do with this simple idea, and “Time and Punishment” is fully aware of this. By not bogging down the time-travel with convoluted rules or plot holes, this segment can fully relish the silliness of its concept. In particular, this episode’s utilisation of the butterfly effect is inspired.

The various futures we see range from hysterical with the future of the Simpsons family being incredibly rich to somewhat unnerving with the future of Ned ruling the world. Even the ones we get to see briefly are enjoyable! We also get James Earl Jones making another cameo. What more could you want from a segment?

2. "The Devil and Homer Simpson"

This is one of the most iconic Treehouse of Horror segments ever, and it’s easy to see why. Flanders as the Devil alone is a genius idea that helps create a great setup for the episode. The attempted torture scene is genuinely really funny despite the simplicity and the episode climaxes perfectly with a trial that is practically nonstop laughs (especially given the jury). It’s just a phenomenal segment through and through.

1. "The Shinning"

The best segment, though, has to be “The Shinning”. Is it too obvious? Probably, but it’s hard to deny perfection. I would personally argue this is the superior version of The Shining. This segment came at the peak of The Simpsons in terms of quality and cultural significance and has everything I love about this era of the show. Every single joke lands and it’s genuinely impressive how many jokes are able to be crammed into 7 minutes.

The parody of the “Here’s Johnny” scene is excellent and one of my favourite moments in the entire show. The start of the running gag with Willie across all three of the segments in this episode is great. Even the tone and vibe the episode creates with the sound design and music is wonderful. In short, “The Shinning” is a true masterpiece in every sense of the word.