10. Treehouse of Horror VIII
As there has to be a last place on this list, and since the best episodes all come from the show’s first eleven seasons, Treehouse of Horror VIII gets the wooden spoon. The reason for this is due to a lack of focus in the story-telling. While this would get worse as the years rolled by, it’s frustrating that “The Homega Man”, and “Easy-Bake Coven” could easily be classics. Still, “Fly vs Fly” is a joy to watch, and an effective animated body horror that David Cronenberg would be proud of.
9. Treehouse of Horror VI
This episode would be higher on the list if it wasn’t for the average first story in which landmarks come to life because Homer stole a giant doughnut. Still, “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace”, with Willie as Freddy Kruger is a creative tour de force, which is immediately bettered by “Homer³”, which proves that no one has seen Tron.
Best story: “Homer³”
8. Treehouse of Horror IX
While “Starship Poopers” dates the episode with the inclusion of Jerry Springer, the other instalments: “Hell Toupee”, where Homer gets posed by Snake after getting the criminal’s hair, and “The Terror of Tiny Toon” in which Bart and Lisa are transported to the violent world of Itchy and Scratchy are brilliant.
Best Story: “The Terror of Tiny Toon”
7. Treehouse of Horror X
After ten years of mining the classics of television an cinematic horror, The Simpsons writers expanded the Treehouse of Horror format to include teen slasher stories: “I Know What You Diddily Did” was a huge improvement on the film it was based on, superhero stories starring Xena, and the global paranoia of the Millennium Bug.
Best story: “I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did”
6. Treehouse of Horror II
Now this is the episode that really scared this writer as a child. While “The Monkey’s Paw”, and “Bart Zone” where reliably hilarious (“He’s got a board with a nail on it!”) the final story in which Mr Burns has his head attached to Homer’s body after failing to create the ultimate worker was absolutely terrifying to my young mind.
Best story: “If I Only had a Brain”
5. Treehouse of Horror VII
The Simpsons has never been an overly political show, although its Halloween tale of the 96 Presidential election was downright anarchic. With Homer the only person who can save the Earth from Kang and Kodous being elected President, he accidentally kills the real Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, and is at the mercy of the two-party system. Lisa has worse luck as she creates, and gets trapped in a miniature civilisation in which Bart is seen as the devil. No surprise as he is actually the evil twin. Poor Hugo, that soul smear was mistaken.
Best story: “Citizen Kang”
4. Treehouse of Horror V
With each passing year The Simpsons writers got more ambitious with their Halloween tales, eading to the amazing Kubrick homage that is “The Shinning”, the hilariously unpredictable tale of Homer creating a time machine (always remember th advice your father gives you on your wedding day), and the chilling “Nightmare Cafeteria”. All this is capped, of hacked, off with Groundskeeper Willie’s habit of getting an axe in the back.
Best Story: “The Shinning”
3. Treehouse of Horror I
The Treehouse of Horror that started it all is also the only one where the stories are told in Bart and Lisa’s Treehouse. It’s the debut of a member of the family telling viewers not to watch, poor Marge is always ignored, as Bart and Lisa try to out scare each other with tales of a haunted house, possible cannibalistic aliens, and a brilliant retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s the Raven.
Best Story: “The Raven”
2. Treehouse of Horror III
Coming in at second place is the third instalment, that takes inspiration from The Twilight Zone (“Clown Without Pity”), George A Romero (“Dial ‘Z’ For Zombies”), and the fact that Grampa has seen a lot of movies (“King Homer”).
Best Story: “Dial ‘Z’ For Zombies”
1. Treehouse of Horror IV
Landing squarely in the middle of The Simpsons creative peak, Treehouse of Horror IV is the most perfect mix of horror and comedy you will ever see on television. From Bart’s Night Gallery introductions, to the genius that is Ned Flanders as the Devil, the greatest parody of the Twilight Zone, and the best adaptation of Dracula ever told, it may be the best Halloween episode in television history.
Best story: “Terror at 5½ Feet”