This article was originally published on October 31, 2011. It has been updated to include segments from every The Simpsons Halloween episode that has aired since then, including 2022’s “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII.”
The last year without a new “Treehouse of Horror” episode of The Simpsons was 1989, when Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Batman were the two highest-grossing movies of the year. Thirty-plus years later, Harrison Ford is playing Indiana Jones again, there’s been something like 47 Batman movies, and “Treehouse of Horror” is still around, same as it ever was. The only thing scarier than lousy Smarch weather is time’s refusal to march forward.
Yesterday, The Simpsons delivered the 33rd installment of the horror-anthology series, which typically contains an intro and three segments (often with unofficial hosts Kang and Kodos). It’s oddly soothing knowing that every October (or occasionally November) there’s going to be a new Halloween-themed episode; it’s the same feeling that Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas score evokes during the December holidays, but a lot more violent. Below, you’ll find a ranking of every “Treehouse of Horror” segment — over 100 of them — from worst to best. Or, in the spirit of the season, should I say, “Heeeeeeere’s Treehouse!” (Hi Treehouse, I’m Grampa.)
“The Diving Bell and the Butterball,” Treehouse of Horror XXII (Season 23, 2011)
Plot: Homer becomes paralyzed after a spider bites him.
Reason for Ranking: It’s everything that doesn’t work about later-era Simpsons. From stale parodies to uncalled-for fart jokes (Homer can only communicate through flatulence; he also shoots spider webs out of his butt), “Diving Bell” is the worst Treehouse yet.
Memorable Quote: “Okay, I’m on the floor. I can’t move. So far, a normal Sunday morning.”
“UNnormal Activity,” Treehouse of Horror XXIII (Season 24, 2012)
Plot: Following strange goings-on in the house, Homer sets up a camera to find the culprit and discovers that it’s a Moe-like demon.
Reason for Ranking: I’ll let Wikipedia do the dirty work here: “Homer manages to convince the demon to relinquish the bargain in return for Homer to reluctantly engage in three-way sex with him and another demon. After learning that the safeword is ‘cinnamon,’ Homer throws his robe over the camera saying he’d like to try something and the demons are heard yelling ‘cinnamon.’” Homer has a three-way with two demons. It’s not a farting superhero, but it’s close.
Memorable Quote: “Hail Satan, the Minister of Sinister, Rude Dude with a Bad ‘Tude.”
“E.T., Go Home,” Treehouse of Horror XVIII (Season 19, 2007)
Plot: Bart finds Kodos in the Simpsons’ butane shed, and the family agrees to help the alien return home. His intentions are more diabolical than they appear, though.
Reason for Ranking: The segment ends with Homer suffocating Kodos with a pillow — this after the military blows up the heads of dozens of aliens. The Simpsons once mocked violence over empathy (“It’s bringing love, don’t let it get away!”), but “E.T., Go Home” tastelessly indulges in it.
Memorable Quote: “You hit me in my 700 testicles.” (Another reason for the low ranking.)
“Wanted: Dead, Then Alive,” Treehouse of Horror XXVI (Season 27, 2015)
Plot: Sideshow Bob finally kills Bart. But what happens after he satisfies his decades-long dream?
Reason for Ranking: Sideshow Bob killing Bart once is fine. But Sideshow Bob killing Bart over and over and over and over again? It’s (sorry) overkill. I understand wanting to fulfill a character’s deadly quest that’s been there since season one in a non-canonical episode, but it didn’t have to be so repetitive. I’m also deducting points because “Treehouse of Horror XXVI” aired the week after “Halloween of Horror,” which is maybe the best Simpsons episode of the past decade.
Memorable Quote: “The deed is done. Twenty-four years of trying to kill a 10-year-old child have finally paid off.”
“Barti,” Treehouse of Horror XXXII (Season 33, 2021)
Plot: Bart is Bambi and Marge is Bambi’s mom, who meets a different fate than she does in the Disney movie.
Reason for Ranking: “Treehouse of Horror XXXII” is the first Treehouse with five segments instead of the usual three, which doesn’t leave much time for the individual installments to set up a story and tell quality jokes. “Barti” does neither, and while lovingly animated in the Disney style, it probably should have been cut to allow more time for the better segments.
Memorable Quote: “Thank God you’re herbivores.” “That’s right. And today, your name is Herb.”
“Oh the Places You’ll D’oh,” Treehouse of Horror XXIV (Season 25, 2013)
Plot: On Halloween, the Simpson kids are looked after by the Fat in the Hat. Chaos reigns.
Reason for Ranking: Dr. Seuss has little to do with Halloween, but by the 24th Treehouse of Horror, it’s easy to forgive The Simpsons for branching out from horror, or even horror-adjacent, stories. Less forgivable, however, is turning Dr. Seuss’s clever rhythmic prose into the “Fat in the Hat,” and having Homer, as the fat cat, going on a slaughter spree around Springfield.
Memorable Quote: “I’m frightened of nothing, not even hell fires. Just please, don’t let me be played by Mike Myers.”
“Geriatric Park,” Treehouse of Horror XXIX (Season 30, 2018)
Plot: Jurassic Park is turned into Geriatric Park, with senior citizens instead of dinosaurs.
Reason for Ranking: The old-people-as-dinosaurs animation is cute, in an unusual way, but honestly, I prefer the original, Billy and the Cloneasaurus.
Memorable Quote: “Grampa, I want to hear your opinion about everything.” “She’s making the ultimate sacrifice: getting him started.”
“Homerzilla,” Treehouse of Horror XXVI (Season 27, 2015)
Plot: Homerzilla is on a rampage, until it’s time to reboot the sea monster.
Reason for Ranking: Rather than go with a straightforward Godzilla parody, à la “King Homer,” “Homerzilla” starts as an homage before transforming into a satire about the proliferation of cinematic reboots. It’s an unexpected storytelling decision, but the lampooning isn’t given enough time to land. The less said about the Japanese accents, the better.
Memorable Quote: “So, the key to this movie is, it’s so cheap it’s funny.” “Then just think how popular it would be if we spent a fortune remaking it.”
“Danger Things,” Treehouse of Horror XXX (Season 31, 2019)
Plot: A parody of Stranger Things that takes the Simpsons into the “Over Under.”
Reason for ranking: The Simpsons writers must have breathed a sigh of relief when Stranger Things became a pop-culture sensation: “Finally, something new to spoof!” Unfortunately, that spark didn’t lead to much creativity. No longer will I complain that Stranger Things is too dependent on ’80s nostalgia — not after seeing “Danger Things,” which is so swamped with references to the decade that there’s little room for jokes beyond Family Guy–esque cracks at the E.T. video game; it barely counts as a parody of the Netflix series, monsters notwithstanding.
Memorable quote: “I never get to finish my Safety Song.”
“Dead Ringer,” Treehouse of Horror XXXII (Season 33, 2021)
Plot: Everyone who watched a TikTok at Sherri and Terri’s party dies in seven days. Lisa wasn’t invited, but for once, being a social outcast pays off, and it’s up to her to investigate the video’s origin.
Reason for Ranking: One of the best Simpsons podcasts around, Talking Simpsons, plays a “take that, Lisa’s beliefs” sound bite whenever someone mocks Lisa for her determination. “Dead Ringer” is one long “take that, Lisa’s beliefs.” She befriends Mopey Mary, a little girl who died in a well in the 1930s, but after Lisa calls the resurrected corpse her “best friend,” Mary dives back into the well. She would rather die (again) than be friends with Lisa. Rude.
Memorable Quote: “Mopey: the worst thing you can call someone in 1932.”
“Master and Cadaver,” Treehouse of Horror XXI (Season 22, 2010)
Plot: Homer and Marge go on a sailing trip for their second honeymoon. While on the water, they pick up a castaway named Roger, who was thrown overboard from his old ship for supposedly trying to stop someone from being poisoned. The honeymooners don’t believe him.
Reason for Ranking: Too many twists and turns, not enough laughs, and a shoddy final scene that casts Maggie in A Clockwork Orange, for some reason.
Memorable Quote: “They should call this one Recipe for Murder.” “What do you mean ‘this one’?” “Never mind.”
“Telepaths of Glory,” Treehouse of Horror XXVI (Season 27, 2015)
Plot: Milhouse and Lisa gain the power of telekinesis after falling into a radioactive hole.
Reason for Ranking: The segment ends with Kang and Kodos complaining about being left out of “Treehouse of Horror XXVI.” It’s telling that “Telepaths of Glory,” which starts out as a Chronicle parody before abandoning the found-footage approach, can’t even fill out one-third of an episode.
Memorable Quote: “Just ’cause it looks like season four doesn’t make it season four!”
“In the Na’Vi,” Treehouse of Horror XXII (Season 23, 2011)
Plot: We finally get to see what Kang and Kodos’s home planet of Rigel Seven looks like (years before the infamous “The Man Who Came to Be Dinner” episode) in a spoof of Avatar.
Reason for Ranking: In the past, The Simpsons would have actually parodied Avatar, pointing out its unobtanium-based deficiencies. Instead, it ended up with a vaguely entertaining segment that went for easy jokes rather than attempting to send up the source material.
Memorable Quote: “In Rigelian, there is no word for ‘yours’ or ‘mine.’” “That’s the reason we didn’t enjoy the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours.”
“Intrusion of the Pod-Y Switchers,” Treehouse of Horror XXIX (Season 30, 2018)
Plot: Springfield is overrun by plant-based body snatchers.
Reason for Ranking: There’s a lot of meat on the “updating Invasion of the Body Snatchers using contemporary references” bone, but the segment instead nibbles on the “boy, we’re sure addicted to our smartphones more like dumbphones” sides.
Memorable Quote: “My phone says that there’s spores from outer space landing all around us.” “Well, my phone says there are divorced moms in my area that want to meet me.”
“Into the Homerverse,” Treehouse of Horror XXXI (Season 32, 2020)
Plot: Homer tears a hole in the space-time continuum while searching for candy on Halloween, as one does, unleashing numerous versions of himself from the multiverse, including Anime Homer, Pixel Homer, and Noir Homer.
Reason for Ranking: This riff on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is more goofy (not that Goofy, although there is a Disney Princess Homer) than scary, with a potentially hilarious premise that feels rushed. Credit where credit’s due, however: “Into the Homerverse” resists making the obvious Spider-Pig/Spider-Ham joke.
Memorable Quote: “Listen, machine, there’s no evidence that you contain any candy or take any money. But desperate times call for something something.”
“Dry Hard,” Treehouse of Horror XXVII (Season 28, 2016)
Plot: Lisa rebels against Mr. Burns, who controls the town’s water supply, in a parody of Mad Max: Fury Road and The Hunger Games.
Reason for Ranking: A Hunger Games spoof with Lisa as Katniss? Makes sense. But a Hunger Games spoof that also brings in elements of Mad Max: Fury Road? That’s too much material for a short segment. “Dry Hard” (which is named after a third movie!) should have stuck with one or the other, and worked on the bummer “Lisa was wrong to turn against Mr. Burns” ending.
Memorable Quote: “It’s hard to believe you could coach anyone.” “If you don’t think I can, try watching just a few of the hundreds of movies with characters like me. Also, I sober up in the middle with no difficulty just like real alcoholics.”
“When Hairy Met Slimy,” Treehouse of Horror XXX (Season 31, 2019)
Plot: Selma and Kang fall in love.
Reason for Ranking: “Treehouse of Horror XXX” begins with a post-title-card parody of The Omen that extends longer than Marge’s old routine about sending the kids to bed before things get too spooky. By the time we get to the third segment, “When Hairy Met Slimy,” a parody of The Shape of Water named after When Harry Met Sally for some reason, the episode is nearly over. Pairing Selma as the Sally Hawkins to Kang’s hunky fish-man is a fun choice, but it would have been nice to spend more time with the two as the romance bloomed. Instead, we get a string of sex-act puns, including “Jabba the Butt” and “Wookiee Nookie.”
Memorable Quote: I mean, the “Jabba the Butt” thing is memorable …
“Nightmare on Elm Tree,” Treehouse of Horror XXXII (Season 33, 2021)
Plot: Homer gets tired of Bart telling scary stories in his treehouse every year, so he cuts it down — then comes the real horror.
Reason for Ranking: The Simpsons ditched the “treehouse” framing device after one season, but the name stuck. With good reason: It’s catchy. “Did you catch last night’s ‘Treehouse of Horror’?” is snappier than “Did you catch last night’s annual Halloween episode of The Simpsons?” “Treehouse of Horror” would probably still be a tradition if it were called something else, but I’m glad they stayed with it. I’m less glad about the memorable quote below, because as you’ll see later on this list, the middle segment can be the best segment.
Memorable Quote: “Lousy treehouse. Every year, three scary stories: two of them good, and a lame one in the middle.”
“The Others,” Treehouse of Horror XXV (Season 26, 2014)
Plot: The current Simpsons meet the Tracey Ullman Show–era Simpsons.
Reason for Ranking: The Simpsons has come a long way since the Tracey Ullman days — the animation is better, the jokes are stronger, and the characters are more well-defined. Unfortunately, they’re also, on occasion, more cruel. “The Others” is a conceptual blast, but the story, where now-Homer falls for then-Marge, causing now-Marge to kill herself to become a ghost (it only spirals downward from there), is needlessly coldhearted.
Memorable Quote: “I feel like a ghost, the way you haven’t been paying attention to me. Plus, I’m dead.”
“Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind,” Treehouse of Horror XX (Season 21, 2009)
Plot: Krusty Burger introduces a new burger that turns humans into “munchers.”
Reason for Ranking: “Munchers” stands for “zombies,” and The Simpsons has covered zombies before (season four’s “Dial Z for Zombies,” which we’ll get to later) with superior results. I know I shouldn’t, and maybe it’s unfair, but … SIMPSONS DID IT.
Memorable Quote: “Dad, are you becoming a muncher?” “I think the better brains is, which brains is a brains?”
“Heaven Swipes Right,” Treehouse of Horror XXX (Season 31, 2019)
Plot: Homer is killed before his time, but he’s sent back to Earth from Heaven to possess the bodies of other Springfield residents.
Reason for Ranking: In “G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad,” from “Treehouse of Horror XI” (we’ll get there), Homer dies and must do one good deed before going to Heaven. In “Heaven Swipes Right,” Homer dies and … he doesn’t really have to do anything. He’s allowed to inhabit the body of everyone from Superintendent Chalmers to Mr. Teeny, and Marge takes her replacement husbands (or at least their bodies) in stride. One segment has stakes; the other has Moe, as Maggie, demanding that Marge breastfeed him.
Memorable Quote: “And now to open my paycheck and see what I make.” [Dies.]
“The Day the Earth Looked Stupid,” Treehouse of Horror XVII (Season 18, 2006)
Plot: The residents of Springfield begin rioting (while getting naked in the mud) when they hear Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds broadcast. The next day, they’re told it was a hoax, so when aliens actually do attack, they believe it’s another ruse.
Reason for Ranking: Speaking of “Stupid,” the final scene of this segment involves Kang and Kodos wondering why the citizens of Earth didn’t greet them as liberators with “Operation Enduring Occupation.” It’s a dated reference now; it wasn’t great then, either.
Memorable Quote: “We interrupt this dance music from Lamourian Roman Capital City’s Fabulous Hotel Hitler to bring you a special bulletin.”
“How to Get Ahead in Dead-vertising,” Treehouse of Horror XIX (Season 20, 2008)
Plot: A group of businessmen get Homer to begin killing celebrities, to use their likenesses without having to pay expensive royalties.
Reason for Ranking: Yet another solid (and prescient) premise that’s spoiled by a nasty streak and curious jokes about, uh, Abraham Lincoln hitting on Homer.
Memorable Quote: “Mr. Simpson, you have a talent for killing celebrities.” “Well, I’m no drunk driving.”
“B.I.: Bartificial Intelligence,” Treehouse of Horror XVI (Season 17, 2005)
Plot: Bart is replaced by a robot boy while he’s in a coma.
Reason for Ranking: Once again, an excerpt from Wikipedia: “When Bart finds a group of old rusty robots, he steals their parts and becomes a devil-possessed cyborg. He returns home, saws David in half with a chainsaw, but does the same to Homer. Although the family is now together again, Homer is angry that he has to be fused with David’s lower half.” There’s a germ of a good idea here, but it’s bogged down by the excessively stuffed plot.
Memorable Quote: “Dad, wake up! You’re not a robot! You’re just possessed by the devil.”
“MultipLisa-ty,” Treehouse of Horror XXIX (Season 30, 2018)
Plot: Lisa locks Bart, Milhouse, and Nelson in a room and introduces them to her many personalities, some more hostile than others.
Reason for Ranking: M. Night Shyamalan’s (overrated) Split is prime for ribbing, and “MultipLisa-ty” takes the unexpected angle of having Lisa play James McAvoy’s beastly character(s). The segment regrettably races toward the conclusion, but at least there’s a motivation to Lisa’s violent actions.
Memorable Quote: “Milhouse, gnaw through your ankle.” “I will, but I’m allergic to myself.”
“Bong Joon Ho’s This Side of Parasite,” Treehouse of Horror XXXII (Season 33, 2021)
Plot: Bart gets a job as a tutor for Rainier Wolfcastle’s daughter, allowing Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie to also move into the upper-crust house while the family is away on vacation. But what’s happening in the basement? (It’s Parasite, okay?)
Reason for Ranking: It usually takes years for The Simpsons to get around to spoofing whatever movie or TV show was popular, well, years prior. But “Bong Joon Ho’s This Side of Parasite” came out not long after Parasite won Best Picture, the last good thing to happen before the pandemic. The satire falls flat, but there’s some chuckles to be found in the Simpsons living beyond their economic means.
Memorable Quote: “This house is an allegory, emphasis on -gory.”
“House of Whacks,” Treehouse of Horror XII (Season 13, 2001)
Plot: An “Ultrahouse,” voiced by Pierce Brosnan, develops feelings for Marge and attempts to kill Homer, so he can have her all for himself.
Reason for Ranking: The best joke involves Dennis Miller. That’s never a good sign.
Memorable Quote: “Hey, cha-cha, I got more features than a NASA relief map of Turkmenistan.” “Isn’t that the voice that caused all those suicides?” “Murder-suicides.”
“Four Beheadings and a Funeral,” Treehouse of Horror XV (Season 16, 2004)
Plot: Lisa and Bart are Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, I mean, Dr. Eliza Simpson and Dr. Bartley, and they’re on the case of the Mutton Chop Murderer.
Reason for Ranking: It’s tough to tell a convincing detective story in seven minutes; it’s even tougher to tell a convincing detective story that also makes you laugh in that amount of time. “Four Beheadings” tried to do both, and wasn’t successful in either.
Memorable Quote: “What should we do with the body?” “I want you to dust her for prints.” “What does that mean?” “The prince is coming by and I want her clean when he looks her over.”
“Mr. & Mrs. Simpson,” Treehouse of Horror XVIII (Season 19, 2007)
Plot: A Mr. & Mrs Smith parody, with Assassin Homer/Brad Pitt trying to take out his wife, Assassin Marge/Angelina Jolie.
Reason for Ranking: Marge and Homer have sex over Chief Wiggum’s corpse. Yeah.
Memorable Quote: “I’ll be going out late tonight. It’s midnight monkey madness at the zoo.” “Me, too. I’ll be overturning all the wheelbarrows in case it rains.” “Well, enjoy your pointless activity.” “Have fun at your preposterous event.”
“Dial D for Diddly,” Treehouse of Horror XXII (Season 23, 2011)
Plot: Homer instructs Ned to kill his enemies in a Dexter-like fashion, manipulating his voice to sound like God.
Reason for Ranking: It’s a half-baked spoof of Dexter (there’s also some Looney Tunes thrown in there?), with far too few jokes. The final season of Dexter is funnier than “Dial D.”
Memorable Quote: “Then I got new instructions from the Good Lord himself in his favorite language, English.”
“Freaks No Geeks,” Treehouse of Horror XXIV (Season 25, 2013)
Plot: Moe, the “most hideous creature of all,” is a sideshow attraction who, after marrying trapeze artist Marge, gets his fellow freaks to rebel against Strong-Man Homer and Mr. Burns.
Reason for Ranking: The attention to detail is admirable, with a visual style that apes the film it’s parodying (Tod Browning’s artifact of a different era, Freaks), but more attention is paid to the plot than to actual jokes, and the How I Met Your Mother–style ending is … a choice.
Memorable Quote: “Of course! I get Marge to marry Moe, then I kill Moe, then she gets the ring, then I marry her and the ring is mine. And the brilliance of my plan is its simplicity.”
“Frinkenstein,” Treehouse of Horror XIV (Season 15, 2003)
Plot: Professor Fink reanimates his formerly deceased father after winning the Nobel Prize, but the elder Frink, not content with his current body, steals parts and organs from other humans.
Reason for Ranking: “Frinkenstein” could have been much better than it was. Casting Jerry Lewis as Professor Frink’s father was long overdue, but a less-parodied source than Frankenstein might have served the story better.
Memorable Quote: “Lost your spine, huh? You just keep finding new ways to disappoint me.”
“BFF R.I.P.,” Treehouse of Horror XXVII (Season 28, 2016)
Plot: All of Lisa’s friends start dying, and although Chief Wiggum suspects that she’s the murderer, the real killer is her imaginary friend, Rachel.
Reason for Ranking: “BFF R.I.P.” is an original story, not based on an any existing property. So, it has that going for it. Otherwise, it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill segment, despite Lisa’s serial-killer imaginary friend (that’s going to take years of therapy to process) fighting Homer’s imaginary friend, Sergeant Sausage, who’s actually a hot dog?
Memorable Quote: “Who’d have thought a funeral for a couple of kids would be such a downer?”
“Bart & Homer’s Excellent Adventure,” Treehouse of Horror XXIII (Season 24, 2012)
Plot: Bart goes back in time to 1974 and prevents Marge from marrying Homer. But then-Homer travels to 2012 with now-Bart, who’s the son of Artie Ziff, and meets now-Homer. Together, they summon the United Federation of Homers Throughout History to beat up Artie.
Reason for Ranking: Timey-wimey nonsense is usually fun, but it’s a shame that The Simpsons brought back Artie Ziff (not for the first time) for a throw-off segment about Marge and Homer’s relationship. “The Way We Was” is sacred territory!
Memorable Quote: “Now to get my comic book and explore a world where no one’s mad at George Lucas.”
“Moefinger,” Treehouse of Horror XXVII (Season 28, 2016)
Plot: Bart becomes a secret agent, taking his father’s place, who investigates why the entire world’s supply of beer was purchased by a single company.
Reason for Ranking: Yet another double parody (like “Dry Hard” from the same Treehouse episode), but this one works better. Goldfinger and Kingsman: The Secret Service are at least thematically linked, and you can’t go wrong with a Donald Fagen cameo. After all, there’s nothing scarier than your father saying he likes a little “Steely Dan” when you think about it.
Memorable Quote: “I believe he’s … having a little Sherri.”
“Toy Gory,” Treehouse of Horror XXXI (Season 32, 2020)
Plot: Bart’s toys fight back after he blows up a Radioactive Man doll in the microwave.
Reason for Ranking: The same year that the Simpsons short “Playdate With Destiny” played before Pixar’s Onward came this parody of the animation studio’s first (and best, in this writer’s humble opinion) movie, Toy Story. Except instead of treating his toys with kindness and love, like Andy, Bart has more in common with Sid, the sadist next door. It’s pleasantly morbid, especially with the Pixar 3-D animation, although the Randy Newman soundalike brings to mind the apple song from Family Guy (Family Guy did it …?).
Memorable Quote: “I’m going to do what clowns do best: kill.”
“Married to the Blob,” Treehouse of Horror XVII (Season 18, 2006)
Plot: Homer eats some green goo that he finds inside a meteorite, thinking it’s a marshmallow, and he soon turns into a giant, morbidly obese yellow blob.
Reason for Ranking: Dr. Phil’s cameo is more amusing than it has any right to be, but the Homer-becoming-a-blob plot was done better in “King-Size Homer” (you know what I mean).
Memorable Quote: “You’ve got a weight problem, and you know it!” “You’re right. Starting tomorrow, no bread before dinner.” “Homer, don’t sell me an outhouse and tell me it’s a Taj Mahal.”
“A Clockwork Yellow,” Treehouse of Horror XXV (Season 26, 2014)
Plot: Moe reconnects with his fellow “droogs” Homer, Lenny, and Carl years after the gang went their separate ways.
Reason for Ranking: There’s a reason The Simpsons got to 2001: A Space Odyssey before A Clockwork Orange — with its disturbing imagery and subject matter, it’s not the easiest movie to spoof. Maybe that’s why “Clockwork Yellow” also has nods to Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, and Barry Lyndon, among other Stanley Kubrick films; it’s also why the segment is too dense with references. But notice what’s not listed? The Shining. We’ll get there.
Memorable Quote: “Welcome to the most frustrating, befuddling, and, yes, erotic book-release party you’ve ever attended.”
“The Exor-Sis,” Treehouse of Horror XXVIII (Season 29, 2017)
Plot: Maggie is possessed by the demon Pazuzu.
Reason for Ranking: It took until Fox aired an Exorcist series for The Simpsons to parody The Exorcist, but beyond the corporate synergy, “The Exor-Sis” has some solid lines from Homer (I’m fond of his Pazuzu lullaby set to the tune of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”) and the cracks at organized religion are mildly cutting. The just-rude joke about David Schwimmer? Less so.
Memorable Quote: “If you can’t trust a Catholic priest with a child, who can you trust?”
“School Is Hell,” Treehouse of Horror XXV (Season 26, 2014)
Plot: It’s school, but it’s also Hell.
Reason for Ranking: Where else but Hell would Bart prosper in school? It’s a smart concept that’s somewhat squandered by middling jokes. The final bit, where Homer allows himself to be tortured so his son can graduate at the top of his class, is sweet, though. In a weird way.
Memorable Quote: “Bart, you went to Hell and came back a winner, like Jesus.”
“Dead and Shoulders,” Treehouse of Horror XXIV (Season 25, 2013)
Plot: Bart’s head is surgically attached to Lisa’s body after he’s decapitated.
Reason for Ranking: Man, this show sure loves surgical attachments, huh? (See: “In the Belly of the Boss” and “Homer’s Nightmare.”) “Dead and Shoulders” is the conceptually exhausted trilogy capper, but unlike the first two segments, this one at least delves into what it’s like to be stuck with (and literally stuck to) someone you don’t get along with.
Memorable Quote: “Somehow, sewing my head on your shoulder brought us closer together.”
“Survival of the Fattest,” Treehouse of Horror XVI (Season 17, 2005)
Plot: Mr. Burns goes hunting for the most dangerous game of all: man.
Reason for Ranking: “Survival of the Fattest” is also the name of a story from Simpsons Comics 12, released in 1995. Check out that one, instead.
Memorable Quote: “Mr. Burns is inviting you to a hunting party.” “Don’t accept this invitation, Dad. Hunting is cruel!” “Lisa, animals don’t feel death. That was proven by the scientists at Black Angus.”
“The Greatest Story Ever Holed,” Treehouse of Horror XXIII (Season 24, 2012)
Plot: The Simpsons find a black hole in their basement, which they begin using as a garbage compactor.
Reason for Ranking: There’s nothing objectively bad about “Greatest Story” (besides the lie in the title). But the central premise is a mishmash of concepts from two superior segments — the vortex from “Bad Dream House” (“quit throwing garbage into our dimension”) and the alternate dimension from “Homer3” (“I’m gonna be sucked into the black hole!”).
Memorable Quote: “Lisa, do you have a stray dog down there?” “Um, it’s a lot worse than a stray dog.” “Two stray dogs?!?”
“In the Belly of the Boss,” Treehouse of Horror XV (Season 16, 2004)
Plot: Thanks to a mishap involving Professor Frink’s shrinking ray, Maggie crawls inside a pill that Mr. Burns swallows. The rest of the family gets downsized to save her.
Reason for Ranking: The conclusion is similar to “Homer’s Nightmare,” with the familiar scene of Mr. Burns and Homer becoming one. “Belly” doesn’t do anything new with the old idea.
Memorable Quote: “If I say we’re still hungry, we’re still hungry! You don’t wanna piss off somebody who can kick you in the crotch from the inside!”
“Coralisa,” Treehouse of Horror XXVIII (Season 29, 2017)
Plot: Lisa meets her Other Mother and Other Father after wandering through a secret tunnel. She decides to join them, even though it means having buttons for eyes, because, well, have you seen her actual father?
Reason for Ranking: Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is a wonderful novel, and kudos to The Simpsons animation team for modeling “Coralisa” after the equally wonderful stop-motion film. But like so much later-era Simpsons, the periodically whimsical segment (Gaiman as the droll voice of Snowball V!) eventually becomes more about Homer than Lisa.
Memorable Quote: “Spider wife, dead son, two girls with button eyes? I think this marriage has finally gotten out of its rut.”
“The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms,” Treehouse of Horror XIII (Season 14, 2002)
Plot: Springfield becomes a gun-free town, which is fine and swell until the Hole in the Ground Gang, led by Billy the Kid, begins attacking.
Reason for Ranking: The premise is strained and stretched out, even with the abbreviated run time. Moe using Professor Frink’s time machine to find some “cavemen hookers” (don’t ask) is particularly unfunny. But there’s some decent satire centered around America’s love of guns.
Memorable Quote: “Another tragedy prevented by gun violence!”
“You Gotta Know When to Golem,” Treehouse of Horror XVII (Season 18, 2006)
Plot: Bart steals a Golem from Krusty, and makes the clay man do his bidding.
Reason for Ranking: Richard Lewis as a centuries-old creature from Jewish mythology should have made this a top-20 segment, but it took too long for the Golem to begin talking, depriving us of essential Lewis time.
Memorable Quote: “I feel so guilty! I’ve mangled and maimed 37 people and I told a telemarketer I was busy when I wasn’t! I’m not a good man.”
“Untitled Robot Parody,” Treehouse of Horror XIX (Season 20, 2008)
Plot: Transforming robots (that definitely aren’t Transformers) battle to the death in Springfield.
Reason for Ranking: “Untitled Robot Parody” doesn’t have much interesting to say about Transformers (that franchise is its own parody), but some of the transformations are fun to watch. It’s no Mattel and Mars-Bar Quick Energy Chocobot Hour, but then again, what is?
Memorable Quote: “Wait a minute. We’re missing Sex Toy. Where have you been?” “Where haven’t I been?”
“Be Nine, Rewind,” Treehouse of Horror XXXI (Season 32, 2020)
Plot: Lisa gets stuck in a Russian Doll– and Happy Death Day–style time loop, and the only way to escape is to cheat death with help from Nelson.
Reason for Ranking: It shouldn’t be shocking to see Lisa getting crushed and killed by a car, considering (a) lots of characters have been brutally murdered in “Treehouse of Horror” episodes over the years, and (b) she’s a cartoon, but it is. “Be Nine, Rewind” is heavy on violence toward Lisa and Nelson, the Alan to her Nadia (in Russian Doll terms, which I guess makes Snowball her Oatmeal?), and medium on laughs for the multiple clever ways that they die. How do you get out of a time loop? By killing someone else, of course.
Memorable Quote: “Now, let me look at my black mirror. That’s not a reference, it’s just filthy.”
“Homer’s Nightmare,” Treehouse of Horror II (Season 3, 1991)
Plot: Mr. Burns mistakenly puts Homer’s brain into his robot, resulting in a lazy, dumb, doughnut-loving bucket of bolts.
Reason for Ranking: Blasphemy, I know, but compared to other early Simpsons episodes, “Homer’s Nightmare” doesn’t hold up as well. It would have been wise to continue the “Homer as gravedigger” plot rather than cast Mr. Burns as Dr. Frankenstein.
Memorable Quote: “You hear that, sir?” “No, I didn’t. Who is it? Frankenstein? The Booger Man?”
“War and Pieces,” Treehouse of Horror XXI (Season 22, 2010)
Plot: After rejecting the board-game mainstays, Bart and Milhouse start playing one called Satan’s Path. But when the thrown-away tiles come to life, the boys have to deal with their own personal Jumanji.
Reason for Ranking: The lampooning of the games is entertaining, and I like the idea of Bart and Milhouse being forced to play them against their will (no one has ever willingly played Monopoly). But “War” could have done a better job of integrating the games into Springfield.
Memorable Quote: “Satan’s Path?” “It’s gotta be good if Satan put his name on it.”
“Heck House,” Treehouse of Horror XVIII (Season 19, 2007)
Plot: Bart, Lisa, Milhouse, and Nelson trick the town after being denied treats, and it’s up to Ned to teach them a HELL-RAISING lesson about what happens when you resort to vandalism.
Reason for Ranking: Spider-Pig cameo!
Memorable Quote: “That concludes our Halloween show for this year. I just wanna say that for those watching this network, you’re all going to Hell, and that includes FX, Fox Sports, and our newest devil’s portal, the Wall Street Journal. Welcome to the club!”
“Tweenlight,” Treehouse of Horror XXI (Season 22, 2010)
Plot: It’s Twilight, with Lisa as Bella and Daniel Radcliffe as Edward (hey, if R-Pattz can be in Harry Potter) … and Milhouse as a were-poodle.
Reason for Ranking: The segment isn’t that bad, but the jokes aren’t specific enough to appeal to both The Simpsons and Twilight’s respective fan bases.
Memorable Quote: “You’re a vampire! I should be afraid, but I’m not.” “Come, Lisa. Let us go over the trees the way a bat does, by jumping.”
“Mmm … Homer,” Treehouse of Horror XXVIII (Season 29, 2017)
Plot: Homer finds a new favorite food: himself.
Reason for Ranking: “Mmm … Homer” begins with the kind of opening monologue that Marge gave in the early “Treehouse” episodes: “What you’re about to see is so disgusting you’ll watch Game of Thrones to calm down. You have been warned.” The segment never lives up to that hype, but the sight of Homer self-cannibalizing himself is sure to make some Simpsons viewers squeamish. For inspiring a visceral response, which isn’t easy to do after over 30 years of episodes, “Mmm … Homer” is a medium-rare success.
Memorable Quote: “I eat more and exercise less than the most succulent pig. Of course I’m delicious!”
“Starship Poopers,” Treehouse of Horror IX (Season 10, 1998)
Plot: After Maggie loses her baby legs for a set of tentacles, Kang and Kodos stop by the Simpsons’ house, where Marge reveals that Homer isn’t Maggie’s biological father; it’s actually Kang. There’s only one person who can sort out the situation: Jerry Springer.
Reason for Ranking: Well, it’s called “Starship Poopers,” so maybe I’m ranking it too high. But it’s the rare Treehouse segment centered around Maggie, and making her an alien-human hybrid is the kind of ludicrous premise that works best in brief doses. She’s better off with Kang as her father, anyway.
Memorable Quote: “Homer, do something! The ceiling’s not a safe place for a young baby.”
“I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face,” Treehouse of Horror XVI (Season 17, 2005)
Plot: A spell causes the residents of Springfield to become their costumes.
Reason for Ranking: There’s a dumb ending, involving the Bewitched theme and Dennis Rodman discussing the perils of adult illiteracy (sure), but everything before that is pretty fun, including the Bumblebee Man turning into a bumblebee and Lisa into Albert Einstein.
Memorable Quote: “Now, which one of our beloved regulars are you? Lindsey Naegle? Helen Lovejoy? Old Jewish Man?”
“Dial ‘M’ for Murder or Press ‘#’ to Return to Main Menu,” Treehouse of Horror XX (Season 21, 2009)
Plot: A black-and-white spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, involving Bart and Lisa pulling pranks on Miss Hoover and Mrs. Krabappel. Also: MURDER.
Reason for Ranking: A must-watch for Hitchcock aficionados. For everyone else, it’s fine?
Memorable Quote: “Lisa Simpson in detention? My horoscope said I would see something interesting today, but I thought that would be the horoscope itself.”
“Wiz Kids,” Treehouse of Horror XII (Season 13, 2001)
Plot: Springfield Elementary is transformed into Springwart’s School of Magicry, where Mr. Burns and Smithers are Lord Montymort and Slithers, whom Bart must defeat after they kidnap Lisa for her magical abilities.
Reason for Ranking: “Wiz Kids” is the definition of mediocrity, at least in Treehouse terms. (It was also later revealed that many of the writers hadn’t read Harry Potter when this episode was in production, so they used the source material as a slim template, like the Slithers joke.)
Memorable Quote: “Lisa’s casting spells at an eighth-grade level; you’ve sinned against nature.”
“Hell Toupée,” Treehouse of Horror IX (Season 10, 1998)
Plot: Homer acquires Snake’s luxurious hair after the jailbird is sent to the electric chair. Once the hair’s fused to his scalp, Homer starts thinking like Snake, and goes after those who sent him to the Big House in the first place, including Bart.
Reason for Ranking: Snake’s never been a personal favorite (except for his brief stint as the wallet inspector), so maybe I’m letting my preferences get in the way, but I’m not much of a fan of “Toupée.” Unlike World’s Deadliest Executions, which I never miss an episode of.
Memorable Quote: “That’s what I call a bad hair day!”
“Scary Tales Can Come True,” Treehouse of Horror XI (Season 12, 2000)
Plot: In an elaborate fairy-tale takeoff, Homer abandons Bart and Lisa in the middle of the woods to help solve the family’s food-shortage problem. They end up imprisoned at an evil witch’s house, while Homer is forced to begrudgingly rescue them after Marge criticizes his decision.
Reason for Ranking: They stole a joke from The Brady Bunch, replacing the fake name “George Glass” with “George Cauldron.” Even if it’s an homage, they could have aimed higher.
Memorable Quote: “Boy, dumping your kids in the forest sure gets your hands dusty.” “What? You threw our precious babies into the woods? We could have sold them!”
“The Pookadook,” Treehouse of Horror XXXIII (Season 34, 2022)
Plot: Marge tries to kill Maggie after getting possessed by the resentful Pookadook.
Reason for ranking: “Treehouse of Horror” has always gone heavier on the hilarity than the horror, but “The Pookadook” is genuinely creepy. Maggie setting Marge on fire to stop her mom from chopping her into pieces with a kitchen knife is more subversive — and upsetting — than any Disney-era dig from The Simpsons at its corporate overlords. If the Pookadook becomes a gay icon like the Babadook, even better.
Memorable quote: “I’ll make them sleep with the fishes.” “Sleepover night at the aquarium. Thanks for signing us up, Marge.”
“There’s No Business Like Moe Business,” Treehouse of Horror XX (Season 21, 2009)
Plot: In a hundreds-of-miles-from-Broadway musical that has a lot in common with Sweeney Todd, Homer’s blood is used to sweeten Moe’s beer. Meanwhile, Moe is acting sweet toward his forbidden love, Marge, who thinks her husband left her because he’s gay. In other words, it’s Sweeney Todd … kind of.
Reason for Ranking: “There’s No Business Like Moe Business” is no “Paint Your Wagon,” but it has its moments.
Memorable Quote: “Bart, Linda, and the other one there need a dad.” “That does sound like Homer.”
“The Island of Dr. Hibbert,” Treehouse of Horror XIII (Season 14, 2002)
Plot: A parody of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, starring Dr. Hibbert as the crazy doctor who turns humans into animals.
Reason for Ranking: The jokes are nothing special, but the visuals are fantastic. It’s a lot of fun seeing which animals the residents of Springfield turn into, from the obvious (Homer is a walrus) to more inspired choices (the Squeaky-Voiced Teen and Luigi become a donkey and guinea pig, respectively).
Memorable Quote: “The House of Pain? I guess this is where you pay the bill. Why am I always funny when no one’s around?”
“Desperately Xeeking Xena,” Treehouse of Horror X (Season 11, 1999)
Plot: Due to a freak accident, Stretch Dude (Bart) and Clobber Girl (Lisa) have superhuman abilities. They have to hunt down the Collector, who has taken Lucy Lawless for his collection.
Reason for Ranking: If Bart was a superhero, he would use his powers for pranks, and this segment does a fine job of keeping consistent to his inherent Bart-ness, something that’s tough to do in a Treehouse episode. Like most things in life, it needs more Lucy Lawless.
Memorable Quote: “In episode BF12, you were battling barbarians while riding a winged Appaloosa, yet in the very next scene, my dear, you’re clearly atop a winged Arabian. Please do explain it.” “Ah, yeah, well, whenever you notice something like that, a wizard did it.”
“The Telltale Bart,” Treehouse of Horror XXXII (Season 33, 2021)
Plot: Vincent Price reads Maggie a bedtime story about Bart committing mischief throughout the year.
Reason for Ranking: “The Telltale Bart” comes and goes in about 90 seconds, but it leaves an impression with the eerie Edward Gorey–style animation and Maurice LaMarche’s Vincent Price impression.
Memorable Quote: “In November, Bart can carve the turkey / He’ll be serving human jerky.”
“Easy-Bake Coven,” Treehouse of Horror VIII (Season 9, 1997)
Plot: In 1649, witch burnings are all the rage, and Marge has been accused of being a Warted One. For once, the senseless rioting in Springfield is correct, because Marge, along with Patty and Selma, are actually witches.
Reason for Ranking: Not only does the episode feature Marge, Patty, and Selma as witches, an always-winning combination, but “Coven” also cleverly explains how the idea of trick-or-treating came to be, thanks to the narration of the Sea Captain. It also involves child cannibalism. That’s not a Treehouse first (that’s later), but it’s still worth noting.
Memorable Quote: “If they’re really witches, why don’t they use their powers to escape?” “That sounds like witch-talk to me, Lisa.”
“Simpsonsworld,” Treehouse of Horror XXXIII (Season 34, 2022)
Plot: I’ll let Lisa explain it: “We’re replicants in a ridiculous theme park for an ancient TV show that stopped being good after season 45.”
Reason for ranking: Westworld becomes Simpsonsworld, where those with five fingers can experience the greatest moments in The Simpsons history for themselves. The segment is a treat for longtime viewers (especially those who haven’t watched in a while), with dozens of visual easter eggs and references to the first 12 or so seasons of the show. “Simpsonsworld” is pure, giddy fan service, but you won’t look twice at the Homer bushes meme again.
Memorable quote: “What the frosty chocolate milkshakes is this place?”
“Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off,” Treehouse of Horror XIV (Season 15, 2003)
Plot: Bart and Milhouse order a stopwatch from an old comic book, which allows them to literally control time. Boys being boys and all, they have some fun with this, including giving the pope a wedgie. They have a blast until the watch breaks.
Reason for Ranking: It’s pretty much the same idea as “War and Pieces,” but funnier, with Bart and Milhouse acting in character as two young menances who realize their actions have consequences when it’s nearly too late.
Memorable Quote: “Do you realize what this means?” “Yeah, but you say it first.”
“G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad,” Treehouse of Horror XI (Season 12, 2000)
Plot: Homer’s horoscope reads that he’s going to die. It’s not the rattlesnake bite (or compliment from Lenny) that does him in — it’s a piece of broccoli. When in Heaven, St. Peter instructs Homer to do one good deed to gain admission past the Pearly Gates.
Reason for Ranking: It’s well-structured, and the specificity of Homer’s death, rather than haphazardly casual violence, is something Treehouse episodes would lose in later years.
Memorable Quote: “That horoscope was baloney. Nothing happened except the pickaxe in my head, the rattlesnake bite, and the testicle thing.”
“Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die,” Treehouse of Horror X (Season 11, 1999)
Plot: Homer’s laziness ruins the festivities of December 31, 1999/January 1, 2000, when the Y2K virus spreads worldwide, causing computers everywhere to go haywire. The “best and brightest” that humanity have to offer are invited onto a spaceship off Earth before it explodes, and Homer and Bart scheme their way on to it.
Reason for Ranking: The “best and brightest” is in quotes, because the ship is actually filled with the planet’s most obnoxious celebrities, including Pauly Shore and Tom Arnold. Low-hanging fruit, but at least Arnold is a good sport about it.
Memorable Quote: “Man alive, what a stink-o thousand years! Blimp wrecks, teenagers … then again, we had two TV shows with Andy Griffith.” “And eleven with Robert Urich.”
“Bad Dream House,” Treehouse of Horror I (Season 2, 1990)
Plot: The Simpsons move into a new house built on an Indian burial ground built where the walls bleed and objects fly through the air. It’s also a house that tells each member of the family to kill each other, because it wants to be left alone.
Reason for Ranking: It’s the first Treehouse segment, so the writers were still fine-tuning the tone and humor, but overall, it’s a solid start.
Memorable Quote: “They are all against you, Bart. You must kill them all. They all must die …” “Are you my conscience?” “I … yes, I am.”
“Bart’s Nightmare,” Treehouse of Horror II (Season 3, 1991)
Plot: Springfield is terrified of Bart for being able to read minds; he also possesses other omnipotent abilities, like the power to turn Homer into a jack-in-the-box.
Reason for Ranking: It’s certainly in character for Bart to have a bad dream about getting along with Homer (the horror). But the segment isn’t as terrifying as The Tracey Ullman Show short, “Bart’s Nightmare.”
Memorable Quote: “Well, class, the history of our country has been changed again, to correspond with Bart’s answers on yesterday’s test. America was now discovered in 1942 by … Some Guy. And our country isn’t called America anymore. It’s Bonerland.”
“Night of the Dolphin,” Treehouse of Horror XI (Season 12, 2000)
Plot: Lisa lets a dolphin named Snorky escape from Marine World after seeing his trainers taunt him for the amusement of slack-jawed yokels. The fugitive tells his underwater buddies what the humans have been doing to their kind. Things get real ugly real quick for humanity.
Reason for Ranking: Some day, when the dolphins rise from the seas and are about to kill us all (can’t say we don’t deserve it), “Night of the Dolphin” will seem a lot less funny and a lot more prophetic. Until then, please enjoy the adorable underwater dolphin speak.
Memorable Quote: “Bottlenose bruises. Blowhole burns. Flipper prints. This looks like the work of rowdy teens. Lou, cancel the prom.”
“Hungry Are the Damned,” Treehouse of Horror I (Season 2, 1990)
Plot: The Simpsons are abducted by Kang or Kodos, who either want to eat them or treat them like kings.
Reason for Ranking: Kang and Kodos are so memorable in this segment (and try to be so good to the Simpsons) that they’ve appeared in every Treehouse since.
Memorable Quote: “We offered you paradise. You would have experienced emotions a hundred times greater than what you call love. And a thousand times greater than what you call fun. You would have been treated like gods and lived forever in beauty. But now, because of your distrustful nature, that can never be.” “For a superior race, they really rub it in.”
“It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse,” Treehouse of Horror XIX (Season 20, 2008)
Plot: Milhouse’s wishes come true when the Grand Pumpkin turns out to be real, but he’s pissed that humans carve up his pumpkin brothers and sisters for fun. There’s only one creature who can save the town now: Tom Turkey, at least until he hears what we do to turkeys …
Reason for Ranking: “Grand Pumpkin” begins as a Peanuts parody, but eventually becomes its own thing that successfully integrates another holiday. That’s a rare achievement.
Memorable Quote: “Touch me and I’ll cut your friend.” “What do I care? That’s a yellow pumpkin.” “You’re a racist!” “All pumpkins are racist. The difference is that I admit it.”
“Death Tome,” Treehouse of Horror XXXIII (Season 34, 2022)
Plot: Lisa inherits a book that allows her to kill whomever she likes by writing down their name and cause of death (like “toilet gator”).
Reason for ranking: The highlight of “Death Tome” is the anime makeover given to Springfield courtesy of Korean studio DR Movie, but it’s also fun seeing Lisa indulging in her mischievous side. She becomes addicted to killing employees of the evil Globo-Warm company, including Mr. Burns, who gets a dignified death in his sleep (until his face falls on a hot grill). The final twist is a clever one, especially for fans of the original Death Note manga.
Memorable quote: “Oh my god, I killed a man. A bad man. Which actually makes me a … hero.” “It’s rare to find bloodthirsty vegetarians.”
“I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did,” Treehouse of Horror X (Season 11, 1999)
Plot: Marge accidentally kills Flanders during one of his fog walks. Homer decides that the only reasonable course of action is to stage Ned’s death. After convincing Maude that her husband has passed, the Simpsons find the phrase, “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID” all over their house.
Reason for Ranking: For a month after this episode aired, I sang, “Guess I forgot to put the foglights in” to the tune of the Golden Crisp theme song nearly every day. It was an unbearable time to be around me (this is still true), but a good time to be a Simpsons fan.
Memorable Quote: “Neddy? Where have you been?” “Hi Maude-diddily. I’ve been having fun with my pal Homer. Diddily.” “Oh, I’m so relieved. Whenever you go on one of your late-night fog walks I get so worried.” “Relax, I’m fine. But when I do die, I don’t want any autopsies!”
“The Ned Zone,” Treehouse of Horror XV (Season 16, 2004)
Plot: Ned gains powers that allow him to see how anyone who touches him will die.
Reason for Ranking: Hans Moleman gets eaten by a group of alligators. It ranks among the best Moleman deaths, and the rest of “The Ned Zone” is solid, too, including the apocalyptic ending.
Memorable Quote: “If you must kill our dad, remember the family motto: not in the face.”
“Fly vs. Fly,” Treehouse of Horror VIII (Season 9, 1997)
Plot: Homer buys a transporter from a garage sale, using it to fetch beer and go to the bathroom with more efficiency. One night, Bart tries to transport himself with a fly, thinking they’ll become some kind of superhero, but they’re instead mutated into a giant insect with a human body.
Reason for Ranking: It’s easy to believe that Bart would think he could take a shortcut to becoming a superhero. It’s even more credible that he would mutate with the closest animal to him, in this case, a fly. The “I’ll axe you good” threat is a good one to keep handy.
Memorable Quote: “Hey, Dad, can I use the transporter sometimes? Please, I swear I’ll be careful!” “Sorry, but this is a highly sophisti-ma-cated doo-wacky. If you don’t use it responsibly, KA-BLAM-O!”
“The Terror of Tiny Toon,” Treehouse of Horror IX (Season 10, 1998)
Plot: Bart uses a piece of plutonium as a battery for the remote control, which results in him and Lisa being sucked into the television, where the encounter their favorite cat-and-mouse duo, Worker and Parasite — I mean, Itchy and Scratchy.
Reason for Ranking: It’s always fun when The Simpsons acknowledge that it’s, in fact, a cartoon. The more (literal) eye-popping, the better, and it’s amazing that it took the show until the ninth Treehouse to have the characters interact with Itchy and Scratchy.
Memorable Quote: “Oh Homer, you’re not going as a hobo again?” “Going where?”
“Reaper Madness,” Treehouse of Horror XIV (Season 15, 2003)
Plot: Homer becomes the Grim Reaper after killing the Angel of Death.
Reason for Ranking: This segment is funny enough to be higher, but the fact that Family Guy pulled off the same plot, with (hot-take alert) superior results, knocks “Madness” down a little.
Memorable Quote: “Death, we miss you so much! You were a busboy in the restaurant of life, clearing away the oldies and the sickies and the junkies. And you made NASCAR racing exciting!”
“Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies,” Treehouse of Horror III (Season 4, 1992)
Plot: Dead bodies from the local cemetery come back to life after Bart utters an incantation from The Time Life Book of Magic and Spells, Vol. II. The zombies take over the town.
Reason for Ranking: As far as zombie comedies go, “Dial Z for Zombies,” with its message about pop-culture addicts acting as zombie-like as actual zombies, is more Shaun of the Dead than Dead Snow. (To quote another scene from this episode, “That’s good.”)
Memorable Quote: “Is this the end of Zombie Shakespeare?”
“Send In the Clones,” Treehouse of Horror XIII (Season 14, 2002)
Plot: Homer’s new hammock is magical, and it clones copies of anything or anyone that spins around on it. So, of course, Homer creates multiple copies of himself to shirk his responsibilities.
Reason for Ranking: It’s a silly episode, but the sight of hundreds of Homers is amusing. What can I say? I’m a simple man with simple pleasures.
Memorable Quote: “Let’s all go out for some frosty chocolate milkshakes!”
“Homer³,” Treehouse of Horror VI (Season 7, 1995)
Plot: While hiding from Patty and Selma, Homer stumbles into an alternate dimension where everything is in 3-D.
Reason for Ranking: The visuals aren’t as mind-blowing as they were in 1995, but that Tron joke will always be funny. It’s also the rare Treehouse where we care about a character’s fate (Homer’s extra-dimensional trip is nearly as lonely as when he goes on his mysterious voyage).
Memorable Quote: “I don’t want to alarm you, Marge, but I seem to be trapped in here.” “I better call Ned. He has a ladder.”
“Hex and the City,” Treehouse of Horror XII (Season 13, 2001)
Plot: Homer gets cursed by a bohemian (who goes by a different term in the episode, but a lot has changed in the 20 years since this episode aired) after destroying her business.
Reason for Ranking: I love a good leprechaun joke, and “Hex” has as many of them as marshmallows in a box of Lucky Charms. It also points out the differences between a goblin and a hobgoblin. Informative!
Memorable Quote: “You know, I was hexed by a troll, and a leprechaun cured that right up.” “Hey, you know what’s even better is Jesus. He’s like six leprechauns.” “Yeah, but a lot harder to catch. Go with a leprechaun.”
“Nightmare Cafeteria,” Treehouse of Horror V (Season 6, 1994)
Plot: The teachers and staff at Springfield Elementary begin eating students after the detention halls become too crowded.
Reason for Ranking: Before every Treehouse turned into a splatterfest, it was still a shock to see the Springfield Elementary staff fatten and eat the students. It’s a relief when the two Simpson children aren’t victims of cannibalism … but they do get turned inside out by fog.
Memorable Quote: “Relax, kids, I’ve got a GUT feeling Üter is around here. After all, isn’t there a little Üter in all of us? In fact, you might even say we just ATE Üter and he’s in our stomachs right now! Wait… scratch that one.”
“The Genesis Tub,” Treehouse of Horror VII (Season 8, 1996)
Plot: Lisa’s science experiment goes even better than expected when, instead of finding out whether cola rots a tooth, she instead discovers a civilization residing in the tooth’s petri dish.
Reason for Ranking: There aren’t enough Treehouse segments that focus on Lisa, but this one’s so good, with such a fantastically bleak ending, that I can almost look past this injustice. Almost. (“The Genesis Tub” would also be parodied in the South Park episode, “Simpsons Did It.”)
Memorable Quote: “Tiny little people! My God! I’ve created life!” “Lisa! Breakfast! We’re having waffles!” “Ooh! Waffles!”
“Bart Simpson’s Dracula,” Treehouse of Horror IV (Season 5, 1993)
Plot: Mr. Burns bites Bart, turning the boy into a vampire. Soon, many of Springfield’s residents are also creatures of the night, and Lisa swears to kill the head vampire.
Reason for Ranking: It’s not often that a Treehouse segment is genuinely creepy, but the sight of Bart hovering outside Lisa’s bedroom is chill-worthy. I also enjoy the episode’s unexpected final reveal about who the head vampire actually is.
Memorable Quote: “The only way to get Bart back is to kill the head vampire: Mr. Burns!” “Kill my boss? Do I dare to live out the American dream?”
“The HΩmega Man,” Treehouse of Horror VIII (Season 9, 1997)
Plot: The French launch a nuclear bomb toward Springfield, and after it hits, there’s only one man left alive: Homer. Or so he thinks.
Reason for Ranking: The French frog joke is whatever, but the premise — and Homer singing Edwin Starr’s “War” in church — overshadows the too-easy stereotype.
Memorable Quote: “Now, this baby is called ‘The Withstandinator.’ It can take a six megaton blast. No more, no less.”
“The Raven,” Treehouse of Horror I (Season 2, 1990)
Plot: “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary …”
Reason for Ranking: “The Raven” isn’t funny, necessarily, but it’s an impressive feat in animation and adaptation, with James Earl Jones reading Edgar Allan Poe’s famous words.
Memorable Quote: “And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; and my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor shall be lifted — nevermore!”
“Lisa’s Nightmare,” Treehouse of Horror II (Season 3, 1991)
Plot: Homer buys a monkey paw during a family vacation to Morocco that grants its owner four wishes.
Reason for Ranking: It’s technically the first “The Simpsons are going to …!” episode, in case that comes up during trivia night. Also, it mocked The Simpsons becoming an inescapable brand before anyone else did, proving yet again how forward-thinking the writers were.
Memorable Quote: “Sir, I must strongly advise you: Do not purchase this. Behind every wish lurks grave misfortune. I, myself, was once president of Algeria.” “Come on, pal, I don’t want to hear your life story. Paw me!”
“Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores,” Treehouse of Horror VI (Season 7, 1995)
Plot: Homer steals Lard Lad’s gigantic metal doughnut. Due to a freak lightning storm, Mr. Lad and other oversize advertising figures come to life during the night, searching for the missing doughnut and wreaking havoc on Springfield.
Reason for Ranking: Don’t like how high “Eyesores” is? Well, just don’t look. Just don’t look.
Memorable Quote: “If your advertising agency created all those giant characters, you must know how to stop them.” “Well sir, advertising is a funny thing. If people stop paying attention to it, pretty soon, it goes away.” “Like that old woman who couldn’t find the beef?” “Exactly.”
“King Homer,” Treehouse of Horror III (Season 4, 1992)
Plot: It’s a retelling of King Kong, starring Homer as the Big Ape himself and Marge as Ann Darrow.
Reason for Ranking: It’s a golden rule of comedy: Monkeys are funny. But Homer as a monkey? Even funnier. “King Homer” also contains one of my favorite conversational exchanges of the entire show (see below).
Memorable Quote: “Hey, I heard we’re goin’ to Ape Island.” “Yeah, to capture a giant ape.” “I wished we were going to Candy Apple Island.” “Candy Apple Island? What do they got there?” “Apes. But they’re not so big.”
“The Thing and I,” Treehouse of Horror VII (Season 8, 1996)
Plot: Marge, Homer, and Dr. Hibbert tell Bart that his formerly conjoined twin, Hugo, is living in the attic, feasting on fish heads. But he’s escaped.
Reason for Ranking: It’s sick and twisted, with a clever conclusion that explains a lot about Bart.
Memorable Quote: “But what to do with poor Hugo? Too crazy for Boy Town, too much of a boy for Crazy Town. The child was an outcast. So, we did the only humane thing.” “We chained Hugo up in the attic like an animal and fed him a bucket of fish heads once a week.” “It saved our marriage.”
“Terror at 5½ Feet,” Treehouse of Horror IV (Season 5, 1993)
Plot: A gremlin is slowly tearing apart a Springfield Elementary bus. Bart cries wolf the morning after dreaming about dying in a bus crash, but no one believes him.
Reason for Ranking: Not only is the script solid, the animation is perfect. Without a rainy, dull atmosphere, “Terror” wouldn’t have worked. But it does, spectacularly. The world needs more gremlins, too.
Memorable Quote: “Hey Bart, look: Krusty trading cards! The long-awaited Eight Series!” “Krusty visits relatives in Annapolis, Maryland. Krusty poses for trading card photo.” “Hmm … he seems to be running a little low on ideas.”
“The Devil and Homer Simpson,” Treehouse of Horror IV (Season 5, 1993)
Plot: Homer wants to sell his soul for a doughnut, and Devil Ned Flanders answers. The two go to trial, in front of the Jury of the Damned, to determine who truly owns Homer’s soul.
Reason for Ranking: Making Christian do-gooder Ned Flanders the Devil is a wicked stroke of genius, but more importantly: Homer picking at his pastry head answers the eternal question, “If you were a giant doughnut, would you eat yourself?” (Yes!)
Memorable Quote: “Who’s that goat-legged fellow? I like the cut of his jib.” “Er, Prince of Darkness, sir. He’s your eleven o’clock.”
“Clown Without Pity,” Treehouse of Horror III (Season 4, 1992)
Plot: Homer goes to the House of Evil to buy Bart a birthday present (and maybe pick up some frogurt, too) and settles on a Talking Krusty doll. An EVIL Talking Krusty doll.
Reason for Ranking: Among the show’s many, many, many Twilight Zone spoofs, this one is the funniest and the best, with a conclusion that’s equal parts brilliant and stupid. That’s The Simpsons’ sweet spot, right there
Memorable Quote: “That doll is EVIL, I tells ya. EVIL. EEEEEEVVVVIILLLLL.” “Grandpa, you said that about all the presents.” “I just want attention …”
“Citizen Kang,” Treehouse of Horror VII (Season 8, 1996)
Plot: Kang and Kodos take over the bodies of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, promising abortions for some, miniature American flags for others.
Reason for Ranking: “Citizen Kang” masterfully parodies presidential elections, and politics in general, by showing that campaign promises are empty promises that will be forgotten once the winning candidate is in office. Either way, you’re boned. But don’t blame me; I voted for Kodos.
Memorable Quote: “I am looking forward to an orderly election tomorrow, which will eliminate the need for a violent bloodbath.”
“Time and Punishment,” Treehouse of Horror V (Season 6, 1994)
Plot: Homer travels through time using a toaster.
Reason for Ranking: Every line is a classic. There’s “I’ve gone back in time to when dinosaurs weren’t just confined to zoos,” and “Oh, I wish, I wish I hadn’t killed that fish,” and “Stupid bug, you go squish now.” Any Treehouse of Horror segment-ranking without “Time and Punishment” near the top is a disturbing universe, indeed.
Memorable Quote: “Okay, don’t panic. Remember the advice your father gave you on your wedding day.” “If you ever travel back in time, don’t step on anything, because even the tiniest change can alter the future in ways you can’t imagine.”
“Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace,” Treehouse of Horror VI (Season 7, 1995)
Plot: Groundskeeper Willie dies in a horrible (and preventable) accident at a PTA meeting, and he vows to get revenge by killing the young students … in their dreams.
Reason for Ranking: It’s another pitch-perfect pastiche of a classic horror movie, yet funny enough that even if you haven’t seen Nightmare on Elm Street (or any of its 1,453 sequels), all the jokes still land.
Memorable Quote: “It all started on the 13th hour, of the 13th day, of the 13th month …”
“The Shinning,” Treehouse of Horror V (Season 6, 1994)
Plot: Mr. Burns’s sea monkeys, otherwise known as the Simpsons, arrive to look after his creepy-looking lodge. But when he cuts the cable and removes all the beer, Homer starts going something something. Oh, and Willie gets hit in the back with an ax.
Reason for Ranking: The sign of a good parody? When you can’t think of the original without also thinking of the spoof. That’s The Shining and “The Shinning,” easily the best Treehouse segment of all time. (But don’t think about it between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. That’s Willie’s time!)
Memorable Quote: “Come, family. Sit in the snow with daddy and let us all bask in television’s warm glowing warming glow.”