The 15 Best Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror Segments, Ranked

Taking all the "Treehouse of Horror" segments in "Simpsons" history and narrowing them down to fifteen isn't an easy feat. Whereas most people agree the show's golden era ended around season 8 or 9, the Halloween specials were still pretty great until at least season 20 or so. Even today, the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes are consistently some of the best of each season. 

Season 34 is switching the format up a little: instead of one "Treehouse" special, they're going to have two. The first episode will be under the standard format with three separate segments, including parodies of "Death Note" and (for some reason) "Ellen." The second episode will entirely be a parody of Stephen King's "It." Considering the wonderful cast of kid characters "The Simpsons" already has, this sounds promising.

So as we wait for the new season's take on the tradition, let's reflect on some of the funniest and spookiest "Treehouse" segments the show's done so far. 

15. Nightmare Cafeteria

Season 6 was "The Simpsons" at its most daring, and its Halloween special was no exception. The episode's final segment is an incredibly dark story about the teachers at Springfield Elementary deciding to kill and eat the students one by one. Whereas most of the "Treehouse" segments are funny more than they're scary, this one's genuinely disturbing. It's the sort of segment where all you can do is wonder how the show even got away with airing it under a TV-PG rating. 

The reason it's not ranked higher on the list is that it's a little too nauseating to watch at times, but it certainly does have a lot of hilarious moments in it. The most quotable line comes when Principal Skinner accidentally lets the whole disgusting scheme slip to the kids: "In fact, you might even say we just ate Uter and he's in our stomachs right now! Wait, scratch that one." 

But the funniest moment for me is when Bart and Lisa go home and tell their parents about the situation. An annoyed, preoccupied Marge says, "Listen, kids, you're 8 and 10 years old now. I can't fight all your battles for you." When Lisa tries to protest, Marge makes things clear: "You march right back to that school, look them straight in the eye and say, 'Don't eat me.'" It's absurdly terrible advice, one that perfectly contributes to the childlike, dreamy feel of the entire segment. The kids are truly left fending for themselves in this segment, which makes for some great TV.

14. Night of the Dolphin

"Well, you gotta hand it to those dolphins. They just wanted it more."

Say what you will about season 12 of "The Simpsons," but they nailed it in their Halloween special. The first segment's a parody of "Ghost Dad" and the second one's a take on "Hansel and Gretel," and they're both winners. But it's only with the final section, the one where dolphins try to reclaim the Earth's land for themselves, that the special reaches the same heights of the classic era. 

It's a parody of both "The Birds," "The Day of the Dolphin," and a little bit of "Jaws," and it's great. It starts off with Lisa taking pity on a dolphin named Snorky and freeing it from its captivity at a SeaWorld-esque park. Unfortunately for Lisa (and mankind), Snorky turns out to be the King of the Dolphins, and he decides to take revenge on humans for their ancient decision to banish dolphins to the sea.

Like with "Nightmare Cafeteria," it's a segment where characters respond to horrific life-changing moments as if it's a mild inconvenience. When the humans end up losing the battle for their land and having to adjust to life in the ocean, Marge hopefully describes the change as "an adjustment," but not much worse. If only coping with loss was as easy as its portrayed here.

13. Life's a Glitch, Then You Die

Between this and the early "Family Guy" episode "Da Boom," there's something awfully fun about watching animated shows give us their take on Y2K. The concerns around computers not being able to handle the transition into the new millennium were mostly justified, and only avoided because experts took the problem seriously beforehand and took steps to ensure nothing bad happened. Thank goodness they did, because now we get to sit back and smugly make fun of the doomsday preppers with zero consequences. 

But even the most extreme fears over Y2K didn't hold a candle to what happens in this season 11 segment: because Homer forgets to fix the computers at the nuclear power plant, this leads to a virus spreading all throughout the world's computers, causing the apocalypse. It doesn't make a ton of sense — why exactly would this affect Krusty's pacemaker again? — but it's undeniably entertaining.

The best joke happens near the end when the Simpson family comes across a spaceship that will take its passengers away from the soon-to-be annihilated Earth. The problem is that Lisa's the only one with access to the ship, and she's only allowed to bring one family member with her. "Mom," Lisa says flatly, without a moment's hesitation. It makes sense considering that Bart's often a jerk to her and Homer did cause this whole apocalypse, but man, Lisa was ice cold here.

12. Hungry are the Damned

Some of the best "Treehouse" segments are "Twilight Zone" inspired, and this one is no exception. "Hungry are the Damned" follows the Simpson family as they are taken in by suspiciously friendly aliens. Lisa gets to the bottom of things when she finds they have a book titled "How to Cook Humans," and confronts them about it.

However, it turns out the book simply has a lot of dust on it (like, a lot of dust), which covers up all the words in the title. The aliens really did just want to have a good time with the humans after all, and Lisa ruined it. We're only four episodes into this list and already you may have picked up a pattern: in the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes, Lisa is constantly stirring up trouble. From accidentally causing the dolphin apocalypse, to casually abandoning Homer and Bart, to hurting Kang and Kodos' feelings, Lisa's smarts cause more harm than good on Halloween.

The segment also marks the two aliens' first appearance on "The Simpsons," and this is one of the last times they're characterized as friendly and well-meaning. Lisa's accusation must've offended them quite a bit because they spend the next thirty-ish years as gleeful villains. 

11. Reaper Madness

Being the personification of Death is a big responsibility, one Homer Simpson is not prepared for.

Season 15 is another surprisingly great year for "Treehouse" segments; it also features the wonderful segment where Bart and Milhouse get a time-stopping watch, which doesn't make the list simply because it's not that spooky. "Reaper Madness" easily makes the list though, due to its dark premise and the sheer amount of funny jokes it squeezes into it. (The joke where Homer demonstrates his powers to Bart's classmates with a homeless person is just pitch-black comedy.) 

There's a sharpness and energy to this segment that's pretty rare for a season 15 episode; when making the list, I was honestly shocked to see that this wasn't a classic-era segment, because it truly feels like one. There are so many good moments to choose from, but the highlight is probably Homer's motorcycle chase away from God. "The Simpsons" has always been a little more respectful towards God than "Family Guy" (its main competition around this point) ever has, but here God's portrayed as a drunk, bumbling figure who's outsmarted by Homer of all people. Look, it's just nice to see Homer get a win, alright?

10. The Ned Zone

If you're annoyed by how many later-seasons segments are on this list, don't worry: this is the last entry past season 9. It's simply that "The Ned Zone" is so much fun that it single-handedly justifies season 16's very existence. Should "The Simpsons" have ended twenty years ago? Probably, but then we wouldn't have gotten this. 

The segment's a clear parody of "The Dead Zone," except instead of a man having to kill the President, the plot centers around Ned Flanders realizing he has to kill his best(?) friend Homer to save Springfield from Nuclear Armageddon. Everyone except Ned is surprisingly chill about the whole thing, though. When Lisa finds out Ned has to kill her father, she simply asks him to try not to shoot him in the face. When Ned tells Carl that Homer's going to blow up the whole town, Carl says, "Yeah, well, you know, you've gotta take the bitter with the sweet."

This isn't the first Stephen King parody the show would do, nor would it be the last, but it's definitely one of the best. If nothing else, it reminds us just how fun Ned is when he gets a storyline that takes him far out of his comfort zone. Not as fun as him playing the devil, but that's a story for another segment.

9. Clown Without Pity

The other two segments in this season 4 episode ("King Homer" and "Dial Z for Zombies") are great, but this is the only segment of the three to make the list. The light "Chucky" parody starts off with Homer buying a Krusty the Clown doll for Bart. Straight away, Grandpa warns the family to beware: "That doll is evil, I tells ya. EVIL!" But nobody listens, and soon the doll is trying to murder Homer with a butcher knife. "The doll's trying to kill me, and the toaster's been laughing at me," Homer explains, but nobody in the family believes him. 

Like many of the best "Treehouse" segments, "Clown Without Pity" is inspired by an old "Twilight Zone" episode ("Living Doll") which is worth watching in its own right. But whereas "Living Doll" gave viewers a reasonable explanation for the doll's fascination with the father figure in the family, this segment's resolution is far more ridiculous, which is probably for the best. At least the story ends on a happy note, sort of.

8. Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace

A recurring theme in the "Treehouse" specials is that most of the time, the adults of Springfield are jerks and the kids always have to pay the consequences. This segment's a prime example, as not a single parent or teacher in the revelatory flashback scene steps up to help Groundskeeper Willie as he's lit on fire. "You'll pay for this with your children's blood!" the flaming skeleton of Willie yells. Why doesn't he seek revenge on the adults in the room who are actually responsible? Because it's funnier that way.

The clear parody of "Nightmare on Elm Street" unfolds, with Lisa and Bart (and Maggie) teaming up in the dream realm to fight off evil Willie once and for all. It's a great segment, yet it's not even the highest-ranked segment of the episode. (Season 7 was just really good, guys.) Instead, the best segment of this particular special is...

7. Homer ^3

Season 7 was a very experimental season of "The Simpsons." It was the first season to feature a heavy Bart-and-Marge A-storyline in "Marge Not Be Proud," the first season to feature the return of Homer's mother, and it was the first (and possibly last) season to make an episode as creative and sprawling as "22 Short Films About Springfield." It's also the first time the show gave us live-action Homer Simpson.

"Homer^3" centers around Homer accidentally wandering into some sort of strange world where everything is 3-dimensional, a concept nearly unheard of to all the other Simpsons characters except Professor Frink. It's a visually stunning (not to mention expensive) episode, one that ended up winning "The Simpsons" the grand prize that year at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. 

And like all of the best "Treehouse" segments, it's also spooky on top of the laughs. For most of the episode, Homer doesn't know what will happen to him if he falls down the growing hole in this strange dimension, and neither do we. At least there's an erotic cake store in this other universe, so it's not all bad.

6. The Bart Zone

As part of season 2's "Treehouse" special, this early segment centers around Bart's candy-induced nightmare where he gets to be an all-powerful being, and everyone in Springfield has to cater to his every demand. It's a parody of the "Twilight Zone" episode "It's a Good Life," except this time things head in a slightly different direction. Bart turns Homer into a sentient Jack in the Box, which unexpectedly leads to the two forming a loving father-son bond for one of the few times in the show. 

There's a lot to love about the segment; perhaps most notable is how it comments on Bart's selfishness and his fear of confronting his own feelings towards his family. The special is structured as a series of nightmares Lisa, Bart, and Homer have, but Bart's dream doesn't actually turn into a nightmare until the very end. His tormenting the entire town with his magical powers is fine; it's only when he and Homer have an earnest, open moment with each other that Bart wakes up screaming. Classic Bart.

5. The Thing and I

From season 8's special, "The Thing and I" centers around the idea that Bart has an evil twin, one that Homer and Marge have decided in their infinite wisdom to keep forever locked up in the attic. This episode also features the segment where Lisa accidentally creates a miniature homegrown society and the one where Kang and Kodos decide to hijack the '96 election. This segment wins out, however, purely due to how many great jokes it squeezes into such a small amount of time. 

It's a creepy, well-paced story that gives us a fun mystery in the first third, one with Bart and Lisa teaming up to solve a case yet again. It follows through on the intrigue with the reveal of the monster in the attic, then ramps things up even more from there. It ends with a twist that may or may not have served as inspiration for the ending of a certain Jordan Peele film, but that's neither here nor there. The episode's creepy, hilarious, and ends on a deeply unsettling note. What's not to love?

4. Time and Punishment

"Dad! Your hand is jammed in the toaster!" Lisa yells, and so begins the second segment of "Treehouse of Horror V." It's a story that follows Homer as he tries to fix the evil toaster in his kitchen and accidentally creates a time machine instead. He ends up back in the dinosaur times, and quickly figures that he shouldn't touch anything unless he wants to risk changing the present in unimaginable ways. 

That resolution lasts about two seconds before a prehistoric mosquito buzzes past his face. Dan Castellaneta gives the line reading of his career when he shouts, "Stupid bug! You go squish now!" and kills the mosquito. This somehow causes a chain reaction where, when Homer returns to the present, Flanders is now the unquestioned ruler of the entire world. This is where the real horror of the situation sets in, as we learn that Ned constantly surveils his citizens and gives them lobotomies if they aren't smiling enough for his liking. 

Luckily for those of us who find lobotomies a little too disturbing, this isn't all the segment's about. Homer keeps trying to set back the clock, but his attempts to return things to normal keep on making everything worse. "Time and Punishment" isn't the best segment of its episode (season 6 is just that good), but it's still one of the all-time greats.

3. Bart Simpson's Dracula

I'll be honest, I just really love the episodes where Bart and Lisa team up to solve a mystery. They're a wonderful pairing when they're getting along, and these "Treehouse" specials always provide them plenty of opportunities to be on the same side. 

The season 4 episode "Bart Simpson's Dracula" is an obvious parody of "Dracula," one that starts off with Lisa suspecting that Mr. Burns might be a vampire. She and Bart investigate, and their suspicions are finally confirmed when they find Burns' autobiographical book in his basement titled "Yes, I am a Vampire." 

Things go from bad to worse, culminating in one of the best lines in the series: upon finding out Bart's been turned into a vampire, Marge says to Homer, "We have to do something. Today he's drinking people's blood, tomorrow he could be smoking!" It's a nice little reminder that Marge's parenting skills plummet each year around Halloween. 

It may not be the best segment of its episode (keep reading), but it's definitely one of the spookiest stories "The Simpsons" has ever told.

2. The Shinning

"The Simpsons" and Stephen King, a combination that will never fail. Admittedly, this episode's a parody of Stanley Kubrick's version of the story (which King famously didn't love). But I like to think King would still appreciate this segment; not only is it funny, but it actually outdoes the original movie with the typewriting scene. The flash of lightning revealing "No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy" scribbled all over the walls is some inspired direction on the part of the show. 

The segment takes all the tropes that make these specials so funny and utilizes them to their fullest extent. Once again, everyone is surprisingly nonchalant about the possibility of terrible things happening to them. When it becomes clear on day one that Homer's succumbing to cabin fever, Lisa asks Marge, "Is dad gonna kill us?" and Marge responds, "We're just gonna wait and see."

Another underrated aspect of this segment is the animation. It's rough around the edges compared to modern "Simpsons," but it's so much more full of life. The animation of Homer, as he goes increasingly insane and his two hairs start hanging down his forehead instead of combed back, feels so high effort compared to the animation in any new episode. When Homer's making those deranged faces at Marge, you can pause at any moment and what you'll see will still be funny.

1. Homer vs The Devil

Making Ned Flanders the devil was just one of many inspired choices behind this segment. This is a story that takes something core to Homer's character (his gluttony) and carries it to its logical extreme. Homer has so little willpower that he really would give his soul away for a doughnut. 

Renowned "Simpsons" writer John Swartzwelder once said that Homer is basically a giant talking dog, in that he's pretty much only concerned with satisfying his immediate urges, and as a result, he can veer from deeply sad to giddily happy within the span of seconds. "If you write him as a dog you'll never go wrong," Swartzwelder said, and that's why this segment works.

Of course, Homer isn't quite as dumb as a dog; he does manage to outsmart the devil for a short period. But sure enough, while drowsily searching for a midnight snack he forgets about the consequences of eating the last bit of the doughnut, and so the devil wins out in the end after all. Or does he? A lot happens in this segment, and it's all great.  

It might seem bold to put this as the #1 segment out of over 300 entries, but honestly, it was an easy choice. Funny, spooky, and surprisingly touching at points. "Homer vs the Devil" has it all.