15 Movies Like Halloween (1978)

Staff & contributors

Clocking in at just under four hours, Hu Bo's first and last feature film—before his tragic death at the age of 29—is a sprawling indictment of a country that the filmmaker must have viewed as positively hostile and suffocating. Following several characters whose paths intersect as they try to escape their current circumstances, An Elephant Sitting Still creates a truly oppressive atmosphere that may not lead you to the answers you expect, but it should leave you feeling haunted for a long, long time. Beautifully scored, shot, and acted, Hu's film offers practically no hope but it keeps on moving with a sense of freedom and determination all its own. This is as honest a film can get; Hu has left behind a moving legacy.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Chaobei Wang, Li Congxi, Li Qing, Peng Yuchang, Wang Ning, Wang Yuwen, Zhang Yu, Zhao Tao, Zhaoyan Guozhang, Zhu Yan Man Zi, Zhu Yanmanzi, Zhu-Yan Manzi

Director: Hu Bo

There's a degree of removal in Perpetrator which some viewers may find jarring: most visibly, in the performances, whose heightened sensitivity can seem unlikely for a horror film. That said, director Jennifer Reeder's main conceit here is to entertain and make you think, and she doesn't want you to get too comfortable. In the central concept of "Forevering," a family curse spell that Jonny goes through, Reeder vests her character with metamorphic potential, and with that, ignites hope for a future that is better for women and for horror cinema as a whole. But the film is not overly intellectual. It's rather intuitive in its world-building and celebrates horror's final girl trope in a well-deserved way. A little gore, some slasher tropes, LGBTQ+ themes, and strong central characters make it a perfect pre-Halloween treat.

Genre: Horror

Actor: Alicia Silverstone, Avery Holliday, Casimere Jollette, ​Christopher Lowell, Ireon Roach, Kiah McKirnan, Melanie Liburd, Sasha Kuznetsov, Tim Hopper

Director: Jennifer Reeder

, 2018

It wouldn't be too far of a reach to evoke Kids (1995) while diving into Mid90s. But instead of taking on the HIV crisis, Mid90s is a much more tender, poignant reflection on coming of age in 90's skate culture. Jonah Hill, writer and director, examines the complexities of trying to fit in and the difficult choices one has to embrace individualism. From an opening of physical abuse to scenes of drug usage and traumatic experiences, Mid90s is a meditation not only on culture, but also a subtle examination of what it means to be human, to reach emotional and physical limitations, and to seek acceptance. Filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio, Mid90s doesn't concern itself with grandiose filmography, but instead the aspect ratio almost reflects the tonal and metaphorical aspects played out on screen. With a smaller dynamic range of color and the familiar dust/scratches, the 16mm film compliments gritty and emotional moments of Mid90s. The emotional range of the film will take the audience from the depths of empathy to laughing out loud, but there is no compromise to the weight of each moment. Jonah Hill's directorial debut is beautiful in every sense of the word.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexa Demie, Ama Elsesser, Aramis Hudson, Chad Muska, Chico Brenes, Donny Barley, Fig Camila Abner, Gio Galicia, Harmony Korine, Jahmin Assa, Jax Malcolm, Jerrod Carmichael, Jonah Hill, Judah Estrella Borunda, Kasey Elise, Katherine Waterston, Kevin White, Liana Perlich, Lucas Hedge, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Ryder McLaughlin, Sunny Suljic, Teren Delvon Jones

Director: Jonah Hill

Rating: R

Generation-centric comedy is often of the “kids these days” variety — in which comedians make uninspired jibes about the youth of today while spectacularly lacking self-awareness of their own — but twenty-something stand-up Leo Reich thankfully upends that trend with his self-lampooning debut show. Reich takes a risk by unabashedly casting himself as a self-absorbed nepo baby in the opening — narcissism as a bit can become grating pretty quickly — but his perceptive abilities and readiness to both embody and commentate on Gen Z stereotypes are the saviors of this hour-long comedy special.

Stand-up isn’t the only medium he makes use of: the show is also part-musical, as Reich belts out wry musings on the contradictions of his generation — at once self-loathing but tending towards narcissism, cripplingly self-aware but no more enlightened for it — at intervals throughout. If there’s anything to lament here, it’s that Reich’s main character syndrome is so effectively paired with the doom-and-gloom context he paints (as he puts it, he’s spent way too much of his youth Googling "death toll") that the show’s aftertaste is a little too bitter — but then again, nihilism is another characteristic typically associated with zoomers, so you could argue this is simply supreme commitment to the bit.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Leo Reich

Director: Thomas Hardiman

Rating: R

, 1998

Despite being remade, parodied, and absorbed into pop culture over the years, the original Ring defiantly marches to the beat of its own drum. Focused entirely on building a slow-burn mystery instead of dispensing scares, the film provides ample space for a number of interpretations: on the spread of technology, the erasure of traditional beliefs, or even motherhood. It's all relentlessly quiet and extremely creepy, the tension building with the same energy as ghost stories told around a campfire. And while famous for its eerie images and the rules surrounding its cursed videotape, Ringu also serves as a reminder that great horror should compel the audience to keep on watching, even if they already know exactly what awaits them if they do.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Daisuke Ban, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Hitomi Satô, Katsumi Muramatsu, Kiriko Shimizu, Masako, Miki Nakatani, Miwako Kaji, Nanako Matsushima, Rie Ino'o, Rikiya Ôtaka, Yôichi Numata, Yôko Ôshima, Yûko Takeuchi, Yûrei Yanagi, Yutaka Matsushige

Director: Hideo Nakata

Pan’s Labyrinth is often considered director Guillermo Del Toro’s best film, and rightfully so. But if you’re looking for a straight-up ghost story, this is the film that gets the job done. Everything about this film is sad and beautiful and unnerving, from the setting (an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War) to the atmospheric visuals.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Lamana, Berta Ojea, Daniel Esparza, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Francisco Maestre, Inigo Garces, Irene Visedo, Javier Bódalo, Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Juan Carlos Vellido, Junio Valverde, Marisa Paredes, Miguel Ortiz, Víctor Elías

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Rating: R

In the vein of classic 80s films, Totally Killer is an homage to the genres that got its heyday in the decade. This film happens to be a serial killer mystery, a time-travel sci-fi adventure, and a teen comedy all at once. With mentions of Back to the Future and Molly Ringwald, the new addition to the Prime Video’s current horror roster makes a throwback to when these genres were at its peak. But these throwbacks aren’t just for style – like how true crime rehashes old cases for content, the small town of Vernon still rehashes the serial murders for entertainment, as if stuck and unable to move on from its glory days. Admittedly, this film does the same sin. Plenty of the twists and turns can feel predictable to those familiar with 80s movies. But the multi-genre mix still feels like a fun ride, even when it contradicts the point it’s making.

Genre: Comedy, Horror, Science Fiction

Actor: Alex Pychtin, Amy Goodmurphy, Andrew Barber, Andy Thompson, Anna Diaz, Brendan O'Brien, Charlie Gillespie, Conrad Coates, Eliza Norbury, Ella Choi, Fred Henderson, Jeremy Monn-Djasgnar, Jonathan Potts, Julie Bowen, Kelcey Mawema, Kevin Osea, Kiernan Shipka, Kimberly Huie, Liana Liberato, Lochlyn Munro, Madeleine Kelders, Olivia Holt, Pam Kearns, Patti Kim, Randall Park, Shahrokh Ferdowsi, Stephi Chin-Salvo, Tate Chernen, Tommy Europe, Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, Valin Shinyei, Vanessa Prasad, Zachary Gibson

Director: Nahnatchka Khan

Rating: R

In Swan Song, acclaimed actor Udo Kier stars as the real-life Pat Pitsenbarger, a local queer legend in the small town of Sandusky. He used to live a private but joyful life, beautifying socialities by day and performing in drag at night. But now the aging icon is resigned to live out his days in a bleak retirement home, where he takes part in feeble acts of rebellion to keep himself amused. This is bound to change when Pat returns to town on an oddly specific request. There, he makes peace with old friends and grabs at the chance to revive his inner beauty queen once more. 

It’s a simple story with a simple premise, but Swan Song is elevated by Krier’s powerful presence and director Todd Stephens’ obvious love for his hometown. Every diss Krier drops as the sassy Pat is to be savored, and every tribute Stephens makes to town life is to be admired. Filled, too, with colorful and euphoric moments that celebrate gay pride, Swan Song makes for quite the lovable film. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Annie Kitral, Brandon Lim, Bryant Carroll, Dave Sorboro, Eric Eisenbrey, Ira Hawkins, Jennifer Coolidge, Jonah Blechman, Justin Lonesome, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, Richard Strauss, Shanessa Sweeney, Stephanie McVay, Tim Murray, Tom Bloom, Udo Kier

Director: Todd Stephens

Rating: R

Even with its haphazard construction and occasionally unnecessary and corny flourishes (what's with all the mellowed-out covers of pop songs?), there's a sense of intense, sincere pride and joy that shines through Every Body's many testimonials. Intersex people are barely represented whether in media or in legislation, and countless people still have very little understanding of what intersex is. But while this subject is usually viewed as uncomfortable—and this documentary definitely doesn't hold back in explaining the various ways intersex people are mutilated and mentally abused just to force them to conform to the gender binary—the film grounds everything by showing us how its main characters are as ordinary, creative, and full of good humor as the rest of us. So as Every Body skips through various aspects of the intersex experience, even its disorganization takes on the charm of a simple chat with friends. And either way, the discussions held here are the stuff of real courage—demanding our attention and earning our respect.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alicia Roth Weigel, Julie Cohen, River Gallo, Sean Saifa Wall, Steven Crowder

Director: Julie Cohen

This movie is different from a Netflix release about the same events. Actually, it's different from any movie you've probably seen before. Depicting the terrorist attack that took 77 lives in 2011 in an island near Oslo, Norway, it's made to make you feel as if you were part of the attack. It's shot to resemble one take, and the time of the movie is the time it took the attack to unfold (so you're witnessing it in real-time). While closely based on the accounts of two survivors, it follows a fictional character called Kaja who looks for her sister during the attacks. Utøya: July 22 pushes the limits of what you can watch in a movie but serves as a terrifying testament to the atrocity of a terrorist attack of such nature.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Ada Eide, Aleksander Holmen, Andrea Berntzen, Brede Fristad, Daniel Sang Tran, Elli Rhiannon Müller Osborne, Elli Rhiannon Müller Osbourne, Ingeborg Enes, Jenny Svennevig, Karoline Petronella Ulfsdatter Schau, Mariann Gjerdsbakk, Solveig Koløen Birkeland, Torkel D. Soldal, Yngve Berven

Director: Erik Poppe

Rating: Not Rated

Never has evil been so darn fun to watch. Bridget (Linda Fiorentino) is such a captivating villainess, you'll actually find yourself rooting for her at times in this noirish take on..., I don't know what, but it involves drug money, double-crosses, lots of witty repartee and cat-and-mouse manipulation that will make your stomach hurt. The script is tight, the acting is all testosterone driven and crisp and you'll hear some choice words come from nice guy Bill Pullman (as Bridget's husband Clay) that you never imagined he could say. Peter Berg (Mike) is fantastic as the guy's guy determined to earn his Alpha-dog badge by subduing the fierce and wickedly intelligent heroine, Bridget. Fiorentino won a BAFTA award for her performance and was nominated, along with Director John Dahl, for several others. The movie did not qualify under Academy rules for the Oscars, but it would have been a strong contender.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Anne Flanagan, Bill Nunn, Bill Pullman, Bill Stevenson, Dean Norris, Donna W. Scott, Herb Mitchell, J.T. Walsh, Jack Shearer, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Raysses, Mik Scriba, Peter Berg, Walter Addison, Zack Phifer

Director: John Dahl

Rating: R

If there are parts to Rookie's story that seem too easily resolved—for the sake of making this more of a feel-good movie—these shortcuts still serve a genuinely romantic central relationship that develops in the most organic way possible. Besides the school's stifling conservatism, there's nothing that really stands in the way of Ace and Jana's blossoming connection. By immediately advancing its depiction of queer love beyond the self-acceptance stage (where so many other films get stuck), Rookie is allowed to show us two girls in love and supporting each other, as the normal and beautiful thing it should be. It doesn't hurt either that the movie is pretty entertaining as a sports film, with just enough flash in its editing and sound design to sell the frantic energy of a game wherein you want to impress the person you have a crush on.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Agot Isidro, Alyssa Valdez, Aya Fernandez, Che Ramos, Jelaica Gajero, Mikoy Morales, Pat Tingjuy, Simon Ibarra

Director: Samantha Lee

Craig Foster’s bond with an octopus takes the spotlight in this heartfelt documentary set in the cold seas of South Africa. The title hints at the nature of this bond: the tentacled creature shows the human outsider the ropes in her watery den.

Both parties have an endless curiosity about one another, giving the filmmakers Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed much fuel for this sentimental doc. My Octopus Teacher features Foster diving in the ocean every day and waxing poetic through voiceovers about the remarkable ability of a wild animal to connect with him. This all takes place amidst his obsessive mapping of said animal’s habitat during what appears to be a mid-life crisis. It’s beautiful, yes, both visually and in its message of nature being something we can connect with to find meaning, but much of the story revolves around what Foster feels the octopus is doing in relation to him, and not about what it’s doing, period. The documentary becomes an exercise in making something that exists peacefully in its own little world all about some guy.

For a film that centers on an unlikely emotional attachment, it does explore the ocean and present the adventures one can embark on due to curiosity. Despite its faults, it manages to be informative and shows off gorgeous underwater cinematography.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Craig Foster

Director: James Reed, Philippa Ehrlich, Pippa Ehrlich

The disturbing conceit of a housewife swallowing inanimate objects may push some away, but those that can stomach it will find a searing exploration of patriarchal control over women’s bodies - an issue more relevant than ever in the US, as anti-choice zealots push closer to overturning abortion rights nationwide. 

An odd twist towards the end, and a tone-deaf bit about a Syrian refugee, make the film uneven. But, the edge of the seat suspense, sumptuously colorful cinematography, and Haley Bennet’s resonant performance make this worth seeing nonetheless. 

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alyssa Bresnahan, Austin Stowell, Babak Tafti, David Rasche, Denis O'Hare, Elise Santora, Elizabeth Marvel, Haley Bennett, Kristi Kirk, Laith Nakli, Lauren Vélez, Luna Lauren Velez, Maya Days, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Nicole Kang, Olivia Perez, Zabryna Guevara

Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis

Rating: R

A bully (Josh Peck) is lured into a plot of revenge. The bullied victim (Rory Culkin), his brother and their friends then see the bully's human side, and learn that revenge often comes with a greater price than imagined. Talented teen actors give fantastic performances in this absorbing and impactful coming-of-age tale, with a real moral compass and ability to demonstrate multi-sided characters.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Branden Williams, Carly Schroeder, Heath Lourwood, J.W. Crawford, Josh Peck, Kaz Garas, Raissa Fleming, Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Shelly Lipkin, Trevor Morgan

Director: Jacob Aaron Estes

Rating: R