One could be forgiven for thinking that every movie-based Halloween costume is from Star Wars. Even ET wore a Yoda costume in his movie. However, costumes have been created for films of all genres, and this goes beyond fandom and applies to the films themselves.
The Jedi costume worn by Spielberg’s beloved alien is just one example, as there are plenty of characters over the years who have dressed up in one silly or scary outfit or another. The best ones tend to involve a touch of meta with a dash of the funny, but there’s something for the serious ones too.
The Ham – To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
So much has been written about both Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Robert Mulligan’s phenomenal 1962 film adaptation. But the most glaring difference between the novel and the film is that the film has less in mind (while remaining essentially the same). Specifically, the film focuses on race relations, a topic covered extensively in the book.
But racism wasn’t the only topic of discussion in Lee’s classic, there was also plenty of gender identity analysis (surprising given its 1960 release date), especially in terms of Scout, which the film portrays precisely as just another individual in the world trying to find themselves. She’s usually uncertain, but too young to really know what. So when Halloween comes around, she doesn’t dress up as a nurse or a mechanic, she dresses up as a ham.
ET Steven Spielberg’s Extra-Terrestrial is one of the definitive charmers. No matter how old, everyone feels like a kid watching it, and it’s Spielberg’s love letter to the experience of life.
It’s the best display of its family-friendly sense of humor, but the film also has the ability to successfully lean into the very adult theme of distrusting one’s own government with apparent ease. The reason he can do this is because the film wears his heart on his sleeve. ET is serious, both as a character and as a film, and there is an appreciation for the process of human development and childhood. For example, as seen with ET feeling like a human while wearing a Halloween “costume”.
The Shower – The Karate Kid (1984)
The Karate Kid is a perennial favorite, but more importantly, it’s a very appealing-toned film. The stakes are relatable, even for those who have never taken karate lessons. Ralph Macchio brings soul to his role as Daniel LaRusso, and he sells the emotional beats as well as he sells the fight sequences. It also sells the script’s love of comedy.
For example, at the start of the film, LaRusso goes to a Halloween party in a legitimately creative, but poorly received, shower costume. He dresses just like a douche, and it looks really good. Unfortunately, he is surrounded by young people more concerned with appearances than creativity.
The Cop – Hocus Pocus (1993)
Hocus Pocus is one of the definitive examples of a movie that can lose money at the box office, receive negative reviews from critics, and still generate such steadily growing adoration that it ends up getting a sequel. . It’s a fun film with a soft, broadly accessible tone, but most of all it’s a film with a sense of humor and three performers (Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy and Bette Midler) who are exactly on the level expected by the film.
The costume-themed scene in question features Omri Katz’s Max Dennison approaching an officer alongside Vinessa Shaw’s Allison and Max’s sister Thora Birch’s Dani. After some awkward talk about Max being a virgin (pretty dicey territory for a PG Disney movie of the era), the “officer” scolds them for wasting their time. Then, after they’ve gotten away, the cop’s so-called girlfriend comes out of a bar with booze, and he laughs at how the kids believed him.
Devils – Batman Forever (1995)
Batman Forever is one of the greatest films of the 1990s, which has only been made more apparent with its subsequent decades of gameplay and a gorgeous 4K release. It also mostly works like a movie, and a lot of that is due to its ability to have fun. Case in point: Two-Face and the Riddler, who are both much more goofy than bad, and they’re both notorious murderers. Yet they still find a way to trick Alfred into thinking they are legitimately kids looking for candy.
Forever strikes a balance (imperfectly, but well enough) that Batman & Robin notoriously failed to achieve. It was “too much of a good thing”, but Batman Forever wasn’t that good to begin with. That being said, it’s arguably more fun now for a 90s kid than it was when the 90s kid was a kid. There’s an emotion to that call, much like Anaconda or Roland Emmerich’s vision of Godzilla.
The Corpse Bride – Mean Girls (2004)
Outside of 30 Rock, there’s never been a more Tina Fey project than Mean Girls Starring Tina Fey. Lindsay Lohan’s high school student, Cady Heron, is Fey to the letter, and it’s never more apparent than when Heron shows up at a high school party dressed as an undead bride.
With Halloween-themed youth parties, there’s “usually” (always) an ever-present motive to look good. Heron (like Fey in her youth) is completely out of her element, doesn’t understand this unspoken rule, and gets rather creative. But she is part of the popular clique, so the ramifications of such an atrocity are intensified. It’s a fun scene that helps develop the main character and Lohan’s expert skill as the “fish out of water” role. This, combined with the memorable malevolence of Rachel McAdams as Regina George, brings out the viewer’s empathy as they see the humor in the awkwardness.
Little Red Riding Wolf – Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
When it comes to Trick ‘r Treat, Anna Paquin clearly knows what movie she’s in, as it’s 75% horror and 25% comedy. But it’s the type of comedy where the creator squints, scanning the audience to see what gives them revulsion and laughs in equal measure.
Laurie de Paquin is shy; almost silent. But she just looks like that stereotypical kind of cuteness, mom to take home. And Paquin plays this so convincingly that when she reveals herself as a cringing werewolf, it’s a real shocker.
Roland’s Costume Change – They Came Together (2014)
David Wain is the master of clever parody that looks absolutely juvenile on the surface. But that’s the difference between his work and even that of the Abrahams/Zucker Brothers, much less terrible movies from, in particular, Date Movie and Epic Movie directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.
For They Came Together, Wain essentially took everyone who worked with him at the time back to the humid, hot American summer that, rightfully, just got even better. Paul Rudd’s back, making funny faces in the shower. Amy Poehler’s back, pulling faces in a Ben Franklin costume. And “Chef” Christopher Meloni is back as chief editor of the former, Roland. Roland is a very serious guy, and he commands the respect of his employees, until he poops his costume at a Halloween party. From there, things go off the rails in the admiration department.