Imagine this: a Halloween costume contest, featuring only TV characters dressed as other fictional screen characters. Now wait, you don’t have to imagine it, because it’s happening, friend. We’ve gathered 30 memorable instances of TV characters making meta costume choices for Halloween, and ranked them in order of greatness.
To get the points system straight, we’re rewarding ingenuity (home-made beats shop-bought; the incorporation of household items into outfits will be noted), and nicheness (is anybody else wearing it? No? Good), execution (has enough effort been made or was this arrogantly pulled together at the last minute with minimal thought?). Bonus points will be awarded for couple or group costumes. Oh, and there’s a special ‘burned into your retina’ bonus, which applauds any costume that once seen, stays with you forever and gives you continual joy at the mere thought (explaining the number one spot, which is just… perfection). Happy Halloween!
30. Katrina Peanutbutter as Blossom – BoJack Horseman
It’s 1993 and Katrina Peanutbutter’s going to a Hollywood Halloween party with her overly excitable TV star husband/Labrador. Does she put the time and effort to make a costume that will spread delight? No, she adds a hat to her existing outfit and goes as the star of NBC’s hit kids’ show Blossom. Poor show, lady (not Blossom, that was a good show).
29. Dwight Schrute as Sith Lord – The Office
Compared to other Halloween costumes worn by Dwight K. Schrute over the course of The Office (see below), this one is low-effort, low-energy and low-impact. The robe looks off the rack, there’s no make-up, and that Lightsaber looks flimsier than one of Creed’s alibis. No wonder Phyllis thought he was a monk.
28. Xander Harris as James Bond – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Xander’s logic was clear: If history repeated itself and the gang were magically transformed into their Halloween costumes like last time, he was going to magically transform into suave but deadly sophisticate James Bond. It was the perfect plan – if a little lacking in imagination – until Oz topped it by wearing his regular clothes plus a name tag that read: God.
27. Phoebe Buffay as Supergirl – Friends
Phoebe makes a great Supergirl, and in this episode, does something fairly super by saving her twin sister’s fiancé (played by Sean Penn) from marrying a compulsive liar by revealing Ursula’s true self. Along with Monica’s Catwoman look in this episode though, isn’t it just a little bit level one? Ross at least had the imagination to come as space doody.
26. Kevin Malone as Mr Incredible – The Office
Accountant Kevin’s Pixar-inspired costume is pleasingly homemade and customised. Replacing The Incredibles logo with Dunder Mifflin’s is a neat touch, as are the rubber gloves. Granted, it’s not a wow in the technical stakes, but as a solo effort, and a Kevin effort, it’s to be commended.
25. Liz Lemon as Harry Potter – 30 Rock
A note on the rules: Liz Lemon’s Princess Leia costume is sadly ineligible for this contest because she only wears it to a) get out of jury duty or b) get married, and not for Halloween. For spooky season, Liz cheats on Star Wars by flirting with another fandom and dressing up as an 11-year-old British boy. It’s good enough for Kenneth’s tumbleweed party, but won’t win her any prizes.
24. Lily, Cam and Mitch as Batgirl, Batman and Robin – Modern Family
The Tucker-Pritchett family have undeniable impact as superhero trio Batman, Robin and Batgirl. Yes, those costumes were definitely hired and not made, and like those above, they’ve gone for a pretty unimaginative comic book option (whither King Shark?) which loses them a little standing, but the group factor is working for them.
23. Howard & Bernadette as The Smurfs – The Big Bang Theory
One word: commitment. That’s what Howard and Bernadette show to the concept of the Halloween costume. Anybody who’s willing to blue themselves in the name of dressing up for fun deserves recognition, so that’s what this petite pair is getting. Bonus points for the incorporation of Howard’s characteristic belt buckle.
22. Dwight, Creed, Kevin as the Joker – The Office
A nod to the impact Heath Ledger’s Joker made on pop culture in the year of The Dark Knight‘s release, Dunder Mifflin Scranton has not one but three Jokers in season five’s ‘Employee Transfer’. Points won for individual interpretations on the character’s look, but points unavoidably lost for unoriginality. If only they’d talked about it beforehand and teamed up with one Joker, one Two-Face and one Maggie Gyllenhaal.
21. Abed as Batman – Community
A nonsensically high position by our own rules for a single character wearing a clearly shop-bought and uninspiring superhero costume, you might think? Wrong! Because Abed isn’t just wearing a costume, he is Batman. Is he a bird? No, he’s a bat. He is Batman. Or is he? Yes, he is Batman.
20. Kelly as Carrie Bradshaw & Ryan as Gordon Gecko – The Office
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Ryan and Kelly from The Office aren’t wearing a couple’s costume, they’ve each come dressed as their dream selves, the character they think they are deep down inside even if nobody else can see it: he’s Wall Street‘s Gordon “Greed is good” Gecko and she’s Sex and the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw. Together they are… truly monstrous!
19. Rosa as the Bride of Frankenstein – Brooklyn-99
Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Halloween episodes are known more for their heisting abilities than their costuming. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some great cross-cultural costuming opportunities. Rosa as Bride of Frankenstein works out quite nicely as both characters are stoic, beehived baddies.
18. Pippa and Bianca as Blair and Serena – Gossip Girl
What should wear to a “New York Legends” costume party? Well if you’re part of the upper crust like Pippa and Blair on HBO Max’s Gossip Girl reboot, there is only one option: your Gossip Girl-ian foremothers. This is an inspired Halloween episode twist that serves as an Easter egg to Gossip Girl fans of all generations.
17. The kids as Ghostbusters – Stranger Things
It’s quite simple: without Ghostbusters, there is no Stranger Things. Stranger Things creators The Duffer Brothers are clearly big fans of the ’80s paranormal comedy, so why wouldn’t their young characters be as well? Kudos to the Hawkins, Indiana residents for recreating the Ghostbusters look surprisingly well without access to Etsy or anything.
16. Andy and Meredith as Bill and Sookie from True Blood – The Office
It might be hard to remember now but in the mid-2000s, HBO vampire drama True Blood was kind of all the rage. Adopting vampire Bill Compton’s tortured Southern drawl to let out a mournful “Sook-eh” was a huge cultural meme so of course the unbearable Andy Bernard would be all about it. Meredith, on the other hand, just probably thought that Anna Paquin was hot.
15. Leonard Hofstadter as Inspector Gadget in The Big Bang Theory
Now here is a very inspired look. The nerds of The Big Bang Theory must feel a lot of pressure to find the perfect semi-obscure Halloween costume every year. Leonard throwing on the iconic trench coat of Inspector Gadget and attached some helicopter handles to his hat is one of their best attempts ever.
14. Mindy Lahiri as Diane from Cheers – The Mindy Project
If there’s anything that Mindy Kaling and her Mindy Project character Mindy Lahiri understand it’s unresolved sexual tension. Both Mindys positively thrive on the “will they or won’t they” energy of sitcom couplings. Naturally then, the absolute best costume choice for her is one half of TV’s best-ever romantic entanglement: Sam and Diane on Cheers.
13. The kids as The Avengers – South Park
Though South Park may be just a quiet little mountain town, it is not immune to country-wide pop culture trends. Of course, Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman would be interested in The Avengers because most elementary schoolers are. These costumes get added points for each kid choosing the exact right Avenger. Don’t ask us why by Stan as Captain America, Kyle as Thor, Kenny as Iron Man, and Cartman as Hulk are all dead-on.
12. Danielle Chase as Angela Chase in My So-Called Life
God bless the children, for they are the trolls we deserve. As occupants of the same fictional universe, Danielle Chase might not realize she’s dressing up as a fictional character when she dresses up as her older sister, Angela, for Halloween. But Angela’s personality is so carefully rehearsed to begin with that dressing up as her for Halloween is really no problem.
11. Annie as Sadako from The Ring – Community
Throughout its six-season run, NBC comedy Community couldn’t help but occasionally notice that Annie Edison just happened to be both young and attractive. As such, the writers seemed to delight in putting her in immodest outfits for themed episodes as if they were daring the audience to develop unwanted fetishes. That all comes to a crashing end (we hope) in season 4’s Halloween installment when Annie embodies Sadako a.k.a. the “Ring girl.”
10. Louise Belcher as No Country For Old Men’s Anton Chigurh – Bob’s Burgers
“What’s the most you’ve ever lost in a coin toss?” That’s the question that won Javier Bardem an Oscar for his role as the terrifying villain Anton Chigurh in 2007’s No Country for Old Men. That film proved to be wildly influential for cinephiles and also apparently for the children of mild-mannered burger flippers.
9. Ben & Leslie as Westley and Buttercup – Parks and Recreation
The Westley and Princess Buttercup couples costume is a big commitment. Not just any two people can pull it off – they have to be well and truly, disgustingly in love like Cary Elwes and Robin Wright’s iconic characters. Thankfully Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation are two lovebirds up for this mantle.
8. Troy and Abed as Exo-suit Ripley and the Xenomorph – Aliens
Troy Barnes and Abed Nadir are low-key two of the best Halloween costumers in all of pop culture. Does it strain credulity that two community college students with seemingly no funds whatsoever would find the industrial material necessary to create Ellen Ripley’s Alien exo-suit? Sure. Doest that make it any less awesome? Absolutely not.
7. Mr. Peanutbutter and Jessica Biel as The Notebook – BoJack Horseman
Literal golden retriever that he is, Mr. Peanutbutter takes to the Halloween season with sincere child-like enthusiasm. Unfortunately, he also has a child-like understanding of pop culture. While his date Jessica Biel opted for Rachel McAdams look from The Notebook as her costume, Mr. PB went in a more definitional direction.
6. Cassie, Rue, Jules, Kat and Lexi as Various – Euphoria
The at-risk youth of Euphoria are good at two things and two things alone: doing drugs and making Halloween costumes. These are some superb examples. Lexi is Bob Ross, Jules is Juliet from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, Rue is Marlene Dietrich in Morocco, Kat is Thana from Ms. 45, Cassie is Alabama Worley from True Romance, and Daniel is Ted Bundy. Maddy, however, upstages them all with the wildly problematic depiction of Iris (a 12-year-old Jodie Foster) in Taxi Driver.
5. Darlene and DJ as Melanie Daniels & Hannibal Lecter – Roseanne
Roseanne was among the first network sitcoms to take its Halloween responsibilities very seriously. The Conner family and friends would trot out some wonderfully creative costumes over the years but none can top the 1992 episode’s effort in which DJ dresses up as Hannibal Lecter and Darlene as Marlene Daniels (of The Birds). The Hannibal Lecter costume in particular probably felt quite timely in the moment and has only aged like a fine Chianti
4. Wanda and Vision as their comic book selves – WandaVision
Is it a pop culture homage when two characters dress essentially as themselves? It is in WandaVision’s case at least. Through much of her MCU journey, Wanda Maximoff was never referred to by her comic moniker of “Scarlet Witch.” This costume in the Disney+ series’ superb Halloween episode suggested that Marvel was prepared to reclaim Wanda’s witchy powers. Thank God they did and thank God Vision got to wear yellow gym shorts as well in the process.
3. Richard Castle as ‘Space Pirate’ – Castle
Talk about a fun Easter egg for an audience! In Castle, the titular best-selling mystery novelist finds a costume that catches his eye: suspenders, gloves, and noticeably brown coat. Huh, must be a space pirate! But those who are really in the know (basically Den of Geek‘s whole audience) understand who that “space pirate” really is. Captain Malcolm Reynolds, come on down!
2. Dwight Schrute as the Queen of Blades – The Office
Pound for pound, The Office features more interesting Halloween costumes than any other show. Dwight’s embodiment of a relatively obscure Starcraft boss is undoubtedly its best though. Though Mindy confuses Dwight’s costume as a “Jamaican zombie woman”, real ones know not to cross the Zerg queen.
1. Bill Haverchuck as The Bionic Woman – Freaks and Geeks
“I’m sorry Steve Austin. I can’t marry you. I’m mad at you right now. What? I’m sorry I can’t hear you. Hold on I’m gonna put the phone on my bionic ear. That’s, that’s better. No, don’t talk so loud! Don’t forget I’ve got bionic hearing. No! These are not bionic! These are all me!”
God bless Bill Haverchuck and God bless Halloween.