Warning! SPOILERS Below For The Haunting Of Hill House!
The Haunting Of Hill House is packed with frights and feelings, but which episode is the best? The acclaimed horror series created by Mike Flanagan has been a sensation that has left fans in awe since it premiered on Netflix in mid-October. The 10 episodes of The Haunting of Hill House tell the story of the ill-fated Crain family, who moved into the ghostly Massachusetts house in the summer of 1992 and were afflicted by horrific tragedy and supernatural hauntings, which left them deeply scarred and followed them throughout their lives for the next two decades.
The Haunting Of Hill House utilizes a non-linear form of serialized storytelling that alternates between the present and the past, with a cast of talented child actors as the young Crains and Carla Gugino and Henry Thomas as the Crain parents, while Michiel Huisman, Timothy Hutton, Elizabeth Reaser, Kate Siegel, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and Victoria Pedretti play the older versions of Steven, Hugh, Shirley, Theodora, Luke, and Nell, respectively. While the ghost story is certainly a frightening feast for horror fans, the series is also a harrowing and deeply affecting glimpse at the varied forms of trauma each family member harbors.
Ranking The Haunting Of Hill House's episodes is a unique challenge because there is no 'worst' episode. Thanks to masterful writing, acting, directing, and cinematography, the series is an embarrassment of riches where every episode is a standout in its own way. Think of this list as more of "the best of the best" as we quantify the finest hours of this remarkable horror series:
- This Page: Haunting of Hill House Episodes Ranked 10 to 6
- Page 2: Haunting of Hill House Episodes Ranked 5 to 1
10. Episode 7 - "Eulogy"
After the intensity of "Two Storms", "Eulogy" lets the series settle a bit as the Crains mourn Nell at her funeral and lay her to rest - though Luke is horrified by seeing the ghosts of Nell and Olivia and makes the fateful decision to desert his family so he can burn down Hill House. It's also made clear that Hugh has been haunted by Olivia's ghost ever since her death. In the past, Hugh discovers the body of William Hill walled up in the basement as the Dudleys explain their own history with the house and Hugh begins to realize the magnitude of Olivia's haunting.
"Eulogy" is a melancholy but crucial episode that mostly acts as set up for the endgame of the series. It offers huge clues about the secrets of Hill House. what happened during that last night as Hugh is interrogated by the police, and drops hints about how much Olivia's mind deteriorated from her visits by the ghosts that would pay off in "Screaming Meemies".
9. Episode 1 - Steven Sees A Ghost"
"Steven Sees A Ghost" introduces the Crain family both as adults and in the past as it alternates between the present day and their life in Hill House decades ago - including their shocking escape during that fateful last night. As the adult Steven - who claims he doesn't believe in ghosts - interviews a woman about her paranormal experience for his new book, his baby sister Nell desperately tries to contact her family before she visits Hill House, where she is believed to have committed suicide.
The episode is nearly all set-up but brilliantly highlights all of the main characters across the two timelines while also weaving in some shocking key moments that later make sense in context after watching the next few episodes (and greatly benefits from a second watch). "Steven Sees A Ghost" also lives up to its title when Steve encounters the specter of Nell in his apartment, delivering one of the series' first and most effective scares.
8. Episode 2 - "Open Casket"
Shirley gets the spotlight as "Open Casket" deals with the aftermath of Olivia's death in the past. Meanwhile, in the present, Nell's body arrives at Shirley's funeral home and she insists on "fixing" her sister for her funeral - just as a mortician had been able to "fix" her mother's body in the past. The episode also reveals that Shirley objected to Steve's book about Hill House and pressured the family not to accept royalties, which Theo and Shirley's husband Kevin (Anthony Ruivivar) did in secret. In the past, young Shirley learns about death when she discovers kittens that she's unable to keep alive. One of the highlights of "Open Casket" is how each Crain sibling finds out about Nell's death simultaneously. Elizabeth Reaser as adult Shirley and Lulu Wilson as young Shirley both excel in their synchronous performances as the eldest Crain daughter.
7. Episode 8 - "Witness Marks"
"Witness Marks" is a powerful episode where Steve/Hugh and Shirley/Theo resolve long-standing issues. It also delivers some hardcore scares and long-awaited revelations - like the fact that Hugh never built the treehouse that Luke played in as a child. As Steve and Hugh chase after Luke and realize he plans to burn Hill House down, Hugh explains that the Crain family "is like an unfinished meal" to the house. This counters Steve's belief that the family suffers from untreated mental illness; he secretly got a vasectomy, which is why he's separated from his wife Leigh. Hugh's explanation forces Steve to re-examine an incident in the past where Olivia smashed the mirror of a vanity that Steve restored as a gift.
Meanwhile, Theo and Shirley are frightened by mysterious poundings on the doors of the funeral home and then also decide to go after Luke, which leads to Nell's ghost appearing in the biggest scare of the episode. But this leads to one of the most emotional moments of the series, as Theo delivers a heartbreaking speech to Shirley. Luke's arrival at the house, where he's attacked by the ghosts, sets the stage for the big finale.
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6. Episode 4 - "The Twin Thing"
Luke's tragic life story of addiction and recovery takes center stage, as well has his bond to his twin sister Nell - whom Luke knows didn't commit suicide as everyone else thinks because of their "twin thing". As Luke tries to help his friend Joey (Anna Enger), a fellow recovering addict he has feelings for, we learn that in the past Luke was visited by the ghost of a very tall man. This ghost continued to haunt Luke into adulthood, following him throughout the streets of LA as he looks for Joey.
"The Twin Thing" highlights Luke's heartwrenching life; as a child, his family didn't believe him about Abigail (Olive Elise Abercrombie) or any of the times he was attacked by ghosts, which is what made him resort to drug addiction in order to cope. As the adult Luke, Oliver Jackson-Cohen's desperation makes fans truly feel for his inability to connect with his siblings and his betrayal by Joey.