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The Most Popular Halloween Costume the Year You Were Born

Halloween costumes reflect the times. Read on for what everyone was talking about—and, of course, wearing—the year you came into the world.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paul Brown/Shutterstock (169868d) CHILDREN IN TRADITIONAL HALLOWEEN COSTUMES VARIOUS, BRITAIN - 1990Paul Brown/Shutterstock

The history of Halloween costumes

Halloween has a rich, centuries-long history (you know, what with the dead returning to earth and people attempting to drive away spirits), but dressing up in costumes and trick-or-treating as we know it today only came about in the 1930s. By the 1950s, kids could buy virtually any costume their hearts desired and go door-to-door on the hunt for candy.

Every year, though, one specific Halloween costume seems to be on every trick-or-treater’s mind. Why do these overwhelmingly popular costume ideas take hold, exactly? “The celebration of Halloween often illustrates what’s going on in our culture,” says Lesley Bannatyne, Halloween expert and author of Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night. “Halloween feeds on zeitgeist in a way that other holidays can’t. It’s expressive of who we are and what we value, what we’re thinking about or are afraid of or love—from bird flu to Game of Thrones to politics to Frozen.”

These are the costumes that everyone had to have the year you were born—from 1950 all the way through 2005. Get ready for a serious walk down memory lane. Of course, some of the costumes that were considered acceptable back then would not fly today, like these Halloween costumes that have been banned from schools.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Fox Films/Kobal/Shutterstock (5878022f) John Wayne The Big Trail - 1930 Director: Raoul Walsh Fox Films USA Lobby Card/Poster Western La Piste des géantsFox Films/Kobal/Shutterstock

1950: Cowboy

When most people think of the 1950s, they imagine a poodle skirt or leather jacket. But what was the go-to costume in 1950? A good ol’ cowboy. Hollywood had an obsession with Westerns at the time. From John Wayne to Gene Autry to Roy Rogers, young boys and men alike had found their heroes, and that was reflected on Halloween night. Halloween 2020 will certainly different than any year in the past—find out how. Plus, here are some tips for trick-or-treating safely in the age of coronavirus.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Constantin Film Produkion/Kobal/Shutterstock (5884827af) Kellan Lutz Tarzan - 2013 Director: Reinhard Klooss Constantin Film Produkion GERMANY Lobby Card/Poster TarzanConstantin Film Produkion/Kobal/Shutterstock

1951: Tarzan

Tarzan—the orphan boy raised by apes in the jungle—has been the subject of movie after movie dating all the way back to 1918. By the time Tarzan and the Slave Girl hit theaters in 1950, the character had become a household name. This Halloween costume packed a punch with minimal accessories and became a classic couple’s costume for anyone dressing up with his very own Jane. Believe it or not, Tarzan was actually inspired by a real person.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock (5886064j) Gene Kelly Singin' In The Rain - 1952 Director: Gene Kelly / Stanley Donen MGM USA Scene Still Musical Singing In The Rain Chantons sous la pluieMgm/Kobal/Shutterstock

1952: Don Lockwood

Break out the umbrella and tap shoes: Singin’ in the Rain was released in 1952. It featured dancing and romance in true Hollywood style, and it was the perfect follow-up to Gene Kelly’s award-winning performance in An American in Paris. Many consider it the greatest musical of all time, even if it wasn’t nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. (It’s in good company with these other classic films that didn’t win Best Picture either.) Kelly’s raincoat-wearing, umbrella-toting Don Lockwood was—and still is—an incredibly easy costume to copy.

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1953: Mickey Mouse

The Halloween costume business saw a boom after World War II. Once stores like Sears offered boxed costumes, Bannatyne says, “mass-market costumes followed trends in popular culture from comic-book and radio characters to television favorites to movie stars and Internet memes.” One of the biggest trends of the early ’50s, way before the advent of the Internet? Disney everything. On Halloween night in 1953, you would have seen your fair share of Donald Ducks and Snow Whites, but Mickey Mouse was the overwhelming favorite. With hit after hit (Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Bambi) in the late 1930s and early 1940s and Disneyland under construction in California, the Disney impact was undeniable and Mickey Mouse was the breakout star. Find out our favorite Halloween costumes for Disney fans.

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1954: Batman

Holy Batman! The 1940s and 1950s shaped Batman into the beloved superhero we know today. Born into the DC Comics world in 1939, crime-fighting Batman quickly caught up to the popularity of Superman. In fact, Detective Comics #27, where Batman first made his debut, is still one of the most sought-after comics. But things started to shift for Batman on April 19, 1954, when psychiatrist Fredric Wertham published a book called Seduction of the Innocent, which linked comics and juvenile delinquency. Censorship took the comic world by storm, but fans still donned the black mask and cape on Halloween. Looking for a costume for your pup? Dress him up as the caped crusader—or in one of these other 22 great costumes for dogs.

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1955: Davy Crockett

Everyone’s favorite frontiersman was a Halloween staple of the mid-1950s. Boys (and men) everywhere were charmed by Davy Crockett, especially after the Disney series aired from 1954 to 1955 and Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier hit theaters in 1955. Faux raccoon cap? Check. Rugged good looks and captivating storytelling ability? Check, check. Speaking of new frontiers, your Halloween tradition may be changing soon!

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Donald Cooper/Shutterstock (940933i) 'The King and I' - Maria Friedman (Anna Leonowens) 'The King and I' musical at the Royal Albert Hall, London, Britain - 12 Jun 2009 'The King and I' - music: Richard Rodgers book & lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II - design: Robert Jones lighting: Andrew Bridge director: Jeremy Sams - a Raymond Gubbay & Royal Albert Hall co-productionDonald Cooper/Shutterstock

1956: Anna Leonowens

The King and I is one of those iconic Broadway musicals that everyone’s at least heard of. And when the film adaptation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical hit theaters in 1956, Halloween inspiration basically jumped right off of the screen. The movie’s female protagonist, Anna Leonowens (played by Deborah Kerr), was the perfect costume for those seeking a bit of glamour and an excuse to wear a ball gown and a sleek updo.

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1957: Frankenstein

There’s no doubt that Frankenstein, the star of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel of the same name, was one of the biggest Halloween costume trends of the 1950s. But science fiction and horror fans really broke out the green paint and neck bolts on October 31, 1957. Why? Frankenstein was dominating the comic-book world, and movies about the monster were airing on TV. Fun fact that only true bookworms know: Victor Frankenstein is actually the name of the doctor, not the monster. You can up your spook factor this Halloween with these simple no-carve decoration ideas for pumpkins.

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1958: Zorro

After Disney’s Zorro hit TV screens in 1957, starring the hunky Guy Williams, masks and swords became the year’s must-have Halloween accessories. The masked, sword-wielding fox (which, by the way, Zorro means in Spanish) of a hero was created by Johnston McCulley in 1919. Now more than 100 years old (and having gone through a 1998 reboot starring Antonio Banderas), Zorro continues to be a Halloween costume favorite. Check out these great Halloween costumes you can only get at Target.

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1959: Marilyn Monroe

Following the success of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1953, The Seven Year Itch in 1955, and Some Like it Hot in 1959, platinum-blond wigs and the perfect shade of red lipstick were in high demand on Halloween in 1959. Women flaunted their sex appeal as bombshell Marilyn Monroe, something that many still do today. While everyone’s seen a picture of the blonde bombshell in her iconic white dress from The Seven Year Itch, here are 20 stunning, rarely seen photos of her.

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1960: Hula girl

To say that Americans were fascinated with Hawaii in the ’50s and ’60s would be an understatement. What with World War II servicemen returning with stories of a nearby paradise, South Pacific making waves on Broadway and in theaters, and Hawaii officially becoming the 50th U.S. state on August 21, 1959, grass skirts, Hawaiian shirts, silk flowers, and tiki bars took the country—and Halloween—by storm.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Howell Conant/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock (5886249bh) Audrey Hepburn Breakfast At Tiffany's - 1961 Director: Blake Edwards Paramount USA Film Portrait Comedy Breakfast At Tiffanys Diamants sur canapéHowell Conant/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

1961: Holly Golightly

Although Truman Capote originally wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly Golightly in the adaption of his novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it was Audrey Hepburn who ultimately brought the character to life in 1961. Between Holly’s little black dress, pearl necklace, and cat-eye sunglasses, she is every fashionista’s dream costume. Of course, the actress herself wasn’t too shabby either. Check out the story behind Audrey Hepburn’s iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s dress.

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1962: Rocky and Bullwinkle

Shortly after The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends premiered on ABC, the lovable, animated duo of Rocket “Rocky” J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle Moose became popular Halloween costumes. Creator Jay Ward’s daughter told CNN in 2009 that “she thinks it struck such a chord and remains popular today because her father never wrote for children, he wrote for adults. Jay Ward wanted kids to enjoy the pictures while grown-ups laughed at the quick wit and inside jokes.”

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock (5872481c) Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra - 1960 Director: Rouben Mamoulian 20th Century Fox USA Film Portrait Drama20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

1963: Elizabeth Taylor

When Cleopatra, one of the most expensive movies ever made, debuted in 1963, the nation couldn’t help but obsess over Elizabeth Taylor’s style in the film. Between the over-the-top jewels and the elaborate eye makeup, it’s no wonder why people wanted to copy the look. Plus, Taylor was one of the biggest stars on the planet at the time, which also boosted Cleopatra’s Halloween popularity. Of course, nowadays the casting of (and dressing up as) Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra comes across as blatant whitewashing—and if it doesn’t, here’s what whitewashing is and why it’s a problem.

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1964: The Beatles

Already massively popular in the U.K., the Beatles became a sensation in America after wooing teenagers with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. That’s also the year when Beatlemania first took hold of Halloween, and groups started dressing up like the Fab Four. Dibs on Paul McCartney—who, 50 years later, is people’s favorite Beatle, according to a CBS News poll. No matter who you love, you won’t want to miss these rare, behind-the-scenes photos of the Beatles.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Dezo Hoffman/Shutterstock (14061a) SONNY AND CHER - 1966 VARIOUS - 1966Dezo Hoffman/Shutterstock

1965: Sonny and Cher

“They say we’re young and we don’t know,” but we do know that Sonny Bono and Cher were a legendary duo that Halloween revelers wanted to emulate—especially when “I Got You Babe” topped the charts in 1965. When one half of a couple donned a long, black Cher wig and dressed in her over-the-top style and the other half opted for Sonny’s bushy mustache and shaggy hair, there was no doubt who they were dressed as. Here are 23 more adorable (and clever!) Halloween costumes every couple has to try.

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1966: Barbie

Barbie was introduced to the world in 1959, and at the time, little girls loved dressing up and dressing up as Barbie Millicent Roberts (“Barbie”). In 1966, Barbie was still rocking the glamour of the 1950s (though she also made history by going to the moon in 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong), and so too were those dressing up as the uber-popular doll on Halloween. What did Barbie look like the year you were born? We have the answer!

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1967: Morticia Addams

Years after the Addams Family first appeared in Charles Addams’ 1938 New Yorker cartoon, the television series The Addams Family debuted on ABC and cemented itself as an American classic. Sure, Gomez and his Frankenstein-like butler, Lurch, were obvious costume choices, but sultry mom Morticia and death-obsessed daughter Wednesday really broke through as trendy costume choices and remain popular even today. Snap, snap. To deck your halls in true Addams Family style, check out these spooky Halloween decorations you can only buy at Target.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885523r) Mia Farrow Rosemary's Baby - 1968 Director: Roman Polanski Paramount USA Scene Still Horror

1968: Rosemary Woodhouse

Hands down, Rosemary’s Baby is one of the scariest movies of all time. A massive success, the movie—about a woman who suspects that her unborn baby is the spawn of Satan—was also deeply cursed for the movie’s creators and stars and deeply influential in terms of horror movies. Following its release, women started to dress up like star Mia Farrow’s Rosemary on Halloween, with her trademark pixie cut, nightgown, knife, and, of course, demonic baby.

Two Proud Astronauts Plant American Flag on the Alien Planet. In the Background Research Base and Rover.Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

1969: Astronaut

America’s fascination with the moon soared in the late ’50s and early ’60s, when NASA was established and the first forays into space began. But it was Halloween 1969—three months after Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon—when the astronaut costume really took off. That was one small step for man, one giant leap for the Halloween costume industry. While your mind is on space, the final frontier, check out these 24 amazing facts you didn’t know about NASA.

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1970: Elvis Presley

While Elvis Presley first topped charts in the 1950s, it was in 1970 that the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll broke records in Las Vegas and shot a documentary. With his signature black hair and sideburns, flashy jumpsuits, and gold glasses, who could resist copying Presley’s style on Halloween? Psst…here are 9 rarely seen vintage photos of Elvis.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Wolper/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock (5886077ba) Gene Wilder Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory - 1971 Director: Mel Stuart Wolper/Warner Bros USA Scene Still Willy Wonka au pays enchantéWolper/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

1971: Willy Wonka

 

Chocolate, magic, and music were the winning combo (the golden ticket, if you will) when Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel, premiered in June 1971. Gene Wilder made his mark on the big screen as the eccentric chocolatier, and Halloween revelers have worn large top hats and bow ties ever since. Speaking of chocolate, check out these fun facts about Halloween candy.

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1972: Don Corleone

While America was dealing with the end of the Vietnam War, Hollywood was making us an offer we couldn’t refuse: The Godfather. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the film cemented Marlon Brando as gangster-movie royalty—and as a character worthy of emulating on Halloween with his thin mustache, slicked-back hair, tux adorned with a red rose, and, of course, the perfect Brando voice. If you’ve got a tux at your disposal, you can easily create this look. Rummage through your closet (or someone else’s) to put together these other 17 Halloween costumes you can throw together last minute.

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1973: Marcia Brady

Here’s the story…of a popular Halloween costume in 1973. The Brady Bunch first aired in 1969 and became everyone’s favorite family, but it was 1973 when Maureen McCormick’s Marcia Brady took a football to the nose. And, of course, if you had a large group, going as the world’s most prominent blended family was the perfect idea for a group costume. If you’re looking for a theme for your group this year, check out these 25 great Halloween costumes for families.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Bob Daugherty/AP/Shutterstock (5940280a) Richard M. Nixon Richard Nixon waves goodbye with a salute to his staff members outside the White House as he boards a helicopter and e resigns the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974. He was the first president in American history to resign the nation's highest office Nixon Resignation-Tapes, Washington, USABob Daugherty/AP/Shutterstock

1974: Richard Nixon

“Political masks do well when there’s a scandal or a tagline that’s memorable,” says Bannatyne. Case in point: During Richard Nixon’s impeachment, Tricky Dick masks were all the rage.

Political masks also tend to pop up on election years, though things are slightly different today than they used to be. “Up until Trump’s election, sales of candidate’s masks were a fairly good indicator of the winner of an upcoming election. Obama outsold Romney in 2012, for example,” says Bannatyne. “With Trump, the masks sell well, but no one can tell if it’s because people support him or are making a joke of him.”

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by 20th Century Fox/Michael White Prods/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885245ao) Tim Curry The Rocky Horror Picture Show - 1975 Director: Jim Sharman 20th Century Fox/Michael White Productions USA Scene Still Musical20th Century Fox/Michael White Prods/Kobal/Shutterstock

1975: Dr. Frank-N-Furter

Is there a bigger cult classic than The Rocky Horror Picture Show? When it premiered in 1975, the film’s main character, Dr. Frank-N-Furter—a “sweet transvestite, from Transsexual, Transylvania,” played by Tim Curry—became instantly recognizable. While Rocky Horror is now pretty mainstream, it was radical at the time for its depiction of sexuality.

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1976: Charlie’s Angels

Forget Charlie, and instead, grab your two best friends and dress up as the Angels. That was the thought for Halloween back in 1976, and still often the thought today. The sexy crime-stopping trio of Charlie’s Angels first hit the boob tube in 1976 with record-breaking numbers. The series was groundbreaking for featuring women in leading roles, and all of the ladies were popular—but, of course, it was Farrah Fawcett (with her perfectly feathered hair) who became the biggest star. Check out these other clever group Halloween costumes to wear this year.

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1977: Star Wars

A long time ago, on a Halloween far, far away, the streets were lined with mini Luke Skywalkers, Princess Leias, Han Solos, and Darth Vaders. Actually, they still are. After the iconic franchise was introduced to the world in 1977, it became a surprise hit and the world became obsessed. The popularity of Star Wars Halloween costumes started with Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, and it hasn’t dwindled since. True fans will love these other mind-blowing Star Wars facts.

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1978: Michael Myers

The year 1978 is an important one in horror-movie history. It’s when Halloween first debuted, kicking off an 11-film series (to date) that’s still going strong. Serial killer Michael Myers, with his white, hollow-eyed mask and trusty kitchen knife, quickly became the Halloween costume choice for those wanting to channel the darker side of the holiday—and scare the bejesus out of anybody nearby. If that’s your goal on Halloween, check out these other scary costumes that will give you nightmares.

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1979: Rocky Balboa

“Apollo Creed meets the Italian Stallion. Sounds like a damn monster movie.” Maybe, but it also sounds like the follow-up to Sylvester Stallone’s 1976 hit, Rocky. The boxer from Philadelphia and his new opponent, Apollo Creed, duked it out this year in Rocky II. No wonder the boxer’s robe was such a Halloween staple.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885338ao) Karen Lynn Gorney, John Travolta Saturday Night Fever - 1977 Director: John Badham Paramount USA Lobby Card/Poster Drama La Fièvre du samedi soirParamount/Kobal/Shutterstock

1980: John Travolta (well, sort of)

First, there was charismatic high schooler Vinnie Barbarino in Welcome Back, Kotter. Then came disco king Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever and ’50s T-Bird Danny Zuko in Grease. The late 1970s were all about John Travolta, and so were the Halloweens to follow. Here are some of the best towns in America to celebrate Halloween.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock (5886187c) Harrison Ford Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom - 1984 Director: Steven Spielberg Lucasfilm Ltd/Paramount USA Scene Still Action/Adventure Indiana Jones et le temple mauditLucasfilm Ltd/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

1981: Indiana Jones

Break out the fedora and leather whip: Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981, and archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) quickly went from battling Nazis and fleeing snakes to trick-or-treating across America. Fun fact: Director Steven Spielberg sent creator George Lucas (also responsible for Star Wars) a hidden message in the film.

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1982: E.T.

E.T. phone Halloween. Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film about a young boy (Elliott) befriending a sweet alien (E.T.) became one of the top 10 highest-grossing movies of all time. And although the movie spurred fans to bust out the red hoodies and bicycles on Halloween, things could have been very different had Spielberg made it into a horror movie as he had originally planned. Check out the most popular Halloween costumes on Amazon.

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1983: Michael Jackson

Long before the sexual abuse allegations, Michael Jackson was a music-legend-in-the-making. His hit album Thriller came out in 1982, with an iconic video that screamed Halloween (zombified Jackson in a red motorcycle jacket) on MTV the next year, and Jackson landed the cover of Rolling Stone in 1983. So while this might not be the most popular costume choice today, the King of Pop was everyone’s favorite in the 1980s.

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1984: Madonna

Madonna made history at the very first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984. Performing “Like a Virgin” in a risqué wedding dress, fingerless lace gloves, layers of necklaces, and “boy toy” belt, the Material Girl was just getting started with her shocking, covetable style. From the iconic cone bra to her teased hair, there are so many Madonna looks to leave a lasting impression on Halloween. Pop culture is often a big source of inspiration for Halloween, though it can also come from the unlikeliest of places. That’s just one of the secrets Halloween costume designers want you to know.

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1985: Freddy Krueger

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four, better trick-or-treat some more. Once A Nightmare on Elm Street came out in late 1984, kids had a new villain to fear with Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger. That red and green striped sweater has become synonymous with the razor-gloved serial killer—not to mention, you know, the razor gloves. While Freddy isn’t real (we swear), these 17 creepy real events actually happened on Halloween.

Exclusive to Rex Features Mandatory Credit: Photo by James Kuhn/Shutterstock (1033442y) California raisin James Kuhn Facepaint, Michigan, America - Nov 2009 FULL WORDS: http://www.rexfeatures.com/nanolink/52vc Wacky artist James Kuhn wowed the world by painting his own face every day for a year. Now the 47-year-old from Three Oaks, Michigan is doing it again - and his work is better than ever. Imaginative James decided to come up with a new face every day, with designs ranging from cartoon characters to some of his favourite foods. And one again he will put a smile on YOUR face with crazy caricatures of Superman, Charlie Brown, Wonder Woman and Evel Knievel. There are also poignant tributes to Michael Jackson and Mollie Sugden, the British actress famous for her role as Mrs Slocombe in sitcom Are You Being Served? He has also daubed other creations including a mummy, Freddie Kruger, a golf tee Santa and a rabid pit bull!James Kuhn/Shutterstock

1986: California Raisin

How did a bunch of raisins start making hit music? In the 1980s, the California Raisin Advisory Board came up with an idea to boost slowing raisin sales. Fast-forward to a group of claymation raisins singing and dancing to “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and the rest is history. The California Raisins were a viral sensation before the days of viral sensations.

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1987: ALF

What exactly was ALF, and why did he want to eat cats so badly? The late ’80s were a weird time, and the Alien Life Form (aka ALF) became the star of an NBC sitcom that ran from 1986 to 1990. Living with a middle-class California family before being captured by the U.S. Air Force’s Alien Task Force, ALF quickly became a fan favorite of the time (merchandise sales and ratings were through the roof). Unfortunately for those hoping to get an update on the furry alien, the present-day ALF reboot has been nixed. Even ’80s aficionados have to admit that ALF was strange—though maybe not as strange as these 10 weirdest TV shows of all time.

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1988: Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Tim Burton’s wacky 1988 comedy was a box-office success, and it’s actually among the top 10 highest-grossing that year. It’s also the film that catapulted a young Winona Ryder to stardom, and it’s arguably one of Michael Keaton’s best character performances. With his black-and-white suit, wild green hair, and signature makeup (the film would go on to win an Oscar for makeup), Beetlejuice was certainly recognizable, and many fans copied the look. Looking to create some makeup magic of your own this year? Try these 20 easy Halloween makeup ideas almost anyone can master.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885744d) Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd Ghostbusters - 1984 Director: Ivan Reitman Columbia USA Scene Still S.O.S. FantômesColumbia/Kobal/Shutterstock

1989: Ghostbusters

Who ya gonna call—um, dress up as for Halloween? While Ghostbusters was one of the highest-grossing films of 1984, Ghostbusters II was even more successful, nearly doubling the first movie’s box-office numbers in 1989. Between stars Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd alone, it’s no surprise that the movie was such a massive hit. And considering the distinctive costumes and proton packs, it’s no surprise that trick-or-treaters loved this costume. Check out these Halloween customs and traditions from around the world.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock (5886092ab) Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox Back To The Future - 1985 Director: Robert Zemeckis Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures USA Scene Still Scifi Retour vers le futurAmblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock

1990: Marty McFly

Get in your DeLorean—we’re going back to 1990. By the turn of the decade, all three films in the Back to the Future franchise had been released and kids everywhere wanted a hoverboard. Whether it was Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) or Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), there was no doubt you’d see a bevy of Back to the Future characters on Halloween.

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1991: Terminator

When Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “I’ll be back,” in 1984’s The Terminator, he wasn’t kidding. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which had a record (at the time) $100 million budget, opened in 1991. The blockbuster was just the second in the action franchise that would only continue to grow. Whether fans dressed up as Schwarzenegger’s killer cyborg or Linda Hamilton’s badass Sarah Connor, you’d better believe you were hearing, “Hasta la vista, baby,” on Halloween.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Donna Mcwilliam/AP/Shutterstock (6376107a) Barney and Friends Riff, front, center, a new character on the Barney & Friends show, is shown with with the show's other dinosaur characters, Baby Bop, left, Barney, back, and B.J., right, during the taping of a new Barney episode at the Barney & Friends studio in Carrollton, Texas BARNEY AND FRIENDS, CARROLLTON, USADonna Mcwilliam/AP/Shutterstock

1992: Barney

“I love you, you love me.” How adults felt about Barney is debatable, but nearly every preschooler in America loved him in the ’90s. Barney & Friends premiered on PBS in 1992, and soon, more than 14 million viewers were tuning in every week to see the lovable, purple dinosaur. Even Demi Lovato, who appeared on the show from 2002 to 2004, admitted that she had a thing for Barney. While Barney may have been completely made up, did you know that these classic cartoon characters had real-life inspiration?

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1993: Power Rangers

Red, blue, yellow, pink, white, or black: Which Power Ranger are you? Nineties’ kids loved the teen superheroes, and some still do, especially after 2017’s big-screen reboot. But after Mighty Morphin Power Rangers aired in 1993, “demand was so high for the costumes that many shops ran out, leaving some determined parents to craft their own Power Rangers outfits for their children,” according to ABC News. While it might be easier to buy a Power Ranger costume, you can definitely DIY these 25 cheap Halloween costumes for kids.

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1994: Bart Simpson

The Simpsons is the longest-running scripted program in history. Since premiering in 1989, the show has aired hundreds of episodes, featured many a celebrity, and has even predicted the future. By the time the sixth season premiered in 1994, Bartholomew JoJo “Bart” Simpson (yep, that’s his full name) had earned his spot as a pop-culture icon—and as a popular Halloween costume.

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1995: Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne

They may have been dumb, but BFFs Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) were certainly dynamic on the big screen. Dumb and Dumber came out in December 1994 and “opened at number one and became the sixth-highest grossing movie of the year in the United States,” according to Time. The hilarious best friends—and their orange and blue tuxedos—soon became the Halloween costumes of choice for best buds. Have you ever wondered why Halloween is celebrated in the first place?

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1996: The Spice Girls

The Spice Girls dropped their debut album, Spice, in 1996, and soon girls everywhere were throwing up peace signs and shouting, “Girl power!” on Halloween and the rest of the year. Scary Spice, Sporty Spice, Ginger Spice, Baby Spice (the most popular), and Posh Spice came onto the scene and quickly made an impact. Even the band’s latest reunion tour in 2019 was record-breaking, grossing more than $170 million—more than tours in the group’s heyday. If you’ve still got your ’90s gear stashed in your closet, you can put together this costume pretty easily. If not, here are 18 cheap Halloween costumes for adults that basically anyone can DIY.

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1997: Austin Powers

Yeah, baby, yeah! Saturday Night Live alum Mike Myers burst back onto the scene after his success in 1992’s Wayne’s World as the cryogenically frozen 1960s secret agent Austin Powers. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery featured catchphrase after catchphrase, Austin’s signature look (black glasses and a velvet suit), and enough mojo to fill the entire Swinging Sixties. That made it hard to avoid seeing someone dressed up as Austin Powers—or, of course, his nemesis, Dr. Evil—in the late ’90s. Learn some of the things you probably never knew about Halloween.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Nils Jorgensen/Shutterstock (9870208ax) Ghostface Mask from Scream (1996). Estimate £6,000-8,000 Rare and iconic film memorabilia auction, London, UK - 06 Sep 2018 Rare and iconic blockbuster film and TV memorabilia with in excess of £3.5 million ($4.6 million) to be auctioned in UK. Auction presenting some of the most iconic cinematic artefacts of our time of rare blockbuster film memorabilia, including jacket worn by Harrison Ford in his role as Han Solo in the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back expected to fetch £1m, is among 600 lots to be auctioned by Prop Store at London's BFI ImaxNils Jorgensen/Shutterstock

1998: Ghostface

“The 1980s saw an uptick in horror franchises and into the ’90s, and Halloween iconography grew bloodier with them, including costumes,” says Bannatyne. When Scream 2, the follow-up to horror hit Scream, came out in late 1997, kids everywhere donned serial killer Ghostface costumes on Halloween. More than 20 years later, that mask is still just as creepy. If you want to give trick-or-treaters a good scare, check out these 15 under $30 Amazon finds that turn your home into a haunted house.

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1999: Neo

Keanu Reeves may be having another moment right now, but it was his role as Neo in 1999’s reality-questioning movie The Matrix that propelled the actor to superstardom. (The film’s sequel would actually be Reeves’ top-grossing film.) Got a long black coat and tiny black sunglasses? Then you’re all set to play Neo. Find out the stories behind 14 Halloween traditions.

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2000: Britney Spears

The pigtails, the white button-down shirt, the schoolgirl skirt: Who could forget Britney Spears’ iconic look in “Baby One More Time”? Well, fast-forward a year later to 2000, and all fans could think about now was the red leather jumpsuit from Spears’ “Oops!…I Did It Again” video. Chances are, though, you’d see many versions of Spears on Halloween in the early ’00s.

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2001: Harry Potter and Hermione Granger

Harry Potter mania was alive and well before this, but after the first film debuted right around Halloween 2001, fans now had an established, iconic “look” to turn into a costume. Kids and grown-ups alike were dressing up as the Boy Who Lived and his brainy friend. Even huge Harry Potter fans might not know the hidden meaning of Snape’s first words to Harry.

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2002: Spider-Man

You think you’re seeing lots of little Spideys today? Well, in 2002, the year the first Spider-Man film starring Tobey Maguire came out, America’s Spidey sense was off the charts. The film was the highest-grossing movie of the year, and fans of all ages suddenly had a new favorite superhero. Here are some facts you never knew about your favorite comic book heroes.

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2003: Captain Jack Sparrow

Johnny Depp’s iconic look in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, The Curse of the Black Pearl, was a Halloween fanatic’s dream. Just throw on a pirate hat, braided hair, poofy sleeves, and some serious swagger, and any movie buff instantly knew who you were. Do you know the highest-grossing movie the year you were born?

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2004: SpongeBob SquarePants

Spider-Man had another big year in 2004 when Spider-Man 2 came out, but a certain cartoon sponge was also a star that Halloween. The Nickelodeon show had been on the air since 1999, but 2004 was pretty much the moment of SpongeBob’s peak popularity—hence the feature film that came out later that year.

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2005: Darth Vader

The reception of the Star Wars prequel trilogy was lukewarm at best, but the third film, Revenge of the Sith, released in 2005, gave everyone Vader fever. Anakin Skywalker finally becomes the biggest baddie in the galaxy in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, which was better received than the first two prequel films. Next, find out the most popular candy the year you were born.

For more fun facts, costume ideas, traditions, candy inspiration, spooky entertainment, and updates on how October 31 will look different this year, check out our Halloween Guide.

Melissa Mills
Melissa is a writer, editor, and digital media specialist. Formerly, she was the Senior Manager of Editorial Operations at Bustle Digital Group. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Romper, and Glamour.