I was thinking about posting this later since I typically do one article a month, but there's enough negativity surrounding the franchise lately that I thought it might be good to focus on something more positive! :) Last week, I did an article highlighting my top 10 least favorite episodes/films in the franchise. I thought it would be a fun idea to do the opposite in this post: highlighting my top 10 favorite Scooby episodes/films in the franchise. Those that know me probably already know many of my top episodes, but I don't know if I've ever laid them all out before like this on the blog. Note that this list does include a few culprit spoilers, so if you haven't seen these episodes, you may want to watch them before reading this list.
Honorable mention: Doo Not Disturb
This episode excellently combines excellent comedy with a very sinister tone. It feels like this has a perfect balance of silliness and darkness. The plot of the gang being stuck in a hotel in the middle of a snowstorm feels quite creepy, yet the series still keeps its same goofy tone while also maintaining that darker vibe. The Ghost of Mother is an absolutely terrifying villain, and for that reason, she's one of my favorite villains of the entire franchise. I really appreciate this episode for having such a dark tone while retaining the comedy that I love so much about Be Cool.
10. Wrath of the Krampus
To be honest, I don't think this would be as high as it is without that ending. The fact that the ending reveals everything that happened in this episode is all just an elaborate plan to trick the old Mystery Incorporated is genius. The shocked look on the Old Mystery Incorporated's face at the end is so satisfying haha. This episode also gets major props from me for including such a unique villain that had never been used yet in the franchise, since we're getting to a point where it's hard to come up with a completely different villain type when we've got over 600 episodes and films. I really like everything about the episode, but yeah, that ending is what puts it on that list because it's so shockingly genius.
9. Some Fred Time
I absolutely love this Be Cool episode. I tend to gravitate towards content that has very random, authentically strange comedy, so Be Cool's absurdist humor definitely resonated with me quite a bit. That's why this episode is one of my favorites. It's such a perfect combination of great comedy (especially at the beginning of the episode) and an excellent mystery. I also really liked how we get to know Daphne a bit better through staying at her beach house. In addition to the comedy, the plot of the gang trying to conceal a mystery from Fred made it really interesting.
8. Vampire Bats and Scaredy Cats
I would argue besides Zombie Island, this may be one of the darkest things in the Scooby franchise. If there was one thing season 2 did really well, it was creating plots that had a super dark tone. Certain scenes in this episode are aesthetically just so creepy, notably the vampire calling Lisa from a dark room, Shaggy, Scooby and Scooby-Dum crawling through the ventilation system, and especially Lisa turning into a vampire when Shaggy, Scooby and Dum had barricaded the room. The fact that the vampire is Lisa's uncle also makes this episode dark in a sadistic way, because this man was Lisa's guardian, and he completely betrayed her and tried to scare her just so he'd get all the hotel profits. It's a truly despicable thing to do, and I would argue this is one of the darkest episodes for that reason as well as the overall tone.
7. Guess Who's Knott Coming to Dinner?
To me, this feels like the most classic haunted house episode in the franchise, at least in terms of how well it captures the essence of Scooby. "A Night of Fright Is No Delight" is certainly in that range as well, and it would ranks somewhere in the early teens of my list of favorites. The length really does this episode justice in the sense that it allows for us to really explore the haunted house in depth. Don Knotts is an excellent guest star, and I love that he didn't just play himself. The fact that Don has made up this entire cast of characters that he's impersonating makes this episode so interesting and really elevates the stakes of the episode, because there's so much going on that you have no idea what kind of madness is going to happen next haha. I also really like the Ghosts of Captain Moody as villains. I have heard the complaint that them not having faces brings them down a bit for some reason, but personally I think it makes them even scarier. Again, I would argue the setting is the real star of this episode, and it may be one of my favorite Scooby settings ever. The depth in which the house is explored from top to bottom, as well as the idea that the gang is truly trapped in this house for the night with no way out makes for an incredible plot for me.
6. Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost
Although I do like Zombie Island slightly better, this film is super close quality-wise. The setting of Oakhaven is so beautifully animated and really draws you into the film. Even though the film takes a little while to get going, I feel like the longer exposition than normal was time well spent. The film does a great job building the characterization so you can really get to know each of the side characters on a deep level, rather than just having them be a random character that we meet for a second and never see again. Like with Zombie Island, the writers did a great job creating a more mature tone for this film. I loved the twist at the end where the first witch is just a publicity stunt, but then Ben Ravencroft unleashes the real ghost of his ancestor Sarah. It was definitely unexpected the first time I saw the movie as a kid! And of course, this film gets major points for introducing the best recurring characters in franchise history: The Hex Girls!
5. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island
What more do I need to say haha. Zombie Island is one of the most iconic films in franchise history for good reason. The villains are absolutely terrifying, and the more serious tone of this film allows us to see a more mature side of the gang, which is really cool. The plot is so well-written that it keeps you on the edge of the seat all throughout the film. Not only that, but the backgrounds and animation are absolutely immaculate. I would be overjoyed if we got anything that even moderately matched the tone and detail of this film. You can tell that so much love and care was put into making this film, and I think it will remain a true classic forever for that reason.
4. Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers
This is another film that feels quintessentially Scooby to me. Although there is some uncertainty about whether the ghosts and monsters are real or not, the whole movie being centered around the guys going on a scavenger hunt while dodging ghosts and ghouls feels like it perfectly captures the essence of the franchise. The score of this film in particular feels so Scooby-ish to me. It sounds both spooky yet kind of lighthearted, which captures the franchise in a nutshell. I loved all The New Scooby-Doo Movies episodes that utilized multiple monsters in the same mystery (i.e. "The Spooky Fog," "The Mystery of Haunted Island," "The Exterminator," and "The Haunted Carnival"), so naturally, I loved the use of multiple monsters here as well. All of the villains had amazing designs, and the additional runtime really helped all of the villains to get their moment. I also have always appreciated how this movie is so open-ended, where you could interpret it as all the ghosts being fake, but there's that little hint that Shaggy's uncle's ghost might have been real at the very end. That brief little bit of Uncle Beauregard appearing at the end makes you question if some of the other ghosts were real as well, because there were quite a few inconsistencies with some of the villains. For example, in the Skull Ghost's first appearance, he has glowing red eyes, his bones are clanking, and he wears a cape. However, in all future appearances, he's clearly just wearing a cheesy skeleton suit. It's unknown if the animators intended this or if it was just sloppy animation. If you think about it, throughout the movie, Uncle Beauregard also seems to have conflicting purposes. In some appearances, he seems to want to just warn Shaggy away, while in other appearances, he is actively trying to kill them. All of these little inconsistencies makes the viewer wonder when the ghosts were real, and when they were fake. I love movies that have endings that make you think even after the movie is over, and this film certainly fits the bill.
3. A Halloween Hassle at Dracula's Castle
This episode is my favorite episode of the Scrappy era. The autumn wind blowing at the beginning of the episode pulls you into the setting immediately and gives the episode a Halloween feel from the start. The thing I like most about this episode is how it's a twist on the classic Scooby formula. Instead of the gang trying to solve a mystery involving a ghoul or ghost, the ghouls are the one asking the gang to capture the ghost. It's a really fun idea for the writers to have explored, and I have to say it's pulled off excellently. The Halloween party in the first part of the episode really sets the Halloween mood, and I love that they included Fred and Velma in this episode. The one element I would say could have been done better is that the writers did not really do a good job with characterization. Some of the monsters, like the sea monster and mummy, are really flat as characters and don't have any personality. The sea monster, mummy and invisible man are just dropped completely by the end of the episode, where they disappear and then never show up again without explanation. I love the episode so much that it's something I'm easily able to look past, but it could have been executed better. I've heard some people say that if the franchise would have had more of a creative vision, this episode would have been a good first introduction to real monsters for the gang. I totally agree with this, and I think it would have been cool if they would have explored the gang's disbelief to monsters being real.
2. Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School
As far as I'm concerned, the three Superstar 10 movies are some of the best Scooby films to date. Ghoul School has always been my favorite Scooby-Doo film since I was a kid, because of how unique the plot is. Despite the very different plot of Shaggy, Scooby and Scrappy working as teachers, this deviation from the typical Scooby storyline feels like a natural direction for the franchise to explore. Throughout the movie, we see Shaggy and Scooby develop as characters a bit as they have to overcome their fear of monsters to teach the girl ghouls. The antics at the beginning of the movie with the girl ghouls are so heartwarming, and despite that it takes a while for the plot to really get going, it sort of feels like you as an audience member get to warm up to the girl ghouls with Shaggy and Scooby, which is a neat plot element. As a lover of puns, I also have to say I greatly appreciate all the bad puns in this film haha. The second half is just as good, but in a different way. The guys having to battle Revolta causes the movie to take a darker tone, but there's so much going on as the guys navigate her castle that it leaves you on the edge of your seat the entire time. I love how this movie tried something so different in a way that felt very natural and fitting to the characters. You'll probably notice a theme between my #2 and #3, that theme being that I really appreciate episodes that experiment with different elements of the classic formula in a way that still stays true to the core of the franchise. Both Ghoul School and Halloween Hassle did this excellently, in my opinion.
1. The Loch Ness Mess
For those that know me, this comes as no surprise. This episode has everything I could want in a Scooby episode, honestly. The New England setting is absolutely immaculate and the animation is gorgeous. The episode captures the essence of the Scooby franchise so well, with a creepy haunted house plot, three excellent ghosts, and a fun side plot of the sea serpent in the lake. That covered bridge scene and the part with the Lantern Ghost vanishing are two of the most iconic scenes of this series IMO. One of my favorite things about this episode is that it is so atmospheric. The countryside setting, as well as Uncle Nat's house and the lake, just feel so iconicly Scooby to me and really pulls you into the mystery. The Globetrotters also make such great guest stars that they feel like a part of the gang, particularly Meadowlark and Curly.
I hope you enjoyed reading through these rankings of my favorite episodes! If you feel inspired, feel free to do a ranking of your favorite episodes in the comments, and I'm looking forward to seeing them!