As in a child in the ‘90s with a high interest in horror, it was sometimes challenging to get access to films and TV shows on the scarier-side of things to satisfy my appetite. Throughout the majority of my childhood we had four TV channels, no internet, and certainly nothing like Netflix, so my primary source of horror was convincing my mum to record movies on VHS for me, and then watching those to death, or managing to swing the choice in my direction when we rented a video. Though I’ll never forgive my dad for the time he forced me to rent Bean (1997) when I wanted An American Werewolf in Paris (1997).
However, one TV show which fit under the monster and spooky things banner quite nicely but was mum-approved was Scooby-Doo (1969). Perhaps not as scary as my VHS copy of the mini-series of IT (1990), Scooby-Doo was a great introduction into the world of monsters. It gave me exposure to every type of monster you could imagine and was a great chance to kick off my horror geek credentials by learning the lore early on.
Scooby-Doo has already proved it has impressive staying power considering it’s been running since the ‘60s, and as a sequel to one of the most popular Scooby-Doo movies has just been announced with Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island (2019); I thought it would be the perfect time to dive back into Scooby’s back catalogue and pick out my top Scooby-Doo mysteries.
1. Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? ‘What a Night for a Knight’ (1969)
‘What a Night for a Knight’ is the very first episode of Scooby-Doo, and gives us a great opener to the series and our main characters that still holds up even 50 years later. Going right for the spooky angle, even though this is a kids’ cartoon, we open with a truck driving along a moonlit road, when an alive suit of armour reveals itself from a box and peers at the driver with glowing yellow eyes.
Next, we see the truck is it sitting abandoned, with the now empty suit of armour sitting in the driver’s seat. The gang decide to take it upon themselves to solve what’s going on, and after finding a note on the box linking it to the local museum, they head there to look for clues. The museum curator, Mr Wickles, tell them the suit of armour, also known as the Black Knight, is rumoured to come alive when the moon is full.
The whole thing is just classic Scooby-Doo. We’ve got a mysterious legend involving some sort of monster, a criminal thinking the best way to throw people off the scent of their crimes is to cover it with the paranormal, a surprise villain reveal, plenty of Scooby Snacks, and Velma losing her glasses. It’s perfect!
2. Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? ‘What the Hex Going on?’ (1969)
I always think the idea of covering your crimes up with an elaborate monster story and a ridiculous costume is a bit mad, and I think ‘What the Hex Going on?’ has one of the most over-the-top monster set-ups in the entire Scooby-Doo universe.
The opening of the episode shows a man being lured into an old house by a ghostly voice. When the gang show up to visit their friend Sharon, they find out the man is her Uncle Stuart, and they all head to the old mansion together to see if they can find him. While they find Uncle Stuart completely safe, he has been aged into an old man and claims a ghost did it as a warning to the rest of the family – hand over the family fortune, or everyone will be turned old!
Soon after Sharon gets abducted by the ghost, and the gang set out to solve the mystery. The villain in this episode has really upped his game from simply hiding in an old suit of armour. This ghost uses floating tables and miniature TV cameras to harass the gang before we find out the ghost is none other than Uncle Stuart. So not only was he able to do realistic ghost makeup, but he was also able to age himself convincingly, so even his family didn’t see it was fake.
When the gang turn his tools against him though, we do get some pretty cool shots including a whole group of ghosts running alongside each other and a giant Scooby-Doo!
3. Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? ‘A Night Fright is no Delight’ (1970)
In a plot quite similar to House on Haunted Hill (1999), this episode sees Scooby about to be the potential benefactor of an eccentric millionaire. The only condition is that Scooby, and the other four family members who are also mentioned in the will, need to stay in a haunted house until morning.
After his bath is tipped into a secret chute, Scooby encounters one of two green ghosts (the Phantom Shadows), and shortly after the other inhabitants of the house start to disappear. Though the gang realise all may not be as it seems when they notice a lot of green paint on Shaggy.
This episode is one of my favourites, purely for how wrong the plan to capture the ghosts goes at the end. Even Shaggy says, “Like, I’ve seen some goofy traps before, but this is the goofiest!” It involves a fan, soap suds, and an ironing board, with the hopes of trapping the ghosts in the washing machine. While the test run works perfectly, the actual attempt somehow ends with Scooby and Shaggy riding a flying washing machine and chasing the ghosts, though they do eventually capture them in the end.
4. Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo ‘The Ghoul, the Bat and the Ugly’ (1979)
I ordered this list chronologically, but just so you know, this episode is my favourite Scooby-Doo episode ever. I randomly had it taped off the television in the middle of a bunch of other cartoons when I was a kid, and I used to watch it on repeat so much that it’s won a very special place in my heart, even if it does feature Scrappy-Doo. The pun in the title is enough to make it a winner!
At the Batty Awards, an award ceremony for horror movies, a preview of the film The Curse of the Shadow Creature see the Shadow Creature himself appear, and the award ceremony guests flee. While the gang have tickets for the event too, they arrive pretty late and discover the details of the Shadow Creature’s appearance after he has disappeared.
Brandon Davis, the host of the Batty Awards, discovers that the only copy of the movie has been shredded, as various famous horror movie actors (dressed as their renowned monster counterparts of course) come in contact with the group and scare the bejesus out of Scooby and Shaggy. It seems Brandon has a lot of enemies, but in the end, the Shadow Creature is revealed to be Brandon himself, who destroyed the film to cover up a crime he was unwittingly recorded committing
The Shadow Creature himself is a great monster, but the appearance of classic movie monsters (or at least people dressed like them) such as Dracula, the Wolfman, and the Bride of Frankenstein are what made me love this episode even more.
5. Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo ‘Lock the Door, It’s a Minotaur!’(1979)
If you want another example of how cool a kid I was, outside of loving Scooby-Doo, I was also obsessed with Greek myths. So this episode which sees the gang head to Greece and take on a Minotaur was always going to be a favourite of mine.
Before the gang arrive, the Minotaur has been terrorising the Greek island for some time, meaning people don’t venture outside after the sun goes down. After an encounter with the Minotaur the minute they step foot on the island, they decide to investigate a little further.
I’m impressed with the commitment it would take a villain to construct a costume to make them look like a convincing Minotaur, and it feels like if they’d just kept that money for themselves, rather than spending it on an elaborate costume, they maybe wouldn’t have to resort to a life of crime.
6. Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers (1987)
Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers sees Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy-Doo head to a plantation which Shaggy has recently inherited after his rich Uncle Colonel Beauregard dies. Apparently, there is a fortune in jewels hidden somewhere on the plantation, which Shaggy and the gang are keen to find, but which the creepy butler Farquard believes is rightfully his for all his years of service.
A lot is going on in this film; I’m not going to lie. As well as the treasure hunt to find the missing jewels, we also have an apparent ghost of the Colonel trying to warn everyone away, an escaped gorilla, a hillbilly who is in love with Shaggy and her gun-toting brother who is against the whole thing, an angry local Sheriff, and a group of ghost exterminators who are also ghost themselves and resemble the Three Stooges.
It’s a lot to unpack, and I definitely didn’t understand the whole Three Stooges thing as a kid, but it’s a great movie, and if you’ve never seen it before, you get the fun of trying to solve the treasure hunt along with the characters.
7. Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School (1988)
In another film that places Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy front and centre, Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School sees Shaggy take a new job as a gym teacher at a private school for girls. What he doesn’t know is that all the students are the daughters of famous monsters, including Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Phantom. The gang are understandably a bit wary of the girls at first, and their monstrous parents, but soon form a bond with them and agree to stay on at the school. Our villain is Revolta, a witch who wants to hypnotise the girls and make them part of her evil gang along with the help of her spider bats and her assistant, the Grim Creeper.
I loved this movie as a kid, and I was obsessed with the gang of girl ghouls, especially Dracula’s daughter, Sibella. Not only did she have amazing purple hair, but she also turned into the cutest purple bat when her vampire powers kicked in. Plus it was great to see an all-female version of the classic movie monsters which are usually male.
8. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island marked a bit of an interesting turn in the Scooby-Doo universe in that it was the first time the Scooby Gang came up against a mystery where the villains were actually monsters and not a disguised janitor with a grudge.
Sure, we’ve had appearances from real monsters before, as we’ve just noted in the previous two entries on this list, but in these instances, the monsters have always been monsters upfront, and while Scooby and Shaggy have still been scared of them, they weren’t involved in any kind of mystery situation.
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island sees the gang reuniting after some time apart. Daphne now works as a news reporter, and when she starts a new series to go in search of real ghosts, Fred invites the rest of the gang along for the ride. They end up on Moonscar Island, which is said to be haunted by the pirate Morgan Moonscar, and are welcomed as guests of pepper plantation owner Simone and her employee Lena.
After a few run-ins with pirate ghosts and zombies, the gang are their usual level of sceptical, until Fred discovers the zombies are actually real when he accidentally pulls one of their heads off. But it’s all fine; it turns out the zombies are actually trying to warn the gang because Simone and Lena are cat monsters that need to suck the life out of their victims to maintain their immortality. It’s basically the plot of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers (1992), but for kids.
So not only are the monsters real, but this is one of the first times it feels like the gang are actually in danger. Fred, Velma, and Daphne end up half-melting when voodoo doll versions of themselves fall near to a fire, and Shaggy and Scooby almost become the cat monsters’ latest victims before they are saved at the last minute. This film is definitely one of the darkest entries in the Scooby-Doo series, and it was a refreshing change to have a mystery focus on real monsters for once. The soundtrack is also banging!
9. Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost (1999)
While we’re talking about banging soundtrack, let’s move right on to Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost, which introduces us to the awesome eco-goth rock band, The Hex Girls, and their fantastic additions to the soundtrack!
The gang are approached by Ben Ravencroft (voiced by Tim Curry), a famous mystery writer than Velma definitely has the hots for, to come to his hometown. His ancestor, Sarah Ravencroft, was a famous witch. While the town has portrayed her as a monster to boost tourist trade, Ben insists she was a Wiccan healer and wanted nothing to do with dark magic. The gang try to solve the mystery of the witch attacks all over town while trying to help Ben find Sarah’s journal to prove her innocence.
This mystery is a bit of a switcharoo, as we find out the town have been faking the witch sightings to help with tourism even further, and just as we think the film is winding down, Velma managers to locate Sarah’s journal for Ben. It’s then we find out Sarah was a bad witch after all, and Ben wants her spellbook so they can rule the world together.
As a teenager, this movie was everything I wanted in a Scooby-Doo movie. It had Wicca (which I was already mad on thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) and The Craft (1996), an all-female rock band who were a bit gothy, and Tim Curry. What more could you ask for?
10. Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery (2014)
Yes, this movie only came out five years ago, which means yes, as a 27-year-old woman, I was still actively excited about Scooby-Doo movies, especially ones that are mixed with WWE wrestling. After winning a bonus level challenge in a wrestling video game, Scooby and Shaggy win tickets to Wrestlemania and convince the rest of the gang to come along with them.
When they arrive at the WWE village (because apparently, they all live together around the arena), they find out the wrestlers have been getting attacked by a Ghost Bear, who they believe is trying to steal the valuable WWE belt.
When the belt goes missing, Scooby is framed for the crime after video evidence shows him stealing it, even though it turns out Scooby was hypnotised by an elaborate plan involving the moves he learned to beat the wrestling video game being implanted in his subconscious. Shaggy and Scooby have to try and win their freedom by competing against Kane at Wrestlemania, while the rest of the gang have to come up with a way to defeat the Ghost Bear.
While this movie goes back to the old formula, where the monsters aren’t real, it’s still a fun mystery to solve, and features the voices of a lot of actual WWE wrestlers including John Cena, The Miz, AJ Lee, and Triple H.