Part of the tradition of All Hallows’ Eve – Halloween – is the use of “humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.” [source]
Humor and ridicule is still an important part of Halloween, with our tricks-and-treats, mass-market candy, garish decorations, and ridiculous “sexy” costumes (yes, there is a sexy Donald Trump costume, and it’s hideous).
Yet under it all, the darker spirit of Halloween creeps along. The same tradition that celebrates October 31st as a time for tricks also fears it as the time when the veil is thinnest between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Is this a weird time to say Halloween is one of my family’s favorite holidays?
We love the campiness of the costumes and decorations, the remembrance and nostalgia for Halloweens past, the spookiness of rattling branches and jack-o-lanterns glowing through the night. We love even the melancholy transition from a season of harvest to a season of snow.
We also love watching Halloween movies. Here are 25 that capture the goofy, spooky, and sweet aspects of Halloween. These aren’t slasher films – they’re made for kids.
Of course, every kid has a different threshold for what they consider too scary. With most of these selections, I’ve included links to Common Sense Media, where you can read more about the content of the films (along with reviews from other parents and kids).
Boo! And Happy Halloween.
Halloween Movies for Younger Kids
1 | It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – G
This is almost as perfect as the Peanuts Christmas movie – and coming from me, that’s a huge compliment. A must-rewatch-every-season movie. View on Common Sense Media
2 | Monsters, Inc. – G
The cuter side of scary. View on Common Sense Media
3 | The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – G
This is really a short film, but it’s such a classic it has to go here.
4 | Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – G
Wallace and Gromit save their town from a giant were-rabbit. Actually, they save the squashes and pumpkins of the Giant Vegetable Competition. View on Common Sense Media
5 | Bedknobs and Broomsticks – G
Three kids escape London during World War II with the help of a witch and an enchanted bedknob. I thought this movie was pretty cool when I was a kid. View on Common Sense Media.
6 | Hotel Transylvania – PG
Maybe Adam Sandler should stick to voice work. I don’t love it, but my kid does, so here it is.
7 | Nightmare Before Christmas
There’s only one Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, and that is Jack Skellington. This movie might be a bit intense for younger kids, but my kid was obsessed with it when she was four. View on Common Sense Media
Halloween Movies for Nine-Year-Olds & Up
8 | Labyrinth – PG
This is a super weird movie. I’m not even sure I really like it. Also, David Bowie’s codpiece. But it is a great movie for the season. My 7-year old loved it. View on Common Sense Media
9 | ParaNorman – PG
A stop-motion movie that has genuine scares. Not for little kids, better for 4th or even 5th grade and up. Has good messages about tolerance. View on Common Sense Media.
10 | Monster House – PG
Kids discover that a neighbor’s house is a monster. Like ParaNorman, this movie has some creepy scenes that make it most appropriate for 4th grade and up. View on Common Sense Media.
11 | Dracula with music by the Kronos Quartet – NR
I’ve always loved the Bela Lugosi version of Dracula, flawed as it may be it. It has a self-seriousness that gives it a kind of strange majesty. See the version with music from the Kronos Quartet. View this making of video to get a sense of how awesome it is.
12 | The Universal Monster Movies – NR
Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, The Invisible Man, Creature From the Black Lagoon, Mummy and Bride of Frankenstein. Growing up, the Creature from the Black Lagoon was my second favorite movie after Star Wars. Everyone should see all these old movies. Plan a fun retro movie night with the kids. They might grumble at first, but trust me – it’ll make for a fun movie night.
13 | Beetlejuice – PG
Today’s kids will be confused, entertained, and generally weirded out by this movie – just as they were when it came out 28 years ago (!) View on Common Sense Media.
14 | Corpse Bride – PG
It’s not a classic like Nightmare Before Christmas, but great creepy stop-motion animation and great voice work from Johnny Depp elevate this movie into a must-see.
15 | Young Frankenstein – PG
I admit that I didn’t love it as a kid, but only because I wanted to see the real thing – not a parody. My kid likes it because it’s so goofy. I enjoyed it more when I watched it with her. View on Common Sense Media
16 | Coraline – PG
A beautiful, creepy, and strangely moving stop-motion masterpiece. Buttons for eyes? Other Mother? It might just scare your kids into appreciating you. View on Common Sense Media.
17 | The Witches – PG
Adapted from the book by Roald Dahl, which I found much more disturbing than this movie. (Spoiler alert: in the book, the kid is transformed into a mouse and is stuck in that form forever. In the movie, he at least transforms back into a human.) Anjelica Huston is great as the main witch. Suitable for nine-year-olds and up. View on Common Sense Media.
For Pre-Teens & Up
18 | Ghostbusters – PG
My 7-year old kid thinks the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man is the funniest bad guy ever. That was probably the idea, but he terrified me as a child. View on Common Sense Media.
19 | Hocus Pocus – PG
When I mentioned that I was going to write this list, Katrina spontaneously shouted “Hocus Pocus better be on that list!” That’s how most people feel about this classic about three witches, and the teenagers determined to stop them. View on Common Sense Media.
20 | Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban – PG
Dementors! Werewolves! The best Potter movie for the season. View on Common Sense Media.
21 | Gremlins – PG
Another dark comedy from the 1980’s that terrified me when it came out. Gremlins 2 is insane – in a good way. View on Common Sense Media.
22 | Something Wicked This Way Comes – PG
Super-creepy, but still within the realm of appropriateness for pre-teens. It’s about an evil circus.
23 | Poltergeist – PG
Somehow this movie is rated PG. It should be rated PG-13. It’s scary, and the parents casually smoke a joint in bed. I watched with my 5th-grade class on the last day of school. The 80’s were a different time. View on Common Sense Media.
24 | The Addams Family, Addams Family Values Rated: PG-13
I prefer the second movie. Maybe that’s because I saw it on VHS in a public hall in a tiny town in Mexico, where it scandalized the older townspeople. View on Common Sense Media.
25 | The Monster Squad – PG-13
Rated PG-13, not for scares and chills, but because of language, the complications of finding a virgin to sacrifice, and the fact that the Wolfman “had nards.” Most of that went over my head as a kid. Growing up, for me this film was up there with Goonies. View on Common Sense Media.
Batman Returns – PG
Set in the winter, but creepy Danny DeVito as Penguin and Christopher Walken as Max Schreck along with music from Tim Burton make this a perfect Halloween film.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – PG
It’s a movie set during Halloween, and it made millions of children (and grownups) cry. It can work as a Halloween movie.