October may be the time of year for hard-R horror movies, but it’s also the month of pumpkin carving, superhero and vampire costumes, trick or treating, and eating so much candy that you get a cavity. In short, Halloween is different for kids than for adults. It’s a magical night when anything is possible, and kids are more aware of that than anyone. There is an overabundance of horror movies for adults, but what good spooky cinema is out there for the under 13? And what possible nightmares are they getting from these choices? The following ten films are kid-friendly, spooky Halloween fun.
- The Addams Family (1991). This creepy, kooky family charmed audiences in their TV show, and made their big screen debut in the early nineties. The movie is about the family dealing with the sudden reappearance of the long-missing Uncle Fester. While there aren’t any really scary scenes, this eccentric family is lovingly goth and decorate like every day is Halloween. There’s some good dark humor throughout the film, and dressing up like the Addams family would be a great group costume. Ages 4+
- The Halloween Tree (1993). Are you looking for mildly scary, early nineties animation that’s also educational? Then this is the movie for you. Four friends go on a search through time for their friend with the help of the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud, learning about the history of Halloween along the way. This won a daytime Emmy for a good reason: Ray Bradbury’s narration is amazing, the characters are realistic, and the heartwarming (yet creepy when you think about it) ending will teach kids the true power of friendship. Ages 6+
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). It’s a classic Halloween and Christmas movie, and of course it was going to be on this list. Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, but he’s fallen out of love with his work. When he discovers the magic of Christmas, Jack tries to recreate it with a spooky touch but it goes more than a little out of hand. The stop motion era really began with this film, and many other Halloween movies take after their forefather. The music is amazing, the characters surprisingly human, and you can watch it October through December (or anytime really). Ages 4+
- Hocus Pocus (1993). This was a good year for Halloween movies, and it wouldn’t be complete without this witchy addition. The story of three witches terrorizing the town of Salem on Halloween night is a true classis nowadays. From Bette Midler’s rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” to the oh-so-nineties bullies, there isn’t much to complain about here. It’s good old-fashioned, spooky fun for the whole family. Ages 8+
- Halloweentown (1998). The most popular Disney Channel movie for October, there’s practically a cult following for this magical film about a girl discovering her family comes from another world full of witches, monsters, and talking skeletons. Halloweentown is a gorgeous setting and the characters the audience meets there show that monsters aren’t quite as scary as we believe them to be. Ages 6+
- Mickey’s House of Villains (2002). Made as a special of the popular kid’s show, this Halloween episode involves famous Disney villains taking over Mickey’s club. While the main plot doesn’t have much to it, it’s just an excuse to show a bunch of spooky, Halloween-related cartoons. Ranging from “Lonesome Ghosts” to “Donald’s Halloween Scare”, each cartoon stars our favorite mouse and his friends on various escapades. While it may be a bit too disconnected for adults, kids will be sure to enjoy this Disney film. Ages 2+
- Monster House (2006). Finally, a haunted house movie for kids. Except there aren’t ghosts or ghouls in this movie—just a really ornery house that hates kids. A group of friends venture into the danger to investigate the mysterious disappearances of toys and dogs, but find out there’s more to the house than meets the eye. Using 3-D capture animation, this film has its own unique look that is both dark and realistic. However, there are quite a bit of scares and creepy things throughout so it’s best to either watch it with your child or wait till they’re a little older. Ages 8+
- Coraline (2009). Based on the Neil Gaiman book of the same title, this stop motion film addresses the fantasies that kids create when they’re ignored or neglected by their parents. Coraline discovers another world hidden behind a small door in her new house, and behind it lives her Other Mother and Other Father. They’re loving, attentive, and cook delicious food—everything that her own parents aren’t. The animation in this film is simply gorgeous and Dakota Fanning’s voice work brings Coraline to life in a realistic way. There is some scary imagery that comes with the darker side of the Other world, but there is more wonder to behold. Ages 8+
- Hotel Transylvania (2012). This film creates a world where the most famous monsters of the human world have escaped and hidden away in a hotel in Transylvania. The film focuses on Dracula as he deals with his teenage daughter wanting to explore and leave home, as well as what happens when a human discovers the supernatural world. Adam Sandler really outdid himself on this one and created a film that both adults and kids can enjoy. The famous voice actors all do an excellent job of giving their characters new life, and there are a lot of cute moments. Ages 6+
- “Summerween” from Gravity Falls (2012). While the series as whole is kid-friendly and could be appropriate for October, this particular episode is Halloween set in summer. Mabel and Dipper, twin siblings spending the summer with their uncle, offend the Summerween Trickster and have to find five hundred pieces of candy or else. I love this series and this episode highlights many of the core themes of the show: family, growing up, and good old-fashioned mystery. I recommend giving the rest of the show a watch, but this episode is one of the best. Ages 7+
Horror movies are made for adults, but that doesn’t mean kids don’t deserve to be scared too. Kids and families get the more physical aspects of the holiday, but spending time together on the spookiest night of the year is what’s most important. So carve a pumpkin, put on a costume, go door to door, and come home to watch a kid-friendly flick.