Terrifying costumes, pranks, scary flicks, and copious amounts of candy – Halloween is, without a doubt, the ultimate holiday for kids. It’s the time of the year when we celebrate the things that bump in the night. Though mostly considered a night for the young ones to have fun with their friends, I’m sure many families out there might be looking for the perfect movies to watch to get in the holiday spirit. Not every horror flick has to include buckets of blood or scantily-clad people to be effective: some of my all-time favourite scary movies pale compared to what’s PG-13 these days. Let’s take a look at some of the best family-friendly horror movies to watch this Halloween night!
Let’s begin our list with a true genre classic. Director Joe Dante hit it out of the park by releasing a family-friendly horror movie that could be watched both on Halloween or Christmas with Gremlins. The story of some furry critters that terrorize an entire town once fed after midnight has become a true cinema classic – one that, somehow, still hasn’t received a remake of some sort.
The Gremlins are these adorable creatures under normal circumstances, but even their more mischievous side won’t be enough to haunt most kids. Aside from a few scenes, Gremlins is a great flick to introduce the younger family members to horror films. In fact, it is one of the best Halloween movies ever made.
9. The Witches (1990)
Not to be confused with the recent remake, the 1990 version of The Witches might be rated PG, but the outstanding work done by Jim Henson on the prosthetics turns this film into a decent horror flick, even for adults.
The Witches follows the same story as the classic tale by Roald Dahl: a young kid on vacation meets face to face with a coven of witches plotting to turn all the children of the world into mice. At least that’s better than what happened to the kids in Dahl’s other classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Scooby-Doo has always been a show about the evil deeds of landlords and real-estate scammers – but Zombie Island took the classic Scooby-Doo formula and turned it into a veritable horror flick. Animated in Japan by the same studio that produced the Men in Black animated series and Street Sharks, Zombie Island is Scooby-Doo at its finest.
Unlike most episodes in the series’ original run, Zombie Island features real monsters – something that Scooby and the gang are certainly not prepared to deal with. This animated masterpiece serves as the perfect appetizer for Halloween, and it’s even better for die-hard Scooby-Doo fans. It is definitely one of the best family-friendly horror movies to watch this Halloween.
7. Monster House
It looks like claymation, it feels like it was made in stop-motion, and yet, 2006’s Monster House is a timeless CG classic that stands the test of time thanks to its fun and engaging plot and terrifying (for kids) horror sequences.
Written by Rick & Morty‘s Dan Harmon and produced by Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, Monster House has that peculiar “Halloween Vibe” that’s so hard to capture. The autumn colour palette, the exciting haunted house mystery, and the occasional goofball humour set the mood perfectly and make this movie a must-watch for any kid who loves Halloween.
From the creatively twisted mind of Tim Burton comes Frankenweenie – also known as the best way to introduce your kids to classic Hollywood horror. A project that spent nearly three decades in Burton’s mind finally got a proper release in 2012, and what a movie it was.
Frankenweenie is more than just a Frankenstein spoof. The film deals with heavy themes for any kid, including the death of a beloved pet. However, in the same vein as some of Burton’s greatest classics, it manages to portray these moments of sadness with a healthy dose of dark comedy, as well as a heartwarming ending that will leave you in tears.
When it comes to modern stop-motion animation, Laika has a monopoly on the art. In recent years, the studio released two films that I would consider modern Halloween classics (one of them we’ll look at a bit later on this list.)
It’s hard to find a movie more “Halloweeny” than ParaNorman. This modern dark fantasy tale revolves around a kid who can see ghosts, and how his powers might be his quaint town’s only hope. It’s one of the best family-friendly horror movies around.
Most horror fans grew up reading the iconic Goosebumps books by R. L. Stine. With a spook at the turn of every page, reading these short novels was always a tradition around October, not to mention the massively popular ’90s live-action show.
In 2015, the first Goosebumps feature film, starring Jack Black, hit cinemas. It is a love letter to everything that made the books so good. Goosebumps is a horror film for the whole family, but it is, more than anything else, a movie that brings back childhood memories for those of us who loved Stine’s horror tales as kids.
If you’re in the mood for one of the most underrated Disney Halloween classics, then you can’t miss The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. While the whole Mr. Toad part is optional, The Adventures of Ichabod remains one of the best versions of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow I’ve ever seen.
With music from the legendary Bing Crosby, watching The Adventures of Ichabod has become a Halloween tradition of mine each year. It’s rather short, but it’s a more family-friendly Halloween alternative than watching Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow movie.
Arguably the best movie by Laika – and based on what many would consider Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece – Coraline is a legitimately scary film that will stick with you long after you’ve watched it. Not only is it an excellent adaptation of a great story, but it’s filled with visually stunning shots and genuinely creepy imagery.
If you ask me, the best family-friendly horror movies are those that are equally scary for kids and adults – and Coraline has more than its fair share of terrifying moments. Funnily enough, it also has an adorable visual style, which makes it a perfect pick for everyone in the family. Just don’t be surprised if the kids suddenly want to sleep with the lights on for a while.
1. Hocus Pocus
This is it. Whenever I hear the term “Halloween movie,” my mind immediately jumps to Hocus Pocus. This movie has everything you need for an unforgettable Halloween: witches, ghosts, ghouls, a catchy soundtrack, and even a talking cat. What more could you possibly want?
The Sanderson sisters are probably some of the most iconic characters in Halloween movies. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy quickly became Halloween icons, and their hilarious banter and wild antics will keep you laughing for hours. Also, be on the lookout for Hocus Pocus 2, coming this year just in time for Halloween!