I adore Halloween and, by extension, I love Halloween movies. But not all of them are family-friendly, and children with nightmares is no fun! Here's a starter list of films that you can enjoy with your kids (with some discretion).
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The classic comedy duo cross paths with Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein's monster in what is widely considered one of their best films, with Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney reprising their iconic roles.
The sequel to the 90's film version of the classic 60's TV series is smarter and more fun than the first film, with delightfully morbid humor.
This film actually gave me a terrible fear of spiders for many years. It's an effective thriller, but it's also got plenty of comic relief. Perfect to cuddle up to.
Cary Grant stars in this classic romantic comedy that also has hidden corpses, murderous old ladies, insane relatives, and a torturous criminal disfigured by plastic surgery. It's all in good fun though, and it's a blast to see Grant so comedically hammy.
Featuring a pre-30 Rock Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis (remember her?), Winona Ryder, and Michael Keaton in the title role, the real star of this film is director Tim Burton, whose darkly funny and wildly creative take on the afterlife fills every frame with imagination and zeal.
Writer-director Richard Dutcher's underrated “Mormon murder mystery” is well acted and highly accessible to audiences of all faiths, using the culture and religion not to convert audiences, but to flavor the story. Tastefully (and effectively) leaves most of the violence to our imagination. In its examination of a once-peaceful small town torn apart by fear and mistrust, it feels totally real, making it truly scary and profoundly moving.
I've never seen this, but have friends who swear by it.
Clever dark comedy based on the murder-mystery board game. The last 10-15 minutes, in particular, are absolutely golden.
Like a Grimm Brothers' fairy tale, this visually dazzling film serves as cautionary tale for kids. The creepiest PG film I've ever seen, but also a well-told story with a strong female lead and surprising moral lessons.
Tim Burton's stop-motion animated flick is a wonderful mood-setter.
Decades before his work in The Lord of the Rings and the Star Wars prequels, Christopher Lee was the horror icon of the 1950's and 1960's, here portraying Frankenstein's monster (further down the list he's Dracula and the Mummy).
Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Serenity) gives us this hilarious, low-budget, Emmy-winning internet sensation. It's a 45-minute musical about an aspiring mad scientist/supervillain (Neil Patrick Harris, Doogie Howser, How I Met Your Mother) and his efforts to keep the girl of his dreams away from his arch nemesis, the narcissistic superhero Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion, Castle, Firefly). The dialogue zings and the songs are truly catchy (clip has mild language).
From Spider-Man director Sam Raimi, this is a film that I include with some reservation, as it's definitely not for everyone. It's the closest thing to a true horror film on this list. But it's so intentionally silly, so wildly creative, and its version of demons and Hell so far off the radar as to be pure fantasy, that I thought it was a lot of fun. Imagine a mixture of the dread found in the old Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, the absurd violence and gross-out humor of an Itchy and Scratchy episode, and the madcap energy of Looney Toons. If that sounds good to you, go for it. If not, move along to something more your taste.
Narrated by Bing Crosby, this is classic stuff for kids and adults alike. Found on the DVD entitled The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Gothic in its design, but much more of a romantic and bittersweet fantasy than a scary Halloween movie. From director Tim Burton, with Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder.
A step down from Gremlins and Tremors, but cut from the same cloth. Good, stupid fun, hearkening back to the B-movies of the 50's.
A few Halloweens ago I watched all of the original Universal monster movies of the 1930's (Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, etc.) and these two are the only ones that hold up well after all these years. Creative, iconic, scary, and surprisingly touching.
Tim Burton's delightful stop-motion treat is a fine mixture of his early work and classic monster movies. Essentially a boy-and-his-dog version of the Frankenstein legend, Frankenweenie is a triumph of design, with wonderful characters, a killer third act, and a heartwarming finale.
From Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson comes this awesome, if overlooked, Michael J. Fox horror-comedy. Rated R, so maybe not for families unless you seek it out on TV.
This is a film that needs no introduction.
Another 80's classic. This should be required viewing for any older child with an imagination.
Though Deathly Hallows Part Two is my favorite in the series, this is the best standalone film and easily the most Halloween-ready. Ghostly soul-sucking dementors, a convicted murderer on the loose, a werewolf, crystal balls, pumpkins, witches, wizards, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” and Alfonso Cuaron's brilliant direction. This terrific film also happens to feature wonderful moral messages and the powerful truth that light and hope dissipate darkness and despair.
I didn't care for the original Hellboy, a movie about Satan's son who turns against his father and fights for good; I thought it was a cool idea, but the movie was flat and under-cooked. I was extremely surprised, therefore, that this sequel was a terrific standalone action film that fixed all the problems of the predecessor. Getting lost in 2008's summer superhero shuffle amidst The Dark Knight and Iron Man, this is an overlooked gem that you can enjoy even if you've not seen Part One. Funny and scary, with wonderful characters, wildly creative design, and rockin' action.
Hilarious, with just enough spooky atmosphere to set the tone.
Though Bela Lugosi gave the quintessential Dracula performance in 1931, Christopher Lee does a great job as well, and the movie surrounding him is better.
Lighthearted animated romp is a fine choice for the whole family; it's funny and touching, with a wonderful gathering of classic monsters as Dracula tries to keep his daughter from falling in love with a human at his hotel, hid deep within a haunted forest, that serves as a safe haven for the Wolf Man, the Mummy, Frankenstein, and more.
Will Smith + end of the world + zombies = awesome.
Totally underrated. Though not as smart as Raiders or as funny as Last Crusade, it's far better than Crystal Skull (a film that I don't consider to be Indy canon). Temple of Doom is a perfect Halloween movie. You've got gross-out humor (monkey brains, anyone?), nail-biting suspense (the spike room), and creepy crawly insects by the thousands. For 20 minutes it turns into a straight-up horror movie, depicting the voodoo-practicing, blood-drinking, brain-washing, and heart-pulling practices of an evil child-enslaving cult. But then it unleashes the fury of Dr. Jones, and I've never found the character more heroic than when he's kicking evil's butt and returning those children joyously to their loving families. Short Round is funny, and even Kate Capshaw's incessant screaming is tolerable if one considers that TofD is meant to tip the hat to classic horror films, where women screamed all the time. I've grown to love this film.
Not as classic as the quintessential Christmas special, but good fun nonetheless.
Dark humor, fun music, impressive practical effects, and an amazing cast. Just watch the trailer.
This 2001 parody of 1950's B-movies is PG-rated, family-friendly fun.
Often overlooked on Halloween, this alien-fighting comedy totally hits the spot. Skip the sequel, but the original is smart, witty, creepy fun.
Surprisingly clever family film for adults with kids just old enough to handle getting a little creeped out.