To get into the Halloween spirit every year, my husband and I watch Halloween, Alfred Hitchcock films, and of course, Hocus Pocus. But other than Hocus Pocus, the other two aren't very kid-friendly. So when we have a child, we're going to have to look for horror movies for kids that are just scary enough, because nothing puts us in the holiday spirit more than a scary movie and some Halloween candy. Looking for some kid-friendly spooks? Look no more. And while this isn't a definitive list, these seven movies are a great place to start.
The best thing about sharing Halloween with your kids (other than pilfering the best candies once they're asleep) is sharing with them the world of ghouls, goblins, witches, and ghosts. It's a holiday like no other, and having a few kid-friendly horror flicks on hand can really set the mood. Bonus? You'll enjoy watching them, too.
The first Halloween "horror" movie ever made was a three-minute short film titled "Le Manoir Du Diable" or "The House of The Devil" back in 1896 in France. According to IMDB, "A bat flies into an ancient castle and transforms itself into Mephistopheles himself. Producing a cauldron, Mephistopheles conjures up a young girl and various supernatural creatures, one of which brandishes a crucifix in an effort to force the devil-vampire to vanish." That seems like a lot of stuff happening for a short three-minute film, but there you have it. Horror movies have come quite a long way since then, and there are fandoms, cons, and cult followings of many horror flicks. But what's safe for kids to watch? Though not necessarily "horror," these seven movies are definitely spooky.
Boy did I love some Goosebumps books back in the day — and their made for TV mini "movies" that came on, too. Remember the one where that family got locked in that amusement park? Or the scary as hell gnome one? The gnomes and the dummies scared the mess out of me, but it didn't stop me from watching them. If you want to find those oldies on Amazon, you can, but there was also a more recent Goosebumps full-length movie that came out in 2015, starring Jack Black. It's pretty cute because the female lead character is Goosebumps creator R.L. Stine's daughter, and her friend Zach accidentally releases the monsters from the books and they wreak havoc on the town. It's rated PG "for scary and intense creature action and images and some rude humor," according to the movie's IMDB page.
Whether the original '80s version or the kickass all female cast version, Ghostbusters is an awesome not-too-scary (but a little bit scary) Halloween movie. It's got ghosts, monsters, and gross slime balls that three former "parapsychology" professors try to remove as a "ghostbusting service" working out of an old fire station. If your kid is easily spooked, some of the ghost scenes may be a little much, but otherwise, a hilariously entertaining, kid-friendly thriller is what you'll find in Ghostbusters. Even in the newer version, the ghouls and ghosts look cartoonish still, though for a little more crude humor, it's rated PG-13 instead of PG like the '80s version.
3. 'Hocus Pocus'
There isn't a person I know who is my age and doesn't absolutely love Hocus Pocus. I loved it so much when I was a kid that my mom and I went to see it in theaters three times, and we rented it from Blockbuster so many times they let us purchase it to keep at home. The cast is stellar with Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah), Kathy Najimy (Mary) and iconic Bette Midler (Winifred) playing the trio of the scary — but lovable — witches, the Sanderson sisters. Plus there are talking cats, creepy zombies, and teen and tween angst to boot. I'd say there's a pretty great mixture of adult and kid humor, and a killer remake of the song "I Put A Spell On You," because of course, they had to showcase Midler's epic singing pipes.
In case you have lived under a rock your entire life and don't know the premise of Hocus Pocus, it's about three witches in Salem three centuries ago, who were hanged because they used the souls of children to make themselves younger and live forever. They were gone until a "virgin lit the black flame candle" on Halloween night at their museum. And the virgin, his crush, his kid sister, and a talking cat are trying to put Sarah, Mary, and Winnie to rest and save the children of Salem once again. This movie is rated PG for "scary sequences and some language," according to the movie's IMDB.
4. 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'
Though The Nightmare Before Christmas can arguably be considered a Christmas movie too, I still think it's spooky enough for Halloween. Tim Burton's whimsical and creepy signature style shines in this movie about Jack Skellington, a skeleton who is king of Halloween Town. Jack wants to bring Christmas to his hometown after visiting Christmas Town and seeing how great it is. The imagery and characters are definitely dark and creepy, but the storyline is pretty kid-appropriate. It's rated PG for "some scary images," according to the movie's IMDB page.
These little fluffballs can go from cute to downright creepy — if you feed them after midnight, give them water, or subject them to bright light, that is. When they do turn into monsters, Gremlins may scare really little children, but the special effects are pretty tame and cartoonish, especially since it was made in the '80s. All of the gremlins' shenanigans happen just because the little boy didn't follow directions correctly when it came to taking care of his pet. A good life lesson to be learned for kids and adults alike. This movie is rated PG for "moderate violence and gore," profanity, and frightening and intense scenes. According to IMDB, Gremlins was made before the PG-13 rating came out, so it was rated PG, but would probably be considered PG-13 today.
Yet another Tim Burton classic, Beetlejuice. I loved this movie as a kid and still love it now as it's just creepy and scary enough to be dangerous (but it didn't prevent me from sleeping at night). The premise is an "obnoxious" family moves into a recently deceased ghost couple's home, and they hire grotesque Beetlejuice to get rid of them, according to IMDB.
A young Winona Ryder is amazing as the dark and strange character Lydia, and who doesn't love Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice, Alec Baldwin as ghost Adam Maitland and Geena Davis as his ghost wife, Barbara? This movie is rated PG for mild comical gore, some profanity, and minor references to sexuality, because Beetlejuice is one crude, rude dude.
7. 'Harry Potter'
Though all eight movies may be a bit much to watch in one sitting (and sometimes even one of the movies may be too long for young kids with short attention spans), Harry Potter has spooky and scary elements that are just creepy enough to be entertaining, and has an amazing storyline that's completely magical and full of life lessons like always doing the right thing (no matter the cost), believing in yourself, and trusting and protecting those you love most.
There are witches, wizards, magic, and mischief in each movie, but it doesn't go over the top with the gore and scare factor too much. (He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is a little scary with his noseless face though.) Your whole family will be cheering for Harry Potter, the boy who lived, as he tries to make it in wizarding school while living with his parents' death and trying to figure out the secrets of the Dark Lord and his plans. I'd say the most kid-friendly movies are one through three, and then it may get a little bit dark for younger kids.
There should be a little bit of spookiness for everyone during Halloween season. And with these particular movie choices, not only do your kids get to get into the Halloween spirit, but you get to enjoy a little nostalgia, too.
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