From ‘Don’t Look Under the Bed’ to ‘Hocus Pocus’ to ‘Beetlejuice,’ The Hollywood Reporter rounds up some family-friendly (yet still spooky) Halloween movies.
For some people, Halloween is all about aesthetics and Pumpkin Spice Lattes. For others, the holiday’s purpose comes down to the spooky aspects of Oct. 31.
For those who have kids, sometimes leaning into the horror of Halloween is a little tougher, at least while they’re young. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
The Hollywood Reporter rounded up some kid-friendly scary movies that are perfect for family movie nights throughout the month of October. From Hocus Pocus to Don’t Look Under the Bed and Beetlejuice, here’s a list of spooky Halloween movies that work for all ages.
Taking place on Oct. 31, this Halloween-themed fantasy-comedy stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters — the malevolent spirits of three 17th-century Salem witches (complete with pointy hats, brooms, warts and all) that were burned at the stake and accidentally resurrected by a group of kids, who in turn attempt to kill the children as a show of gratitude. Eating children? Rather dark for a Disney-produced children’s flick, wouldn’t you say? The cult classic is followed up by 2022 sequel that features a few new faces and a return of the Sanderson Sisters to Salem.
Say his name three times. Go ahead, do it. Well, at least you won’t have Candyman breathing down your neck. This kooky farce about the afterlife and all its pitfalls has a stellar cast (Alec Baldwin, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder and Geena Davis — to name a few) and represents a time in director Tim Burton’s career (1988 to be exact) when he was young, unfocused and having the time of his life.
‘Don’t Look Under the Bed’
Don’t Look Under the Bed is a 1999 Disney Channel original movie from Kenneth Johnson that served as one of the channel’s scariest options for children. When strange things start to happen in town, at the hands of the Boogeyman, the people look to teenager Frances as the culprit. As she works to clear her name, she reluctantly enlists the help of Larry, her brother’s imaginary friend, who has a budding secret of his own that could ruin her chances of defeating the Boogeyman and saving her town.
‘The Addams Family’
Based on the sitcom from the 1960s that was itself based on the New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams, this quirky gem comes from the mind of director Barry Sonnenfeld. It stars the late Raul Julia and very-much-alive Anjelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia Addams, whose family finds life in the suburbs rather difficult — especially when estranged Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) finds his way home. Having had some mild success at the box office during the fall of 1991, it spawned multiple sequels and remakes — Addams Family Values, Addams Family Reunion and The Addams Family (2019), as well as the Netflix spinoff series, Wednesday, which focuses on Gomez and Morticia’s daughter Wednesday and her years as a high school student at Nevermore Academy.
Another Disney Channel original movie, Halloweentown follows Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) and her family of witches and warlocks who, together, defeat not one, not two, not three but four evil forces that threaten the magical world and the human world. The 1998 movie spawned three sequels Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, Halloweentown High and Return to Halloweentown, which featured Sara Paxton in the role of Marnie.
Who you gonna call? Apparently, four paunchy, middle-aged scientists, as Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson teamed up with late director Ivan Reitman to fight ghosts and hold off the apocalypse in this 1984 comedy classic. It also spawned three more movies, a Saturday morning cartoon and a series of video games, not to mention that infectiously catchy theme song by Ray Parker Jr.
Disney Channel stuck with witch-centered films throughout the early 2000s. In 2005, the channel premiered Twitches, starring Tia and Tamera Mowry as twin witches who were separated at birth and reunite on their 21st birthday. Alex and Camryn must use their powers to save the world in which they were born, that’s facing an eerie Darkness only they can defeat.
‘The Haunted Mansion’
This 2003 comedy helped usher in the era of the new-and-improved, family-friendly Eddie Murphy and also started the trend of Disney theme park attractions being adapted into feature-length films. Based on a fun and somewhat spooky ride, it tells the tale of an unknowing family who moves into a house that 999 ghosts already inhabit. Disney also has a remake of The Haunted Mansion slated for 2023, which stars Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Jared Leto, LaKeith Stanfield, Dan Levy, Winona Ryder and more.
Ghosts are typically as scary as they come, but when your ghost is the Friendly Ghost, that tends to take the edge off a bit. Casper is a young ghost who peacefully haunts a mansion, minding his own business, when Bill Pullman’s James Harvey comes into the picture. The specialist stops by the Maine mansion to communicate with Casper and his fellow ghosts, bringing along his young daughter Kat (Christina Ricci) to join him. The friendly ghost quickly falls in love with Kate, but there’s nothing simple about falling for a human when you’re an apparition.
As long as you follow the three rules — keep them away from bright lights, don’t get them wet and never, ever feed them after midnight — your cute and cuddly Mogwai should be OK. However, if you don’t … well, then don’t say you weren’t warned once a bunch of ferocious, mischievous green monsters wreak havoc on your town. Joe Dante directed this 1984 cult classic that teaches kids a valuable lesson about proper pet care.
This 1987 tongue-in-cheek comedy is crass, vulgar and politically incorrect. In other words, it encompasses the one-of-a-kind decade known as the ’80s. The plot is simple: A clubhouse-dwelling group of misfits must band together and stop Dracula and his cronies (who look like they just exited a Universal Pictures time warp from the 1930s) from recovering an ancient amulet and conquering the world. Wolfman’s got nards, indeed.
A stop-motion style animated film, this clever 2012 film is brought to life (pun intended) by a fantastic cast, including Kodi Smit-McPhee, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman and Anna Kendrick, it tells the tale of a young boy from a small Massachusetts town that finds out he can commune with the dead. Of course, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, except he happens to live in a town where an evil witch was once executed in the 1700s. Mayhem, destruction and zombies ensue (as well as plenty of laughs) in this story of a teen who just wants to fit in … and talk to dead people.
‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
Suffering from an identity crisis of sorts (Is it a Halloween movie, or is it a Christmas one?), this 1993 stop-motion animated musical classic is co-written by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick (James and the Giant Peach). It features the iconic character of Jack Skellington — the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, who accidentally stumbles across the concept of Christmas. He becomes so obsessed, he kidnaps Santa Claus and attempts to take over the holiday of Christmas entirely.
Pixar Animation Studios is responsible for this 2001 comedy, as well as its prequel, Monsters University. Billy Crystal and John Goodman, respectively, provide the voices for Mike Wazowski and John P. “Sully” Sullinger. Don’t be fooled. They might have human-sounding names, but these two closet-dwelling creatures have one job and one job only — to scare the pants off little kids. They’re not doing it to be mean but, rather, out of necessity, as the monster world’s source of electricity is children’s screams.
Cult animator Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory) directed this cartoon romp that depicts Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) as the owner of an inn for weary, wayward, traveling monsters, whose 118-year-old daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) falls for a human (Andy Samberg) who accidentally wanders in as a guest. It spawned three sequels and features a spooktacular supporting cast, with Kevin James, Keegan-Michael Key, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, Mel Brooks, Cee Lo Green and others voicing some monstrous characters.
Released in 2009, this dark, yet whimsical tale not only has artistic credibility (it’s based on a novel by hipster fave Neil Gaiman and features songs by They Might be Giants), but it’s also a technical achievement. This surreal story of a young girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) who lives in a dark and detached fantasy world was the first stop-motion animated film to be shown in 3D as well.
How far would you go to bring a recently deceased pet back to life? Probably not as far as this kid went. Another stop-motion animated feature from the mind of Tim Burton, with this one putting a lighthearted spin on the classic story of Frankenstein and his monster. However, instead of a mad scientist rebuilding a man and playing God, this 2012 film is about a young boy named Victor who brings his beloved dog Sparky back from the grave. It’s adapted from a 1984 short film, also by Burton, of the same name.
‘The Corpse Bride’
Another film that comes from the twisted mind of Tim Burton (let’s face it, there could’ve been more than three on this list) was released in 2005 and features the voices of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter as an unconventional couple who doesn’t let a simple thing like death get in the way of a good relationship. Animated in a traditional stop-motion style, this macabre tale is based on a piece of 16th Century Russian-Jewish folklore called “The Finger.”
Surprisingly entertaining and inventive, this 2006 animated film, directed by Gil Kenan, features a trio of suburban kids who decide to investigate the one house on their block that everybody’s afraid of. It features a well-crafted storyline, some impressive action sequences and Steve Buscemi as the mysterious old man who lives in the house by himself … or does he?
Adapted from a Roald Dahl book, this 1990 film features a deviously wicked Anjelica Huston as Miss Eva Ernst, who masquerades as the chairman for the fictional Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children at a convention in Cornwall, England. However, she’s really the Grand High Witch in an ancient society of wicked witches. The actual reason that Miss Ernst and her fellow cacklers gather together is so they can execute their plan to turn all of England’s children into mice. Of course, they didn’t plan on brave, young Luke, who’s also a guest at the Excelsior Hotel, foiling their nefarious plot. The Witches spawned a 2020 remake starring Anne Hathaway.
This 1990 horror-comedy starring Jeff Daniels and John Goodman and directed by Frank Marshall did the same thing for spiders that Jaws did for sharks. After watching this scary and squirmy creature feature, you’ll be checking behind your shower curtain, in addition to being fairly apprehensive about venturing into a cold, damp cellar by yourself.
Jack Black stars as author R.L. Stine in Goosebumps, which is based on the children’s horror book series of the same name. In this film adaptation, Stine’s imaginary demons are set free on the fictional small town of Madison, Delaware. The author teams up with his teenage daughter, played by Odeya Rush, and their neighbor, Zach (Dylan Minnette), to save their hometown from the unleashed monsters that are wreaking havoc in the real world. Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee and Jillian Bell round out the cast of the 2015 film that spawned the 2018 standalone sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.
Adam Sandler stars as Hubie Dubois, Salem’s dimwitted delicatessen employee, who spends Oct. 31 night monitoring the streets as the town’s official Halloween Helper, making him a figure of mockery for kids and adults alike. But when something actually goes bump in the night one Halloween and nobody seems to believe Hubie, it’s up to him to save the holiday. The film also stars Kevin James, Noah Schnapp, Kenan Thompson, Julie Bowen and more.
Coco may not be an outright Halloween film, but it does take place in the Land of the Dead on the Day of the Dead, which is pretty close. The Pixar film follows Miguel, who dreams of becoming a successful artist despite his family’s ban on music. In order to prove his talent, Miguel stumbles into the Land of the Dead and meets a charming trickster named Héctor, and they embark on a journey to learn all about Miguel’s family history.
‘Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events’
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is based on the first three novels of the book series of the same name: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room and The Wide Window. When three young siblings are left orphaned by a fire, they’re sent to live with their cruel and scheming relative Count Olaf, played by Jim Carrey, who is only after their inheritance. Catherine O’Hara, Billy Connolly, Luis Guzmán, Jennifer Coolidge, Meryl Streep and Jude Law also star in the film.
‘Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire’
Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire follows Caroline Rhea’s Lynette Hansen, whose son Taylor (Myles Jeffrey) is convinced that she, well, has a date with a vampire. While his siblings are trying to sneak out of the house after being grounded, Taylor insists that something isn’t right with their mom’s new boyfriend, and the three try to get to the bottom of it. This Disney Channel movie is a little scary without causing nightmares in younger kids.
‘We Have a Ghost’
We Have a Ghost sees Anthony Mackie and David Harbour star opposite each other in the Netflix fantasy film. Mackie’s Frank and his family move into a new house, only to find that it is haunted by a ghost named Ernest (Harbour). After Frank’s son Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) and Ernest get to the bottom of Ernest’s past, they become CIA targets.
‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’
This classic short film first aired in 1966 and follows Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus and Lucy as they celebrate Halloween. While Charlie Brown prepares for a party, Snoopy sets his eye on the Red Baron and Linus decides to wait in a pumpkin patch for the mythical Great Pumpkin.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’
Little Shop of Horrors sees Rick Moranis take on the role of Seymour, who finds a mysterious plant outside of the flower shop he works at and learns that it grows when it’s fed human blood. As the plant — named Audrey II after Seymour’s co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene) — begins to grow from the blood Moranis’ character gives it from pricking his own fingers, it attracts business to the once-struggling store. But Audrey II becomes increasingly bloodthirsty, and Seymour must find more blood to give it.
‘Wendell & Wild’
Rated PG-13, Wendell & Wild is probably better for older kids, as it can be a little dark for younger ones. It follows demon brothers Wendell and Wild, who must face off against their arch-enemy with the help of a nun named Sister Helly, known for her skill in expelling demons. The stop-motion animated horror comedy film is directed by Henry Sellick (Coraline), who also co-wrote the script with fellow producer Jordan Peele. It stars Peele and Keegan-Michael Key as the title characters, with Angela Bassett, Lyric Ross, James Hong and Ving Rhames in supporting roles.
‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’
E.T. might be a nice alien, but he’s an alien nonetheless, which can be a little spooky. After the extraterrestrial is stranded on Earth, Elliott (Henry Thomas) brings him into his home and introduces him to his brother and sister, Gertie, played by Drew Barrymore. The kids agree to keep E.T. a secret, but when he falls ill, the government must intervene.
‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls’
When Lewis moves in with his uncle, played by Jack Black, he discovers a mysterious tick-tock noise behind the walls. It doesn’t take long before he learns that his uncle and feisty neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) practice the magical arts. Lewis quickly gets mixed into the madness and accidentally awakens the dead.
It doesn’t get more Halloween-y than witches and wizards. The Harry Potter films follow the Boy Who Lived as he and his friends work to defeat the darkest wizard of all time. And the best part? Half of the installments in the franchise are rated PG, so they work for the whole family. As for the ones who are rated PG-13, they’re not so scary that younger kids wouldn’t be able to watch.
Zoinks! The live-action Scooby-Doo movie brings to life some of the most beloved animated characters in television history. Two years after Mystery Inc. closes its doors, the Scooby gang — Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Velma (Linda Cardellini) — reunites on Spooky Island to investigate a series of paranormal incidents during spring break.
‘Double, Double, Toil and Trouble’
With all the movies Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen starred in as children, it only makes sense that they would have one that’s Halloween-themed. In the 1993 made-for-television film, the twins play two precocious girls who try to save their parents from their greedy aunt and meet mysterious new friends along the way as magic abounds.
‘Casper Meets Wendy’
Hilary Duff’s Wendy stars opposite Jeremy Foley’s Casper the Friendly Ghost, who is vacationing with his confrontational uncles, in the 1998 film. After upsetting warlock Desmond (George Hamilton), Wendy and her aunts seek sanctuary in a special supernatural resort. Before long, Wendy and Casper become friends and decide to take down the wizard.
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