8 FAMILY HALLOWEEN FILMS
Article By Abbey Archer
It’s finally October! Time to break out the pumpkin spice and Halloween decorations, and pop in a good Halloweeny movie. If you have kids in the room with you, you’re going to want to watch something not as creepy — or, if you’re anything like me, you’re just not into the whole scary-gorefest genre, anyway. So, what to choose? I have the answers! Ranging from little-little kid-friendly to preteen age, here are some options for your family movie night that won’t scar the kiddies too badly.
Buttons have never been scarier. Based on Neil Gaiman‘s best-selling novel, Coraline is our sassy heroine who encounters alternate, more idealistic versions of her parents in another world … but all is not as it seems. Spoiler alert: in order for Coraline to stay in the fantastical reality her Other Mother has built, she must sew buttons in place of her eyes. Yeesh. Obviously, with this premise in mind, it’s probably best to save this film for the older kids. But for the rest of you, this features jaw-dropping stop-motion animation from master director Henry Selick (who has another film featured on this list), with bright set direction and truly creepy visuals that will leave you in awe.
Corpse Bride (2005)
Tim Burton is a master of creepy story-telling, but this one is much more appealing for the kid crowd. Our protagonist, Victor, is set to marry, but fearful of his life being further controlled by his insufferable parents, he finds himself seemingly married to a — you guessed it — corpse bride, plummeting to the undead realm. Much like the aforementioned film, Corpse Bride juxtaposes dreary, monotonous reality with the colorful underworld that bursts with life. With original songs from frequent collaborator, Danny Elfman, and one surprise after another, this charming animated feature is sure to become a classic in your household.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
From ghosts and ghouls to aliens and men in white suits, Steven Spielberg‘s masterpiece is perfect for the whole family. For those still living under a rock in the Stone Age, E.T. tells the story of an alien that is left behind on Earth and, with the help of a boy and his siblings, must find a way to get back to his own kind, before a branch of the government keeps him for themselves. Humor and heart abound in this film, and it helps that the score is one of John Williams‘ very best. Of all the films in this article, E.T. is easily the most acclaimed, nominated for Oscars and featured on several Best Films of All-Time critics lists. If you haven’t seen this yet, or are in for a reminder of its greatness, what are you waiting for?
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Though I’m not a personal fan of this series, I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t include one of these on this list. Arguably the most “spooky” of the Harry Potter films, Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, if you’re across the pond) is the beginning story of the boy who lived, detailing his first year at the beloved Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. What sets this one apart from the rest is the rich atmosphere, where the magic that first captured our hearts as kids really abounds and are present, as compared to more focus on drama and relationships in the later installments. Plus, you just can’t beat Richard Harris as Dumbledore, bringing real warmth and heart to the character that makes all who watch this wish they had someone like him in real life. In short, everyone will love this.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Of the 8 films on this list, I can honestly say that I’ve seen this one the most. Hocus Pocus is the cult classic that follows the Sanderson sisters — played to perfection by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker — who awaken in the modern world on Halloween night to suck the lives out of the town’s children. Sounds dark, but really, it’s a comedy, one of those films that you find yourself laughing at the jokes you never got as a kid. And though it has a Frankenstein-style zombie character, the film as a whole isn’t too scary for the little ones. My generation grew up on it at a young age, and we all turned out okay … right?
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
For the nontraditional crowd, this Studio Ghibli film is just for you! Loosely based on the beloved novel by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle is about Sophie, an ordinary hatter who is turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. Along the way to a cure, she encounters the moving junk heap of a castle, and Howl himself, a magician with a reputation for charming young ladies. This isn’t your straightforward Halloween fare, so no pumpkins or ghosts or the like, but it still features plenty of fantastical elements, magic, and weirdness (I say that with love) that will keep you entertained all the way through.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Is there anything better than the Peanuts gang? I think not. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is technically a made-for-television film, but it has transcended its short runtime and still enjoys airplay every Halloween time. Between Linus van Pelt waiting in a pumpkin patch for the preternatural Halloween Santa, Snoopy running around as a WWI fighter pilot, and poor Charlie Brown getting rocks in his trick-or-treat bag, you’ll be laughing your head off at some of the savage jokes. And if anything, you will come away remembering the three things to never discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
I debated heavily with including this one since there are many of us out there that consider this more of a Christmas film … but here it is for the other many out there. Created by Tim Burton and helmed by Coraline’s director, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a musical that follows Jack Skellington, Halloween Town’s Pumpkin King, as he wanders into Christmas Town and hijacks the holiday for his own. This is another masterful stop-motion animated gem and has fun, ear-wormy songs from Danny Elfman; the characters are memorable and iconic; and with an arguably too short runtime, it’s a breeze to sit through. It may be a little creepy for kids under the age of 4, but I wouldn’t know since I was 18 when I first watched this. (Oops.) Whether you consider this more Halloween or Christmas, it’s a classic that needs mandatory viewing.
Honorable mentions go to Casper, Goosebumps, and any of the Scooby Doo movies from the ’60s on (especially Ghoul School and On Zombie Island). If you didn’t see a film that you think should’ve been mentioned, tune in soon for another list dedicated to the teenage and adult crowd; you’ll see some on there that you’ll think I left off, trust me. Happy Halloween!