What’s not to love about Halloween? The candy, the pumpkins – the movies! And if you’re a parent, you’ve had to learn the difference between spooky and scary—and what a big difference that is. One gives your little one a racing heart and tingling down their spine, the other keeps them up at night, which means keeping you up at night—and nobody wants that.
Below are my favorite family-friendly Halloween fare, so you can indoctrinate your kids early in the joys of ghouls, witches, and ghosts.
Great for younger kids, and starring the queen of ghoul and goth herself, Christina Ricci. You can’t really go wrong with the classics, especially if they’re from the ’80s or ’90s, and this one is just that.
HOCUS POCUS 1 AND 2 1993-2022
It’s Hocus Pocus fever right now and with good reason. They’re great and the sequel more than holds up against the original. Kitschy? You bet, but intentionally so and that’s the point, so just go with it, make your popcorn, and have fun.
SCHOOL OF GOOD AND EVIL 2022
Based on the bestselling fantasy fairytale tween books by Soman Chainani, this movie adaptation from director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), starring Cate Blanchett, Charlize Theron and Laurence Fishburne is sure to be the Halloween hit of the year. Read LEO’s own interview with the author of the series here.
HALLOWEENTOWN MOVIES 1998-2006
You should know before getting into these that they’re pretty hokey. Like REALLY hokey. But hey, that’s half the fun. They were made for Disney Channel and the first one stars Debbie Reynolds, so that should give you some idea of what’s in store. But they’re classics and your kids may as well grow up as nostalgic for them as you are.
This Tim Burton masterpiece is not ideal for the really young ones—a little lewd and a lot creepy. I would say 10 and up but every kid is different, so parental discretion advised. But whenever they may be ready, they will love this classic nearly as much as you.
Based on Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasy novella, this is an atmospheric and surprisingly creepy stop-motion animated film from Henry Selick, who also directed the Tim Burton-produced The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s not scary, per se, but it’s definitely creepy and might be a little much for the really little ones. That said, my oldest kid loved it.
Based on the classic children’s horror series from R. L. Stine that many of us grew up on, this film isn’t particularly scary – it’s more nickelodeon than house of terror – but its themes are definitely a bit more on the tween side.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY 1991
There’s been so many iterations of this family over the years, from the black & white TV series, to the cartoon, to the soon-to-be-released Wednesday (which am personally waiting on with bated breath), that honestly picking any incarnation of The Addams Family is going to be great. But for our money, you can’t go wrong with the ’91 movie classic starring Angelica Huston, Raoul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, and of course, our favorite queen of children’s goth, Christina Ricci.
CORPSE BRIDE 2005
Tim Burton again, but this time in animated form. Very heavy on the goth, Burton is probably the most adult-friendly of all the animated films on the list and you can throw Corpse Bride on the same pile of movies as Frankenweenie and The Nightmare Before Christmas (although personally I will always count that last one as a Christmas movie, hence why it didn’t make the list).
TOY STORY OF TERROR 2013
A one-off television special and running only 21 minutes short, this is still classic Toy Story territory with all the characters (and voice actors!) back again as Woody and company find themselves in a motel where a big conspiracy may or may not be unfolding…
THE HAUNTED MANSION 2003
A dark yet broadly comic haunted house movie, to be taken with a pinch of salt (or cinnamon spice) in the vein of films like Clue and Hocus Pocus, while starring comic genius Eddie Murphy. What’s not to love.
THE HOUSE WITH THE CLOCK IN THE WALLS 2018
Jack Black and Cate Blanchett unite for a family friendly spook fest from horror master director Eli Roth. Yes, the guy who brought us Hostel. But don’t worry, this one’s for kids! No torture porn, no gore, no chainsaw. It’s PG friendly horror and humor.
SCAREDY CATS 2021
Ok, so not actually a movie, but a Netflix show. But it’s so beloved by young kids these days, that if you’re a parent you likely already know it. Definitely for the younger ones (it’s wildly popular on kindergarten playgrounds). The witches are ripped straight out of Hocus Pocus, and honestly, the show is really pretty dumb. But kids will love it, so just take one for the team and suck it up.
IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN 1966
Talk about classics. This one was already an old classic when you were born. Def for the youngest of young -baby’s first Halloween movie!