Halloween is a cross-cultural holiday that doesn’t allow one to take the day off school and work, but allows one to celebrate everything horror, supernatural, costumes and cavities—I mean yummy treats. But what gives us the inspiration for these things? Movies, of course! Everyone who grew up on cable TV will know the typical re-runs of Halloween classics like Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play and Friday the 13th. Obviously, we would wait for our parents to fall asleep first because these films were way too young for us to view.
Alternatively, we selected a list of Halloween movies that don’t require you to participate in a sleeping challenge against your parents, plus there’s age restriction settings now (poor kids these days…sort of). This list highlights a balance of timeless spookiness to modern kookiness that’s fun for the whole family.
10) Harry Potter Film Series (2001-2011)
Before everyone loses their mind as to why the Harry Potter film series falls in last place on this list, it is primarily because it’s a stretch to sell it as a Halloween-themed series. But it does have that Halloween feast scene near the beginning of the first movie.
The main reason it belongs on this list is that the content within the Wizarding World presents so much about mythical creatures that are terrifying yet offers a wonderful storyline of young wizards and witches growing into adults in this magical, scary world. It’s a series that ages with growing children as the themes tackle more mature themes later in the series, definitely requires some parental guidance and attendance as the series goes on.
9) Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021)
The Muppets always provide a nostalgic experience with its audiences, bringing specials like The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. This Halloween special, The Muppets Haunted Mansion offers great moments of comedy with The Muppets at its forefront—doing what they do best, singing and getting up to no good.
The adventure follows Gonzo and Pepe, who attend a mysterious party with the challenge to stay in the Haunted Mansion for one night. This is a great Halloween movie choice for kids as there’s not much in the way of adult themes to worry about, just lots of fun and some ghostly appearances.
8) Hotel Transylvania Film Series (2012-2022)
The Hotel Transylvania movies are a step towards balancing a children-centric animated film series with a story parents and adults can appreciate. The story revolves around Count Dracula’s (Adam Sandler) hotel, intended for classic monsters like Frankenstein (Kevin James) to enjoy as a vacation getaway.
The plot thickens as Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez) falls in love with a lost human traveller, Johnathan (Andy Samberg), who stumbles into the monster-filled hotel. The storyline for each film gets wilder and more outrageous as it progresses, but it offers a lot of humorous family entertainment (and monsters!) for all ages.
7) LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales (2021)
On the same topic of weird hotels, this one focuses on Star Wars’ first ‘Sith-themed hotel’ on Mustafar and some spooky tales from a new character named Vaneé (Tony Hale). Vaneé tells three stories that brings the best out of the classic LEGO Star Wars action and comedy fans can always expect. It does have some moments that faint-hearted children may get scared by, but nothing to warrant a total nightmare in the night. LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales is a Halloween special that invites the whole family to enjoy the LEGO Star Wars universe.
6) Casper (1995)
Casper, known to be a friendly ghost in the comics, brings more adult themes in this version, but still manages to have a young cast to keep the tones on the lighter side. Also, Casper’s uncles have some zany moments and jokes. The relationship that Casper builds with James and Kat Harvey is complex as both the ghosts and the humans learn to appreciate one another and form bonds that transcend life and death. This is a Halloween staple for me, personally, because it wasn’t too childish and wasn’t too scary for me at a young age. Rather, it was entertaining and different to the tropes of ghost stories.
5) Beetlejuice (1988)
Rounding off the top five Halloween films in this list is the famous, Beetlejuice. Whenever this starts airing on TV, I know Halloween time is here. This is probably one of the most, if not the most, played Halloween movies to see on TV.
Tim Burton brings his gothic fantasy and horror background from A Nightmare Before Christmas to bring Beetlejuice to life. The film offers family excitement and comedic entertainment with Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice and his mix of music, slapstick jokes and one spooky sand worm. The story seems to be intended for older children and adults, but the balance is about as close as it can get when a demon-like being is on-screen causing mayhem.
4) Hocus Pocus (1993)
Following the themes of mayhem, the Sanderson sisters are not friendly witches. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy bring one of the best performances for villainous witches. Hocus Pocus is another movie that’s constantly airing on TV, specifically on the Disney Channel, which helps mark that Halloween is nearby.
This is one of the few films on this list with a story that mentions the holiday. The whole curse about virgins and sucking life souls are probably not concepts younger kids will understand (nor should they quite yet), but overall, it’s a great Halloween flick. It has a clear, linear story for Max to stop the soul-suckers and this is one of the films that takes place relatively close to a familiar modern time world.
3) Halloweentown Film Series (1998-2006)
The later 90s witches are way nicer! The Halloweentown film series looked, felt and probably were TV movies as they never had theatrical releases. It follows Hocus Pocus as it became a movie series that aired a lot on cable TV. The movies are really cheesy and don’t have the CGI budget to do anything too crazy; however, the story and characters are written to leave some imprints on their audiences. It
’s also amazing how grandma, Aggie Cromwell, is practically Dumbledore before Dumbledore. This is also one of the first worlds to have another magical world on-screen where the witches are good and also offers a lot of morals for kids to learn about throughout Marnie Piper’s witching adventures.
2) Corpse Bride (2005)
Corpse Bride is another great film by Tim Burton that elevated the best uses of stop-animation for movies. This is a big part of why it ranks highly on this list. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter deliver Oscar-level voice work to the characters of Victor and Emily as they both explore the themes of death and subvert stereotypical outcomes with the end of the movie. Again, the film is not quite a specifically mentioned Halloween film, but it’s one that adults and children can share a big appreciation for as an animated film can fascinate both children and adults in the gothic realm and also make more mature audiences cry by the end.
1) Coco (2017)
At number one, Coco is at the top of the list as one of the most innovative family-friendly Halloween films that breaks a mould of its own, in regard to film storytelling and diversity. The film explores the importance of the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead, which is similar to Halloween in North America but with a much more meaningful purpose. Coco was so good it won two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song!
What makes this masterpiece number one on this list is that it not only breaks storytelling tropes, but it talks about death openly in a way that many other cultures wouldn’t with children. Smartly, it’s not conversations about death that are too graphic or dark for younger audiences. This musical journey is one that had me crying, and I know you’ll be crying too as your kids continue singing “Remember Me” cheerily.
Halloween time is right around the corner and what better way to celebrate the holiday than to pop one of these classics into your VCR…I mean, what better time than to stream any and all of these great films for the whole family to enjoy getting some laughable scares this season.