15+ Scary (But Not TOO Scary!) Halloween Movies for Kids
Written by Common Sense Media
Photography by Photo Via Hocus Pocus
Looking for the best Halloween movies for kids that might give them a few goosebumps but won’t have them running into your bed in the middle of the night? Our favorite “light-fright” films include kid-friendly titles such as Frankenweenie and the all-time classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. We teamed up with Common Sense Media to bring you a list of 15+ flicks that will be sure to get them in the Halloween spirit (and you can check out CSM’s entire list right here). You’re sure to find something with just the right amount of spookiness for your kids. Get ready, get set, boo!
Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie (Ages 3+)
After Pooh gobbles all the trick-or-treat candy (and immediately feels remorseful, on top of having one monstrous tummy ache), Lumpy and best friend Roo embark on a brave quest to find the dreaded Gobloon. Although the DVD has a Halloween theme, the scares are relatively mild—a few of the worst frights include bats, crows, and a wheelbarrow full of jack o’ lanterns that seem to come alive.
Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest (Ages 3+)
Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest features, familiar, friendly characters and treats spooky Halloween images (for example, ghosts and spiders) with gentle humor and a very mild “boo” factor. George’s friends recall the legend of a headless scarecrow (No Noggin), but even that legend is presented in a way that is not truly suspenseful or frightening, making this flick fine for preschool kids.
If You Give A Mouse A Pumpkin (Ages 3+)
This Halloween-themed episode from the wholesome If You Give A Mouse A Cookie series is a gentle entry into the holiday for toddlers and elementary-aged kids. Its presentation of Halloween is entirely nonthreatening, but a main character (Moose) gives voice to some aspects of the holiday that kids might relate to, including images and costumes that can be scary. Happily the story shows him overcome those fears with the support of his friends, reminding viewers that fears don’t have to define you. Positive messages about friendship, teamwork, and kindness round out this sweet holiday special.
Eloise’s Rawther Unusual Halloween (Ages 4+)
It’s Halloween, and the just as The Plaza entertains potential new buyers, the legendary Diamond Jim Johnson returns for his annual hotel haunt. Parents need to know that this film opens with a character’s death in a horse-and-carriage wreck, though it’s not graphic. From there, it features the run-of-the-mill frights of Halloween: ghosts, scary sounds, surprises, and general creepiness.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Ages 4+)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a Peanuts classic that appeals to all ages. It promotes many favorite American Halloween traditions like trick-or-treating and apple bobbing, not to mention the infamous Great Pumpkin (who must have missed Linus’ pumpkin patch somehow). You can almost smell the donuts, cider, and piles of leaves on a crisp fall day when you start watching this classic Peanuts Halloween special.
A Very Brave Witch and More Great Halloween Stories for Kids (Ages 4+)
With eight stories in the collection, quality and kid-appeal varies from story to story, but each has some charming or attractive element. Some stories, like “A Dark, Dark Tale” and “By the Light of the Halloween Moon,” involve very little narrative, but offer sweet introductions to sprites, witches, and other traditionally scary characters. The variety in animation (three stories feature only still illustrations), narration, and music make this a pleasant mix of simple and more complex seasonal tales that most kids will enjoy throughout the year.
Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman (Ages 4+)
This movie revolves around Theodore and his struggles with his shaky self-image. Unpleasant encounters with a school bully undermine his self-confidence, but his role in a school play allows him to begin to believe in himself. Meanwhile, a horror movie-obsessed Alvin becomes convinced that the chipmunk’s new neighbor is a werewolf.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (ages 6+)
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad offers animated adaptations of two children’s literature classics: Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows and Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Often overlooked even by Disney fans, this Disney double-feature is classic animation at its best and features Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby as narrators. With a cozy Edwardian setting, a dollop of slapstick violence, and a variety of British stereotypes, the tale of Mr. Toad is an endearing foray into Merrie Olde England.
Hotel Transylvania (ages 7+)
Hotel Transylvania is a good introductory “monster movie” for little kids—the monsters are tame, and the story focuses on Dracula and his daughter as she comes of age (118!). “Drac” has planned a huge birthday celebration. As the hotel fills with Mavis’ many monster aunties and uncles — like werewolf Wayne, Frankenstein, Mummy Griffin, and the Invisible Man—an unexpected visitor arrives in the form of 21-year-old Jonathan, a solo backpacker who somehow stumbles across the supposedly untraceable castle.
The Addams Family (Ages 7+)
The Addams Family is the latest take on the popular characters who’ve already been the subject of cartoons, a classic TV show, and two early ’90s movies. It’s not quite as macabre as its live-action predecessors, but there’s still plenty of dark humor, an emphasis on violence and weapons, and incidents when townsfolk raise arms against the eerie Addamses. With its star-studded voice cast and name recognition, audiences will expect more laughs—or frights—from this unremarkable reboot of the legendary macabre comedy.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (ages 7+)
The Nightmare Before Christmas is an offbeat, stop motion-animated movie that’s one of the great family films for all ages. The story centers around Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King—a creature who is to Halloween what Santa is to Christmas. When Jack becomes bored with staging yet another frightnight for the sketchy members of Halloweentown, he wanders away from town one night and stumbles across Christmastown and becomes immediately entranced. Jack decides he needs to bring Christmas to Halloweentown and he is willing to do just about anything to make it happen—even it if means kidnapping Santa himself.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Ages 8+)
Wallace and Gromit run a pest-riddance company, Anti-Pesto. Each night, they’re alerted by the elaborate security system the townspeople have attached to their prized vegetable gardens, and go forth in their well-outfitted truck to capture (but never kill) the offending creatures—typically rodents and rabbits. But an experiment goes awry, and soon a giant were-rabbit is stomping through the town at night, ravaging the squashes and pumpkins, and threatening to shut down Tottington Hall’s annual Giant Vegetable Competition. Wallace and Gromit are on the case.
Frankenweenie (Ages 9+)
Tim Burton’s black-and-white, stop-motion animated film Frankenweenie is the feature-length version of a short he made early in his career. Like most of Burton’s films, Frankenweenie’s tone is dark and creepy and will likely scare kids who are sensitive to the macabre. On the other hand, this tale of a very young Frankenstein who reanimates his beloved pet dog is a great introduction to the horror genre for older kids and tweens who are ready for some scares—like when a group of kids reanimates various pets that go wild (one ends up as big as Godzilla) and terrorize the tow. Both an homage to classic monster movies and a tender relationship drama about the love between a boy and his dog, this is a film that works on so many levels.
Goosebumps (Ages 9+)
Goosebumps is a live-action movie based on the best-selling middle-grade horror novels by R.L. Stine. There are lots of different kinds of monsters (who could certainly frighten young/sensitive kids), and though teens are in peril and there are some scares, the main focus is on action: chasing, fighting, destruction, and chaos. It harks back to a time when horror fans simply loved monsters and took pride in not being afraid of them. The movie parades an endless, imaginative array of monsters and allows viewers to make their own connections.
Hocus Pocus (Ages 10+)
Three hundred years ago in Salem, Mass., three witches murdered a little girl and cursed her older brother, Thackery, turning him into an immortal cat. The witches, better known as the Sanderson Sisters, are hanged for the crime, but just before their sentence is carried out, Winnie Sanderson (Bette Midler), casts a spell to bring them back to life on a future Halloween night. This perennial Halloween favorite is full of silly moments and has lasting Halloween appeal for kids (and adults). Plus, now there’s a Hocus Pocus 2!
Monster House (Ages 10+)
You know that scary old house down the street? Turns out, it’s a real live monster! This animated family horror movie—yup, that’s what it is—centers around three kids who discover that a neighbor’s house is actually a living, breathing monster. Parents need to know this is a pretty scary movie, and the last 20 minutes, in particular, take a turn for the dark. With windows like eyes and a flying carpet that unfurls tongue-like out the front door to scoop up trespassers, the house is a wonderfully alive structure.
Young Frankenstein (Ages 12+)
After denouncing his grandfather’s work as “doo doo,” Young Frankenstein, also known as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, receives word that he’s inherited his famous ancestor’s Transylvanian castle. There, with the help of his lab assistant Inga and pop-eyed hunchback Igor, he discovers a secret library containing his grandfather Victor’s notes on how to bring the dead to life. The 1974 Mel Brooks movie parodies the timeless monster story. Like all of Mel Brooks’ movies, there is plenty of sexual innuendo here—references to “a roll in the hay,” “knockers,” and the use of a German word that clearly means “penis.” The gags might be lame, and the script is almost infantile, but if you thought this film was funny in 1974, you’re just as likely to get a kick out of it today.
Do you have any Halloween flicks loved by the whole family? Share them with us in the comments below!
And for more ways to get in the spirit, check out these 100+ Halloween Baby Names and 25 Unexpected DIY Costumes for Kids.
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In Fantasia there is a pretty creepy bit in the graveyard- spooky but awesome if anyone remembers it! Fantasia is a cool movie anyway.
I recommend Paranorman and Coraline, which I think are entertaining for adults too!
Room on the Broom! Available on Netflix, and is incredibly similar, plus charming embellishments, to the book by the same title. Our daughter (3 years) laughs so hard and snuggles in for the scary part with the dragon, in an it’s-fun-to-be-scared way. :)