Halloween is right around the corner. And while I’m a fan of scary movies, I know that some fans of Halloween aren’t actually all that fond of being scared. Plus, many of my peers now have children of their own, making Halloween more of a family affair. So, whether you have a family of your own or you’re just not fond of really scary movies, I’ve compiled a list of fairly family friendly films for a fun Halloween.
I’m trying to stick to PG movies, but there are a few PG-13, and regardless of rating, it’s up to you to decide whether or not something is appropriate for you and yours. Also, I’m not including It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, because it’s a TV special… but you should probably watch it anyway.
Now, I want to get these two films out of the way first because they were both already on my list of Top 31 Horror Comedies.
25. Ghostbusters (1984)
It’s a classic that I loved as a kid and still love today, and because it’s never too early to instill a love for Bill Murray.
24. Beetlejuice (1988)
Because, believe it or not, it’s a PG movie… though, so is Jaws… Don’t worry, Jaws isn’t on this list. (Just because I saw it when I was 5 doesn’t mean I think your kids should do the same.) Seriously though, if you’ve got kids and you’re worried about their virgin ears, Beetlejuice says “fuck.”
23. Return to Oz (1985)
I was never frightened by the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz, but the wheelers, the nome king, and Mombi with her collection of heads were all pretty creepy to me.
22. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Witches, flying monkeys, little people, plus a singing and dancing menagerie made up of a scarecrow, a tin man, and a lion… it’s a classic that seems pretty fit for Halloween.
21. Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971)
An apprentice witch wants to use her powers to contribute to the English war effort against the Nazis… plus a trip to the cartoon Island of Naboombu and a Harryhausen-esque army of armor brought to life by substitutiary locomotion.
20. Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
Yup… it’s Ernest… Ernest P. Worrell. If you also grew up watching Hey Vern, It’s Ernest; Ernest Goes to Camp; Ernest Goes to Jail; and Ernest Saves Christmas… then you know what I mean.
19. Casper (1995)
It’s fun. It’s silly. Bill Pullman’s great. Christina Ricci is Christina Ricci. But the baddies are the best, Cathy Moriarty and Eric Idle are hilarious. Plus: cameos by Father Guido Sarducci and Ghostbuster Ray Stantz.
18. Hocus Pocus (1993)
A muck! A muck! A muck! Even as a kid I knew that Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are why this movie is so enjoyable. Plus: there’s the funny, but mildly disturbing, scene where Garry Marshall and Penny Marshall play husband and wife.
17. Corpse Bride (2005)
Not as good as The Nightmare Before Christmas, but it’s Tim Burton, it’s dark, it’s funny… and it’s a helluva lot better than Alice in Wonderland and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.
16. The Witches (1990)
Your kids might not care that this is a Jim Henson produced adaptation of a Roald Dahl story directed by Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now, Bad Timing, The Man Who Fell to Earth) starring Anjelica Huston… but you should.
15. Labyrinth (1986)
Five words: David Bowie – Goblin King – codpiece.
Dance magic dance!
14. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
A movie Bryan and I agree on, Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite Potter picture, not only because it’s directed by Alfonso Cuaron, featuring Gary Oldman and David Thewlis, but it’s also got a werewolf and Dementors.
13. Coraline (2009)
It’s a wonderfully Burton-esque adaptation of a Neil Gaiman story, directed by Henry Selick, who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas. And it’s just creepy enough, even for me. Buttons sewn over your eyes… yikes!
12. The Monster Squad (1987)
The movie that answers the age-old question: Yes, the Wolfman has, indeed, got nards. The Monster Squad is PG-13, so it might not be for the younger ones. It isn’t that scary, but it was co-written by Shane Black, so it features some colorful language.
11. The Addams Family (1991) / Addams Family Values (1993)
On top of being creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky, and altogether ooky, it’s Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, and Christopher Lloyd at their hilarious best. The first film also features the subtle comedic genius of Dan Hedaya.
Then there’s Addams Family Values, which–in addition to firmly cementing my boyhood crush on Christina Ricci–is also hilarious: Joan Cusack as Deb aka The Black Widow, plus Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski as the head counselors at Camp Chippewa (it means orphan). Both films are PG-13.
10. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
This is a contender for the scariest movie on this list. Ray Bradbury’s story of an evil circus preying on the citizens of a small town is pretty dark. It’s PG, but it might get a little too creepy for the younger kids. Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce are both great, as always.
If your kids don’t like Wallace & Gromit, then I’m sorry for you and you should probably disown them. If you don’t like Wallace & Gromit, I’m sorry for your kids and you probably have no soul.
8. Little Monsters (1989)
I’m a big fan of The Wonder Years, Fred Savage in particular. So, I was more than happy to watch him explore the world of monsters under his bed. My only question now: how did OCD clean-freak Howie Mandel deal with all the makeup and gross-out moments?
7. Spirited Away (2001)
Might not be the first movie you think of for Halloween, but I think it’s apropos. It takes place in the spirit world, with ghosts and goblins and witches. For me, it was a great introduction to Miyazaki.
I’m not alone in equating pirates with Halloween, am I? Sure it’s ridiculously long, but the first time round everything was so fresh and fun. Johnny Depp takes on zombie pirates. That’s a good time at the movies. And speaking of pirates…
5. The Goonies (1985)
Like Ghostbusters, I think most children of the 80s have an affinity for this movie. It’s got pirates. It’s creepy. It’s fun. And Goonies never say die.
4. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
So good. I love Billy Crystal and John Goodman. I’ll leave it at that; Bryan already did a great job summing up why Monsters, Inc. is great.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Is it a Christmas movie or is it a Halloween movie? Lets just say it’s both. It’s just a great movie in general, never mind the time of year.
2. Gremlins (1984)
Here we have another movie that works for both Christmas and Halloween. Gremlins is also a contender for scariest movie on this list. Director Joe Dante packs in a couple good scares (as a child I was always terrified of the song “The Little Drummer Boy” because of this movie), but it’s all in good fun.
1. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Again, perhaps not the first film that comes to mind for Halloween, but it works for me. It’s mysterious and a little spooky at first. And Halloween does play a major role in the plot.
Well, that’s it. There’s a whole slew of Disney movies I didn’t include for one reason or another, but any Disney movie with a witch seems like it would be fitting for Halloween viewing. (Maleficent anyone?) And for some reason, Fantasia seems like a good movie to just have playing in the background of a kids Halloween party, if only for the Night on Bald Mountain section.
What did I miss? What are some of your favorites?