Many parents, doting aunts and uncles, and assorted elder(ly) people like to share the spirit of the season with their younger friends, introducing them to the time honored tradition of crashing out for several hours on the couch with a great scary movie on the TV and big bowl of communal popcorn. Of course, many of the best scary movies are not appropriate for young eyes. In the spirit of the season, I present this list of family friendly, or at least family appropriate Halloween-themed movies.
A lot of the movies on this list fall into the “more funny than scary” category, but I’ve noted the ones that might genuinely frighten very young children.
13 Ghosts (1960)
“Reclusive Dr. Zorba has died and left his eerie mansion to his penniless nephew, Cyrus Zorba, and his family. Along with the house, the Zorba family has also inherited the occultist’s collection of 12 ghosts, who can only be seen through Zorba’s special goggles. The family members, their lives at risk upon the discovery that Dr. Zorba’s fortune lies hidden somewhere in the house, receive aid from unexpected quarters as the threat to their lives is revealed.” (IMDB)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
“The world of freight handlers Wilbur Grey and Chick Young is turned upside down when the remains of Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula arrive from Europe to be used in a house of horrors. Dracula awakens and escapes with the weakened monster, who he plans to re-energize with a new brain. Larry Talbot (the Wolfman) arrives from London in an attempt to thwart Dracula. Dracula’s reluctant aide is the beautiful Dr. Sandra Mornay. Her reluctance is dispatched by Dracula’s bite. Dracula and Sandra abduct Wilbur for his brain and recharge the monster in preparation for the operation. Chick and Talbot attempt to find and free Wilbur, but when the full moon rises, all hell breaks loose with the Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein all running rampant.” (IMDB)
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
“During WWII in England, Charlie, Carrie, and Paul Rawlins are sent to live with Eglantine Price, an apprentice witch. Charlie blackmails Miss Price that if he is to keep her practices a secret, she must give him something, so she takes a bedknob from her late father’s bed and places the ‘famous magic traveling spell’ on it, and only Paul can activate it. Their first journey is to a street in London where they meet Emelius Browne, headmaster of Miss Price’s witchcraft training correspondence school. Miss Price tells him of a plan to find the magic words for a spell known as Substitutiary Locomotion, which brings inanimate objects to life. This spell will be her work for the war effort.” (IMDB)
“When Coraline moves to an old house, she feels bored and neglected by her parents. She finds a hidden door with a bricked up passage. During the night, she crosses the passage and finds a parallel world where everybody has buttons instead of eyes, with caring parents and all her dreams coming true. When the Other Mother invites Coraline to stay in her world forever, the girl refuses and finds that the alternate reality where she is trapped is only a trick to lure her.” (IMDB) May be intense for younger viewers.
The Dark Crystal (1982)
“Another planet, another time. 1000 years ago the mysterious Dark Crystal was damaged by one of the Urskeks and an age of chaos began! The evil race of grotesque birdlike Skeksis lizards, gnomish dragons, rule their fantastic planet with an iron claw. Meanwhile, the orphan Jen, raised in solitude by a race of the peace-loving wizards called the Mystics, embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal which gives the Skeksis their power and restore the balance of the universe.” (IMDB) May be intense for younger viewers.
“Minature green monsters tear through the small town of Kingston Falls. Hijinks ensue as a mild-mannered bank teller releases these hideous loonies after gaining a new pet and violating two of three simple rules: No water (violated), no food after midnight (violated), and no bright light. Hilarious mayhem and destruction in a town straight out of Norman Rockwell. So, when your washing machine blows up or your TV goes on the fritz, before you call the repair man, turn on all the lights and look under all the beds. ‘Cause you never can tell, there just might be a gremlin in your house.” (IMDB) May be intense for younger viewers.
The Monster Squad (1987)
“12-year-old Sean Crenshaw and his best friend Patrick are die hard monster fanatics. Along with their friend Horace (nicknamed Fat Kid), junior high tough guy Rudy, Sean’s kid sister Phoebe, and little Eugene, they come together and talk monsters. But when Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Gill Man, and The Mummy come to their small town to get an amulet to control the world, Sean leads his friends into action to protect their town from the forces of evil.” (IMDB) May be intense for younger viewers.
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
“In a small American town, a diabolical circus and its demonic proprietor prey on the townsfolk.” (IMDB) May be intense for younger viewers.
Spirited Away (2001)
“In the middle of her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters. In this world, humans are changed into animals; and there is a bathhouse for these creatures.” (IMDB)
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
“Two stories are featured in this film. The Wind in the Willows follows a concise version of Kenneth Grahame’s story of the same name. J. Thaddeus Toad, owner of Toad Hall, is prone to fads, such as the newfangled motor car. This desire for the very latest lands him in trouble with the wrong crowd, and it is up to his friends, Mole, Rat, and Badger to save him from himself.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a retelling of Washington Irving’s story set in a tiny New England town. Ichabod Crane, the new schoolmaster, falls for the town beauty, Katrina Van Tassel, and the town Bully, Brom Bones, decides that he is a little too successful and needs ‘convincing’ that Katrina is not for him.” (IMDB)
The Black Cauldron (1985)
“Centuries ago, in the land of Prydain, a young man named Taran is given the task of protecting Hen Wen, a magical oracular pig, who knows the location of the mystical black cauldron. This is not an easy task, for The Evil Horned King will stop at nothing to get the cauldron.” (IMDB)
The Watcher in the Woods(1980)
“When a normal American family moves into a beautiful old English house in a wooded area, strange, paranormal appearances befall them in this interesting twist to the well-known haunted-house tale. Their daughter, Jan, sees, and daughter Ellie hears, the voice of a young teenage girl who mysteriously disappeared during a total solar eclipse decades before.” (IMDB) May be intense for younger viewers.
The Witches (1990)
“A young boy, recently orphaned, is taken to England by his grandmother. At a hotel in which they are staying, a group of witches have gathered to prepare a plot to rid the world of all children.” (IMDB) May be intense for younger viewers.
Also worth checking out: E.T., most of Tim Burton’s oeuvre, Monster House, Hocus Pocus, The Bride of Frankenstein, Them, Frankenstein vs. the Wolfman, House of Frankenstein, Teen Wolf, Bell, Book, and Candle, The Worst Witch, Ghostbusters, Jason and the Argonauts, and Monsters, Inc.