If you’ve got little ghouls and goblins (by which, in this case, we specifically mean children), here are some flicks that are family-friendly while still getting into the spooky-fun spirit of Halloween season. (And, since no two families are exactly alike, we recommend that you preview and film you might be considering sharing with the ankle-biters, to make sure it meets the needs of your particular brood!)
1. Nightmare Before Christmas
Plagued with ennui and bored with scaring human mortals on Halloween, disillusioned Pumpkin King Jack Skellington plots to kidnap Santa and take over Christmastown. And here our story begins…
An angsty, spunky tween girl named Coraline discovers a portal in her family’s new home that leads to a bizarro world where everything and everyone in her life is warmer, kinder, more comforting, more delicious, and just…better. But when her new “Other” family tries to keep her in this new “Other” world against her will, things get very nightmarish, very quickly. It’s a story about learning to love the people and things that you have, flaws and cracks and all.
Poor Norman can see dead people, and it makes it difficult for him to get along super well with the living. But when a centuries-old witch’s curse on their town finally comes to fruition, and zombies begin to rise from their graves, Norman must summon all his paranormal potential and all of his courage to save his town.
4. Hocus Pocus
Max isn’t thrilled about his family’s move to Salem, although when he meets a pretty girl named Allison he starts to mellow out about it. Before anything good can happen, though, Max goes ahead and ignores Allison when she tries to warn him about a piece of local Halloween folklore. Because he doesn’t listen, Max frees a coven of three evil witches who are heck-bent on becoming immortal. Can Max, Allison, and Max’s tag-along little sister Dani get ahold of the witches’ spellbook and stop them from achieving immortality? Let the good times roll!
Little Viktor Frankenstein is a science nerd and general social pariah. His best friend is his dog, Sparky. Then, poor Sparky departs this world for that big, bunny-chasing farmyard in the sky, leaving Viktor inconsolable—until his science teacher plants the seed in Viktor’s brain that he can bring Sparky back. It goes well until the jerk kids at school who don’t know science (and also aren’t very nice people) appropriate Viktor’s technology to resuscitate other dead animals. Then, things get real monster-y, real fast.
6. Monster House
This one has caught some flak for being too scary for little littles, but if your kids are a little bit older—tweens, say—this is good family fun. A trio of friends teams up just before Halloween to save trick-or-treaters by (hopefully) destroying the spooky, decrepit, abandoned house that’s alive and malevolent and quite literally destroying the neighborhood.
This live-action version of the Friendly Ghost story is a piece of vintage ’90s cinema starring Christina Ricci as tween human girl Kat, Bill Pullman as her ghost-hunting Dad, and Devon Sawa as the lonely, adolescent, titular ghost with whom Kat forms a friendship.
8. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Linus waits in a pumpkin patch, determined to glimpse this mysterious, animated vegetable whose mythological presence defines the season. This modern classic is returning to public TV this year after a hiatus, so make some popcorn, get some blankets, and enjoy!
9. Corpse Bride
Adapted from a Russian-Jewish folk tale, this story centers around a betrothed couple who like each other but are also a bit nervous as the date of their arranged marriage approaches. The groom, while practicing his lines for the wedding alone in a forest, accidentally “marries” The Corpse Bride, a woman who was murdered soon after her elopement. Pulled into her underworld, the groom must find a way out before his earth-dwelling fiancée is given into another arranged marriage, this time with a villainous man.
10. The Addams Family (2019)
A very sugar-topped take on the classic, darkly hilarious source material, this animated feature tells the story of a sketchy TV personality trying to use her fame and wealth to force the Addams Family out of their home, so that the neighborhood will be cookie-cutter beautiful in all its tamped-down normalcy. A story about letting your freak flag fly, with much of the bittersweet edge and camp of the earlier films dissipated—but making it much more family-friendly by today’s standards.
11. Return to Oz
An oldie but a goodie, starring a tiny version of Fairuza Balk. Dorothy Gale is returned to the land of Oz, and realizes that everything is in ruins. An evil empire has taken over her beloved Emerald City, and Dorothy and her Oz-based friends must try to return this parallel universe to its former glory.
12. Hotel Transylvania
A human stumbles upon Count Dracula’s five-star, monsters-only hotel castle, and immediately falls head-over-heels for Dracula’s teenage daughter. Dracula—whose beloved wife was killed by a mob of humans—is deeply unimpressed with the situation, and all manner of hijinks ensue as love conquers all.
13. Spookley the Square Pumpkin
Three spiders named Edgar, Allen, and Poe befriend this pumpkin with body-image issues. They bolster his confidence with their support, and reassure him that even though he doesn’t meet traditional pumpkin beauty standards, he still has every right to be Pick of the Patch this Halloween season. A story about inner beauty, supportive friendships, and self-love, as much as it is about Halloween.
14. Mickey’s Monster Musical
A two-part episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, this is an age-appropriate Disney Jr. take on Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s absolutely adorable!