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Fall is here, my dudes. You know what that means - Halloween.
While I am older and my tastes in scary movies have evolved with age - anyone else eagerly excited for Halloween Kills? - something I still love to do around Halloween time is watch Halloween movies that everyone are good for all ages. I’m talking about the kid-friendly films that both children and their parents can find joy in, from Hocus Pocus to ParaNorman.
There are plenty of family-friendly Halloween movies out there, but these are some of my favorites, and ones you should definitely check out if you’re looking for something to watch with the kids.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Oh look, another glorious morning. Makes me sick.
Hocus Pocus follows a trio of comedic witches, who are inadvertently resurrected by a teenager in Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween night. Now, the witches want to take the souls of all the children in the town to gain as much power as possible, so now it’s up to the teenagers and their friends to try and stop them.
When it comes to movies that people re-watch all the time around this time of year, Hocus Pocus is definitely the one I hear about the most. I don’t know whether it’s the brilliant comedic timing of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, or the amount of quotable moments, or even the heartwarming story, Hocus Pocus has found its way into the hearts of many people. Plus, there’s a talking cat - how can you not love it?
Hocus Pocus itself is going to be getting a sequel on Disney+, so between anticipating that and Halloween, now's a perfect time to watch or revisit the movie.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington is the King of Halloween Town and grows tired of the same old routine that they do each year on Halloween. But, when he accidentally stumbles into Christmas Town, he decides that it was Halloween Town’s turn to give Christmas a try, creating mayhem for the monsters who live in it.
While I do believe that The Nightmare Before Christmas can also be watched as a Christmas movie, I think it leans a lot more in the Halloween direction. The beginning opens on Halloween, and the characters that are featured in Halloween Town are iconic spooky characters, like witches, ghosts, clowns, Frankenstein - things you would see on Halloween. Plus, the music in The Nightmare Before Christmas is truly one of the best soundtracks out there. I could listen to Danny Elfman singing all day.
Monster House (2006)
In this animated CGI film, Monster House is about a group of young tweens who are being terrorized by a sentient haunted house during Halloween, and must find a way to stop it.
While I don’t think that Monster House is for super young kids - it is classified as a “horror” film - I think that older kids could easily enjoy it. The scares aren’t too bad, and the animation is pretty impressive for the time it came out. Plus, the cast is impressive as well, with big names like Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Catherine O’Hara and more rounding it out.
Halloweentown Series (1998 - 2006)
In the Halloweentown film series, we follow the legend of the Cromwell family, a group of witches that descends generations, mainly following the story and training of one of the newest witches to the group, Marnie Cromwell.
I’m going to say it here - Disney had the best television films when I was a kid, and Halloweentown is proof of that. The four films in the series are filled with plenty of Halloween fun, from the actual inclusion of Halloweentown, to the corny villains, to the funny spells, and even the wonderful, loving performance of Debbie Reynolds as Aggie Cromwell. For kids who are just starting to get into Halloween, I think this is the perfect film series to show them, one that will entertain you as well.
Another Disney Channel original film, Twitches, starting Tia and Tamera Mowry, follows the story of twins who were separated when they were young, only to reunite as young adults, discovering that they are twin witches taken from another world, i.e. the term, “twitches.”
While I did grow up watching the Harry Potter series and falling in love with those fantasy worlds, Twitches is a great second place spot. Not only is it a great family film about finding your real friends and loved ones despite all odds, but it’s filled with plenty of sorcery fun, and a lot of colorful and bright costumes. Also, the Darkness in this film lowkey did kinda freak me out as a kid - but in a good way. It’s like the perfect kid’s film that’s not too creepy but not too childlike.
In this stop-motion animated film, ParaNorman tells the story of a young boy who takes on ghosts, zombies, and grown-ups to try and save his Massachusetts town from a centuries-old curse.
I really like ParaNorman, and honestly because of its interesting animation style. While I’ve always been a fan of stop-motion films, ParaNorman creates the perfect setting for a spooky, family-flick, and the stop-motion style adds to that aesthetic. The ParaNorman voice cast is also stacked with big stars, like Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, John Goodman, and many more, and they all do a great job.
The Haunted Mansion (2003)
In this movie based on the theme park ride of the same name, The Haunted Mansion follows a realtor who ends up getting him and his family trapped in a haunted mansion, with the ghosts of the past looking to keep his wife all for themselves.
You know, I don’t care what anyone says - The Haunted Mansion is funny and perfect for kids. I can think of no one better to deliver the perfect one-liners that both kids and adults can get than Eddie Murphy, one of the comedic greats. And I do believe that this film is probably one of the best movies for you to watch if you want to laugh more than you want to be scared. I mean, it’s Eddie Murphy. How can you not be entertained?
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
In this classic Steven Spielberg film, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial follows Elliot, a boy who ends up befriending an extraterrestrial, named E.T. by Elliot, when he is stranded on Earth. Now, it’s up to him to try and help E.T. find his way back home.
While E.T. doesn’t take place completely on Halloween, a good chunk of the film happens on the holiday, and no one can forget those amazing flying bike scene. With that iconic score, a fun cast (including an adorable young Drew Barrymore), and the lovely nature of E.T. himself as the kind alien that we all wanted to be friends with, E.T. is a great film that not only has moments of spookiness but moments of love and family as well.
Scooby-Doo: The Movie (2002)
In this live-action remake of the cartoon of the same name, Scooby-Doo captures the gang after a year-long disbandment to investigate a mystery at a popular horror-theme tropical resort.
Scooby-Doo is another case where it doesn't take place during Halloween, but you can’t have Halloween without Scooby-Doo. What really makes this a great film for you to enjoy is that it’s a classic case of a film kids will love for the colors, the scary moments that will make them jump and then laugh, and the funny-talking dog named Scooby-Doo, but you’ll love for other reasons, like the jokes that really only adults could get years later (Shaggy’s girlfriend’s name was Mary-Jane - I mean, come on). The gang always creates the best spooky atmospheres for kids and adults to enjoy, which makes it perfect for family movie night. I've always loved Scooby-Doo films, but this one is one of my favorites.
A Babysitter’s Guide To Monster Hunting (2020)
Last but not least, the Netflix original film, A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting is all about Kelly Ferguson, a babysitter who is on a mission to find the child in her care who was kidnapped by the Boogeyman on Halloween night, discovering a society of child-protecting babysitters and an entire world of monsters.
To be honest, I wish one would have had a theatrical debut, but it was released by Netflix for streaming in 2020. Not only is the story a lot of fun, with so many monsters and so many fun, spooktacular moments that will make you smile and laugh, but it’s actually really detailed and the lore is super interesting. I hope that a sequel comes out that covers more of the story, because I’d be so down for another fun, Halloween franchise.
Honorable Mention: It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
While it’s not as long as some of the other films on this list, the TV special, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will always bring happiness into my life this time of year. Linus’ constant believe that the Great Pumpkin is real, mixed in with the spooky-ness of the scenery, and of course, the classic Charlie Brown line, “I got a rock,” will make me grin and chuckle every time I watch it.
While I could spend my time watching some of the best horror movies out there, sometimes I need a break from the jumpscares and gory nonsense and have to return to some of my favorite Halloween films that I used to watch as a kid. Hopefully now, there are some great choices for you to pick from if you’re craving that too.
Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!
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