20 Cute, Creepy, Campy, and Scare-You-Stiff Halloween Movies for the Whole Family
I've always loved scary movies, and while my parents tried their best to herd me toward more age-appropriate television, I did my best to seek the opposite. If I was terrified, I was hooked.
Psychologists say that some people are wired to respond to the adrenaline rush that comes with scary movies. These are the same people who tend to like roller coasters (which I do).
I've compiled a list of 20 of my favorite flicks for Halloween, and have grouped them for different audiences and age groups. Watch the scariest at your own risk. (See also: 6 Classic Horror Movies You Can Watch for Free)
You won't find much to scare or frighten anybody in these "scary" favorites, but they're still fun and perfect for Halloween.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
This prime-time animated television special is safe for all audiences and includes the whole Peanuts gang in a Halloween party and a round of trick-or-treating. There's also a bit of a mystery here surrounding the appearance of the Great Pumpkin, a character a bit like a pumpkin Santa Claus.
Halloween Is Grinch Night (1977)
This lesser-known Halloween-themed prequel to "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" has just enough spookiness to keep kids entertained and still ensure sweet dreams. When the "sour-sweet" wind of fall starts blowing, the Whos of Whoville retreat to their homes to avoid the Grinch. Until one little Who is forced to stand up to his fears — and the Grinch himself.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)
This is a classic cartoon tale in true Disney style. There's romance, rivalry, and a musical retelling of the legend of the Headless Horseman. Plus, because it's a TV movie, it's only 34 minutes long; perfect for the younger kids who need to make their bed time. (Prime members watch FREE on Amazon Instant!)
Labyrinth (1986) (Rated: PG)
In this classic 1980s fantasy, a teenaged girl wishes that goblins would take away her annoying baby brother. And so, the King of the Goblins appears and whisks the boy away to a Labyrinth filled with fantastical Jim Henson puppets, amazing music, magic galore, and David Bowie. This is one of those movies that is just as cool when you're an adult as when you were kid.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2006) (Rated:G)
A stop-motion pooch and his master end up in a crazy adventure that involves a pest-control business ("Anti-Pesto"), a vegetable-growing competition, and the accidental creation of "were-rabbits." They're like werewolves, only cute, cuddly, and not at all bloodthirsty, which makes this a good pick for all ages.
These movies includes the supernatural or other scary things, but they're mostly for fun. Keep an eye on the rating to ensure they're a good fit for your family. (See also: 15 Theme Ideas for a Memorable Halloween Party)
Coraline (2009) (Rated: PG)
In this cool 3D animation, an unhappy little girl named Coraline discovers a secret passageway to a parallel world, where everything — her self-absorbed parents, her house, and her neighbors — all seem way better ... or are they? This one might be a bit creepy for sensitive kids, but keep in mind that it's based on a book by British author Neil Gaiman, who wrote it for his own young daughters.
Gremlins (1984) (Rated: PG)
"Gremlins" doesn't revolve around Halloween, but its tiny Furby-like characters (the "Mogwai") are the mischievous, slightly evil, trouble-causing sort that Halloween stories are made of. Plus, the mayhem and destruction these little devils cause is mostly for laughs, which makes it a good pick for those who are scared stiff by true horror movies.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (2006) (Rated: PG)
It's hard to say whether this movie is a Halloween movie with Christmas flavor or the other way around, but it is cute, creepy, and tons of musical fun. In it, Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town and becomes so enchanted with it that he aims to become Santa Claus. Unfortunately, he can't quite get it right. This one's rated PG, but it's pretty safe for all ages. Good luck getting some of its catchy tunes out of your head, though.
Hocus Pocus (1993) (Rated: PG)
Bette Midler's big personality has always scared me a bit (in a good way), and she's great in this movie about three sister witches who are resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night. But while the sisters are there for a good time, part of that involves stealing children's souls. Of course, it's up to the kids in the neighborhood to save the day. This movie is funny, weird, and includes some great musical interludes.
The Addams Family (1991) (Rated: PG-13)
This family might be creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky, but they're also quite a loving — and loveable — bunch in their own, eccentric way. This movie provides plenty of humor, and lots of macabre touches that are perfect for Halloween. (Prime members watch FREE on Amazon Instant!)
Beetlejuice (1988) (Rated:PG-13)
Adam and Barbara are a very average suburban couple — except that they are dead. They're also stuck haunting their former home, which comes to be owned by a very eccentric family whose over-the-top decorating ideas threaten to ruin it. The ghosts decide to scare off the new inhabitants, but fail miserably and end up summoning Beetlejuice, "the aferlife's leading bio-exorcist." Of course, this scum-covered, bug-eating ghoul proves to be more of a rascal than a relief. (Prime members watch on Amazon Instant!)
These movies are pretty scary, but they're also so cheesy it's hard to really lose sleep over them ... at least for me. Even so, they are best left until the younger ones in the family have gone to bed.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) (Rated: Unrated)
In this zombie classic, the dead rise up from the grave, forcing several people together to take shelter in an old farmhouse. At the time of its release, "Night of the Living Dead" had unprecedented levels of gore and violence. As a result, it caused some outrage. Even so, it's pretty tame by today's standards and should provide a thrill for both brave teens and adults. (Prime members watch FREE on Amazon Instant!)
The Amityville Horror (1979) (Rated: R)
In this creepy classic, a haunted house and a clueless couple come together to create what might be the most horror movie clichés to have every been assembled in one movie. There are voices, mechanical difficulties, flying objects, vomiting priests, and toilets that spew black goo. It's all a bit stupid, but it provides plenty of classic freakouts without getting too dark.
Psycho (1960) (Rated: Not Rated)
In this Alfred Hitchcock thriller, a young woman on the run ends up at the creepy Bates Motel. It's run by a quiet, polite young man, but it doesn't take long to discover that he isn't quite right — and the young woman is anything but safe. Of course, we all know it doesn't end well for her, but what's cool about it is that this movie manages to be creepy without gore or explicit violence.
Arachnophobia (1990) (Rated: PG-13)
In this thriller, a South American spider makes its way to America in a coffin and begins to multiply — and kill. This movie's all creepy camp, but if the thought of millions of spiders makes your skin crawl, it might still keep you up at night.
Tuck the kids into bed. These movies are for adults only — and ones who like a good scare. (See also: How to Do Things That Scare You)
Halloween (1978) (Rated: R)
In this slasher movie, a deranged psycho killer stalks and kills his victims on Halloween night. But it isn't a gruesome movie. In fact, there's surprisingly little violence and almost no blood. What makes it scary is the suspense — and the music! Don't watch this one alone at night.
Poltergeist (1982) (Rated: PG)
This is one of the all-time great haunted house movies (and one of my favorites). It touches on all the things that tend to scare people, like scary shadows, monsters in the dark, and thunderstorms. And, while some people scoff at the old special effects, I think the scariest scenes are the ones that don't use them. (Prime members watch FREE on Amazon Instant!)
The Shining (1980) (Rated: R)
This movie about a family's trek to an isolated hotel for the winter — and the spiritual presence that lives there — includes some of the most bizarre, creepy scenes of any scary movie. It's psychological, paranormal and deliciously frightening.
Carrie (1976) (Rated: R)
This movie stars Sissy Spacek as a bullied, lonely teen with an abusive mother who finds she has kinetic powers. She struggles to understand her powers — and to fit in — until her attackers finally send her over the edge, pushing her telekinetic powers to frightening and deadly extremes. I suspect many teens will be able to identify with this character, but beware of the fear factor: It took me years to be able to hang my feet over the bed in the dark after having seen this. (Prime members watch FREE on Amazon Instant!)
What are your favorite Halloween flicks? Leave them in the comments — and have a safe, happy, and scary Halloween!