10 Halloween Movies with just the right amount of scares

Watching scary movies is a fun family activity. But some gruesome images, horrifying creatures and dark themes can be too overwhelming and terrifying for children. As a parent, you’d like your kids to enjoy themselves. But how do you pick which movies to watch on Halloween that will thrill and not cause nightmares?

Halloween Movies for kids
Shannon Colleary, mother of two girls and a blogger, who writes about parenting and body image, shares her approach to choosing movies that cause tingles but don’t disturb her kids.

“I always research the movie,” she says. This way she can know in advance what visuals and themes might bother her girls. If she hasn’t seen the movie already, she seeks out opinions and recommendations from family and friends. She also suggests checking out movie websites that rate how suitable movies are for children. Social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter, can be helpful as well. “If you aren’t getting the information you need, put out a query online. Parents will respond back,” she adds.

Once Shannon’s prepared, she talks the movie over with her children. She explains what it’s about and discusses some of the things they’ll see in it. “I let them make the decision themselves if they want to watch it or not.” She believes getting kids involved in the selection gives them a sense of control, and consequently, helps them feel more secure. “If my kids are watching a movie they can’t handle, they know they can stop. And sometimes they do!”

With Shannon’s parenting suggestions in mind, here are 10 kid-friendly Halloween-themed movies for the whole family to enjoy:

1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

If this classic is not on your movie list, then it should be! Linus waits in the pumpkin patch with determination and endless hope for the Great Pumpkin to appear. For ages: 4 and Up**

2. Harry Potter (2001 – 2011)

Halloween wouldn’t be the same without delving into the magical adventures of this famous boy wizard. Bursting with ghastly creatures, giant spiders, trolls, giants and more, this 8- movie saga is one the adults will eat up, too. Be careful though. While the very first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, is suitable for children 8 and up, the remaining sequels increase in scariness. The themes also become more sophisticated and dark, so watch later movies with older children.

For ages:

First movie: 8 and up

Sequels 2 - 3: 10 and up

Sequels 4 – 8: 12 and up

3. Ghostbusters (1984)

Who you gonna call?! Follow the bumbling antics of the Ghostbusters as they take on the paranormal. Be aware of some adult humor and sexual innuendo. For ages: 10 and up

5. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

This stop-motion animated movie does double-duty for Halloween and Christmas. It’s loaded with skeletons, grisly characters that dismember themselves and wicked toys, which could be too frightening for little kids. For ages: 7 and up


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4. Monster House (2006)

A computer-animated movie about kids who battle a haunted house that’s simply monstrous. While super fun and scary to watch, the climax is intense and dark. For ages: 9 and up

5. Casper (1995)

Based on the classic TV cartoon, this movie is about a young girl who befriends a very friendly ghost. The mansion’s a bit spooky, but the chills are minimal. For ages: 6 and up

6. ParaNorman (2012)

It’s a whimsical, stop-motion animated movie about a boy who sees dead people. The cast of ghosts, zombies and witches could scare little children right out of the room. For ages: 9 and up

7. Beetlejuice (1988)

While this may be a comedy about a dead couple terrorized by an obnoxious ghost, there are some mature themes—death and teen suicide—which might disturb some children. For ages: 9 and up

8. Hocus Pocus (1993)

It wouldn’t be Halloween movie night without witches. This comedy is about a kooky family of witch sisters who get involved with two grumpy teenagers. For ages: 11 and up

9. Frankenweenie (2012)

Director Tim Burton just has a thing for the macabre. This stop-motion animated horror film is his interpretation of the classic Frankenstein story, involving a boy who resurrects his dead dog. Pet death theme might be too intense for sensitive kids. For ages: 9 and up

10. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

Get on board with this Disney musical about two children who stumble upon witches and magical flying furniture. There’s a World War II and Nazi element; both are treated lightly. For ages 7 and up

**The age recommendations for these movies are from commonsensemedia.org. —a non-profit resource that proves parents with guides about media and technology.

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