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With Halloween fast approaching, you’re probably wondering how best to get into the spirit of the holiday. Some people like to dress up, while others prefer to get comfortable watching their favourite spooky movie or reading some ghoulish literature. Traditionally, kids have always gone out trick-or-treating on Halloween, but some parents may not want their kids to do this – or, indeed, some kids may not want to do it themselves either. When that’s the case, you’ll want a high-quality Halloween movie you can sit and watch with your kids. Here are the best Halloween movies for kids out there right now.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
If we’re talking Halloween movies for kids, we just can’t leave Tim Burton’s Disney magnum opus off the list. The Nightmare Before Christmas boasts stop-motion animation that has aged like fine wine, as well as a universal story about finding where you fit in and breaking out of the boxes society assigns you. It’s also got one of the all-time great Disney villain songs in “Oogie Boogie’s Song”, as well as classics like “What’s This?” and “This Is Halloween”.
Be warned: Ghostbusters probably isn’t for younger kids. The BBFC categorises the film at 12A, citing “moderate sex references”. If you think your slightly younger kids can handle that, then there’s a riotous horror-comedy with some genuinely unsettling moments and brilliant one-liners in here. Bill Murray is characteristically withering as Peter Venkman, and Ray Parker Jr.’s iconic theme has yet to be topped by another bespoke cinematic song.
Reasons to watch Labyrinth part one: David Bowie’s in it. Reasons to watch Labyrinth part two: Jim Henson’s puppetry remains peerless, and his imagination is staggering. Reasons to watch Labyrinth part three: it’s just an excellent film. Some of the effects on display here haven’t aged particularly well, but it’s a visual feast with plenty of inventive set-pieces. Labyrinth is classified by the BBFC as a U-certificate movie, so the whole family can gather round and enjoy this spooky classic.
Continuing the Tim Burton theme established by The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice is – quite staggeringly – rated 12A by the BBFC, so you and your kids can enjoy it together. Some of the spikier language in this movie might not be for sensitive ears, but Burton’s boundless inventiveness and Michael Keaton’s perfect portrayal of the titular poltergeist make Beetlejuice a thrill. Again, some of the effects are a bit wonky, but somehow that just adds to Beetlejuice’s charm.
Little Shop of Horrors
“Feed me, Seymour!” This line comes from just one of many iconic moments in Little Shop of Horrors. The 1986 movie switches up the Roger Corman original by injecting songs from the musical, and it works wonders on the campy, self-knowing storyline. The BBFC rates this one a PG for “mild language, violence, and fantasy horror”, so you should decide whether or not your little ones can cope with this before moving forward. We’d recommend it, though; Little Shop of Horrors is great fun.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Alright, so technically, Harry Potter isn’t really a good inclusion for a list of the best Halloween movies for kids. Still, if we were to point to one entry in the series that works best as a scary movie, it would be the third. The Dementors are a touch of genius that still sends a chill down our spine when we think about them, and director Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful touch turns the best book in the series into the best movie as well. Just be sure to temper your expectations for previous and subsequent instalments.
This love letter to old-school chillers is another stop-motion affair in a similar vein to The Nightmare Before Christmas. It comes across as the Tim Burton movie Tim Burton never made; there are plenty of homages to classic horror properties, and the visual style is reminiscent of Burton’s best work. However, the story reminds us of R.L. Stine’s chilling Goosebumps series, and there’s more than a touch of Tim Schafer’s excellent Psychonauts games on display here as well.
Finally, a definitive adaptation of Goosebumps! This 2015 chiller smartly takes a metafictional approach to its subject matter, casting the indefatigable Jack Black as author R.L. Stine and inserting him into the story. Stine was bullied as a kid, creating the creatures of the Goosebumps series to get back at his tormentors. Unfortunately, said creations came to life, and now it’s up to Stine and the child cast of the movie to take down the monsters and send them back where they came from.
No list of scary kids’ movies would be complete without the Disney Channel movie Halloweentown. Marnie Piper is part of a family of witches, but her mother is determined that the family should lead a normal life free of magic. Of course, things don’t go according to plan, in part because of Marnie’s gleefully witchy aunt Aggie, who insists on training her in the ways of witchery. There are plenty of child-friendly scares on offer in this movie, but make sure you don’t go anywhere near the sequels; they’re scary in a totally different way.
Finally, we have a movie that was a hit with audiences, if not so much with critics. Directed by Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky, Hotel Transylvania finds Adam Sandler at his least obnoxious. Sandler voices Count Dracula, here reimagined as a hotel impresario who must prevent his daughter from falling in love with a human boy. It’s good-natured fun, and time may well bear this one out as a classic unfairly maligned during its time in the cinema.