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The spookiest season of the year is almost upon us. The nights are getting colder and darker, coffee shops are beginning to make pumpkin spice lattes once again, and fright fans the world over are wondering how to put the finishing touches on their creepy ghost costumes. We are talking, of course, about Halloween, and it’s not all about what you’re wearing or what you’re drinking. You also need to make sure you’re making the right movie choices this season.
When it comes to Halloween movies, you really can’t go wrong with Halloweentown. This beloved 1980s Disney classic stars Kimberly Brown, Debbie Reynolds, and Judith Hoag, who must navigate the difficulties of 80s family life while also (spoiler alert!) dealing with being witches. Halloweentown is a great movie, but there’s a good chance you’ve watched it enough times for it to get a little stale by now, especially if you’re a huge Halloween fan. With that in mind, here are some of the best movies like Halloweentown to get you into the spooky spirit this autumn.
Spy Kids (2001, dir. Robert Rodriguez)
The original Spy Kids isn’t a Disney Channel Original Movie like Halloweentown, but it definitely has a similar tone. It stars Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara as siblings Carmen and Juni Cortez, who must follow in their parents’ footsteps and become the Spy Kids of the title. This might not be one of the most obvious movies like Halloweentown on our list, but if you like the Disney film, you may well love this as well. There’s a darkness to it that elevates it beyond the usual kiddie fare, so give it a shot if you’re a big Halloweentown devotee!
Goosebumps (2015, dir. Rob Letterman)
Against all odds, director Rob Letterman found a way to film R.L. Stine’s spooktacular children’s book series. Jack Black finds the perfect energy to play the author of the eponymous books, who is here reimagined as a custodian of monsters he accidentally created in response to being bullied. Just like Halloweentown, Goosebumps is the perfect mixture of genuinely spooky and hilarious; it’s perfect for kids of all ages, although it might be just a little too creepy for younger tots. This makes a perfect double bill with the Disney Channel movie.
Beetlejuice (1988, dir. Tim Burton)
Beetlejuice wasn’t Tim Burton’s first feature film – that honour goes to 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. However, it’s pretty much inarguable that Beetlejuice cemented what we now know to be Burton’s inimitable visual style. Make no mistake: Beetlejuice is not a movie for kids. Don’t bring your little ones in to watch this; it’s got lots of cursing and adult themes, so it’s really only for adult devotees of Halloweentown. Putting this on our list of movies like Halloweentown might seem incongruous, but give it a watch and you’ll spot the same irreverent mix of comedy and horror.
Hocus Pocus (1993, dir. Kenny Ortega)
The high-energy camp of Halloweentown is a perfect fit for Kenny Ortega’s early-90s exploration of the Halloween season. Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker stars alongside Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy as a trio of witches who are accidentally resurrected by Omri Katz’s Thackery Binx. There’s some genuine darkness to be found amid the hijinx, but this is a classic family-friendly romp through and through. If you love the sillier sequences in Halloweentown, then you’ll adore Hocus Pocus. It’ll probably become a Halloween staple in the same way Halloweentown is.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, dir. Tim Burton)
Another entry for Tim Burton on this list, and another movie released in the apparently spooktastic year of 1993. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stop-motion joy all about Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween, and his discovery of Christmas. To our ears, Christmas still features the greatest Disney villain song (sorry, Scar) in Oogie Boogie’s straightforwardly-titled “The Oogie Boogie Song”, and it’s got some of the all-time Disney songbook classics in “This Is Halloween” and “What’s This?”. This is another one of the movies like Halloweentown that isn’t much like it at all but still bears plenty of the same hallmarks.
Matilda (1996, dir. Danny DeVito)
Amid news that Matilda is getting a remake, now is the perfect time to revisit DeVito’s classic Roald Dahl adaptation. This isn’t technically a Halloween movie, but try watching any sequence involving the terrifying Miss Trunchbull and tell us that you’re not cowering behind your sofa. Matilda is a fundamentally good-hearted movie all about a little girl with psychic powers and the fuming injustices of the school system in which she’s forced to participate. It deviates from the book in a few ways, but that doesn’t make it any less magical or delightful, so check this out if you want one of the movies like Halloweentown with a decidedly positive spin.
Halloweentown High (dir. Mark A.Z. Dippé, 2004)
The last of the Halloweentown sequels to star original cast member Kimberly J. Brown, Halloweentown High transposes the spooky antics of the 1988 original to Marnie’s high school. Exactly the kind of hijinx ensue that you would expect, making this a very safe and comforting choice. You’re not going to come away from Halloweentown High thinking it’s high art or masterful cinema, but it has plenty of chuckles and a big, warm heart, which is more than enough to keep you ensconced in its atmosphere this Halloween season.