Halloween is quickly creeping up, and some people just don’t like going out to party or trick-or-treat. Whether you’re not one for crowds or it’s just too cold, you may find beauty in staying in for this holiday. And what better activity to occupy your time than to watch spooky-themed movies? Everyone knows the classic scary movies, like “Scream” and “The Shining,” but there is no shortage of people who are genuinely afraid of the horror genre or just aren’t into the guts and gore of it all.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best Halloween or spooky movies that are mild in content. Whether you’re watching with kids or just want a hit of light childhood nostalgia, these PG and under movies are perfect for a spooky night in. With a list full of both animated and live action films, you’re sure to find a few flicks to peak your interest this Halloween.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
The first movie on this list is the time-old classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993), directed by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton, a renowned gothic filmmaker. This animated stop-motion film has long been known as a beloved favorite among Halloween and Christmas fans alike, making it perfect for that fall to winter transition. The movie is set in a fictional holiday world where Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, rules over Halloween Town.
Growing tired of his ghoulish lifestyle, he discovers Christmas Town and is amazed by the newness and contrast. Feeling inspired, he decides to put his own twist on Christmas with the help of the Halloween townsfolk, including Sally, his secret admirer. Although some viewers may be impartial due to the inclusion of a Christmas theme, Burton’s spooky art style upholds the Halloween theme well. Plus, musical lovers will be happy to hear that the movie contains several chilling songs by a diverse cast of characters that are sure to keep you hooked till the screen blackens.
Disney channel original movies are often a hit or miss with audience members. Many of these “made for tv” movies come out as poorly made or are carried out far too long. However, Disney’s “Twitches” (2005), directed by Stuart Gillard and based on a book series by the same name, is one of their most popular Halloween movies ever and continues to play every fall around spooky season. The movie follows twin sisters Camryn and Alex, who live two different lives. After meeting one another, they not only find out that they were separated at birth, but also discover that they have magical powers.
With the help of Karsh and Ileana, family friends and their protectors, they learn about their past and learn that they are destined to stop a threat to their kingdom, Coventry. Filled with both familial and magical confusion, the film not only explores the complications of being a twin, but also the magic that comes along with it. Although the sequel might be overkill, the films together are overall good old nostalgic fun in the form of mediocre films that just have to be watched again every once in a while to distract yourself from the real evils of reality: taxes and reports due on Monday.
Surely one of the creepier films on this list, “Coraline” (2009) is an animated stop-motion film based on the Neil Gaiman novella of the same name. Directed by Henry Selick as well, it features a terrifying story of a young girl with a very strange family situation. Bored with her parents and her mundane new home in Ashland, Oregon, Coraline Jones takes interest in a mysterious small door in her living room. When she traverses through it, she finds a world identical to her own, with identical people. The only difference: everyone has buttons for eyes!
The more time she spends there, the more she realizes everything is better; her parents are interesting and give her everything that she wants, her neighbors are cool and the overly talkative boy from next door can no longer speak. However, Coraline soon finds that a sinister secret may be hiding under the pretty illusions and that it may only be a matter of time before she must trade her own eyes for buttons. The movie itself isn’t set on or around Halloween but its premise and visuals are certainly scary enough to make you jump. In addition, the story is a chilling and deep one that has sparked many terrifying theories, and you may even find yourself up late at night overthinking about this dark fantasy film.
Arguably one of the most popular Disney channel original movies of all time, “Halloweentown” (1998) is a fan favorite that continues to entertain families through the years. Directed by Duwayne Dunham, the film follows Marnie Piper, a thirteen-year-old girl who discovers that her mom and grandmother are witches after she and her siblings follow their grandmother, Aggie Cromwell, to a magical realm called Halloweentown. As she explores and discovers the sights and creatures of the town, Marnie is eager to learn more about her witch heritage, much to her mother’s dismay. However, the training must wait, because there is a threat to Halloweentown and the villain has eyes on the mortal realm as well.
This is definitely a family film in that it equals the power of witches out with the power of family. However, the movie also gives the main character a satisfying coming-of-age arc that allows her to come into her own, while still maintaining a strong family connection. Popular enough to spark sequels, this film franchise is a jewel among traditional Halloween movies and is sure to catch the eyes and ears of monster and magic lovers of all ages.
“The Corpse Bride” (2005)
There’s no doubt of Tim Burton’s mastery in the genre of dark fantasy. His direction in films like “Frankenweenie” (2012) and “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), his devotion to black and white, dread and fantastical creations is apparent. In this case, Tim Burton’s “The Corpse Bride” (2005) is the perfect depiction of the zombie bride. The film’s main character, Victor Van Dort, is a nervous man preparing to marry Victoria, a girl he’s never met, to elevate his family’s status. Although he loves her upon meeting, he ruins the wedding rehearsal when he forgets his vows. Desperate to make it right, he runs to the forest to practice his vows and the ring placement, and remembers them correctly.
However, what he doesn’t realize is that in getting his vows right, he has just married a corpse bride who was buried in the ground. Now, Victor must navigate the land of the dead with his new undead wife, Emily, trying to make a decision of whether to stay or return to the land of the living. Although the film is not centered around Halloween, Burton’s usual dreary style depicts a sort of dread and deathliness in all the characters, even the living ones. Half of the film is set in the land of the dead, which is full of corpses, skeletons, spiders and maggots, all fitting of the spooky season while being introduced as fun-loving characters in death. In addition to these creepy features, the movie also contains musical numbers here and there that serve to not only tell the story, but to brighten up mundane characters and settings. Overall, it's a great movie to watch if you’re looking for an underlying love story with a crawly twist.
“Hocus Pocus” (1993)
Whether they are depicted as good or evil, witches are one of the most popular characters of Halloween, and Kenny Ortega’s “Hocus Pocus” (1993) has become one of the most popular depictions of the fabled character. The film follows three evil witch sisters, Winifred, Sarah and Mary, who are killed in Salem, Massachusetts after sucking the soul out of a young girl and turning her older brother, Thackery Binx, into a cat.
Three-hundred years later, they are accidentally resurrected by teen boy Max Dennison. With the help of Binx, who has been alive as a cat since the witches last sighting, Max, his sister Dani, and his crush Allison must find a way to stop the witches before they are able to drain a child’s life force. With a sequel to the film recently having been released, there is certainly no shortage of talk about the film, and both movies are sure to “put a spell on you”, should you choose to watch them this Halloween.
“Monster House” (2006)
The last film on this list is an underrated one to be sure. Directed by Gil Kenan, the computer-animated film, “Monster House” (2006), is not your ordinary haunted house movie. The story follows D.J., a young boy who constantly spies on his cranky old neighbor, Mr. Nebbercracker, who is known for chasing away kids and stealing their things. However, D.J. and his friends, Chowder and Jenny, discover that there is more to the house when it begins to eat people and things.
Together, they devise a plan to somehow destroy the “living” house and end up finding out plenty of frighteningly eye-opening truths in the process. Set perfectly in the week of Halloween, the film shows an extreme of that one house that you just don’t go up to during trick-or-treating. The movie is perfect for all ages, as it contains a classic trio, coming-of-age themes, some mild crude humor and an overall attractive supernatural theme to draw in spook-seeking audiences.