The 20 best Halloween movies for kids

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The 20 best Halloween movies for kids

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It’s that time of the year when our thoughts turn to costumes and candy, as the nights grow longer and creatures stir in the shadows. The Halloween season is a time when children can stretch their imaginations, become somebody new, and explore the darker side of life. Here are the 20 best Halloween movies for kids to watch while they’re waiting to go trick-or-treating.

Beetlejuice (1988)

Michael Keaton in ‘Beetlejuice’. Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Just when they’re getting used to being dead, the recently deceased Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) find their home invaded by nouveau riche boneheads who want to market the house as a haunted tourist trap. Desperate, the couple enlists the services of Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a depraved demon claiming to be a “bio-exorcist” who can scare the new owners away. Enlivened by director Tim Burton‘s stylized frights, Beetlejuice is a visual treat, and Keaton’s fast-talking slapstick is irresistible, making the occasional raunchy moments fun for teens. And kids who wish it could be Halloween all year round will love Winona Ryder in her breakout role as a gloomy teenage goth.

Where to watch Beetlejuice: Max

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder

Related content: The cast of Beetlejuice: Where are they now?

The Boxtrolls (2014)

LAIKA

There’s a race of ugly, ravenous monsters living under the streets of Cheesebridge, and the frightened townspeople are determined to put an end to the reign of terror. But in The Boxtrolls, an unexpected delight from stop-motion animation house Laika, the cardboard box-wearing creatures are actually gentle and inventive scavengers who have been raising an orphan boy called Eggs (Game of Thrones’ Isaac Hempstead-Wright) as one of their own. The local populace has been tricked by the ambitious town exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), who’s been spreading lies about the trolls’ appetite for human children. With his world under attack, Eggs must venture to the surface and ally with inquisitive rich girl Winifred (Elle Fanning) to stop the patrols and save his adopted family. In addition to a clever visual style, the film has a positive message about overcoming prejudice and understanding other people.

Where to watch The Boxtrolls: Netflix

Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi

Cast: Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Toni Collette

Related content: The Boxtrolls animation: How they did it

Casper (1995)

Universal/Courtesy Everett

Ghosts abound in Casper, a clever comedy about a lonely little ghost boy (Malachi Pearson) who dreams of making friends. Casper and his three obnoxious uncles peacefully haunt the halls of Whipstaff Manor, until a spoiled heiress (Cathy Moriarty) learns that there’s secret treasure hidden inside the mansion. Hoping to expel the spirits, she hires a “paranormal therapist” (Bill Pullman) and his daughter Kat (Christina Ricci), but the girl ends up striking an unlikely friendship with the titular Friendly Ghost. There’s a heavy focus on death and the afterlife in this mildly macabre tale, but no real scares.

Where to watch Casper: Netflix

Director: Brad Silberling

Cast: Bill Pullman, Christina Ricci, Malachi Pearson, Cathy Moriarty, Eric Idle

Related content: Casper‘s pop culture references

Coraline (2009)

Everett Collection

Coraline is sure to give your kids the creeps, but it might also help them to imagine their world in a new way. In this dark fable from the mind of Neil Gaiman, young Coraline (Dakota Fanning) is dissatisfied with her family’s new home, until she discovers a secret passage to an alternate mirror world that’s more colorful and exciting than real life. There, her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) and Other Father (John Hodgman) look just like her real parents, but they’re happier, more attentive, and more watchful with their spooky button eyes. Coraline is charmed at first, but when they try to sew buttons on her eyes as well, she realizes that this realm is a magical trap for her and her family. The villain grows increasingly sinister and scary-looking, so it’s not a good choice for the younger set, but tweens will find this Halloween movie to be exciting and well-animated.

Where to watch Coraline: Max

EW grade: A (read the review)

Director: Henry Selick

Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Ian McShane

Related content: Neil Gaiman, Teri Hatcher look back on the otherworldly eeriness of Laika’s Coraline

Corpse Bride (2005)

Warner Bros.

Corpse Bride is another spooky masterpiece from Tim Burton, this time as a musical with gorgeous stop-motion animation. Victor (Johnny Depp) is engaged to the sweet Victoria (Emily Watson), but when he visits a dark forest to practice his vows, he accidentally promises himself to a deceased bride. Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), who was murdered on the day of her own wedding, claims Victor as her husband and drags him into the world of the dead. Underground, he’s surrounded by singing skeletons, talking spiders, and his departed pet dog, cornering him into a choice between his living love Victoria and the ethereal Emily. Witty songs, a heartbreaking story, and an action-packed finale make this an easy pick for a tasty Halloween treat.

Where to watch Corpse Bride: Max

EW grade: B (read the review)

Directors: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson

Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Richard E. Grant, Danny Elfman, Albert Finney

Frankenweenie (2012)

Walt Disney Pictures/Courtesy Everett

Director Tim Burton continues his run of kid-approved spooky shows with the 2012 stop-motion animation feature Frankenweenie. Mourning the death of his trusty dog Sparky, young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) decides to take matters into his own hands and zap his pup back to life. But when the bullies at school discover Victor’s reanimation machine, they use it to create monsters of their own, stirring up dangerous chaos in town. This dark but strangely relatable tale of a pet’s love that transcends death will strike a chord with kids and adults.

Where to watch Frankenweenie: Disney+

EW grade: A- (read the review)

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Winona Ryder

Related content: Frankenweenie: The strange true story of Tim Burton’s normal hometown

Ghostbusters (1984)

Columbia Pictures

Perfect for older kids, Ghostbusters is a timeless comedy classic with a top-notch cast. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson play college professors who start a ghost hunting business in New York City, promising to rid clients of paranormal threats for a price. As supernatural energy spikes in midtown, two residents played by Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis are possessed by dangerous demigods that threaten to destroy the city. The spectors are occasionally scary, but the light comic tone keeps things upbeat. (Plus, it will forever change the way your family looks at marshmallows.)

Where to watch Ghostbusters: Peacock

Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis

Related coverage: The cast of Ghostbusters: Where are they now?

Halloweentown (1998)

The Cromwell family in ‘Halloweentown’. Singer White/Ventura Valley Film/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Kids can visit a new realm in the charming Disney Channel original movie Halloweentown. 13 year old Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) thinks that there’s nothing special about her — until she overhears an argument between her mother and grandmother about training her to use magic powers. Suspicious, she and her siblings follow Grandma Aggie (Debbie Reynolds) as she boards a mysterious bus and travels to Halloweentown, a friendly community of skeletons, warlocks, and assorted ghouls located in another dimension. Marnie discovers that she’s the descendant of a line of witches, and with Aggie’s encouragement, she unlocks her magical gifts just in time to battle a source of evil hidden in the town. It’s a sunny story for a crisp fall evening with the family.

Where to watch Halloweentown: Disney+

Director: Duwayne Dunham

Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Judith Hoag, Kimberly J. Brown, Joey Zimmerman, Phillip Van Dyke

Related content: Halloweentown cast: Where are they now?

Hocus Pocus (1993)

‘Hocus Pocus’. Everett Collection

Worthy of an annual movie night tradition, the comedy-adventure Hocus Pocus features an appealing cast of witty witches who face off against three kids and their talking black cat. On Halloween night in Salem, Mass., skeptical loner Max (Omri Katz) recklessly lights the magical Black Flame Candle, which brings a trio of wicked women back to life after three hundred years. The Sanderson Sisters — played with gusto by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker — plan to steal the life force from the town’s children before daybreak, and only Max, his sister Dani, and his crush Allison can stop them. It’s a campy celebration of all the fun and frights of the season. A sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, was released on Disney+ in 2022, and a third film is on the way.

Where to watch Hocus Pocus: Disney+

Director: Kenny Ortega

Cast: Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Omri Katz, Thora Birch

Related content: Hocus Pocus 2 stars reflect on reuniting to resurrect the Sanderson Sisters

Hotel Transylvania (2012)

Sony PIctures

There’s a luxury hotel hidden away in the Transylvania hills full to the rafters with vampires, werewolves, zombies, and everything else that goes bump in the night. In this fast-paced farce, Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) has built a safe space for monsters to gather far removed from the pitchfork and torch wielding humans that threaten them. Dracula wants to keep his teenage daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) protected from the outside world, but his plans for her 118th birthday party are disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Johnny (Andy Samberg), a laid-back human traveler. It’s love at first sight for the two, and Dracula desperately tries to keep them apart without alerting any of the other monsters that there’s a human loose in the hotel. Young students of the macabre will enjoy the tremendous range of supernatural oddballs in the film, backed by a star-studded voice cast.

Where to watch Hotel Transylvania: Hulu

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky

Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, CeeLo Green

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

Everett Collection

Every Halloween, the Great Pumpkin rises into the air to deliver toys to all deserving children — at least, according to Linus, who plans to forgo trick-or-treating to sit in a pumpkin patch and wait for him. In this beloved special, the Peanuts kids are all dressing up and ready for a costume party, but Linus has his own way of celebrating the season, no matter what anyone says (and his famously crabby big sister Lucy certainly has a lot to say about it). The featurette also includes an adventure for Snoopy and a classic example of Lucy pulling the football away when Charlie Brown tries to kick it. It’s a nostalgic treat for parents to share with their little ones.

Where to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Apple TV+

Director: Bill Melendez

Cast: Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Sally Dryer

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Studio Ghibli

There aren’t any scares in Studio Ghibli‘s anime film Kiki’s Delivery Service, a gentle story about growing up and learning new responsibilities. Kiki (Kirsten Dunst) is a 13 year old witch in training, and as per tradition, she leaves home on a moonlit night with her black cat Jiji (Phil Hartman) to spend a year in another village. She uses her broom-flying skills to launch a courier service and finds a place in her new community. Still, living on her own is difficult, and when she starts to question herself, she loses touch with her witchy talents and needs to find new inspiration to get back in the air. Hayao Miyazaki‘s graceful character animation and lush, colorful surroundings make this film a fun watch for any time of year.

Where to watch Kiki’s Delivery Service: Max

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNeille, Janeane Garofalo, Matthew Lawrence

Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire (2000)

Walt Disney Co. / Courtesy Everett

This Disney Channel original movie has a little extra bite. Two pre-teens set their divorced mother (Caroline Rhea) up on a date with a handsome stranger (Charles Shaughnessy), not realizing that he’s an ancient vampire looking to turn her into a hypnotized minion. It’s a sweet, sitcom-style production, with squabbling siblings coming together to save their imperiled mom. The vamp doesn’t do much besides flash his fangs, making this a good introductory monster movie for young ones who aren’t ready for serious frights.

Where to watch Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire: Disney+

Director: Steve Boyum

Cast: Caroline Rhea, Charles Shaughnessy, Matt O’Leary, Laura Vandervoort

Monster House (2006)

Sony Pictures

The clever computer-animated Monster House takes a common childhood experience and turns it into a surprisingly chilling adventure. 12 year old DJ (Mitchel Musso) lives across the street from a scary old house — the kind of place where if you lose your ball, it’s gone for good. But this estate doesn’t just sit there and glare at you: If a kid gets too close, it unfurls the front carpet like a tongue and drags them inside. Naturally, DJ and his friends are the only ones who know the truth about this rabid residence, and it’s up to them to discover its secrets and rid the neighborhood of its curse.

Where to watch Monster House: Hulu

EW grade: N/A (read the review)

Director: Gil Kenan

Cast: Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Kathleen Turner

Related content: A chat with Monster House director Gil Kenan

Monsters Inc (2001)

Disney/Pixar

Every kid knows there’s a monster in the closet, and the comedy-adventure Monsters Inc reveals where they all come from: Monstropolis, a thriving city of furred, fanged, and tentacled beasts who bottle human children’s screams as their only source of energy. Ironically, the monsters are terrified of kids, and when top scarer Sulley (John Goodman) accidentally allows a child into their world, he and his partner Mike (Billy Crystal) have to sneak her back home before Monstropolis falls into chaos. Monsters Inc. is one of Pixar’s funniest efforts — and a strong choice for any Halloween binge list.

Where to watch Monsters Inc: Disney+

EW grade: B+ (read the review)

Director: Pete Docter

Cast: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly

Related content: Monsters Inc: Pete Docter dives deep into movie’s legacy and creation, 15 years later

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Jack Skellington delivers in ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. Buena Vista Pictures

What’s this? The Nightmare Before Christmas is a cross-holiday classic, blending Halloween and Christmas in a giddy stop-motion animated musical. Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, discovers the neighboring land of Christmas Town and becomes fascinated with mysterious concepts like snow, presents, carols, and flying reindeer. Jack decides that he can improve the experience, so his minions kidnap “Sandy Claws” while he puts on a slender red suit to deliver terrifying presents to the world’s unsuspecting children. The inventive mix-and-match of holiday staples and catchy songs by Danny Elfman make this a satisfying watch for the whole family.

Where to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas: Disney+

Director: Henry Selick

Cast: Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens

Related content: Nightmare Before Christmas director criticizes ‘unfair’ assumption that Tim Burton directed the film

ParaNorman (2012)

LAIKA

There aren’t many zombie movies that seek to understand the monsters’ point of view, but ParaNorman is an exception, being a sensitive coming-of-age story about a boy with the uncanny ability to make friends with the dead. 11 year old Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is isolated from his family and bullied at school, but he’s popular among the revenant set. When his great-uncle dies, Norman inherits the responsibility of enacting an annual ritual to protect the town from a 300 year old witch’s curse. As creatures rise from their graves and the townsfolk panic, Norman has to learn what really happened centuries ago — and how to set things right.

Where to watch ParaNorman: Starz

EW grade: B (read the review)

Directors: Sam Fell, Chris Butler

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, John Goodman

Related content: ParaNorman star Kodi Smit-McPhee on the scariest part of playing the role

Spirited Away (2001)

Everett Collection

On their way to a new home, 10 year old Chihiro’s parents stop to investigate an abandoned amusement park, where the young girl soon finds herself alone in a mysterious world of ghosts, witches, dragons, and sprites. Spirited Away is a delicate fairy tale by animation master Hayao Miyazaki, densely illustrated and endlessly imaginative. There are some scary elements, including a hungry masked spirit called No-Face and the parents’ creepy transformation into pigs. Still, Chihiro’s courage and curiosity will keep young viewers captivated.

Where to watch Spirited Away: Max

EW grade: A (read the review)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers

Related content: Watch Spirited Away play recreate stressful ‘stink spirit’ bath scene for the stage

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

‘Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’. DreamWorks/courtesy Everett Collection

Fluffy, vegetable-crunching terror strikes a village of mild crackpots in the clay-animation epic Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Eccentric inventor Wallace (Peter Sallis) and his crafty dog Gromit have promised to keep their town’s gardens safe from rapacious rabbits, but Wallace’s latest invention has inadvertently created a monstrous bunny beast that stalks the night to feed on innocent carrots and cucumbers. With the village in an uproar, hunter Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes) vows to slay the beast, but only Wallace, Gromit, and a particularly brainy bunny can solve the problem. Clever dialogue and a feast of visual gags make this dotty comedy a sure-fire Halloween winner.

Where to watch Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit: Netflix

Director: Nick Park, Steve Box

Cast: Peter Sallis, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes

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