It's officially spooky szn, and streaming services are full of Halloween movies and horror flicks. But if you've got a family...especially young kids...Friday the 13th may not be the most appropriate movie night.
So where can you find a good kids' Halloween movie? Well, The Hollywood Reporter took a stab at it, and while I don't have a problem with their list, it's WAY too big (23!! Who has time for that!!?). Also, they include Monsters, Inc, which is a GREAT movie but I hardly consider it Halloween or even "spooky" for that matter. So I've narrowed it down to the 10 best, according to an expert on Halloween movies -- me. Let's count down in reverse order, shall we?
You'll notice a Tim Burton theme in my Top 10. The dude's a master of animated horror films, and while Frankenweenie isn't my favorite of the bunch, it's got a lot of the elements that you love from more popular films like Corpse Bride and Nightmare Before Christmas. It's basically Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but with a boy trying to piece together and bring back his pet. It's weird, but a good introduction to classic horror themes for kids.
9. The Addams Family/Addams Family Values
Yes, I'm excited for Wednesday, and yes I loved the 1960s black-and-white TV show as well. I actually prefer AFV to the 1991 Addams Family movie, but a lot of it is because I have more discernable memories from seeing it for the first time (I was only 7 when the original came out). Either way, both movies are classics and should be part of any family's Halloween movie nights
8. The Corpse Bride
The second Tim Burton entry on my list, this one stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as a couple that's...um...unconventional, to say the least. The storyline here is actually really interesting. There's not as much attachment to the characters as there are in higher films on the list, but it's still a solid work of art
I really toyed with the idea of making this higher, because it's really one of my favorites, but the movies ahead of it are stronger films that have stood the test of time a little better. However, this one makes my list because of two things. First, 11 year old me LOVED Christina Ricci, who was 13 when the movie came out. And the line "Can I keep you?" still makes its way into the pop culture zeitgeist from time to time. It's a really well-done deviation from the Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon, and the Halloween party where Casper becomes a real boy is still an emotional rollercoaster.
I mean, this has to be on the list, right? It's got the typical 1990s Disney Channel cheesiness to it, but a family of witches/warlocks saving the world? What's not to love about it. You can pass on the three (!!!) weird sequels they made, but you should definitely show your kids Halloweentown and also point out how all that fashion you wore in the mid-90s is making a comeback
5 through 3 on my list were REALLY close. I would call this my "Gotta watch them, but not an annual ritual" tier. The cast of this movie alone may make it Top 3. Alec Baldwin, Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder...it's OUTSTANDING. The acting really makes the movie (probably) better than the actual script. Plus, it's a spectacular example of Tim Burton's directorial chops. I can see how this one might be a little scary for REALLY young kids, but it's funny and weird and a classic that plays on Candyman without the stabbiness of it.
4. Hocus Pocus
I'm gonna catch some heat for this one, and that's okay. My wife loves it and watches it at least once a year. The Sanderson sisters have developed a cult following so strong that it forced a sequel decades later and is the inspiration of hundreds of memes around this time of year. You obviously know the story - three Salem witches are accidentally brought back to life by a group of kids, and spend the entire movie trying to kill the kids (unsuccessfully). It's absolutely a classic. So why is it only #4 on my list? Well....I don't like the movie. Really, there's no other reason. If this were a list based solely on my opinion, I'd probably have it much lower. But I feel like any list of family-friendly Halloween movies HAS to be include Hocus Pocus or else it instantly loses credibility, so here we are SISTAAAHHHSSSSS.
3. Hotel Transylvania
Hotel Transylvania above Hocus Pocus? Are you kidding me? YES, and don't you dare argue with me. This is the highest-ranked movie that's really suitable for LITTLE kids (mine watched it as young as 3), and no matter how cartoony it may be, it's actually a really great movie. A solid storyline with a great voiceover cast including Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, and more. Even the secondary characters are really well developed (Frank is the best!) and there's enough adult humor and action to keep the parents amused while the kids just love the silliness of Dracula and the idea of a monster hotel. Plus, Dracula saying "bleh bleh bleh" is one of the great Halloween movie jokes.
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Come on, does it get much better than this? Tim Burton + brilliant character development + a monster love story + the best Halloween movie soundtrack of all time? From Jack and Sally to the mayor to the Oogey Boogey Man, there's just so much depth to the story and its characters. And yet, while the story is fantastic, the soundtrack is what really lifts this one to iconic status. "This is Halloween" and "What's This?" are the highlights, but the whole soundtrack is really well-composed and makes it not only a great family movie, but a sing-a-long at the same time.
Look, I'm partial here. It's my favorite movie of all time, I had all the action figures, video games, and toys as a kid, and I have vivid memories of not only the 1984 classic, but Ghostbusters II and the Saturday morning The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. I LIVED Ghostbusters. I don't actually have a defense for why I think this outpaces Nightmare and Hocus Pocus. It's actually not even really all that family-friendly (there's a lot of adult humor and content that probably would've gotten it a PG-13 rating if it came out in 2022). But it's Ghostbusters, and that's my defense. Also, my six year old watched it and never asked me why a ghost pulled down Dan Aykroyd's zipper, so surely it's not TOO adult, right? Funny enough, Ghostbusters II and the recent remake Ghostbusters: Afterlife are probably more "family-friendly," and are both great movies in their own right, but nothing will ever compare to the OG Busters. Plus, is there a more legendary villain than the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man?