If you’re like a lot of people, Halloween isn’t just a single night but an entire season – and you want to fill it with as many magical, mystical and boo-tiful experiences for your family as possible.
As an adult, that often means finding just the right costume for that fancy dress party, but also visiting your share of haunted houses and creepy places and taking in the latest horror movie (“Halloween Ends,” anybody?) in the theater.
When you’re a parent, however, things change. You still want the kids to experience all the fun of the season, but you don’t want them so scared they can’t sleep at night. That means scaling things down a little, like going to corn mazes and pumpkin patches, carving silly-scary jack-o-lanterns and finding a few spooktacular family-friendly movies to watch at home.
Gather your brood and get the popcorn and blankets ready – because we’ve got a list of great Halloween movies for every age level:
1. Hocus Pocus (1993)
The Sanderson Sisters have become classic characters over time, so every kid should see Hocus Pocus at least once or twice. It has inept witches, a talking cat, a good zombie and lots of silly, magical fun for everyone.
Even better: It now has a sequel. Hocus Pocus 2 plays up the nostalgia a lot of adults feel for the original film, so you can always run them back-to-back and let the kiddos stay up a little later one night.
2. Spirited Away (2001)
While technically not a Halloween movie, this Studio Ghibli animated fairy tale is full of mystery and wonder – and it will definitely have you looking differently at the world.
The movie follows the adventures of a young girl who ventures willingly into the spirit world to rescue her parents after they’re transformed into swine (and the ending is sweet and reassuring).
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Would any list of Halloween movies be complete without this one on it? We think not!
The songs are delightful and the stop-motion animation divine – but the humor lies firmly in the idea that what’s normal for one person can be scary to another. It follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween, when he tries to co-opt Christmas.
4. Paranorman (2012)
This is another beautifully animated film, and it speaks to anybody who has ever felt a bit like their differences made them an outsider.
The central character, Norman, sees the dead as clearly as he sees the living – and tends to prefer their company. Little does he know that he’s destined to end a generational curse that lies over his entire town. (This one does get a little scary, so you might want to reserve this one for your tweens and older.)
5. Monster House (2006)
What do you do when you’re a kid and nobody will believe you when you say that your neighbor’s house is really a living, breathing monster?
You’ll just have to watch the movie to find out! This movie is rated PG (and has a satisfying ending), but some younger children may not enjoy the constant tension and scares – although the fact that it’s animated may take off the edge.
If you have a pool, you’ve probably already shut it down and drained it – but now you need to tend to your sprinklers and your faucets. Sprinkler lines need to be blown out and the water valves to your outside spigots need to be closed. Then, open your outside spigots and make sure they’re empty.
Don’t forget to drain your garden hoses and wrap those up for the winter, as well. It’s also a good time to check the insulation on your indoor pipes. If any of them aren’t properly wrapped, that’s a quick job that could save you thousands in water damage remediation later.
6. Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost (1999)
We’re going to be honest here: There are so many great Scooby-Doo movies (animated and live action alike), that we had a hard time picking just one for this list – but we think this is probably the best one of the bunch for the season.
It features faux witches and real witches, spell books and the usual conniving humans – plus all of the humor that Scooby and the Gang can muster. (If your kids really enjoy this one, we also recommend 1998’s Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and 2003’s Scooby-Doo! and the Legend of the Vampire, both of which have great seasonal themes.)
7. Halloweentown (1998)
If your children are really young and you’re looking for a film that’s guaranteed to delight without terrifying them, this is the one to pick.
It’s all about young Marnie, a witch who is just growing into her powers, helping her grandmother overcome the shadow that’s fallen on the sweet-but-different folks of Halloweentown.
8. The Addams Family (1991)
This one usually entertains everybody, no matter their age. It’s filled with sight gags and one-liners that keep you laughing, even as the central characters try to solve a mystery and preserve their way of life.
The entire movie is a delightful experiment that pits the extraordinary Addams against the ordinary world – and the happy ending will definitely warm your heart.
9. Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021)
This is the very first Halloween movie featuring the Muppets and – like all Muppet movies – it’s absolutely charming.
The plot follows would-be magician Gonzo and his friend Pepe the Prawn as they try to survive one night alone in a haunted mansion. The rest of the Muppet gang, like Miss Piggy and Kermit, make cameos throughout the movie, but the central theme is all about facing your fears. That’s a worthwhile subject to explore every Halloween.
10. Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Where do monsters go when they need to let loose without humans noticing? Hotel Transylvania, of course!
The hotel is run by Count Dracula himself, but the story centers around the coming-of-age of his daughter Mavis as she falls in love with an accidental human (gasp!) visitor from afar. Much of the comedy comes from the Count’s frantic efforts to keep his guests from the terror of a human among them and his desire to thwart the budding romance.
You may note that many of these movies center their themes around acceptance: self-acceptance, the acceptance of the unknown (and unknowable) and the acceptance of others, no matter how different – and that’s definitely something that has value for everyone. With that final thought, we wish you a fabulous, fright-filled and fun Halloween!