The Ultimate Guide to Family-Friendly Halloween Movies

Cue the thunder, light the pumpkins, and break out the popcorn and candy—Halloween season approaches. Some movie lovers start in September, some wait until October, and the die-hard Halloween fans begin streaming the classics just after July. Finding family and kid-friendly titles on theme can be a challenge in a genre of movies and pop culture filled with horror movies and TV series.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to “family-friendly,” as definitions of “appropriate” and “scary” tend to vary from viewer to viewer. From classics to modern retellings and a whole lot of animated in-between, audiences craving seasonal entertainment but not at the expense of being frightened should look no further than these family-friendly Halloween treats.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

The ultimate dual-holiday movie,  when Tim Burton created The Nightmare Before Christmas he changed the genre forever. The stop-motion tale features Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, stuck in a rut as he tired of the same holiday year after year. Things change once he discovers Christmas Town and attempts to bring the jolly spirit back to his citizens.

Directed by the masterful Henry Selick, this feature impacted pop and holiday culture in immeasurable ways. Rated PG, The Nightmare Before Christmas features a few sequences that could be considered scary for younger audiences, including the introduction of its villain, Oogey Boogey. Viewers can catch it airing on Freeform’s “31 Nights of Halloween” and on Disney+ this spooky and upcoming winter seasons.

Beetlejuice (1988)

Winona Ryder and Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice (1988)
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Reserved for older kids and teens, Beetlejuice defines classic Halloween. The movie features the recently deceased couple Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) as they enlist the help of the malicious spirit Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) to drive away the human family that moved into their home.

A Tim Burton masterpiece, this feature sports a PG rating; however, there is one F-bomb and a few suggestive innuendos. With his signature stylistic choices, some moments may frighten younger viewers.

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Hocus Pocus Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

One of the many season-defining features, Hocus Pocus offers fun for the whole family. Starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, this Disney movie follows a group of teens who accidentally bring three witches back from the dead. The Sanderson Sisters will stop at nothing to live forever by brewing a potion to steal the lives of the children of Salem.

Hocus Pocus is rated PG and generally appropriate for most kids, minus a few well-placed innuendos. Billy Butcherson’s rise from the grave is a mild hair-raising moment for the scare factor. 

Halloweentown Franchise

Debbie Reynolds, Kimberly J. Brown, Emily Roeske, and Joey Zimmerman in Halloweentown (1998)
Image Credit: Singer-White Entertainment.

The spooky season of movie-watching wouldn’t be complete without Halloweentown. The first installment in the franchise features Marnie Piper (Kimberly J. Brown) as she discovers her grandmother is a witch living in the magical world of Halloweentown. She and her siblings must fight to save it from a dark force.

The franchise has four installments, three of the four rated TV-PG and Halloweentown High rated TV-G. A highly regarded series among Disney Channel fans, this series is a coming-of-age tale perfect for the tween audience. 

Goosebumps (2015)

Goosebumps (2015)
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

For parents seeking a live-action movie with just the right amount of fun and Halloween thematic elements, Goosebumps will do the trick. When the monsters of writer R.L. Stine’s (Jack Black) horror stories come to life and set free, a boy named Zach (Dylan Minnette) teams up with Stine’s daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush) to capture the creatures.

Not nearly as terrifying as the original novels, this 2015 adaptation targeted the parents who grew up reading them while remaining appropriate for their older kids. 

Coraline (2009)

Image Credit: Focus Features.

A darker children’s tale but an excellent example of stop-motion animation, Coraline is a spooky season must. The titular character, Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning), struggles to get along with her mother. Still, when she discovers an alternate world hidden in the walls of her new home, her Other Mother (voiced by Teri Hatcher) lures her in, hoping she’ll stay for good.

Rated PG, this Oscar-nominated adaptation brought Neil Gaiman’s whimsical world to life. Coraline earns its rating from some thematic elements, scary images, brief language, and suggestive humor.

Corpse Bride (2005)

Corpse Bride
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Another successful installment in the Tim Burton animated canon, Corpse Bride features the director’s regular cast of stars, including Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Lee, Johnny Depp, and Danny Elfman. Victor (voiced by Depp) struggles to learn his vows and ceremonial rituals in time for his arranged marriage to Victoria (voiced by Emily Watson). While practicing the vows, he mistakenly proposes to a deceased young woman (voiced by Bonham Carter) who now believes Victor is her husband.

This PG Oscar-nominated feature makes a viable choice to add to an animated Halloween marathon. Its rating comes from brief language and a few scary images as Victor travels to the underworld with the Corpse Bride. 

A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting (2020)

A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting
Image Credit: Netflix.

For those looking for a Disney Channel-esque movie that’s not Disney, look no further than A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting. Starring Harry Potter’s Tom Felton as the boogeyman, a teen babysitter must save the young boy she’s watching from the boogeyman and his monsters.

This Netflix original is rated TV-PG. Given that The Boogeyman fuels the nightmares of young children, young kids may want to steer clear.

Frankenweenie (2012)

Image Credit: Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Featuring the voice talents of Tim Burton alumni Winona Ryder and Catherine O’Hara, Frankenweenie is a family-friendly take on the classic Frankenstein tale. Told through Burton’s signature animation style and in black-and-white, a young boy attempts to bring his beloved dog back to life after the dog dies.

A Disney production, Frankenweenie was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

The Haunted Mansion (2003)

Jennifer Tilly and Eddie Murphy in The Haunted Mansion (2003)
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

An ode to the iconic Disney theme-park ride, Disney tried its hand at horror with The Haunted Mansion. Comedic legend Eddie Murphy stars as Jim Evers, a real estate agent who can’t pass up the opportunity to list a historic mansion; however, he and his family quickly discover ghosts and a curse haunt the expansive home.

Borderline PG-13, The Haunted Mansion is rated PG, despite a few terrifying sequences in the mausoleum (think Pirates of the Caribbean ghost pirates), and better suited to teens.

Monster House (2006)

Monster House
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Talk about the ultimate throwback feature for the millennial viewer. An Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature, Monster House follows three neighborhood kids as they attempt to battle the house across the street that turns out to be an actual monster. With a PG rating and like any good Disney movie, Monster House features a few well-timed adult jokes that slip under the noses of its child viewers.

A few sequences may frighten young viewers, but it’s a solid choice for a family movie night. 

Casper (1995)

Christina Ricci and Malachi Pearson in Casper (1995)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

An oldie but a goodie, this live-action feature of the classic cartoon makes a spooktacular choice for a movie night. Casper stars Christina Ricci and Bill Pullman as a father and daughter who move into a crumbling mansion to rid it of the spirits remaining, one of which happens to be a friendly ghost named Casper (voiced by Malachi Pearson).  

A Halloween icon, Ricci appears in many seasonal favorites, with Casper being one of the tamer spooky tales she stars in. 

Nightbooks (2021)

Lidya Jewett and Winslow Fegley in Nightbooks (2021)
Image Credit: Netflix.

Flying under the radar amongst a watchlist of iconic titles, Nightbooks makes a fresh choice for those looking for something different but appropriate. The Netflix original stars Krysten Ritter as Natacha, an evil witch who holds a young boy captive in her New York apartment, demanding he must write her a new scary story every night.

This TV-PG feature blends whimsical and dark storytelling. Its target audience is tweens and teens with its moderately frightening and intense scenes. 

Little Monsters (1989)

Fred Savage and Howie Mandel in Little Monsters (1989)
Image Credit: United Artists.

A complete throwback for millennials, Howie Mandel’s boogeyman Maurice scared kids of an entire generation. Starring alongside Fred Savage as Brian, Maurice attempts to turn Brian into a monster by luring him to the fantastical world beneath the bed.

Little Monsters contains mild language with its profanity use. It also features multiple intense scenes with monsters that may be scary to young kids and some tweens. 

The Addams Family

The Addams Family Live Action and Animated
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures/United Artists Releasing.

Depending on the version in question, the tales of the iconic family offer fun for the whole family. Adult and teen viewers may take to the pair of features starring Angelica Houston and Raul Julia as Morticia and Gomez Addams in 1991 and 1993 (both rated PG-13 with mild sexual content and macabre humor). Younger audiences may gravitate toward the pair of animated features from 2019 and 2021 (both rated PG for macabre and suggestive humor).

ParaNorman (2012)

Image Credit: LAIKA/Focus Features.

Mimicking the animation style of the beloved Tim Burton films, ParaNorman is directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell. As zombies rise from their graves, a young boy who can talk to the dead must enlist their help and use his gifts to save his town. The animated tale features a large, notable voice cast, including the talents of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, to name a few.

Hotel Transylvania Franchise

Hotel Transylvania 2 Adam Sandler Andy Samberg Selena Gomez
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Animation

A four-movie franchise, the Hotel Transylvania series makes a perfect animated movie marathon for the Halloween sleepover. The debut film tells the story of Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) as he runs a high-end monster resort away from the human world. Things turn upside down when a human discovers their paradise and falls in love with Dracula’s daughter.

It’s rated PG for rude humor and a few action sequences, but the movie is not designed to scare young viewers but rather entertain the whole family with a twist on the classic monster universe. 

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island
Image Credit: Warner Home Video.

One of the many straight-to-video Scooby-Doo movies, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island stands out as one of the best 90s installments. After breaking up to pursue other careers, the gang gets back together for a segment on Daphne’s TV series, investigating the hauntings of Moonscar Island, a remote island deep in the bayou.

Despite some well-animated decomposing zombies, this Scooby-Doo adventure is rated TV-G. It’s more intense than the original cartoon episodes but still appropriate for kids familiar with Scooby and the gang.

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

Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire
Image Credit: Upstart Entertainment.

Disney Channel Original Movies, including Halloween movies, went through a golden age in the 2000s. This lengthy titled DCOM is one of the best throwbacks for Halloween fans looking for a corny but appropriate family movie. It features a brother and sister who set their mom up on a date so they can get out of their grounding and attend the Harvest Festival; the catch is that her date is a vampire.

The Witches (1990 & 2020)

The Witches (1990 & 2020)
Image Credit: Warner Bros./Warner Bros. Pictures

A feature tale for multiple generations, The Witches derives from the whimsical world created by author Roald Dahl. Both versions center around a coven of witches after a young boy discovers their convention before becoming transformed into a mouse. Angelica Houston leads the 1990 version, and Anne Hathaway leads the 2020 version.

For the fans of remakes and reimagining, The Witches is the perfect solution for a back-to-back movie night. Both are rated PG; however, the original film features more thematic elements that could be scary for younger viewers. The remake is less abrasive and more cartoonish with its scare factors. 

Scooby-Doo and The Ghoul School (1988)

Scooby-Doo and The Ghoul School
Image Credit: Hanna-Barbera Productions.

This 80s franchise installment is classic Scooby-Doo for the modern-day viewer. It features only Scooby, Scrappy, and Shaggy as the trio take a job working as gym teachers at an all-girls boarding school. The students happen to be the daughters of history’s most terrifying monsters.

Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School is a “Not Rated” rating and is appropriate for every family member, including the young ones, if they are familiar with the scare level of the original series. Like many of the classic cartoons of the time, the TV movie does include the same type of one-liners geared toward adult viewers. 

The Little Vampire (2000)

Jonathan Lipnicki, Anna Popplewell, and Rollo Weeks in The Little Vampire (2000)
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

This PG-rated film, with only one scene that may scare young viewers should qualify as a safe bet for family movie night. The Little Vampire stars Jonathan Lipnicki as Tony, a young boy struggling to make friends while living in Scotland. His world quickly changes when he befriends another nine-year-old named Rudolph, who turns out to be a vampire.

Wendell & Wild (2022)

Wendell & Wild
Image Credit: Netflix.

A match made in Halloween heaven, Jordan Peele and Henry Selick teamed up with a Netflix budget for this soon-to-be classic. The animated tale features the titular demon brothers—voiced by Peele and his comedic comrade Keegan-Michael Key—as they scheme to return to the Land of Living by raising an undead army and enlisting the help of an unknowingly mortal girl named Kat (voiced by Lyric Ross).

Although stop-motion/claymation animation, Wendell & Wild does come with a PG-13 rating. Despite the heroine being 13 years old, the movie’s tone gears toward teens and adults with its thematic and situational elements. 

Spooky Buddies (2011)

Spooky Buddies
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

What could go wrong at the family movie night with a Halloween movie about adorable puppies? A spin-off in the Air-Bud, Spooky Buddies features a band of golden retriever puppies as they explore a haunted mansion. It’s a family feature that’s all treats and no tricks.

Don’t Look Under the Bed (1999)

Don’t Look Under the Bed
Image Credit: David Lancaster & Jeff Morton Productions.

Though a classic Disney Channel family-friendly Halloween original, Don’t Look Under the Bed features its fair share of scares. The title warns audiences about the nature of the movie, attempting to scare young audiences with a tale of The Boogeyman framing a young girl for a series of pranks. Still, only the help of an imaginary friend can stop him.

It’s rated TV-PG, but actor Steve Valentine’s boogeyman aesthetic with colored contacts, pointed teeth, and prickly hair may prove frightening to child viewers.