It can be difficult to recommend Halloween movies for kids because the scary and intense content that usually makes up the best films can sometimes be a little too much for young moviegoers. Some people really enjoy the scary stuff, and others? Not so much. You need to know what your kids can handle before putting them in front of some movies. To get you started I’ve compiled a list of Halloween movie recommendations going from youngest to oldest that I feel fairly confident will deliver the fun without too many nightmares.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Recommended age: 5 and up
They made a bunch of Charlie Brown holiday specials but for my money Christmas and Halloween were the two best. While there are plenty of Halloween traditions (who hasn’t sat out waiting for the Great Pumpkin?) the real fun of this cartoon is Snoopy playing out his fantasy of being a World War I flying ace. This is a gentle and fun option for even the youngest viewers.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Recommended age: 5
Our family are huge Wallace & Gromit fans and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a wonderfully imaginative, funny, and thrilling adventure. Despite their fondness for the main characters, when our kids first watched this they were a little freaked out by the transformation of the Were-Rabbit and a lot freaked out by the Vicar. They have since come to realize that events that might seem to be scary just turn out to be jokes and the only thing really in peril are the vegetables.
Recommended age: 5
For the youngest viewers there may need to be some hand-holding at first to help them understand that the monsters are actually terrified of children. Pixar’s visual inventiveness does at times turn out monsters that go right up to the edge of the scary/creepy line and there is one scene where the girl, Boo, is threatened by one of those creepy monsters. Ultimately, however, kids will learn not to be afraid of what’s in their closet.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Recommended age: 7
What? A Halloween movie? I had forgotten that most of the action in the film happens around Halloween. There is some language and some intense scenes – including the one where E.T. appears to have died (turn on your heart-light!) – so I would recommend it for a somewhat older age group. If you watch the special edition all the federal agents’ guns have been magically transformed into walkie-talkies.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Recommended age: 7
I put this one on my Christmas list as well because I just can’t decide if it’s better at Halloween or Christmas. Tim Burton creates characters that are delightful and macabre all at the same time. Because of Burton’s twisted vision I would caution parents to make sure their kids are ready for it. But if they are it’s sure to become one of their favorites.
Recommended age: 9
Coraline carries the double-whammy of Neil Gaiman and the cadaverous Henry Selick (seriously, dude is creepy), two masters of a genre I guess we should call Children’s Horror. Gaiman is famous for a wide variety of horror-related work but notably the Newbery Award-winning novel The Graveyard Book. Selick is the animation director behind The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. Put them together and you have this thoroughly original creepfest. Definitely recommended for tweens and up, you’ll want to make sure your kids are ready for this one.
Recommended age: 10
There are so many great classic horror movies I wouldn’t know where to start. Boris Karloff in Frankenstein and the super-terrific Bride of Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi in Dracula, Lon Chaney as The Wolf Man. But sometimes kids can go into old black and white movies thinking they’ll be boring – and old. To counteract this I would recommend changing it up and showing them the classic Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks spoof Young Frankenstein. My age recommendation is based only slightly on the horror elements and more on the sexual innuendo and some off-color jokes. In my opinion, however, it will put the fun back in, um…funeral?