There’s plenty of kid-friendly Halloween movies out there, and but finding good movies for pre-teens and teens can get challenging. Halloween movies skewed towards older kids are far too scary for little ones and not quite scary or gory enough for adults, thus, many get overlooked as good Halloween movies. Not only do these movies on our list have a strong message, they invoke the spirit of Halloween.
Monster House (2006) Steve Buscemi, Catherine O’Hara
Three friends discover their cranky neighbor’s haunted house is actually a scary monster.
At first glance, it’s just a silly kids movie but the story really highlights working through pubescent troubles and learning to get along with adults. When released, the film was mis-marketed to children, when clearly geared towards pre-teens and above. The movie deals with some teen issues and is far too scary for little kids. As for the characters, the adults are kinda creepy and the kids get into trouble, not your ideal role models, but they’re realistic enough that teens might will identify with them. There’s some excellent visuals and 3D version out there for those with a fancy TV.
Girl vs. Monster (2012) Olive Holt, Katherine McNamara
A sassy teen enlists her two best friends to help rescue her monster hunter parents and capture all the monsters when they’re accidentally set free.
In this day and age, girls need heroes and Skylar Lewis is a plucky, talented girl, who wants to sing in a band but can’t overcome her stage fright. That’s about to change when a centuries old witch picks Skylar to be front and center in her wicked plan to take over the world. In this is a lighthearted but formulaic Disney film, the characters are a little silly and over-the-top but at the heart of the story, is a great message about standing up for yourself, overcoming your fears and going after your dreams, and that’s a great lesson for all ages.
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes
Wallace and Gromit investigate a mysterious beast sabotaging their town garden, which threatens to ruin the annual giant vegetable growing contest.
Short-story heroes Wallace and Gromit finally get their own feature-length movie and it was a huge success. This movie is the perfect blend of charming characters, strong storytelling, zany humor and claymation action, that appeals to both kids and adults alike, with many of the adult jokes flying over the heads of little ones. The real treat here is the visual animation with painstakingly detailed sets from Nick Park, British maestro of stop-motion, and his team, which helped this film win the Oscar for best animated film.
Frankenweenie (2012) Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara
A super intelligent boy, grieving the loss of his pet, attempts to bring his beloved dog back to life via a science experiment.
Tim Burton’s black and white, stop-motion homage to Frankenstein, is dark and creepy like most of his films but this one tackles the heavy subject of grief and pet loss. While it’s not a perfect story, this film could help parents explain death to kids, when words fail them. That said, dead animals may be too scary for little kids or sensitive types. So, this movie is better for middle-schoolers and above.
The Halloween Tree (1993) Ray Bradbury, Leonard Nimoy
A group of kids learn the cultural origins of Halloween while searching for their missing friend on Halloween.
Legendary author and Halloween enthusiast Ray Bradbury lends his own voice to narrate this animated film based on his timeless classic novel The Halloween Tree, which teaches kids that Halloween is more than dressing up and getting candy. Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy voices the mysterious and wise Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, who leads the boys on an adventure through space and time, where they meet up with their missing friend and together learn the international origins and history of Halloween. The story delivers a message about the power of friendship and a strong ‘there’s more than meets the eye’ lesson. It’s a too spooky for small children but I think pre-teens and above will enjoy it.
Coraline (2009) Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher
After moving to a new town, a girl discovers a secret door that leads to a parallel world that strangely mirrors her own real world, only this one appears to get more dark and sinister the longer she stays.
Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, which tells of a girl’s adventures while navigating a fantasy world, all the while trying to figure out how to deal with lonely feelings and neglect by her own parents. The movie is creepy and dark and contains plenty of ghost children walking around, reminding us of our own dangerous real world. But, I think Coraline is great hero for girls, she’s adventurous, brave, smart, and learns pretty fast, not to take things for granted, which the story’s strongest message, careful for what you wish for. It’s definitely too scary for small ones, okay for pre-teens and older.
Goosebumps (2015) Jack Black
A teenager helps horror author R.L. Stine chase down the demons and monsters from his books when he accidentally sets them free.
I think it’s pretty ingenuous to write a story about the man who created the stories you’re making a movie about. Goosebumps is a treat for all those kids, some of who are now adults, who stayed up late reading every book R.L. Stine ever wrote. The horror, the comedy and almost every monster, it’s all here, in pretty much a faithful form. Choosing the film’s villain couldn’t have been easy with all the choices available, but in the end, is it any surprise that it’s the evil wooden demon Slappy the Dummy? R.L. Stine himself said the moral lesson of Goosebumps is to run! I don’t think he meant literally. I think he meant it’s okay for kids to escape sometimes. That’s what the entire Goosebumps series is about, a chance to escape to a fantasy world where good triumphs evil.
Monster Squad (1987) Andre Gower, Duncan Regehr
A group of monster fans try to save their sleepy town when Count Dracula and his monsters appear to destroy it.
This little gem is definitely for teens, and it isn’t just Goonies meets the Universal monsters, either. Monster Squad contains the perfect blend of action and humor, memorable characters, witty dialogue (sprinkled with a lot grown-up language) and a story with a strong message about dealing with squabbling parents, overcoming fears and dealing with the pains of growing up. It doesn’t hurt to have the classic monsters as villains, sharing the screen and wreaking havoc together.
The Witches (1990) Anjelica Houston, Rowan Atkinson
A young boy stumbles onto a witch convention and learns of the witches’ evil grand plan to use a magic potion that will turn the world’s children into mice so they can eat them.
Based on Roald Dahl’s novel, little Luke is a sweet but adventurous boy, whose curiosity gets him in trouble when he runs into Grand High Witch, who turn him into a mouse before he can warn anyone of the witches’ evil plans. Perfectly cast, Anjelica Houston as the Grand High Witch gives a masterclass in being wicked. Slapstick comedian Rowan Atkinson lends his talents as the hotel manager, with a deep-seated hatred for mice, who’s on a mission to find any tiny creatures in his hotel. Dark serious undertones keep this movie from being a zany caper but it is entertaining and quite witty, nonetheless. The story is a classic good vs. evil tale. The make-up and the effects are outstanding, but, if the scares were little far more left, and Director Nicholas Roeg may have had a horror film on his hands. That said, this movie is okay for pre-teen and older.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1981) Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore
A child helps a friendly alien contact his people when he’s left stranded on earth, during their last mission.
People forget that this Spielberg blockbuster classic is set entirely during October, making this movie about a lost alien botanist a fantastic Halloween story. The visual effects, the cinematography and out-of-this-world musical score are stunning and still hold up today, but it’s the incredible heartwarming and funny story, and the identifiable characters, dealing with emotional trauma, that truly make this film memorable. This is a must-see film for everyone. Although, the movie does deal with some adult issues, parents might not want to show it to impressionable small children, otherwise, it’s great for middle-schoolers and above.