Growing up, we were never allowed to watch the really scary movies. After I kept my mom up at night for a week after watching the Wizard of Oz, terrified the flying monkeys were after me, she must have decided to ban anything darker than that. And when I got a taste of horror films in later life, I have to say I was grateful to her. Turns out you don’t need blood and gore to make a great Halloween movie. So grab some popcorn, candy corn, and apple cider, and snuggle up on the couch with your kids and one of these favorites.
Casper. (PG) “The friendly ghost” is a hands-down favorite, and his uncles offer all kinds of slapstick comedy. My favorite part was always the entrance to the secret lab–I used to wish my house had secret tunnels and and a ghost to whip up eggs and bacon and fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning.
Hocus Pocus. (PG) Which is eerily similar in the beginning to Casper-a displaced teenage outcast, new town, finds a creepy house just before Halloween… Hocus Pocus is slightly darker however. It’s the tale of the Sanderson sisters, three witches hanged in Salem who manage to return from the graves 300 years later, looking for eternal youth, only to be thwarted by a couple of teenage lovebirds and a kid sister. Some of the humor may go straight over the kids heads, but you’ll be entertained.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. (G) What holiday would be complete without a Charlie Brown special on TV? Certainly not Halloween. Here’s a classic for kids to enjoy, with a hint of nostalgia for Mom and Dad.
E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. (PG) Not necessarily a Halloween movie, although the scientists in white suits always gave me the creeps. There’s a token shot of a very young Drew Barrymore trick or treating, however, and a shout out to the best Halloween candy ever-Reese’s Pieces. Best scene? A drunken E.T. tearing up the house trying to “phone home”.
The Addams Family. (PG-13) “They’re creepy and they’re kooky, they’re altogether ooky…” Oh come on, you know you want to sing along. While undeniably spooky, you can tell this is one close-knit family. Well, maybe not the part when Wednesday wants to throw the baby over the second floor landing, but still. Lots of dark humor for everyone.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks. (G) An oldie but goodie, featuring Angela Lansbury as a somewhat inept witch apprentice in charge of three young WWII refugees. Their trip on a brass bed steered by an enchanted bedknob leads to one of the wackiest soccer games ever. Kids will definitely get a kick out of it.
The Corpse Bride. (PG) I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this Tim Burton film. When Victor Van Dort accidentally marries Emily, the Corpse Bride, it leads to an enlightening adventure in the Land of the Dead.
The Witches. (PG) If your son or daughter suddenly takes flight around old ladies wearing hats and gloves, you’ll know why. More importantly, you’ll know how–how to recognize a “real” witch, that is. A riveting tale, based on one of my favorite Roald Dahl books.
Any Harry Potter (PG/PG-13) movie delivers a healthy dose of the mystery and magic you need for Halloween, even though the holiday isn’t necessarily featured in every film. The Chamber of Secrets is one of my favorites, and not too dark for most children.
The Wizard of Oz, (G) is again, not exactly a Halloween movie, but it has certainly inspired a lot of costumes over the years. One of my all time favorite movies; it’s like the digital version of comfort food. We all know how it ends, but it’s still worth a viewing every now and then.