Halloween can be a blast, but it can also be a scary time for the under-13 set. To get into the spooky spirit without spooking your kids, try a family movie night with one (or more!) of these classic kid-friendly flicks.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Released in 1966, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is fun for the whole family — nostalgic for Mom and Dad and good, clean fun for the kiddos. It became a cult classic after running as a Halloween television special and has since seen bell-bottoms, acid-wash jeans and grunge music come and go over the decades while its popularity has yet to wane.
The early '90s were good to Christina Ricci: Mermaids in '90, Addams Family Values (also a good Halloween movie!) in '91 and Casper in '95. This preteen favorite follows Ricci as Kat Harvey, a young girl who — along with her paranormal psychologist father, played by the excellent Bill Pullman — moves into a haunted mansion. Thanks to a creepy, old house, inappropriate ghost uncles, preteen angst and (gasp!) a Kat and Casper kissing scene, it's good for screaming and swooning.
For a kid, losing a beloved family pet is akin to losing your best friend. One of the more recent films to make this list, 2012's Frankenweenie, explores what happens when one clever little boy refuses to say goodbye to his furry buddy, Sparky. A humorous homage to the classic 1931 black-and-white Frankenstein, this Tim Burton stop-motion film is macabre and heartwarming at once — a must-watch, for sure.
Proof that Disney isn't just good at animated movies, Hocus Pocus starts making the rounds on TV in early October, much to the delight of, like, everyone. (I, for one, loved it so much when I was younger that I named my black cat Emily Binx.) While there are far too many must-see components to point out, rest assured that you won't be disappointed — particularly when it comes to the Sanderson sisters, brilliantly played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy.
Even if you aren't normally a fan of Adam Sandler movies, it's highly likely you'll adore this one. In it, he voices Dracula, who — in this kid-friendly, animated version — owns the title hotel, a place for the monsters of the world to get a little R & R away from the prying eyes (and/or pitchforks) of humans. If you need further reassurance that the film panders to a younger crowd, consider that director Genndy Tartakovsky is also responsible for kid hits like Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory and Sym-Bionic Train.
With Steven Speilberg as a co-executive producer, you know this movie's gotta be good! We love it because it takes a premise every kid is familiar with — the neighborhood grouch/recluse/creepy old dude — and makes them look at it from a different perspective. Watching 12-year-old DJ and his buddies battle old man Nebbercracker's nefarious house is exciting, funny and, at the end, even touching.
The Haunted Mansion
This 2003 Disney animated-meets-film flick is like a formula for fun: Eddie Murphy, a huge haunted house, an eerie butler, Jennifer Tilly's head encased in a crystal ball and four barbershop quartet–style singing busts. There are lots of Halloween-y elements — think giant spiders, thick fog and, oh yeah, ghosts! — that make this a shoo-in for your annual kid-friendly fright fest.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Here's the thing... you may as well add this stop-motion musical fantasy to your kid-friendly agenda for both Halloween and Christmas. It works equally well for both, and, seriously, it's magical. If you aren't familiar (in which case, I highly recommend running out and grabbing a copy ASAP), it tells the tale of Jack Skellington, "The Pumpkin King," and his cohorts from Halloween Town who decide to usurp Christmas from Santa Claus. Don't fret, though, as the "nightmare" ends well.
Another stop-motion animated movie, ParaNorman falls somewhere in the middle of horror and comedy — an ideal mix for your family's younger Halloween fans. The story of a young boy named Norman Babcock who can speak with the dead, the film contains important lessons about bullying, tolerance and forgiveness. A pretty good package deal, huh?
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
I have what I like to think is a healthy obsession with Wallace and Gromit, and it is an appreciation that — in time — I hope to pass on to my little ones. The only claymation movie to make this list, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, does not disappoint. In it, the classic clay characters we've all come to know and love — Wallace, the quirky inventor, and Gromit, his super-smart, super-silent dog — go on a mission to rescue village residents (and their prize bumper crop) from a mutant rabbit.