Spooky season is upon us, which also means fall weather, too. In short, it’s the perfect time to curl up on the couch with some Halloween movies! Check out this kid-friendly list for films that keep the scares at bay while opening up fantastical worlds that are sure to stir up the imagination — whether you’re young or just young at heart.
“Probably the best film of its sort since The Wizard of Oz,” Roger Ebert called this timeless classic “everything that family movies usually claim to be, but aren’t: Delightful, funny, scary, exciting, and, most of all, a genuine work of imagination.” A great choice for any day of the year, but especially fun (and inspiring, costume-wise!) around Halloween, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory creates its own special magic upon every new viewing. And as much as we love Tim Burton (see below), even Johnny Depp’s got nothing on Gene Wilder’s one-of-a-kind performance as the beloved kid’s literature candy creator.
America’s favorite spooky family take their hilariously ghastly traditions to the big screen in yet another flick that stands the test of time. Fun fact: The beloved clan actually originated within a New Yorker cartoon in the late 1930’s, envisioned as a satirical take on mid-20th century domestic ideals. The unforgettable Anjelica Huston and the late, great Raul Julia star as Morticia and Gomez, supernatural suburban power couple, strangely passionate spouses and atypically doting parents to Pugsley and Wednesday — a perfectly cast Christina Ricci. If you stream this, make it a double-feature: The sequel, Addams Family Values, is even better than the first installment.
Looking for flicks that are a little scarier, but are still appropriate for the whole family? Check out the 13 Best Scary Movies for Kids.
Dubbed “a pleasingly perverse celebration of Victorian morbidity” disguised as “light family entertainment” by the Chicago Reader, Burton’s Corpse Bride is a Halloween stop-motion musical romance at its finest. When a soon-to-be groom finds himself in the Land of the Dead, thanks to a woman long expired, he must find a way back home to his betrothed unscathed. Voiced by Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, the star-cursed couple’s story makes for ideal October viewing for kids and adults of all ages.
For smaller tikes, the magical world of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is the perfect entry point to fantastical lands and dimensions without the scares. The Independent Critic calls it “a celebration of childhood, wonder, innocence, friendship, love and community.” When the veritable 243-year-old wizard (Dustin Hoffman) decides to bequeath his supernatural toy store to the likes of his outwardly ordinary shop manager Molly (Natalie Portman), the once-animated merch seems to lose its enchantment. And to bring it back to life, she’ll have to find the magic within herself.
This seasonal favorite keeps children coming back for more year after year. Starring the wonderful Debbie Reynolds as the grandma witch everyone wishes they had, all Halloween breaks loose when she comes for her annual visit — just in time for her eldest grandchild (Kimberly J. Brown) to discover her own powers and put them to work. “What separates this original pic from the usual Halloween fare is “that it captures the spirit of a holiday designed for kids,” according to Variety. “It’s sweet and fun, but too much could definitely give you a stomach ache.” See what they did there?
The Guardian calls Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a “highly entertaining twist on jazz age America [that] breathes fresh life into the Potter franchise” — so, Harry Potter fans, step right up!
This spin-off prequel (and its subsequent installments) explores the history of the Wizarding World, going back to 1926 when wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has just returned from an around-the-world expedition to find and document an extraordinary array of supernatural creatures. Get ready to be enchanted: It’s just the feast for the eyes we’ve come to expect from these films, with magic nearly jumping off the screen in nearly every scene.
Another Burton film makes this list — a live-action romp this time, again with the director’s favorite leading man. Depp stars as an 18th-century playboy-turned-vampire who wakes up in the early 1970s after getting cursed by a scorned witch. The remnants of his home and his family aren’t quite as grand as he remembers, and the juxtapositions, culture clashes and supernatural sequences make for a fun, silly ride for PG-13 audiences. Michelle Pfeiffer, Carter, Eva Green and Chloë Grace Moretz co-star.
No matter how old you are, there’s something to love in 1993’s Hocus Pocus — a cult classic in its own right at this point. You’ve got the well-worn coming-of-age elements with a sweet sibling relationship (’90s child stars Thora Birch and Omri Katz) and first crushes (the beautiful Vinessa Shaw). You’ve got seasonal flair with a talking black cat, a good-hearted zombie and soul-sucking witches. And you’ve got living legends Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the iconic Sanderson sisters (said witches). Is there a more perfect Halloween movie? I’ll wait.
It’s so popular, in fact, that nearly 30 years later(!), we’re finally getting a sequel. Stream Hocus Pocus 2 this month on Disney+.
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