12 Not-Too-Scary Classic Halloween Flicks
By Christina Katz
Feeling haunted by the sugar surges of Halloweens past? Why not gather up your little brood of goblins for a sweet movie marathon sure to get you in the hallowed mood—no candy required.
These not-too-spooky flicks are a festive way to build up to a big night of “Trick or Treat!” without terrifying anyone in the family. The films range in appropriateness from toddler to teen, with age recommendations that should satisfy even the most cinema-selective parents.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Not Rated, ages 4+) For Linus, it’s not Halloween without the Great Pumpkin. For some of the rest of us, it’s not Halloween without an animated 1966 Charles Schulz cartoon accompanied by Vince Guaraldi piano music. Share the annual tradition with your kids so they can meet Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, Pigpen, Violet, Schroeder, and the whole gang. Remember, never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker. And never miss an opportunity to introduce your kids to Peanuts.
Beauty and the Beast (Rated G, ages 6+) This 1991 Disney tale is based on a fairy tale as old as time—La Belle et la Bête by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Belle is a bookish girl who is not satisfied with life in her provincial French town, nor the advances of Gaston, her conceited suitor. She adores her eccentric inventor father, though, and unwittingly follows him into the clutches of a hideous beast, who teaches her, with a little help from his enchanted servants, how appearances can be deceiving.
Escape to Witch Mountain (Rated G, ages 7+) They just don’t make Disney movies like this any longer. A brother and sister with curious psychic powers and a “star box” are the central focus of unraveling this 1975 sci-fi mystery. Tia and Tony don’t know whom they can trust beyond each other, but thanks to an unlikely ally played by Eddie Albert, the orphans eventually reunite with their kin.
The Wizard of Oz (Not rated, ages 8+) This masterful 1939 film may be scarier than you remember, making it the perfect Halloween family fare. When I was a kid, it was mean old Miss Gulch and what she was going to do to Toto, not to mention the sight of Dorothy’s house twirling in the tornado, that frightened me. Forget, lions and tigers and bears. Remember, flying monkeys and witches and Winkies? Fortunately, the darker aspects of the story are balanced out by lighter characters like Dorothy, Glinda, and Munchkins. It’s a one-of-a-kind heroine’s journey your family will want to watch again and again.
ET (Rated PG, ages 8+) Science fiction is already a mysterious genre to many of us. The addition of a strange but sweet alien may up the fear factor for young children. Literal-minded thinkers may also need some coaching to appreciate this artful 1982 blockbuster film from Steven Spielberg. Compelling performances by movie siblings Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, and Robert MacNaughton may even convince you to break out some Reese’s Pieces before the 31st.
The Corpse Bride (Rated PG, ages 9+) This 2005 film is stop-motion animation at its best. If your kids can handle the corpse bride’s eyeball popping out a few times, they will likely enjoy Tim Burton’s Goth gambol between two worlds. Johnny Depp is Victor, the indecisive bridegroom, trying to navigate the chasm between true love and good manners. A film that just might teach kids to commit more decisively to who and what they adore.
Ghostbusters (Rated PG, ages 10+) Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis are not afraid of ghosts, and your kids won’t be either after watching this silly, slimy 1984 comedy caper.
Christina Katz is a author, journalist, and writing coach.