11 Family-Friendly Movies to Stream or Rent This Halloween
It’s almost that time of the year for costumes, candy, and pumpkin carving. If you’re looking to plan a movie night with your family on Halloween (or the weekend before), here’s a list with enough variety and fun to satisfy many different tastes— whether you need something tame to introduce the holiday to your tiny tot or something on the spookier side.
Of course, no list is complete without It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown—hopefully you had a chance to watch this classic (which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year), when it aired last week. (If not, it's available on demand on ABC.) And for those who haven’t introduced their kiddos to the Harry Potter series, this Halloween might be a good time to start. But fear not (pun intended), if you're looking for other options, check out these 9 choices, using our scare-o-meter of flashlights to help guide you.
0 Flashlights = nothing too scary
1 flashlight = a few spooky surprises
2 flashlights = gasp-inducing
3 flashlights = some jump-in-your seat moments
4 flashlights = hide your eyes scares
Spookley the Square Pumpkin (2005)
Spookley is about a square pumpkin that obviously doesn’t fit in with the others. In fact, some of the pumpkins make fun of him and try to get him evicted from the pumpkin patch. Fortunately a few spiders, a couple of bats and a scarecrow decide to befriend him, while the rest keep their distance. But when he’s able to save the day during a heavy windstorm, the whole gang realizes that he’s an important member of their group and embraces him as their own, proving that it’s okay to be different. This is a good Halloween-themed story to share with very young kids who frighten easily.
Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest (2013)
If you have toddlers or little ones who can only handle a game of hide and seek or playing peekaboo, then this fun tale about Curious George’s first Halloween in the country may be your best bet. The whole family will enjoy following along as he learns about the town’s holidays traditions, like bobbing for apples, the giant pumpkin contest and the “Annual Boo Festival.” The big fun happens, though, when he tries to solve the mystery behind the legend of a haunted scarecrow called “No Noggin,” who supposedly appears on Halloween just to kick people's hats off. Does he really exist? Or is it just an urban myth?
SCARE-O-METER RATING: Zero flashlights.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Stream on Netflix.
Monsters University (2013)
Nothing could be more fun than a fright night with Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman), the two main monsters from the original, Monsters Inc. Now they’re back as college classmates in a prequel about how their unlikely friendship eventually blossoms while in the university’s “scare program.” But not before their initial rivalry gets them expelled from their program and forces them to become roommates and band together with a group of misfits to try and reverse their expulsions. Who knew you needed a bachelor’s degree in order to master the art of the “scare”?
Dreamworks Spooky Stories (2009)
Catch this trio of spooky tales with your favorite characters from two popular movie series: Shrek and Monsters vs. Aliens. How long would you dare to stay in a haunted castle while you and your friends tell ghost stories? In “Scared Shrekless,” Shrek (Mike Myers), Donkey (Eddie Murphy), Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) and their friends try to find out who among them can last the longest. In “Mutant Pumpkins,” it seems not even monsters can escape the perils of eating too much candy, even if it is to rescue the world from alien produce. And, “The Ghost of Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow)” returns in an attempt to bring Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) to the “other side” to be his queen. Will he succeed? Or can Shrek, Donkey, and Dragon defeat him once again?
Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)
The hotel’s new policy of booking human guests in addition to monsters makes for an interesting mix. But the real conflict begins when Dracula (Adam Sandler), the owner, attempts to ensure his half human, half vampire grandson will actually grow fangs and be more like his side of the family. Unfortunately, “Vampa” takes it too far and threatens the safety of his grandson, forcing his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez) to consider leaving Transylvania and living near her human in-laws in Santa Cruz, CA.
The Boxtrolls (2014)
Enjoy this twist on the age-old story of the orphan boy raised in the wild. Only in this animated tale, the boy, referred to as Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), grows up beneath the streets with a group of creatures called boxtrolls. Though the residents live in fear of these strange nighttime only critters, who according to legend, kidnapped a boy and killed his father, you soon learn that everything is not as it seems. Eggs and Winnie (Elle Fanning), a little girl who later bumps into the boy above ground, are the only ones who know the real truth and can free the town from their invisible prison - if only they can get the townspeople to believe them.
Imagine a mash-up of multiple horror movies, but without all the blood and gore, and you might have an idea of what this movie is about. It’s a fictional account about R. L. Stine (Jack Black), the very real author of the popular Goosebump book series for young adults. The fairly scary fright fest begins when monsters, big and small, pop out from the manuscripts of his horror books and come to life all at once, unleashing mayhem upon him, his daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush) his neighbor's son, Zach (Dylan Minette), and the whole town. But if he wants to rescue the town, he’ll have to put them back in their books - a task easier said than done.
Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is no ordinary boy. He can see and speak to the dead, including his deceased grandmother. Unfortunately, no one but his new friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) believes he has these extraordinary abilities and this keeps him from fitting in. He doesn’t get along with his father and he’s often bullied at school. Things began to change when his deceased uncle tells him, it’s up to him now to protect the town by preventing a witch from rising from the dead. If he achieves this feat, will he continue to be an outcast?
In both the original 1984 movie and the 2016 reboot, four paranormal investigators help solve the Big Apple's current "ghost problem,” which they later realize is actually a demonic possession of the city. But if you’re looking to add a little girl-power (#squadgoals) to your night, then check out this past summer’s all-female rendition with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. This comedic horror film is heavy in hijinks and laughs, but low on jump out your seat scares, unless of course you have surround sound.
Monsters House (2006)
Tween D.J. (Mitchel Musso) suspects that Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi) from across the street is hiding something. So, he spies on him with a telescope and documents everything with his Polaroid (Hitchcock fans may see a nod to the Rear Window in this story). But when an ambulance takes an unconsciousness Nebbercracker to the hospital, DJ soon learns that the issue isn’t the old man, but something or someone else. To figure out what is really going on, DJ enlists the help of his best friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) and Jenny (Spencer Locke), a girl from the neighborhood they both just met. After seeing this, your idea of what a smart house can do just might change.
The Visit (2015)
Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) travel to see their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) for the first time ever in what they expect will be an uneventful but pleasant visit. When the 15-year-old and 13-year-old are told they must remain enclosed in their room each night after 9:30 PM, they just think it’s a weird curfew. Budding filmmaker Becca uses a hand-held camera to document their time on the farm. With each day, their grandparents’ behavior grows more alarming and disturbing. At one point, Nana asks Becca to get all the way into the oven to clean it, before shutting her in there—giving the movie something of a "Hansel and Gretel" meets The Blair Witch Project vibe. This darker tale about a trip to “grandmother’s house” is from M. Night Shyamalan, the writer and director of The Sixth Sense, so expect a surprise ending.