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Halloween means different things to different people. If you’re a kid, it means Candy: The Holiday. When you grow up a bit, it probably means, if nothing else, a great time to watch some spooky movies.
That said, Halloween doesn’t have to be a non-stop gore fest. Whether you’re looking for something to watch with your kids or you just don’t feel like watching yet another blood-soaked exercise in grueling horror, you want something on the lighter side.
Note: Not all of these movies are kid-friendly, so make sure to watch a trailer before you pop the movie on for your whole family!
1. Hocus Pocus
When Hocus Pocus came out in 1993, you’d probably have a hard time convincing anyone that people would appreciate it just as much or perhaps even more 25 years later. It’s tough to say what it is, but it’s almost as if we collectively, as a society, just decided that this is a movie we’ll keep watching. It also takes place on Halloween, has witches, a mummy, and a black cat. What else could you ask for?
Let’s clear things up right away: I’m talking about the 1991 movie, not the 2019 movie of the same name. There are plenty of things that make this worth recommending, but one of my favorites is the duo of Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston as Gomez as Morticia Adams. The Addams Family is friendly enough for kids with a hidden grim humor that will make this one fun for adults as well.
I’m talking about the original 1984 Ghostbusters here, but if you’re inclined, feel free to substitute the also very good 2016 movie of the same name, or even 1989’s Ghostbusters II. No matter which you pick, you’re in for some ghostly fun. It’s up to you to decide whether these are kid-friendly, but I have very fond memories of seeing the first movie at a very young age.
I’m going to have to be careful writing this section, as I don’t dare write the name more than one more time. If you don’t understand that last sentence, you probably haven’t seen Beetlejuice before, and you should do something about that. Starring Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, and a young Winona Ryder, this was the movie that introduced director Tim Burton to most folks.
Director Mel Brooks has said he considers his 1974 film Young Frankenstein, starring Gene Wilder, his finest work, albeit not his funniest. I’m sure you’ll find people willing to challenge him on whether or not its his funniest, but it’s much harder to find movie buffs who don’t at least consider Young Frankenstein to be among Brooks’s best.
6. The Witches
The second movie on this list to feature Anjelica Huston, 1990’s The Witches is stranger in many ways than The Addams Family. Though the movie is about an eight year-old boy and his grandmother, it may prove to be a little too scary for younger children, so you might at least want to skim through it before showing it on family movie night.
Based on Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name, Something Wicked This Way Comes will have you thinking of your own childhood, even if like me you grew up in surroundings nothing like those of the film. This movie has zero gore, but it brings an unsettling quality that makes it perfect for watching as you gear up for Halloween.
Most movies in the horror genre tend to go more and move over the top with each installment. The Evil Dead franchise is no exception, but instead of getting gorier and gorier, the movies just got sillier. Army of Darkness, the third movie in the trilogy, has moments with demons that might be scary in other movies, but they’re always seconds away from a gag that would be right at home in a Three Stooges short.
9. The Burbs
Almost everyone has at some point had a creepy neighbor that has you wondering just what they’re up to. In The Burbs, Tom Hanks’s Ray Peterson teams up with his other neighbors to find out what exactly is going on. While the movie doesn’t take place on or even around Halloween, the general mood of the movie is a perfect fit for gearing up for the holiday.
The newest movie on this list, What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary that takes a look at a houseful of vampires, some of whom have been living together for centuries. While some of the film’s biggest laughs come from the mundane aspects of vampire life, the movie doesn’t play it safe. When it comes down to certain moments, the movie plays its hand at showing what it might look like if this was a true horror movie, with the sudden dips into frights helping you appreciate the comedy even more.