Halloween is the season of spooks and scares, and also of jump-scares and body horror on screen that frightens us out of our plush seating. Horror movies have become a staple of this holiday, which is terrific news for scary movie junkies like myself. But what if you’re someone who appreciates Halloween, yet prefers their entertainment more PG? Or you want to watch something appropriate with the whole family? Then you should find this list – of PG Halloween movies – to be perfect for you.
PG Halloween movies can be just as fun than atypical horror movies with a hard R-rating. They supply scares, but not to an overt extent, and tend to be more focused on creating a creepy but endearing atmosphere that appeals to a more innocent spirit of Halloween. They also have characters you root for and can teach the youngest members of your family and friends valuable lessons about life. Without further ado, here are PG Halloween movies that a self-proclaimed “scaredy-cat” will love.
1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Okay, so technically this is a television special, not a PG Halloween movie. It’s not even a movie. But this one shouldn’t really have to be explained. It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of the most essential PG Halloween classics of all time. It’s been watched and re-watched by generations since its 1966 release, and you’re guaranteed to find it playing every Halloween. This is always such a cute and timeless little special to come back to. It brings so many characters from the Peanuts comic-strips to vivid life, from Linus to Lucy to Charlie Brown himself. There are endless quotable amusing lines, like “You blockhead!” and “I got a rock.”
Unlike most examples listed below, there are no genuine scares in this television special. It’s merely good and comfortable fun that can be enjoyed by anyone. Such is the legend of Charlie Brown.
2. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Can you believe Hocus Pocus was a box-office bomb and critical failure upon its release? The movie reportedly lost Disney an estimated $16.5 million. Obviously not what would be considered a success. It’s hard to believe all this now considering the enduring popularity of this movie. It’s considered a staple of the season!
Hocus Pocus is a movie that completely embraces the inherent comedic insanity in the premise (a trio of witches from Salem are accidentally resurrected by a teenager) and runs wild with it, and that’s part of the reason it has such a cult status nowadays. There is so much to enjoy here: Bette Midler hamming up the screen with her deliciously wacky performance, Sarah Jessica Parker in her pre-Sex and the City days, and a genuinely moving story at the core about the bond between an older brother and his little sister. It’s a PG Halloween movie with a solid sense of humor and entertaining performances. Go watch it now – or I’ll put a spell on you.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
We are not going to get into the debate right now on whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween or a Christmas movie. For the sake of the article, we’re going to go with Henry Selick’s confirmation it’s a Halloween movie. It’s also one of the greatest PG Halloween movies ever produced.
Even with the positive message at the core of the movie that alines more with the traditional Christmas spirit, the general aesthetic of this movie screams pure, PG Halloween enjoyment. Jack Skellingotn has become an iconic Disney character who you now always seem to see in merchandising inside of any Hot Topic. The stop-motion animation (and this is one of the defining movies to popularize it) brings to vivid life Halloween Town and its inhabitants. Also, “This Is Halloween” is a total banger all these years later, and mandatory playing throughout all of October. Do not test me on this.
3. Casper (1995)
“Can I keep you?” Casper and Wendy might have been one of your original OTPs as a kid. One of the best things about this PG Halloween movie is how accessible it is. It’s a kid-friendly movie about a ghost and a little girl, but the script is also witty and not brain-dead in a way that’ll have parents wanting to shoot themselves in the head. There is some darkness to the movie too, considering Casper’s tragic backstory and the theme of death that is surprisingly handled deftly.
Casper the Friendly Ghost is an influential Harvey Comics cartoon character, and the use of CGI in the movie proves he hasn’t lost any of his charm – even if the effects haven’t necessarily aged well. Most effects in classic PG Halloween movies haven’t. But that’s not the main reason we go back to them.
5. Halloweentown (1996)
If you were a Millenial baby who grew up obsessively watching Disney Channel as I did, there is no conceivable way you do not recall them playing this movie back-to-back every Halloween season. This PG Halloween movie classic focuses on the Piper children who discover their eccentric grandma (played by the late Debbie Reynolds) is secretly a witch, and follow her to the eponymous Halloweentown against their mother’s wishes.
One of the reasons Halloweentown remains a charming PG Halloween movie, and a beloved classic in the Disney Channel Original Movie canon, is because of how much commitment it has to the world-building of Halloweentown itself. We see magic buses and talking goblins, and it all looks like something from an episode of Goosebumps. It’s a movie so many of us grew up with, and now is the perfect time to revisit and feel like your childhood is happening all over again.
6. Coraline (2008)
Let’s get something just straight off the bat: Coraline is kind of a horrifying movie. Yes, even for a PG Halloween movie. Not so much because of Mother, or the the ghostly little children, or any of the side quests Coraline embarks on in the movie to thwart Mother. It’s horrifying because it shows how easy it is to manipulate and lure in children, particularly when they feel ignored and neglected at home. One of the reasons the figure of Mother is so dangerous is because of how she models herself as the perfect, doting, maternal, and endlessly kind mother that so many children dream of. It’s all a trap, and one adults can easily recognize.
This might all make it seem like Coraline is too scary of a movie to be added on this list, but this is truly a kid’s adventure film at heart that emphasizes the intelligence, resilience, and imagination of childhood that is enough to beat any monster. Coraline is a great character because she is so far from imperfect. She whines for attention, is sarcastic to a fault, and makes no show of hiding her feelings. But it’s an accurate representation of how many children about to become tweens act, often because of their home life, and it makes her character development in the movie more rewarding. Children’s media isn’t just about mindless entertainment to numb their minds; it’s about seeing themselves represented in strong and affecting ways that are true to the spirit and importance of childhood. Coraline is ultimately a heartwarming story about a young girl coming-of-age and maturation. It also happens to be very spooky, but hey – it’s Halloween. Some scares are in order.