The leaves have changed colors, the air is turning brisk and cold, and you’re taking out your sweaters and scarves. You’re bundling up under your blanket with a hot chocolate warming your raw, red hands, while the fireplace sizzles in the corner. You turn on the television, hoping to catch a beloved holiday movie from your childhood, one that hits you with a truckload of memories and makes you smile no matter how many times you watch it. The disappointment hits when you find nothing on television. You go to the Disney Channel station, knowing full well that they always play movies at 8:00 every night, and during the entire month of October they show Halloween movies galore. You search Disney Channel at 8:00 and find…nothing. You search the next day: nothing. The next day: nada. The next day: nope, zero, zilch. All the Halloween movies you grew up loving and watching every year are no longer being played. And then you start to wonder: have times really changed that much?
From the Halloweentown series, to Twitches, to Hocus Pocus, to even Under Wraps and Phantom in the Megaplex, Disney Channel was a place you knew you could rely on for your favorite annual movies. These movies are so beloved that people of our age who grew up with them often find themselves recreating movie marathons of these classics. But further from Disney Channel, I found rarely any Halloween movies in general on television. Granted, ABC Family—or, as it’s now called ‘Freeform’—scheduled movies such as The Addams Family series, Hocus Pocus, animated Tim Burton films, and the Scooby Doo films. I suppose you can always expect annual rituals from the channel that still manages to perform Harry Potter weekends incredibly often. However, other than Freeform, Halloween movies were scarce. Even premium channels such as HBO or Showtime lacked any Halloween themed movies. Where were the horror movies that were shown annually? There was nothing to watch, and I kept wondering if I really have grown that much older, if nothing is the same anymore.
We’ll have to face it: kids aren’t growing up the way we did. However, if you have a little sibling, spend some time with them and show them the movies that you loved when you were their age, and hopefully through watching it together, you’ll create fans of these beloved movies through association. Need help figuring out which movie? Don’t worry—I created a guide for you:
A Guide To The Best Children Halloween Movies
- Beetlejuice (1988) directed by Tim Burton, starring Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder: “Well, I attended Juilliard, I’m a graduate of the Harvard business school, I travel quite extensively, I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time during that, I’ve seen the Exorcist about a hundred and sixty-seven times AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT, not to mention the fact that you’re talking to a DEAD GUY, now what do you think, am I qualified?” With Michael Keaton’s hilarious physical comedy and wit, and a young Winona Ryder embodying confidence in being her horror-loving self, what’s not to love? Disclaimer: Watch it once, and you’ll never get Day-O The Banana Boat Song out of your head.
- Corpse Bride (2005) directed by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Danny Elfman and Christopher Lee: “Give me a listen, you corpses of cheer, at least those of you who still got an ear, I’ll tell you a story that’ll make a skeleton cry, about our own jubiliciously love corpse bride.” Tim Burton, Tim Burton, Tim Burton. Need I say more? Tim Burton’s flawless animated movies are on a level of their own. (You should also watch The Nightmare Before Christmas, so that you can pass on Frankenweenie.)
- Addams Family Values (1993) starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, and Joan Cusack: “It’s a boy! It’s a girl! It’s an Addams!” This movie has thousands of quotable scenes and lines and will keep you on the floor laughing. Far superior to the first Addams Family movie, this beloved sequel has a crazy Ballerina-Barbie loving Joan Cusack, sends Wednesday and Pugsley to a perky summer camp where they’re forced to watch (shudder) Disney, and a fantastic scene with Nathan Lane. What’s not to go crazy for here?
- Alvin and The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein (1999): Before the blockbuster live-action Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, there were these adorable cartoon television movies that still make me smile. In this movie, the chipmunks befriend an adorable Frankenstein and try to hide him from Dave so they won’t get in trouble. We all know how that ends up: “ALVIIIINNNNNNN!!!!”
- Under Wraps (1997): The first time I saw this movie was when my older sister was watching it on television. She wanted me to watch with her so she told me to come over. I took one look at the TV, screamed at the sight of the mummy and ran upstairs to my mom crying that my sister made me watch a scary movie. Years later, I rewatched Under Wraps and laughed at myself about how I could possibly find this adorable guy remotely frightening. But that’s the entire point of this movie. It helps kids conquer their fears and makes them realize that they’re really not all that scary: they can actually become your friends, if you let them. While this isn’t my top choice today, it certainly is a movie that should be shown to little kids, especially kids that are easily frightened.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1990-2000): Granted, this isn’t a movie. But a few episodes of this classic Nickelodeon spooky favorite is enough to get you freaked and creeped out for Halloween. There are still episodes that give me the heeby jeebies even thinking of them. (Anyone remember the Ghastly Grinner? Goodness gracious.)
- Halloweentown (1998) starring Kimberly J Brown and Debbie Reynolds: No Halloween themed movie list can be complete without the Halloweentown series. Follow adorable, adventurous Marnie as she takes a trip in a yellow taxicab driven by a comedic skeleton through the cute and quaint Halloweentown. And remember: “Being normal is vastly overrated.” (Don’t watch Return To Halloweentown. Just don’t. That one doesn’t exist; wipe it from your memory.)
- Twitches (2005) starring Tia and Tamara Mowry: Raise your hand if you miss Sister, Sister. Yeah, me too. But Twitches is the next best thing. Starring our favorite Disney Channel twins, it’s basically the plot of Sister, Sister—two twins separated at birth that find each other and reunite—but this movie just puts a supernatural darker element into the mix: they discover they’re witches and need to conquer the darkness. “In my fantasy, I was always the one to rescue her.” “Where was I?” “Shopping.” “Fair enough.”
- Hocus Pocus (1993) directed by Kenny Ortega (yup, HSM’s Kenny Ortega: who knew?) starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimi, and freaking Bette Midler. (Could we have asked for a better cast?) Definitely saved the most iconic for last: Hocus Pocus is the movie we all think of when we envision “Halloween movies.” My uncle and aunt have recently moved to Salem, and while I was visiting them, we walked past the Dennison house. It was awesome and still set up as a museum to commemorate the fantastic movie. I would listen to Bette Midler singing I Put A Spell On You a thousand times over and over just so I could befriend Billy and Binx.
While there are plenty of favorites I left out such as Casper and Wendy, Phantom of the Megaplex, My Mom’s Got A Date With A Vampire, and more (not to mention actual horror films!) I believe this list is sufficient enough to get you started on your Halloween movie night. Enjoy, and watch out for what goes bump in the night. Boo!