When my kids were younger, the end of September meant the chatter about Halloween and their costume decisions would ramp up. Whether based on the latest blockbuster summer movie or an idea I’d planted in their heads, we would get to work on crafting their costumes by hand. And, because I think it’s extra fun to make your kids coordinate their costumes with a theme, I would spend long nights in October hunched over my sewing machine.
I think the year my son was a fried egg and my daughter was a chicken was quite possibly my best work, but I digress.
As the kids have grown into teens, our Halloween traditions have changed, too.
They still wear costumes occasionally—my son has a giant inflatable Stay Puft marshmallow man he’s worn for three years running and my daughter picks out costumes with her friends at the Halloween store that appears in the mini-mall this time of year. But gone are the days of little ones in footie pjs who are excited to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” and the excited shrieks of two kids who are delighted that the house on the corner gave out “good candy” this year. (Seriously, shout out to my neighbors who always give out the giant candy bars).
Because our traditions have had to change even more due to the pandemic and social distancing, I recently asked my teens what they wanted to do this year for Halloween. Both of them, without hesitation, asked if they could invite a friend over on Halloween night to watch, as my son described it, “A scary movie but not, like, with the word ‘massacre’ in it or anything.”
So here’s the list of scary-ish movies we came up with to work through this season. (And if you are looking for anything with clowns or chainsaws, this list is not for you. Sorry, not sorry.)
7 Halloween Family Movies
Confession time: I was “last year” years old when I finally sat down to watch this crowd-pleasing favorite featuring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. What happens when three witches are accidentally conjured back to modern day Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween night? I don’t want to ruin it for you but it’s cheesy, spooktacular fun.
The Sixth Sense
There are very few movies that have endings that stop us in our tracks and, if you are looking to wow your teen with a movie that will cause them to drop their jaw in surprise, The Sixth Sense will do the trick. Without spoiling the story, with four simple words uttered near the end of the movie, director M. Night Shyamalan delivered one of the best movie shocks I’ve ever seen.
While I still have mad love for Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Dan Ackroyd (and the aforementioned Stay Puft marshmallow man), I found the updated “girl power” version of Ghostbusters just plain fun. Between Melissa McCarthy’s hilarity, Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of a bumbling receptionist, and Kate McKinnon’s quirky slapstick, this movie will make your teens laugh, too. And, two words: Leslie. Jones.
If your teen has devoured “Stranger Things” and “Schitt’s Creek,” you’ll knock it out of the park when you suggest this classic flick for movie night. Rising stars Winona Ryder and Catherine O’Hara starred in this offbeat 80s comedy about a couple who forced to haunt their country home after they die in a car accident. Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, and Alec Baldwin round out this Halloween classic.
This one is technically a Christmas movie, but it’s one of director Tim Burton’s best films of all time. Johnny Depp plays Edward, an animated human with giant scissors for hands who suddenly finds himself as an outcast when his creator dies. Winona Ryder plays a local girl who helps Edward leave his outcast life behind and this movie will leave you feeling warm all over on a cold Fall night.
Coco is the beautiful story of a little boy named Miguel who finds himself in the Land of the Dead, on a quest to find the truth about his ancestors. Centering on the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos, which falls on November 1, this brightly animated flick isn’t scary at all— but it will make you cry and hug your loved ones a little harder.
When Coraline finds a secret door in her home, she’s suddenly transported to an alternate world that is seemingly better than her “other” life. But she soon realizes she will need to use all of her powers to get back home. My teen daughter delights in this movie no matter what time of year, but it’s a Halloween must-see.