What do Halloween and Christmas have in common? Lots of things, actually. Both are major retail and cultural holidays in the U.S., during which time billions of dollars will be spent on food, costumes, and treats. Both holidays share various traditions involving going door-to-door — trick-or-treating in the case of Halloween and caroling at Christmastime. Both holidays involve parties with friends and family, and both have magazines and websites devoted entirely to decorating and entertaining in connection to the season’s trappings.
Finally, both holidays also have entire genres of movies associated with them.
Horror movies have been a thing ever since people started figuring out that moving images could be captured on film. And indeed, the horror genre is one of the film industry’s biggest moneymakers. What’s more, after decades of being ignored by the various societies that give out industry awards — namely, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences — movies in the horror genre are staring to get noticed for their artistic merit.
But not everyone enjoys blood-curdling screams for Halloween. Some families, particularly those with small children, want movies that are scary without actually being terrifying. They want movies that set the scene for Halloween, without actually venturing into hardcore horror.
Here are five family-friendly Halloween movies to watch with your little ones on October 31.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Like The Big Lebowski and It’s a Wonderful Life, Hocus Pocus didn’t do particularly well at the box office on its original release, but later became a cult favorite. This Disney movie tells the story of three comically-inept witches (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker) in Salem, Massachusetts. The three are inadvertently resurrected by a teenage boy.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
OK, so technically this one’s a Christmas movie. “Christmas” is right there in the title, after all. But since it’s about the King of Halloweentown, it could pass as a Halloween movie. In this stop-motion animated classic, Pumpkin King Jack Skellington accidentally stumbles through a portal into Christmastown and decides to bring the holiday back home, to mixed results.
Spawning three sequels over the next 20 years, Halloweentown started out as a Disney Channel TV movie. It’s about a teenage girl who learns that she comes from a family of witches. She then finds herself on the wrong side of Kalabar, the Mayor of Halloweentown.
Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Adam Sandler stars as Count Dracula in this animated classic, running a hotel where paranormal creatures like himself can rest, getting away from the persecution they endure in the human world. His 118-year-old daughter (a teenager in the film’s universe), Mavis, falls in love with a human, and Drac and his crew must figure out how to live with the fact that a human is in their midst.
Unlike the multitude of sequels, reboots, and in-universe live-action movies that followed this 2002 entry, this one’s actually good. It stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze, Jr., among other young adult stars of the time. The Mystery, Inc. gang is trying to find out who’s behind the strange goings-on at a popular resort. Kids will love the comical antics of the cast, particularly the dynamic between Shaggy and Scooby, while adults will love the grown-up jokes that the kids likely won’t notice.