Halloween is a time for everyone, not just the gore-loving horror enthusiasts of adulthood but the pumpkin loving magic enthusiasts of childhood and, well, just about everyone else in between.
It’s a time for fun fancy dress, sharing treats and getting all hyped up on sugar! And if you don’t like any of that, then take solace in the fact that being inside, alone and in the dark, is also perfectly “in the spirit” of the annual 31st October tradition.
Oddly, Halloween has become one of few times per year that families and friends feel obliged to spend a little time together, but with the nights growing longer and the trick or treating likely to be over way before the sugar rushes are, what on earth are the parents amongst us supposed to do with all that spare time?
Watch movies of course!
Luckily for them, and those who like upbeat and funny family classics, Halloween is a great excuse to whack on all types of campy fare, from childhood comedies to creative and innocent renditions of lengthy Halloween traditions.
In this list, we’re counting down 10 such films, veering slightly away from James Cullen’s more adult choices in “The 7 Best Halloween Films for People Who Don’t Like Horror Movies” and more towards the family market, in this the Top 10 Family Halloween Movies.
The live-action Scooby-Doo films (2002-2004) are as daft as a brush and lean heavily into the mythos of the swinging 60s and theories of the whole Mystery Machine crew hallucinating their entire experiences, but with a script written by Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2 screenwriter-director James Gunn, and a cast of late 90s/early 2000s icons like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew Lillard in the iconic roles, these two movies provide laughs for the kids and nostalgia for adults.
Give them a try, they may surprise you!
9. Hotel Transylvania 1/2/3
It may not seem like much of a statement, but the Hotel Transylvania (2012-2018) movies are some of Adam Sandler’s very best work. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to recognise him underneath his thick vampire accent and the overall childish innocence of his dialogue.
Hotel Transylvania is a hugely successful animated film franchise that built on the relatively rich story of its first release to offer a mini universe of its own that remains as playful with the traditions and iconography of Halloween as it ever was and is actually a funny animated franchise that seems to have real heart to back it up.
Few could have foreseen the modern live-action take on Goosebumps (2016) being so much fun, but with a cast of new faces headlined by the always entertaining Jack Black, perhaps we should have done!
A film that made our reviewer Katie Doyle “laugh more than the children” [full review here], Goosebumps has a bit of everything for people of all ages. And sure, the effects are hokey and some of the themes are a bit too immature for a film night with adult friends expecting something a little more composed for the night’s comedy relief slot, but as far as family entertainment goes, Goosebumps is hardly lacking.
Campy effects, an IP we all recognise and Jack Black in the lead role gift this film a little more than a lot of its modern contemporaries and therefore make it a credible entry onto our top 10 list.
‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ was a cartoon chomping at the bit for a revolution in visual effects that would warrant the iconic character’s arrival in live-action, and in 1995 we got that via Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, director Brad Silberling (City of Angels; A Series of Unfortunate Events ) and an all star cast.
Highly respected actor (and the legendary speech giving President from Independence Day) Bill Pullman plays a single father experimenting with technologies that he hopes will bring him back into contact with his recently deceased wife (Amy Brenneman). He and his daughter, played by Addams Family alum Christina Ricci, move into a house haunted by Casper and his three uncles, making for a movie that wraps incredibly deep themes regarding loss and moving on inside some outlandish and downright bonkers comedy.
Former Monty Python Eric Idle acts as lackey to the lead villain played by Raging Bull’s Cathy Moriarty too, which about sums it up. This is a fun film for the kids that’ll keep any adult’s attention through cameos, story twists and its absolute absurdity. A true 90s Halloween family classic, if ever there was such a thing.
6. Corpse Bride
Oscar-nominated stop-motion animation Corpse Bride is a movie evolved from the dark and gothic sensibilities of Tim Burton (Batman; Edward Scissorhands).
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter star as a couple separated by the small barrier that is life – that being that one is alive and one is dead – and must transcend all the rules of the universe to be with one another for eternity. There are shenanigans akin to some of Burton’s better earlier works, but the general gist is that this is a beautifully animated film with real heart and an eye for detail; a film that can be re-watched time and time again no matter your age.
5. Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Need any more words be said for an animated movie than “Aardman”?
The legendary British stop-motion animation studio produced one of their most popular films ever with their 2005 Halloween-themed hit The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, a piece of wholesome family entertainment that features a story worth investing in, a monster scary enough to function but funny enough to not give anyone nightmares, and a whole heap of little jokes to keep you going through the movie’s less suspenseful moments.
This film is somewhat of a cultural phenomenon in the UK so it’ll probably be available for cheap (or even free) around any given Halloween. Watch it! It’s simply an unmissable family Halloween movie.
The second in our list from that dastardly Tim Burton is Beetlejuice, undoubtedly one of the most iconic family Halloween movies of all time.
Michael Keaton stars as an eccentric demon with a bright white face and green hair for what is a quote-a-minute style of performance that absolutely steals the show from Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder and Geena Davis, three stars so often forgotten in the shadow of Keaton’s great portrayal.
Many a childhood wouldn’t be complete without this film and it’s arguable that of all the pictures on this list, this is best to watch as a cynical adult too.
3. The Addams Family/2
Dead-pan humour, meta humour, thinly veined adult jokes, awesome costumes and perfect casting. Could you ask for any more from a family friendly Halloween movie?
The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993) are a duo of films that simply fill the soul with glee; movies that make jokes out of the gruesome and develop deep personal relationships under the radar to offer funny, intricate family movies that have transcended age barriers and shifting societal norms to remain relevant even to this day over 25 years later.
Every single face in this memorable classic remains recognisable to this day and the values of the film echo the titles themselves: family. It’s a perfect watch to get those deep feelings of warm-hearted goodness flowing through your veins.
2. Hocus Pocus
1993 witch movie Hocus Pocus is an unmissable Halloween film to people of all ages and tastes, whether they’re writing lists on family Halloween films or simply looking for something to watch.
The terrifically funny Disney comedy starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi and Sarah Jessica Parker is an icon of the Halloween sub-genre even with its clear aim at the family market, and is a film that seems about as timeless today as it ever has been.
There’s a reason this is one of the classics Disney hasn’t gone back to mess around with yet.
Who you gonna call?
Well… Ghostbusters of course. I’m sure that’s a fresh joke nobody has ever made before…
This 1980s classic would be just as at home in Elizabeth Howlett’s 8 Most 80s Movies list as it would in this list, and it would probably give a pretty good fight for the top spot in a Best Live-Action Family Films list too, whether it was Halloween related or not.
The Ivan Reitman film has been cementing the legendary comedic talents of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson in the minds of children for close to 35 years and remains uncontested as one of the most creative family movies in history. If you want to see some ghoulies zapped up by vacuums, and some of the most hilariously shocking plot developments in any film on this list, see Ghostbusters, our number one family Halloween movie.
So there’s our list. Let us know if we missed off your favourite by leaving a comment below! We wish you all the happiness on this most spooooooooky time of year!