Halloween is a special time of year. A tricky time of year, if you will, especially when it comes to finding entertainment for yourself and your family. But it needn’t be. I’ve compiled a list of age-appropriate Halloween laughs and thrills for everyone in your family, from the very young to the completely jaded. If you’re like me, you’ve noticed that the closer we get to a holiday, the less likely your favorite film will be showing up from your Netflix queue. Many of these films are available in your local box stores and grocery stores like Kroger/Fred Meyer, Target and Wal-mart for reasonable prices at the last minute. Procrastinators delight!
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” – This short animated film released in 1966 is still the seminal Halloween classic for the all-ages crowd. Run time 25 minutes.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” – Tim Burton’s masterpiece about what happens when the King of Halloween decides he wants more out of life is stunning, entertaining, and has its share of thrills. Run time 76 minutes.
“Hocus Pocus” – Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as a coven of Salem witches? What’s not to love about Disney’s story of what happens when three sisters, condemned to the ground, return one Halloween night when a virgin lights a magical candle?
“The Ring” – I saw this movie on Halloween night ten years ago when it opened back in 2002. It was fresh and daring, and honestly it scared the hell out of me. It’s surprising a film this good is rated PG-13, making it accessible to an audience that may still be scared by images they see on VHS tapes (or that VHS tapes once existed at all).
“Sleepy Hollow” – Tim Burton makes a second appearance on this list because he is a genius at capturing atmosphere and evoking the feelings I associate with Fall,/Autumn and Halloween. As a kid, my mother would tell me “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” during long road trips out to the country to visit my aunt. We would pass through dense forests where, even in the middle of the day, the light would struggle to find the car on the road. Tim Burton’s retelling of Washington Irving’s classic tale of the Headless Horseman is far and away my favorite.
“Halloween” – John Carpenter and Debra Hill set the tone for almost all horror films made in the last 30+ years. This 1978 horror-genre-making classic, while beginning to look dated, will always be the best Halloween film to watch, any year thanks to performances by Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance.
“Trick r Treat” – A modern day offering from writer/director Michael Dougherty is a good old fashioned collection of short stories that scale the gambit from the hilarious to the terrifying. Truly one of the best Halloween films to come along in years. Perfect for showing at a party where your guests can catch a story between conversations, dancing or … consorting with the devil.