If you’re someone who has kids, it can be difficult to find good family-friendly horror movies. The art of finding good horror movies for kids requires a delicate balance. If the movie is too scary, it can leave your kid nearly traumatized. However, if the movie isn’t scary at all, your kid will feel cheated.
When the Halloween season hits, there’s nothing better than gathering around with your family for a scary movie night. That’s why this list compiles some of the best scary movies for beginners. These are movies that strike that perfect balance between genuinely scary and age-appropriate. The films on this list aren’t cheesy Disney-Channel Original Movies or movies with a simple, spooky aesthetic. They are bonafide classics of the genre that will help introduce your kids to the concept of being scared without having to see a therapist later. No matter what you choose, you can be sure that your family will have a great spooky night in with these 10 family-friendly horror movies for kids.
Nothing quite kicks off the scary season like a stop-motion animated movie. A lot of family-friendly horror movies feature stop motion for its visual creativity and off-kilter appearance. Paranorman is a surprisingly sophisticated horror movie for kids that will entertain adults in equal measure. The film follows Norman, a young boy who can speak to the dead. After trying to convince his family that his gift is real, Norman must stop the town from a curse that brings the dead back to life.
Paranorman features compelling characters and a prevailing message of tolerance that deftly weaves in relatable themes like bullying, parental relationships, death, religion, sexuality, and being an outcast.
The film came out in 2012 and has since been lauded as an animated classic. Filled with clever tributes to past horror films, the film does a great job at providing a complex story without ever being too overwhelming for kids.
No family-friendly horror movie list is ever complete without Tim Burton. Since the ’90s, Burton has become the face of twisted tales of macabre outcasts. While many of his films could qualify for this list, none of them are quite as classic as Beetlejuice.
Beetlejuice follows a recently deceased couple who call on the titular character to help them scare new tenants out of their house. The film is chock full of terrific performances and outlandish scenarios that introduce concepts of death and the afterlife with wit and levity. Michael Keaton in particular gives a live-wire and energetic performance that will delight younger viewers with a sense of humor. However, it has no shortage of genuine scares and is probably best for children ages 10 or older.
8) The Addams Family
When it comes to finding family-friendly horror movies for kids, The Addams Family is one of the most iconic families of all time. The 1991 classic features witty one-liners, amazing chemistry between the cast, and a heavy dose of twisted fun that kids and adults alike can enjoy.
The Addams Family follows the bizarre family as they reunite with their long-lost uncle to who must protect their wealth from a loan shark. The film was such a classic that it spawned two sequels and a new animated reboot. However, none of these quite hold a candle to the original film tribute to America’s spookiest family.
Coraline is another stop motion animated film from the same studio that brought you Paranorman. The film follows a young girl who finds a portal to another world. Within the world lies creepy doppelgangers of her parents, complete with eyes for buttons. The movie is an elegant and genuinely terrifying story that has quickly become a staple in family-friendly horror movies for kids. With the relatable characters and the manner in which it doesn’t talk down to its young audience, Coraline is a must-see for families.
Joe Dante’s Gremlins might arguably qualify as a Christmas movie. However, the mayhem and practical effects have made this a Halloween staple. The film follows Billy, who received a Mogwai for Christmas. After failing to follow the simple rules, don’t get it wet, don’t let it eat after midnight, the creature spawns other Mogwais, who cause mischief around town.
Gremlins is undeniably tense, featuring memorable transformations sequences and truly horrific monsters. However, the movie balances these scares with a goofy sense of humor. This balance will serve as a great introduction to creature features.
5) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
No other adaptation has done more justice to the Headless Horseman story than Ichabod and Mr. Toad. This Disney classic is a package film that features two distinct stories. While The Wind in the Willows segment doesn’t qualify as a family-friendly horror movie for kids, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow segment is a downright classic.
This compact short features a bevy of iconic Halloween imagery blended with Disney’s fluid and expressive animated style. The film balances cozy and unsettling with equal measure. This makes it perfect for kids who want a spooky tale that won’t keep them up all night.
If you want to show your kids a real “adult” horror movie that is still appropriate for kids, you can’t go wrong with Frankenstein. Featuring one of the most famous monsters, the film is a perfect introduction to a “real” horror movie.
The old age of the film and relative innocence of the plot will prevent the movie from being too intense for children while providing them with the film culture experience that so many young kids crave.
3) Hocus Pocus
Hocus Pocus is a classic horror movie for kids that makes it onto nearly every family-friendly horror movie list. Taking place on Halloween night, the film serves as a fun introduction to witches that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The film follows a young boy who moves to Salem. He soon is caught in the middle of an awakening that brings three witches to the present time. This is a movie squarely made for kids. However, it features enough hidden adult jokes and goofy fun to entertain the parents as well.
2) Monster House
Monster House established itself as a classic horror movie for kids with a brilliant premise. The film revolves around a house that eats people. This is a family-friendly horror movie that doesn’t hold back on the horror. Despite being squarely for kids, the film is full of surprisingly scary moments and a tragic backstory that will challenge children without confusing them.
When finding an age-appropriate family-friendly horror movie for kids, horror-comedy is the way to go. Ghostbusters is one of the most famous horror-comedies of all time and is a staple of every ’80s kid’s childhood. The movie features a wide variety of spine-tingling ghosts and humor that will give your kids space to breathe in between the scares.