The Best Grimsical, Wonderful Family Halloween Movies

DISCLAIMER: This is not a series dedicated to proving men shouldn’t cry, or to suggest ONLY women cry and are therefore inferior. The goal of this series is to dispel the pre-established (yet flawed) notion that being “manly” and being disconnected from your emotions go hand-in-hand. Even the most macho of men enjoy and even shed a tear at films, and the sooner we can admit that the sooner the concept that one sex is better than the other can go away. While the approach to these articles is one of light-hearted comedy, the emotional core is valid. While men might be more hesitant to admit it, movies often times have the potential to make us cry, for example:

Must See Family Halloween Movies

It’s October 1, which means it’s time for some spooky thematic continuity up in this haunted hizzy. As the all-powerful Christmas creeps further and further up the calendar ladder, other holidays get absorbed and repurposed. At this point we might as well rename Thanksgiving here in America as “Eat a lot and then go shopping for Christmas Day” (admittedly a mouthful). But Halloween has yet to be ignored, mostly because it’s just too darn fun. Fun to dress up, fun to eat sweet treats, fun to watch Halloween-themed movies. While moviegoing families are quick and eager to get in line for the next good scare, there are some films that HAVE to be watched before October can formally be considered done right. While we’ll save the more adult and scary installments of these must-see films for next week, below is a list of family movies you don’t have a choice but to watch in October.

1. Beetlejuice
This film is why we grew Tim Burton in a lab. This film is why people know the name of the second brightest star in the Orion constellation, and know how to pronounce it, but not spell it. This film is why we know that we shouldn’t say Beetlejuice three times, lest zany hijinks ensue! Perfect for the family yet creepy enough that adults can really get into it, B….(not going to say it three times) is perfect for October fun. The music is entrancing and fully an earworm, Michael Keaton is hamming it up so much you forget it’s him, and speaking of forgetting who’s who…remember Alec Baldwin? He’s in it too! But we don’t care, because the plot moves smoothly, and the ghost with the most is just too entertaining to look away.

You may need to watch this film every year to feel whole, but there are sad parts that give us pause. First off, we’re supposed to laugh at a teenage girl trying to find the perfect words for her suicide note. Oh yay, that’s funny? Then we think about the basis for the plot; two middle-aged adults with no kids live alone and then die alone. Sure the afterlife is craaaazy, but they sure glommed on to Lydia pretty quick. Me thinks they wanted a child but instead got an early death…and then a child.

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2. The Addams Family
We also would have accepted its sequel, Addams Family Values since both are equally magnificent. If you want a film that exudes both Halloween creepy while staying fully family friendly, this is the film for you. Everyone in the film wears a smirk that lets you know they’re having a ball with their roles. Those who grew up with the TV series accept this cinematic retelling as worthy, while those who only know the film can’t go an October without watching at least a little bit of it. There’s a vague question of whether the family is alive or dead that’s never really answered, and that just makes the CONSTANT jokes all that more hilarious.

The sad part of this is exactly what makes it great: Raul Julia. Say that name and three films come to mind; this film (and sequel) and Street Fighter. He died right after playing Bison. He never had a chance to correct that wrong, and clearly he had the chops to do it. So sad.

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas
A cautionary tale of what would happen if Christmas ever dared to impugn on Halloween’s domain. OK, maybe not really, but it’s definitely the reason Hot Topic still turns a profit. This film is so ingrained in Halloween that the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland is retrofitted with the film’s characters during October. The songs are perfect for getting in the Halloween spirit, even when they’re singing about Christmas. You cannot deny the overall motif of the film is deliciously creepy, and again there’s question as to whether the main characters are already dead or not. If so, can the bad guy really do them any harm? Doesn’t matter, it’s just so spooky yet family friendly that it’s become a staple of October TV marathons for years.

The sad part is the theme that it sells. Basically kids watching are told that the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence, but the movie takes it a step further. Not only is the grass not greener, if you even tried something else you would ruin everything. It’s a lesson in accepting your fate and not ever trying to better yourself. Spooky indeed.

4. Hocus Pocus

This movie is a bit polarizing, as it’s more of a cult hit than a true classic. That being said, I lump it in with The Super Mario Bros. Movie in the regard that even though some people don’t like it, EVERYONE has seen it. Family friendly, fun songs, silly jokes, and Sarah Jessica Parker before she became a horse. It’s adorable, and perfect for families looking to put some Halloween spirit in the background as they decorate the house. Three witches are brought back to life to suck the life out of children to stay young. If done wrong, this could have been highly horrifying, but they walk the line between scary and cute very well. Some parts of it haven’t aged very well, as is expected with any movie featuring characters out of their own time. Things that they marvel at as being modern are no longer modern to us, but it’s still good fun.

All fun and games for sure, save for the little girl that had her soul eaten alive by three old witches. Yep, that totally happens while her brother watches. Then they torture him and turn him into a cat. That second part’s not so scary, but the dead little girl is something the film quickly tries to shove under the rug.

5. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Not everyone grew up watching this particular Peanuts special, but everyone knows Charlie Brown and the gang. This is no different, but with those parameters you can guess the jokes, the themes, and the music. It’s wholesome, slightly heavy on the Christmas undertones, but fun anyways.

The sad part is that the little kid stays up all night in the pumpkin patch waiting for Halloween/Santa, and then ends up pissing everyone off and not getting any candy. For a kid watching that, we’re talking super harsh punishment!

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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.