The Best Halloween Movies for Young Kids
When I try to reflect on the reason that I love Halloween so much, it becomes quickly apparent that Halloween specials have a lot to do with it. Scenes from my favorite movies are some of the first images that pop into my head when I think “Halloween”. They are easily right up there with my own personal trick-or-treating or party experiences in terms of how important they are. In fact, I consider the best Halloween movies to be a part of my personal experience in their own right. Honestly that’s no big surprise - movies are perhaps the very best medium for setting the appropriate Halloween atmosphere. What better way to get into the spirit than vicariously living through a spooky adventure?
When movies and TV shows portray Halloween, they add to a child’s definition of Halloween and what it feels and looks like. Trick-or-treating takes place in pristine neighborhoods full of children in elaborate costumes. Halloween parties and haunted houses on TV are expertly crafted and full of detail. And, of course, on TV you get to sprinkle in the spooky, supernatural elements that make the holiday what it is. It’s very fair to say that shows I grew up watching around Halloween built my vision of Halloween just as much as any actual Halloweening I did myself.
Below is the list of what I consider to be the best Halloween movies for young kids. Or, in other words, this is the list of Halloween movies I was most excited to share with my children - and the ones my family loves the most. By “young kids” I’m talking about roughly ages 8 and under. Right now my children are 6 and 2, and so this list of movies specifically has them in mind.
The list is a combination of quintessential Halloween classics and newer films that we all simply love. These are all movies and TV specials that we’ve watched many times, and there’s only one film on the list that I wouldn’t show to my 2-year-old - because of how scary it is (Hint: It’s Ernest). What I had to leave off of this list are some classic Halloween favorites like Hocus Pocus that we’ll probably still wait a couple more years to watch because of some slightly mature themes. But honestly there would be very few changes to this list even it was titled “The Best Halloween Movies, Period.”
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. The links of movie titles and their images will lead you to view the listings for digital and physical copies of the films on Amazon.com.
10. Curious George A Halloween Boo Fest (2013)
We’re big fans of Curious George around here. We have one of those giant books - the complete collection of his adventures. The fact that my kids love this Halloween movie with a familiar friend reminds me of how I loved the Halloween episodes of my favorite TV shows. A Halloween Boo Fest makes the list because both our 6-year-old and our 2-year-old request it specifically. In fact, they both wanted to watch it about three months ago during the summer. I believe our 2-year-old was asking specifically for “No-Noggin”, the spooky tale from this movie about the scarecrow that steals your hat on Halloween, and it took us a little bit to realize exactly what she wanted. We have a couple Curious George Halloween books as well, and we thought that’s what they were looking for, but the books didn’t have No-Noggin. No-Noggin is in this movie. And if the kids want No-Noggin on Halloween they’ll get No-Noggin on Halloween.
9. Dreamworks Spooky Stories (2009)
Dreamworks Spooky Stories is another great example of beloved friends and familiar faces going on Halloween adventures. This recipe goes all the way back to the great Halloween classics further down on this list, and it will never get old for me. You get a lot of spooky tales in one package, but my personal favorite tales from this collection are definitely Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space in volume I and Night of the Living Carrots in volume II. Both tales follow the characters from Monsters vs Aliens as they fight a dangerous and creepy alien and zombie invasion. Like any good Halloween special, there are some legitimately spooky moments when the carrots start turning people into Zombies, and B.O.B. - the best character Dreamworks has ever made in my opinion - is as hilarious as ever and the perfect hero of this tale. At the time of writing it’s available on Netflix.
8. Spooky Buddies (2011)
There was a time in my life that I thought the Buddies movies were ridiculous. I never watched a single one - not Air Bud, not any of the sequels, and not any of the numerous Buddies spinoffs. Then, a few Halloweens ago, I turned on Spooky Buddies on Netflix because I thought my dog-loving son would briefly get a kick out of seeing dogs in costumes, and then I’d turned it off. Well the joke was on me, because it was awesome. We watched the whole thing. And we’ve watched it every Halloween since. Not only are there adorable dogs in costumes, but it’s legitimately entertaining. It reminds me a lot of quality, classic Halloween adventures like Hocus Pocus. Mark my words - if you liked Hocus Pocus growing up and you have kids that love dogs, this movie is a real winner and a no-brainer. And now my dog-crazy 2-year-old daughter is the perfect age to go crazy over this one this Halloween. At the time of writing this one is also available on Netflix.
7. Witch’s Night Out (1978)
This is one Halloween TV special I hadn’t thought about for a long time - like all the toys and books hidden in boxes in my parent’s attic. But when I found it again the nostalgia came crashing in hard. I was so excited to share this one with my kids. Witch’s Night Out clearly made a big impression on me as a child, because some of its images are so incredibly, vivid and etched into my Halloween memory banks. Two kids are disappointed because they want to scare people while trick-or-treating, but everybody recognizes them in their costumes. They wish to actually be the monsters they’re dressing up as. A witch then grants their wish and turns them into a real wolfman and a ghost. I readily admit that this one has a very special place in my heart and a spot on this list because of nostalgia, but it’s truly a great classic. I just hope you’re rediscovering this movie from your childhood too and that you’re just as excited as I was. Bonus: As of the time of writing this one is available to watch on Amazon Prime!
6. The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad (1949)
Disney’s classic rendition of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has a lot going for it these days. The story is narrated and the songs are performed by Bing Crosby. The animation has held up remarkably well for being almost 70 years old. It takes a bit of patience to get to the scary finale, but once you get there you are rewarded with one of the most famous Halloween scenes of all time - Ichabod racing away from the Headless Horseman in the dark woods. If he can just get across the bridge he’ll be safe, but the Headless Horseman hurls his jack-o-lantern head after Ichabod at the last moment. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a holiday-defining classic American story. And Disney’s rendition isn’t just the best version for kids, it might be the best version ever.
5. Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
I feel obligated to warn you that I think this movie is terrifying, even though it’s the same goofy, funny Ernest. Ernest unwittingly releases an ancient troll from his prison, and the troll proceeds to turn the town’s children into little wooden dolls. This is the one film on the list that I would definitely not show to my 2-year-old, but my son did actually watch it for the first time at 4. And then he requested it again the next Halloween. By no means do I recommend it for all 4-year-olds, or all 8-year-olds for that matter. The troll scared me a lot as a kid, but, funnily enough, that’s probably one of the reasons I love it so much and it’s still one of my favorite Halloween movies today. If you’ve never watched this one, I highly recommend watching it by yourself first to decide when or if you want your kids to see it. When they’re old enough, this is a Halloween adventure that they’ll probably never forget.
4. Mickey’s House of Villains (2002)
Mickey’s House of Villains earns a spot high on our list because of its relationship to the old TV special Disney’s Halloween Treat/A Disney Halloween from my childhood. Similarly, it’s a compilation of Halloween-themed clips from Disney movies and classic cartoons. The great part is that this version is modernized and higher quality. Several of the same shorts from A Disney Halloween are used in Mickey’s House of Villains too, and I think they chose all of the most essential ones. I also appreciate the way they framed the movie and tied the compilation together with a ballroom full of Disney’s villains that they visit between clips. The original A Disney Halloween is admittedly a little slow and outdated these days if you track it down, but a list like this without the classic Halloween Disney compilation on it is wrong - and so this modern version is the best way to revisit it and introduce it to kids these days. At the time of writing you can watch it on Netflix.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
If you’re keeping score at home, Disney really knows how to celebrate Halloween. Why in the world is The Nightmare Before Christmas not yet a worldwide smash-hit Broadway musical? This story would absolutely kill on stage. The music is extraordinary and the set designs and costumes have so much potential. Is this really not a no-brainer for the decision makers? How could this not have happened yet? There are just so many things I love about this movie - the love story, the creepy and lovable characters, and just the amazing art of it all. It’s mesmerizing the passion that went into building this film. We’ve already watched this movie at the very beginning of October and we’ll probably watch it at least a few more times between now and Christmas as well. A story that celebrates the spirit of Halloween and Christmas in equal measure deserves bonus points for sure - and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is the best feature-length Halloween film ever made by far.
2. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
TV specials are still the king of Halloween. From your favorite cartoon to your favorite sitcom, there has always been something special about Halloween episodes. And It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is the king of kings. This show has been a familiar face helping people celebrate Halloween every year on local TV since 1966. How incredible is that? And there’s so much to love - it seems like everybody has a different favorite part. Is it Sally and Linus sitting in the pumpkin patch? Is it Snoopy’s iconic battle vs the Red Barron? For me, it has to be Charlie Brown showing up in a ghost costume with too many holes and getting a rock at every house while trick-or-treating. 50 years later and “I got a rock” is still just as hilarious as ever.
1. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985)
If this was some sort of rapid-fire association test and you shouted “Halloween” I would quickly respond “Garfield”. That’s not an exaggeration. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure is the perfect Halloween movie. It celebrates the holiday in all the right ways. First, you get the buildup of Garfield’s excitement for trick-or-treating. Starting from the moment he wakes up he’s chanting “Candy, candy, candy, candy, candy.” You also get to watch Garfield contemplate all of his creative options for costumes - with the added bonus of Odie with a jack-o-lantern on his head and 4 peg legs. But the really fantastic thing about this movie is the really sharp left turn the tone takes towards the end. You’re just minding your own business enjoying sassy old Garfield singing songs about Halloween and enjoying getting all that candy - when all of the sudden you find yourself in a legitimately scary movie for children. The scary, old man sitting in the chair by the fire tells the tale of the pirate ghosts, and I will never forget the images of what happens to Garfield and Odie in that old house. Garfield always made Halloween so much fun and I don’t suspect a single Halloween will ever pass without us enjoying it together.
Did you grow up watching any of these movies? What does your family watch on Halloween? Share your favorites in the comments. Happy Halloween!