Is Halloween the best holiday ever? Of course it is! But hey, not all of us are big fans of being scared. Spooky skeletons and weird witches are my jam, but I don’t really need any nightmare fuel if I’m being honest.
That’s where my list of non-scary Halloween flicks comes in! It is full of spooky treats that won’t leave you frightened.
By no means is this an exhaustive list or anything, because I’m just one person! But there is a little something for everyone here. From animated kids movies to hilarious spooky films aimed at adults, you’re sure to find plenty to keep you entertained this fall.
The Addams Family
In this 1991 revival of the Addams Family franchise, a loan shark and his adopted son attempt to swindle the Addams family out of their vast fortune by posing as Gomez’s long lost brother Fester. The sequel, Addams Family Values, is also amazing, but I prefer to save that one for November thanks to the iconic Thanksgiving scene.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Ignore the decades-old argument over whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie. In my house, Tim Burton’s stop-motion classic counts as both. Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, but he’s bored with the same old routine. After discovering Christmas Town by chance, he decides that he will take over Christmas with the help of Halloween Town’s residents.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
I know that The Rocky Horror Picture Show isn’t exactly a Halloween movie, but it is certainly perfect for the occasion. The cult classic is a parody of kitsch science fiction and horror films. Upon its initial release, the reception was extremely negative – but it became a hit as a midnight movie with audiences participating with the film. It has remained popular since. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city that does theatrical showings with audience participation and a shadow cast, do not miss it!
Interview With the Vampire
Although it isn’t a Halloween-themed movie, 1994’s Interview With the Vampire gets a spot on our spooky list because it’s a cool vampire flick. As someone who read the novel (and the entire series from Anne Rice), I know this movie is so far removed from the book it was based on. But if I’m being honest, I really don’t care because I love the movie, too. The story is told from the reluctant vampire Louis’s point of view as a present-day interview with a reporter. It chronicles his life as a vampire, beginning with his transformation after meeting the vampire Lestat. The movie stars Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Kirsten Dunst as the main characters. Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas, and Stephen Rea also star.
Frankenweenie is another Tim Burton movie that makes the list. Look, the guy is really good at “spooky, but not scary” movies. The film made in the stop-motion animation style that I love about The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. This one follows a young boy named Victor Frankenstein who harnesses the power of electricity to bring his beloved dog back to life. Clearly, it homage to Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, but it’s also a remake of Burton’s early short film.
The recently deceased Adam and Barbara Maitland are now ghosts haunting their former home, but they take a strong disliking to the new Deetz family who purchased it. They hire Betelgeuse, a crude and morbid “bio-exorcist” who is ready to wreak havoc and scare the living away. This film is really weird, but it is infinitely more silly than it is spooky in true Tim Burton style.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Although many of us think of Sarah Michelle Gellar when referring to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was actually a campy cult film of the same name first. In this 1992 flick, Buffy is a Valley girl cheerleader who finds out that she’s the Slayer who is destined to kill vampires. It’s a fun watch to get into the Halloween spirit without getting too spooked. As an added bonus, Paul Rubens portrays the weaselly vampire Amilyn, with an infamously silly death scene.
Casper is a friendly ghost, after all, so you definitely won’t get scared with this one! A young Christina Ricci stars as Kat, a 13-year-old girl who befriends a lonely ghost after moving into the home he haunts. His mischievous uncles, the Ghostly Trio, are also hanging around, and the home’s heir is doing her best to get rid of the ghosts and find a rumored hidden treasure.
Disney cranked out a lot of original movies for Halloween over the years, but 1998’s Halloweentown is definitely the cream of the crop. I mean, it is exactly the level of goofy you’d expect from a Disney Channel Original Movie. The movie proposes that all the fantasy beings associated with Halloween – like vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, ogres, mummies, and more – are real and created their own community away from humans in an alternate universe. One witch married a mortal and left Halloweentown for good, raising her kids in the mortal world, but now Halloweentown needs their help. This one has three sequels to keep you entertained and traveling back to Halloweentown.
Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire
Just a couple of years after the first Halloweentown, DCOM fans were treated to Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire. The mom in question is portrayed by Caroline Rhea, the comedian and actress who played Hilda Spellman on ABC’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Disney knew what they were doing! In the movie, her kids have plans that are at risk of being ruined because they managed to get grounded. Mom’s date could set them free… until they realize he’s actually a vampire.
Ghostbusters makes for a pretty great spooky season watch. They are hunting down ghosts, after all! Can you believe that Columbia Pictures expected this movie to be a box office flop? Instead, it received critical acclaim and has become a cultural phenomenon. The franchise has gone on to include animated TV series, video games, comic books, merchandise, and more. The original Ghostbusters was followed by a sequel, a reboot in 2016 starring an all-female cast, and then another sequel in 2021.
When I was younger, it wasn’t Halloween until I watched Hocus Pocus at least once. Funny enough, the movie was initially a box office failure! But as a kid, it was definitely one of my most favorite Halloween movies, and it still is to this day. If you’re also a fan of the Sanderson sisters like me, we’re finally getting a sequel after all these years. Hocus Pocus 2 is supposed to arrive on Disney+ at the end of September.
I know that Hotel Transylvania is an animated movie made (mostly) for kids, but I’m a big fan of well-made, entertaining films regardless of whether or not they’re animated. And how can you not be entertained by a movie about a hotel where monsters can relax and get away from humans? In the first film, a human accidentally discovers the hotel and falls in love with Dracula’s daughter. Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, and Andy Samberg are among the voice cast. If you like Hotel Transylvania, you can stay busy with its three sequels, too.
There have been numerous film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus – but none quite like 1974’s Young Frankenstein. Directed by Mel Brooks, starring Gene Wilder, and with a screenplay co-written between the two, this movie is one of the greatest comedies out there. Clearly, you won’t get spooked by Frankenstein’s monster here, but instead will be rolling with laughter.
1999’s Idle Hands is another movie that ended up a box office flop, but it’s just so wild that you have to watch it! It’s about a lazy stoner teen whose hand becomes possessed and goes on a killing spree. No, really. It doesn’t even stop after he cuts it off, either. Sure, there’s gore here, but it’s definitely so ridiculous that it’s funny. The cast is straight out of the late ‘90s, too, featuring the likes of Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Jessica Alba, Elden Henson, and Vivica A. Fox
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Although It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown came out more than fifty years ago (no, really!), it is still a classic for the Halloween season. It just doesn’t feel right until you’ve gotten your Peanuts fix! The gang partakes in Halloween festivities, like trick-or-treating and attending a party, while Linus hangs around a pumpkin patch waiting on the Great Pumpkin to arrive and bring presents.
There must be something about stop-motion that makes for a good spooky animated film. ParaNorman was actually the first stop-motion movie to use a 3d printer to create character faces. The movie centers on Norman, a boy who can see and communicate with ghosts. Understandably, he doesn’t have a lot of friends because almost no one believes him. But when a witch’s curse threatens his Massachusetts town, he has to step up to end the curse and save everyone.