From Monster House to The Black Cauldron, these are the 17 best scary movies for kids.
Horror movies may not generally be aimed at children but there are plenty of family-friendly movies, both animated and live-action, that are perfect to watch with your kids this spooky season. For some kids, The Wizard of Oz might be scary, what with the flying monkeys and such. This list has movies for little kids and tweens, movies kids can watch by themselves, and movies for the whole family to enjoy. For example, Monster’s Inc is a movie that kids can enjoy alone, while Beetlejuice would be better for the whole family, or at least with parental supervision.
I’m sure if you ask adults, they’ll tell you that some of these movies gave them nightmares as a kid. The horror genre is meant to push the viewer’s limits, so even the scary movies geared toward children tend to be scarier than you might expect. A lot of these movies center around kids, but they are still meant to scare them. Regardless of that, they all have happy endings and jokes along the way. Many scary movies for kids involve fantasy elements and less real-life situations. It’s a fine line, and every kid is different; that might be why there aren’t many Halloween movies for children that are meant to be scary.
It’s time to introduce your kids to the grand high witch, Tim Burton, and maybe a mad scientist or two!
Best Scary Movies for Kids, Ranked
17. The Labyrinth (1986)
Jim Henson created the iconic and imaginative movie The Labyrinth in 1986. A lot happens in this movie, so it successfully keeps children entertained. Teenage Sarah gets sent on a journey through the Labyrinth after the Goblin King, David Bowie, steals her baby brother.
In true Jim Henson fashion, it is visually stunning and features a variety of incredibly life-like puppets. We often see the main character in heavy distress, and there are some frightening visuals, but The Labyrinth has musical numbers to keep things light-hearted.
Where to Watch: Pluto, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV
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16. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Based on the animated shorts, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is the first feature film for the duo. Wallace and Gromit, his dog, start a pest control business. A giant rabbit has been destroying crops, and Wallace finds himself in competition with Victor to solve the problem and win the heart of Lady Tottington.
This is one of the more kid-friendly movies on this list since it was made exclusively for kids. That being said, it scared me when I was 5.
Where to Watch: Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime
15. Mostly Ghostly (2008)
Mostly Ghostly is a Universal Pictures direct-to-DVD film from the early 2000s. It follows Max, a young magician who discovers 2 ghosts living in his basement. They ask him for help, and he agrees to help their souls move on while they help him with his crush at school. They run into problems when an evil spirit comes to ruin Halloween.
This is a classic kid’s movie that really works. It has spooky elements, but nothing too scary that would cause nightmares. It’s easily accessible, and a great choice this Halloween.
Where to Watch: Prime Video, Apple TV
14. The Addams Family (2019)
The Addams Family is a cult classic, and all the movies are great. The 2019 animated film is PG, so it is arguably the best choice for kids. The family is visually macabre, but the family values are there.
In this version, the family is expecting company; they’re getting ready to welcome their even stranger relatives. Meanwhile, greedy TV personality Margeaux Needler is bothering them to sell the house so she can complete her goal of selling every house in the neighborhood.
Where to Watch: Paramount+, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Prime
13. The Witches (1990)
This movie was recently remade with Anne Hathaway, but 1990’s The Witches, based on the book by Roald Dahl, is truly fantastic. It follows a boy, Luke, who spies on a group of evil witches. They discover him and turn him into a mouse. Luke must find a way to destroy the witches, or he’ll be a mouse forever.
Anjelica Huston is beyond incredible in this film, and the witches do look terrifying, but that is the limit of the spooks. It’s genuinely a great movie.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Apple TV
12. Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021)
The Great Gonzo, daredevil extraordinaire, takes Pepe to a party. A party at The Haunted Mansion. They are challenged to survive a night filled with ghosts, musical numbers, and the usual Muppet antics.
Muppets Haunted Mansion is an hour-long special that is self-aware and based more on the Disney World ride rather than the 2003 film. That and the remake that came out earlier this year are good, but for a Halloween movie night with the kids, this is the version I would recommend.
Where to Watch: Disney+
11. Goosebumps (2015)
Zach (Dylan Minnette, 13 Reasons Why) reluctantly leaves the city for a small town. He meets his next-door neighbor, Hannah, but her dad, played by Jack Black, is oddly over-protective of her. Zach ends up accidentally releasing the monsters from the Goosebumps books, and they start to terrorize the town. Zach, Hannah, and her mysterious father have to work together to get these monsters back on the page.
The monsters aren’t very scary, and the frequent humor and fun characters make this one more kid-friendly.
Where to Watch: Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime
10. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005)
Corpse Bride follows Victor who gets pulled into the land of the dead. He is meant to marry Victoria, but Emily, who was murdered on her wedding day, drags Victor to the underworld so she can marry him. Victor has to get back to the surface before Victoria marries someone else.
The soft-spoken Victor (Johnny Depp) and the tragic Emily (Helena Bonham Carter) make for a very uplifting experience. The claymation is beautifully Victorian and the music is wonderfully macabre.
Where to Watch: Apple TV, Amazon Prime
9. Monster House (2006)
DJ, Jenny, and Chowder discover that the house across the street is alive. When they investigate further, they realize that the house is angry and swallows anything on its lawn. Halloween is coming up, and they need to get the adults to believe them before the house eats all the trick-or-treaters.
There aren’t many movies to compare this to, and it really is one of the greatest scary movies for kids. It’s a solid movie even older tweens can appreciate. Monster House is the haunted house movie.
Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV
8. Casper (1995)
With Casper, kids can see ghosts in a friendly and humorous state. Christina Ricci is relatable, and it makes you want to have a ghost friend from a very young age.
Kat and her dad move into an old mansion that is haunted by Casper, the friendly ghost and his three mischievous uncles (also ghosts). While Casper falls in love with Kat, the uncles pick on the dad until things go very wrong. There are wacky inventions, funny antics, and just the right amount of ghoulish fun.
Where to Watch: Tubi, Peacock, Apple TV, Amazon Prime
7. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
The beloved dog has faced many villains, none of which are too scary. Zombie Island made the list because it’s one of the best choices, and it works for the spooky month of October. I would also recommend checking out the two live-action films, Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost, and Scooby-Doo! and the Legend of the Vampire for the Halloween season.
The Mystery Gang gets together to investigate a remote island on a haunted bayou. There are zombies and were-cats, but they won’t be giving any children nightmares.
Where to Watch: Boomerang, Apple TV, Amazon Prime
6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King, but he’s grown tired every day being Halloween. He decides to travel to the other holiday worlds and discovers Christmas. His attempts to introduce Christmas to Halloweentown is by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role.
This is Tim Burton and Danny Elfman at their best. Jack, Sally, Oogie Boogie, and every minor character are stand-out performances. The music is remarkable and the stop-motion animation is flawless. And bonus: It works for Halloween and Christmas!
Where to Watch: Disney+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV
5. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Everyone knows Hocus Pocus, especially now with Dinsey+ and the sequel coming out just last year. It’s a classic for kids and adults that should be watched every year.
Max, Dani, and Allison accidentally resurrect the Sanderson sisters, three evil witches who were killed during the Salem Witch trials. The kids must steal the spell book and light the black flame candle before it’s too late. It’s a fun comedy, but the witches are genuinely scary. They straight-up eat children, turn people into cats, and are incredibly vengeful.
Where to Watch: Disney+, Hulu, Apple TV, Amazon Prime
4. Halloweentown (1998)
The film centers on Marnie and her siblings who follow their grandmother (Debbie Reynolds) from the human world into Halloweentown, a place where goblins, skeletons, and witches roam free. On her 13th birthday, Marnie discovers that her family comes from a long line of witches. Not only that, her family is the only force that can save the town from disappearing.
The costumes and make-up are very good, and young kids will probably believe that the supernatural beings in that Halloween town are real.
Where to Watch: Disney+, Hulu
3. Spirited Away (2001)
This beautifully animated Studio Ghibli film is full of action and adventure, but it absolutely has horror elements. There are scary creatures, humans transforming into pigs, and a threatening witch. It’s one of those animated films that works for older kids.
It follows Chihiro, a young girl who stumbles into a world where supernatural creatures go to relax and renew. After her parents are taken from her, she is told she must work at the resort to free them.
Where to Watch: Max, Amazon Prime, Apple TV
2. Coraline (2009)
Coraline is about a young girl who finds a strange mirror world through a secret door. She really likes it there, but things quickly begin to go wrong; her Other Mother wants to keep her trapped there forever. And, despite what it may look like, this scary story isn’t by Tim Burton.
While it is a scary movie for kids, it will probably cause nightmares. The visuals are very scary, but it’s a great horror movie to watch with the whole family.
Where to Watch: Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV
1. The Black Cauldron (1985)
The Black Cauldron came out in 1985, and it’s one of those kids’ movies they don’t really make anymore. I think it works as a film meant to introduce kids to scary things.
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It takes place in a fantasy realm in which a young boy dreams of becoming a knight. When the Horned King steals his prophesying pig, he might just get his wish. He teams up with a furry thing named Gurgi and Princess Eilonwy to search for the black cauldron before it’s too late.
Where to Watch: Disney+, Apple TV, Amazon Prime
That’s our list of the best scary movies for kids. Scary stories are hard to make for kids, but there are some that are successful. If you still haven’t had enough scares, check out The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Dark Crystal, Frankenweenie, and The Boxtrolls to get your fair share.
I’m an actor, singer, writer, and artist, incredibly passionate about film and other art forms. Outside of work, I love spending time with my dogs and eating Poke.