Sure, there are a few scary parts, but this classic comedy, featuring Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and a memorable cameo by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, won’t give your little tykes nightmares. “We ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” Ray Parker Jr. sings in the classic theme song, hitting the nail right on the head.
Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker star as resurrected witches who return to Salem, Mass., some 300 years after being tried for witchcraft and put to death. The special effects are incredible, and if the subject matter sounds dark, there’s more than enough humor to get kids aged 8 and up chuckling.
Pixar isn’t about to scare the pants off your lil’ ones—where’s the money in that?—and this computer-animated comedy delivers fun for the entire family. “To be sure, this is a standout pleasure trip for preschoolers up through the early grades, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” wrote Mike Clark for USA Today.
Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Dubbed “an absolutely magical fusion of deadpan Ealing comedy and Gothic horror” by Slate.com critic David Edelstein, this Claymation romp finds the titular man-and-dog duo running a pest-control operation called Anti-Pesto. Madcap antics abound, and as Richard Corliss wrote for Time, “The whole rollicking adventure zips along a mile a minute.”
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride
Tim Burton makes some pretty creepy movies, but he’s also got the childlike whimsy needed to pull off first-rate family fare. For this stop-motion-animation masterpiece, the Edward Scissorhands director enlists wife Helena Bonham Carter and frequent collaborator Johnny Depp to create a “distorted, vividly colored, meticulously crafted world where whimsy and gleeful ghoulishness mix freely,” according to AV Club critic Tasha Robinson.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
With this 1993 game-changer—beloved by Goths and tots alike—Tim Burton made his first foray into stop-motion animation, creating a dark, fantastical world very much like the one he would explore 12 years later with Corpse Bride. The story centers on Jack Skellington, a well-to-do denizen of Halloweentown who tires of his city’s affiliate holiday. He’s smitten with Christmas, and he hatches a plot to kidnap and replace Santa. Drawing comparisons with some of Burton’s other iconic characters, Roger Ebert called Jack “a misfit who wants to do well, but has been gifted by fate with a quirky personality that people don’t know how to take.”
The Haunted Mansion
Having already made four movies based on theme-park rides, among them the popular Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney went to the well a fifth time for this Eddie Murphy vehicle. The comedian stars as a workaholic real estate agent who preempts a family vacation to put a spooky old house on the market. Reviews were mixed, but a pleasantly surprised Roger Ebert liked the film’s chances for longevity. “The Haunted Mansion won’t much entertain older family members, but it might be fun for kids and seems headed for a long run on home video,” he wrote for the Chicago Sun Times.
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In this 1985 Steven Spielberg classic, a ragtag group of kids search for buried treasure in hopes of saving their neighborhood from demolition. Along the way, they tangle with gangsters, pirates, and older siblings, using slick gadgets and the power of friendship to best these and other foes. More an adventure movie than a horror flick, Goonies’ ghoulish villains and eerie set pieces make it essential Oct. 31 viewing.
Who better than the “friendly ghost” to provide some kid-appropriate Halloween viewing? Based on the beloved cartoon, this 1995 film features Christina Ricci as a little girl who accompanies her “ghost psychiatrist” father (Bill Pullman) as he attempts to rid a New England home of ghosts. Ricci finds a friend in Casper, but the gang is forced to tangle with the affable specter’s trio of evil uncles. “While the Pinocchio-like subplot is a little mawkish, and the antics of Casper’s badly behaved uncles tend to grate slightly, it’s hard not to like this film,” wrote EmpireOnline.com.
Long before “Deal or No Deal” or “America’s Got Talent,” comedian Howie Mandel played the proverbial “monster under the bed” in this 1989 gem. Though blue and furry, Mandel’s character is not as beastly as he appears, and he befriends 11-year-old Brian, played by “Wonder Years” star Fred Savage. “For a movie about monsters, this flick has a bit of heart,” writes CommonSenseMedia.org.