Should You Let Your Kids Watch Scary Movies? Top Kids-Friendly Horror Films
With the nights drawing in and Halloween on the horizon, thoughts may be turning to all things spooky!
It’s normal for kids to want to push the boundaries and negotiate their way into moving the goalposts regarding all sorts of things—maintaining your priority of keeping them safe at the same time can be tricky. At this point in the year, especially, you could find yourself receiving requests to watch horror films, with your child doing their best to persuade you: ‘all my friends have seen it!’ may be a common refrain right now.
Keep reading to help figure out whether your child is ready to take this step and, if so, how to go about making it a safe and positive experience. Plus, we’ve put together a list of the best scary movies for kids to help you make this Halloween the most fun yet!
- But is it Dangerous for Kids to Watch Horror Movies?
- Scary Movies for Kids That Are Good Options for Their First Horror Movie Experience
- Kid Friendly, Non-Scary Spooky Films
- Best Halloween Movies for Kids
- Really Scary Movies for Kids!
- How to Watch a Scary Film with Your Child?
But is it Dangerous for Kids to Watch Horror Movies?
Well, yes. And no. It all depends on the context, your child’s age, and—to an extent—their character. It’s safe to say that movies’ age ratings should be adhered to, and allowing your young child to watch an R-rated film is unlikely to end well. At the very least, your child could experience some sleepless nights and unnecessary stress. There’s also evidence that consistently allowing children to watch inappropriate-for-their-age horror films can cause real problems, such as mental struggles, phobias, and a shift in problem-solving skills.
However, there is evidence that watching age-appropriate scary films can boost resilience and help children overcome everyday fears. It’s a similar experience to the ‘healthy’ fear of a rollercoaster ride or going out trick-or-treating on Halloween.
So the key is figuring out the films to show your children that tread a deliciously spooky line without stepping over it into darker territory that could cause problems.
Your awareness of your child and what they’re capable of handling and would be comfortable watching is also crucial in making a decision. Here are some movie ideas to help you navigate this situation, and keep everyone happy.
Scary Movies for Kids That Are Good Options for Their First Horror Movie Experience
Picking a great creepy movie to watch as a family is a good way to introduce kids to the horror genre—and can make for a super fun evening together, too! Here are some spooky options to consider!
This stop-motion animated modern classic is the perfect way to enjoy some chilling, family-friendly film fun! The movie follows Coraline, who discovers a parallel universe behind a door in her new home: and there’s a sinister secret hiding inside.
Children will love the fascinating, beautifully animated characters (especially if they’ve already enjoyed the book by Neil Gaiman) and the atmosphere of suspense and magic throughout.
Rated PG, this film could scare some kids, particularly younger ones, so it’s advisable for parents to watch it through first themselves before letting children view it to ensure suitability. As a general guide, it should be appropriate for ten-year-olds and up. You can catch it on Sky Go, or it’s streaming on Now TV. With a running time of one hour and forty minutes, it’s just the right length to keep kids’ attention.
One of the biggest films of the 80s, the original Ghostbusters remains a firm spooky favorite today! Before showing the movie to kids, as with Coraline, parents should re-watch it to check the content: when it was released, there was no PG-13 rating, and so it got slapped with a PG. While much of the ghostly action is played for laughs, there are moments that could frighten young children—and there are a couple of sexual references, too, as well as depictions of characters smoking cigarettes throughout.
As an introduction to horror movies, Ghostbusters’ mix of slapstick comedy, crazy supernatural creatures, and chilling moments could make it perfect for an entertaining family film night—and with a run time of one hour and forty-five minutes, the action comes thick and fast. The film’s available to stream now on Amazon Video.
Want some movie trivia? Prepare for a spoiler alert, though! The marshmallow that explodes all over actor William Atherton’s during the film’s climax is actually a whopping fifty pounds of shaving cream!
Nominated for a Saturn award in the category of Best Fantasy Film, Goosebumps is a great scary film choice if you’ve got a child of nine years old or over that’s keen to experience some movie thrills and spills! It’s rated as a PG, and the frightening scenes are mild enough for most kids to be able to watch without issue—although viewing with your kids, especially if they’re young, is recommended.
Based on the popular book series, the movie follows what happens when the imaginary monsters and demons of a horror story author are set loose on the town of Madison, Delaware. Can the writer’s teenage daughter and her friend save the day?
The film has a duration of just under one hour and forty-five minutes, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome, either! You can find it on Amazon Prime Video if this is the Halloween flick for you.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
A crowd-pleasing spooky cult classic from Disney, Hocus Pocus (rated PG, with a run time of just over an hour and a half) will entertain young and older kids alike.
Max is the new kid in town and struggling to fit in. But his life gets even more complicated when he inadvertently reawakens a trio of troublesome witches who were executed for their heinous crimes centuries ago. Hocus Pocus features a hefty dose of comedy as well as a fair share of frights, making it a firm Halloween family favorite!
Stream it now on Amazon Prime Video.
Protect your child from any unwanted or scary content! Install the Kids360 app on your phone and adjust which apps and how much time your child spends using them.
Kid Friendly, Non-Scary Spooky Films
If you’ve got very young kids who’d like to join in the Halloween fun but aren’t ready for any serious scares, then there’s no need for them to miss out! Here’s our list of the top films with a sprinkling of family-friendly spookiness that shouldn’t cause sleepless nights for little viewers.
Casper the Friendly Ghost (1995)
“Casper the Friendly Ghost”
This family film is rated a PG but shouldn’t pose a problem for even young children: although there are a few instances of mild swearing to be aware of.
When Kat and her dad move into a crumbling, spooky mansion, it’s not long before Kat meets Casper, the friendliest ghost around! The pair become unlikely friends—however, Casper’s uncles, ghosts called Stretch, Fatso, and Stinkie, aren’t as keen as their nephew on having ‘fleshies’ in the house…
Fun fact? This movie was the very first to feature a completely computer-generated main character. And the run time? The movie will entertain the kids for one hour and forty-five minutes, and you can stream it via Amazon Prime Video.
Hotel Transylvania (2012)
If your child’s ready for something a little spookier than a Disney film but isn’t quite old enough (or ready) to tackle a full-blooded (excuse the pun) horror flick, then the PG-rated Hotel Transylvania is a great choice. And with a run time of around an hour and a half, it’s also perfectly pitched in terms of time.
The whole family will enjoy this highly entertaining, frequently hilarious movie, in which Count Dracula is running a high-end resort for monsters to vacation with their families, safely tucked away from the prying eyes of humans. When a teenage boy accidentally winds up at Hotel Transylvania and forms a romantic connection with Drac’s daughter, Mavis, the count’s fatherly protection instinct goes into overdrive, with chaotic results!
Head over to Netflix to stream the movie now!
Spirited Away (2001)
When her family moves into the suburbs, ten-year-old Chihiro inadvertently wanders into a world of gods, witches, and spirits, where humans can be transformed into beasts. Full of magic and wonder, yet also suspenseful and creepy enough to satisfy younger children who want some low-level scares, Spirited Away is rated as PG and is one of the best scary movies for kids that keeps the fear factor at mild to moderate levels.
Spirited Away is a Japanese film that can be watched with subtitles or in dubbed format. Young kids might find it a little on the lengthy side—it runs to just over two hours long; splitting it into two watches might be a good idea in this case. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.
The Disney Pixar studios have crafted a magical, vibrant, and non-scary Halloween film that will enable even little kids to get involved in the festivities. This animated, PG-rated movie tells the story of Miguel growing up in a family that enforces a strict ban on music. The boy enters the Land of the Dead in a bid to find his great-great-grandfather, who was a famous musician.
Dia de Los Muertes—the Day of the Dead—is a key part of both the plot and visual design of Coco and this offers a great opportunity to chat with children about the cultural beliefs and heritage surrounding this traditional holiday.
The film has a running time of one hour and forty minutes, and you can find it on Amazon Prime Video or Disney Plus.
Best Halloween Movies for Kids
What better time of year is there than Halloween to curl up under some blankets on the sofa and indulge in a few frightful films? If you and your child would like to enjoy a spooky—and age-appropriate—movie as part of the Halloween festivities, then the picks below are all sure-fire winners.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”
A modern masterpiece from the mind of the gothic maestro Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas has been captivating adults and kids since its release nearly thirty years ago.
The film is PG-rated and, duration-wise, comes in at a very kid-friendly hour and a quarter, so it’s the perfect choice to put on as part of a Halloween party or after a bout of trick-or-treating! Children will love the musical numbers, the stunning stop-motion animation, and the misadventures of Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town.
When Jack stumbles on Christmas Town, he’s determined to bring the newly-discovered celebration to his own realm… but the residents of Halloween Town don’t quite get it the festivities. Find out what happens next by visiting Netflix to stream the movie.
The Addams Family (1991)
The Addams Family film of 1991 is a great Halloween movie for older kids. As a PG-13, parents should be especially careful about allowing children aged twelve or younger to view the film—and even for slightly older kids, it’s advisable to watch it first to ascertain its suitability. Much of this will, of course, depends on the temperament and character of the individual child.
When con artists try to trick the neighborhood’s most eccentric family, they get more than they bargained for! Kids will love the spooky, goofy antics of this most macabre of families, and the plotline has enough twists and turns to keep everyone interested. Can we tempt you with another slice of movie trivia? Cher really wanted to play the role of Morticia Addams—a part that eventually went to Anjelica Huston.
The duration of the movie is just under an hour and forty minutes, and it’s available to stream on Hulu.
The Witches (2020)
Author Roald Dahl was said to have disliked the ending of the previous version of the film, released in 1990—this updated incarnation, while remade with a modern audience in mind, sticks much closer to the book’s spirit.
A boy and his grandmother run into a coven of glamorous—but despicable!—witches, and learn of the evil global plot they’ve cooked up. Kids aged ten and over will likely be able to watch this scare-fest comfortably; for younger children, some of the CGI frights, and Anne Hathaway’s Grand High Witch character especially, might be a bit much. The movie’s rated a PG, so if in doubt, give it a watch-through yourself first. It has a running time of just over an hour and forty-five minutes.
Head over to Amazon Prime Movie to stream The Witches if it’s your family Halloween film pick!
Toy Story of Terror! (2013)
“Toy Story of Terror!”
A short film (just twenty-two minutes long) that’s rated a U and suitable for even the smallest members of the family, Toy Story of Terror! is a non-scary mini-movie featuring Woody, Jesse, and the gang that kids will love.
After stopping over at a roadside motel for the night, members of the toy group begin to mysteriously disappear—it’s down to Woody to figure out what’s happening and bring back all his friends! Watch to see what unfolds by streaming this short film via the Disney Plus channel.
Really Scary Movies for Kids!
And if you’re looking for the scariest movies for older kids and teens—that remain within the bounds of what they can appropriately and safely watch—then try one of the titles from the list below for some frightening Halloween fun!
This 1984 classic has a PG-13 rating, so it’s best for older kids who aren’t likely to become upset by some of the scary scenes.
A mogwai seems to be the perfect pet—unless it gets wet or you feed it after midnight, that is! Kids will revel in the mischief and mayhem caused by the gremlins, who wreak havoc on a small American town on Christmas Eve. The mix of comedy and horror will have them alternately laughing and hiding behind a cushion—and that goes for the adults, too!
The film runs one hour and forty-six minutes and can be streamed on HBO Max.
Another smash-hit from the 1980s, and Tim Burton’s second appearance on this list, Beetlejuice is creepier than its PG rating might suggest. The film tells the story of a loving, married couple who, shortly after moving into their dream ‘doer-upper’ house, perish in a freak car accident. It’s not the end, and the pair return as ghosts to haunt their former home and try to drive out the awful family that has moved in. After several botched attempts at scaring the interlopers off, the couple hires the services of the malignant spirit Beetlejuice to do the job for them…
Irreverent, funny, and visually vibrant, the film also comes in at a crowd-pleasing hour and a half. There’s a bit of bad language that parents should also be aware of. Fun fact, anyone? Of all the films he’s starred in, Michael Keaton cites Beetlejuice as his favorite. You can find this Halloween classic to stream on Hulu.
Lights Out (2016)
Lights Out (rated PG-13) is a great gateway movie for younger teens who would like to experience their first horror flick: it’s incredibly eerie without crossing the line into territory that could cause problems.
This supernatural film focuses on a mom who talks to herself at night and the chilling revelations that arise as the plot unfolds. The tagline? ‘You were right to be afraid of the dark’—prepare for plenty of creepy thrills—the film is a short but intense one hour and twenty minutes long, making it a perfect little slice of spookiness for a dark fall night!
Lights Out is ready for you to stream on Hulu now.
The Birds (1963)
Even Alfred Hitchcock cited The Birds as the creepiest film he’d ever made—and from the director of the original Psycho movie, this is no small claim! Rated a solid PG 13, and with a run time of two hours, this movie isn’t for young kids, and even teenagers on the younger end of the scale may find it too disturbing.
The plot concerns a wealthy socialite who travels out of town to the Bodega Bay area—where, without warning, birds of all kinds begin to viciously attack people. Why this is happening is a mystery, and, soon, survival becomes the name of the game.
Watch The Birds on Amazon Prime Video; if you’re viewing with the kids, you get ten points if you can make it through the movie without saying ‘they don’t make them like this anymore.’
How to Watch a Scary Film with Your Child?
If you decide to watch a scary film with your child, then there are a few steps you can take to ensure that the experience is a positive experience for everyone!
Firstly, ensuring that the content is age-appropriate and won’t cause your child long-term distress is vital. As well as checking the age rating of the movie, read reviews, speak to other parents who’ve seen it—especially those given by other parents—and, if you’re at all unsure, view it yourself first.
Once you’ve picked a film (or have agreed to one your child wants to watch) then it’s important to view it together, especially if this will be your kid’s first scary movie experience.
Research suggests that watching such a film with adults who model a calm attitude—or express enjoyment at the spooky bits (think about how people often laugh after jumping at a sudden scare in a film)—can help to reduce any fear that children might otherwise fear.
Having a discussion about the film at some point after viewing can also be really helpful in contextualizing fears and preventing them from building up into wider anxiety. Watching a ‘making of’ documentary, which details the make-up and special effects used in the movie you’ve watched, can also be a useful way for your child to fully understand the line between reality and fantasy.
Finally, trust your instincts. You know your child and what they’re ready for better than anyone else, so go with your gut. We’d love to know your experiences: how old was your kid when they watched their first horror flick, and how did it go? Let us know in the comments below!
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