Top Ten Family-Friendly Scary Movies

I made up a top ten list for the radio show/podcast we were going to record today, but the recording fell through, which is sad. And so I’m left with this top ten list that isn’t going to be topical by next week. What to do with it . . .?

I always find lists on the radio more compelling than the ones that are written up, mainly because there’s more suspense and you have to wait to find out what the top picks are instead of just scrolling to the end, but something’s better than nothing, so here we go.

First, a disclaimer. I made a big long list to whittle things down, and I took some movies out of the running early on to try and keep things as focused as possible. Thus, Nightmare Before Christmas fell by the wayside, as did Gremlins. Those two exist in their own funky Halloween/Christmas appropriate movie genre. I took off The Birds, The Others, Poltergeist, and Sixth Sense because the goal was to avoid giving children permanent psychoses. And then I lopped off Clue, Private Eyes, and Goonies because, while tonally-appropriate, they’re just not really Halloween movies. I left Little Shop of Horrors off because of how flat it just fell with my kids, even though I still love it.

With all of that out of the way, I’m left with movies that I’ve personally seen that are great Halloween films to watch with the family. I’ve ranked them according to my taste, but realize that some of the newer movies are possibly ranked lower than they should be, just because I haven’t seen them enough. I like to have a few viewings at least for something to break into my top 5.

Anyway. Without further ado, here’s the list:

10 & 9: ParaNorman and Coraline–These are two of the ones I was talking about. I remember really loving ParaNorman, but I’ve only seen it once. The same holds true for Coraline. Was I just in a forgiving mood that one time? Are they as great as I thought they were? I could easily see these shooting higher up in my rankings once I’ve watched them again. Creepy and fun throughout. ParaNorman is about a boy who has to save his town from an old curse, while fighting zombies. Coraline (based on a book by Neil Gaiman) tells the tale of a girl who discovers an alternative version of her house, complete with parents whose eyes have been replaced by buttons. But something evil is afoot . . .  If you haven’t seen these two, you should. I could have put them in any order relative to each other. I’d like to watch them  again to see if I can start really differentiating them from each other in the rankings.

8: Lady in White–I’ve seen this one 2 or 3 times. I remember watching it in high school with my best friend and her mom, and getting in trouble because I guessed the ending. (Maybe I’d already seen it by then?) A young boy sees the ghost of a girl who was murdered, along with her killer. He starts getting stalked by the killer, and it gets scarier from there. Intense.

7: The Innocents–The 1961 version with Deborah Kerr. It’s based on Turn of the Screw, and it’s genuinely creepy. I’m also pretty sure most people haven’t seen it these days. You should check it out. A governess may or may not be losing her mind as she interacts with her charges, who may or may not be possessed. Scary without being bloody. Just good old-fashioned frights. You don’t need color to be on this list.

6: Monster Squad–From 1987. A group of kids team up to save their town from Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, and others who have joined forces to take over the world. Funny and scary at the same time. I remember loving it, but I (again) have only seen it once . . .

5: Watcher in the Woods–Classic Disney horror. A girl disappears from a church during the middle of a seance/ritual. Her ghost haunts the area and the family who moves into her old house years later. This movie seriously messed me up as a child. It’s only fair to pass it on.

4: The Witches–Roald Dahl has written some awesome books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Matilda. The BFG. His books have a style all their own. The Witches fits right into this, and somehow the  movie adaptation is just really freaky. A boy is on vacation in the same hotel as a gathering of witches, and it’s up to him to stop them. Even after he’s turned into a mouse.

3: Ghostbusters–Come on. Who hasn’t seen this? Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis. A trio of academics team up to catch ghosts and defeat an ancient evil. Just watched this Saturday for like the thousandth time. Love it.

2: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow–The Disney verison. It’s short, but it’s awesome. How can you not love this? Like Ghostbusters, I assume everyone has seen this.

1: Something Wicked This Way Comes–The epitome of family-friendly scares. Disney horror at its finest. I watched this a lot when I was younger, and it always freaked me out. It will always be the movie that pops into my head first when this genre comes up in conversation. Comparing it to the others, I’m not sure it’s better than all of them now, but it’s earned this spot by pioneering effort.

So there you have it. My top 10 list. Did I miss anything? Get anything terribly wrong? Any movies I really should have seen that I haven’t? Speak up!

And happy Halloween!

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