October is a month-long countdown to Halloween. The cool thing about the holiday is that for some people it’s about horror, while for others (ahem, children), it’s about mystique and fun. For one night of the year, we can dress up like Elsa from Frozen or don a “Scream” mask. Trick-or-treating is arguably one of the biggest events of Halloween, so it might be safe to say that for this holiday, the kids reign supreme. With plenty of horror films to go around, we took a look at our 5 favorite not-so-scary Halloween movies perfect for a family night in.
1. Hocus Pocus
This list is in not in any ranking sort of order, but it would be remiss not to acknowledge “Hocus Pocus” as the #1 pick. It might be because the film is set in the ‘90s— a world uncomplicated by social media, a pandemic, civil unrest and so on. Or maybe it’s because we get to see Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker as witches. One could argue it’s all about Thackery Binx, the teen-turned-cat by the soul-sucking Sanderson sisters. “Hocus Pocus” follows Max Dennison, the new kid in town, after he and his family move to Salem, Massachusetts. Things go haywire after Max, in an attempt to impress a girl, brings the Sanderson sisters back to Earth. Max, Allison and Max’s sister Dani, under the guidance of Binx, run amok in Salem on Halloween night as they try to evade the witches and keep them from becoming immortal. Since its 1993 release, “Hocus Pocus” has become a Halloween staple. Just this past weekend, it topped the box office.
2. Hotel Transylvania
“Hotel Transylvania” builds on the traditional Romeo and Juliet setup: a boy and girl absolutely cannot be together, but fall in love anyway. The animated movie is enjoyable for young kids and adults alike and features a star-studded cast, including Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James and Adam Sandler. The featured hotel is run by Count Dracula, whose daughter Mavis is on the verge of turning 118. Monsters can escape human society by coming to the resort, which becomes particularly busy in anticipation for Mavis’ birthday party. However, when human traveler Jonathan shows up, Dracula must do everything in his power to keep Mavis from falling for Jonathan and the hotel guests from finding out about the presence of a human.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Most Tim Burton movies are dark enough for an October movie watch. However, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” takes the cake amidst the rest of his filmography. The Disney classic (which is also a great watch at Christmas) has it all: catchy tunes, empathetic characters, genuinely scary monsters, emotional conflict and cinema’s cutest ghost dog. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” finds Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloweentown, in dim spirits. He accidentally comes across Christmastown, enlightening his fellow Halloweentown residents and causing chaos by kidnapping Santa Claus. In the end, Jack finds what he really needs: not holiday spirit, but love.
“Halloween is cool,” the declaration affirmed by Marnie Piper, was a shot heard round the world (or maybe just for American children in 1998). “Halloweentown” is one of several Disney Channel Original Movies (but arguably the best) that is essential viewing during October. If you don’t stay for all the fun had by the Piper kids (and nervousness of brother Dylan), you’ll want to watch for Debbie Reynolds as grandmother Aggie Cromwell. On big sister Marnie’s 13th birthday, the Piper kids secretly follow their grandma to Halloweentown, a world of witches, warlocks and other spooky, but kind creatures. The kids end up revealing themselves to grandma and embark on a journey they never could have imagined.
5. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone
It was the movie that started it all. Though the first installment of Harry Potter isn’t specifically a Halloween movie, it has all the elements you could ask for: magic, heroes, villains, spells, brooms, tall tales. There is even a festive scene in the dining hall with floating jack-o-lanterns. “The Sorcerer’s Stone” introduces us to Harry Potter, an orphan who learns on his 11th birthday that he is a wizard. He is shipped off to Hogwarts, a boarding school for wizards, where he meets eventual best friends Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger. The trio take on school bullies and dark magic alike, beginning Harry’s path of learning what really happened to his parents.