So we’re gonna take a departure from the usual fare this week, because this year is a dumpster fire and we’ve all got to do whatever it takes to make us happy and keep us sane, so why not? Instead, we’re going to focus on one of my favorite times of year, and specifically something near and dear to my heart: Halloween movies!
Recently, a good friend of mine asked me for a list of Halloween movies suitable for his 10-year-old, and I was only too happy to offer the following:
Frankenstein – The original and still the greatest, directed by James Whale and starring the one and only Boris Karloff.
Bride of Frankenstein – The rare sequel that measures up to the original, and is at the same time surprisingly funny in places.
The Wolf Man – A little scary, and a bit tragic, but not violent or bloody. Lon Chaney Jr is great here as poor doomed Lawrence Talbot, his best performance.
The Invisible Man – Equally funny and scary, with great visual effects for the time, and a truly scary bad guy, just from Claude Rains’ batshit crazy voice.
Creature From the Black Lagoon – One of our favorite movies ever here at COMICS 101 HQ. A good old-fashioned monster movie, mostly adventure, not creepy at all.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – This one works really well for modern kids, surprisingly. You might want to start with this and then go back to the other Universals.
Young Frankenstein – Mel Brooks’ loving parody of James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN movies isn’t from Universal, but it’s so faithful it may as well be. Hilariously funny, but still beautiful to look at. And Gene Wilder was a goddamned treasure.
Disney and Disney-Adjacent
Ichabod and Mister Toad – Disney’s version of the Headless Horseman is still the best.
The Nightmare Before Christmas – Spooky, funny and beautifully animated in old-fashioned stop-motion.
Hocus Pocus – I’m not a fan, but I realize that’s because of my own particular dislikes. Lots of people love it.
Hotel Transylvania – I liked this despite myself. A Dracula family comedy. Surprisingly funny.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – Wallace & Gromit and monster rabbits! How can you go wrong?
The Black Cauldron – The only truly scary offering among Disney’s animated features, this 1985 movie freaked out audiences so much it almost killed Disney’s feature animation division. Overall, pretty good, and the Horned King is still Disney’s scariest villain, so scary they don’t use him in the parks.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – Of course. A Halloween necessity.
More Action Than Fright
The Mummy (1999) – What if Indiana Jones fought Mummies? This one is great, and Brendan Fraser kills it.
Ghostbusters – What else is there to say? A near-perfect movie.
Beetlejuice – That rare comedy that is still really creepy in places, but that cast with hilarious performances from Michael Keaton, Geena Davis and Catherine O’Hara keeps kids from ever getting too wigged out. Plus, Alec Baldwin is so young he legitimately looks like a different person.
King Kong (1933) – The monster movie that invented monster movies. Still holds up. The ‘70s version with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange is also better than you remember.
Spooky in a Quiet Way
Labyrinth – Jim Henson’s spookiest movie, and David Bowie’s best performance on film.
Coraline – Another beautiful stop-motion film, this time based on a Neil Gaiman book, so you know it’s good. A satisfying “kids’-point-of-view” movie.
Little Shop of Horrors – A great musical, and some of the best monster puppeteering ever with Audrey II. Plus, Steve Martin sings!
Just Plain Scary
Poltergeist – I was just a kid when I saw this, and it scared the pants off me, but I loved it. It helps that the whole family makes it through unscathed.
Army of Darkness – Another one that’s more action and slapstick than real horror. Join Bruce Campbell as cinema’s dumbest hero, a K-Mart clerk who battles skeletons and monsters in the Middle Ages as he tries to return to his own time.
Do you have Halloween Must-See movies you have to watch every year? What’s on your list?