20 Scary Movies for Kids
Some children, like adults, enjoy being afraid and are drawn to scary movies. On the one hand, it’s sometimes beneficial for kids to get a shiver down their spines: it takes them away from their comfort zones, allows them to engage with terrifying ideas in a somewhat controlled and safe context, and it’s enjoyable; if you’re into it! On the other side, you don’t want to be up all night with them looking for monsters beneath beds and in closets.
Looking for more family-friendly movies? Try one of the finest animated movies for kids or one of the best Halloween movies for kids.
Spirited Away (2001)
Spirited Away is regarded as one of the best children’s films of all time, scary or not. It is a masterpiece by respected director Hayao Miyazaki. It’s about a 10-year-old girl who discovers a world of enchanted beings, including witches, ghosts, and some terrifying animals while relocating to a new neighborhood. She must navigate this mystical world to save her parents after converting them into pigs.
Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021)
The Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World is noteworthy because it is both terrifying and humorous. So, how can you imbue a terrifying film with the same discernment? You include the Muppets! In this hour-long episode, Gonzo accepts a dare to stay overnight in the Haunted Mansion and encounters all its famed grim, sneering spirits.
It’s difficult to believe Gizmo, the lovable Mogwai, could produce something as dreadful as the nasty, mayhem-causing Gremlins, but he does, and they’re quite frightening. Feed them no later than midnight! If it’s too much, move on to Gremlins 2, which is even crazier.
This film is more than just a terrifying story; scary stories are fundamental to the plot. In Night books, a little boy is kidnapped by a witch who demands that he write her a new frightening story every night. He agrees, but only so that he and another prisoner can arrange their escape.
If you have a kid who is prone to nightmares and want to trick them into thinking they’ve watched a terrifying movie when they’ve seen a comedy, show them this film – it has ghosts and some emotional portions, so it counts, but it also has enough hilarity to balance them out. If they like it, they might love Ghostbusters: Afterlife even more because youngsters get to wear proton packs and fight ghosts for real.
Coraline’s family relocates to a new place and is immediately too preoccupied to spend much time with her. She discovers an alternate reality through a secret door in her new home, where her “other mother” offers to give her everything her mother cannot. Is it everything it’s talked up to be?
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
This film is classed PG-13 for obvious reasons (primarily, the carnivorous plant and the murders it necessitates for food), yet the songs by Alan Menken effectively make it a Disney film, don’t you think? Maybe not, but the peppy, oldies-inspired music and B-movie feel help to make the experience less unpleasant.
This film, directed by Tim Burton, the maestro of family-friendly horror, is a spin on the traditional Frankenstein story, only this time it’s about a young STEM enthusiast instead of a mad scientist. The black-and-white, stop-motion animation keeps things from becoming too frightening.
The Dark Crystal (1982)
The Dark Crystal is more fantasy than horror, taking place in a world of magical creatures such as Gelflings and Skeksis involved in an everlasting battle for control of the universe. Even without ghosts, the Skeksis are terrifying! If your kids appreciate it, there is a prequel series on Netflix, and the upgrades in special effects make it look magnificent.
The word “scary” is an intriguing way to characterize this film. It’s rated PG-13 and has intense moments, but it’s not full of ghosts, ghouls, or even much horror. Instead, it’s about a psychological battle between two ambitious fashion designers. It’s ideal for tweens and teens with an edgy sense of style (and it makes for a great Halloween costume inspiration).
This is on the edgier side of PG, but it includes a blend of horror and humor that balances out the gruesome elements. This is a haunted-house film told from the perspective of ghosts who desire a family to flee and enlist the assistance of a misbehaving demon (Michael Keaton).
The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
A family moves into a frightening old house in the middle of nowhere, only to uncover a world filled with fairies, goblins, and other unseen creatures. The scares are the result of tense encounters with goblins and ogres.
This is another PG-13 film — and if you don’t like slimy, crawly things, it’s nasty, so decide for yourself if your kids (or you) can handle it. If they can, they’ll be treated to an exterminator and a doctor attempting to save their town from a (really ugly) invasion of killer spiders.
Based on R.L. Stine’s children’s book, Goosebumps is about ghouls, werewolf puppies, and living mummies, but the action is more amusing than frightening. It, like The House With a Clock in Its Walls (more on that below), stars Jack Black, who is swiftly becoming today’s Vincent Price.
The Secret of NIMH (1982)
Mrs. Brisby, a widowed field mouse, is told her son has pneumonia and must recover at home – only to discover that the farmer has begun plowing early, and she must transport him elsewhere. She’s told to seek the assistance of a colony of super-intelligent mice, only to face risk after peril and unearth terrible truths in Don Bluth’s tragic narrative of survival (who also directed An American Tail).
Corpse Bride (2005)
Another Tim Burton film, this stop-motion animated film is about a groom who unintentionally marries a corpse and must travel to the Land of the Dead to make things right.
A little girl wishes the Goblin King would take away her baby brother but quickly regrets it and embarks on a quest to reclaim him. There’s a lot of fantasy (and Jim Henson puppets! ), and David Bowie plays the Goblin King as both seductive and menacing.
Into the Woods (2014)
This Sondheim musical isn’t terrifying in the traditional sense, but it does take familiar fairy tales (and the witches and giants they contain) and twists them on their heads, not always giving everyone a happy ending. As the witch, Meryl Streep delivers an unforgettable performance.
This stop-motion animated film follows a young kid who possesses the power to communicate with the dead and must utilize it to save his community from a mysterious curse. It’s like a kid-friendly rendition of The Sixth Sense, minus the twist.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is beautifully animated by Disney, with narration by Bing Crosby. If the Headless Horseman is too frightening for children, the latter half of the film is based on The Wind in the Willows, which should make them forget their anxieties.