I’m in the same camp as a lot of people, I think, in that I love Halloween, but I’m not as big a fan of being scared. Sometimes I want all the treats without the tricks. In the interest of discovering the best and worst Halloween movies, I’ve watched a whole bunch of non-scary movies and rated them by both Halloween spirit and quality. In no particular order, here they are!
1. Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki is one of Studio Ghibli’s most iconic characters, and this sweet coming-of-age story is perfect for the whole family. She’s a young witch looking to make it on her own, but her only magical skill is flying on a broom, and poorly, at that. Nonetheless, with support from the people around her, she’s able to start a burgeoning delivery service.
Halloween Spirit: 2/5 black cats.
Star Quality: 4/5 big red bows!
2. Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Mary is a young girl who manifests magic powers and is enrolled in a magic school. It all seems perfect, but there’s something off about the whole situation… This movie was made by former Studio Ghibli employees who started their own company, Studio Ponoc. It clearly owes a lot to Kiki’s Delivery Service as well as Harry Potter, and it comes together as a cute, but not entirely original film.
Halloween Spirit: 2/5 redheaded witches.
Star Quality: 3/5 magic flowers.
3. Room on the Broom
Continuing with the witchy theme, here’s a short film based on a picture book about a friendly witch and her found family. It’s charming in its way, but I would only recommend it to folks with very young children. For older viewers, there’s not a lot to chew on.
Halloween Spirit: 4/5 broomsticks.
Star Quality: 3/5 unexpected guests.
4. The Gruffalo
A mouse in the forest scares off predators with tall tales of a horrible monster, only to find out that the Gruffalo is real. From the same creators as Room on the Broom, The Gruffalo is another picture book-turned-short film, but it’s more suited to its adaptation than the former. Even though this story is geared toward younger children, it’s narrated so well and keeps such great tension through its pacing that older viewers will enjoy it, too.
Halloween Spirit: 2/5 Gruffalos.
Star Quality: 4/5 scrambled snakes!
It’s campy, corny Halloween fun. It’s got a killer theme song and inspires oodles of nostalgia. If you’re reading this, you probably already have your own opinion of it. Here’s mine: I can see why people like it, but it’s overrated and sexist. Venkman is one of the most boring and unlikable protagonists I’ve ever seen. I’ll stick to bumping the song, thanks!
Halloween Spirit: 5/5 ghosts.
Star Quality: 2/5 tired stereotypes.
6. Dear Dracula
This is a wholesome family film about a young bullied boy who makes friends with Dracula, who helps him to build up his self-confidence. Aside from a couple of gratingly stereotypical side characters, it’s a warm and funny movie for kids and adults to enjoy.
Halloween Spirit: 5/5 vampire bats.
Star Quality: 3/5 Dracula action figures.
7. Mickey’s House of Villains
A collection of Halloween shorts tied together by a loose overarching plot, the best that can be said about this movie is that it contains characters your kids will recognize. The shorts themselves are mostly pretty boring, and I was much more intrigued by Jafar’s promised evil plan to upend the night, but that was disappointing as well.
Halloween Spirit: 4/5 Disney villains.
Star Quality: 1/5 spooky shorts.
8. Ichabod Crane (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
This part two of two in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, the first part of which is The Wind in the Willows. If you’re a fan of old-school Disney animation, this is a pleasant throwback set in the newly minted USA in the late 1700s. Most of it has more of a Beauty and the Beast feel than Halloween, but toward the end it gets nice and spooky!
Halloween Spirit: 3/5 headless horsemen.
Star Quality: 3/5 feckless dandies.
9. Trick or Treaters
Originally in German, this movie based on a picture book comes up with a unique origin story for the tradition of trick-or-treating. It’s snarky, dark, and full of plucky orphans, kind of like a Lemony Snicket novel. If you want something a bit out of the ordinary for Halloween or are a connoisseur of animated film, I recommend giving this one a try!
Halloween Spirit: 4/5 plucky orphans.
Star Quality: 4/5 wicked aunties.
10. My Neighbor Totoro
It might not strike you as particularly Halloween-ish, but My Neighbor Totoro starts out with a family moving into what they believe is a haunted house! Sure, the spirits they meet all turn out to be friendly, but there is a bit of haunting going on. Take a break and watch this timeless family classic. Yes, this is lowkey just me inventing a new excuse to watch My Neighbor Totoro.
Halloween Spirit: 1/5 soot sprites.
Star Quality: 5/5 acorns!
11. The Nightmare Before Christmas
I might be a bit biased, but I think The Nightmare Before Christmas is the ultimate Halloween movie. The concept is creative, the aesthetic is perfect, and, of course, it gave us the anthem “This Is Halloween.” As a kid, I would wait for it to be shown on TV every year, and that’s how you know it’s timeless.
Halloween Spirit: 5/5 skeletons.
Star Quality: 4/5 Jack-o’-lanterns.
What are your favorite Halloween movie picks? Let me know in the comments!
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