I love Halloween. I love costumes, trick-or-treating and the entire spooky season. But I hate being scared. Each October, I avoid haunted houses, creepy yard decorations and the scary movies all the television networks like to rerun.
Thankfully, there are also Halloween-themed movies that make me laugh and that are as seen as classics in the Halloween genre, rivaling even the most frightening films.
Now is the time to have a few cozy nights in with candy, cider, all the pumpkin-flavored things and, of course, the perfect Halloween movie. But if you’re also not into scary movies, fear not! Below are some of my favorite Halloween movies ― ones I used to watch as a kid that still put me in the Halloween spirit today. Treat yourself to a blast from the past and check them out.
Spooky spoilers ahead!
Let’s start with a classic. It just isn’t Halloween without a “Hocus Pocus” viewing. This movie is hilarious, star-studded and also kind of dark. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy star as witchy sisters. They aren’t friendly witches, either; they are devil-worshipping, child-murdering, broomstick-riding witches who are intent on staying young forever by sucking the souls out of Salem, Massachusetts’ children.
“Hocus Pocus” has become a cult classic since its release and a must-watch for the Halloween season. Despite being a straight-to-VHS film in the ’90s, the graphics in this movie are actually pretty good. Cat Thackery Binx is far from cringe-inducing to look at. And the spellbook’s wandering eye looks frighteningly realistic. Also Midler’s creepy rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” is as memorable as the original. Just don’t listen to it for too long, or you may find yourself dancing forever.
Scariest moments: I get chills when that spellbook opens its creepy eye. And, you know, sucking the souls out of children.
Where to watch: Rent in HD from YouTube or Amazon.
“Halloweentown” is about, you guessed it: a town where it’s Halloween all the time. Screen legend Debbie Reynolds stars as Aggie, a powerful but friendly witch who is hoping to teach her grandchildren all about magic. It’s a whimsical Halloween classic filled with broomstick flying lessons, jack-o’-lanterns and kooky residents. But an evil “bad thing” is threatening all of Halloweentown and Aggie’s family unless she can cast a spell in time.
“Halloweentown” was one of the first Disney Channel Original Movies ever; it became an instant classic and spawned four sequels. It’s a staple for any Halloween-themed movie night.
Scariest moments: Billy the skeleton cab driver is kind of creepy. How is he speaking without a tongue or driving without eyes? How?!
Where to watch: Disney Now subscription or buy from YouTube or Amazon.
Disney Channel Original Movie connoisseurs will agree that “Don’t Look Under the Bed” is the scariest made-for-TV film ever to grace our screens. Filled with twists, turns, jump scares and some gross moments, this film is so scary, it was one of the first Disney Channel movies to receive a PG rating for scenes that may irreparably scar a child’s psyche.
In this movie, the Boogeyman is real and wreaking havoc on Frances, her little brother Darwin and their small town of Middleburg. Their childhood imaginary friend, Larry, arrives just in time to help put things back to normal. But Larry may be in danger himself if they don’t defeat the Boogeyman fast enough.
“Don’t Look Under the Bed” is just as dramatic as it is spooky, with the main characters having to grapple with themes like terminal illness, peer pressure and the ramifications of trying to grow up too fast. It was also one of the first Disney Channel Original Movies to prominently feature a Black main character (though, according to the film’s director, some of the folks at Disney had a problem with the casting). Definitely check it out but be prepared to sleep with some lights on.
Scariest moment: When sweet Larry transforms into a boogeyman, it’s both heartbreaking and terrifying. Those eyes, those hands and those teeth still give me nightmares.
Where to watch: Disney Now subscription or rent from YouTube or Amazon.
Something is amiss at the Megaplex, a large and beloved movie theater that’s the center of this TV film. Just as it’s preparing for the premiere of “Midnight Mayhem,” the old theater gets its own dose of mayhem as screenings, popcorn machines and moviegoers are terrorized by a mysterious phantom who’s haunting the cinema. It’s a creepy whodunit that will keep you guessing until the end.
Scariest moment: Every time the “phantom” shows up with that creepy mask and the scary organ music plays, I jump a little bit.
Where to watch: Disney Now subscription or rent from Amazon.
No Halloween movie marathon would be complete without the Peanuts characters. Join Linus, Lucy, Sally and, of course, Charlie Brown as they try to have the ultimate Halloween night full of trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples and waiting for the mysterious Great Pumpkin to make an appearance and bring toys to all the good and sincere boys and girls. The aesthetically pleasing autumn animations, Vince Guaraldi’s beautiful score, Linus’ innocent belief and Charlie Brown’s adorable hopelessness combine to create the perfect treat of a movie to accompany any Halloween candy.
Scariest moment: I cover my eyes every time Charlie Brown runs up to kick the football Lucy is holding. It’s so hard to watch, even though you know what’s going to happen.
Where to watch: Rent from YouTube or VUDU, or purchase on Amazon.