Tim Burtons Corpse Bride
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

The best scary movies for kids of all ages

Our go-to scary movies for kids will have your little horror fans sleeping with one eye open, so beware!

By Allie Early, Danielle Valente and Time Out editors
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For a frighteningly fun night in, we suggest stocking up on your favorite candy and a few good scary movies for kids...if you dare. 

We break things down by age, so little ghosts and goblines can enjoy the likes of Monsters Inc and The Addams Family while your teens indulge in the scariest Halloween movies for kids around. (Hint: Pennywise made the list.)

Since we typically like to start our Halloween season as early as possible, we recommend taking advantage of awesome fall activities for kids, too. (There's a pumpkin in that patch with your name on it!) 

Scary movies for kids

Monsters Inc
Monsters Inc
Courtesy Disney

1. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Best for: Little Kids

A surefire win (with teeny, tiny scares) for the youngest movie buffs, this classic Disney Pixar film was an extremely memorable leap in animation technology and remains a heartwarming 'spooky' story for your littles. Monsters Sully (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) work together at Monsters, Inc., a power company in a Monsters-only world. The power company is fueled by the screams of human children (collected by monsters who go into the human world to scare them). When one of Mike and Sully's nightly haunts fails terribly and brings a small child into their world, they must work together to make things right (and ultimately save 'Boo' from even more terrible creatures). Rated G.

Photograph: WALT DISNEY PICTURES/Ronald Grant Archive/Mary Evans/Everett Collection

2. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1950)

Best for: Little Kids

Washington Irving's grisly tale of Sleepy Hollow becomes more palatable for the kiddies in this cartoon, the second of two featurettes. Following The Wind in the Willows adaptation is the story of bumptious schoolmaster Ichabod Crane and his nemesis the Headless Horseman. It's a trite, chocolate-box picture of colonial days—until the Horseman shows up for one of those nightmare sequences with which Uncle Walt so relished terrifying his young audience. Rated G.

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Photograph: Courtesy Sony Pictures Imageworks

3. Monster House (2006)

Best for: Little Kids and Big Kids

Halloween is naturally the perfect time for spooky antics, but a group of kiddos think one residence goes too far. After some sleuthing and a handful of unexplainable moments, a trio of buddies discover that the house next door is actually not a house—it's a monster. Can they stop horrific things from happening before trick-or-treaters ring the bell? Rated PG. 

Photograph: Courtesy Disney

4. Hocus Pocus (1993)

Best for: Little Kids and Big Kids

What makes a better Halloween movie than three evil witches? Head to the 1600s, where Sanderson sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy) cast a spell that killed a little girl and turned her brother into an immortal black cat. Then, fast forward to the‘90s and meet Max Dennison, who just moved from Los Angeles to Salem, Massachusetts with his parents and his little sister. He’ll do anything to impress his cute neighbor, Allison, who just so happens to have access to the old Sanderson House. He even lights the Black Flame Candle, which as legend has it, will bring back the Sanderson sisters—and does! But hey, who believes in all that hocus pocus, anyway? Rated PG

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coraline
coraline
Courtesy Laika Inc./Universal Pictures

5. Coraline (2009)

Best for: Big Kids

When Coraline moves into her new house—which just so happens to be old—it's quite a snooze fest. Her mom and dad are wrapped up, and she's left bored as a result. All of that changes when she finds a hidden door and an alternate universe behind it. How's that for an interesting abode? In this new realm, everything seems perfect, but nothing truly is. You won't be able to say no to a screening of this Neil Gaiman book-turned-movie when autumn swoops in. Rated PG. 

labyrinth
labyrinth
Courtesy TriStar Pictures/Labyrinth

6. Labyrinth (1986)

Best for: Big Kids

This one's for all the kids who've wished their siblings would disappear. In Labyrinth, teenage Sarah wishes exactly that—and the Goblin King (David Bowie) happily honors her request! Sarah only has until midnight to save her baby brother from a castle in the middle of a labyrinth, or else he'll become a goblin forever. The Jim Henson-directed film is a winner for any kid who loves magic, thrills and elaborate costumes. Rated PG.

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Photograph: Courtesy Disney Enterprises Inc.

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Best for: Big Kids

To say Jack Skellington is over Halloween is an understatement. The Pumpkin King has had his fair share of frightening hijinks, and he just can't seem to muster up the spooky spirit that one expects from his prestigious title. Instead, Jack finds himself drawn to Christmas, a holiday he hasn't encountered beforehand. He does a bit of research and soon decides to step on Santa's turf. Naturally, his holly jolly plan is nothing short of a disaster. In true Tim Burton form, this stop-motion classic delivers all you've come to expect from the artist: odd, yet totally lovable characters. Viewers will also delight in some toe-tapping tunes along the way. Rated PG. 

frankenweenie
frankenweenie
Photograph: Courtesy Disney Enterprises

8. Frankenweenie (2012)

Best for: Big Kids

Poor Victor has a difficult time fitting in at school. Fortunately, the young science geek is very close to his canine companion, Sparky...until the unthinkable happens. Losing his pup is heartbreaking for the lad, but when his science teacher sparks an idea to bring the mutt back to life, all is right in the world again. Well, at least until Victor's peers catch on to his experiment and try it out for themselves, with some horrific results. Rated PG.  

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The Addams Family
The Addams Family
Photograph: Courtesy Cinesite

9. The Addams Family (2019)

Best for: Big Kids 

The kookiest clan in town got the animated treatment in 2019. In this tale of spooky shenanigans, Gomez and his gang are waiting for a visit from relatives. However, things are turned upside down when a TV personality arrives instead and insists that the family's eerie hilltop home is standing in her way of taking down the entire neighborhood. Rated PG. 

scoob
scoob
Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros

10. Scoob (2020)

Best for: Big Kids 

Before he became Sooby Doo, the world-famous canine sleuth, he was young Scoob (voiced by Frank Welker), a Great Dane pup who had yet to meet Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma. This animated origin story starts with—what else?—a ghostly mystery. Those meddling kids! Rated PG. 

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the wizard of oz
the wizard of oz
Photograph: Courtesy Metro-Goldwn Mayer

11. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Best for: Big Kids, Tweens

While technically not defined as a horror movie, The Wizard of Oz has given children nightmares for generations. They'd be lying if they told you otherwise—just take a look at that witch! In this classic film, a girl stuck on a farm in dreary, sepia-toned Kansas dreams of a more exciting life somewhere over the proverbial rainbow; she gets her wish and then some when a tornado deposits the Midwesterner and her little dog, Toto, too, into a technicolor wonderland. Rated PG. 

Beetlejuice
Beetlejuice
Courtesy Channel 5 Broadcasting

12. Beetlejuice (1988)

Best for: Tweens

Guilty as charged: We love Tim Burton. Beetlejuice is one of our favorites for many reasons, including young goth Winona Rider, putrescent Michael Keaton, over-the-top masks and costumes and a creative storyline (That waiting room? That attic? Come on!). When a couple gets killed in a tragic car accident and returns to Earth to haunt their own house, a horrible family moves in—and there's only one ghost that can help. Don't forget to scream Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Rated PG (from the '80s).

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Courtesy Warner Brothers International Television

13. The Witches

Best for: Tweens

A witch convention is certainly not the first thing you expect to come across while staying at a hotel in England with your grandmother. Unfortunately, little Luke's curiosity gets the better of him, and he's caught spying on their evil gathering. It's up to Luke and his Grandmother to fight back against the witches, but it's just a hair more difficult now that Luke has been turned into a mouse. Rated PG.

 corpse bride
 corpse bride
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

14. Corpse Bride (2005)

Best for: Big Kids, Tweens 

Victor is having a difficult time getting his vows straight‚ which is naturally problematic for his bride to be. While reciting his promises of love and devotion, Victor accidentally proposes to another bride...a dead one at that. Whoops! Try explaining that one, pal! In this charmingly eerie Tim Burton film, a groom with cold feet is pulled into the underworld by an enthusiastic deceased bride and learns quite a bit in the process. Equally endearing, heartbreaking and creepy, Corpse Bride is a must when Halloween roles around. Rated PG.  

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scary stories to tell in the dark
scary stories to tell in the dark
Photograph: Courtesy Lionsgate/CBS Films Inc/George Kraychyk

15. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Best for: Tweens 

With odds to the close-knit IT clan, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark follows a small group of friends who set out to uncover the horror of Sarah Bellows' book of scary stories. When they stumble upon her house, all of the fables come to life—with some frightening results. Rated PG-13.  
 

ghost busters
ghost busters
Courtesy Channel 5 Broadcasting

16. Ghostbusters (1984)

Best for: Tweens and Teens

Three spirit-obsessed scientists are canned from their jobs at NYU, but they don’t let that get ’em down; instead, they put their talents to good use. Using their passion for the occult as a driving force, they start a ghost-extermination company to help New Yorkers handle some very real ghost troubles. Their work doesn’t come without its skeptics, though...one even wrongly jails them for fraud! Ultimately the unlikely team helps to save the city from an ancient god. Be warned: It’s not quite rated for the current day, and Ghostbusters is really only appropriate for tweens and older. Rated PG.

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Courtesy Universal Pictures

17. Frankenstein (1931)

Best for: Tweens and Teens

Dr. Henry Frankenstein will stop at nothing to create life by alternative means, even if it involves assembling body parts of the deceased to build a new person from scratch. He gets his wish, but things certainly don't go as planned, and the creature causes a lot of trouble when it escapes. NR.

Courtesy MGM/UA Entertainment Co./Poltergeist

18. Poltergeist (1982)

Best for: Tweens and Teens

Let's get one thing straight: This movie still scares us. Between a supernatural child abduction, evil clown dolls, moving furniture and a crackling TV set, it's jam-packed with the heebie jeebies. Also, you can't unsee those skeletons in the pool. Basically, the moral of the story is to not build any houses on an ancient burial ground. Seriously...don't do that. But do watch this movie with your tweens and teens, because it's amazing. Rated PG (from the '80s).

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Courtesy Universal Pictures

19. Jaws (1975)

Best for: Teens

If you want your kids to be able to get into the bathtub without fear, it's probably best you skip out on Jaws until they're in their double digits. This monstrous Great White shark is terrorizing the waters surrounding Amity Island—just as summer begins. Naturally, the beach town is in a panic and afraid to go anywhere near the water. It's up to Chief Brody and co. to find this menacing creature. As the saying goes, "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Rated PG. 

Photo: Courtesy of Walter Reade Organization

20. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Best for: Teens

One word: Zombies! Can the (living) inhabitants of a farmhouse defend themselves from an army of flesh-eating corpses? We. Shall. See. This low-budget film offers some creative gore and nods to the political environment of the late '60s. NR.

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21. Stephen King's IT (1990)

Best for: Teens

If your crew is really insisting on something scary this Halloween, trust us when we say this is it. (No pun intended.) Stephen King's killer clown takes on all forms when he terrorizes the children of Derry, Maine—and in turn has made sewers, bathroom sinks and red balloons some of the most feared objects out there. Will anyone be able to stop this malicious force? Tread lightly with this one because Pennywise is particularly frightening for the younger set. (We might've learned from experience.) Not rated. 

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