What’s Your Favorite (Children’s) Scary Movie?

Published October 30, 2009 by Graham

Where do you draw the line between what’s an appropriate horror film for children and what’s “too scary”? Blanket statements can’t be taken seriously– every kid is different, after all. Maybe Maurice Sendak hit it on the head in the titular laissez-faire sentiment of Spike and Lance’s documentary: “You can tell them anything you want.” People are free to raise their kids however they see fit– and sheltering children from the macabre, gory, violent side of cinema is certainly an acceptable interpretation of parental protection. But let’s be real: your kids will probably jump at a chance to revel in an R-rated scarefest at their next sleepover. Wouldn’t you?

There are at least a handful of great horror films specifically geared towards a more family-friendly audience. The interdimensional mind trip of Disney’s Watcher in the Woods remains a classic of the genre. Lady in White is a less famous though equally bizarre kiddie fright flick that attempts to emulate Spielbergian grandiosity, sporting stunning visuals and a meandering plot that centers around one boy’s traumatic night locked inside a coat closet. Paperhouse is an atmospheric, psychological tale of terror staged within the tortured dreams of a highly imaginative British girl.

Then there are more mature horror films about kid heroes battling a world of terrifying adults, like The People Under the Stairs, Pan’s Labyrinth and Phantasm. Though the young actors starring in these movies would be barred from seeing them by the MPAA, they still operate within a world of childlike wonder. Yes, somehow these are still children’s horror films. Which horror movies for or about kids do you love?

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18 comments so far

  1. I was rather shocked to hear certain complaints of Wild Things being too scary for kids… The people complaining are parents, probably around my age, who grew up with movies like The Dark Crystal, Labrynth and The Neverending Story, all of which are dark and often scary tales. Interestingly these are probably the same people who would rather their kids sit in front of a TV all day playing (often violent) video games than play outside because it’s “safer.” Sad.

  2. Mick Cottin says:

    Monster Squad! “Wolfman’s got nards!”

  3. Leah Giblin says:

    Something Wicked This Way Comes should also be included in this group. Made by Walt Disney Productions in 1983, based on a Ray Bradbury novel and incredibly discomforting- adults are punished for indulging their regrets and desires, while children are hunted by an evil top-hatted carny!

  4. I agree with, Mick. Monster Squad all the way.

  5. not really horror but Return to Oz was one of the scariest movies i saw as a kid. THE WHEELERSSSSSS

  6. matt says:

    OK, seriously, this list cannot be complete without mentioning “The Return to Oz.” It was very much meant for children and scared the bejeezus out of every child that saw it.

  7. JESSE SPEARS says:

    DUDE GRAHAM, I JUST SAW WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE YESTERDAY AND ITS LIKE INCREDIBLE MAN! I DONT HAVE ONE BAD THING TO SAY ABOUT IT, ITS LIKE OMG ABOUT ALL OF THEIR PERSONALITIES… LIKE DUDE OMG YOU KNOW MAN? ITS LIKE THE KIND OF MOVIE IVE BEEN DREAMING ABOUT.

  8. JESSE SPEARS says:

    DUDE THE LITTLE GOAT DUDE! OMG !!! AND RICHARD IN THE BELLY!!

  9. kurt says:

    I watched the Cat’s Eye a lot as a kid. You got a grey tabby as the hero who saves the little Drew Barrymore from getting the breath sucked out of her by a troll while she sleeps. How kickass is that!? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_cFNbrPLx4

  10. Rob says:

    i’ve always loved the people under the stairs. great movie!
    when i was a kid i also loved tim burton’s movies (some consider them scary). more specifically i watched beetlejuice a couple times a week.

  11. Andy says:

    ‘Fright Night’, yes!! I 100% agree on ‘Return to Oz’. Also the ‘Sleepy Hollow’ segment from Disneys ‘The adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad’. Also, The ‘IT’ mini-series. I watched that as kid and it scared the crap out of me (also, it’s about kids)

  12. miguel says:

    +1 on Something Wicked This Way Comes. I was always freaked out by the end where the head of the circus gets stuck on the merry-go-round–likely because he looked like my friends kind of pervy grandfather.

  13. mary says:

    holy shit. the poster for “lady in white” is scary as hell!

  14. Dani says:

    My 4 year old and 7 year old loooooooved “Where the Wild Things Are,” and love a good scary movie. For Halloween we rented “The Witches,” and both kids got a huge kick out of it. Angelica Houston is gorgeous and hilarious, as are all of the witches. It has a wonderful theme, like so many scary films for kids, that emphasizes that kids can be resourceful and competent.

    We’re also huge fans of “Spirited Away,” which definitely has its scarier moments.

  15. Courtney says:

    Oh, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid. I particularly remember the spiders crawling all over the walls!

  16. Richard says:

    A little late catching onto this, bit I definitely agree with ‘Return To Oz’! For a start, the film begins with children being administered with shock-therapy! Then there’s that scene where the woman keeps all her spare heads in a room, and they all wake up and start screaming! Not to mention the ‘wheelers’…..

  17. Adam says:

    Second the mention of “The Witches”, it always terrified me as a child but I still enjoyed watching it. Its difficult to find too many examples of that sort of film nowadays, with few exceptions. I wouldn’t really consider Pan’s Labyrinth appropriate for kids simply based on some of the graphic torture scenes.

  18. Allan says:

    As a child my favorite movie was Return To Oz. I never scared me. In fact it’s only since I’ve been on the net that I’ve read stories of how ‘Return To Oz scared me as a child’. They’re are some sad people out there.

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