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Top 20 Scary Movies for Kids and Preteens
Kids like to be scared. There is a reason R.L. Stine has been publishing books nearly non-stop for the past twenty years, but it can be difficult to find scary movies that are appropriate for your kid or preteen. Scary movies often have swear words or excessive gore, so if you’re little one likes ghosts and monsters, then he or she might be stuck watching the same old kiddy-scary movie over and over again.
If your looking for a new just-scary-enough movie for your kid or preteen, then read the list below for 20 great, kid-appropriate, scary movies for the next time your little one asks you for a movie about ghosts, goblins, monsters or murders.
1. Any Scooby Doo Movie
This lovable group of meddling kids and their Great Dane have been a favorite of kids of all ages for generations. Fortunately, there are tons of movies based on the crime-solving teenagers, such as Scooby-Doo and The Ghoul School (Fangtastic!) or Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers (and a creepy Confederate soldier).
For major fright factor go with Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998). It has zombies, ghosts, alligators, and scary cat ladies, so it really has it all in the way of classic scares.
2. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
When you see Vincent Price in the cast listing, you know this movie is going to be scary and fun. It’s a good movie for kids because it never actually shows any ghosts. If it weren’t for the creepy laughter at the end, the viewer might think there never were any. The movie also avoids swearing and gore, while maintaining a spooky atmosphere through the setting of a cob-webbed mansion and the presence of a possible murderer throughout the film.
3. Ghostbusters (1984)
It’s hilarious, which makes this movie watchable for most youngsters, but it still has a few good scares (the claymation dogs are always frightening). Ghostbusters II is also a good one.
4. Monster House (2006)
Don’t be fooled by the fact that this movie is animated. It’s a frightening tale of a house that’s come to life and is now preying on the neighborhood children.
5. Beetlejuice (1988)
The sand worm scared me when I was younger, as did the medicine man’s shriveled heads, but the humor balances out the fear factor, making it a decent kid’s movie.
6. The Old Dark House (1932)
I only watched this one recently, but it’s a movie I know I would have enjoyed as a kid. Its another one that avoids swearing, bloodiness and any real ghosts, but the stormy night, the spooky house, and the mute butler, Morgan (played by Borris Karloff) definitely provide the creep factor.
7. The Haunting (1963)
This movie might be better for older children as not all the main characters live through it and the psychological aspects might be confusing for younger children. Also, the first ten minutes are possibly some of the most frightening in cinematic history. Still, I’ve known many a preteen who loved this film, and the lack of gore and swear words make it a good haunted house movie for the 11 and up crowd.
8. The Hole (2009)
About two brothers who find a hole in their basement that releases their greatest fears. This one’s rated PG-13, so once again their’s no major gore or swearing. Watch out for the younger brother’s fear of clowns which results in a very creepy clown doll coming to life. This aspect of the movie might be too scary for younger kids, but preteens should be fine.
9. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)
Starring Don Knotts, this movie is a hoot, but the self-playing organ and the creepy house once made me bite my nails in fear.
10. Clue (1985)
This is another funny one. It stars Tim Curry and is based on the classic board game. It’s definitely a comedy, but the steadily creeping body count and the old mansion makes for some good scares too.
11. Hocus Pocus (1993)
This one’s rated PG, but the ex-boyfriend zombie is definitely a little creepy and it is set on Halloween, so what more could you want? It’s a cute, silly movie that younger kids would definitely enjoy.
12. Don’t Look Under the Bed (1999)
This one might be a little hard to find, but it is usually posted in full somewhere on YouTube. It’s an older Disney channel movie about what happens to imaginary friends when children stop believing in them too early. The boogey “person” in particular is pretty frightening, especially when it is dragging Darwin into the Boogeyworld.
13. Halloweentown (1998)
Another Disney channel movie, this one isn’t necessarily very scary, but the abundance of monsters and ghouls make it appropriately intriguing for a younger audience who loves the idea of scary movies, but can’t quite handle anything really frightening yet.
14. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched the “Mr. Toad” half of this two-part animated Disney flick, but The Adventures of Ichabod is definitely frightening. Ichabod, voiced by Bing Crosby, makes the unfortunate decision to travel home late from a party one Halloween night and encounters a terrifying, headless spirit.
15. The Black Cauldron (1985)
This animated movie is technically more of a fantasy than a scary movie, but the Horned King scared me horribly as a child. Also, what kid wouldn’t want a future-predicting pig?
16. Coraline (2009)
This beautifully animated movie, based on the equally intriguing Neil Gaiman novel, has a plethora of imaginative and scary creatures from Scottie dogs with bat wings to ghost kids. Adults and children alike would love this movie.
17. The Mummy (1932)
The 1932 film is a classic horror movie, and isn’t too scary for kids. It stars Borris Karloff.
18. Young Frankenstein (1974)
A classic Mel Brooks comedy, this movie is very funny, which makes the frightening castle and creepy cast of characters more bearable for children. Please watch this one before showing it to your kids, to make sure the jokes aren’t too innapropriate for your child.
19. 13 Ghosts (1960)
Don’t mix this one up with the gory 2001 version. The 1960 movie is the classic story of a family who inherits a haunted house. It’s unbelievably cheesy, but the fiery skeleton and the ghost lion used to scare me as a kid.
20. Tremors (1990)
This one is too gory for some kids (i.e. exploding giant worms) and it does have some mild swearing, but the humor makes it appropriate for the kid who loves monster movies like Jurassic Park and Godzilla. Starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, it’s funny and will have your kids playing “Tremors” instead of “The Floor is Lava”.
Honorable Mentions (Television)
Listed below are a few spooky TV shows that kids and preteens might like as well.
1. The Three Stooges
The Three Stooges had quite a few spooky episodes, my personal favorites being Spooks! (1953) and Spook Louder (1943). There is no swearing and the scares aren’t too scary, so most kids can handle them.
“Who threw those pies?!”
2. Are You Afraid of the Dark?
The classic Nickelodean TV show is well-loved by anyone who grew up in the nineties for being just scary enough that a kid could feel like they were watching a grown-up TV show. The ones that scared me the most were The Tale of Laughing in the Dark and The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float.
3. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985)
The ghost pirates and the old man in this episode used to give me nightmares as a kid, but this fear was balanced out by Garfield’s hilarious chant of “candy, candy, candy, candy…” and the toe-tappingly good “Scaredy Cat” song. The full episode can be found on YouTube.