Five Halloween Movies for the Easily Frightened

Screenshot from "A Nightmare Before Christmas" trailer.
From "A Nightmare Before Christmas" trailer.
It’s officially October, and while the month ahead promises sweater weather, cider donuts, and spontaneous trips to the apple orchard, there’s more than just fall festivities on the horizon. With the fun and the fuzzy socks come endless, all-encompassing preparation for Halloween. If you’re anything like me — and by “like me,” I mean you weren’t able to watch the movie “Jaws” without covering your eyes until (generously) the age of 16 — each invitation to a horror movie screening is an anxiety-inducing exercise in last-minute-excuse-making. Thankfully for you (and me), these five movies are great for getting in the Halloween spirit without any of the scares!

1. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”
This Peanuts take on Halloween is a beloved staple of family cinema. You’ll laugh at Charlie Brown’s futile attempts to kick a football, reminisce about your own trick-or-treating experiences each time Brown says, “I got a rock.” Maybe you’ll even shed a tear when Linus spends his whole night waiting for a “Great Pumpkin” that will never come. What you certainly won’t do is cower in terror at the jump scares of a child-eating sewer clown, à la “It.” What can I say? You really can’t beat the classics.

2. “Beetlejuice”
Featuring stop-motion animation, ’90s-icon Winona Ryder, and Harry Belafonte’s rendition of “The Banana Boat Song,” “Beetlejuice” tells the surprisingly lively tale of a recently-deceased couple’s (Alec Baldwin and Gina Davis) attempts to scare away the new family living in what used to be their house. It’s a great one to watch with the whole family — unless your whole family is watching “The Exorcist” without you in the next room over, in which case a family-sized bag of Halloween candy is just as good a companion!

3. “Hocus Pocus”
Disney’s “Hocus Pocus” is a cult favorite film of the Halloween genre, beloved by fright chasers and dodgers alike. I personally don’t see what’s so great about it. This may or may not be because it gave me recurring nightmares about being kidnapped by witches every October since the first time I watched it. Regardless of my own exaggerated fears, “Hocus Pocus” has just the right amount of humor to offset its spook, and Bette Midler as resident, ring-leading witch Winnie Sanderson is truly a sight to behold. Any list of Halloween movies would be incomplete without an appearance by the bumbling Sanderson sisters and their witchy home of Salem, Massachusetts.

4. “When Harry Met Sally”
If you’re looking for a film that isn’t strictly about Halloween, but still gets you in the spirit of the fall season, look no further than “When Harry Met Sally.” The classic rom-com may not earn a place on most — or any — Halloween lists, but watching Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan fall in love against the backdrop of a New York City autumn will earn it a permanent place in your heart.


5. “The Nightmare Before Christmas”
This Tim Burton masterpiece may be spooky in its animation, but it’s warm and fuzzy at heart. The story of Jack Skellington and his quest to shake things up in Halloween Town (by stealing Christmas, of course) has inspired many a jack-o-lantern and couples costume. While “The Nightmare Before Christmas” doesn’t have any Harry Belafonte tunes, it does have “This is Halloween,” a song guaranteed to stay stuck in your head until at least Christmas. Just in time for you to watch it again!

—Staff writer Allison J. Scharmann can be reached at


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