10 Family Friendly Horror Films To Scare Kids (And Their Parents) This Halloween

Frights for all the family.

Poltergeist 1982
United Artists

Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood scary movies were scary for everyone. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, the classic Universal monster pictures were, well, universal in their creepy content. Sure, there may have been a sinister monster lurking in the shadows and a few things to go bump in the night, but the strictures of censorship meant that horror movies never contained content too graphic for younger audiences.

As censorship let up and filmmakers began to push the boundaries of what they were able to do in terms of violence, gore and freaky sex, though, horror became solely the preserve of older (albeit not always maturer) audiences. Kids seeking scares were getting left out.

Fortunately for the fright-focused prepubescent the 1980s saw the emergence of a new kind of spooky cinema. Spearheaded by Amblin Entertainment, the studio founded by Steven Spielberg with his producing partners Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, these films featured gangs of kids fighting back against monsters and ghosts, with just enough borderline adult content smuggled in to give an appropriate edge and make viewing them feel a little illicit.

Many of us who grew up to be horror fans as adults had some of our first formative film fears with these movies and their influence continues to be felt on family friendly horrors today.

Whether you're wanting to pass a love of scary stuff on to the next generation this Halloween or are just feeling nostalgic for the frights of your youth, these ten films have got you covered.

10. The Hole

Poltergeist 1982
Big Air Studios

Joe Dante is one of the masters of the horror for younger audiences genre. Sure, he's made both grown up horrors (The Howling) and cartoon kid flicks (Looney Tunes: Back In Action), but it's in the meeting of the two that his best work lies.

Many of the films from Dante's 80s peak would have been fitting for this list, not least his best movie Gremlins. As that's a Christmas movie and this is a Halloween list, however, I've instead opted for this sadly little-seen gem from 2009.

Something of a throwback to those 80s classics where teenagers deal with monstrous horror scenarios while their parents are nowhere to be seen, The Hole features a teenage boy, his kid brother, and the girl next door finding a trapdoor in the basement of their new house. The trapdoor leads to a seemingly bottomless hole out of which emerges your greatest fear.

From creepy clown puppets to abusive parents, the film explores fears both irrational and real world that are relatable to kids, while the bottomless black hole of dread presents an existential adult creepiness.

Yes, it feels a little like Stephen King but pitched a little younger, but, with its efficient embrace of horror cliches, The Hole is the perfect film for 10-14-year-olds who feel too old for Goosebumps but aren't quite yet ready for It.

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Loves ghost stories, mysteries and giant ape movies