With Halloween fast approaching, we take a look at some of the best of the best when it comes to the perfect motion pictures to help make your Halloween a frightfully good time for the whole family. There are so many good movies out there, that its hard to decide what should be included. So I decided to pick 10 movies that embody the spirit of the season so purely that everyone can find something about it that makes them scream “This is Halloween”
10. The Addams Family (1991)
They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ookie and the perfect funny family of fright to spend a Halloween night with. Although we are referring to the big screen adaptation starring Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, and Christina Ricci, you could easily sit down with the complete two season set of the original television show and be just as tickled. The dark humor in the 1991 big screen adaptation of Charles Addams macabre family gets ratcheted up a few notches when a couple of thugs and a shady lawyer try to pass off one of their own as the Addams long lost beloved Uncle Fester presumed missing in the Bermuda Triangle. Released around Christmas that year The Addams Family takes scenarios directly from the original New Yorker cartoons, like the opening shot of carolers singing songs of the season our side the Addams mansion, pan up and the family has a treat for them, they are going to rain down a cauldron of boiling oil on the merry makers. Ah ghoulish good times.
What happens when you decide to do a film concept The Little Rascals Meet the Universal Monsters? You get the delightful and hilarious Monster Squad. A group of monster fanatic youth try to save their hometown from Count Dracula who has reanimated his fellow fiends Frankenstein’s Monster, The Gilman or Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, and the Wolfman. Surely everyone remembers “Wolfmans got nards!” You can never go wrong with this kind of premise provided it is well done. As far as Action/Adventure/Comedy goes The Monster Squad is as welcome a treat as caramel apples.
8. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Disney hit a home run with this comedic Halloween caper about some young teens accidentally bringing back the Sanderson Sister, three long dead hags from Salem past, to hilariously harass us in the present day. Starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi, and Sara Jessica Parker as the terrible trio Hocus Pocus is filled with memorable characters, hilarious cameo appearances, hopping musical numbers (I Put A Spell On You, anyone?) and a fun romp of a story. If you have ever been to Salem then you know the festivities on Halloween night are off the hook so the parties and decorations in this movie aren’t as over the top as they may first seem. The performances by Midler et al are so iconic that they have become Halloween staples with trios of women going out as Winnifred, Sara, and Mary Sanderson every year. Hocus Pocus also celebrates its 25th Anniversary where oh where does the time go?
7. Frankenweenie (2012)
Its no surprise that a vast majority of movies on this list come from the mind of Tim Burton. One under appreciated gems is his remake of his live action short film Frankenweenie (find the short film and watch it too) Utilizing the stop motion animation techniques we have all come to know and love, Mr. Burtons remake of Frankenweenie is sublime. When young Victor Frankenstien’s beloved pet Sparky the bull terrier is accidentally killed by being hit by a car, Victor, inspired by his science teacher, hatches a plot to bring Sparky back to life. His success brings both fear and frightful fun to the neighborhood. Shot in black and white, Frankenweenie is a gracious nod to the Boris Karloff monster classic Frankenstein. It is delightfully artistic which should keep Mom and Dad entertained and silly enough to delight the children. “Rise, Colossus. Rise from your tomb!” (cracks me up every time)
6. Casper (1995)
Famous Studios and later Harvey comics friendliest ghost hit the big screen back in 1995 as a live action/cgi romp starring Bill Pulman, Chirstina Ricci, and Eric Idle. Sure its a little silly but it is based on a very old cartoons. Casper was created in 1939 and the first cartoon version of the solicitous spirit appeared in 1945. Still Casper, and his bullying Uncles, The Ghostly Trio, seem to continue to resonate with audiences everywhere. In this little boy ghost, we see greater lessons of being non judgemental, and creating meaningful friendships even if you are a little different. The movie captures the spirit (pun unavoidable) of the character and has some really decent laughs. All the elements are there for a family friendly night in.
5. The Witches (1990)
Based on a book by Roald Dahl, comes this almost cult classic from Jim Hensen studios. Starring Angelica Huston in a wickedly sinister performance as the Grand High Witch, the story revolves around an orphaned boy Luke, who is taken in by his Grandmother. On a trip to a resort in England, Luke and Grandma encounter a coven of Witches whose soul purpose is to eradicate children in deliciously devious ways. When Luke is discovered by this harem of hags, he is turned into a mouse. Now Luke and Grandma must find a way to reverse the spell and thwart the evil plan of The Witches. The tale is delightful and holds up very well all these years later. The makeup, and visual effects are outstanding. Some scenes may be too intense for younger viewers I mean unlike the aforementioned Sanderson Sisters these sorceresses are seriously scary.
4. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Just one of many collaborations between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, Sleepy Hollow is a masterpiece in the artistry of both Burton and long time musical score partner Danny Elfman. In this version of the classic American fairy-tale, Ichabod Crane is not a shy school master but rather a police constable sent to Sleepy Hollow by his superiors to investigate a series of beheadings. The locals blame the spectral Headless Horseman, a slain Hessian rider in seach of his lost noggin, but there is something more sinister afoot, witchcraft, a conspiracy, and is someone controlling the horseman do to their evil bidding? Tim Burton assembled one of his most brilliant castings with Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci (hmm she shows up a lot could she be the queen of Halloween?) Micheal Gambon, Marin Landau, Christopher Lee, just to name a few. The influence that Hammer Horror films had on Tim Burton is evident in this film. Although some scenes may be too intense for younger viewers, Sleepy Hollow is nothing short of brilliant and the story is synonymous with Halloween.
3. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
Did you know that the Walt Disney Company did Horror movies? Well back in the 1980s they did some pretty dark stuff which personally, I think is some of their best work. This extra-ordinary film is a hidden gem that needs to be sought after like the holy grail. Based on Ray Bradburys novel Something Wicked This Way Comes is a tour de force of terror. It is not at all what you would expect from Disney and is as good as any horror movie made. The story revolves around a boy named Will Holloway and his friend Jim Nightshade who find themselves in a whole mess of trouble from the malevolent Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce) and his mysterious carnival. Dark has the power to grant the townsfolk their secret and hidden desires, but they come at a heavy price. Only the boys, and Wills aged father, Charles (Jason Robards) know the secret of the sinister circus and its up to them to stop Mr. Dark and his freaks from dominating the town and collecting their souls. There are truly some un-nerving and spine tingling scary moments in this move that will make you shudder a little bit when the Autumn winds begin to blow and change direction. Good luck finding Something Wicked This Way Comes, but if you can, the search is worth it.
2. Beetlejuice (1988)
As I said before, there are countless Tim Burton movies that qualify for our list. Micheal Keaton gives a hauntingly good performance as the title character whose name you must say three times in order to get his paranormal expertise in getting rid of the living from the house you are haunting. He is simply “The Ghost with the most, babe” Starring a whole stable of Burton regulars Wynonna Rider, Jeffery Jones, Catherine O’Hara, along with Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin. This other worldly weirdness is a pure pleasure to take in. Again it may be too intense or adult for really young children but older kids and teens will love it. Beetlejuice was spun off into a brief cartoon series, has had his own attraction at Universal Studios, and is a cultural icon in his own right as a cornerstone in the world of Tim Burton. Pop in this modern classic “Its Showtime!”
Before we talk about the last film on the list there are a couple of cartoons that I left off because they are short or television specials one is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow from Walt Disney and made way back in 1949 and narrated by Bing Crosby. It influenced the aforementioned Tim Burton classic and has been a staple of the season for many years. The other one is the big kahuna of Halloween and that is the Peanuts gang in “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” over 50 years old and still going strong this simple sweet story from Charles Shultz is a classic that no Halloween is complete without. Linus has faith his beloved Great pumpkin will appear in his most sincere pumpkin patch while good ol Snoopy fights that rotter the Red Baron. Both are sure to please all generations of the family.
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Never mind his best and most beloved creation, Jack Skellington, Tim Burton may very well be the Pumpkin King! Re-introducing us to the art of stop motion animation, Mr. Burton created something long lasting and magical. TNBC is magnificent. It also has created a long standing debate, is it a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? I say both it is just that enjoyable. Tim Burton worked as a Disney artist for years, but the company didn’t quite know what to do with him. Finally they decided to let him adapt his storybook into a movie but they put it under their adult label Touchstone films instead. The magical world of Tim Burton had solidly begun in earnest now. The story of Jack Skellington wanting something more than to just be the Pumpkin King of Halloween discovers Christmas and decides hell yeah this magical feeling I have must be mine. He hatches a plan to take over the season of cheer and good will with some pretty disastrous results. Can Santa Claus set things right in time to save the Yuletide? Only time with tell. The characters are colouful, the story beautiful, the music and songs outstanding, and the film over all is absolutely gorgeous. If you have never seen this movie before, where have you been living and what the hell is wrong with you? Yes you can watch it at Christmas too but like the song by Danny Elfman says “This is Halloween”
Whatever movie you decide to make part of your Samhain, the most important thing to remember is that it is a time to have fun, see the neighbors, have a little magic and pretend in your life, and spend it with family. Thanks for reading. Happy Halloween!