Sometimes you’re in the mood for some happy hearted Halloween goodness minus the horror and gore. As much as I love the horror and gore, I get it! So here’s a list of flicks to get you in the Halloween spirit, even if you’re not a horror hound. And if you are a horror hound… these can still be a lot of fun to round out your October watch list.
These movies will last you longer than a fēowertīene niht,
they may even last you through October’s end.
In the words of one Alex DeLarge…. “Viddy this.”
In alphabetical order because it was way too hard to do it any other way:
The Addams Family (1991) – Cara Mia! Like a few other entries on this list, The Addams Family can work for Halloween or Christmas. I watch it during both seasons. Netflix + Hulu.
The Birds (1963) – Your name doesn’t become an adjective over the course of time unless there’s damn good reason for it. Positively Hitchcockian. (Hitch·cock·i·an. (/ˌhiCHˈkäkēən/ resembling or characteristic of the style of the English film director Sir Alfred Hitchcock, especially through the use of tension and suspense). This one is a slow burn for sure, but it has some really fun elements to it and you’ll never look at birds the same way again. When a film has the ability to transform the way you look at something you experience on the daily…. when it stays with you long after the credits have rolled… there’s something special about that.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) – A cheerleader becomes an unlikely vampire hunter. Luke Perry. And Paul Reubens AKA Pee-Wee Herman as a vampire, with one of my all time favorite (SPOILER ALERT) *death scenes*. Rent on digital platforms.
The ‘Burbs (1989) – Ever have a gnawing suspicion your new neighbors are members of a satanic cult, and take it upon yourself to organize a coalition to out them? Kind of obsessed with this one as a kid. Too much good stuff to list. Starz.
Burton. Basically anything by Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd, Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Frankenweenie, Ed Wood, Vincent). I’m biased, but so what. Challenge me on these if you want, or just watch and enjoy the hell out of ’em while eating some popcorn and candy corn in a concoction I like to refer to as “ye’ olde ‘ween corn”.
Canterville Ghost (1996) – There are several incarnations of Oscar Wilde’s tale, but this particular version has Patrick Stewart and Neve Campbell, sooooo…. clearly it must be superior to all other existing versions. DVD available on Amazon
Casper (1995) –
Clue (1985) – Mrs. Peacock in the conservatory with the candlestick! Now this one is a classic! Who-dunnit slapstick with an all star cast (Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren…). Hulu.
Coraline (2009) – Stop motion. Button eyes. And the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Netflix.
Death Becomes Her (1992) – Live forever, if you can hold it together. Your body, that is. Fantastic dark comedy with some really impressive effects that still hold up today. Showtime.
Donald’s Scary Tales – Classic spooky Disney shorts, like Duck Pimples, Donald and the Gorilla and one of my all time faves… The Skeleton Dance! A lot of clips from these are featured in the DTV Monster Hits special. Have some copies I made from a VHS transfer up on Etsy
Double Double Toil + Trouble (1993) – I got some shit for leaving this one off the list. I don’t know how I forgot it seeing as how my sister was OB-SESSED with the Olsen twins growing up. Witch baby Olsens and Cloris Leachman as an evil twin/good twin, leading a coven of witches with a diabolical plan. Yeyyyaaah! Rent on digital platforms.
DTV Monster Hits (1987) – If you don’t know what DTV is, I’m sorry… your childhood could have been made at least fifteen percent more awesome by its presence. But fret not… you can still experience vintage DTV goodness… DTV as in Disney TV.. Disney’s take on MTV style videos, featuring chart topping pop songs mashed up with Disney clips in flashy music video fashion. This particular special aired ONE TIME ONLY. Hosted by the Magic Mirror (Jeffrey Jones) and featuring a multitude of 80’s Halloween themed pop hits. You can find it streaming on Youtube, or if you want to own it, I have some copies on Etsy for this one, too.
Eerie Indiana (1991) – Omri Katz (Hocus Pocus) pulling double duty in the Halloween goods department. This mid 90s series was sort of like The Twilight Zone for kids. Marshall Teller moves to Eerie, Indiana and a lot of weird shit happens for one great season. A family kept fresh for decades thanks to gigantic Tupperware containers and a Max Headroom type character living in the ATM are the first two that come to mind. Buy on digital platforms.
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988) – She’ll cut you, mang! With her wit, that is. The hostess with the mostest gets her own starring role as she travels to a small town to collect an inheritance. Enchanting the local teenagers, enraging local parents and battling casserole monsters. And perhaps the most memorable image from 1988… swingin’ boobie tassels. Rent on digital platforms.
Ghostbusters (1984) – Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP , clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis? This movie is so effen brilliant, it hurts. Rent on digital platforms.
Halloweentown (1998) – Disney made a series of four Halloweentown movies. They are not all created equal. But definitely delve into them. Debbie Reynolds as the matriarch of a magical family, charming as hell. Rent/Buy on Amazon.
The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979) – Or at least that’s what it was called in the 90’s when we used to watch it on the Disney channel. Later retitled “The Night Dracula Saved the World”. A disco dancing Dracula, teeny tiny bat and all the classic monsters. Can Drac convince The Witch to fly over the moon and kickoff Halloween, or will the holiday be lost forever? I haven’t been able to find it anywhere aside from a very expensive VHS which I bought years ago and transferred to DVD
The Halloween Tree (1993) – I’m a Ray Bradbury fan girl, and this animated adaptation of his novella, narrated by the man himself, basically perfectly captures the essence of being a kid on Halloween night and how magical it felt. Rent on digital platforms.
Hocus Pocus (1993) – Oh, Alisson! Quintessential non spooky Halloween viewing. I was shocked to see how low it scored on the tomato meter because I appreciate it more with each viewing.
House on Haunted Hill (1959) – The ‘ol spend-the-night-in-a-haunted-mansion-inherit-a -fuck-ton-of-money gag. But not old, because this was the one to set the tone for that old trope. Twisty twists and Vincent Price. Iconic horror, totally worth a watch.
Little Monsters (1989) – “Who put piss in my apple juice?!” I feel like Monsters Inc drew heavily on this for inspiration and made a less terrifying and less piss-filled version of the story. Howie Mandel as a blue under the bed dwelling monster, and Fred Savage as the owner of aforementioned bed. Basically I’ll watch anything with Kevin Arnold in it. Rent on digital platforms.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986) – A mean green mother from outer space with a literal bloodlust and a killer soundtrack. Not to mention Steve Martin as a maniacal, musical dentist. Uh-huh. Hulu.
The Love Witch (2016) – Are you a fan of vintage 60’s/70’s, technicolor, sexploitation horror? If not, then skip this one. If yes… then chances are this is going to blow your mind. The Love Witch so accurately captures the aesthetic of the genre, that initially from the promo stills, I thought it was a vintage gem I had somehow overlooked. But it’s even better than that. It takes all the best elements of those familiar films and improves upon them with a female perspective at the helm. It’s funny and sexy and instead of feeling like it was making fun of the films it was clearly emulating, I felt like it was more of a loving re-creation with an added empowered perspective. A new favorite for sure. Amazon.
Mad Monster Party (1967) – Brought to you by the OG Gods of stop motion holiday goodness, Rankin + Bass. Dr. Frankenstein is voiced by Boris Karloff, Phyllis Diller voices The Monster’s Mate. If that’s not enough to sell you in it – there’s a hot redhead who probably served as at least some of the inspiration for Jessica Rabbit. It’s got a killer theme song, all the classic monsters are represented, and a swingin’ skeleton band. Rent on digital platforms.
Monster Squad (1987) – Wolfman’s got nards! Basically all of the classic iconic monsters descend upon a town and a group of local kids has to save the world from Dracula’s evil plan. Because obviously the grownups aren’t going to believe them, duh. A Stephen King Rules t-shirt, Creature with a hankering for Twinkies, and of course, Wolfman’s got nards. Hulu.
Mr Boogedy (1986) – I don’t remember much about this aside from it used to air on the Disney channel every October and I liked it. There’s also the 1987 sequel Bride of Boogedy (naturally). Available to rent on iTunes.
Munster, Go Home (1966) – The Munsters in color, and DRAG-U-LA. There’s also The Munsters’ Revenge (1981) – I was a fan of this one for the inclusion of a wax museum and ancient Egyptian artifacts, not sure how it would hold up today. Amazon.
ParaNorman (2012) – I see dead people. But in whimsical stop motion. Norman converses with the dead and has to save his town from zombies and an ancient witch’s curse. Rent on digital platforms.
Practical Magic (1998) – Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as witchy sisters. Is it cheesy? Sure. Is it endearing anyhow? Of course. Netflix.
Return of the Living Dead (1985) – Ok, this one is a beautiful hybrid. Is it horror? Yes. Totally. Buuuut….. hear me out, here… if you do not like horror, I’ll bet you a pack of red vines you will still dig this movie a whole lot. If you’re a horror fiend looking to watch a movie with a non-horror fiend… BAM, throw this baby on. Killer soundtrack, insanely quotable. 80s punks vs zombies, what the heck is there not to like?
Return to Oz (1985) – This is the stuff nightmares are made of. Fairuza Balk as Dorothy. A pumpkin-headed companion. And the mutha-effin-wheelers. Oh, and some villainous sorceress type with a literal hall of heads she interchanges, kept in glass cases. A girl has no name, a girl has no face. Maybe George RR Martin was as terrified by that imagery as I was. Rent on digital platforms.
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – Tim Curry as Dr Frank-N-Furter, not-so-sweet transvestite scientist. Meatloaf, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick in a weird ass rock opera. Too weird for some, but I love the hell out of this one. Obsessed with the soundtrack. Rent on digital platforms, or better yet go see a live Shadowcast performance.
So I Married An Axe Murderer (1993) – Mike Myers essentially previews roles he’d go on to play in the future- Fat Bastard, Shrek and Dr Evil. He does the Eddie Murphy Nutty Professor gag before Eddie Murphy. One of my most quoted films, wooooo-man. Not super spooky, but it’s a funny dark comedy with eerie elements, especially for the finale. Hulu.
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) – Another for Ray Bradbury on this list. What can I say, he’s the best at capturing childhood Halloween nostalgia. A diabolical carnival comes to town, and of course it’s up to a kid to convince the adults that something sinister is afoot. Another in the “be careful what you wish for” genre. Buy on Amazon.
Teen Witch (1989) – Top that! You can’t. Because this movie is the shit. Happy birthday, surprise you’re a witch! Unleash your powers on the school, oh wait… that’s a bad idea. That sort of thing, but it’s wonderfully 80’s with the most amazing rap in cinematic history. Hulu.
Under Wraps (1997) – This is one of those instances where I so vaguely remember the movie that it almost feels like a dream. There’s a mummy involved. And the rest I may be mixing up with an Eerie, Indiana episode about a kid biting a TV remote and ending up IN the television. Nostalgia nostalgia nostalgia. Rent on Google Play.
Universal Monsters Collection – Basically anything from the classic collection (through the 1950’s). Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Invisible Man, The Bride, The Mummy, The Wolfman, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Abbott and Costello meet the monsters collection and all the incarnations of monster mashups.
What We Do In The Shadows (2014) – Ancient vampires of various ages living in modern day New Zealand, followed by a documentary crew, Real World Style. Hell. To. The. Yes. This mockumentary is one of the most hilarious things to hit the screens in.. well, probably ever. We loved it so much, we dressed as these guys for Halloween last year. And virtually nobody knew who we were. Aside from knowing we were “vampires” in the most general sense. Which means a hell of a lot more people need to watch this one. Amazon.
The Witches (1990) – Anjelica Huston. Bald ass witches with noses longer than my arms. Kids eating enchanted (poisoned) chocolate and morphing into rats. This Roald Dahl adaptation actually kind of scared the shit out of me. Amazing. Amazon.
The Witches of Eastwick (1987) – Be careful what you wish for. Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon as witches and Jack Nicholson as a very convincing devil. Yes, please. HBO.
The Worst Witch (1986) – Fairuza Balk, again. Tim Curry, again. Because really, what a freakin’ iconic Halloween pairing, amiright!? Not to ruin anything, but there is perhaps the most fantastic musical finale of all time featured in this gem. Catchy song, midway through I think the writer gave up on the lyrics and just started rhyming random words. Some real weird greenscreen effects going on, like maybe they just figured out how to work the chroma key and went buck wild with it. I’m telling you… just freakin’ fantastic. Also, Mrs. Garrett from The Facts of Life plays Miss Cackle. Mega bonus. Couldn’t find the Fairuza Balk + Tim Curry version streaming, but I do have this one on Etsy as well. Found it on Amazon going for $115 but pretty sure that one is also a VHS transfer to DVD.
Young Frankenstein (1974) – Gene Wilder as Dr. Frahnk-en-steen. Epic. Mel Brooks’ take on Frankenstein. Need I say more? Netflix.
And there you have it, my top spooky non-horror festive Halloween picks. What did I miss?
One thought on “Spooky (Not Scary) Halloween Viewing to Last All Season”
Just found this article three years after publication, and the recommendations still hold up! Do you by any chance have anymore copies of DTV monster hits on DVD? The link in the article goes to a store page that isn’t there anymore, and that Halloween special was me and my sister’s favorite growing up.