By Jennifer Zilla
Halloween is next to Christmas for the most festive movie options for film buffs and families alike. While many may be seeking out the scary and the horrible, I like to dive deep into the festive and the campy.
As the moon gets brighter and the wolves howl in the distance (by wolves I mean Congress voting on a budget), grab a bowl of popcorn and get ready for a movie marathon with my top 13 Halloween not-so-scary festive films:
Synopsis: A family-friendly adventure where teenager Marnie Piper and her siblings spend Halloween night at their grandma’s house in the most unconventional way imaginable.
Key themes: “Being normal is vastly overrated” and “Halloween is cool”
Best parts: Debbie Reynolds. Magic. Creative plotline.
Where to stream: Disney+
Synopsis: A father and medium obsessed with the feelings of the dead move into a haunted mansion filled with spirits; but not all is as it seems as this family moves through grief and learns to give up their ghosts.
Key themes: Ghost eating. Puns about death.
Best parts: Bill Pullman. Christina Ricci. Victorian prom dress.
Where to stream: Rent or buy on Amazon Prime and Apple TV among other platforms
- Edward Scissorhands
Synopsis: A young man brought to life by an inventor grapples with adapting to “normal life” with his unusual utilitarian fingers. With the help of his friends, enemies and neighbors, he learns that beauty is not homogeneous.
Key themes: Hair salons. Hedge art. Utopian suburbia.
Best parts: Wynona Ryder. Tim Burton.
Where to stream: Hulu
- Teen Wolf
Synopsis: Teenage boy deals with body changes well beyond puberty as he fights for glory and girls in an all-American 80s romp.
Key themes: Awkward closet kissing. Basketball games.
Best parts: Michael J. Fox in werewolf costume.
Where to stream: Paramount+ or rent/buy on Amazon Prime Video
- A Cinderella Story
Synopsis: Not-so-popular teenage girl lives with her stepmom and step sisters in drought plagued California where she falls in love with a popular boy online under a veiled identity. As the boy deals with his own pressures, the girl fears revealing her identity while under the thumb of her step-family, ultimately barrelling to an epic conclusion at the big high school football game.
Key themes: “Not my dream, dad, your dream.” “Waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought.” Early 00s cell phones. Salmon. Halloween costume ball.
Best parts: Hillary Duff in a baseball cap. Chad Michael Murray. Regina King. Jennifer Coolidge. Quintessential 00s music. Schmaltz.
Where to stream: Netflix
Synopsis: Twin sisters separated at birth are brought back together by their newly discovered magical forces which send them on an adventure to save their otherworldly home from destruction.
Key themes: Twitches. Fall colors. Celestial aesthetic. Halloween costume ball.
Best parts: Fancy costumes. Cheesy dialog. Tia and Tamara Mowry.
Where to stream: Disney+
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and/or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban
Synopsis: Young wizard deals with his special connection to dark magic and the loss of his parents while making friends and mastering his own powers in and around Hogwarts school for Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Key themes: “You’re a wizard, harry.” Pronunciation of magical words. Spooky cat teachers. Pumpkins and pumpkin flavored products such as juice. Escaped prisoners. Time travel. Magical creatures. Letter writing. Werewolves.
Best parts: Halloween theme. Production value. Maggie Smith. Alan Rickman. All of it.
Where to stream: Peacock and HBO Max
Synopsis: Recently passed bride and groom haunt a family moving into their farmhouse and seek help from a poltergeist, Beetlejuice, to run them off but he has plans of his own for the new family.
Key themes: Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice. Striped fashion. Red weddings.
Best parts: Michael Keaton. Geena Davis. Wynona Rider. Catherine O’Hara. Alec Baldwin.
Where to stream: Hulu and Peacock
Synopsis: Professors of the paranormal encounter supernatural spirits start their own ghost elimination service and take clients across the city eliminating all their unwanted ghost inhabitants
Key themes: “Who you gonna call?” “I am Zuul.” Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Best parts: Dan Aykroyd. Bill Murray. Annie Potts. Comedy. Camp. Theme song.
Where to stream: Rent/Buy Amazon Prime Video
- Practical Magic
Synopsis: Witch sisters raised by their aunts face a curse which robs them of true love and happiness as they use their powers and make their way through various romances
Key themes: Bad taste in men. Pentagrams. Sisters.
Best Parts: Nicole Kidman. Sandra Bullock. Dark comedy.
Where to stream: HBO Max
- Nightmare Before Christmas
Synopsis: The King of Halloweentown, aptly named, accidentally discovers Christmas and becomes obsessed with the holiday entering into a series of destructive decisions which he must ultimately resolve with the help of his friends and constituents.
Key themes: “What’s this?” Ennui. Jack-O-Lanterns. Halloween. Christmas. Spooky animation.
Best parts: “This is Halloween” song. Tim Burton animation.
Where to stream: Disney+
Synopsis: Alien gets separated from family in an accidental landing and must take shelter with a young boy and his sister until he can make his way home.
Key themes: Reeses pieces. Bicycle with basket. Trick-or-treat. “E.T. phone home.” Government conspiracy. Fish tanks. Stuffed animals.
Best parts: Alien puppet. Baby Drew Barrymore. Unlikely friendships. Musical score.
Where to stream: Amazon Prime Video
Synopsis: The Mystery Inc. gang comes back together after years apart to solve a mystery at the Spooky Island theme park but not all is as it seems as unmasking the bad guy becomes a bit more complicated than usual.
Key themes: “Rooby rooby roo.” Martial arts. Island culture. Binge eating. Ghosts.
Best parts: Real life husband and wife duo Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar on screen together. Lisa Cardellini. Matthew Lillard. Scooby-Doo animations. Nostalgia. Tongue and cheek.
Where to stream: Rent/buy on Amazon Prime Video