We’ve all had it happen when we’ve had to take a movie program and pitch it for a younger audience than we’ve planned. Either anyone that come has been our tweens, or the meeting room we’ve booked for teens has been preempted and now we have to show movies in the back part of the library. Or maybe you’re looking for awesome family friendly movies that work for everyone. Whatever it is, I’ve pulled together a list of some of the best Halloween themed movies that work not only for the tween set, but keep your teen audience engaged as well. Pair them with crafts or some well-timed interactive elements, and you’ll have a spook-tacular time no matter what!
Note: Your tween rating may be higher or lower than the movies listed below so I’ve included a variety of movies that fit a variety of tween audiences. Also, before showing any movie in your library, please make sure you have secured the proper licensing for public performance rights.
Hocus Pocus (1993): I’m not sure what’s brought the Sanderson Sisters back into cool/camp awesomeness, but I fully embrace it. Staring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sean Murry (NCIS’s McGee) and Thora Birch (American Beauty among others), the Sanderson Sisters are brought back after 300 years to steal the souls of the kids on Halloween. Be forewarned, your kids may well go running around yelling, “Amuck! Amuck! Amuck!” but at least they’ll know what their shirts mean whey they wear ones saying “I lit the black flame candle”
The Addams Family (1991): Stepping from the comic pages, Anjelica Houston and Raul Julia bring Moritia and Gomez Addam to life. When a family of schemers decides to try to trick Gomez out of the family fortune, they get a bit more than they bargain for when taking on the entire clan.
Coraline (2009): Based off the book by Neil Gaiman, a young girl finds a strange other world lurking just beyond the dark. The other world with the other mother is strangely detailed and hiding sinister secrets around every corner. With the voices of Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher.
The Corpse Bride (2005): Using the same animation as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tim Burton spins the tell of a shy groom who finds himself wedded to a bride from the other side and must then find a way to fix things before everything is permanent. With the voices of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
The Goonies (1985): When a land developer decides that their neighborhood is the perfect place to build a golf course, the only thing these friends can do is go off and search for the long-lost treasure of pirates! Starring very young Sean Austin (The Lord of the Rings series).
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): A cult classic from the very beginning, it’s now an icon for Halloween- but have your tweens and teens actually seen the entire movie? Jack the Pumpkin King longs for something different from Halloween town, and when he stumbles into Christmasland, he tries to bring back their magic and take it for his own- to disastrous consequences. Others online, more learned than I, have pointed out that this is an excellent starting point for conversations on cultural appropriation and I completely agree.
Ghostbusters (1984): While we eagerly await the new Ghostbusters release to DVD/Blu-Ray, introduce your tweens and teens to the original so they can recognize the cameos throughout the most excellent new version. When three parapsychology scientists are thrown out of their university and decide to set up a business investigating the paranormal, they end up being the saviors of New York City. Starring Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd.
Frankenweenie (2012): Bringing the basics of Frankenstien to a youth level, Frankenweenie tells the story of Victor, who wants to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life. When he does, it has some unexpected consequences. Starring the voices of Winonna Ryder and Martin Short.
Gremlins (1984): Now, I’ll argue left and right that Gremlins is a Christmas movie but I’m more than happy to bring it out for Halloween. Given as a Christmas gift, a teen breaks the rules concerning his new pet, and terror is unleashed on his town due to his actions. Starring Phoebe Cates and Zach Galligan.
Beetlejuice (1988): Beetlejuice was a favoritein my household (along with the cartoon version), so little did I realize at my last library that my tweens and teens weren’t familiar with it at all. The bio-exocist soon became a staple of our Halloween routine, however, as the jokes carried through the years. When new deceased ghosts decide to contact someone about getting rid of the living that have purchased their house, they get way more than they bargained for. Starring Michael Keaton and Alec Baldwin.
Christie Gibrich found that aerospace engineering was not the right career path for her, and has been happily working with teens and tweens since 2001. She’s been on several committees, written numerous articles, and has spoken at state and national conferences on both QUILTBAG and comic/geek topics. Her pathway to geekdom and fangirl was basically predetermined having grown up surrounded by computers and sci-fi, and she now happily enjoys the worlds of comics, SuperWhoLock, Disnerds, midnight releases, and passionate debates over originals vs reboots. She's also recently relocated to the Orlando area, and exploring Florida while writing. She blogs at A Geek in Librarian’s Clothing. She tweets at @mz_christie and dabbles on Instagram and Tumblr.