Best Scary Movies for Kids That Won’t Keep Them Up at Night

These age-appropriate flicks are for an adventurous audience.

Not all kids (or parents) like scary movies. For those who do, what better way to bond over a shared interest than sitting down with a bowl of popcorn to enjoy a horror flick (that’s not too frightening)? Here, we share some picks for the best scary movies for kids, plus some suggestions from Real Simple readers.

When it comes to watching one with your kid, you don’t want to choose one that will keep them up with nightmares the whole week. It won’t be ideal for the both of you. One reader, Jess F., gives this advice: “The key is just being aware of your child’s own interests and maturity level.”

Introducing your kids to scary movies can help them get out of their comfort zone or teach them some new lessons. But one thing to avoid is exposing kids to age-inappropriate movies—so please note the age recommendations here from the nonprofit, Common Sense Media.



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This dark, inventive, and creepy 2009 PG-rated animated fantasy thriller by the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas follows Coraline’s journey into a dangerous alternate world with strange creatures, where she risks death (which is already the fate of the film’s ghost children). Some of the imagery and themes in the film can be a bit frightening for some. While it’s important to note that this movie would scare the younger kids, it’s a good option if you want to introduce older kids—one of our readers recommends it for preteens—to the scary movie genre.

Ages: 9 and up

To buy: $6;


Wizard of Oz

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An enduring gem, the Wizard of Oz is about a young Kansas farm girl (a young, luminous Judy Garland) transported via tornado to another world where, despite its many charms, she learns that there’s “no place like home.” While it’s not normally classified as a horror flick, the 1939 musical film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s novel has some scenes that might scare the kids—flying monkeys, tornadoes, and witches, to name a few. Not rated, some critics deem it PG.

“As a little kid… (the) Wicked Witch and the flying monkeys terrified me!” – Stacey S.

Ages: 6 and up

To buy: $13;


The Nightmare Before Christmas

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A classic based on a Tim Burton story and characters, this quirky PG-rated, animated fantasy film from 1993 follows Halloween Town’s pumpkin king, who is weary of frightening real world people so he plots to cause havoc in Christmas Town by kidnapping and replacing Santa in order to control Christmas. Things don’t go as planned. Scary stuff includes skeletons, evil toys, a spooky villain, and characters that remove their heads and limbs. With stunning visual effects (it was nominated for an Academy Award) and a unique storyline, kids and parents will be entranced by this fantasy world.

Ages: 7 and up

To buy: $13;


Brave Little Toaster

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You might not think this 1987 not-rated, animated film is frightening, but there are some memorable scenes that could spook the kids. Since it has some darker themes, this might be a good one to introduce to your budding horror film fanatic. Rare for being about home appliances rather than pets or kids, this adventure movie’s characters include a toaster, radio, and air conditioner. It’s set in a world where everyday home items come to life. Abandoned in a rustic summer home, the dated appliances face challenges (some scary) during a trip to the city to find their young owner. The film addresses themes of loneliness, outdatedness, and abandonment.

“It has a few scary scenes, like the car crushers.” —Angela E.

Ages: 5 and up

To buy: $5;



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A funny and frightening horror classic, Gremlins is the 1984 PG-rated story of a boy who breaks important ground rules for owning his new pet and ends up unleashing monstrous gremlins that threaten a small town on Christmas Eve. Parents should be aware that there are some violent scenes and some bad language, so it’s best for the older kids. It’s not all just scary scenes—there are some funny moments.

“Based on the idea that if you don’t do as your parents ask and you do sneaky things, things can go really bad, really quickly.” —Linda H.

Ages: 12 and up

To buy: $6;