Oddly enough, although Halloween is my favorite holiday, I can’t stand scary things—especially scary movies. Ghosts, goblins, and monsters are fine, but I’d much rather laugh at their antics than be genuinely frightened by them. Therefore, as October 31st approaches with all the fury of the Headless Horseman ruthlessly pursuing Ichabod Crane, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on some of my favorite non-scary Halloween movies.
- Hocus Pocus (1993)
I feel I would be remiss not to begin this list by mentioning what is possibly the most beloved Halloween movie of all time: Hocus Pocus. Although the film was met with largely negative reviews from critics when it first premiered in 1993, subsequent TV reruns have helped to make it something of a cult classic. The highlight of the movie is definitely the bizarrely charming Sanderson sisters, who are portrayed by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Summoned from beyond the grave when a virgin named Max (Omri Katz) lights the Black Flame Candle, these three witches spend Halloween night menacing the residents of Salem, Massachusetts in their quest for immortality. A definite must-watch for Halloween lovers everywhere.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Another Halloween classic from the twisted mind of Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas tells the story of Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, with singing voice provided by Danny Elfman), a skeleton-like creature who lives in a world entirely devoted to Halloween. Dissatisfied with his job as the Pumpkin King, Jack decides to leave Halloween Town in search of something better, but trouble starts to brew when he stumbles upon the magical world of Christmas Town and finds himself so taken with the holiday that he attempts to combine Halloween and Christmas. Heartwarmingly cute with just a touch of creepy, the film also contains a number of memorable songs such as, “This is Halloween” and “What’s This?”.
- Addams Family Values (1993)
Addams Family Values is actually the sequel to an earlier movie, The Addams Family, which is, in turn, based on the 1960s TV sitcom inspired by the cartoons of Charles Addams. Confused yet? While the original film is a fantastic Halloween flick in its own right, Addams Family Values remains the more memorable of the two in my mind, thanks to its more macabre sense of humor. The highlight of this film is definitely Wednesday’s (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley’s (Jimmy Workman) forced exile to summer camp, which culminates in what is probably the strangest and most gruesome Thanksgiving pageant of all time—starring Wednesday as Pocahontas, of course. The madcap misadventures of this creepy and kooky family attempting to adjust to life with a new baby are not to be missed, especially during the Halloween season.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
While not a Halloween movie per se, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (also called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone pretty much everywhere but the United States) deserves special mention simply for the superstar status that the film franchise it spawned has achieved. Plus, it does contain a pivotal scene that takes place on Halloween. Who could forget Professor Quirrell shouting, “TROLL IN THE DUNGEONS! TROLL IN THE DUNGEONS!” as he blunders into the Great Hall? This film is best enjoyed while eating Pumpkin Pasties, drinking Butterbeer, and lamenting the fact that you’re a mere muggle and not a wizard.
- The Haunted Mansion (2003)
Okay. I seem to be the only person who actually likes this movie, but I’ve decided to include it on this list anyway because it is my favorite Halloween movie of all time. Very loosely based on the Disneyland attraction of the same name, The Haunted Mansion follows the adventures of overachieving real estate agent Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy), who arrives at Gracey Manor expecting to sell the creepy, old house—but finds himself fighting no less than nine hundred and ninety-nine happy haunts for the lives of his wife and children instead. Due to story and time constraints, the film doesn’t reference the beloved Disney ride as often as one would hope, but once you get past that, it’s really quite enjoyable. Murphy’s over-the-top performance meshes perfectly with the cartoony, supernatural world in which the movie is set, and the costuming, set design, and special effects are extremely detailed and lavish compared to similar family comedy films. For me, watching The Haunted Mansion is a nostalgic treat. There was a period of my life where I literally watched this movie at least once a day, so it holds a very special place in my heart. To this day, I still watch it every Halloween.