13 Fang-tastic Family Films your Little Monsters will love This Halloween
By Duncan Tinkler on 21/10/2021
One of the main reasons Bangers and Balls have come up with the Halloween festival is to prize children away from their screens and spend some good, old fashioned, family time together. We are creating bonds and memories that will last a lifetime, either out in nature or around the kitchen table.
That being said, we at Bangers and Balls don’t think that the screen is the root of all evil. What we do believe is that story is what brings us all together, and story on screen is no exception. The Magic of the Movies is something that can enchant and bewitch us all, young and old. Something that, when experienced together as a family, has the power to unite us in delight, fear, excitement and joy.
With this in mind, I have compiled this list of the thirteen Halloween family films that truly mean something to me. Each one of these films has left a permanent mark on me, both in my memory of them and in the way that they have connected me to those around me.
13) Room on the Broom (2012)
Directors: Jan Lachauer, Max Lang.
Starring: Simon Peg, Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon, Timothy Spall
Available on BBC iPlayer
When our daughter Xanthȇ was just two Imogen and I took her to Chessington World of Adventures to meet Father Christmas. The whole place was themed on the works of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and she loved it. We rode the Gruffalo's water ride, searched for the Stickman in the woods and generally had a fantastic time. By far and away the stand out attraction was Room on a Broom. This was an interactive, walk-through version of the film that was so magical that we found ourselves going through it many, many times in a row.
I love reading the book to her (even if doing the dragon's voice needs about ten glasses of water to recover from) and we watch the wonderfully made film as often as possible. BBC iPlayer has a good few of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler books adapted into the most beautiful animation, with stellar casts who’s performances are sublime. Honestly, all of these short little films are masterpieces, well worth watching as a family or even without the children.
12) The Last Unicorn (1982)
Directors: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee
Available on Amazon Prime
Xanthȇ, Imogen and I were on a beach with friends a few years ago, and I noticed that the mum, Jody, had a tattoo of a unicorn on her leg. Not just any unicorn, The Last Unicorn. I recognised it immediately and said to my friend ‘oh, that’s the Last Unicorn’. Apparently I was the first person to recognise her for who she was. We lay there sunbathing and bonding over this amazing film for hours after that. A film that had meant so much to her, she had a permanent reminder of it inked onto her skin.
As a child I had a collection of about 10 films on VHS, three of which where suitable for me to watch on my own, Superman 2, Back to the Future 2 and the Last Unicorn (the rest where presents from my adult cousins, and consisted of things like the Highlander, Robocop and Terminator 2).
Both Superman 2 and Back to the future 2 were watched so often that the tape had worn out and the image was all wobbly. This left me with the Last Unicorn. People assumed that I was reluctant to watch it because it was so girly. This is not the case, as despite it being about a unicorn, it isn’t girly at all. In fact it’s really quite scary. Hence it being on a list of halloween films.
There are two moments that stand out in my memory as being scary, one when the Unicorn is trapped in a travelling menagerie of mythical creatures and this evil vulture type bird thing repeats ‘we’re the same, you and I’, this still makes me shudder just thinking about it. And then towards the end, when she confronts the Evil King, who is superbly voiced by Christopher Lee, and his Red Bull.
It wasn’t until I was much older, upon a re-watch, that I realised how strong the cast and incredibly good this film actually is. It’s a lovely, mournful story that will delight and move you in equal measure; a true experience that will stay with you forever.
While I had my VHS collection, my elder brother had his, consisting mostly of old Kung Fu, Manga and other gems from the Far East, including My Neighbour Totoro by Studio Ghibli. Whilst I absolutely adored them all, and would sneak them out of his room as often as I could to watch without him knowing, it was the Studio Ghibli film that intrigued me the most.
Like the Manga, it was animation that felt like it was more for grown-ups, but unlike the Manga, it wasn’t fast paced and violent. It was relaxed, it’s story meandered and the characters took their time and developed in their own way. And it was absolutely beautiful. There is nothing in this world quite like a Studio Ghibli film.
Spirited Away is probably my favorite from the Studio, and certainly the best to put in a Halloween list. Whilst it can be a little scary in places, it is a fabulous, enchanting and mysterious story that will leave an impression on you for the rest of your life.
10) The Dark Crystal (1982)
Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Starring: Jim Hensen, Frank Oz, Katheryn Mullen
Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime
I would be a complete Muppet if I didn’t include at least one Jim Henson film in this list, and this is the first of three. There is something universally adored about his work, which for the most part is very light entertainment and child friendly. The Dark Crystal is not. I was very young the first time I watched this film, and all I can remember really is that even the goodies scared the hell out of me.
I’ve watched it a few times since, and it still gives me the heeby jeebies. It’s a great film though, set in this amazing, magical world of reptile birds, wizards and dragons. If you are planning on watching with the very young or easily scared, I would probably line up My Little Pony or something afterwards.
9) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Directors: Henry Selick
Writer: Tim Burton
Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara
Available on Disney + and Amazon
Really you could just get a Tim Burton Box set and your Halloween will be sorted. A couple of them have made it onto this list, but really I was being quite ruthless. This could easily be about Alice in Wonderland, Sleepy Hollow, or Batman Returns (another of my VHS collection, they all seemed to be sequels for some reason). I’ve had Edward Scissorhands on and off the list five times now, and I haven’t seen Sweenie Todd or Frankenweenie, or I’m sure they would be up for contention too.
The thing about The Nightmare Before Christmas is that it is just so iconic. I can’t think of the film without thinking of the Blink 182 song ‘I miss you’ .
“We can live like Jack and Sally and have Halloween on Christmas, if you want.”
Or something like that. Anyway, It’s a lovely film, beautifully animated and as a bonus, works equally well as a Christmas film, so saving you money (well, if you were buying it on VHS rather than streaming it from Disney).
8) The Addams Family (1991)
Directors: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd
Available on Netflix
As a youngster I quite liked watching the old, black and white Addams Family on the telly. I used to watch the Munsters too, and to be honest, I couldn’t really tell them apart. The Munsters didn’t get a full length, cinematic release movie though, so it was the Addams Family I went to see.
I loved the film at the time. I was obsessed with it; the iconic theme tune, the zany characters, the crazy antics, but most of all I loved all the stuff that was going on in the background. I don’t remember the story-line at all. I don’t really think there was one. But that didn’t matter to me at the time, and I don’t think it will to you now.
7) Ghostbusters 2 (1989)
Directors: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroid, Sigourney Weaver
Available on Netflix
If I was obsessed with the Adams Family theme, there isn’t a word for how I, and everyone in my generation, felt about Ghostbusters. It is probably the most well known theme in history.
Obviously I had Ghostbusters 2 in my VHS collection and I watched it many times before I got around to seeing the original. I’m sure that many of you will tell me that the original is a far superior film, with better dialogue, scarier ghosts, more character development and a Marshmallow man, but it didn’t have a river of slime. By the way, we’ll be making edible slime in our Halloween Food Fright Festival this Saturday.
6) The Book of Life (2014)
Directors: Jorge R. Gutierrez
Starring: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
Available on Disney +
This is the most recent film on the list, and one of the few that I’ve only seen as an adult. My god I was blown away by it. The animation is amazing, the story incredible. Delving into a folklore that I know little about is always such a treat for me, and to see it done in such a unique and entertaining way was truly amazing.
The film deals with some pretty deep issues, but in such a way that is not only accessible, but entertaining and always fun. It’s also a real insight into a culture and mythology that we don’t see quite as often.
5) The Witches (1990)
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Writer: Roald Dahl
Starring: Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling, Jasen Fisher, Rowan Atkinson
Available on Disney +
I can distinctly remember reading the book under my covers with a torch, scared half to death by the Grand High Witch and all her cronies. I loved that book. It was really my favourite book for a long time growing up, so I was both excited and nervous when this Jim Henson film came out.
I went to the cinema to see it with my friend James McCarthy, we felt so grown up seeing a horror film. We were so scared watching that film together, but neither of us dared to show any fear to the other. Afterwards James told me that it was a true story and that my teacher, Mrs Hutchinson, was indeed a witch planning on eating me. I’m still scared of Mrs Hutchinson.
4) Coraline (2009)
Director: Henry Selick
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman
Available on Amazon Prime and Netflix
I first knew that I was a Neil Gaiman fan in 2017, when I watched the first episode of American Gods on Amazon, before downloading the Audiobook and consuming the whole thing in days. I then consumed his Norse Mythology and Netherwear equally as quickly and am currently on Sandman. What I didn’t know was that I had been a huge fan of his ever since I first watched Coraline.
Directed by the man that bought us ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, this is yet another uniquely styled, dark animation on our list. It is so stunning, so sinister, so unsettling. It’s a mysterious story about a secret door leading to a parallel world where everything is just too perfect. Everything that is until the buttons.
3) Labyrinth (1986)
Director: Jim Henson
Executive Producer: George Lucas
Starring: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud
Available on Amazon Prime and Netflix
To be honest, this film is several shades of wrong. David Bowie’s Goblin King wants to marry an underaged girl so he kidnaps her baby brother and threatens to turn him into a goblin unless she can find her way through his labyrinth to him.
That being said, it's a masterpiece. Bowie is fiendishly excellent in it, the puppetry is amazing and the story is tense and at times quite frightening. It’s certainly one that can be watched again and again. Watch out for Bowie’s face imprinted at various places in the Labyrinth.
2) Beetlejuice (1986)
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton
Available on Amazon Prime
Before Batman we had Beetlejuice. As I said before we could have had pretty much any Tim Burton film in this list. I would have put Batman Returns in, as this was in my VHS collection, but really, I think it would be a crime for a list of family halloween films not to include Beetlejuice.
I don’t remember being particularly scared by the film, although it is pretty dark and the special effects were out of this world. I remember loving the film. I used to watch it a lot with my friend from over the road, Simon Page. He used to put a rubber glove on his head and ping-pong balls in his mouth to pretend to be one of the ghosts. Good times!
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Writer: J.K. Rowling (Novel)
Starring: Every British Actor you’ve ever heard of, including Gary Oldman.
Available on Amazon Prime
So, Obviously Number 1 is going to be Harry Potter. How could it not. There isn’t a more Halloween film out there, save maybe Halloween. But this is a list of family films, so Harry Potter it is.
I love Harry Potter. I could talk about the books and films all day long. When I write my Foraging Fairy-tales, I always try to squeeze at least one HP reference in when I can.
So, How do I choose one film out of the seven? Well, in my opinion, the books/films from Goblet of Fire are much more of one, continuous story, the ones before are more stand alone. You can watch/read 1, 2 and 3, enjoy them and then never revisit Harry Potter again. As soon as you watch number 4 however, you are compelled to move onto 5, then 6 and you certainly can’t watch Deathly Hallows Part 1 without instantly devouring the next one.
For Halloween of course, witches and wizards aren’t enough. What you want is a good (SPOILERS) Werewolf! You also want dark, ghost-like dementors and a haunted shack. You also want one of the best casts in British cinema history. Oh, and you want Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson to have finally learned how to act.
So, there we have it. My definitive list of Halloween Family films that have left a permanent tattoo on my soul. I love these films, and I hope that you love them too. So why not get your family involved in our Halloween Food Fright Festival. Prize them away from the screens and outside into nature or around the Kitchen Table, and once you have foraged and created memories that will last a lifetime, enjoy one of these films together and try not to be too scared.