Family-Friendly Horror Films

boys in treehouse

We talk a lot on our podcast about how we believe children’s media diet ought to include some difficult, challenging, and scary material from time to time. Some of our fondest childhood memories come from horror films we watched with our parents beside us, covering our eyes during the naughty bits. Hopefully this guide can serve as a vague starting point for scratching that itch for you and your family.

Ok, so when we say “family-friendly” horror, our judgment is more than a little liberal. This is horror, after all. Horror films are, by definition, scary and disturbing, a shock to our sensibilities.

So that means all the movies on this list are scary to varying degrees for various reasons. Many of them contain a bit of blood and/or gore and some degree of on-screen violence, though not nearly as explicit as the majority of films we cover on this podcast.

There may be sexual jokes or innuendo that may or may not fly over your youngest moppet’s head. Some even contain a touch of female nudity – a nipple or a boob or two, if that offends your sensibilities terribly.

But the films on this list are ones that we, in our own non-expert opinion, believe are more palatable for a mixed setting of adults and kids of varying ages and maturity. Usually, it means there is something about it that is either explicitly tailored towards kids or would appeal to kids of certain age groups, while still having enough “edge” and entertainment value for adults to enjoy.

And a few are on this list, not because they are geared towards kids at all, but simply because they contain none of what we consider “strong visuals” like blood or gore or brutal violence or sex, so that a young child walking in the room wouldn’t be surprised by any shocking or offensive visuals. But that doesn’t mean the story is not scary or disturbing in some way, and you still might not want your toddler to watch it with you from beginning to end.

So if you’re going to use this as a guide for what you can watch with your family, we strongly suggest: Do your own research first before firing it up in your living room. Your own judgment of what constitutes “family-friendly horror” will naturally be very intimate and subjective, depending largely on your family values, the composition of your family and your triggers.

Each film’s IMDB page has a guide for parents that talks in more specific detail about the film’s individual scenes and content, broken down by sex, nudity, violence, blood/gore, mature themes, etc. Check it out first if you are unsure.

But always remember: These are still, first and foremost, horror films. Don’t blame us if you disagree with anything on this list. You are in charge of your family’s viewing material, not us.

  • 3615 Code Père Noël (aka Deadly Games)

    3615 Code Père Noël (aka Deadly Games)

    And yes, the similarity is strong: A young boy is forced to use traps to protect his home after a menacing Santa slides down his chimney. Although it’s much darker than most holiday movies, what we found in this forgotten French flick was a lot of heart and a fun ride. Recently remastered, you can…

  • Arachnophobia


    Arachnophobia a family-friendly fun and creepy horror film filled with stars. Thanks to Rob for requesting this forgotten gem and giving us a chance to talk about it!

  • Cloverfield


    It’s a Godzilla movie told shaky-cam-style from the ground level, and we both agree it’s pretty rad. Todd hadn’t seen this one before, believe it or not.

  • Critters


    There has been a small flurry lately of Critters-related activity, so we thought it was high time to review this relic from the 80’s.

  • Dolls


    Stuart Gordon sure has the market cornered on killer doll movies. This more or less kicked off a line of low-budget features in the same vein that would sit on video shelves for decades.

  • Elvira Mistress of the Dark

    Elvira Mistress of the Dark

    It didn’t make a big splash, but it did make a huge impression on both of us – and, we suspect, many likeminded souls of our generation. This movie celebrates all that is goofy and fun about this iconic character, and we had a blast revisiting the camp and the cheese this holiday season.

  • Gremlins


    Gremlins is a Christmas classic, inside and out. Yet it was originally released during the summer to go head-to-head against Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. What a great year for movies, eh? Listen to us love all over this Stephen Spielberg-produced, Joe Dante-directed, Christopher Columbus-written comedy that JUST manages to stay…

  • Hausu


    Craig and I have a divided opinion over this rare love-it-or-hate-it movie that’s often described as “a live-action Scooby Doo.” Not to be confused with the 1986 American horror film “House”, or its comedy-horror sequel, “House 2”.

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