Ruthless Recommendations- 29 Horror Movies for Children available for streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or YouTube

29 Child-Acceptable Scary Films available for streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube

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I may have a skewed sense of what is child-appropriate, but these movies do not contain any great amount of violence or sexual content, and as such, might qualify for being spooky, but not traumatizing. Children do want to be scared sometimes, and in the right conditions and pre-requisites, there can even be a benefit to allowing your child to experience and confront fear within a supervised environment.

 

So lets talk about the criteria. Here’s the format:

TL/DR: A brief summary of the concept of the film.

Type: Monsters that are featured

Risk of Trauma: The probability that scenes in the film will cause nightmares or lasting phobias for your kid.

Age prediction: The minimum age range for the kids to appreciate/understand the film.

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  1. The Nightmare before Christmas.

TL/DR: The Lord of Halloween attempts to perform Christmas instead.

Type: Animated monster fest.

Risk of Trauma: Low to moderate. No real violence, though Oogie Boogie (the bad guy) is made of bugs, and some of the other denizens of Halloween Town are also grotesque.

Age Range: 7-13

Summary: Tim Burtons stop motion masterpiece is one of the most essential children’s films, perfectly blending wonder and weirdness.

 

  1. The Addams Family

TL/DR: Con artists attempt to deceive an eccentric and morbid family

Type: Psychotic family

Risk of Trauma: Low to moderate. The only violence is highly cartoonish.

Age range: 7-13.

Summary: Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, Christine Ricci, and Christopher Lloyd are all at the top of their game in this dark comedy adaptation of the TV show about the original alternative family.

 

  1. The Fly (1958)

TL/DR: Mad scientists teleportation goes awry.

Type: Insect man

Risk of Trauma: Low to moderate. You may want to cut out before the ending (skip the last three minutes). Under no circumstance show the 1980s David Cronenburg film.

Age range: 9-13.

Summary: One of the highlights of Vince Prices career, the Fly is a perfect example of the 1950s B-Movie genre. The special effects will render it more cheesy than chilling to a modern viewer, but it still has moments.

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  1. Labyrinth

TL/DR: Girl must rescue her brother from the Goblin King

Risk of Trauma: Low. Scariest scene is probably The Fire Gang, at 50 minutes. Though based on anecdotal evidence from women who saw Labyrinth as young girls, there is the risk that it will imprint David Bowie upon your daughters conception of sexuality.

Age range: 5+

Summary: Jim Henson’s masterpiece is one of the best fairy tales ever brought to film, striking the perfect line between the darkness of medieval fairy tales, the beauty of Victorian fantasy, and the magic of modern muppetry. A perfect meeting of writing, acting, music, and practical effects.

 

  1. The Monster Squad

TL/DR: Kids must fight Dracula as he assembles the classic Universal Movie monsters.

Risk of Trauma: High. There is some real violence in this film, and the monsters have enough 1980s magic effects. Also its of the period (Goonies/ Lost Boys) where there was a lot more adult dialogue coming from the mouths of child actors. This is a very dated film, from an era when the PG-13 rating was far less restrictive.

Age range: 11+

Summary: The Monster Squad is a late 1980s film, balancing a hearty mix of Baby Boomer nostalgia, faux Spielbergian suburban magic, and late 1980s attitude. Still, its at the right level of being scary without being traumatizing.

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  1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

TL/DR: Evil hypnotist commands a somnambulist to rob and murder.

Type: Nightmare circus

Risk of Trauma: Low. Lots of creepy images, but little actual violence.

Age range: 8-13. Silent movies may take a more patient child.

Summary: A defining film of expressionist cinema, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is stylish and iconic, while lacking the scariness of modern horror. The calliope heavy soundtrack on the Netflix version also serves to make this landmark more spooky than horrific.

 

  1. The Dark Crystal

TL/DR: A(n) (g)elf(ling) sets out to find others of his kind in a fantastic land.

Type: Fantasy

Risk of Trauma: Moderate. The villainous vulturine Skexies will completely terrify young children, while being only weird to more mature kids. Skip the scene at 34 minutes, where the villains drain a creature of his life essence.

Summary: A bit more muddled than Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal is an ambitious all-muppet fantasy epic, The Dark Crystal is a strange and creative white elephant, unlike any other film.

Age range: 8-13.

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  1. The Others

TL/DR: During WWII, a mother and her two children are sent to live in a haunted mansion in the British countryside

Type: Haunted house

Risk of Trauma: Moderate to high. Not much violence, but a great amount of creepiness in this moody gothic.

Age range: 8-13.

Summary: Nicole Kidman owns this film in one her strongest career performances, as a neurotic and paranoid housewife. Probably the scariest haunted house film that you can actually show to children.

 

  1. Troll Hunter

TL/DR: Documentary film-makers encounter and follow a professional troll hunter.

Type: Found footage

Risk of Trauma: High. Although the monsters are cartoony (they’re fantasy trolls), there is some real suspense. Skip the scene from 1:10 to 1:15, where the characters investigate a troll cave. There is violence, but it tends not to be gory- the monsters of the film explode or turn into stone when subjected to sunlight or the equivalent thereof.

Age range: 11-13

Summary: A charming Norwegian entry in the found footage genre, Troll Hunter is weird, sometimes funny, and more of a giant monster than a scary monster horror film.

 

  1. The Corpse Bride

TL/DR: Young man pursued by marriage hungry revenant

Type: Zombie

Risk of Trauma: Mild. The stop motion animation takes a lot of the sting off the graveyard antics, but theres still moldering corpses and genuine murder.

Age range: 8-13

Summary: Tim Burton and Danny Elfman tried to recapture the magic of The Nightmare Before Christmas with this adaptation of a Russian folk tale. And for a scant few of the musical numbers, they succeed. In other parts, though, the film lags. But its the perfect choice if they’ve already seen and enjoyed Nightmare Before Christmas, and want something else.

 

Available Free On Amazon Prime

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  1. Nosferatu (1922)

TL/DR: A vampire count travels from Transylvania to Germany

Type: Vampire

Risk of Trauma: Mild. Count Orlok is creepy, but the violence is never that overt.

Age Range: 8-13

Summary: The second most important and iconic film in establishing the imagery and tropes of the modern vampire, Murnau’s masterpiece is eerie and memorable

 

  1. The Neverending Story

TL/DR: Young Boy must rescue the land of imagination

Type: Fantasy

Risk of Trauma: Mild. The Nothing is scary, as is the wolf monster, and theres also the scene in the swamps. If you want to coddle your children, skip the swamp scene at 30 minutes, and the encounter at 1:10,

Age Range: 5-13

Summary: Your kids will question why this film is scary, until the wolf monster shows up. But along the way, its a strange and unique film about imagination and the importance of reading and thinking.

 

  1. The Last Unicorn

TL/DR: A young wizard seeks to help a unicorn to find another of her kind

Type: Animated

Risk of Trauma: Mild. The harpy is scary (at 27 minutes), as is The Red Bull (at 43 minutes)

Age Range: 5-13

Summary: Yet another in the distinctive sub-genre of surprisingly dark 1980s European children’s fantasies, the Last Unicorn is full of melancholy and strangeness, but thats what makes it memorable. While it has a hero’s journey, its not as formulaic as most modern children’s films, and thats where the charm lays.

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  1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

TL/DR: Aliens start duplicating inhabitants of a small town

Type: Aliens

Risk of Trauma: Mild

Age Range: 5 to 13, though younger children will likely be bored.

Summary: This is a classic story of paranoia, and also the best way to explain the Red Scare to children.

 

  1. White Zombie (1932)

TL/DR: Evil plantation owner seeks to make tourists into more zombie slaves

Type: Voodoo

Risk of Trauma: Mild.

Age Range: 8 to 13

Summary: Bela Lugosi was never finder than this, as the voodoo wizard Murder Legendre. Victor Halperins moody Caribbean gothic established the concept of the zombie in pop culture, but his films sticks to the classic mythical version- mindless people, rather than rotting cannibalistic corpses. Its full of menace while still being without overt violence.

 

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  1. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

TL/DR: Mysterious figure abducts opera singer

Type: Gothic

Risk of Trauma: Mild. A shadow a hanged man is as close as it gets to on-screen violence.

Age Range: 5 to 13

Summary: Laemmles classic adaptation of the French gothic mixes weirdness and romance, the first big budget Hollywood horror movie, and a landmark in set building and makeup.

 

  1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

TL/DR: Deformed man falls in love with a gypsy beauty, incurs wrath of the inquisition.

Type: Gothic

Risk of Trauma: Mild.

Age Range: 5 to 13.

Summary: The other half of the standard Lon Chaney double feature is this adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel.

 

  1. The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

TL/DR: Man feeds a talking plant

Type: Killer plant

Risk of Trauma: Moderate. The special effects are cheesy, but there is the part where Seymour feeds (fake rubber) body parts to Audrey, at 26:00.

Age Range: 8-13

Summary: Though lacking the great musical numbers (and Rick Moranis), the original Little Shop of Horrors is still a strange little black comedy that shows the quirks of Roger Cormans film-making style.

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  1. Godzilla (1954)

Type: Giant monster

Risk of Trauma: Mild. Consider skipping the hospital scene at 1:12, which really drives home the devastation of Godzillas rampage. The biggest risk of letting your children see this film is that they will have a new favorite monster, and they will try to do their best imitation of the Godzilla roar.

Age Range: 5-13.

Summary: Ishiro Hondas film is the definer of the Kaiju genre, and a deserved classic of the genre of 50s science fiction. Many Hollywood studios have tried, but all the stars and all the special effects were never quite able to make Godzilla as exciting and scary as this first film, where hes cast first as a gradually solved mystery, before transitioning to being a walking embodiment of disaster.

 

  1. The Terror

TL/DR: During the Napoleonic wars, a young French officer billets at an old German castle.

Type: Gothic

Risk of Trauma: Mild

Age Range: 5 to 13.

Summary: A straight up gothic horror by Roger Corman, The Terror stars a young Jack Nicholson and an old Boris Karloff in a haunted castle classic. Its a warmup to the later Allen Poe adaptations that Corman did with Vincent Price.

 

Available On YouTube

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  1. Planet of the Vampires

TL/DR: Space explorers face a mysterious force that possesses the crew on by one.

Type: Aliens

Risk of Trauma: Mild

Age Range: 5 to 13

Summary: Mario Bavas science fiction film is classic atom age space wonder, and the moody sets were an inspiration for Ridley Scotts Alien. But theres no body horror to fear here, just a lot of eerie music and paranoia as the crew tries to figure out whos still human.

 

  1. Coraline

TL/DR: Bored girl finds a tunnel at her new house leading to a sinister wonderland.

Type: Dark fairy tale

Risk of Trauma: Moderate. Other Mother, the villain, is legitimately terrifying. There are also ghost children, and bugs.

Age Range: 5 to 13.

Summary: Laikas first stop motion film brings color to Neil Gaimans half-fairy tale half ghost tale of a strange house and a precocious young girl. If you think your child can handle it, this is a perfect companion to Pixars Inside Out– both films are about one girls struggle to adjust to moving to a new city.

 

  1. Nightmare Alley (1947)

TL/DR: Circus carnie schemes and murders his way to stardom, and then is undone

Type: Circus

Risk of Trauma: Moderate. Skip the ending five minutes, where we see the main characters comeuppance, and the rest of the film is fine.

Age Range: 8 to 13.

Summary: 1940s noir at its finest, this film has Tyrone Power as the ruthless centerpiece ot story of magic, betrayal, and damnation.

 

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  1. The Bad Seed (1956)

TL/DR: Young Rhoda seems like the perfect daughterwhen shes not killing people

Type: Killer kid

Risk of Trauma: Moderate.

Age Range: 8 to 13

Summary: A riveting example of the hard boiled psychological thrillers that were in vogue during the 1950s.

 

  1. The Last Man on Earth (1964)

TL/DR: One man fights to survive on a planet emptied out by a terrible plague

Type: Vampire

Risk of Trauma: Mild

Age Range: 5 to 13.

Summary: You are probably familiar with I am Legend, the big budget, vastly inferior adaptation of Robert Mathesons horror classic about a world taken over by vampires. The 1950s Vincent Price version is much talkier, and shorter on action, but the dialogue really conveys the crumbling mental mindset of the protagonist, while keeping the film within child-acceptable parameters.

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  1. Faust (1926 F. W. Murnau film)

TL/DR: Man sells his soul, seek to cheat out of the bargain

Type: Devil

Risk of Trauma: Mild

Age Range: 5 to 13.

Summary: Another great film of German expressionism, Murnaus adaption of Faust is more romantic and less dark than the original play. Theres happy ending! But in between that, the demon Mephistopheles has his moments of menace.

 

  1. Gremlins 2: The New Batch

TL/DR: Evil corporation attempts to market Mogwai, ends up with Gremlins.

Type: Monster comedy

Risk of Trauma: Moderate. Youll want to skip the Spider-Gremlin scene.

Age range: 11 to 13.

Summary: Joe Dantes sequel is more Warner Brothers cartoon done in live action than horror,thanks to numerous sequences of the Gremlins being silly. Its a terrific send-up of late 1980s pop culture- everything from Donald Trump to Siskel and Ebert are targets.

 

  1. The House on Haunted Hill (1959 version)

TL/DR: $10,000 to anyone that can spend a night in a haunted mansion

Type: Ghost

Risk of Trauma: Moderate

Age range: 8 to 13

Summary: Another Vincent Price classic, and the best of William Castles gimmicky films, this is another gothic spook fest fool of skeletons, acid pits, and cobwebbed dungeons.

 

  1. Invaders from Mars (1953 version)

TL/DR: Nobody believes a young boy who saw a flying saucer land in his back yard.

Type: Alien

Risk of Trauma: Moderate. No violence, but it might instill a fear of quick-sand (the aliens trap people that way).

Age range 5 to 13.

Summary: Another classic of atom age horror, this film hinges on the childs effort to find somebody, anybody, who will believe his theory that aliens are taking over his town. A classic of 50s paranoia with a twist that every child will empathize with.

 

About Devon Pack

I wanted to write with Ruthless because frankly rancor, contempt and dismay are my best muses.