[ ABOVE: the Halloween village and orange fountains in downtown Chicago at Daley Plaza ]
Halloween for me is a fun time with lots of orange, black, and purple decorations and all the paper cutouts of pumpkins, black cats, and spooky ghosts I remember from my childhood in Cleveland. I have never been into blood and gore or the gruesome side of Halloween that a lot of people enjoy…to me Halloween is cute and sweet…or sexy, in the case of hot guys in really great shape going out as Tarzan or Dr. Manhattan or the Olympic water polo team here in Boystown…but never gross and gory with blood and guts hanging out. No thanks. Keep it sweet or sexy at Halloween, please.
I also really enjoy cooking Halloween-themed foods in October, with lots of pumpkin and purple potato dishes and different kinds of roasts where I can stuff long carrots into the pan so they cook up like creepy fingers. My boyfriend Justin supposedly hates pumpkin but will eat sweet potatoes so all Halloween I make lots of ravioli, smoothies, pie, and other treats that are supposedly sweet potato but are really made from pumpkins (which is my trick, since Justin’s never the wiser).
I just don’t have the energy or enthusiasm this year to dress up as anything for Halloween because all my time is focused on the upcoming election…but I do enjoy watching Halloween movies on Amazon Instant video or Netflix while I work. I do the little split screen so that I can have a movie playing in the upper left hand corner of my computer and leave the rest of the desktop free for work. Today, I roasted up a turkey with the purple potatoes and carrots because my friend Althea’s kids Niblet and T.J. were over while Althea and her family had some sort of church function; the kids wanted to watch some Halloween movies and Althea said I could pick out anything I thought would be appropriate for them (so long as there’s no gore, nudity, or bad words). This worked out perfectly because I don’t like movies with gore or the swearing in them anyway (and after living in Boystown for this many years, I’ve had enough nudity to last me a while so there’s no need for that in Halloween movies).
Before the kids came over today I made a list of a few options for movies I thought they would like because I was surprised I couldn’t find a good list like this online already. I searched, but everything I found was either riddled with gore or was severely dumbed-down. I figured as long as I made a list, I’d share it here to save you the trouble from having to come up with some Halloween options of your own. I also expanded things a bit to include scarier movies I think are great to watch at Halloween that are NOT appropriate for pre-teens (in my opinion), but are fun for when the kids get picked up and are on their merry way again. Like everything, YOU need to decide if your kids are old enough to watch these movies…with some being able to handle it and some 50 year olds too fragile to ever see these films.
If you have any favorites that YOU like to watch during Halloween season where you live, please add them below in comments, too. I purposefully left things at 45 and not 50 because I am sure at least five of you will think of something great that I haven’t and you can fill in the rest your own way.
Top 45 Great Movies to Watch for Halloween Season:
45. Shadow of the Vampire. A fun take on the making of the silent film Nosferatu.
44. They Live. Who would have thought the Obama presidency would have been telegraphed to us decades ago in a Rowdy Roddy Piper movie?
43. Interview with the Vampire. The gayest big budget Hollywood movie ever made. I saw it in college about two days before I realized I was gay and started dating my best friend. I also remember it for the tantrums Anne Rice threw over Tom Cruise’s casting…so much so that when the movie came out on VHS they made her film an apology to be shown before the film started, admitting she was an ass. Anne’s gone completely nuts now and posts hate-fueled diatribes on Facebook that are very pro-Obama and anti-America. It’s like the scary stories she used to write about gay vampires drove her nuts or something.
42. Cat’s Eye. Creepy story collection, including one about a little troll that bedevils Drew Barrymore.
41. Death Becomes Her. Creepy comedy, with no blood or gore but a fun take on the walking dead in Beverly Hills. I remember how amazing the effects were back at the time, too. It’s fun to look for the cameos by Greta Garbo, Elvis, Jim Morrison, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and Andy Warhol too. I like to think Whitney Houston’s at that party now, too, looking young and beautiful forever and back in rare form after drinking the magic potion. Sempre vivre!
40. The Mummy. Probably not for very little kids, but the first movie in the Mummy trilogy is a lot of fun…and I don’t think too gruesome. You can tell everything is computer generated effects. More adventure film than horror but still creepy enough for Halloween. Definitely not as scary as what’s happening in Egypt politically right now.
39. Troll. This movie is creepy, but is not scary in my opinion. It’s about a little troll that tries to take over an apartment building by turning people into fairytale characters. It’s more magical than scary…but I associate it with Halloween because one of the tee-vee stations in Cleveland back in the 80s used to show this every year in October (because they owned about 12 movies to show, I think). I like it and was surprised that Justin had never seen it.
38. Ghostbusters. Who you gonna call?
36-37. The entire Harry Potter movie franchise…but in particular The Prisoner of Azkaban or The Order of the Phoenix. I was really surprised today when I was thinking of good movies to show Niblet and T.J. that the Harry Potter series didn’t immediately jump into mind when I thought of Halloween, considering how many spooky things are in the films while being totally kid-friendly. I find the first two movies in the series difficult to watch because I’m not a big fan of director Chris Columbus and it’s jarring for me to watch Daniel Radcliffe as such a little boy after seeing him on Broadway in Equus a few years ago, where there was not much little about him. The series really kicks into gear for me with part three, The Prisoner of Azkaban and the inventive choices made by its director, Alfonso Cuaron. There’s the Knight Bus with its shrunken head dangling from the mirror, the Shrieking Shack haunted house, the Dementors, and all sorts of visual treats strewn about the Village of Hogsmeade. Part Five in the series, The Order of the Phoenix, also involves a creepy house and introduces a wide array of wicked witches and wizards that are fun to watch run amuck. You could easily watch the entire Potter series every Halloween and enjoy it all over again…but I think if your time is limited the most fun “Halloween” installments are parts Three and Five.
35. Beetlejuice. So creepy, in a fun way. Scares, but no gore. That model of the town is still one of the coolest things ever.
34. The Corpse Bride. This one’s beautiful but I can only watch it every few years. That’s how I am with a lot of Tim Burton movies, actually.
33. Nightmare Before Christmas. The exception to the rule above: it is the one Tim Burton movie that I watch every year, the night before Halloween.
32. Hocus Pocus. A fun movie with witches and things that kids like and I can sit through repeatedly and always find something funny in the performances of Kathy Nijimi, Bette Midler, and Matthew Broderick’s beard.
31. Alvin & the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman. He’s going to be mad at me when I tell you this, but my boyfriend Justin LOVES this movie. It must have come out when he was still a kid. If I have it on when Niblet and T.J. are over Justin will sit and watch it too. This is about as scary as Justin likes things to get at Halloween. The animation is surprisingly good, too.
30. Monster Squad. An 80s classic you might have never heard of…where the Universal Studios monsters all combine forces to try to take over the world and a ragtag groups of kids has to stop them. There is some kind of rights dispute issue with this movie because it can’t be found streaming and you have to order it on DVD, which is sad. It is totally worth buying though. They’ve been trying to remake it for years, too. It’s really quite good.
29. The Goonies. Another movie with kids on an adventure in creepy places. A classic Halloween costume in my mind is a pirate, and there are plenty of pirate-related things in this movie. It’s also fun to see a lot of stars back when they were little kids and marvel at how they turned out as adults (Josh Brolin and Martha Plimpton are still acting…Corey Feldman is Corey Feldman…a lot of the other ones faded into obscurity…Chunk became an entertainment lawyer and slimmed down, etc.).
27/28. Jumanji and Zathura. These two are linked in my mind because they are both about board games that transport you on adventures…one in the jungle and the other in space. Since Halloween is about make-believe, they fit in my mind.
26. Little Shop of Horrors. The songs keep this from being too scary. Niblet and T.J. love this movie and love singing along. In Boystown, there are bars that play songs from this movie on Showtunes Sing-A-Long Nights and alternate lyrics are substituted for some of the actually words (which is fun…but maybe not appropriate for kids).
25. Ghost. I love Whoopi Goldberg in this, Sister Act, and The Color Purple. I wish she had stuck to movies like this and never hosted The View.
24. Practical Magic. I could watch this over and over again. I just love it. And the house in this movie is my dream house that I want Justin to design for me someday.
23. Gremlins. It’s funny, but this is also one of my favorite Christmas movies…which is a Halloween/Christmas hybrid that Nightmare Before Christmas was supposed to be but I only want to watch that at Halloween, not at Christmas. Know what my FAVORITE Christmas movie of all time is, though? That’s right, Die Hard.
22. Hellboy (and Hellboy 2). Lots of monsters, but action too, which is okay. It has a very dark and foreboding Halloween vibe.
21. Elvira Mistress of the Dark. Hilarious. I watch this every year. It gets a little risqué for kids so as we move down lower on the list we’re getting into pre-teen and teen category now. When I was little Elvira’s tee-vee show used to still come on late at night in Cleveland, where she’d host bad movies and make fun of them. I thought it was so strange to see her doing these little skits before the commercial breaks and wondered for years who that woman was. And then this movie came out and of course the Internet much later…so this is a little part of my childhood that’s fun to rewatch every year. I think it’s so funny. Justin thinks I’m nuts, but I love Elvira’s bad puns and entendres.
20. Waxwork. This is the other scary movie that the guy from Gremlins was in. Lots of creepy nods to other horror movies and I love that some of the scenes are their own mini-movies taking place within the bigger story. Great for short attention spans or for when I have this on and am being interrupted a lot I can pause it and not feel I’m missing much.
19. Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Gorgeous costumes and sets. This movie still looks like it cost hundreds of millions of dollars and is so creepy to watch late at night. It drags a little in parts but I love Winona Ryder in it.
18. The Haunting. Another really gorgeous movie, made right when CGI was starting to be a big deal…so the seams show a little today. It’s very creepy and effective, though…a great haunted house movie.
17. Carrie. 70s horror films were the best…and this is just about the only Stephen King adaptation I enjoyed besides Misery (which is a winter, not Halloween, movie to me).
16. Scream. In the days before the Internet, I was blown away by this movie. I did not think it would be anything special and ended up loving how shocking it was that it killed a big star right away. The sequels were all pretty lame, but this first one was great.
15. Poltergeist. Holds up really well. The movie is scary to this day, and the performances are all great. I remember being too little to see this one in the theaters when it first came out but my parents telling me about it (dumbing it down so it wouldn’t scare me too much). Years later I saw it and was freaked out by the clown doll…and then later freaked out even more by the various tragedies that hit the cast (Heather O’Rourke, Dominque Dunne). And now, in 2012, my boyfriend’s mother’s name is CarolAnne and she sits in front of the tee-vee and soaks up negative energy that she uses to scare her son over the telephone from Arkansas…so I get to have a live version of this movie playing all the time here in Chicago. Yippee!
14. Munger Road. So scary. Not a drop of blood to be seen. Had me on the edge of the couch with suspense. Based on a sort of true story here in Chicagoland.
13. Trick’r Treat. Great anthology of Halloween stories.
12. Bait. Combine Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, and The Mist and this is what you get. Great Australian shark movie in a grocery store. Just ignore some cheesy effects.
11. The Mist. This movie fascinates me. I’ve seen it four times and will watch it again tonight because making this list made me remember I wanted to see it again. The creatures that come out of the mist from an alternate dimension are so creepy and surreal. It boggles my mind. And the ending. The tragic ending. It just leaves me numb because I don’t know what I would have done in the character’s place.
10. Monkey Shines. A killer monkey! A man in wheelchair that the monkey torments! Super creepy!
9. Vacancy. This movie is so creepy because during the 2008 campaign I traveled a lot and stayed in many motels. I also used to work in hotels in college and would go to these seminars for security managers and learn about all the bad things that people do to each other in hotels. A movie like this is scarier than The Shining because it could actually happen somewhere.
8. The Strangers. Another one that could actually happen. Which makes it scarier than monster movies to me.
7. The Cabin in the Woods. This was like a big-budget episode of Buffy or Angel, with all sorts of nods to famous horror movies. There is blood and gore, but it’s not too much.
6. Hellbent. This is the only gay horror movie I’m aware of that’s any good. It’s not soft-corn porn either, like Dante’s Cove. It’s a real movie that just happens to be set in Halloween in West Hollywood. Never thought in a million years it would be good, but it actually is.
5. Seven. When I was in college I saw this movie with a group of friends that included Jane, the most devilish prankster I’ve ever known. Jane arrange to have some friends of hers hide in the woods late at night after we’d get out of this movie. I still don’t know how she pulled this off, but that was Jane for you. On the way back from the theater, Jane insisted we take a short cut from the bus stop back to campus instead of taking a cab like we’d usually do…and she got us to listen to her. The short cut of course went through the woods…where Jane had people waiting to jump out at us. ”Fooled you! Fooled you! Fooled you!” Jane shouted. ”Now you will never forget the scary movie we saw! Ha ha ha ha!”. I still love that Jane thought having people lurk in the woods to jump out and scare her friends after they just saw Seven was “fooling us”…but how awesome was it to have someone in my life who’d go to that much trouble to scare me with an elaborate college prank. Jane, if you remember, was murdered on 9/11 by Muslims in her office building in New York. I miss her every day, but especially around Halloween because her pranks were EPIC.
4. The Amityville Horror (one with Ryan Reynolds rocking an awesome 70s-homage beard). I admit it. Ryan Reynolds is just incredibly sexy in this. I have no idea what happens in the movie but he’s bearded and shirtless and looks like a lumberjack for almost the entirety of it. It is worth renting for that reason alone.
3. The Thing. When I was a kid, I remember seeing Wilford Brimley as a kindly old grandpa or the guy selling oatmeal on the tee-vee. In this he’s all kinds of scary and crazy. I saw this movie for the first time about five years ago and despite it being set in Antarctica with snow all around it’s a scary, Halloween-worthy movie to me. CREEPY.
2. Alien. Another movie that technically has nothing to do with Halloween but is scary and suspenseful even though I know what’s going to happen. I also love that here in Chicago someone turned it into a musical featuring the music from Queen…as in “Alien Queen”. It plays sometimes at Halloween, in years that the same theater group is not doing “The Carpenters Halloween”, with music from The Carpenters driving along a parody of Halloween.
1. Dawn of the Dead. I saw this in theaters on a date with a guy who used to be a Marine. His name was Rob, and he was tough…but he whimpered like a little school girl all through this. It was crazy. I think it’s the creepiest and scariest movie I ever saw. It also makes me think of politics because the zombies remind me of Occupy Wall Street wanting to take over and devour everything that other people worked for. I swear, the zombie hordes remind me of Obama voters and always will.
And don’t forget the tee-vee shows that are fun to watch again at Halloween as well:
10. The Scooby Doo cartoons that featured special guests like The Addams Family, Sandy Duncan, Phyllis Diller, etc.
9. Pushing Daisies.
8. The Munsters.
7. Six Feet Under.
6. Dead Like Me.
5. Halloween episode of Roseanne
4. Select episodes of Friday the 13th: the Series (NOT the movies…the TV show in the 80s starring Robey)
3. Select Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episodes.
2. True Blood (Seasons One through Five)
1. The Walking Dead (Seasons One and Two).
What did I miss that YOU love watching at Halloween?
Tell us in comments below!
© 2012, Kevin DuJan. All rights reserved.
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