Home Movies

The 10 Halloween movies to binge if scary movies aren’t your cup of tea

Don't let horror fans have all the fun this Halloween.

E.T. Film
Image via Universal Pictures

Halloween isn’t just for horror movies. If you’re keen on getting into the mood for the spookiest time of the year but are not the biggest fan of scary movies, you still have a wide range of options to choose from.

Why should horror movie fans have all the fun every October? Well, there are many movie genres, even the unlikeliest ones, that have included the witching holiday in their plots without jump scares, gore, or mass murder. After all, it’s one time when the streets are full of disguises and costumes, which makes way for some very exciting ideas and characters that can quickly escalate from high schoolers and pranksters to marooned aliens and supervillains to badass military officers and reptilian heroes.

If you’re after a softer watch this Halloween, these could be the movies for you. There are no tricks here, just some unexpected treats.

E.T. (1982)

One of Hollywood’s most famous Halloween sequences takes place in Spielberg’s timeless tale of one boy and his alien. The fall festival is an excellent chance for characters out of the ordinary to head outside without worrying about sticking out. It allows Michael Myers to stalk Haddonfield and helps a small empathetic alien to rock a ghost outfit. In E.T., Halloween provides the perfect cover for Elliott to help the diminutive alien phone home from the forest. The highlight is the famous magical bike flight backed by John Williams’ superb Magic of Halloween theme.

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Who expected Halloween to pop up in this Judy Garland starrer Christmas musical? Meet Me In St. Louis famously stretches over a year, but Halloween night is pivotal to the burgeoning romance between Garland’s Esther Smith and Tom Drake’sJohn Truett. There’s no trick-or-treating — that’s a term first recorded twenty years after the movie’s 1903/4 setting. But it’s a notable record of the old and curious Halloween tradition of throwing flour on people to ‘kill’ them. 

American Splendor (2003)

This comedy biopic of Harvey Pekar kicks off during Halloween, setting up the subject’s particular view of life. It’s 1950, and 11-year-old Pekar refuses to dress up as a superhero to trick-or-treat. From there, the movie unravels Pekar’s life using live-action, documentary, and animation techniques.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)

If anyone can take advantage of Halloween, it’s the Turtles. In this sequel to the franchise’s live-action reboot, the reptilian heroes lurk in the sewers under a Halloween parade. It’s an emotional time for Michelangelo as he stares longingly at the streets, telling his brothers, “It’s the one night of the year we fit in.” Leonardo sets him straight, replying that ninjas never fit in. That’s not how it looks like when Mikey joins the parade. The hero in a half-shell even has time to high-five someone in an impressive Bumblebee Transformer costume.

Ed Wood (1994)

This one is a bit tricky, as it’s steeped in the heritage of horror from the golden age of Hollywood. Tim Burton’s loving tribute to the brilliantly lousy director Ed Wood serves up some beautiful moments, including when Depp’s Wood and Martin Landau’s Bela Lugosi catch a TV show on Halloween. Brilliantly produced and multi-layered, the scene ends with the legendary screen Dracula trying to scare children who come for trick-or-treating at his door before Wood steps in with a reminder of real-world horrors.

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

It’s unbelievable this scene didn’t make yellow bat tee-shirts the must-have clothing of the 1980s. Dressed to fly, Rob Lowe’s Billy takes to the saxophone with his band during a Halloween party that can only end badly. The party is the trigger for revelations, jealousy, fighting, and reconciliation in the king of Brat-pack movies.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

A Halloween pageant is crucial to unraveling the truth in To Kill A Mockingbird. Protagonist Scout — dressed in a cumbersome ham costume — and her brother Jem are attacked on their way home. The theme of the witching night and its deep religious roots make it an ideal time of year for Harper Lee’s classic to solve its mystery. However, the traditions of the pageant and callbacks to events, mistakes, and misconceptions of previous years keep it frantic and ambiguous.

The Batman (2022)

Okay, this one is a little bit scary. One of The Batman’s inspirations was Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween, a classic comic story brilliantly divided into chapters by the year’s holidays. In Matt Reeves’ movie, the brooding action kicks off on Halloween. Holiday-themed killer Calendar Man may not make it off the page, but it’s the perfect time to introduce Paul Dano’s savage take on the Riddler. Halloween’s the night the masked killer chooses to murder Gotham City mayor Don Mitchell Jr. and leave his first message for Batman. 

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

Though the second and final movie to star Tom Cruise as Lee Child’s ex-military problem-solver fell by the wayside, it made great use of its New Orleans setting. The overall plot is all about the titular character being on the run to uncover a major conspiracy, but it’s The Big Easy and a vibrant Halloween parade that provides the backdrop to a fight for survival between Reacher and the menacingly named assassin, the Hunter.

Mean Girls (2004)

This Tina Fey-penned teen comedy is another movie that makes the most of a Halloween party, during which Lindsay Lohan’s Cady finally thinks she’s caught the attention of Jonathan Bennett’s Aaron. But if movies have told us anything, it’s that those parties don’t go well. That’s especially true when Rachel McAdams’ Regina is determined to make Cady’s life hell, and Aaron is convenient collateral damage. Of course, it all ends well as long as you keep an eye out for the school bus.

Matt Goddard
About the author

Matt Goddard

Matt enjoys casting Jack Kirby color, Zack Snyder slow-mo, and J.J. Abrams lens flare on every facet of pop culture. Since graduating with a degree in English from the University of York, his writing on film, TV, games, and more has appeared on WGTC, Mirror Online and the Guardian.