We’re a little under a week away from Halloween, an occasion for which it’s practically de rigueur for movie blogs like ours to assemble lists of the greatest horror films of all time. Except we’ve already done that, and there seems little point in going there again — though I do encourage you to check out our Top 20 if you’re shopping around for some classic scares.
Casting around for alternate Halloween-themed ideas for this week’s list, then, it occurred to me that several of the films that scared me most rigid as a child — surely the demographic for whom Pumpkin-and-Candy Day remains most relevant — are ones that wouldn’t crack most conventional horror-film lists, or in some cases, conventional definitions of what a horror film even is. Others that do, meanwhile, do so without many of the grim tools many classic horror films use to reach their audience, opting instead for less explicit routes of skin-crawling.
And so it is that I hit upon the theme of PG-rated scares: those rare films, not all of them genre-based, that succeed in genuinely frightening kids and adults alike with few enough graphic shocks and transgressive themes to persuade the MPAA that no one need be restricted from watching them — a tricky balance to strike, but one several classics, and a few smaller gems cherished by devoted cult audiences, have managed.
Of course, just because a film is permissible for family viewing, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s appropriate: some of the films gathered here are treasured childhood favorites, others are ones many would much enjoy or understand until later in life. The overwhelming dominance of 1970s and 1980s titles wasn’t planned — perhaps it’s a generational thing, though I did use the latter-day MPAA ratings system for guidance. All of them, however, are free for viewers of all ages to discover — and be haunted by — without breaking any rules.
Check out the list at our new gallery, and, as always, share your thoughts and favorites below. Happy Halloween Week, everybody.