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Top 10 Kid-Friendly Horror Movies

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Telly Vlachakis Horror movies that are scary enough to get young kids and children interested and invested in the genre. WatchMojo presents the top 10 Gateway horror movies that terrify children of all ages and leave them wanting more scares. But which kid friendly horror movie will take the top spot on our list? The campy Arachnophobia, the timeless classic Jaws, or the goofy Gremlins? Watch to find out! Special thanks tre merry for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo user's voted, check out our suggest page here: http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+ten+horror+movies+for+kids

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Believe us when we say that kids love to get scared as much as anyone. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Gateway Horror Movies for Kids.

For this list, we’re ignoring those films that feature sexuality and extreme violence, and are instead focusing on those films your parents reluctantly agreed to let you watch that got you hooked on horror. Movies like “Goosebumps” are not contenders here, since they’re intended for a younger audience.

#10: “Poltergeist” (1982)

The classic and iconic depiction of a haunted house, “Poltergeist,” may be a film by Tobe Hooper—the mind behind “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”—but it clearly takes most of its influence from producer Steven Spielberg. His family-friendly style can be felt throughout, as we get lots of heart-warming scenes and dramatic character building among the footage of ghosts, skeletons, and demonic televisions. Watching the Freeling family be terrorized by this poltergeist, as its energy is drawn to their small kids, taps into some seriously traumatizing childhood fears – including clowns, weird noises at the window, and monsters in the closet. Although violence in the film is practically non-existent, prepare to be up all night.

#9: “Little Shop of Horrors” (1986)

This bizarre musical horror hybrid may be more slapstick comedy than a scare-filled thrill ride, but this may trick adults into letting the younger kiddies watch. Keep in mind that this was the ‘80s, and a PG-rating was easier to get. Adapted from the Broadway musical, which was adapted from the Roger Corman dark comedy, “Little Shop of Horrors” follows the story of Seymour and his mysterious, blood-thirsty, musically-talented plant who grows to enormous sizes and requires more and more people to feed on. While most of the violence and sexy comedy is implied in hilarious musical numbers, this is still a classic monster movie.

#8: “An American Werewolf in London” (1981)

Another ‘80s horror classic (seeing a pattern here?), “An American Werewolf in London” finally delves into R-rated territory. The film rental industry played a huge part in getting kids hooked on horror in the ‘80s. This entire generation of children had access to films such as “Friday the 13th” and this werewolf shocker. Maybe it was director John Landis’s reputation for comedies like “Animal House” and “Blues Brothers” that tricked families into showing this violent film to their kids, but this nightmarish story of a young traveller who’s attacked and turned into a werewolf was revolutionary in its special effects and gruesomely violent dark humor.

#7: “The Lost Boys” (1987)

The ‘80s were a strange time for horror, with many of its teen-centric efforts becoming classics despite their R-ratings. One such teen-horror film sees a young Jason Patric being seduced into joining some no-good bad-boy gangsters. But this isn’t your ordinary gang of L.A. hooligans: it’s a street-wise group of young vampires. “The Lost Boys” may have some over-the-top ‘80s violence, but it’s clearly geared towards young teens. The majority of the film is shown from the perspective of preteens Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, and there’s no shortage of teen heartthrobs who make an appearance, including a brilliant early performance by Kiefer Sutherland as the leader of the pack.

#6: “The Sixth Sense” (1999)

While the late ‘90s were becoming over-saturated with increasingly violent and repetitive slasher films, breakout director M. Night Shyamalan brought the world a tense, calculating ghost story, that revitalized the horror genre for a new millennium. With an 11 year-old protagonist, how scary could a movie be? The affliction that young Cole suffers from is no laughing matter, and although kids of the ‘90s would snigger while repeating the iconic revelatory line, we can assure you that nobody was laughing during the tent scene in theaters. With the violence at a minimum but tension high, Shyamalan knew how to scare the pants off both young and old.

#5: “It” (1990)

This Stephen King adaptation has the distinction of being a miniseries made for commercial broadcast television, and therefore the filmmakers had no choice but the keep the blood, swearing, and sexuality to a minimum. For this reason it’s become a cult favorite among kids trying to scare each other, daring each other to watch the film or walk close to sewers. The story follows the victims and survivors of an otherworldly being who terrorizes and kills children from the small town of Derry, Maine. Taking on the form of Pennywise the clown, “It” is responsible for nightmares around the world and instilling a fear of clowns in millions of underage viewers.

#4: “Child’s Play” (1988)

Chucky the Good Guy doll has become an easily recognizable horror icon, and nearly every kid can identify him. These same kids can probably also identify the exact moment they were traumatized for life by this 1980s classic. Possessed by the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, Chucky seeks out a young innocent body that he can transfer his soul into, and mercilessly kills anyone (and everyone) who gets in his way. Thanks to its subject matter featuring a killer doll targeting the preschooler protagonist, the film has become a rite-of-passage horror film for kids.

#3: “Jaws” (1975)

Steven Spielberg’s first masterful blockbuster success is a testament to his talent as a visual storyteller. The simple story of a great white shark that terrorizes a quiet seaside town built up one of the most tense and suspenseful cinematic experiences ever to grace the big screen. An entire generation of moviegoers was afraid to swim in the ocean thanks to this flick, even though filmmakers kept the horror and violence at a PG level. Instead of relying on gore, “Jaws” uses cinematography, music, and dialogue to create a film that has kids covering their eyes the second the theme music comes on.

#2: “Arachnophobia” (1990)

Although the fear of spiders is not limited to young people, there’s a child-like glee with which this throwback monster movie plays out. Produced by Steven Spielberg, this dark comedy imagines what would happen if a large and deadly spider from another country ended up in a quiet little town. Large spider webs appearing in farmhouses overnight? Mysterious deaths? Aggressive jumping spiders? Don’t bother calling the local exterminator; they won’t be much help. The film relies heavily on our natural aversion to the creepy crawlies, and successfully creates a feeling of nauseating dread without needing to resort to extreme violence.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Tremors” (1990)
- “The Birds” (1963)
- “The Frighteners” (1996)

#1: “Gremlins” (1984)

Spielberg strikes again with another PG-rated classic of 1980s horror. His influence can surely be felt throughout the decade, and especially in the filmography of director Joe Dante. Although Dante created many horror classics that walk the line between family-friendly and adult dark-humor, like “Matinee” and “The ‘Burbs,” “Gremlins” is undoubtedly his best effort at a drive-in inspired monster movie that teaches children a valuable lesson about taking care of your pets. Kids may drawn to “Gremlins,” lulled into a sense of security by the cute Furby-looking Gizmo, but they’ll come out entertained and afraid of innocent looking animals. With enough humor to balance out the horror, “Gremlins” shouldn’t cause too many sleepless nights.

Do you agree with our list? What other horror movies would you dare show your kids? For more entertaining top 10s published daily, don’t forget to subscribe to

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