Best Disney Halloween Movies, Ranked
Fall is officially underway, which means it’s time to celebrate all things spooky in anticipation of the upcoming Halloween holiday. One great way to celebrate is to gather around the television with a mug of hot apple cider and revisit all of the best Halloween films. Now, Christmas is generally the biggest holiday for classic films. After all, there’s no competing with Elf or Home Alone when it comes to holiday movie traditions. However, Halloween certainly has its own fair share of classic films with cult followings that can make for a great tradition.
Disney is especially fruitful when it comes to finding a Halloween film suitable for any audience. If you’re looking for a fun, entertaining film filled with the Halloween spirit, but that shies away from the gore and horror, Disney has a perfect array of films for you. A lot of these films are more than just kid-friendly Halloween films and are surprisingly darkly humorous, brimming with the Halloween spirit, or boasting innovative and impressive animation. Here 8 of the best Disney Halloween movies, ranked from pretty good to the absolute best.
8. Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion was one of Disney’s first attempts at adapting a theme park attraction into a film, and it turned out pretty well. The Haunted Mansion premiered in 2003 and follows a successful realtor and workaholic Jim Evers (Eddie Murphey). Accused of neglecting his family for work, he suggests a family vacation to the lake to make up for his absences. However, the Evers family ends up taking a slight detour to check out a mansion its inhabitants are looking to sell. The home ends up being a haunted mansion, though, and the Evers are tasked with lifting its curse to free its restless, ghostly inhabitants.
The Haunted Mansion is a fun and silly option if you’re looking for a Halloween film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a bit predictable, with a rather thin plot, but the special effects on the zombies and ghosts are surprisingly well done and the film boasts humor and some heartwarming family moments. It’s not the best Disney Halloween film out there, but it’s enough to evoke a few laughs and get into the Halloween spirit.
You probably know Tia and Tamera Mowry from the hit series Sister, Sister from 1994–1999, but in 2005, they hit the Disney Channel the fun Halloween flick Twitches. The film follows twin witches Alex (Tia Mowry) and Cam (Tamera Mowry), who were separated at birth and adopted by different families, but reunited on their 21st birthday. Upon their reunion, they delve into their family history and magical powers, realizing they are the only hope for saving their birth world and birth mother.
Twitches is a light-hearted and humorous Halloween film that actually goes much deeper than most audiences might expect. It is simultaneously funny, charming, sad, and heartwarming, as it explores the tale of two sisters who find they have enough light and love inside themselves to destroy the darkness that threatens their home and their family. Twitches does boast some fantasy clichés, and its plot is suspiciously similar to Sister, Sister, but it still has enough magic to make it a compelling and sweet Halloween film.
6. Under Wraps
Under Wraps is a Disney Channel comedy-horror film that premiered in 1997. It recently received a remake in 2021, but it couldn’t quite compare to the classic 1997 film. Under Wraps follows a group of teenagers who run into an ancient Egyptian mummy, Harold (Bill Fagerbakke), who has risen from the dead. The friends quickly befriend the mummy, but soon learn that if he isn’t returned to his sarcophagus before midnight on Halloween, he will cease to exist altogether.
Under Wraps is, undeniably, a Disney Halloween classic that is still revisited decades after its release for those seeking a big dose of nostalgia. It’s both a sweet and innocent coming-of-age film and a comedy bursting with Halloween shenanigans, reminiscent of other Halloween family favorites such as Halloweentown and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Meanwhile, the acting, theme, and Halloween angle are surprisingly well done for a rather low-budget film. Ultimately, it’s a film funny enough for children and sweet enough to appeal to adults that remains just as relatable and relevant today as it did 25-years ago.
5. Don’t Look Under the Bed
Don’t Look Under the Bed is sometimes referred to as the scariest Disney Halloween film. The film premiered in 1999 and follows Frances Bacon McCausland (Erin Chambers), a smart and responsible teen whose life is going pretty smoothly until a series of pranks occurs in her town and she is believed to be the culprit. She begins seeing her younger brother’s imaginary friend, Larry Houdini (Eric “Ty” Hodges II), who convinces her she is being framed by the Bogeyman (Steven Valentine). The Bogeyman lives under McCausland’s bed and is an imaginary friend whose creator stopped believing in him too soon.
Don’t Look Under the Bed is a bit of an anomaly in Disney films, considering it actually is a little bit scary. The first half isn’t too bad, but then Houdini starts undergoing a very creepy bodily transformation into a Bogeyman—not to mention, McCausland’s brother gets kidnapped by another Bogeyman, sending McCausland into the dark and creepy world of Bogeyland. In addition to the dark tone and scary Bogeyman designs, the film also delves into the idea of growing up and enjoying adulthood, while also maintaining a sense of childlike wonder and innocence. It’s a surprisingly mature film that will offer a little more creepiness and a plot with a little more substance than most Disney Halloween films.
Coco technically isn’t a Halloween film, as it revolves around Día de Muertos, but it’s still a great film to watch around Halloween season. The film premiered in 2017 and follows Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) a young boy who dreams of being a famous musician one day. This is pretty difficult to do, though, considering his family has banned all music after his great-great grandfather walked out on his wife and young daughter to pursue his music career. When Miguel is accidentally transported into the Land of the Dead, he has only a short time to find his musician grandfather, unravel his family’s history, and return once more to the living world.
Coco is a bold and beautiful celebration of Mexican culture and is also very educational for those outside of that culture, as it delves into Día de Muertos. The music is excellent, the animation is breathtaking, and the story is both heartbreaking and hopeful. It’s a great departure from the typical Halloween clichés, a unique exploration of Día de Muertos, and an overall great film to mix into your Halloween/fall traditions.
Halloweentown is among Disney’s top Halloween classics. Not only has been revisited annually since its premiere in 1998, but it also spawned 3 sequels. Of course, nothing quite compares to the magic of the original film. The film follows Marnie Piper (Kimberly J. Brown) and her siblings, who are always barred from celebrating Halloween by their mother. This is because their mother, Gwen (Judith Hoag), and grandmother, Aggie (Debbie Reynolds) are secretly witches, but Gwen wishes to leave her family history behind her. However, on her 13th birthday, Marnie discovers she, too, is a witch, and she and her siblings travel to Halloweentown, a place where mystical creatures and monsters live in harmony.
Halloweentown is a very entertaining and heartwarming film that is filled with the Halloween spirit. It boasts all the fun Halloween elements—witchcraft, curses, and mystical creatures—and encourages everyone to embrace the fun holiday. Halloween is a highly targeted holiday when it comes to overbearing parents who wish to ban its existence. However, Halloweentown is a gentle reminder of what Halloween looks like from the eyes of a child and that nothing about it has to be evil. There can even be good witches and vampires and monsters who live together peacefully.
2. Hocus Pocus
Hocus Pocus is one of Disney’s most iconic Halloween films. The film first premiered in 1993 and follows the Sanderson sisters—three witches who died in Salem, MA, in the 1600s. However, on Halloween night in 1993, they are accidentally resurrected by a teenage boy, Max (Omri Katz). When the sisters seek to suck the life force out of children to maintain their resurrection, it is up to Max and his friends to stop them.
Hocus Pocus is a hilarious and wildly entertaining, as well as family-friendly, Halloween film. The premise of the film is unique, the Sanderson sisters are equal parts wicked and hilarious, and the performances and musical score are very compelling. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are absolutely phenomenal as they portray the witches who vary between being downright wicked, buffoonish, or melodramatic. Meanwhile, no matter what age you are, Hocus Pocus will have you laughing out loud. It’s no wonder that Hocus Pocus’ reception has improved over the years, to the point that it has gained a cult following. It’s a Halloween film the entire family can watch, and it promises viewers a good time.
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas initially wasn’t a Disney film. Despite the film being the result of a deal between Tim Burton and Disney, Disney chose to initially release it via Touchstone Pictures because they thought it would be too scary for kids. However, following its success and its rise to become a cult classic, the film was re-issued as a Disney release, making it officially Disney’s best Halloween film. (Though issues have been raised with the film’s villain.)
The animated stop-motion musical follows Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon & Danny Elf), the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. Every year, Halloween Town throws the biggest Halloween celebration, which they spend the entire year planning. However, when Jack discovers Christmas, he decides Halloween Town will take over the holiday that year.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is, arguably, one of the best Christmas/Halloween films ever made. The stop-motion animation results in The Nightmare Before Christmas being visually stunning. You will truly never see anything quite like the world that The Nightmare Before Christmas creates. Additionally, you will be wholly sucked into the fantastic music and the rather macabre, yet humorous and romantic, tale that plays out. The Nightmare Before Christmas is ghoulish enough to be enjoyed on Halloween, or eerily poignant enough to be enjoyed before Christmas, too. Either way, it’s a seasonal film that is unique and entertaining, with stunning visuals and a fantastic soundtrack.
(featured image: Disney)
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