Kat and Raú from Wendell & Wild. lmage: Netflix.

The Best Gateway Horror Films Like ‘Coraline’

Coraline is among the most iconic children’s gateway horror films. For those of you not familiar, gateway horror is your first introduction to the scary genre. Whether it was pouring over a copy of Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark at a slumber party or an older sibling showing you a Friday the 13th film when you were too young, gateway horror is your first experience with all things spooky. And while Coraline is a classic, it is far from the only iconic children’s Halloween film (animated or not). Here are our top picks for family-friendly Halloween films like Coraline.

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10. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Dreamworks)

If you’re looking for a spooky film for younger kids, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a fun romp with classic British characters. The plot features fun references to iconic horror characters like The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, and King Kong, but the film itself is more focused on serving laughs and serving them well.

9. ParaNorman

Norman and a ghost in 'Paranorman'.
(Focus Features)

A film by Laika, the stop-motion studio that produced Coraline, ParaNorman is about a boy named Norman who sees dead people and uses that power to break a witch’s curse on his town. For the kids and young people who love horror and weird things, this movie is for you. The 2012 film is also one of the first animated movies to feature a queer character (yay!) voiced by Casey Affleck (boo!).

8. Monster House

Three kids pour over a map in 'Monster House'.
(Sony Pictures Releasing)

Monster House is another film for young horror lovers, though I would warn against showing this film to super young kids. This movie scared me as a kid and even now, it’s a creepy film with impressive animation for the time period and indie studio budget. The film has multiple terrifying set pieces, all of which lead to the explosive climax. Also, the background of the house and its owner is honestly terribly tragic, though it does leave the question of why the old man didn’t just put up a fence around the yard.

7. James and the Giant Peach

James and the bugs from James and the Giant Peach
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

A Henry Selick stop-motion movie, this film is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved book of the same name. The claymation version of James does look a bit uncanny, but the relationship between James and the bugs is adorable. James and the spider are my favorite of the two. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the Jack Skellington cameo in the pirate ship scene.

6. Matilda

Miss Honey and Matilda smile at each other while sitting in a parlor in "Matilda"
(Sony Pictures Releasing)

There are two main versions of the film you can enjoy: Danny DeVito’s film from 1996 and the recent film adaptation of the musical. Both movies are incredibly fun and have tense scenes reminding the viewers how terrifying it can be to be a kid at the mercy of the adults of the world. Still, Matilda, like Coraline, has nerves of steel and is able to get through it all thanks to her cunning and intelligence (and a little magic to help).

5. 9 (2009)

Stitchpunks from the animated film 9 (2009)
(Focus Features)

If you want something a little more on the horrific/disturbing side, 9 is as beautifully animated as it is horrifying to watch. In a plot straight out of The Terminator, humanity has been destroyed by machines turned against them. The only hope for the world comes in the form of 9 “Stitchpunk” humanoid rag-dolls, and even then, humanity itself is already long gone.

4. Corpse Bride

A sickly Victorian man walks up the isle of a spooky church with his zombie bride to be in "Corpse Bride"
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Unfortunately, this movie does erase the history of this originally Jewish folktale. However, the film is still hauntingly gorgeous, with lovely music to match. I know everyone ships Emily and Victor, but Victoria is no slouch either. How many proper Victorian ladies make bedsheet ladders to escape confinement? Also, Lord Barkis is one of the most hateable villains in animation, and seeing him get dragged away by the dead is cathartic, to say the least.

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas
(Wat Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Another reminder: Burton’s name may be on it, but Henry Selick was the one who directed this iconic film. This movie is for Halloween AND Christmas, and I don’t trust anyone who tries to put it in a single category. Danny Elfman (yes, iconic composer Danny Elfman) gives an incredible performance as the singing voice of Jack Skellington and steals practically every scene. From the character design to the colors to the music to the animation, every aspect makes TNBC a true classic of children’s Halloween films. Watch it now or in December, but just watch it if you haven’t already.

2. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Pinocchio standing in a bright forest in Guillermo del Toro's 'Pinocchio'

Over a decade in the making, this masterpiece was well worth the wait. Every moment is hand-crafted and beautifully executed. I know Disney’s original animated Pinnochio (1940) is often considered the definitive version, but this movie is superior in almost every respect. Guillermo del Toro should have been nominated for best director for this film, and it’s a crime that he wasn’t.

1. Wendell & Wild

Kat and Raú from Wendell & Wild. lmage: Netflix.

This movie did not get the attention it deserved when it came out. Directed by Henry Selick, written and produced by Jordan Peele, with Peele and Keegan-Michael Key voicing the main characters?! This movie needs to have a cult following already. I will say that this movie is geared towards a slightly older audience of adolescents instead of young kids, but it can and should still be enjoyed by most age groups.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.