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Best Scary Movies for Tweens and Teenagers

Smells like teen hunger for horror.

possessed doris in Ouija: Origin of Evil

Speaking from experience, most horror fans already had a fascination with or budding love for horror as kids. Maybe we sneaked content as kids or browsed the horror sections of video stores, constantly feeling that desire to dive deep into the macabre. Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with allowing kids to watch horror with you. Of course, it’d be a bit much to allow a tween to watch Inside (2007), for example. I wouldn’t recommend that.

If you happen to have children or know loved ones that are tweens or young teens, then be smart with your recommendations. Don’t just recommend any film without considering what may be too intense. Think of movies like Coraline (2009) and maybe animated horror! This list, which I’ve separated by subgenre, may help you. Every one of these films is rated from PG–14A. Therefore, the list is more geared towards people under 17+.

Comedy horror

max, vicki, & duncan being freaked out in The Final Girls
(Stage 6 Films)

Out of all the subgenres in horror, horror comedies have a fair number of movies that are tween-young teen friendly. From the ’80s to our present day, there’s some gut-busting movies to check out. Believe me, I’d know, because horror comedy is in my top (insert a number) for subgenres. If you’re looking for something quirky with a horror icon as the lead? Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988). Want to sing along as you’re freaked out or cracking up? Little Shop of Horrors (1986). Looking for something a bit more modern as a recommendation? The Final Girls (2015). Below are some more recommendations:

  • Gremlins (1984)
  • Ghostbusters (1984)
  • Beetlejuice (1988)
  • Tremors (1990)
  • Death Becomes Her (1992)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
  • Hocus Pocus (1993)
  • Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
  • Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001)
  • Drag Me to Hell (2009)
  • The Visit (2015)
  • Happy Death Day (2017)
  • Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Supernatural horror

possessed doris in Ouija: Origin of Evil
(Universal Pictures)

In my eyes, there’s supernatural horror that won’t scare the shit out of kids is few and far between. At least tweens and early teens that scary easy. But all hope isn’t lost, folks! There’s a fair bit of modern supernatural horror that’s most suitable in this case. Remakes like The Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004) that aren’t perfect but get the job done. Want something that’s more original and effective as a PG-13 horror movie? Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) hands down! Other than those there are a few more (if they don’t satisfy then there’s nothing wrong with a Google search) recommendations:

  • Insidious franchise (2010 – 2018)
  • The Boy (2016)
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Psychological horror

zoey figuring something out in Escape Room
(Sony Pictures Releasing)

Let’s be real, psychological horror isn’t always everyone’s favorite subgenre. Sometimes everything that happens is merely in the head of the character(s), rendering scares to potentially be dampened upon a rewatch. Of course, there’s still some to check out. A remake like When a Stranger Calls (2006) is decent enough. Escape Room (2019) may satisfy your need for psychological horror that’s not too wild. It’s all up to what your taste is. There are some more recommendations below:

  • The Babadook (2014)
  • Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)
  • Run (2020)

Post-apocalyptic horror

the abbotts in A Quiet Place Part II
(Paramount Pictures)

Post-apocalyptic being PG-13 doesn’t work all the time. Often when we think of the end of the world, it’s a violent affair. But I can’t just leave you hanging right now. So let me be a cliché and mainly recommend A Quiet Place (2018) and A Quiet Place Part II (2021). Given the main focus of both films, it’s weird to remember that both are PG-13. They always feel more violent than they actually are. And the creatures are frightening enough. The premise is relatively straightforward as it’s about the end of the world, duh. Though the twist of having to be quiet or you’ll probably die is great.

Creature feature

jennifer in Sweetheart
(Universal Pictures)

You’d be hard pressed to find a GOOD creature feature that’s not rated R. You could watch the Anaconda franchise, but some of us remember those more fondly than they deserve. And I can’t exactly recommend Alien (1979), now can I? So therefore I’m left with recommending this effective gem. Sweetheart (2019) not only gives a Black woman as the lead, it’s also got an interesting creature. I’d recommend watching this in a dark room with your snacks of choice. Perfect PG-13 horror night.

(featured image: Universal Pictures)

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Vanessa Maki is a writer, visual artist & blk feminist. Her work has appeared in Pink Advocate, The Gay Gaze, & many others. For more, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theblackbuffy.