22 of the Best Disney Movies To Watch for Halloween
Thrills and chills are in the air as the Halloween season gets underway in full swing. And what better way to get into the spirit than by watching a lot of ghoulishly good spine-tingling movies? And yes, we’re talking about Disney movies, reputedly known for delivering on traditional heart-warming family-friendly quality. You may be mystified by the possibility of scary screams that can be enjoyed by all ages, but Disney has again managed to accomplish the seemingly impossible. From made-for-television Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) to mainstream feature films, here is our treat of recommending 22 creepy crawly classics with none of the tricks.
22. Lonesome Ghosts
If you’re going for classic Disney, it doesn’t get any more classic than this animated thrill from 1937. It’s triple chills for three of the Disney Fab Five characters you know and love so well—Mickey, Donald, and Goofy—as they take on roles working as the Ajax Ghost Exterminators. Their latest assignment, delivered via telephone, is to visit a haunted house and drive out four resident ghosts. Little do they know, however, is the fact that it was the ghosts themselves who contacted them out of loneliness and boredom. While this film is our oldest recommendation on the list, it is a timeless classic that can be enjoyed across the board by younger generations as well as older folks.
21. The Halloweentown franchise
The Disney Channel Original Movie Halloweentown, which originally premiered back in 1998, has become a newer classic over the last few decades and remains a seasonal highlight to be enjoyed this time of year. Featuring late iconic actress Debbie Reynolds in her role as a doting witchy grandmother, the first film focuses on the discovery three children make that they are from a long line of witches—a fact their mother had hoped to hide from them until they reached maturity and lost their magical abilities. The success and interest in the story prompted several sequels, including Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge (2001), Halloweentown High (2004), and Return to Halloweentown (2006). All these movies make excellent recommendations for anyone looking to unwind with a Halloweentown-themed marathon.
One witch is a lot to handle, but its double the trouble when twins Tia and Tamera Mowry discover their witchy ways in the Disney Channel Original Movie Twitches, released in 2005. Based on the book series of the same name, the storyline follows two girls, separated at birth and adopted by different families, who discover their powers and each other around their 21st birthday (on Halloween, of course). And with this discovery comes a whole newly discovered history and equally new adventures to be had. Disney followed up this film with a sequel—Twitches Too, which aired two years later in 2007. Consider watching both for an extra treat that’s twice as nice.
While not officially counted as Halloween-themed movies per se, Disney’s many different Witch Mountain-themed movies over the years do embrace two undeniable facts—they center around twins with superpowers and they have the word “witch” in their titles. Disney’s first film—Escape to Witch Mountain in 1975 was based on the 1968 book of the same title. A sequel came out in 1978—Return from Witch Mountain. There were also two made-for-television films following the story arc—Beyond Witch Mountain (1982) and Escape to Witch Mountain (1995). Perhaps one of the most popular installments, however, was the loosely inspired and somewhat reimagined adaptation Race to Witch Mountain, which came out in 2009 and stars Dwayne Johnson. Avid fans and movie buffs will also notice that the two stars of the original make cameo appearances in this version. So while these movies feature no ghosts, monsters, or witches in the traditional sense, the extraterrestrial theme still earns them space in our Halloween recommendation lineup.
18. The Cat From Outer Space
Another extraterrestrial-themed pick is this Disney classic from 1978, which features a feline that’s just out of this world. From a telekinetic collar to the ability to communicate with humans, and all that UFO-themed frenzying thrown into the mix, this is another admittedly un-Halloween highlight that fits perfectly with the seasonal theming. And at least you get to enjoy the antics of a cat, even if it isn’t a black cat.
17. The Ghosts of Buxley Hall
Willful spirits do battle with one another in this spooky comedy from 1980, which originally aired as a two-part television special presented via Disney’s Wonderful World. The story follows a century-old military academy that, upon falling on financial hardship, has been forced to merge with a girl’s school. This causes a stir within the once at-peace ghosts within the academy walls, now suffering severe unrest with the living and each other.
16. The Haunted Mansion
From haunted schools to haunted houses, there’s just something fun about spooky old places brimming with spirits that are arguably far more lively than the living in most cases. That’s why the Haunted Mansion attraction at various Disney Parks around the world remains a timeless fan favorite. It even inspired the 2003 Disney film of the same name, starring Eddie Murphy as a realtor who just got real scared. It’s a warm, light-hearted family comedy that pays homage to all the elements of the beloved attraction while delivering a creatively etched new arc revolving around a family that finds themselves in the most unexpected overnight accommodations.
15. Tower of Terror
This is another film based on a major Disney Park attraction, which was itself based on the classic television anthology The Twilight Zone, hosted by Rod Serling. This made-for-television movie, which first premiered as a Wonderful World of Disney presentation back in 1997, stars Steven Gutenberg and Kirsten Dunst and centers around a unique original theme designed more so around the Disney attraction’s plot elements rather than The Twilight Zone series. Watch as skeptics become believers and ultimately aid trapped spirits in their quest to resolve conflict and right fateful wrongs. Be sure to look closely, as some of scenes in the film were actually filmed on location at the Hollywood Studios Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction in Disney World.
If you want to keep up with the idea of the living aiding the dead by resolving conflict and taking care of unfinished business, then consider this made-for-television throwback from 2002. When two siblings move to their recently deceased grandfather’s town, they soon discover for themselves that the past is not in the past, but very much alive still. Furthermore, their grandfather needs their help even beyond the grave. From ghostly acquaintances from other times to one sinister soul with an agenda driven by power at the expense of others, this is a great family-friendly Halloween pick to unwind with.
13. Phantom of the Megaplex
This 2000 Disney Channel production loosely incorporates some elements from the classic Phantom of the Opera storyline but is essentially its own one-of-a-kind original theme. The film focuses on a teen who loves his job working as assistant manager for his community’s historic 26-screen grand megaplex. In helping to prepare for a new upcoming premier event, it’s soon discovered that a whole new slew of supernatural problems can arise when routine traditions are altered. Famed late film legend Mickey Rooney also appears in this work as “Movie Mason.”
This 2012 Tim Burton film, produced using stop motion animation and presented entirely in black and white, explores the darker themes of life and death and the loss of a pet. When the unthinkable happens, and young Victor Frankenstein’s best friend and companion Sparky—a bull terrier—tragically passes away, the brilliant young boy determines to do the impossible—bring his dog back to life. Relying on what he learns at school and through the incorporation of electricity, Victor is able to resurrect his beloved dog. But with the secrets of life and death now out there for the world to see, a whole new can of worms is soon opened. Frankenweenie is a remake of a short film by the same name from 1984, also created by Tim Burton.
11. Under Wraps
This 1997 film is a classic in its own right, known to be the first official Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM). Things start unraveling in the most unexpected ways when three kids discover an Egyptian mummy buried in the basement of a reportedly dead man’s house. What’s more, the alignment of the moon, season, and other elements create the perfect storm needed to raise said mummy from its dormant state of being! This is a great throwback film that never gets old, even if one of its key players is admittedly the most antiquated scary movie element of all.
10. Mom’s Got A Date With A Vampire
It can be a major adjustment when a single parent begins dating again, but nothing can prepare you for the unforeseeable possibility that this new significant other may not be all that human. In this Disney Channel Original Movie from 2000, two grounded siblings are at first glad at the prospect that their mother is otherwise occupied with a new date. But when their younger brother brings to light the fact that Mom’s new man is really a bloodsucking vampire (something they obviously do not at first believe), opinions quickly change and the siblings must band together to save their mother at all costs.
9. Girl Vs. Monster
So far we’ve seen ghosts, witches, aliens, mummies, vampires, and reanimated corpses, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In this more recent DCOM from 2012, a teen discovers that she’s a fifth-generation monster hunter—a fact that her parents have gone to great lengths to kept hidden from her her entire life. But all that changes one Halloween night when adolescent interests and plans with friends influence her fateful decision to sneak out, disobey, and in turn come face-to-face with her own monsters, quite literally.
8. Invisible Sister
This 2015 Disney Channel hit tells the tale of two sisters—one who feels like she’s invisible and one who, quite literally, turns invisible. Halloween gets a little buggy when a brilliant girl’s science experiment involving an invisible moth goes wrong, resulting in her sister accidentally drinking the moth and becoming invisible. From transparent laughs to moral messages about learning about one another—getting to really “see who they are” in a sense, this is an excellent watch for families, especially siblings.
There’s a real trending zombie fad that’s been going strong over the past few years. So is it any wonder that Disney would produce its own movie following such a theme? Released in 2018 as a DCOM musical, the plot follows that tradition time-tested theme about overcoming divisions, adversity, and falling for someone who is deemed by society as not being your type. In this case, the central players are a human cheerleader and a zombie football player. The hit success of the first film prompted a sequel—Zombies II, which came out in early 2020, inviting even more monsters into the mix with an added werewolf storyline.
6. Don’t Look Under the Bed
The name of this 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie offers some pretty sound advice for anyone hoping to avoid a face-to-face encounter with the one and only Boogeyman. But for this film’s female protagonist, the Boogeyman’s antics are undeniable and unavoidable, especially when the pranks he plays all around town land blame directly to her door. From wrongful accusations to discovering a new “imaginary” friend that serves as an ally, this is an interesting yet underrated throwback to consider watching with friends and family this Halloween.
5. Monsters, Inc.
For Halloween you can’t overlook a film franchise that’s all about monsters—especially when it’s a renowned mainstream hit like Disney·Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. Released in theaters back in 2001, the movie centers around two monsters—Sulley (James P. Sullivan) and Mike Wazowski, who are best friends and fellow workers at an energy-producing factory known as Monsters, Inc. The factory is powered by the fear that’s caused through scaring human children—a species believed to be toxic in the monster world. So when a human child manages to find her way into Monsters, Inc., it’s up to Mike and Sulley to get her out and return her back home. A prequel, Monsters University, came out in 2013, telling the backstory of how Mike and Sulley became friends in college. There have also been several short film releases as well. So if you’re looking to host a Halloween movie marathon that’s more humor than horror, the Monsters, Inc. franchise is an excellent suggestion.
While this 2017 Disney·Pixar film is more arced around the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos), which actually occurs a day after Halloween, it still has all the thematic elements of a great Halloween film. You’ve got skeletons, family members who passed away long ago, and the whole plot about accidentally crossing over to the spirit world and needing to find a way to return to the living. That’s the major dilemma the 12-year-old protagonist Miguel faces as a result of following his forbidden dream of music—one which his family has long ago banned since his great-great-grandfather’s own musical love was what initially led him to abandon his wife and daughter (Miguel’s grandmother Coco). From unraveling new secrets to rediscovering a love for family and traditions, Coco is an excellent movie to get you into the spirit.
3. Spooky Buddies
The Air Bud franchise and its many lighthearted Air Buddies-based sequels encompass every season, mood, and interest. So it goes without saying that there’s a Halloween-themed installment as well. In this direct-to-video watch from 2011 everyone’s favorite five retriever pups—Budderball, Mudbud, Rosebud, B-Dawg, and Buddha are back on a spooky Halloween-themed adventure, following a unique new storyline involving ghosts and a “Halloween Hound.” So if you’re looking for a more dog-lover approach to the Halloween holiday, you can’t go wrong with Spooky Buddies.
2. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
This feature-length stop motion animated hit from 1993 has withstood the test of time, remaining one of the most popular holiday picks for audiences new and old alike. It’s also a multi-holiday interest piece, appropriate for both Halloween and Christmas time. Transcend into the dark world of Halloween Town, led by the town’s king—Jack Skellington the skeleton. As Jack secretly grows bored and restless by the same repeat traditions, he longs for something new to change up the mood and spirit of the community. That change comes in the form of Christmas spirit, following an accidental stumbling into Christmas Town. Inspired by the hopes, cheer, and new traditions he discovers there, Jack sets out to bring Christmas to Halloween Town and initially take over Christmas altogether. This film is the ultimate modern classic that should be on everyone’s Halloween watch list.
1. Hocus Pocus
This other frightfully fun feature film, originally released to theaters back in July of 1993, may well be the very epitome of modern Halloween classics. While it can no longer be coined a modern movie by any means, this cult classic has been a hit for close to three decades and actually continues to grow in popularity with every passing year. The film takes good old colonial witch trial lore and brews up an all-new concoction, balancing anticipated yet enjoyable familiarity with originality. Here you have three sinister sisters of a witchy nature, back from the dead after 300 years, with an agenda to continue their controversial practices of sacrificing children in order to remain young and vital. Then you have three 90s kids out to stop them with the help of a talking cat. All of this occurs on Halloween night of all nights. It’s the perfect pairing of traditional witching hour fantasy mixed with the never-out-of-style adolescent drama of having siblings, crushes, and adjusting to a new town. If you haven’t seen this one yet then you have to add it to the very top of your must-watch list.
While these selections are our top picks for Halloween movie watching, there are admittedly many other Disney features that focus on the Halloween theme. For those with limited time or who simply cannot commit to an all-out motion picture marathon, there are plenty of delightful shorter featurettes to consider. Some of these highlights include The Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad from 1949, Toy Story of Terror! from 2013, Mater and the Ghostlight from 2006, and various Mickey Mouse shorts dating back to Disney’s much earlier decades. And don’t forget about the iconic 1929 Skeleton Dance! Whatever you choose to watch, when you keep it Disney you can guarantee plenty of happy hauntings this Halloween.