Happy first Friday of October! Like many people, October gets me excited for all things fall and spooky. But for me, I prefer less slasher horror and instead things that are more fun and scary, which we all know Disney does too well. Disney has plenty of entertainment out there to get you into the Halloween spirit so I thought it would be fun to make a handy list of the best Disney films to watch this month. Here at the DisInsider we focus primarily on movies, so I am going to be discussing only theatrically released feature films that are either directly Halloween related, or spooky in nature. That means I won’t be talking about DCOMS, shorts, or TV specials. I will be listing and discussing ten films that I have chosen in no particular order.
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks– To start off our list, we have Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Though this film is not as scary as others on the list, it is perfect for October because it offers Angela Lansbury as a good witch and the adventures she and three children go on. Much in the vein of Mary Poppins, there is a charming mix of live action and animation as well as some delightful songs by The Sherman Brothers. This is a great way to celebrate the month of October with little ones who may not be ready for the scarier Disney titles.
- Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain– These Disney classics from the 1970’s are about two kids with psychic powers. Featuring paranormal and science fiction themes, they are well suited for this time of year. I loved these films growing up and I remember Christopher Lee and Bette Davis being particularly well cast as the villains in Return from Witch Mountain. A sequel/spin-off was made many years later starring Dwayne Johnson, but it is not as memorable as the originals.
- The Black Cauldron– For animation fans, look no further than Disney’s biggest flop: The Black Cauldron. This movie was the first Disney animated film to secure a PG rating and one can instantly see why. Not only are the images often terrifying, but The Horned King is a seriously scary, and underrated, Disney villain. Fans of The Lord of the Rings as well as fantasy in general will find much to enjoy here.
- Something Wicked This Way Comes– This film is based on the book of the same name by Ray Bradbury. It is a dark fantasy film that takes place late October and is about a traveling carnival led by the fittingly named proprietor Mr. Dark. With a cast consisting of Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce, this movie has a lot going for it, despite being a flop upon its release in 1983. This is geared towards slightly older kids as not only are some of the images quite scary, but there are themes such as fatherhood and growing old that young children may not grasp or appreciate.
- The Watcher in the Woods– This is a supernatural horror film released first in 1980 and then rereleased in 1981, with a new ending. Bette Davis stars as an old woman who oversees a family that moves into a home that she owns. Supernatural things begin to occur and the mystery of who this woman is begins to unravel. This is another dark PG-rated film from Disney, though not Halloween related specifically, is fitting for the season. Unfortunately it is unavailable to rent digitally, but is available on DVD.
- Return to Oz– This is a sequel to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, but from Disney rather than Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Surprisingly, Disney took a much darker turn with Frank L. Baum’s source material including several characters and visuals that are genuinely nightmare-inducing. This makes it perfect for Halloween time, with the character of Jack Pumpkinhead resembling Jack Skellington of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
- The Haunted Mansion– Based on the Disney attraction of the same name, The Haunted Mansion was released the same year as the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. Though the latter went on to become an incredibly successful franchise, The Haunted Mansion was panned by critics and audiences alike. For fans of the ride however, there are plenty of things to enjoy and it is a fun family film that is both spooky and funny. A remake of this has been in development for a long time, to be directed by Guillermo De Toro. Hopefully, we will see that film one day.
- Frankenweenie– Besides The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie is the quintessential Tim Burton film. Originally rejected by Disney in the 1980’s, it was made as a live action short film instead which only got released on VHS. Fast forward to 2013, Burton got to see his vision come to fruition as a feature length animated film of Frankenweenie was released to theaters. For fans of Burton and animated films alike, Frankenweenie makes for an excellent Halloween film.
- Hocus Pocus– Though released in July, this 1993 Disney classic is shown every year in many homes during Halloweentime and it is easy to see why. This fun-filled movie is a Halloween treat with a cast led by Bette Midler and has a great atmosphere. It follows the story of the Sanderson sisters who feed off of the life of children and have been brought back by a young boy in the 1990’s. After this happens, he has to race to get rid of them before the end of Halloween night to save the lives of kids throughout town. This, along with the next entry on the list, are the most popular Disney Halloween films to date.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas– To conclude this list, we have Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Many Disney fans are already familiar with this classic film, but for those who aren’t, it is something that everyone should expierence. Originally released by Touchstone Pictures in 1994, and only later becoming part of the mainstream Disney brand, it has since become a cult classic resulting in an abundance of merchandise, a large presence in the Disney parks, and a popular favorite in which to do cosplays. With its lovely musical score and beautiful stop-motion animation, it is a landmark film for Disney and animation in general. It may not be for everyone, but it definitely is for a lot of people and I believe it deserves the popularity that it has gained over the years.
Happy watching everyone!