Halloween can be a fun festival to enjoy with kids, but a lot of Halloween themed movies are, naturally, on the scary side. If you're looking for some witchy films to watch for Halloween that are more family friendly and less likely to cause nightmares, these five movies are a great place to start.
1. Hocus Pocus (1993)
The Sanderson sisters.
This 1993 Disney film tells the story of the Sanderson sisters, three witches in Salem who are hanged for witchcraft and kidnapping and killing children. Before they die, one of the witches creates a curse that will allow the sisters to rise again when summoned by a virgin.
300 years later, Max (Omri Katz), a sceptical teenager from LA, inadvertently summons the sisters while trying to impress Allison (Vinessa Shaw, yes, it really is Vinessa with an 'i'). The children then have until dawn to stop the Sanderson sisters from drinking the life essence of Max's little sister, Dani (Thora Birch) and all the other children in Salem. Hocus Pocus has become a bit of a cult classic, and it is easy to see why. For the kids, there's a plucky 8-year old heroine and a talking cat. For adults, the campiness is a lot of fun. The Sanderson sisters, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy, really steal the show. To quote my 10-year old, "The witches are cool. I kind of want them to win. As long as Dani doesn't get hurt."
2. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
During the Blitz, three young British children are relocated to the country to stay with a woman named Miss Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), who is secretly studying to become a witch through a correspondence course. When the children find out about this, Miss Price bribes them not to tell anyone by giving them an enchanted bed knob, which, when turned, will take them anywhere they want to go. When a platoon of Nazis arrive and take Miss Price and the children prisoner, she must use her magic to fight back.
This Disney classic shares a lot of similarities with Mary Poppins, with the children being looked after by a mysterious woman who takes them to strange places populated by cartoon animals. It also has nazis, enchanted armour and a lot of songs, and played my childhood on fairly high rotation until the tape wore out.
The special effects look a little dated nowadays, but having grown up watching a lot of Doctor Who that kind of thing doesn't bother me as long as the story is good, and it is. My kids didn't seem to mind either. The film was restored in 1996 and a new special DVD edition called Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Enchanted Musical Edition was released in 2009.
The trailer will give you an idea of how bananas it is.
3. Kiki's Delivery Service(1989)
According to tradition, at the age of 13, young witches in training must go out into the world and earn their own living for a year. She moves to a new town with only her black cat, Jiji, for company and opens a courier service, flying packages to customers on her broomstick.
Kiki's Delivery Service is an adorable film with a heroine you can cheer for. It was written, produced and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the creator of My Neighbour Totoro, Ponyo and Princess Mononoke, among many other films. It is a beautiful coming of age movie, devoid of violence and nastiness. As noted by Miyazaki himself, unusually for a film about a girl with magical powers, Kiki can't just use her powers to fix all her problems. Instead, she has to rely on her own intelligence and resourcefulness.
A young man named Tristan lives in a town called Wall, where a low stone wall separates the town from a mysterious place no-one ever visits. When he sees a falling star, Tristan promises Victoria, the girl he is in love with, that he will cross the wall, find the star and bring it back to her. Things get complicated when it turns out that the star is in the shape of a woman, named Yvaine. Three witches are also hunting for Yvaine, hoping to eat her heart in order to restore their youth. The princes of the Kingdom of Stormhold are also hunting for Yvaine because she holds the gem they need to claim the throne.
Stardust was directed by Matthew Vaughn, and based on the novel of the same name written by Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline, The Sandman, Lucifer and American Gods). It has stellar cast (no pun intended), featuring Michelle Pfeiffer as the witch, Lamia, Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare, Claire Danes as Yvaine and Ian McKellen as the narrator.
This one has a bit more violence in it, so it might be better suited for older kids, but should be okay with parental guidance, since it's about as scary as the average fairy tale. It has a flying pirate ship, duels, magic, and of course, witches.
It would seem remiss not to mention this timeless classic. Based on the children's book by Frank L. Baum, it is the story of Dorothy (played by Judy Garland), a simple farm girl from Kansas who is caught in a tornado and transported to the magical land of Oz, where she goes on a quest to find her way home, making friends along the way.
Billie Burke as Glinda the Good, looking like she has a LOT of toilet rolls stashed under that frock.
Skipping past the problematic association of beauty with goodness and ugliness with evil, this film has a lot going for it and if its enduring popularity is anything to go by, it is likely to be remembered for many years to come.