Back in the ’80s and ’90s, there were a wealth of creepy comedy-horror movies designed specifically to scare the heck out of kids. These days, however, the sub-genre has largely fallen by the wayside.
Sure, we have 2009’s The Hole and 2015’s Goosebumps, which were both *this* close to making the final list, but it’s fair to say that getting your mitts on scary movies aimed at a young adult demographic is getting harder and harder. With that in mind, then, here are our picks for the top 10 best scary movies for 13-year-olds. Let’s get into it, shall we?
10. The Witches (1990)
Yes, we know there’s a new The Witches film that came out in 2020, and it’s actually pretty darn good. That said, if we had the choice, we’d always opt for the original Nicolas Roeg-directed classic every time.
Based on the famous children’s novel by Roald Dahl, The Witches tells the eerie tale of a global society of child-loathing witches who prey on innocent children. Anjelica Huston’s dementedly evil turn as the coven’s High Witch is a highlight, while Jim Henson Productions’ disturbing practical effects are still a sight to behold.
Forever burned into my memory, though, are the poor children whose souls have been trapped in the paintings forever. *shivers*
9. The Woman In Black (2012)
Speaking of movies based on books, The Woman in Black is another top-notch adaptation of literary source material. This one, however, is inspired by Susan Hill’s eponymous 1983 novel.
Further, another parallel with Roald Dahl’s The Witches is the fact that this is one of two filmic interpretations of the famous gothic horror story. Sure, 1989’s rendition is excellent, too, but we’d opt for James Watkins’ modern take thanks to Daniel Radcliffe’s surprisingly nuanced performance and the pic’s spine-chilling atmosphere.
Interestingly, the production got into a little bit of hot water for being a bit too scary for its age rating here in the UK, so perhaps bear that in mind. Still, if your whippersnapper is made of tough stuff, this is a seriously creepy supernatural chiller that’ll have ’em reaching for the pillow in no time.
8. Tremors (1990)
Rather than the straight-up horror fare we’ve discussed so far, Tremors is undoubtedly more of a comedy-horror cocktail that’ll likely make you smile just as much as it makes you jolt in fear.
Indeed, Ron Underwood’s sci-fi creature-feature centers on a small town in the middle of Nevada that’s being hounded by giant killer extraterrestrial slugs that travel through the ground and can only “see” its prey through vibrations, hence the movie’s title.
With a charming ensemble cast, including the award-winning Kevin Bacon, Escape From Alcatraz’s Fred Ward, and Family Ties’ Michael Gross, Tremors has gone on to become a cult classic spawning an entire b-movie franchise. Still, we’d probably just recommend the first one if we’re being honest as the series takes a dramatic downturn with its many ill-conceived sequels.
7. Beetlejuice (1988)
Speaking of comedy-horrors, the batshit surreal and deliciously bonkers Beetlejuice wants to come and introduce itself.
Starring Batman’s Michael Keaton in a career-defining turn as a mischievous spirit with a penchant for chaos, accompanied by a fresh-faced Winona Ryder in one of her first ever film roles, Beetlejuice is a Tim Burton classic that eschews the traditional horror blueprint by delivering one of the most fiendishly unique pics that deals with life after death in ages.
In short, a must-watch for Tim Burton and Michael Keaton fans! Just make sure not to say his name three times, okay?
6. The Monster Squad (1987)
Fred Dekker’s tween-horror is full to the brim with schlocky practical effects and iconic monstrosities like Dracula, Frankenstein, and… a weird-looking fish-man, but it’s the chemistry between the ramshackle band of misfits at the heart of the movie that really helps make this phantasmal pic zing.
Much akin to a more child-friendly version of Stephen King’s It, the titular Monster Squad shares some of its DNA with the Losers Club and even The Goonies.
While its ’80s origins may show its age through a more modern lens, it’s still a super fun pic that will absolutely satiate that tween horror itch.
5. Gremlins (1984)
You’d be hard-pressed trying to find a movie that’s equal parts cute as it is creepy, but Gremlins definitely takes this idea and runs with it.
Centering on a boy called Billy (portrayed by Zach Galligan), who gets gifted an adorable critter named Mogwai as a Christmas present, Gremlins is a marvelously delectable black comedy that ultimately pits an assortment of pesky beasties against an unsuspecting town.
The twist is that Mogwai comes with three special rules: Don’t expose it to light, don’t let it come into contact with water, and, most importantly, don’t feed it after midnight. Of course, these rules are inadvertently broken which is the spark that ignites the impending mayhem.
It’s worth noting that there’s also a really great sequel to check out if you happen to enjoy the first one. Plus, a third film is allegedly in the works, too.
4. Ghostbusters (1984)
If you’ve been living under a rock these past few years, you may be one of only three people in the entire world who’s never seen Ivan Reitman’s ghost-battling action-comedy. Hey, that’s probably a good thing, as it means you get to witness the hilarious hijinks of the titular Ghostbusters in all their glory with fresh eyes. Honestly, we envy you.
With outstanding turns from Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Sigourney Weaver, along with some awesome practical special effects, Ghostbusters pits man vs. otherworldly spirits in a no holds barred battle over New York City. Oh, and it also boasts an iconic theme tune and even went on to spawn a multimillion-dollar franchise. Absolutely essential viewing!
3. Poltergeist (1982)
Arguably one of the most culturally impactful horror movies on this list, thanks to its impressive Academy Award nominations combined with the fact that it helped usher in an entirely new audience to the horror genre (it’s one of the only PG-rated horror films to go on to be both a critical and commercial success).
Interestingly, the general scuttlebutt surrounding Poltergeist is that it was largely directed by the one and only Steven Spielberg. You see, the King of Entertainment had a clause in his contract for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which stopped him from directing another movie while shooting the sci-fi family pic.
As a result, Spielberg came on board as a producer for Poltergeist but apparently spent much of his time overseeing the project in a directorial capacity.
Boasting one of the most disturbing scenes in the entire genre that’ll stick with you forever (I’m looking at you rip-your-face-off bathroom scene), Poltergeist is an iconic tale of supernatural terror that will get under your skin.
2. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
Sometimes, you just want to put on a scary movie to frighten the living crap out of yourself and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark fits the bill nicely.
A more YA-centric blend of the children’s-style supernatural horror of Goosebumps combined with the adult-focused terror from Stephen King’s It, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is ostensibly a creepy anthology of short, chilling stories that will likely make your tweens hide behind the safety of your sofa.
As this one’s a particularly terrifying experience, especially for younger folks, we recommend caution with this one. In other words, if you’re in the mood for a bloodcurdling experience (heck, who isn’t?), this film is for you.
1. Arachnophobia (1990)
If eight-legged critters give you the heebie-jeebies, this one will surely be the perfect nightmare fuel for you. Yes, Frank Marshall’s directorial debut, which centers on a deadly spider infestation within a small North American town, is an absolute doozie.
With a memorable opening sequence set in the isolated mountains of Venezuela, a sweeping orchestral score from The Dark Crystal’s Trevor Jones, wonderful turns from John Goodman as a cocky pest exterminator and Jeff Daniels as an endearingly affable spider-hating doctor, Arachnophobia is the gold standard for scary tween horror pics. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there’s even a modern remake in the pipeline, too. Just make sure to bring some bug spray, just in case.
So, that about wraps up our list for today. We hope this helped to clue you into the top 10 best scary movies for 13-year-olds. But tell us, how did you feel about our picks? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the usual place down below.
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