The Best PG-13 Horror Movies

Looking for scary movies for kids or teens, particularly horror movies rated PG-13 by the MPAA? If so, this list of PG-13 horror movies is perfect for you.

Now and Then (1995) is a coming of age film with a scary (but not too scary) subplot.

Are you looking for scary movies, particularly horror movies for teens that are rated PG-13 or under by the MPAA? Or just a movie to watch this Halloween that is not that explicit? This list is perfect for beginner audiences interested in the horror genre. We will give a brief summary of each movie, followed by an explanation for why it received a PG-13 or under rating.

Like Sheriff Judy Hicks in Scream (2022), not everyone enjoys violent horror movies! This list is meant to show family friendly scary movies and less gory horror movies to watch with your squeamish friends who just want a little taste of spooky.

The PG-13 rating first came into existence in July 1984 to distinguish between films where parents were merely advised to exercise caution with underage children—the “PG” stands for “Parental Guidance”—and films where parents were strongly advised to exercise caution if the child in question was under 13. This was the result of some films, such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins, only receiving PG ratings despite strong elements of violence. The first horror film to receive a PG-13 rating is thought to be Night of the Comet, a zombie satire released in November 1984.

Here are the best PG-13 and under horror movies to watch for a family movie night. You can also find scary Disney movies on our list of scary Disney films.

Best PG-13 Horror Movies

The Haunting (1963)

Martin Scorsese says this is his favorite horror film.

Not many people know that this classic horror movie is only rated G. The Haunting follows a group of people staying at the haunted Hill House at the request of Dr. John Markway, a paranormal investigator. Because the film relies on showing reactions to horror rather than depicting evil spirits in the house, it is appropriate for any viewer who can handle the scary atmosphere.

The 1999 adaptation of the same Shirley Jackson novel is rated PG-13.

Little Monsters (1989)

Fred’s brother Ben had his film debut in Little Monsters.

A comedy about a little boy (Fred Savage) who has just moved to a new house in the suburbs. He discovers a world of monsters under his bed. The movie is rated PG because the Playboy channel is briefly glimpsed on TV and a monster rips a kids head off.

Arachnophobia (1990)

Spider safety was a big concern on set and dummy spiders were created for scenes where they were squished.

The themes in this movie are adult, but the lack of violence and nudity make it a good family horror movie for parents to watch with older kids. A mutant species of prehistoric Venezuelan spiders are accidentally let loose in a small American town. Local family physician Ross Jennings and his wife Molly are ground zero for the spider outbreak and unfortunately Ross and his son both suffer from arachnophobia. There is partial nudity, some violence, and occasional coarse language.

Now and Then (1995)

Now and Then (1995) is a coming of age film with a scary (but not too scary) subplot.

Switching between 1991 and the 1970s, Now and Then is about four friends who grew up together in Indiana. The film mostly documents one summer when the girls worked to save up money to buy a tree house and solve a local murder mystery via graveyard séances. In 1991, the now adult women honor a promise to always be there for each other as one of them gives birth. As the main characters are tween girls, the film contains adolescent sex discussions.

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)

Zombie Island is dedicated to the original voice of Scooby Doo, Don Messick.

A beloved direct-to-video animated horror comedy that saw a slightly darker tone than typical Scooby Doo stories like the fact that it featured “real” zombies instead of all the villains simply being people in costumes. Still, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is rated G and has only mild (and animated) violence.

The Sixth Sense (1999)

One of the reasons Haley Joel Osment won the part of Cole is that he was the only boy who wore a tie to the audition.

A child psychologist (Bruce Willis) treats a disturbed 8-year-old boy named Cole (Haley Joel Osment) who believes he can see dead people. Indeed, the audience is given Cole’s perspective and can see the spirits as he encounters them while the psychologist finds other proof Cole’s visions are real. The Sixth Sense can be a very scary movie. It is rated PG-13 due to violence and occasional profanity. The Sixth Sense is also an example of how a moderate amount of blood and gore can be seen in PG-13 movies if it’s shown within the right context (as the image above shows).

What Lies Beneath (2000)

What Lies Beneath was filmed by Robert Zemeckis during the break in shooting Castaway (2000) created so that Tom Hanks could lose weight to portray a shipwrecked survivor.

Norman and Claire Spencer (Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer) are a couple of empty nesters in Vermont who are grieving their daughter Claire leaving for college. Alone in the house, Claire begins to believe the house is haunted. As she investigates, she uncovers a sinister secret buried in the family’s past. This movie is more appropriate for older teens as there is one sexual scene and the general content of the film is more “adult”. There is partial nudity, one F-bomb, and a few scatological references.

The Others (2001)

Director Alejandro Amenábar played scary music for the two child actors who played Nicole Kidman’s children in order to get them focused and in a fearful mood.

The Others is a scary movie that shows you don’t need violence to create suspense or even terror. It is remembered as one of the best haunted house movies of all time. Nicole Kidman stars as Grace Stewart, a woman living alone in a remote country estate with her two children at the end of WWII. Mild profanity, no gore, and an “implied” sex scene.

The Ring (2002)

The Ring (2002) is one of the classic horror movies coming to Netflix in April.

A journalist (Naomi Watts) investigates the story of a cursed videotape that causes anyone who watches it to die seven days later. When her son watches the cursed tape, her fervor to solve the mystery increases and she traces the curse back to the creepy Morgan family. This movie can be VERY scary and includes extreme violence and frequent profanity.

The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Richard Gere and Laura Linney also starred together in the legal thriller Primal Fear (1996).

After the death of his wife, Washington Post columnist John Klein becomes obsessed with the mothlike creature she was drawing. He traces the images back to a real life legend in Point Pleasant, West Virginia about the Mothman. A number of creepy events happen to John as he digs deeper into the legend. The film includes floating corpses, some violence, and brief instances of profanity.

Willard (2003)

Joaquin Phoenix and Macaulay Culkin both turned down the lead role of Willard.

A lonely young man develops an unhealthy obsession with his pet rats. This is a remake of a 1971 film, which is generally regarded as the superior film. One reference to masturbation, mild gore, and occasional cursing.

Van Helsing (2004)

Some scenes were filmed in Universal’s “Court of Miracles” the same place as many epic showdowns in classic Universal Monster movies.

An action-gothic-horror movie that continues the long tradition of stories inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Professional monster-hunter Van Helsing takes on Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein’s monster all at once. There is implied sex, some violence, and nine instances of religious exclamations that some would consider blasphemous.

The Skeleton Key (2005)

Many people have compared the plot of The Skeleton Key to Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2016).

A hospice worker in New Orleans leaves the city for a job at an isolated house in the bayou, but her new employer might be practicing a malevolent form of voodoo. The sides of a woman’s bare breasts are exposed in one scene. There is gore, occasional profanity, and one derogatory racial term.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Jennifer Carpenter spent hours practicing contorting her face and body in front of a mirror to prepare for this role.

A lawyer (Laura Linney) investigates a priest’s exorcism of a girl (Jennifer Carpenter) that ended in her death. Based on the true story of Anneliese Michel. There are several severely frightening and intense scenes, along with mild swearing.

I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend (2007) combines horror, action, and science fiction for an unforgettable experience.

A brilliant virologist (Will Smith) is immune to a virus that kills almost the entire population of the planet. Trying to survive alone, he encounters “darkseekers”, the strange zombies left by the virus and continues to try to create a cure. Moderate scenes of violence and one scatological term.

1408 (2007)

1408 is based on a story by Stephen King.

A skeptical novelist investigates a notoriously haunted hotel room and becomes so overwhelmed by paranormal phenomena that he can no longer dismiss the haunting as superstition. One painting shows a woman’s breast; other scenes show brief flashes of naked murder victims. There is moderate gore and a fair degree of swearing.

Cloverfield (2008)

There are many hidden easter eggs in Cloverfield that tie it to the rest of the franchise.

A found footage film about a goodbye party that is broken up by the sudden appearance of a giant monster in New York City. Mild partial nudity including one shot of a woman’s underwear and several scenes with women wearing low-cut dresses. Violence is rated as severe and profanity as moderate.

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Audiences are split on Drag Me to Hell, with some fans enjoying the film and others hating it.

A supernatural horror movie about a woman, Christine, who evicts an elderly woman from her home in order to try and get a promotion at her bank job. The elderly woman rips a button from Christine’s jacket and curses her to be “dragged to hell” in three days. One scene depicts a woman in a soaked T-shirt, revealing her areoles. There is violence and mild swearing.

Devil (2010)

None of the characters have names in the credits.

Five people are trapped in an elevator and it becomes clear that one of them is the Devil. Rated PG-13 merely for the extreme violence, but there is also mild swearing and sexual suggestiveness.

Insidious (2010)

The original name for Insidious was The Further.

A couple discovers that their comatose son is being targeted by evil spirits. With a psychic, the couple investigates “The Further” in the hopes of freeing him. Mild gore, moderate profanity, but several extremely intense and disturbing scenes.

Mama (2013)

Mama was number one at the box office with another Jessica Chastain film, Zero Dark Thirty (2012), as number two.

A young couple take in their feral nieces after they spend five years living in the wilderness. As the family adjusts, it becomes clear that a supernatural entity has attached itself to the girls. Some sexual suggestiveness, bits of violence and profanity, but several extremely disturbing scenes are what earned this film a PG-13 rating.

I, Frankenstein (2014)

Aaron Eckhart starred as Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.

Frankenstein’s monster gets involved in a violent feud between two families. No sex or nudity, only mild violence, but endlessly intense and frightening scenes.

The Final Girls (2015)

Fans of 80s slasher movies will love all the in-jokes in The Final Girls.

A girl whose mother was an 80s scream queen is pulled into the world of her horror movie along with her friends. They navigate movie tropes and try to save themselves, and the girl’s mother. A smattering of crude sexual references, but rampant use of profanity, including over 40 religious exclamations.

Lights Out (2016)

This is probably a bad choice if your kids are already afraid of the dark.

A woman remains safe from being haunted by an evil creature—so long as she never turns out the lights. Lots of cleavage, moderate gore, but several extremely disturbing scenes.

Happy Death Day (2017)

The sequel, Happy Death Day 2 U (2019), unpacks a little more about how the Happy Death Day multiverse works.

Imagine Groundhog Day, but with a woman being forced to relive her murder again and again in order to figure out who is killing her. Partial nudity including a woman’s bare buttocks, mild profanity and violence.

A Quiet Place (2018)

Emily Blunt is the wife of director John Krasinski, who also played her husband in the film.

After an alien invasion by super-predators who hunt by sound, a farm family is forced to live their entire lives in silence. No sex, nudity, or swearing, but several terrifying and intense scenes.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)

Don’t watch this movie before a trip to the beach.

Four teenage female divers find themselves trapped in an underwater cave inhabited by the deadliest sharks on the planet. Mild profanity (including one F-bomb), moderate levels of violence and terror.

The Unseen (2019)

The Unseen stars: Aden Young, Camille Sullivan, and Julia Sarah Stone.

A man seeks to reconnect with his daughter before he becomes completely invisible. No nudity or intensely disturbing scenes, but high levels of profanity—including five F-bombs and five S-bombs dropped within the first fifteen minutes.

More PG-13 Horror Movies

  • Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1990-1996, 1999-2000) a beloved young adult television series is an anthology series of scary campfire stories.
  • The Grudge (2004) Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame stars as an American nurse in Tokyo who is forced to deal with a demonic spirit that possesses its victims.
  • The Last Exorcism (2010) a preacher who intends to expose his own scam by filming himself performing a fake exorcism learns to his dismay that this time around, he’s dealing with an actual demon.
  • The Possession (2012) a naïve girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that a demonic spirit lurks within it.
  • The Woman in Black (2012) a young lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe) must temporarily abandon his young son in order to manage the estate of Eel Marsh House.
  • Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark (2019) a group of teens faces the unenviable task of solving a sudden series of deaths in the small town where they live.
  • Prey (2019) a man stranded on an island retreat must fight off an unseen killer. Moderately frightening, with mild levels of cursing.

Meet The Author

Chrissy is the co-founder of Creepy Catalog. She has over 10 years of experience writing about horror, a degree in philosophy and Reiki level II certification.

Chrissy Stockton