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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.