15 Best PG-13 Rated Horror Movies

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Summary

  • PG-13 horror movies can be just as scary and thrilling as R-rated films, providing a great Halloween movie night for younger audiences.
  • These movies focus on theme, tone, and creating tension rather than explicit violence and gore.
  • From supernatural curses to haunted houses, these PG-13 horror movies deliver fantastic frights and jump scares without crossing the line for younger viewers.

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Despite its grisly reputation, there are a string of horror movies acceptable for a PG-13 audience. PG-13 horror movies counter the trend of acquiring an R rating for perceived clout in this genre, providing scary and thrilling scenes that work for younger audiences. While not every PG-13 horror film works, the ones that find this balance are often great picks for a Halloween movie night.

Horror doesn’t need to be gruesome or violent to be effective. Some of the best horror movies have elected to focus on theme and tone, and as a result, have been rated PG-13. While these movies are appropriate for this age group, they are still particularly scary, from the themes they deal with to how they create tension.

15 Drag Me To Hell

The old lady screams in Drag Me to Hell

Drag Me to Hell is far scarier than one might expect for a PG-13 movie. Directed and co-written by acclaimed horror director Sam Raimi, Drag Me to Hell depicts a woman bestowed with a supernatural curse, who is slowly tormented in her attempts to save her soul. Starring Alison Lohman and Justin Long, it delivers a flurry of fantastic frights and jump scares. A sequel, Drag Me to Hell 2 has been confirmed.

14 The Gate

The gate 1985 - poster cropped

The Gate is a charming supernatural horror movie that has garnered a cult following since its release in 1987. Despite a plot about a demonic home invasion, The Gate is primarily aimed at a younger audience. It features some delightful special effects and relies mostly on tone and spectacle to create a sense of horror, making it a perfect PG-13 horror movie.

13 The Ring

Naomi Watts watching the tape in The Ring

The 2002 American horror movie The Ring is, surprisingly, a PG-13 rated. The remake of the iconic Japanese original, Ringu, repeats the original’s focus on tone and psychology to create a sense of dread. Some scenes featured in the infamous tape are somewhat gory, but there is little on-screen violence and death, despite its horrifying antagonist.

12 The Last Exorcism

A woman bending backwards in a blood-stained dress in a barn in The Last Exorcism

Horror mockumentary, The Last Exorcism is an ideal PG-13 horror film, focussing mostly on an unsettling tone and jump scares, rather than guts and gore. The exorcism storyline is still thematically scary, however, and there are strong sexual references throughout, but there is little still acceptable for younger audiences. While some claim The Taking of Debora Logan is better than The Last Exorcism, it remains a chilling depiction of a tormented young woman.

11 Fire in the Sky

Fire In The Sky's UFO Lightning Scene

1995’s Fire in the Sky is famed for its terrifying, 10-minute alien abduction scene. While chilling, it refrains from explicit gore and instead focuses on tone and science-fiction themes to deliver a haunting movie. The abduction scenes earned Fire in the Sky its PG-13 rating, but the fact it is based on a true story gives the movie an even more sinister inflection.

10 The Grudge

Sarah Michelle Gellar with a spirit behind her in The Grudge

After successfully remaking The Ring remake, Sony Pictures remade another Japanese horror classic, The Grudge. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, 2004’s The Grudge also relies on tension and an impeccably constructed horror villain – a demonic curse born when somebody dies in extreme rage or sorrow. While perhaps not as scary as the original, there are several incredible visual sequences and scares that are perfect for a PG-13 Halloween movie.

9 Lights Out

Sophie holding a candle and looking scared in Lights Out

Lights Out is a 2016 supernatural horror movie, based on a 2013 short film of the same name. It depicts a family beset by a malevolent spirit that kills its victims in the dark. As a result, there are no real onscreen deaths or violence. Lights Out received wide critical acclaim, praised for its cinematography, acting, and music. It has even spawned a potential sequel.

8 1408

John Cusack in 1408

1408 is a chilling ghost movie based on a Stephen King short story of the same name. It stars John Cusack as a paranormal investigator who becomes trapped in a haunted hotel room in New York City. 1408 fully exploits its ghostly theme to create a truly haunting movie, all while maintaining a PG-13 rating. 1408′s ending is confusing, but the film is an ideal Halloween watch.

7 Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

The kids looking at Harold in Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

Like the book upon which it is based, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is designed for a young adult audience. It follows an anthology format, filled with fantastically designed monsters and terrifying tales. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark deploys some jump scares, but mostly focuses on fostering an unsettling tone, and thus is marked PG-13. A sequel, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 2 has been confirmed.

6 Mama

Jessica Chastain in Mama

Released in 2013, Mama starred Jessica Chastain and was directed by Andy Muschietti. It follows a family who are tormented by a supernatural force known as Mama. Mama is a brilliantly executed monster movie, with no real explicit violence. It nurtures a sense of dread that lingers throughout, delivered by a series of effective scares. It received mixed reviews but is a perfect addition for a younger audience’s Halloween movie night.

5 The Others

Grace sitting in her house and looking serious in The Others

The Others predicates its horror on an impending sense of dread and paranoia, matched beautifully by the impressive gothic setting. Nicole Kidman stars as a mother whose children have extreme photosensitivity, and are seemingly haunted by their house’s former residents. The use of candlelight dictated by the plot leads to several shadowy scenes and an encroaching sense of anxiety that builds throughout. Featuring no gore or nudity, The Others was rated PG-13 and is appropriate for teenage audiences.

4 A Quiet Place

The Abbott family walking across the bridge in A Quiet Place.

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place is a 2018 post-apocalyptic horror movie starring himself and Emily Blunt. It reached wide critical acclaim and was nominated for several awards, including the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. The plot concerns a family struggling to survive in a world infested with killer aliens attracted to sound. Resultantly, much of A Quiet Place is silent, drawing out an impressive tension. There is some minor violence, but it is fairly brief, earning A Quiet Place a PG-13 rating. A Quite Place prequel is currently in development.

Related: 10 Best Horror Movies Of 2023

3 The Haunting

Owen-Wilson-as-Luke-Sanderson-in-The-Haunting-1999

1999’s The Haunting is an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s revered horror novel The Haunting of Hill House. It was adapted previously in 1963, and also formed the basis for Scary Movie 2, depicting a series of characters supposedly participating in an insomnia study in a haunted mansion. The 1999 movie was fairly negatively received critically but still contains some great scenes and horror sequences.

2 The Village

The Village Ivy Elizabeth Walker

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village received mixed reviews upon its release but was still considered for an Academy Award. The Village is about a remote village who live within the boundaries of a woodland clearing, scared to cross into the territory, which is supposedly inhabited by giant monstrous creatures. It was harshly criticized for an underwhelming final twist – this became an expected feature of Shyamalan’s work, but it was hard to match the gravity of the ending for The Sixth Sense, and The Village consequently suffered. Nevertheless, there are many spectacular visuals and a stunning musical score.

1 World War Z

Brad Pitt looking at ruined city from a helicopter in World War Z 2 poster.

Although rated PG-13, World War Z is overwhelmingly tense and features some of horror’s most fearsome zombies. Shying away from explicit gore, World War Z focuses on a series of jump scares and suspense to deliver its frights. Adapting the 2006 novel of the same name, World War Z stars Brad Pitt as a former United Nations investigator navigating a zombie apocalypse. It features several nail-biting sequences and is an ideal Halloween horror movie for a teenage audience.