13 Halloween movies for people who don’t like horror

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Spirited Away (2002), image courtesy of Studio Ghibli

6. Spirited Away (2002)

Perhaps no movie more perfectly embodies the original spirit of Halloween than Spirited Away. Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning animated film opens with 10-year-old Chihiro reluctantly moving to a new home with her parents – a standard set-up for a coming-of-age tale. But when the family takes a spontaneous detour through an overgrown tunnel, they inadvertently cross into the spirit realm and stumble upon a literal ghost town, where they become trapped. In order to rescue her parents and return to human society, Chihiro agrees to work at a bathhouse owned by the witch Yubaba. She meets the world’s assorted residents, including the gallant Haku and the mute No-Face.

Although undeniably meant for kids, Spirited Away doesn’t hesitate to let its freak flag fly. Many of the spirits assume grotesque forms; Yubaba, for instance, has a gigantic head and can shape-shift into a vulture. The hand-drawn animation, sinuous yet colorful and richly textured, ensnares us in a fantasyland that’s alternately elusive and vibrant, anarchic and serene, spooky and sublime. The narrative unfurls at a dreamlike pace, eddying around inexplicable details (a rickety staircase suspended over an abyss, a train ride through water) while tracking Chihiro’s personal growth. It’s a remarkable feat of imagination, visual storytelling at its best.

Similar movies: Coraline (2009), Song of the Sea (2014)