Horror movies come in all shapes and sizes, from gruesome and gory to suspenseful and psychological. PG-13 horror movies, with their milder content, often aim to provide thrills and scares without the explicit violence and gore seen in R-rated films.
Over the years, several PG-13 horror movies have proved that they can deliver spine-tingling experiences and leave audiences sleepless without relying on extreme violence. If you’re looking for milder horror or looking to introduce a young teen to the genre, here are twelve of the best PG-13 horror movies.
The Others (2001)
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, The Others is a masterclass in atmospheric and psychological horror. The film follows Grace Stewart, played by Nicole Kidman, a woman who lives with her two light-sensitive children in a dark and isolated mansion.
Strange occurrences begin to unfold as the family is tormented by eerie happenings and ghostly apparitions. The Others excels in building an unsettling atmosphere and creating a sense of claustrophobic dread. Kidman’s performance adds depth to the film’s haunting narrative, making it a standout PG-13 horror movie.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense is a defining film in the psychological horror genre, known for its haunting atmosphere. The story revolves around child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe, portrayed by Bruce Willis, who attempts to help a young boy named Cole, played by Haley Joel Osment, who claims to see and communicate with the dead. Does the famous line, “I see dead people,” ring a bell?
If you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense and are fortunate enough not to have had the ending spoiled, go watch this film immediately. Its ability to blend suspense with emotional depth makes it a timeless classic in the PG-13 horror category.
Insidious, directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell, is a supernatural horror film that captivated audiences with its inventive scares and eerie atmosphere. The story follows a family that moves into a new home, only to discover that their son has fallen into a mysterious coma and that the house is seemingly haunted.
Insidious employs jump scares and cleverly crafted tension to create a memorable horror experience. The film’s use of astral projection and a terrifying demon known as the Lipstick-Face Demon set it apart as a standout PG-13 horror movie, perfect for introducing someone young to the horror genre.
The Ring (2002)
Gore Verbinski’s The Ring is an American adaptation of the Japanese horror film Ringu and is celebrated for its eerie atmosphere and unsettling premise. The story centers around a cursed videotape that brings death to anyone who watches it seven days later. Rachel Keller, a journalist played by Naomi Watts, accidentally watches the tape and must figure out how she will escape death after receiving a taunting phone call warning her of her impending doom.
Rachel enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend, Noah, to help get to the bottom of the mysterious tape and the girl on it. The Ring combines emotion with a creeping sense of dread and became a cultural phenomenon upon its release.
The Grudge (2004)
The Grudge is another successful American adaptation of a Japanese horror film. The movie is known for its non-linear storytelling and the eerie curse that haunts anyone who enters a particular house in Tokyo.
Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as an American caregiver who encounters the malevolent spirits that haunt the dwelling. The Grudge is great at creating a sense of perpetual dread and is notable for its chilling sequences.
Crimson Peak (2015)
From the dark mind of Guillermo del Toro, Crimson Peak is a gothic horror film that combines romance, mystery, and supernatural elements. The story follows a young author, played by Mia Wasikowska, who marries a charming but mysterious aristocrat, portrayed by Tom Hiddleston, and moves into his dilapidated mansion.
As she explores the house’s dark secrets, she encounters vengeful spirits and uncovers a haunting family history. Crimson Peak is visually stunning and atmospheric, with gothic architecture and haunting visuals that contribute to its eerie charm. Guillermo del Toro certainly doesn’t disappoint, and if you’re a fan of his visual style and storytelling, give this one a go.
A Quiet Place (2018)
A Quiet Place, directed by and starring John Krasinski of The Office fame, is a unique horror film that relies on silence as a primary source of tension. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where deadly creatures hunt based on sound, the film follows a family struggling to survive without making a sound.
The film’s innovative use of sound design, combined with its intense scenes, makes it a standout in the PG-13 horror category. The creative storytelling and compelling performances, particularly by Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds, elevate A Quiet Place into a suspenseful and emotionally resonant horror experience. The sequel is also just as good if you enjoy this horror flick, and picks up right after the events of the first one.
The Orphanage (2007)
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona and produced by Guillermo del Toro, The Orphanage is a Spanish-language horror film that is filled with psychological horror and atmospheric dread. The story centers on a woman who returns to the orphanage where she grew up and intends to reopen it for disabled children.
However, as strange events begin to unfold, she becomes convinced that the spirits of the past inhabit the house. The Orphanage combines emotional depth with supernatural scares, creating a haunting and atmospheric ghost story.
Andrés Muschietti’s Mama explores the horror of motherhood and supernatural forces. The film follows two young sisters who are found living alone in the woods after their parents’ deaths. As they are adopted by their uncle and his girlfriend, they bring with them a malevolent presence known as Mama.
The film relies on eerie visuals to deliver its scares, making it a notable PG-13 horror movie with a focus on family dynamics and the paranormal. There was some criticism of the writing, but it was certainly a box office success, grossing almost $150 million against its budget of a measly $15 million.
Oculus, directed by Mike Flanagan, tells the story of two siblings who confront a malevolent supernatural force tied to a haunted mirror. The mirror causes people to hallucinate, resulting in the mother, Marie, seeing her own body decay while the father, Alan, is seduced by a mysterious entity with mirrors for eyes.
The film employs a non-linear narrative to explore the characters’ experiences with the cursed object in both their childhood and adulthood. Oculus is praised for its clever storytelling, eerie visuals, and psychological horror elements. It showcases Flanagan’s talent for blending supernatural elements with complex character dynamics.
Dark Skies (2013)
Dark Skies is a supernatural thriller that combines alien abduction with psychological horror. The film follows a suburban family as they experience increasingly disturbing and inexplicable events that suggest an otherworldly presence is targeting them.
Dark Skies is able to build tension and paranoia as the family becomes desperate to protect themselves from the mysterious threat. The film’s exploration of the fear of the unknown and the breakdown of a seemingly normal family adds depth to its narrative.
The Conjuring (2013)
Another film on our list from James Wan, The Conjuring is a supernatural horror film based on the real-life investigations of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The story follows the Warrens as they assist a family experiencing malevolent supernatural phenomena in their farmhouse.
The Conjuring is praised for its atmosphere, well-crafted scares, and engaging characters. While it pushes the boundaries of PG-13 horror, it maintains a balance between intriguing storytelling and supernatural chills. If you enjoy this film, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are multiple films in the universe, including numerous sequels.