A Look at Some of the Best PG & PG-13 Horror Films

As a general rule an R-Rating is a key ingredient for a good horror movie. But, there are exceptions to every rule.  In fact, we have found ten very good exceptions to plead the case for PG and PG-13 rated horror films. The plus side to horror films that don’t go for an R-rating is that the screenwriter and director behind the film are really required to deliver a quality story, rather than having the option to rely on excessive display of gore to frighten the viewer. In some ways, a “tween friendly” rating compels the creative team behind the project to be more, well…creative. 

We at are big supporters of R-rated horror. Most of the classic horror films secured an R-Rating upon release and we wouldn’t change a single thing about films like Halloween, Black Christmas, An American Werewolf in London or Alien; but there are films that absolutely cannot be discounted solely based on their MPAA rating. It’s foolhardy to assume that a film cannot possibly be worth our time just because there wont be a pair of perky exposed breasts, repetitive use of the ‘F’ word, or a close up shot of a victim’s intestinal tract. 

Certain stories can be told very effectively by emphasizing atmosphere over violence. We are not advocating this method of storytelling solely for the purpose of selling tickets to the ever-important tween demographic, but inversely, a film shouldn’t add elements that don’t enhance the story simply to garner an R-rating.  


Loosely based on the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, Jaws was downright terrifying for the time of its release. Jaws scared an entire generation and kept many viewers from going near any body of water for some time. There are actually statistics correlating a decline in beach visits with the release of the film. The score is fantastic, and like any great movie, is an integral part of what makes the film so effective. The scene where little Alex is on an air mattress and gets eaten alive by the titular character is a harrowing viewing experience. It always surprises me when the Great White consumes Alex and the water turns blood red. That’s not something one would typically expect from a PG-rated film. Any horror fan that saw Jaws prior to their adolescent years can likely attest to the impact the film made on them as a youngster. 

Salem’s Lot

A man returns to his hometown to write his next book discovers that the residents are being turned in to vampires. This 1979 Stephen King adaptation is light on gore but still has scares aplenty. I still find the segment where the child vampire floats up to a young boy’s window and runs his fingernails down the window glass creepy as an adult. That the boy allows the vampire in to his room makes the scene even creepier. Tobe Hooper brought viewers above average made for TV fare with Salem’s Lot. Naturally, the film was not rated for its television broadcast, but was cut down to less than two hours in length and released theatrically in Europe. The film eventually received an MPAA rating of PG. Collectors should be advised the DVD is currently out of print and commanding over $60 for a new copy on Amazon. A used version of the film can still be had for around $20.