Kids’ movies are welcome distractions chock full of cuddly characters and very special lessons, but they can also be dark as hell. If the most horrifying experience you’ve had after viewing a G-rated flick with your kid was having “Let It Go” playing on constant loop for a year and a half, you need look no further than your own childhood for proof that movies marked for kids are sometimes anything but. These 12 scenes might still very well be seared into your memory — or effectively repressed into the deepest depths thereof. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the horror! (And be glad the scariest part of kids’ movies these days is when the hero says something politically incorrect.)
Bambi: Mother, Where Are You?
You know the most f’d up thing about this eternally f’d up scene? You watched it and were so scarred you still can’t look at a deer without wincing. Your kids watch it and say, “See? This is why deer fawns need more access to guns, not less.”
The good thing is, Disney has made, like, a million movies since Bambi came out in 1942, so your kids will never miss it if you just never show it to them. Promise? Great. Moving on.
The Lion King: Wildebeest Stampede
Damn it, Disney! Bambi’s mom wasn’t enough, you had to kill Simba’s dad, too? Everybody loved him! And here’s a novel idea: have the kid see it all go down. That was some cold, George R.R. Martin bullcrap, and he wasn’t even done with the first book yet. Also, what the hell, wildebeests? That’s the king — stop stampeding and show some damn respect! This is why nobody rooted for you at the Battle Of Kruger.
The Dark Crystal: The Skeksis
If you were a regular Sesame Street and Muppet Show viewer, your first glimpse of Jim Henson’s name on a poster for The Dark Crystal would have had you hella excited. And your first glimpse of the Skeksis in a dark movie theater would have messed you up something fierce.
Pete’s Dragon: The Happiest Home in These Hills
Most cheerful song about child abduction, torture, and murder ever?
Most cheerful song about child abduction, torture, and murder ever.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Tell ‘Em Large Marge Sent Ya!
All your nightmares have been in claymation ever since.
The Neverending Story: The Swamp Of Sadness
First, the horse literally drowned under the weight of life’s sadness in painfully slow motion and died on screen — an optimistic message for all you kids! Second, the kid actor did what no kid actor ever does: acts! Atreyu’s heartbreak was so real, it hit you in all the feels before that was an expression that never should have existed. Finally, you learned the acting was so real because it was actually real. Noah Hathaway was pulled underwater by the elevator lowering the horse and was unconscious by the time they pulled him up. Triple trauma!
Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory: The S.S. Wonkatania
One minute it’s pure imagination, the next it’s pure terror. What’s with the gross fish and bugs? Was that Slugworth? He’s scary. The chocolate river is sure starting to look a lot like blood and holy shit, they just decapitated that chicken! Why the hell are you just sitting there, Wonka? This is your factory, your ride — do something! Oh good, he’s singing a creepy song. Is it raining, is it snowing, is my fragile mind imploding?
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Child Catcher
How to scar a generation: halfway through a wholesome, carefree musical starring Dick Van Dyke, introduce a villain with a pointy nose and a tall, crooked cap called the Child Catcher who literally lures children into a cage with candy and ice cream and threatens to murder Benny Hill if he’s found to be harboring fugitive youngins in his toyshop. Actually, that’s not freaky enough. Throw in some secret police with German accents for the search scene. Nailed it.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: Judge Doom
This whole movie was borderline inappropriate for kids (whatever, shut up and watch the cartoons), but the lasting trauma melted into your brain when Judge Doom melted a poor, shrieking cartoon shoe in that barrel of molten “Dip.” Judge Doom gets his in the end and Toontown rejoices, but 80s kids can still hear the squeaks of that poor, innocent sole. Hey, 30 years of trauma has nothing on a good dad joke, right?
E.T.: I Think We’re Dying
Hey, kids, you’re not alone in the universe! You can form a cosmic connection with cuddly space alien and be best friends! And then you’ll both die. Just kidding, you both live happily ever after! But only after the government tries to hunt you down and throw you in a black box. This summer’s biggest blockbuster is fun for the whole family!
Return To Oz: Just … All Of It
Do: show your kids the timeless classic, The Wizard Of Oz.
Don’t: ever let them find out there’s an 80s sequel where Dorothy gets terrorized by a headless witch and her collection of disembodied, severed heads, which is, like, the seventh-most disturbing thing that happens.
Watership Down: The Very Idea That This Was A Kids’ Movie
Somehow, this big-screen bloodbath that seems right at home over a death metal soundtrack got the UK equivalent of a G-rating, so you can’t even blame your parents for showing it to you. The real lesson here is you either get to make a cartoon about cuddly bunny rabbits, or a psychedelic slasher about tribal turf wars. It can’t be both. Parents don’t have time for details, they just see “animated” and plop the kids behind a giant popcorn bucket for 2 hours. Pick a lane and stay in it. And quit murdering bunnies.