Everyone has at least one movie they saw before their little mind could handle the content. Sometimes they're films intended for a mature audience you saw at a far-too-early age. But sometimes, they're family films and animated features specifically made with kids in mind! Here are 27 movies that made indelible marks on young viewers —and not in a good way.
I personally have fond memories of Jumanji, but I also apparently blocked the memory of Robin Williams getting sucked into the floor of the attic, followed by a swarm of gigantic spiders. How did any of us ever sleep again?
'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'
Willy Wonka is not a cuddly character. He callously watches as one kid nearly drowns in a chocolate river, shrugs when one turns into a blueberry, yawns as another death-drops into a furnace, and all but encourages the last child to shrink himself to the size of a mouse. He also owns slaves.
Amidst all that horror, however, the most terrifying scene in the film is when he takes a group of children and their guardians on an acid trip through hell on his riverboat. A true monster.
Pleasure Island is a real misnomer. I don't understand how Pinocchio or any of the real boys who landed here didn't run in terror at the sight of whatever that is above. They shouldn't have been too surprised to learn it was all a trap to turn them into donkeys. Nothing about this place says "this is a fun safe place for human children to hang out and do whatever."
'Wizard of Oz'
I loved this movie as a kid, but those flying monkeys frightened me, as did the trees that snatch at Dorothy and throw apples at her and the Scarecrow. It's also a pretty dark film for a family feature! Within the first 15 minutes, a woman is squashed to death with a house and people literally dance around her corpse in glee!
'Return to Oz'
It gets even worse with this sequel from 1985. Dorothy returns to find a true dystopian nightmare, and Oz is overrun with menacing Wheelers (right) and Mombi (left) and an enchantress who has a freaking room full of disembodied heads she can swap like wigs. The scenes outside of Oz are no less terrifying, as Dorothy narrowly escapes involuntary electric shock therapy to cure her of her delusions. Dark is an understatement.
'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'
Roald Dahl also had a hand in this very creepy musical film from 1968. I'm beginning to think that dude hated children. Why else would he have written a character called The Child Catcher into this film? It's there in the name!
'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'
Say no more, my friend. I too found Judge Doom terrifying in this film — with or without his sunglasses. It almost ruined Christopher Lloyd — aka Doc from Back to the Future — for me.
'The Never-Ending Story'
1980s fantasy films are just across-the-board creepy! The Never-Ending Story has plenty of terrifying scenes, but chief among them is when Gmork, the wolf who has been chasing Atreyu throughout the movie, leaps out at him in the darkness. And the death of the hero's horse Artax scarred us for completely different reasons.
Between Bambi's mom's horrible death and the forest fire that threatens all Bambi's woodland friends, this movie really isn't for the faint of heart.
Dumbo is not great for the mama trauma, either, but the scene that really creeped me out as a kid was Dumbo's drunken hallucination of pink elephants. The Disney animators of the 1940s were really working through some demons!
'The Lion King'
Scar's betrayal of Mufasa scarred many a '90s kid. The glowing eyes full of malice, the way he digs those claws into his terrified brother's paws. You see poor Simba's dad plummet to the ground! Simba sees it! That's too much, Disney! Simmer down, there are kids in the audience!
The third Roald Dahl entry on this list, there is no greater sadistic villain in his stories than Miss Trunchbull. She puts children in a device called the Chokey that's basically an iron maiden, force-feeds them cake, and swings them around by their braids. How is this woman allowed to be an educator with such obvious human rights violations under her belt?
'Pee-Wee's Big Adventure'
This is, for the most part, a silly movie, but Tim Burton just had to throw one big scare into the mix with Large Marge, the truck driver/ghost who picks up the hitch-hiking protagonist and tells him a grisly story that appears to be about the accident that took her life.
'The Dark Crystal'
This movie personally victimized me as a kid and I will never understand the appeal of this nightmare hellscape. I hate it and the Netflix revival. There is not a single puppet in this movie that doesn't give me the absolute creeps.
Some of the movies that scarred us were not meant for kids, though...
'Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring'
Now we're veering into fare that isn't necessarily for kids. After all, the LOTR films are rated PG-13. Still, I'm sure plenty of people saw it as kids, with their parents figuring they read the books as kids, so what harm could it do? They probably didn't expect jump scares like Bilbo suddenly Golem-ing out over the ring when he sees it again.
I had to triple check the rating on this Ridley Scott fantasy film from 1985 to make sure I wasn't misreading it. It's only rated PG, despite coming out a year after the PG-13 rating was created in response to movies like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Tim Curry's Lord of Darkness character is one of the scariest villains in movie history.
'The Day After'
This 1980s made-for-TV movie depicted what might happen if the Cold War, which was in full swing in 1983, were to result in a full-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Despite viewers' guides warning parents that it would have disturbing images, many families watched together. Apparently it was very realistic and heightened a lot of kids' fears that it would happen in real life (because it really could have!)
Perhaps your parents were a little loose on supervision, or perhaps you were sneaky, but if you saw this movie as a kid, you didn't sleep for weeks. Hell, if you first saw it as an adult you may have lost sleep over it. Especially the scene when Reagan crab-walks down the stairs.
I'm certain some parents in the 1980s saw that this was about a kid with a "My Buddy" doll and let their children watch it, not realizing it would cement a lifelong fear of dolls becoming possessed with the spirits of serial killers.
How is this movie rated PG? After seeing parts of it as a kid, I was not only afraid of the ocean for a year but any body of water. I was scared of a family's friend's pool even though I could clearly see it was free of sharks.
Another "PG" film that no child should have seen. It's truly a wonder every single child who grew up in the '80s isn't in therapy for PTSD. Between the scene above and the one where a clown doll pulls a boy under his bed, this movie is a nightmare factory.
'Stephen King's IT'
Speaking of clowns...
While the Tim Curry version of Pennywise is a little silly when compared to the deranged drooling version Bill Skarsgård plays in the theatrical two-parter, he still traumatized a generation of children who managed to catch the miniseries.
Most people don't even own a VCR anymore, which somewhat dilutes the terror of this movie, but there are plenty of images in it that are scarring. The worst, to me, is when Naomi Watts's niece, played by Amber Tamblyn, is discovered in the closet.
'Nightmare on Elm Street'
Movies like this are why nobody slept at a sleepover in the '80s or '90s. Somehow, a friend would get their hands on a copy of a horror movie they had no business watching at their age, and they'd make all their friends watch it, too. Then everyone would be awake all night worried that, if they fell asleep, some guy with hamburger meat for a face would kill them in their dreams.
'The Amityville Horror'
The worst part of Amityville Horror is that it was "based on a true story." Even if the haunting story in the movie and the book that inspired it were made up, the dark history of that house is indisputable. Ronald DeFeo, Jr., really did kill his entire family in that house less than a year before the Lutz family moved in. He's still alive and serving six concurrent life sentences.
Cronenberg's 1986 remake of this sci-fi/horror flick is definitely disturbing and definitely rated R for a reason. The fly-human hybrid version of Jeff Goldblum is hands-down one of the grossest things you'll ever see.
If you somehow saw this NC-17 carnival of horrors as a kid, your parents have a lot of explaining to do. Like where were they? How did they let that happen? There are a lot of things about Showgirls that could scar a person, but I'm guessing the top moment is the pool sex scene between Kyle McLachlan and Elizabeth Berkley. It manages to ruin sex, swimming pools, and Kyle MacLachlan in a span of 2 minutes.
What movie ruined your childhood?