26. The Chronicles of Narnia
There are plenty of reasons The Chronicles of Narnia might scare a kid. Creepy English children, goat men, ham-fistedly overt Christian themes. But the big one, the one that takes this over the top, is violence rendered upon animals. Kids can not stand to watch animals get hurt. They could watch human beings getting plowed down all day long, but you give one beagle a charley horse and here comes the waterworks. The world of Narnia is a talking animal realm, and those chatty beavers and wolves have no qualms stabbing each other like it's a prison shower.
25. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
No, I don’t mean the recent 2005 version, although that is plenty scary. Johnny Depp's unflinching commitment to portraying Michael Jackson should alone be enough to grant a house call from social services to any parent who dragged their kid to that one. No, I’m talking about the original. Look past the singing dwarves with jaundice and the constant child maulings; the fear factor in this one boils down to one scene. And you all know which scene I’m talking about.
The tunnel scene of this movie is the single most frightening sequence in all of '70s cinema. And we're talking about a decade that brought us The Exorcist and Alien. Gene Wilder is simply brilliant in this subversive kiddie classic. One look at him and there is no way you're believing this movie really is for children. Let me ask you, if Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka rang your doorbell, would you let him in? Didn't think so. He's the pusherman, baby. A totally Technicolor, sociopathic pimp. In one master stroke, this film says, "Hey kids, this is what dropping acid is like. The first time's free. Enjoy the '70s!"
Sometime during his reign, Walt Disney turned to his staff of animators and said, "You know, boys, scientists aren't going to invent LSD for decades, but kids clamour to trip out NOW! It is our responsibility, NAY, our civic duty to blow the minds of American children. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must name names before congress and then go do something vaguely-anti Semitic." From Disney's decree came such psychedelic head trips as Fantasia and the Pink Elephant scene from Dumbo. The real bummer of Dumbo is the abject cruelty Dumbo and his mother suffer from their fellow animals. If you see a single tear roll down your child's cheek as they watch, it’s because Walt Disney just taught her that life is cruel and people suck.
When you think about it, the idea of a Muppet is inherently frightening. Felt and glass eyes lurching about in a folly of life. Ironically, the Muppets aren't the least human thing in this movie. That honour would go to honorary space alien David Bowie. Androgynous, sparkle-eyeliner-wearing, spandexed, mulleted, coked-up, full-on Ziggy Stardust-mode David Bowie. Listen, I love this movie, but watching David Bowie sashay around in an enhanced codpiece for hours on end has informed (or malformed) my concept of gender types far more than I’d like to admit. Luckily, a young Jennifer Connolly is on hand to straighten things out. Did I mention I love this movie?
22. Monster House
This movie makes no bones about it: this is a horror movie for kids. As such, it’s supposed to be an entry-level kind of scary — a scary ride with the training wheels still on. The scares are played for fun and are thankfully not unintentionally creepy/weird/scary like the other movies on this list. One of the best kid movies I've seen in a long time. Unfortunately, I couldn't watch it with my child because it would scare the hell out of her. But the man-eating house . . . pretty cool.
21. The Neverending Story
I'm not talking about the crazy big turtle here. I'm also not referring to the crappy band Atreyu that exists because of this movie. No, the scary thing about this movie is The Nothing. You know, the thing consuming all of Fantasia. And what is The Nothing? A giant lizard? A sentient radioactive cloud? No, worse. The Nothing is nothing. It is oblivion — the great unknown; the cold and lifeless void beyond our realm of understanding. Hey kiddies, wrap your little heads around that meaty chunk of existential crisis. Thank you, Neverending Story; you are more depressing than reading No Exit. Oh, and that princess? Some say cute, I say creepy.
I could only find a clip of the creepy turtle
Alright everybody, repeat after me: BAMBI'S MUM GETS SHOT.
9. The Dark Crystal
Muppets make it to the list again. That Jim Henson, God bless his soul, was one dark dude. Riding high on the success of The Muppet Show, Jim took his Hollywood leverage and made this doozy for the kiddies. Miss Piggy- and Gonzo-loving kids and parents must have thought this J.R.R. Tolkien-like epic would be an adorable Kermit-dressed-as-a-Hobbit romp. What they got were the Skeksis, lizard bird creatures that ate other Muppets and shrieked in such a way, I still can't get it out of my head. Then there’s the Crypt Keeper-looking Muppet who takes her eyeballs out and throws them at people. Oh, and those gigantic beetle things with their skin-crawling chattering — always with the chattering. And then there’s this: And that's supposed to be cute. This movie proves one thing; Jim Henson had a love-hate relationship with children. One moment he wants to soothe them with the clickity-clack of a tap dancing frog, the next he wants them laying in a cold sweat for yet another sleepless night.
18. The Adventures of Mark Twain
You may have caught this one during your summers as a fat boy holed up inside a darkened house avoiding sunlight like it was poison. Oh wait, that was me. If you haven’t seen it, the movie chugs along amiably enough, until it gets to this part:
Claymation apocalypse, anyone?
Let's see: a world devoid of humans where the machines come to life? This is nothing more than the animated version of a James Cameron post-apocalyptic fever dream. When exactly did SkyNet take over? There is no bleaker film on this list.
16. Song of the South
All the ingredients for a happy-go-lucky kid flick are there: the rabbits are cute, the foxes are adorable. You and your kids could watch the whole thing and go straight to bed and sleep a deep, undisturbed sleep. But later, maybe days later, it strikes you: "My sweet Jemima, that movie was racist!" I don't mean kinda offensive, but so racist it will make your eyes sting. "Hoo-wee boy," you'll cry, wiping your eyes like you just finished a hot wing eating contest, "that is some vinegary racism." Realizing that you and your kids consumed nearly radioactive amounts of antiquated stereotypes hidden in the Trojan Horse of fluffy anthropomorphized Disney animals — now that's scary.
15. Wizard of Oz
Okay, I do not think anything about this movie is scary, but a lot of people do. Guess it's the flying monkeys. Now to be fair, back in the 1930s when this movie came out, I'll bet those flying monkeys were scary as hell. Then again, in 1939 Americans were also afraid the country would collapse into ruin because of a scandalous new dance called the "jitterbug."
14. The Polar Express
Robert Zemeckis clearly thinks zombies are cute. Realistically animated flesh with cold, dead eyes is his idea of family entertainment. And by realistic flesh, I mean realistic for a burn victim. This thing is horrifying from top to bottom; just a colossal misjudgment by Zemeckis of what human beings find enjoyable. And it's funny, because anyone who saw the preview knew it immediately. But this thing sold a ticket or two, so someone had to have walked into this picture sight unseen. What must they have been thinking? "A holiday film by the director and star of Forrest Gump? Tom Hanks playing Santa Claus as well as thirty-seven other roles? What a delightfu— OH GOD! WHAT IS HAPPENING UP ON SCREEN! I CLOSE MY EYES AND I CAN STILL SEE IT!"
13. Speed Racer
Haven't seen this one yet. Too afraid of having a seizure.
What do you mean you have never seen Moonwalker? Yes you have, and if you claim you haven't you're a bunch of lying liars so let's cut out the lies you love so much. (Why don't you marry your lies?) Maybe you had that part of your memory erased or you beat it out with a ball peen hammer, so let me see if I can synopsize it for you. Although comprised of a bunch of music videos, Moonwalker reaches its memorable nadir in its one narrative section, "Smooth Criminal." In it, MJ is a "friendly gangster" who loves dancing and children (yes, really). One day a frolicking MJ and his mob of grubby-faced tykes happen upon evil ponytailed Joe Pesci's world-domination scheme to hook the entire population of earth on drugs (seems reasonable). MJ fights back by turning into a sports car (did I mention he is a "magical" gangster?) and then later into a giant robotic Michael Jackson that blows stuff up by screaming.
I guess I could also mention Jackson later transforms into a spaceship, but your frontal lobe probably shut down after viewing that last image, an image that will haunt your dreams for years to come. If I had to choose the most frightening element of Moonwalker, I would have to say it's the overall message that if you are a child and you spend lots of time with Michael Jackson the weirdest thing that could happen is he'll turn into a 100-foot tall screaming robot. That's just dangerously misleading.
11. Pan's Labyrinth
Okay, so technically this isn't a family film, as it is rated R, but it looked so much like a family film from the posters and trailers that plenty of families wound up seeing it, at their peril. Really just a horror movie dressed up like a fairy tale, Pan's Labyrinth follows in the long tradition of children's stories as gothic horror. Those Grimm boys never met a severed limb they didn't like. And let's face it, labyrinths are just plain scary, even when there isn't the constant threat of David Bowie's bedazzled codpiece hiding around every corner.
10. Old Yeller
Okay, we all know why we're here for this one, but you have to wait for it. There is more to Old Yeller than just — well, you know. People maintain that Old Yeller is a delightfully safe film up until the infamous end. I say hold on, bucko. Old Yeller starts awful as well. For starters, the family in this film is so poor they have never seen a dollar bill. A dollar bill! That's a bit of pathos even Charles Dickens might call "laying it on thick." There's poverty and there's "Seriously? You eat dirt?" Thanks to losing the Civil War, living conditions in the reconstruction-era South were third-world at best. Luckily for the kids watching, Old Yeller ended up contracting rabies, otherwise the good old Coates family would have ended the film eating the dog.
Now on to the matter at hand. Shooting a dog is, yes, traumatising but let's break down what is so emotionally scarring about this particular dog-shooting. From the death of Old Yeller we learn three things:
1. New friends will always turn on you. 2. If you ever open your heart to love something it will contract rabies and try to kill you. 3. Shooting Old Yeller represents Travis's metaphorical entrance into manhood. This means that before any boy can become a man he must shoot his dog in the face.
9. The Secret of Nimh
Great movie. One of my all time favourites, kid film-wise. But you know you are in for a less-than-cheerful ride within the first minute. That's when we learn that dad mouse is dead and baby mouse is dying. Hmmm, an inauspicious start for fun family entertainment, if I may say so. What strikes me even now about this movie is how very real the peril these mice get into feels. My young brain was not prepared for a cartoon that was so gritty. Oh, and let's not forget the cat with one eye and the freaky Great Owl. The Secret of Nimh was created by Disney ex-animator Don Bluth. Apparently he and his animators drew this up in a garage and Bluth makes a point of letting you know right away this ain't gonna be no Disney movie.
8. Watership Down
I don't want to talk about this any further.
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas
I actually saw this when I was a teen, and liked it a lot. It was hard for me to judge if it's a scary one without having seen it with a child's eyes. So I employed my four-year-old to give me the "scary" thumbs up. She liked the friendly looking skeleton on the package. She liked the opening musical number. She even dug the clown with the tear-away face (where I was betting she would check out). Mr. Oogie Boogie is even kind of cute in a grungy burlap sack way, but then you discover what's in Oogie: bugs. Yep, after that Jillian was having no more of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Give her credit; she made it almost to the end.
6. The Care Bears Movie
Not an obvious choice. My daughter claimed this one to be scary, but she could get spooked by a stiff wind. And yet, as I polled adults for their scary kid movie picks, this one popped up. Why? Because a little boy turns into an evil magician, with red glowing eyes and everything.
That's all it takes to keep me up at night.
I don't remember anything from the first care bears, but the 2nd is my shiiit, therefore I'm posting a clip from it. Besides darkheart scared the shit out of me when I was a kid.
5. Little Monsters
Hey kids, let's validate your universal fear of monsters living under the bed. Not scary enough? What if said monsters looked and sound just like schtick-master Howie Mandel? AAAAHHHHHHH!
lol i'll be honest, I still can't even watch this film
4. The Witches
Roald Dahl hits the list again, aided and abetted by Anjelica Huston vamping the wallpaper right off the walls. Dahl's original is pretty graphic, detailing a foul boy being transformed into a foul mouse. The film did that description justice. Oh, and when the two mice boys get revenge and turn Angelica Huston into a rat, it looks like this.
Every good kid's movie has a scary element. Frights are the hooks that burrow a film into your young mind and make a childhood viewing unforgettable. Most movies build the fear factor into the cinematic heavy, but Steven Spielberg made his good guy the most terrifying thing you could imagine. A generation of children learned that aliens can be friendly once you get past all the ear splitting shrieking and the fact they look like lions after being dipped in lava and having their head flattened with a lead pipe. That screeching little alien tap-danced his way into our hearts and wallets. It's hard to find a grown-up who doesn't have fond memories of E.T. and also remember it scaring the crap out of them.
2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Yeah, I count this as a kid movie (sorry, fanboys). Face-melting Nazis aside, the Indiana Jones movies always aimed at nothing less than to appeal to every single breathing humanoid on the face of this planet; that puts Indy in the family-film category. All the Indy movies have their thrills and chills, but with Temple you'd think George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were planning to launch a line of rubber sheets for all the kids this movie would having pissing their beds for decades. It's like G.L. and S.S. had a pitch session just to dream up all the potential gross-out/freak-out factors.
"Alright Steve. One word: bugs." "Mmm hmm. And let me add this, George. Two words: more bugs." "Hold on now. We're both wrong. What is needed here is a CRAPLOAD of bugs!" (Both) "Hear! Hear!" "Ooh, and monkeys brains." "Eyeball soup." "Grotesquely caricatured ethnic stereotypes. Like a cute Asian kid with an accent so thick you could choke on it." "Um, okay. How about a guy who tears your heart out?" "And the heart bursts into flames." "You're a mad genius." "Did I mention bugs?"
1. The Garbage Pail Kids Movie
Speaking of grossouts, know what's gross? An hour-and-a-half long '80s product tie-in. Yep, I'm talking about Transformers. Shame on you, Michael Bay, for making a film so unnecessary it only banked a half-billion dollars. Of course, Transformers really isn't so scary because you can never tell what's going on. The way Bay films it, Optimus Prime fighting Megatron looks like a couple of Frank Lloyd Wright homes wrestling. So, let's focus instead on another gross '80s commercial masquerading as a movie, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. First of all, I was a kid when the cards were popular and I never got the appeal. Supposedly kids go ga-ga for gross stuff, but I was the kind of kid who washed his hands fifteen times a day and asked my fellow chums to disinfect the seat after riding my bike. Maybe Garbage Pail Kids are before your time, or it's been so long you have a hazy recollection. Let me jog that memory.