With the dawn of the home video, a big part of growing up was watching countless movies. Most kids’ movies are supposed to be colorful, funny, and safe entertainment for impressionable minds to enjoy. However, in the 80’s and 90’s, that wasn’t always the case. With wild, untamed imaginations, kids can be scared of almost anything. What parents thought was a harmless, G-Rated movie actually scared us half to death. Other times, we might have been over at a friend’s house and walked into a room at the wrong time, witnessing a movie not intended for us and unable to shake the horrific images from our brains. Whatever the case may be, these movies left a lasting scar, and we’re forever changed because of it. Here are 25 Movies That Scared Us As Kids.
Those of you who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s probably at some point witnessed the horror show known as Legend, starring everyone’s favorite running man, Tom Cruise. Creepy, eerie, surreal, bizarre, there’s really not a good enough adjective to describe this movie complete with weird looking hooked-nosed goblins and a villain that looks like Satan.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
No one thinks this movie is meant for kids, but that didn’t stop you from walking in while it was playing in the living room at exactly the wrong moment. The nuclear apocalypse scene showing Linda Hamilton’s screaming, fiery skeleton clinging to the chain-link fence still haunts your nightmares.
Oh boy, where to start with this one? From the creepy, talking hands that get all handsy with Jennifer Connelly to the old gremlin lady in the giant trash dump, this nightmare fuel, compliments of Jim Henson’s crazed mind, had you wrecked for weeks as a kid. On top of that, things certainly got uncomfortable when old man David Bowie was hitting on the very 16-year-old Jennifer Connelly.
Perhaps at one time, your parents called out and said, “Hey kids, let’s watch this movie about bunnies. It’ll be great fun!” Instead, you watched an hour and thirty-one-minute bunny bloodbath. From dogs violently turning the rabbits into roadkill to Holly’s traumatic dream of the warren’s destruction, this hare terror likely induced another awful bout of childhood bed wetting. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Similarly, this Disney childhood cartoon of frolicking woodland creatures seems innocent enough until young Bambi’s mother is gunned down halfway through the film. The feeling of being lost and alone is terrifying for any child, so watching it happen to a helpless dear likely sent you wailing to your mother, clinging to her leg, and refusing to let go.
Just because a movie was adapted from a Roald Dahl book doesn’t mean it won’t have you crying underneath your bed for days. Case in point, the scene where Anjelica Huston takes off her human skin and becomes a grotesque witch.
The Brave Little Toaster
With a story about a cute little toaster, you’d think this would be a safe bet. You’d be wrong. From the fire dream sequence where a malevolent grinning clown rises from the flames and unleashes a wave of deadly forks to the death scene where all the appliances slowly sink into an inescapable bog, it’s like one big practical joke on kids. Except, no one is laughing.
This is a tricky one. For some, E.T. was a beloved, whimsical and fun coming-of-age movie. Others, however, were instantly freaked by E.T. and even as adults don’t want to go near it. From the weird way E.T. said, “Ouuuucccch” while holding out a glowing finger to the scary scene where E.T. is dying and calling out for Eliot, to some degree it makes sense why kids might be a bit uncomfortable around this movie.
For the most part, this movie is just about a floppy-eared elephant that people mock, except when you get to the scene where said child elephant gets accidentally drunk and witnesses an eerie display of pink, smiling elephants, nightmarishly parading around. If you’re like us, you probably repressed this memory.
The Neverending Story
This movie had its fair share of odd and creepy moments, but what truly scared us to death was when Atreyu and Artax went through the Swamp of Sadness. If you recall, Artax refuses to move and slowly descends into the deep while Atreyu desperately tries to save him. He fails and Artax dies. Excuse us while we go have a good cry.
Here’s another one we probably shouldn’t have watched as kids, but nevertheless, here we are. From the sister Zelda to the demon cat to the terrifying resurrected boy, you probably never looked at animals, or cemeteries for that matter, the same way again.
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
Everyone agrees this movie is a fun, magical time full of chocolate and wonders. That is, until Willy Wonka, the children, and their parents, take an LCD-laced boat ride down a tunnel into madness. At first, everyone foolishly pretends they aren’t sitting before a psychotic lunatic, but then Wonka whispers an eerie tune that grows into a manic yelling. With flashing red lights all around and horrific video in the background, all that candy-like ecstasy from your childhood mind is stripped away and plunged into a barreling hellscape.
Remember in this movie where Kevin Bacon and his co-star Fred Ward find a farmer’s horrified face in the ground, or when one of the Tremors sucks an entire car underneath the earth? Yeah, we do too. If you were like us, after watching this film, you stuck to walking on pavement for quite some time.
In this film, a group of people take part in a sleep study at a mansion and learn about its haunted past. Looking back, it’s not exactly all that original or scary, but for a young kid who went to the theater to see it with his friends, it was pretty stinking scary.
This one is just overall weird, dark, and spooky, but the one scene where Beetlejuice turns into a weird looking snake and freaks out the houseguests put it over the top.
The Dark Crystal
Returning once again to the demented mind of Jim Henson, we find ourselves witnessing horrors beyond all reckoning. From “podlings” strapped down and having their essence drained to the deadness behind the heroes eyes, who in their right mind thought this would be a good kids movie? Jim Henson, apparently.
Wizard of Oz
From tornadoes to witches to flying monkeys, what wasn’t terrifying about this movie? Of course, the wicked witch of the west takes the cake as the most terrifying part of the movie, especially when she starts to melt.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Putting aside the awful title, this movie about a car inventor taking his family into a magical fantasy world has one of the most terrifying scenes of all time. The scene involves a long-nosed creeper dressed like a jester riding his carriage of wonders down the street. With a high-pitched voice, he lures little kids with lollipops and ice cream, calling out for them like an innocent candy man. Once he successfully lures two children into his carriage, he reveals it’s actually a den of horrors and swiftly kidnaps the children while they scream behind metal bars.
Fun and Fancy Free
Acting as a sort of Disney cartoon compilation, for the most part, this movie is harmless and full of fun Mickey Mouse cartoons. Then they had to ruin it with the creepiest ventriloquist dummy act of all time, thrusting a fun movie into a very weird place.
This TV-miniseries they made into a 3 hour and 12-minute film chronicles the terrors of Pennywise the Clown and his savage efforts to kill and consume every member of the Losers Club. Without a doubt, Tim Curry as Pennywise haunted our thoughts for weeks after witnessing this movie.
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie
In an attempt to cash in on the Garbage Pail Kids trend, Hollywood made one of the creepiest kids movies of all time. The weirdos, it turns out, are the garbage pail kids, bringing out a whole new definition for the Uncanny Valley. With weird animatronics and scary puppet designs, what should have been a cute kids movie turned into a total horror show.
We all know the ominous music. With a pretty silly looking animatronic shark, this film took advantage of viewer imagination to scare them. Since kids have an imagination kicked into overdrive, it didn’t take much to scare us into never wanting to swim in the ocean again.
The Secret of NIMH
On the surface, this G-rated children’s movie about a mouse trying to save her village shouldn’t be too scary. But the gloomy atmosphere and the particularly creepy owl, not to mention the mouse’s constant fight for survival, really put it in a dark place. What most kids don’t know is the story was based upon disturbing lab experiments with mice at the National Institute of Mental Health, a.k.a. NIMH.
The Indiana Jones Movies
With a PG-13 rating, most little kids probably shouldn’t have been watching the Indiana Jones films, but we did anyway. From faces being melted off, Indian shaman ripping hearts out of chests, and child slavery to hideous ghosts and heads getting lopped off, it’s safe to say every child was considerably scared while watching these films.
Fire in the Sky
An alien abduction horror film from 1993, if you were a child that casually ended up watching this, there’s no doubt your life was considerably changed and there was no going back. Though slightly cheesy in hindsight, this movie still has some pretty frightening scenes, including the strange alien experimentation scene on a human.