My Top 12 Terrifying Children’s Movies that Weren’t Supposed to Be Terrifying


Alright so I love movies—always have, always will. I think the movies we watch can be a very formative part of who we are and can shape our perspective of the world, especially the movies we watch as kids. That being said, I find it astonishing as I look back on some of the movies I used to watch as a kid and I realize that the things I thought were terrifying then are actually just still really terrifying. It’s hard to believe that a lot of this stuff made its way into children’s movies. To be honest, most of my biggest irrational fears that I have today (fear of cockroaches and bugs of all kinds, drowning, ovens, torture, etc.) can be traced back to the movies I watched when I was a little, impressionable squirt. Now, was I just a hypersensitive child who probably had some anxiety issues? Yes. However, that doesn’t detract from the fact that some of these moviemakers put certain things into these movies without realizing how traumatizing they might be from the actual viewpoint of a kid. So here is my top 12 list of such cases.

12. Toy Story


So here’s a super fun idea: Since spiders and baby dolls with open eye sockets are both incredibly creepy by themselves, let’s combine them together to create a figure so heinous that it will haunt the nightmares of children for years and probably affect their social development. If you’ve ever wondered if Pixar animators have abused hallucinogens, I think the creation of this little demon here is your answer.

11. Aladdin


Disney never fails to disappoint; it has something for everyone. Dreams. Magic. Attempted homicide. Don’t get me wrong, Aladdin is probably my favorite Disney movie, but I can never forget the fact that Aladdin would have drowned and died a very slow, panicked death had not Robin Williams been there to save him.

10. Veggie Tales: Larry Boy and the Rumor Weed


Does this one even really need an explanation? I mean, look at it. For those of you not as acquainted with your Biblical cartoons, this Veggie Tale’s movie used a little weed that grew into a monstrous man-eating plant and took over the city as a metaphor for how quickly a rumor can spread and get out of control. Cute, right? Except that the weed was horrific. If Fran Drescher and a Venus Fly-Trap ever had a child that smoked three packs a day, that’s what the “Rumor Weed” would have been. And more importantly, if a weed (which is a plant) tries to eat the veggie tale characters (who are also technically plants)…is this cannibalism?

9. Cinderella


For me personally, Cinderella’s evil stepmother’s expression here says something along the lines of “I’m the devil’s mistress and even he’s afraid of me.” And I mean, if you want to talk about psychopathic tendencies, look no further. This nutter locked her kid in a dungeon for heaven’s sake and only let her have mice for friends. If I were to ever pick a Disney character that was most likely to have been a serial killer at some point in his or her lifetime, it would be this batty chick with the crazy eyes right here. It wouldn’t surprise me if she premeditatedly killed Cinderella’s dad for the insurance money either.

8. Shark Tale


It always baffles me how people seem to love the Bob Marley inspired jellyfish duo of Bernie and Ernie from Shark Tale. And what’s not to love about a pair of Rastafarian sacs of gel that sing in Jamaican accents about not worrying and just being happy? Um, how about the fact that while they’re singing they’re simultaneously torturing another fish via electric shocks? It’s like that scene from Taken all over again where Liam Neeson electrocutes a scumbag to get information—it’s just the animated version.

7. Monsters Inc.


I know what you’re thinking: “This one makes sense! Monsters are supposed to be scary you wingnut!” It wasn’t the monsters in Monsters Inc. that scared me though—it was one particular scene that used a particularly maniacal scream-sucking machine. This poor guy, probably some low level employee with a wife and eight little monsters to feed, was Randall’s (the evil salamander-looking dude’s) test subject. Randall strapped this guy to a chair and sucked all of the “screams” out of him which is great and hilarious except for the fact that it looks more like Satan himself sucked the soul out of him and left him to rot in his skin. And since when is this strapping down and torturing thing okay? Like is this Pixar or is this Dexter?

6. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory


Was I the only one who was equally fond of and totally wigged out by this movie?? You’d think that a candy factory would be a safe place for children but Willy Wonka’s LSD-infused house of horrors ended up being a surprisingly dangerous place. Don’t believe me? Let’s recap the fates of all of the children, shall we?

-Augustus Gloop is sucked into the chocolate pipe and almost made into flesh-flavored fudge.

-Violet Beauregarde’s internal organs expand violently as she turns into a human blueberry and has to get her stomach pumped .

-Veruca Salt is sent spiraling down a garbage shoot with an incinerator at the bottom for the “bad eggs.” An incinerator, people.

-Mike Teavee shrinks himself and has to be stretched out again by the bubble gum stretcher like some medieval method of torture.

-And finally, Charlie and his grandpa are inches away from being diced up into a zillion little bloody pieces by the industrial fan in the “Bubble Room.” That’s enough to make you lose your sweet tooth.

5. Spy Kids


Don’t you even dare argue with me on this one. It was bad enough to have to witness these mutant, Doodlebop rejects babbling incoherently the whole movie. It was worse when you found out that these mutant, Doodlebop rejects were actually human beings that’d been hooked up to some machine that melted their brains and morphed their bodies into walking freak shows. If that’s not a sadistic enterprise, then I don’t know what is.

4. Mouse Hunt


This movie is not for the squeamish. It’s supposed to be a comic tale of two men who inherit an old house and are terrorized by a little mouse who lives there (I think they were running low on ideas in the 90s.) Apart from that though, there was a scene in which a cockroach made its way into a restaurant and into the dinner plates of the mayor and his family. One of his daughters (or sons, it’s hard to tell) found half of it in her soup while the other half was found wriggling around in the mouth of the mayor himself. And did this atrocious scene affect me personally? Did this mentally scar me and leave me permanently mortified? Let’s just say that I risked the lives of my entire college’s population by pouring a quart of Clorox bleach probably straight into the water supply when I saw a cockroach come up out of the bathroom drain one night.

3. Finding Nemo


Where to begin with this one? Should I start with the monstrous barracuda that eats Nemo’s mom and devours her unborn children? Or maybe the bloodthirsty sharks living in the active underwater minefield? Possibly the jelly-fish forest of perpetual suffering? No? Well how about the fish-version of the Angel of Death? Take your pick.

2. A Bug’s Life


Leave it to Pixar to take the seemingly most benign creature (say, a grasshopper) and turn it into a tyrannical warmonger. Not only did this particular villain terrorize and brutalize a colony of ants and force them to offer tribute to him, but he also waged war against them and eventually forced them to be his slaves. True, the ants did eventually rise up and defeat the grasshoppers while their leader was fed alive, kicking and screaming, to some baby birds—but that’s little consolation to a five-year-old who is now a twenty-year-old still terrified of any and all types of insects.

1. Chicken Run


And finally, out of all the movies, this one takes the cake. I still get a surge of anxiety thinking about this little lost gem of a clay-mation nightmare. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one and I didn’t remember all of the plot details, so I looked it up on Wikipedia which describes it as a “family comedy film.” I few lines down from that, in the plot summary, the coop the chickens are kept in is described as such: “The coop is run in the style of a World War II POW camp.” Because nothing screams family comedy like a World War II POW camp. Furthermore, the story follows a group of chickens who must escape their farm when their farmers start taking them one by one to the chopping block. The farmers have purchased a new chicken pot pie machine that will perform the entire process of turning a live chicken into a steaming, delicious pot pie in a matter of minutes. Let that sink in a minute. Like what sick, twisted puppy came up with that?? And during the movie, two of the live chickens get put into the machine. There’s an entire sequence of dodging instruments of death and escaping the huge internal oven of the machine. Thanks to this movie, I can’t even make a DiGiorno’s pizza without wearing two heavy oven mitts and sending a little prayer up asking that I never get baked alive.

So there you have it. I’ve given you a little glimpse into my greatest fears and their humble beginnings. Perhaps now you can at least sympathize with me on this matter. Or is it empathize? Anyways, if you have kids or are planning to have some in the future, I urge you to take care with what movies you let them watch—you may unwittingly be giving them Freudian complexes from which they will never recover.



2 thoughts on “My Top 12 Terrifying Children’s Movies that Weren’t Supposed to Be Terrifying

  1. mary olive

    I have similar feelings about most of the movies you listed. Although I was an adult when several of them were made they still made me uncomfortable and cautious about my own children seeing them. I would have to add one to the list. Made when I was a child (the 70’s). I watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the drive in theatre. The “Child Catcher” cloaked as a lollipop/ice cream salesman would make any kid afraid of the ice cream truck the rest of their lives. Still gives me chills just to think about it!

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