Here’s a scenario from our childhood we remember all too well: There you are watching a wholesome, inoffensive family film when suddenly—BOOM!—there’s that one nightmare-inducing scene that dooms you to endless therapy sessions and insomnia for life! It was tough narrowing it down to just a small handful, but nevertheless here are five terrifying children’s movies that made your mom rush to hit the VCR’s stop button.
1) The Goonies (1985)
We’re not knocking The Goonies by any means—the fact that it has yet to be considered for the Criterion Collection is an outrage—but you’d be lying if you said you weren’t at all scared of Sloth, to say nothing of that scene with the frozen corpse in the walk-in freezer. Honestly, in a movie about a bunch of kids finding pirate treasure hidden beneath a small seaside town, were you really expecting to have the image of a mutant-monster-man-thing chained in the basement slap you right across the amygdala (that’s the brain’s fear center, by the way)? No, and neither was that freshly laundered pair of Batman underpants.
2) The Brave Little Toaster (1987)
For all their revenue streams and influence, Disney’s animation department took a bit of a nosedive in the ‘80s, what with their animated features receiving tepid receptions at best. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and The Little Mermaid, were instrumental in getting people to forget about the dark films Disney churned out at the time. Chief among them being The Brave Little Toaster. Based on the children’s novel of the same name (wow, it was a book?), the film is an endless parade of disturbing moments and imagery that made us think twice about tossing our old appliances in the trash. So on top of scaring the dickens out of us, it made us paranoid too. In this scene, watch as anthropomorphized cars are
crushed killed while they sing a chorus of "worthless!"
3) The Dark Crystal (1982)
Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal is a cinematic marvel of puppetry and practical effects in spite of its tone and plot being somewhat of an acquired taste. Those qualities notwithstanding, the movie—through the impressionable eyes of a kid, mind you—is still a tour de “mommy turn it off, mommy turn it off!” We can’t blame our parental guardians since, in a similar vein to Disney, anything stamped with Jim Henson’s company logo is automatically assumed to be as fun and high-spirited as The Muppet Show. So it’s an honest mistake that we can probably forgive. Though there has to be a point where one must realize that a flick featuring hissing vulture people, soul stealing, and crab monsters isn’t exactly kid-friendly.
4) Return to Oz (1985)
Everyone on the planet has had to have watched the original Wizard of Oz at some point in their childhood; it’s practically a right of passage for most of us. And because you enjoyed it so much, your parents thought to themselves, “Hey, if they liked the first one, then—by extension—they’re going to go absolutely nuts over Return to Oz.” Oh, and did we ever go “nuts”—and not in a good way. Return to Oz is like a nightmarish mirror image of the film we know and love, literally tearing apart the yellow brick road and Emerald City to make way for the Wheelers, the Nome King, and—the most terrifying character of them all—Princess Mombi. An evil headless witch that keeps a collection of screaming noggins in a display case? What’s an easily frightened kid not going to like about that?
5) Little Monsters (1989)
Little Monsters is one of the movies that you might not have watched in your childhood—if you did it was either probably on TV or just lying around the house collecting dust—but if you didn’t, consider yourself lucky. The movie gradually builds from creepy to the stuff of pure nightmares once the film’s heroes confront the monster overlord simply named “Boy.” Oh, cool, he’s dressed like AC/DC’s Angus Young—no, not cool! Boy is the most terrifying character in the most terrifying scene in the entire movie! As if Boy having pre-Cory Matthews Ben Savage tied to a giant dart board followed by ripping his own face off weren’t sufficient indicators.
What movie scared you as a kid?