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6 Terrifying (and Scarring) Children's Movies

Len is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has had a fascination with games and media that has lasted a lifetime.

Do you remember any movies that terrified or scarred you?

Do you remember any movies that terrified or scarred you?

The Mistake of One Bad Movie

Adults have a lot of power when you're a kid. They tell you when to go to bed, when to eat, what to wear, and even what movies to watch. Parents picking a movie for the kids to watch normally turns out just fine, though. The kids get to watch Shrek blunder around and make jokes they don't understand for two hours while mom and dad get a nap.

Sometimes, though... sometimes mistakes are made. Sometimes, some messed up stuff can find its way through and leave some trusting young minds reeling. Here are a list of some films you watched as a child that are almost surely responsible for your current mental problems.



6. Jim Henson's "The Dark Crystal"

Jim Henson is a personal hero of mine, and his devotion to creating good natured, intelligent, uplifting art for children earned him a reputation as an uplifting and trustworthy source for parents. What kid doesn't love Sesame Street or the Muppet gang? Heck, what adult doesn't love the Muppets? Serial killers, probably.

So, it comes as no shock that adults sat their kids down to watch The Dark Crystal, expecting some laughs and songs. No luck there, supermom. Jim Henson's dark fantasy features some of his best technologically advanced "muppeteering" but is probably utterly terrifying to anyone under the age of twelve. The film opens up with two hideous bird creatures in a fight to the death for leadership of their decaying, corrupted clan. The loser is stripped and beaten and exiled into the swamps.

The inappropriate imagery just keeps coming. Several deaths later, a few popped eyeballs, and some creepy fights finds our story's hero watching as his girlfriend is sucked dry of her living essence into a withered husk. Well, hey. That sounds just great. Why are you crying, Bobby?

A great film for older kids, but not what you're expecting at seven years old.


5. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"

Mickey Mouse! Bugs Bunny! Daffy and Donald Duck! Talk about your all-star lineup. This alone should be enough to draw in pretty much any kid in America. And it did. Who Framed Roger Rabbit was hugely successful. And it probably spawned a generation of neurotics and bed-wetters.

With a plot more similar to Roman Polanski's Chinatown than a Saturday morning cartoon, Roger Rabbit was already threatening to go over most kid's heads. Alcoholic Private Dick Eddie helps cartoon second-banana Roger Rabbit clear his name after the animated star's wife is found cheating with his now-deceased boss. Laughs-a-plenty, kiddos.

Still, in spite of the mature themes, it manages to stay pretty kid friendly until the very end. And, well... let's just make a list of what happens.

  • Man run over by steamroller, die in pain screaming
  • Dead man wanders around flattened making terrible gurgling noises
  • Dead man is actually a cartoon
  • Terrifying, red, dagger eyes and high pitched crazy voice

All in all, it is just hugely terrifying. And trust me, if it is even more upsetting when you're nine. Just take a look at this.

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4. "The Brave Little Toaster"

The Brave Little Toaster was introduced to many children through repeated showing's on The Disney Channel. Created by many of the same men who now work at Pixar creating films such as Finding Nemo, it seems only natural that this early film would be off the beaten path. A highly schizophrenic film, it goes from sweet natured antics of household appliances that come alive when no one is looking and terrifying, adult realities relayed through song.

Within the first twenty minutes, we see an air conditioner get so angry that he kills himself and a mind-shattering nightmare scenario featuring a demonic clown firefighter spraying a hose full of forks at our titular toaster hero. This might seem like all the bad dream fuel first graders need for a lifetime, but it gets worse.

Later, we have a vacuum cleaner having a seizure due to sucking up its own power cord. THEN terrible zombie Frankenstein appliances singing and dancing around our cuddly group of heroes. Strangely, this is one of the least upsetting song and dance sequences, so that in itself is saying a lot. Later still, the state-of-the-art appliances sing a strangely menacing 80s synth-pop song extolling their superiority, a subtle threat of their inferiors being disposed of looming just under the surface.

And disposed of they are. In one of the most inexplicably morbid scenes in any children's film ever, the film's protagonists are sent to a junk yard where doomed cars sing Worthless, a depressing look back on their passed days of glory as they are literally led to their death by compactor. Not just explaining death, but showing the ravages of age and the depression and relief that death brings at an old age is confusing and upsetting for children. The worst part? A car that it still in working order drives itself into the crusher because it's so upset over being abandoned.

That's right, it commits suicide on screen.

Some of this has to be seen to believed, so excuse to the abundance of video's posted. Trust me, though: they're worth every second you spend on them.

A Terrifying Clown

A great song about death


3. "The Secret of NIMH"

What would happen if Algernon escaped the lab and started a race of super-intelligent mice? You would have The Secret of NIMH. A shockingly violent but affecting children's movie based on a popular novel. Made by Disney-also-ran Don Bluth, had some serious buzz propelling it at the time of its release.

A mother mouse ventures to the mysterious colony of rats to try to save her dying son from a mysterious illness. There she becomes embroiled in the politics of the genius test subjects who are at risk from humans planning to wipe out their home as well as the political machinations of an evil member of their clan.

The fact that the phrase "political machinations" could be used to describe a children's film is already a good sign that it might be above your grade level. The rats go on to crush, stab, and otherwise murder the living hell out of each other by the end, so be ready to give any kid seeing this an unusual number of hugs after they're finished.

2. "Watership Down"

Based on the very-adult novel by Richard Adams, Watership Down might be the biggest mistake parents make when they choose films for the kids. You can't really blame them: just look at the cover! At no point was this really intended to BE for children, but it is an animated film about rabbits so some marketing genius made it seem like the cuddliest, nicest time you could ever have.

This is pretty easy to sum up using only pictures.

Please follow along at home.

Awwww.. those rabbit are ADORABLE!




1. "The Adventures of Mark Twain"

The most terrifying children's movie, ever. Period. It doesn't help that claymation, especially old choppy claymation is already unnatural and unnerving to begin with.

I was lucky to catch this when I was a bit older, around fourteen or fifteen. Too bad this still is terrifying as an adult. The Adventures of Mark Twain was a claymation film that experienced limited popularity. Which is good, because if more people had seen it we might have had scores of new suicides.

In the single most terrifying moment in all of children's cinema, three children meet. Satan. Yes, that Satan. The devil himself. He then proceeds to terrify them and provide them in a lesson on the petty cruelty of man and the violence God inflicts on his creations.

Buckle yourself in. There is nothing cute about this. I will guarantee you this is going to terrify you. Now imagine a nine year old watching it.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


Creeper from Aw Man on November 29, 2015:

You forgot some like


Indiana jones

Real Genius

The Burbs

Sour patch kids



But, of course, I like your choices and respect them

(Who Framed roger Rabbit and watershed Down where also humiliating)

JKWriter from Right in the middle. on November 03, 2014:

Haha! So true! What is strange though...I never realized how scary they were until I enthusiastically decided to share them with my own kids. That is when I realized that MOST children's movies are...creepy. Luckily, kids seem to ignore most of that. I think they bother me more as a grown-up!

Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on July 08, 2014:

Nice article. I always thought the Neverending Story was terrifying. And Disney's Pinocchio.

TheCheeseburger on March 06, 2014:

Watership Down literally traumatized me as a kid. I think I must have blocked it out of my mind for a few years after watching it. And one day years later I suddenly remembered it and nearly started crying. That movie is so freaky.

I used to love The Brave Little Toster, I don't know why. I did sort of depress me though.

Jdohmlo on October 27, 2013:

this list is hystarical and so true. my husband and i were talking last night about how sad and depressing all the cartoons and movies were in the 80's when we were kids!! his exact quote "what was that f'd up movie about the bunnies, that scarred me for life". we couldn't remember the name so we googled it & found this article..

Megan Carroll from Boynton Beach, FL on October 01, 2013:

I LOVE "The Secret of Nihm" and "The Dark Crystal"! I used to watch them all the time at a very young age and I continue to watch them nowadays.

W1totalk on July 03, 2013:

In these movies, it is always your imagination that expands to see things you never knew or see things there that are more magnified. Great article.

Olivia on April 05, 2013:

The I watched the Brave Little Toaster when I was little. That Worthless song has stuck with me since. I just finished watching and it brought back all the fears and such that I had as a child.

bonetta hartig from outback queensland on December 31, 2012:


Domenick Dicce on October 02, 2012:

That was a fun article. I loved Dark Crystal as a child.

I would like to give a shout out to Garbage Pail Kids Movie.

Also, it might be strange but E.T. gave me more nightmares than Gremlins when I watched them back to back as a child.

. on July 05, 2012:

That's really stupid. I can not speak out of knowledge for all of these movies, but I can infer.

You took the worst of the movie and put it up, without including any good parts, making it seem like a mortifying, most terrifying movie, when in reality the scene you included in a video was only there to be countered later by a positive message

^ I assume it was like that on MANY of the movies, however, I'm speaking solely for "The Brave Little Toaster," You included the car scene- worthless- and said that it just shows a lot of symbols of depression and suicide; no way out, sort of meanings, and said that's what the movie is, and there's nothing else to it, while that is not true/ is furthest from the truth.

They included that scene, among other scenes showing bad thoughts and meanings, so they could show that no matter how bad things seem, there's always light at the end of the tunnel:

"hang in there kid," the last song and ending of the movie, I think it proves what I just said, proves that the movie has very wholesome and inspiring meanings, and is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you made it out to be.

oh, and that clown scene was countered soon after with the toaster's friends helping him, to show that friends are always there for you.

Now try again, ignorant poster.

veronica on February 21, 2012:

oh and also if you whant to try something really scary try the scary maze game.

veronica on February 20, 2012:

the only movies i thought wre scary was return to oz.those weeler masks are the scariest masks you will ever see.and this banchie movie the banchie had a creeppy howl. and if i swas in the woods at night and i herd that howl id be running for my life.

Casey Cooper from Collinsville, Illinois on January 13, 2012:

Very good list. I would add the Lord of the Rings cartoon (not the Hobbit or Return of the King) because the animation was so strange and creepy.

fu on September 10, 2011:

i said, fu

dave on September 10, 2011:

70's hallowe'en cartoon, these LITTLE DEMONS kidnap helpless kids off the street. take them underground tie them up and put them on a convayor belt (sorry for mis-spells), anyway the belt is pointed downward and the demons are on ether side and chanting: "INTO THE MACHINE" over and over and over! it only aired twice.

Christopher Rago from Riverside, NJ on July 23, 2011:

Awesome hub! The dark crystal was a product of nightmares but I loved it.

casey on June 14, 2011:

I've been terrified of The Brave Little Toaster since 1998 when I was three, but I thought it was a really creepy dream I had. The sucidal air conditioner was what scarred me (I don't remember the rest of what was described) but that might also explain my other fears that I have right now! I seriously thought I was the only one who got scared and scarred by it!

Wall.e from Florida, USA on June 01, 2011:

It's funny how these movies that are supposed to be for KIDS have all this horror, gore and really sadistic plots to it. It's no wonder why kids have nightmare so often. It's funny how when you're a kid you see these things, you don't understand them but they're engraved into your mind and when you watch it later as an adult you see just how messed up they are!

Cat on May 04, 2011:

Watership down gives me the Heeby-jeebies. I know it's there while I look at the photo of the DVD case, scroll down THERE IT IS. The few slides of animation that ruined my childhood. Sweet dreams.

Jake on April 06, 2011:

True! That part in Roger Rabbit was the scariest thing I had EVER seen in my whole life - but keep in mind, I was only 6 years old in 1988.

Wayne Tully from United Kingdom on March 15, 2011:

That watership down was horrible as a kid but Roger rabbit?!!!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 07, 2011:

Oh my god! The Brave Little Toaster!!! That movie is HORRIFYING!!! I don't think I could watch it again. This Hub rocks.

Pente from Planet Earth on March 02, 2011:

Reading this hub makes me realize how much the world has changed since I was a kid. Back then, children were treated as smaller adults.

When I was 11, I use to shoot my dad's .22 in the back yard. At that same age, I would go down to the hardware store to buy more ammo. Nobody even blinked.

When I was 6 years old, I was often left at home overnight. I remember starting to watch War of the Worlds one summer night. When the death rays blasted the people and turned them into white dust, I turned off the TV and hid under my blanket until I fell asleep.

After that incident, everything else seemed mild in comparison. I looked forward to scary movies.

I allowed my children to watch adult horror. My daughter later married a guy who went to Iraq. After he came back, she couldn't understand why he had so many problems and nightmares from all the dead bodies he saw over there.

It turned out that his family never allowed their children to watch horror movies when he was a child. He had no immunity to horror or suffering.

I have been through some very bad times in my life and I feel that experiencing horror in both books and movies as a child helped me to face these horrors as an adult.

I think adults can do their children serious harm from protecting them to much. They need to learn that the world can be a violent and horrible place if they are to survive as adults.

As for the Mysterious Stranger. I think the scariest thing about it may be the philosophy:

"Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought - a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!"

Beaks from USA on February 11, 2011:

Holy crap, number 3 and 6 scarred me for life. The Dark Crystal was just awful start to finish, and it was way too much for a little kid sitting in a dark movie theater.

sue on January 22, 2011:

Coraline scared me and my children. It was just to creepy. on November 22, 2010:


I Just thought of a favorite scary moment I saw last night on my DVD copy of my favorite movie of 2009: "Coraline". It was when Coraline challenged her phony other mother face-to-face with the line "You are NOT My Mother!", & then the shoe-button eyed mother transforms into an evil spider-hag waiting to trap Coraline into the Other World with shoe-button eyed horror. God, it was terrifying, but fun, and Coraline finally valiantly put Other-Mother in her place once and for all. OK, OK, so she had some help from Wybie (a character that wasn't in the original book, but blame that on the executive producers that wanted to attract a teenaged-male audience.)And that cat, Wuss-Puss, thrown on Other-Mother like one throws an axe to a victim from a psychotic ax-murderer. YOW! It looks even better in 3-D wide screen on a movie projector and screen.

Shelly on November 13, 2010:

I was like 2 or 3 when I first saw Roger Rabbit, and I was able to sit through the first few minutes of the movie...until Judge Doom's opening scene where he dips that cute little shoe...after I saw that, I'd turn the VCR off. Then I was finally able to get through it after I saw it again when I was about 7 or 8.

bigg3469 on November 13, 2010:

Yeeek!!! Here's a trio of children cartoon that are " terrifying and starring" (1) Rankin-Bass' " The Wacky World of Mother Goose" which had a scene with a monster candle who was used as an agent of terror for the "Crooked Man when he tried to take over Mother Goose Land.(2) Animal Farm (1950's version) which shows a battle scene where a farmer breaks the neck of a duck on a vicious manner as well as the "death" of Old Major.(3) Barefoot Gen where in a very graphical scene in which a little girl, a police officer, an elderly man, a dog, and a mother and her baby got incinderated to their deaths by the atom bomb that fell on Hiroshima. on October 10, 2010:


If You think scary animation is Something for the realms Of Unpleasant Childhood,what do you think of the so-called "Logo-Phobia" that many kids have been Frightened Of since watching Cartoons on TV & The Theatre (Such as that Screen Gems "S From Hell" that Appears in a lot of Old H-B Cartoonns Of the 50's-70's?) There are A lot Of blogs On these childhood traumas, so do they count as scary Moments in animation?

Chelsea Carter-Kern from Florida on September 22, 2010:

This is hilarious!!! I've seen most of these movies, and you are definitely right! Although, I love the dark crystal, even when I was little haha. However, I definitely see where you're coming from! Great article! :)

philmaguire from Jersey, Iles de la Manche on August 17, 2010:

You wusses!

If you want scary, try "The Ringing Singing Tree" from East Germany.

In close second, is Fantasia by Goold Old Uncle Walt which features drugs, sex, dinousaurs killing each other and finally ends with the devil torturing the souls of the dead each and every night.

But top place has to be Doctor Who: the daleks, cybermen, yeti, zarbi, the list goes on and on. Maybe it was me but I thought that it was scarier in black and white

Still all of these pale into insignificance when compared with the real stories told by the Brothers Grimm. If they were writing today, they would be banned.

starvagrant from Missouri on June 28, 2010:

I admit most of these movies do seem targeted more towards adults, but I think we ought to be disturbed by some of the stories (in movies or print) we encounter. But the only things that really scared me when I was younger was the 700 club and those movies they showed to kids to scare them away from drugs.

welshbard from Western NC on June 26, 2010:

You forgot "The Black Cauldron." Violent death, corpses raising from the title artifact, old man turned into a frog and placed between a witch's ample cleavage, John Byner doing the voice of Gurgi...this film has it.

Also any film by Ralph Bakshi.

Seriously, good list.

Kasey Rubenstein from California on June 19, 2010:

A friend of mine saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit when she was 19 and it still scared the crap out of her.

I still like The Brave Little Toaster, though I'm not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with "Tutti Frutti".

I am way too terrified to watch the last two on your list.

Nick de Bruyne on June 06, 2010:

We used to have The Brave Little Toaster and it was actually really awesome for a mostly unknown cartoon. I must say though, it's amazing how things that are so depressing now, never clicked in our young minds back then. It just isn't the same to children, maybe because they don't yet understand.

Kiok on June 06, 2010:

-Who are you?-I'am an angel. What's your name? -Satan lol. XD

eric on June 06, 2010:

i'm a little bit off topic, but i saw hellraiser 3 when i was 9 or 10 and the nightclub scene where pinhead kills everyone scared the shit out of me. i still think some psycho will do that in a club. lol

Bargmont on June 05, 2010:

Watership needs to be #1. You should put the "suffocating scene" in there. Truly frightening even if your an adult.

passers on May 20, 2010:


On the number 1 clip, pause at 0:34!


EvilTrix on April 28, 2010:

Oh yea and the Peanut Butter solution

EvilTrix on April 26, 2010:

There's one more that should be on this list. Disney's The Black Cauldron.

Glimmer515 from Never Never Land on April 11, 2010:

So The Brave Little Toaster i suppose dos have some qustionable parts in it but what can i say it was one of my favorites as a little girl. The songs are so catchy u dont really realize what there talking about. But I totally agree with Dark Crystal, didn't like it then and dont like it now, and I know its a big cult classic film and I loved Labyrinth & Legend (kinds similar films) but Dark Crystal just gives me the creeps

Cinematery on April 11, 2010:

My thoughts:

I was watching "The Dark Crystal" a lot when I was about three or four and it was one of my favorites at the time. A couple years later, I was at a church daycare and they had the idea to show it to us. After half the kids in the room were crying, they had to turn it off during the FIRST TEN MINUTES.

I saw "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" when it came out to theaters and I have to say the only part that really got to me at all was the cute little cartoon shoe that Doctor Doom coolly executes by way of melting in a drum of some chemical. It didn't get to me BADLY, but it did give me the creeps.

Another daycare I was kicked out of frequently showed "The Brave Little Toaster" when I was about 7 or 8, and it was one of my favorites at the time BECAUSE I was morbid as it was. My favorite part is where one appliance gets frigging DISMEMBERED by some creepy guy who likes what he's doing.

"The Secret of NIMH" was one of my favorites when I was about 4 or 5, but I strangely don't remember much about it. Your review makes me want to rediscover it, though!

I've never seen "Watership Down", but lets just say I've heard things... they ain't pretty. When I'm in a shitty mood and want to see a depressing, bloody kids' movie, I think it has just now registered as mandatory watching.

I likewise haven't seen "The Adventures of Mark Twain", but I will now!

And, by the way, you forgot both "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (a 1983 Disney horror movie aimed at kids in which one kid gets to witness his own onscreen decapitation!) and "Return to Oz" (in which Dorothy gets out of an asylum only to be faced with creepy freaks on roller skates and an evil chick with a gallery of living disembodied heads!).

ChildOddball on February 19, 2010:

I see what you're pointing out here - but I have to say aside from "Watership Down" and "The Adventures of Mark Twain" (neither of which I've ever seen), I've always loved these movies. Well, actually I read "The Secret of Nimh" first when I was six or seven, so I was very annoyed with the movie because it changed so much. However, I remember seeing "The Dark Crystal" when I was very young, maybe five or six, and LOVING it. Same with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", which I saw the first time as a toddler. That scene with the high squeaky voice used to make me laugh and laugh - still does, actually.

But I can see how some young children would be frightened by some of these images and such - my little cousin was always VERY sensitive and couldn't watch anything even remotely scary. I don't think he liked "Dark Crystal" until he was older.

SubmergedYak on December 21, 2009:

I definitely agree with this list...some because I've seen them and some because those scenes posted on here are just messed.

When I was little, I used to love the Brave Little Toaster, but looking back on it, wow....what a messed up movie.

Watership down I saw around 11 or 12ish and by the time the 38th rabbit got brutally disemboweled in some fashion, I was rather bored rather than scared.

I've never seen the rest completely, but they look scary as hell. Especially the seen from Mark Twain. AAAAAAAHHHH!!!!! scarred for life

theageofcake from MA on October 01, 2009:

Aside from the Skeksis race as a whole, the only part of Dark Crystal I find really unnerving, even as an adult, is when the Podlings are drained of their essence. In that scene, their expressions appear particularly real.

I've seen the clip you've included of The Adventures of Mark Twain, but not the rest of the movie. Certainly, its on my list of must sees.

TV Master on September 20, 2009:

These are good choices for dark moments in kids movies. Here my thoughts on them

I don't ever recall seeing much of the Dark Crystal, so I don't have anything to say about it.

The first time I saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I was rather freaked out by Judge Doom's crushing and his crazy true form. After the first time, i wasn't scared by it anymore and now find that scene to be awsome.

I LOVED The Brave Little Toaster when I was little and I wasn't afraid of those scenes you mentions (Heck, I found the evil Firefighter Clown to be random than scary then.) But now that I am older and wiser, these scenes are pretty disturbing.

I never saw Secret of Nimh when I was younger but I remember seeing it when I was around my early Teens, and I was surprised to see the violence, such as the main character getting a huge, bleeding, gash on her arm and mice getting stabbed, not to mention the implication of mice getting chopped up by the air conditioner. I could go on and on about what surprised me.

Watership down... I never saw this film, but I did see a clip from it... a wolf attacking the cute bunnies and one of the rabbits lay on the ground, its entrails and blood hanging out of its body. Wow.

Finally that Mark Twain movie. Dear god, I saw the said scene on the internet and it disturbed and scared the crap out of me. I couldn't even watch a minute. (I live a very sheltered life so I'm scared of anything.) It doesn't help that claymation is creepy to begin with.

That's all my thoughts. Good article!

Martin Allan from Sunny Scotland on June 25, 2009:

One half of the retro brothers was upset beyond belief by Watership down. Utterly harrowing that film - I saw it in the cinema as a child. It still gives me the chills to this day...

Great list by the way!

hayhay on May 17, 2009:

the brave little toaster is like reall f*cked up i can still remember it an it still gives me weird feelings..


im buying all trippy movies like that too watch when im tripping YAY

hahaa :]

Habbah Montana on March 31, 2009:

Dude, not to be rude but the dark christal is just about the stupidest movie EVER

JPeaslee on March 23, 2009:

Okay, first - that was hilarious. Paritcularly the pictures for Watership Down.

I am SO GLAD you mentioned Roger Rabbit! I loved that movie as a kid, and I still do, but dear God, those red eyes/DAGGERS gave me nightmares until I was about 16. Literally. I would be having a nice dream, then BAM! DAGGERSFOREYES!

Also, I just re-watched The Brave Little Toaster, and I have no idea why I liked it when I was younger. It was scary. It was terrifying. And it convinced me that the makers were literally on drugs.

countrywomen from Washington, USA on October 30, 2008:

WOW!! I never thought kid's movies were meant to be scary. I actually saw "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and didn't find it scary. I will have to watch others to jump to similar conclusion.

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