Seven Of The Most Terrifying Children’s Movies Ever Made

In Parenting by Jen30 Comments

Nowadays, a children’s movie is usually one that young children will enjoy and leave having learned something and feeling happy about the world. If my children had to watch the movies that I did as a child they would be scarred for life, much like their mother is. Take a look and tell me if you agree that these movies shouldn’t ever be shown to young children.  I’ll do my best to make this spoiler free just in case you want to disregard my pleadings and inflict these on your children.

Something Wicked This Way Comes








Who am I kidding this movie still scares me as an adult.  Honestly this movie is scarier than just about any horror movie I have seen, with the possible exception of “The Shining,” and it is Disney family fare.  Forget “Saving Mr. Banks,” I want to see a movie  about how THIS passed the production process at Disney.  

The Dark Crystal











Jim Henson made some of the most iconic, cute, and lovable characters of my childhood.  He also made things that still give me nightmares.  I don’t think that was what he was attempting to do with this movie, but there it is anyway.  It may be critically acclaimed, but I can’t get past the freakishness of the characters, especially those evil Vulture things.

The Watcher In The Woods







The ending lets off the gas just a bit, but there are moments in this film where icy cold terror shot down my veins.  It does an excellent job of setting up the next scare and letting you use your imagination to make things scarier than what the movie actually shows, like Hitchcock, only aimed at the audience of “The Parent Trap.”












Baby stealing, creepy old guys (even though it is a cool creepy old guy like David Bowie) pursuing teenagers, and trolls.  Seriously.  Not technically meant to be in the horror genre, but delivers something akin to the “get out of the house, he’s calling from upstairs!” misadventures in babysitting vibe.  Except with freaky trolls.  I did mention the trolls, right?

The Secret of N.I.M.H

Take a happy mouse family, kill off the father (not part of the plot, backstory) and send the mother on a dark almost post apocalyptic quest to save her sick son before he literally gets plowed under by sharp steel blades.  That is just the charming intro.  The actual journey is filled with predators and heroes who will scare the bejeebers out of you as well.  Don Bluth, the creator, once spoke at my University.  I considered pelting him with vegetables due to childhood night terrors.

The Last Unicorn











Once upon a time there were these cartoonists named Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass who created the beloved stop-motion Christmas specials that kicked off the Holiday Season and everyone was happy, the end.  Except. . the animated movies, those scary, likely LSD-fueled animated movies that afflicted and traumatized children.  The Last Unicorn is one of these movies.  Full of brooding and despair, the heroes tumble from tragedy to tragedy, before kind of running into a moderately happy ending with caveats.  My husband bought this and actually showed it to my oldest daughter when she was 6 and that is why she is the quiet one. He is still doing penance.

Watership Down









Back in the day before people actually owned VCR’s (my youngest children barely even know what a VCR is,) you would rent a VCR likely for the weekend and some movies.  Sometimes you would get Beta, but that is a different post altogether.

My mother rented what she figured was a cute movie about bunnies and plopped her 4 year old in front of it and left.  That movie was Watership Down.

If you haven’t seen Watership Down, Imagine taking cute bunnies and pretty much playing out the plot of Gangs of New York, except maybe throwing in some Nazis and cranking up the blood and violence to 11.  That puts you in the ballpark.  Talk about scarring, this is numero uno on my list.

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  1. I've not seen a one of these. I rarely watch anything either television or the movies. I sure won't sign up to watch any of these now.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  2. Oh my gosh.. whenever a conversation comes up, "What is the scariest movie you've ever seen?" I always mention "the Watcher in the Woods" in my list. Most people I know have never heard of it, but I remember watching it at a slumber party when I was a kid and it scared me for MONTHS! I watched it again as an adult and it still scared me! Hard to believe it's a Disney movie!

  3. Terrifying for sure! I can't believe they were ever labeled as "kids" movies. Sorry my friend that you too were scarred by some of these.

  4. Labyrinth is so crazy scary! I mean- the sister loses her brother after wishing she didn't have to watch him, then David Bowie is infatuated with her- despite her being a minor…and wants to trade her for the baby? How did this movie even happen? It's one of my favorites haahaah

  5. I actually showed it to my oldest last summer and she said, "Mom this movie is kind of creepy. How did you grow up normal after watching stuff like this?" Um, I guess I did not……

  6. Haha! I love Labyrinth and Dark Crystal! I own them on DVD and my kids like them too… but we're kind of weird.

  7. I don't really think Watership Down (given the book its based on) is a kid's movie. In fact, sites like Netflix specifically say it's not a kids movie.

    I watched the last unicorn as a kid, and think its a great movie, with a lesson that most little girls (and boys) that are exposed solely to Disney Fairy Tales don't get. It teaches hard lessons, I think.

    The secret of NIMH scared the beejesus about of me, though. Even as an adult, I can't get behind this flick.

    I haven't seen most of the others in years, and some of them, I haven't seen at all. The original Fantasia, parts of Dumbo, and Gremlins were the terrors of my childhood.

  8. To add to my above comment, I know that when I (and the author of the post) were young, Netflix and the internet didn't exist, so its understandable for moms of old to be confused. If it was animated, it must be for kids!

  9. Animated and had bunnies! I'm sure this was parked in the children's section of the video store, which constituted the rating system back in the day :) I also forgot to mention parts of The Goonies gave me the creeps as well.

  10. I discovered The Dark Crystal a few years ago. Indeed, the evil Vulture creatures are the stuff of nightmares.

  11. Yes they most definitely are… That might explain the bed wetting problem "someone" had at the same time as they saw this movie many,many years ago……

  12. I have not seen any of these movies. I'm guilty of sometimes letting my kids watch movies that I have not seen so I am so thankful that you shared these reviews with me. I am thankful I can save my kids from a night or more of night terrors.

    1. Author

      They are all odd, although I do kind of like Labyrinth even though the whole premise is whacked. Never watch Watership Down.

  13. Ha! The fact that I saw four of the seven when I was little explains why I’m so darn jumpy all the time.

    Seriously though. I watched Secret of NIMH repeatedly when I was little. It was super scary in parts. That cat?! And the wicked rat?! Eeek!

    Watership Down is definitely NOT made for kids.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the SHINE Blog Hop).

    Wishing you a lovely weekend.
    Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom recently posted…{this moment: a little girl and her daddy}My Profile

  14. The only one of these that I watched as a kid was “The Secret of Nimh” and I totally agree that it’s scary! I haven’t actually watched it in years because I’m still not over it!
    One of the scariest movie characters that I remember (the movie itself wasn’t scary so shouldn’t be on your list but it was a “family” movie) is the Child Catcher from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. That guy still gives me the creeps today!
    I love your list, and will now keep these movies on the top shelf so my boys can’t choose them!
    Cristi G. (Stopping by from the SHINE Blog Hop)

  15. Love it! I used to watch Watcher in the Woods. over and over and over again when I was a kid–terrifying!!! In our family, we used to always quote it, “Did you HURT yourself???” Great list.
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  16. OMG, I should read more blogs instead of trying to type material. Came across this and was actually intrigued by the title; and then you list like 6 of my favorite childhood movies. What ever scared you in these movies must have scared primarily girls, for I couldn’t get enough of watching them.

    The Dark Crystal held a lot of meaning as a kid, but as an adult it rings home the truth of spirituality. Everything is done for one side or the other, but is always for the whole. The Labyrinth, I can’t get enough of the music, and I can’t stand the musical stylings of David Bowie, talk about a yuck there. I did try to get my daughter to watch The Last Unicorn with me, but it failed epically… as did trying to watch the other 2. Perhaps that is a good thing then.

    But the movie that I think scared me the most as a child was Legend, found it too confusing as a teen.
    Frank recently posted…Marijuana and the American Prison Population pt4My Profile

    1. Author

      I enjoyed Labyrinth as a little kid,, but as I grew up and watched it paying attention as an adult it really is reminiscent of the whole get out of the house he’s upstairs babysitter urban legend! P.S. David Bowie was the WHOLE reason young girl’s watched it. His hair was epic in that particular flick.
      Jen recently posted…Head, Heart, Hands and HealthMy Profile

    1. Author

      I saw it was on NETFLIX last night! I strictly forbade the younger children from watching it. I do not need nightmares because they watched that movie! I made the mistake this summer of having them watch Honey I Shrunk the Kids and am still paying for the death of Anty in the movie!
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    1. Author

      I have heard that! See my parents had me watch the movie with no set-up that it was a book or what it was about. After that I was too scared to read it, but have heard that the book is fabulous. Isn’t that always the way that the book is better than the movie?
      Jen recently posted…Hip Hip Hooray! It’s My SITS Day!My Profile

  17. LOL! This post is so well written, and so hysterical. I can’t recall any childhood movies of mine that terrified me….unless you count the Exorcist, which my parents plopped me in front of at about 6 or 7. So I think I’m in a frightening, night-terror-fueled category all of my own, haha. This post makes me want to watch these movies though! Probably because I now have a deep-seated craving to see all things that may or may not be scarier than the Exorcist, haha. Great post! Visiting from SITS :)
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