Top 10 Films That Were Not Meant for Kids

by Kali Tuttle
Scary Kids Movies

Y’all ever watch a particularly scary kids movie and wonder how in the heck it only got a PG or G rating?

I usually have no quarrels with the MPAA rating system. I think it’s great and it truly helps me decide if I want to see a movie or not. But there are times when the people devising the ratings must have been stoned off their butt because they really screwed up. And, when it comes to children’s movies, you’d think they’d have a little more care.


Consequently, here are some children’s movies that scarred me as a child (and as an adult) and that I never want to see again. Also, please love me because I hate scary things and this was the hardest thing I’ve had to do for this website. Also also, the 1980s seem to be an especially dark time for scary kids movies.

Honorable Mentions

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Witches (1990)

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982)

Labyrinth (1986)

Bambi (1942)

Little Monsters (1989)

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

The Care Bears Movie (1985)

Someone Was Watching (2002)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

#10: The NeverEnding Story (1984)

The only redeeming quality about this film is that the child actor that plays Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) is so annoying that it makes everything slightly less horrifying. Basically, this kid, Bastian, is getting bullied (probably because of his stupid name) and one day he escapes into a book shop and finds himself pulled into the absolutely terrifying world called Fantasia where he goes on a magical quest to save the world from the evil darkness called Nothing. If the villain being a figureless entity that consumes like a dark, suffocating plague didn’t scare you enough, there’s also a dragon that’s supposed to be friendly but is no less horrifying than the rest of the movie. Add in dark lighting for basically the whole movie and you get a family-friendly scary kids movie? Right? Friendly for the whole family!

Scary Kids Movie

Image via Nerdist

Its eyes pierce my soul.

#9: All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989)

This was one of those horrible movies that the MPAA rated G and no one is quite sure why because it is the scariest thing and gives me no comfort about dogs going to heaven. First of all, the subject matter really isn’t that appropriate to begin with, both with the obvious subject of death and then the whole double-crossing, gangster plot. Of course kids have to learn about death at some point but watching this movie is like taking the family hound out and shooting them in the head — unnecessary and more mentally scarring than anything else. Who decided depicting a “Dog Devil” was a good idea for children? Who decided to give the main character a nightmare involving “Dog Hell”? I like Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise’s voice acting, but I hate the rest of this film.

Scary Kids Movie

Image via YouTube

#8: Monster House (2006)

This movie is overly horrifying and it’s only number eight on my list. The story is that the house across the street from a boy named DJ is actually a scary monster and it eats people. After the man who owns the house unexpectedly dies (in equally scary fashion, I might add), the house becomes angry and uncontrollable. You know that feeling where you run up the steps after turning off the lights in the basement? That’s basically what this whole movie is multiplied by ten. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my safe cardboard box on the side of the road, far away from any houses.

Scary Kids Movie

Image via YouTube

#7: The Dark Crystal (1982)

I thought I liked the Muppets but I would like to recant that statement because this movie has scarred me. The Dark Crystal is about a creature called a Gelfling that must embark on an adventure to recover a magical crystal to save the world. Honestly, though, the world in this movie already seems like it’s beyond saving. Every creature in this movie is horrifying. I thought the Ghost of Christmas Future in The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) was scary, but now I feel like I’ve entered a whole new realm in scary kids movies.

Scary Kids Movie

Image via Yarn

Was this beetle thing supposed to be endearing to the children??? I want to scream just looking at it. Why hast thou betrayed me, Jim Henson? WHY???

#6: Return to Oz (1985)

Let me just quote the IMDB summary for you and see how you feel about the general premise: “Dorothy, saved from a psychiatric experiment by a mysterious girl, is somehow called back to Oz when a vain witch and the Nome King destroy everything that makes the magical land beautiful.” Doesn’t sound horrible, right? Maybe a little strange and not entirely appropriate for children but still could be a wholesome family movie.

Scary Kids Movie

Image via io9

WRONG. Nothing in the 1980s was ever made for children, especially not these horrifying creatures called “wheelers.” This whole movie is just a nightmare-fueled acid trip.

#5: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Let me start off by saying Disney should never make kid-friendly horror ever again because it is not kid-friendlySomething Wicked This Way Comes is about how a creepy carnival comes to town and the horrifying demonic proprietor terrorizes the town, particularly two little boys. I will admit that Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark, the proprietor, is magnificent in this film simply because he’s so creepy but I also think it’s terrible because he’s so creepy he makes me want to cry. Add in some voodoo and a haunting hall of mirrors that gets a little too real and you have the perfect formula to scare any child…or adult. I really shouldn’t have done this article. I hate horror.

Scary Kids Movie

Image via Slash Film

#4: The Secret of Nimh (1982)

Oh, surprise! Another 1980s “family” movie that your child will be bringing up in therapy for as long as they live! I vaguely remember reading the book this movie was based on and then watching the movie; I remember nothing about it other than it was very scary and if I think about it any more I may wet my pants. From what I recall (with the aid of my good friend, IMDB), it’s about a mouse whose son is ill and she must team up with these horrifyingly-animated rats to save him. There’s also the impending threat of a farmer plowing the mice in the harvest and also a sub-plot about science experiments on mice. I sure love a good, kid-friendly story that I don’t have nightmares about. This is not it.

Scary Kids Movie

Image via Mental Floss

And, of course, if it wasn’t horrifying enough, it must include the creepy dark lighting with blood-red hues.

#3: Watcher in the Woods (1980)

You know, I don’t know what Disney was going for in this film, but it only adds to my theory that Disney is basically the devil. Starring Bette Davis and marketed as a family film for some God-awful reason, Watcher in the Woods is about how these girls move into a house in the woods and find out the house has a sinister past. I hate this film. I hate that I can’t look in a mirror without the fear that some creepy little girl will break it. There’s creepy occult gatherings and supernatural elements. Bette Davis is ruined for me. Disney, I hate you. Never, ever make a scary kids movie again because you’re too good at it.

Scary Kids Movie

Image via Flickr

I want to cry. Look at the creepy blindfolded girl. She haunts my nightmares.

#2: Coraline (2009)

You knew Coraline had to be on here. I’m a little biased because I absolutely hate Tim Burton and the edgy goth vibe he goes for (he has spawned one too many goth children who think they’re so quirky). I mean, who sits down and writes a script for a movie where the girl has to run away from people who have buttons instead of eyes and are the epitome of creepy? If this had been marketed as anything other than a scary kids movie, I would have labeled it a great horror movie! Unfortunately, Mr. Burton decided to market his little shop of horrors to vulnerable children and scar them for life. Thanks a lot, Tim Burton.

Scary Kids Movie

Image via Reddit

#1: Watership Down (1978)

I hate this. I hate this so much. When I see this movie, I want to rip my eyes out. The premise? Bunnies are forced from their home and face dangers trying to find a new one. Do you know how much it scars me to watch bunnies fight to the death? That is not something children should see. Or adults for that matter. I mean, the scary disfigured bunny literally rips out a chunk of another bunny’s neck. Somehow, animated violence is much more horrifying than real violence. And the British accents just make it all the more terrifying. Once again, dark lighting makes for a dismal mood and a sense of unease that will never leave me. Nothing about this was made for children. If you don’t believe me, I found a very soothing video that will show you exactly what I mean.

Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on these scary kids movies? Did we miss any? Comment down below!

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Izza December 9, 2019 - 4:43 am

Tim Burton did not write/direct Coraline nor was he any part of the film. but i do agree that he did set up this otherworldly genre of gothic horror that seems to be the rage. good list!

Kali Tuttle December 10, 2019 - 1:25 pm

Another commenter mentioned this so my deepest apologies for the misinformation! Thanks for reading though!

My Word Soup April 18, 2019 - 3:11 pm

I absolutely hated seeing JUMANJI — the first one. It gave me the creeps and I was an adult.

UpOnTheShelf January 31, 2019 - 12:58 pm

Good article, but there’s one small errror: Henry Selick directed Coraline, not Tim Burton. A lot of people make this assumption since it was marketed as from the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas. TimBurton came up with the story of Nightmare but that was directed by Selick.

Kali Tuttle January 31, 2019 - 11:40 pm

Oh for real? I didn’t know that! Thanks for telling me!

UpOnTheShelf January 31, 2019 - 11:42 pm

No problem.

Veronica Clarke December 30, 2018 - 2:07 am

‘Watership Down’ is not a children’s movie, and the book it was based on was not a children’s book. The mistake many adults made was ‘oh, it’s a cartoon about rabbits, it must be ok’. Wrong! I have no recollection about what rating it was given, but it should not be considered as for children at all. (My own mother made the mistake of thinking a book about rabbits must be ok, and got it for me when I was nine. I thought it was awesome, but she was a bit horrified when I started talking about it!)

Kali Tuttle December 31, 2018 - 7:29 pm

I think many associate it with a children’s movie as it was given a PG in America and a U in Britain if I’m not mistaken. But yeah, animation doesn’t equal children’s movie!

Sam Simon December 26, 2018 - 11:38 am

Great list! Return to Oz horrified me when I was a kid, it’s really scary!!!

And Nimh is such a powerful animated movie! I grew up with it and yes, it’s scary, but it also has a great message!

Darkstalker90 December 16, 2018 - 2:55 pm

I saw some of these as a child and can honestly say that I wasn’t left with any scars down the line. I kind of appreciate that there was less “holding back” in the 80’s if that makes any sense? In any case, I definitely plan on revisiting some of these as an adult with a fresh perspective because I assume I’m going to think “how did that not scare the crap out of me?!?” many times.

BUT…will we look back on today’s kids films with the same interest and with as many talking points as these? I could be wrong of course but I’m not sure.

P.S. one thing that DID scare me as a kid (for some reason) was Ivan Ooze from the first Power Rangers movie! NOW I find him comical more than anything but the actor does a good job of being convincingly evil/sinister in what is an otherwise cheesy movie.

Kali Tuttle December 26, 2018 - 12:29 pm

Hi I just looked up Ivan Ooze and I would appreciate if you would reimburse me for therapy charges? I do not like him. At all. I’m crying.

Darkstalker90 December 26, 2018 - 6:10 pm

Could be worse…after seeing the film in the cinema, my parents “surprised” me with a horribly realistic toy of Ooze’s head! They still rib me about it today; how I was terrified of it lol.

The Animation Commendation December 16, 2018 - 10:25 am

‘The Watcher in the Woods’ is the scariest Disney film I’ve ever seen!

Kali Tuttle December 26, 2018 - 12:28 pm

Seriously! What were they thinking??

The Animation Commendation December 31, 2018 - 3:08 pm

I mean, I’m not complaining; I enjoyed the scariness, lol!

ExAnimo7 December 15, 2018 - 3:56 pm

I liked “Monster House.” Once you found out how and why the house became possessed, it gave the film a little more depth and heart.

That being said, you made a great list! I can totally see why you picked the movies you did. To this day, I refuse to watch the 1985 Care Bears movie because of the villain — The Spirit freaked me out so badly! 😳

Jeff December 15, 2018 - 11:43 am

Good list. I like a lot of those movies, but I saw them as an adult. And you bring out a very important point. Just because it is a cartoon does NOT mean it’s for children. After all, Fritz the Cat was a cartoon.

Side note. I hated the movie of Never-Ending Story. The book was fabulous. The movie was awful. Of course, I’m “that guy” who always says, “The book was better.”

Kali Tuttle December 15, 2018 - 12:06 pm

True true. The movie Felidae is animated and yet it is like the goriest thing. Animation definitely isn’t always for kids!

Liz Gauffreau December 15, 2018 - 12:07 pm

I haven’t seen a Fritz the Cat reference in quite some time! He was a very raunchy feline.

Annlyel James December 15, 2018 - 6:37 am

I haven’t seen any of these movies but simply judging from the pictures they look particularly strange and terrifying. And yeah, Bambi deserved an honorable mention. I’ve only seen the movie once (I was a little girl) and it honestly traumatized me after Bambi’s mother was killed. I don’t think I was even able to cry, I was that horrified.

Here’s another movie that should have a PG-13 rating. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I was five when my parents took me to go see it in the movie theaters and it was one of the scariest things I could remember in my childhood. The werewolves, the Dementors, I was absolutely TERRIFIED!

This was a great post! Thanks for making my day with your humorous take on all of these films.

Kali Tuttle December 15, 2018 - 12:05 pm

I feel like the Harry Potter ratings were so strange. Like the sixth one was rated PG even with that disturbing spell that like sliced up Draco. And the werewolf was frickin terrifying as a kid. Like idk who rated them but uhhhhhh they weren’t the most appropriate ratings

Annlyel James December 15, 2018 - 1:46 pm

Yeah, it’s weird. I’d say the first two were PG and the rest were PG-13 for logical reasons; disturbing images.

mymindspeaksaloud December 15, 2018 - 2:52 am

I haven’t seen most of the movies here but I found it really interesting to read. One of my favourite movies as a kid was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but for a lot of people the kid-snatcher was terrifying.

thisisnotbangkok December 15, 2018 - 2:13 am

Have not seen all the movies here. But Coraline should have been PG-13, if it wasn’t.

Kali Tuttle December 15, 2018 - 12:07 pm

Coraline will forever haunt me aaaaaaaaaa

Devan Hinskey December 14, 2018 - 9:07 pm

The Dark Crystal is one of my all-time favorite movies!

Kali Tuttle December 15, 2018 - 12:08 pm

You, my friend, are a brave soul. I salute you.

Natalie December 14, 2018 - 7:56 pm

There was a movie called Nine that I saw when I was younger and it still terrifies me. (I think it was a Tim Burton film AND I’m pretty sure it was PG-13… I was wayyyy too young!)

Nick Kush December 14, 2018 - 6:59 pm

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Liz Gauffreau December 14, 2018 - 6:36 pm

I saw the Wizard of Oz for the first time as an adult, and the flying monkeys terrified me!

Olaf Lesniak December 14, 2018 - 7:16 pm

Very humorous article. Love it!


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