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They were meant to entertain and delight, and instead they gave us nightmares. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 creepy kids’ movies.
For this list, we’re taking a look at the children’s films that turned out to be slightly scary, a little disturbing, or just altogether creepy.
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#10: “Dumbo” (1941)
Maybe it’s the carnival setting, maybe it’s the fact that the main character’s mother is locked up indefinitely, but Dumbo pretty much maintains a feeling of “creepy” throughout its runtime. Add to that a scene where the big-eared elephant and his mouse friend get drunk on champagne and start hallucinating, and things get legitimately weird. How often do Disney characters get blitzed on screen?
#9: “Coraline” (1997)
Coraline makes no pretense about being a cutesy children’s film: it’s a fantasy flick with nice stop-motion animation that makes it appealing to children, but it’s a creep-fest from start to finish. The black button eyes on Coraline’s parents in the alternate universe are enough to make you “nope” out of the movie and curl up in a ball, but it’s a kid’s movie. You gotta save face.
#8: “The Peanut Butter Solution” (1985)
This one is more like a peanut butter-laced night terror. There are so many odd twists and turns for a children’s film, including the ghosts of a couple that died in a fire, ever-growing pubic hair, and a sweatshop full of kidnapped children. Who knew that something as simple as peanut butter could come with a whole host of disturbing imagery?
#7: “Watership Down” (1978)
You would think that a movie about cute rabbits looking for a new home would be harmless, but you would be wrong. So wrong. The movie based on the novel may have bunnies, but it also has bloody murder and rabbits fighting to the death. There are also a number of scenes that have you wondering if they should’ve just skipped marketing this movie to kids altogether.
#6: “Labyrinth” (1986)
There’s something about stolen babies and masked cotillion balls that adds a special touch of strange to a children’s film. Maybe it’s the puppets, maybe it’s David Bowie stalking a teenager—but there’s a darkness throughout the film that makes it a little bit questionable. Not to mention, who wants to be chased through an MC Escher painting by an 80s pop star?
#5: “The Neverending Story” (1984)
Aside from the looming threat of world destruction, there are a number of elements in this classic that make it a creepy delight. From the murderous wolf out to kill the hero, to a horse that literally drowns in a swamp of sadness, there are just so many things for parents to explain away. There’s also some nipple action, to usher us into puberty with a sly wink.
#4: “The Dark Crystal” (1982)
“Dark” is definitely the operative term for this puppet-based children’s film. The entire movie seems encased in shadows, and the main puppet characters are just human-looking enough to be disturbing. Throw in scary looking “Skeksis” villains on a quest to take over the world and you’ve got a creepy stew going. It doesn’t help that one of the main characters gets stabbed to death, but you’ve gotta teach kids about manslaughter at some point.
#3: “The Secret of NIMH” (1982)
The real secret is that it will haunt a child’s dreams. There are glowing owl eyes, rats with homicidal intent and animals with human intelligence getting stabbed in the neck. While there are plenty of cute mice and happy crows to keep the kids entertained, watching rats plot to kill each other takes things in a different direction.
#2: “The Witches” (1990)
There aren’t many children’s films that feature villains who basically just want to kill all children, but The Witches makes no apologies for it. Based on a Roald Dahl book, the film manages to feel like a dedicated horror pic. Watching a witch remove her face makes you wonder if everything you ever knew was a lie.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Little Monsters (1989)
- Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
- Fantasia (1940)
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
#1: “Return to Oz” (1985)
If you were expecting a happy, shiny sequel to the Wizard of Oz, you’ll be sorely disappointed by this cult classic. The Lollipop Guild is replaced with disembodied heads, a talking chicken, and a humanoid jack-o-lantern that is just… not cool. There are also talking walls with demonic faces, an evil king, and kids receiving electroshock therapy. Also also, WHEELERS. It seems like every now and then, Disney likes to talk a walk on the dark side.
Do you agree with our list? Which kid’s film made you want to hide under the covers? For more entertaining top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.