Top 10 Most Traumatizing Kids' Movie Scenes
VOICE OVER: Samantha Clinch
WRITTEN BY: Sammie Purcell
Even as adults, these kids movies scenes traumatize us. For this list, we'll be looking at the most stomach churning, terrifying moments in our favorite childhood films. Our countdown includes "Pinocchio," "The Dark Crystal," "Matilda," and more!
Top 10 Kids Movies Scenes That Traumatized You
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Kids Movie Scenes That Traumatized You.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most stomach churning, terrifying moments in our favorite childhood films.
If we missed anything that scarred you for life, let us know in the comments below.
#10: The Pleasure Island Sequence
So many early Disney movies are anchored by terrifying sequences. Whether it's Bambi’s mother getting killed by hunters, or the forest in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” we all have the one that gets us the most. But if we were to poll all the Disney kids, we think the majority would name Pleasure Island in “Pinocchio” as the worst offender. Around the midpoint of the film, Pinocchio is whisked off to Pleasure Island for what he thinks will be a fun time. He quickly learns however, that the island has the power to turn little boys into donkeys who are then sold into slavery. That idea in general is traumatizing, but watching the boys actually transform? Well, that haunts us to this day.
#9: Large Marge
“Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)
Ah, the age old tale of a boy and his bike – and a scary, ghostly truck driver. “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” was a staple for so many 80s kids. Being Tim Burton’s feature directorial debut, it introduced everyone to his signature style, which would go on to permeate so many of our favorite films. “Pee-wee” definitely has the campy, colorful elements of Burton, but unfortunately for kids – it also has some of the scarier parts. In one particular sequence, Pee-wee picks up a ride with a truck driver named Large Marge. But as soon as Pee-wee hauls himself up into the truck, you can tell something’s wrong. Turns out, Marge is a ghost – and she’s ready to give Pee-wee the fright of his life.
“The Dark Crystal” (1982)
When you think of Jim Henson, you most likely think of the beloved Muppets. But despite how cuddly and sweet that puppet ensemble is, Henson had some freakier characters up his sleeve. In 1982 – nearly 30 years after the Muppets first came to fruition – Henson released “The Dark Crystal.” Though now a cult classic, the film nearly scared kids to tears when it first came out. The design of these puppets was nothing akin to the likes of Kermit, Miss Piggy, or Fozzie Bear. Not even close. By contrast, they had spiky, slimy, and scary features that made it hard to believe they were created by the same person. Seriously, the Skeksis still live in our nightmares.
#7: Child Catcher
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (1968)
If you remember watching “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” as a child, you probably remember the song and the flying car. Fun stuff! But for your sake, we hope you’ve blocked everything to do with the Child Catcher from your memory. In the film, Jeremy, Jemima, and their father travel to the strange land of Vulgaria, where children have been deemed illegal. Subsequently, Jeremy and Jemima are taken prisoner by the evil Child Catcher. With his pallid skin and sketchy wagon, this guy is the embodiment of the idea that you should never take candy from strangers. He didn’t just nab the kids in the movie, but made an entire generation fear the same thing in the process.
#6: The Chokey
Danny DeVito’s film is one of the funniest on this list. There are definitely serious themes, but as far as kids movies go, it delivers on laughs like no other. But, there’s one part of “Matilda” that has forever made us scared to get detention. Miss Trunchbull, the dictator-like principal of Matilda’s school, lives rent free in our nightmares. But if you’re a 90s kid, there’s no way you weren’t deathly terrified of her torture device, the Chokey. The sequence where Miss Trunchbull actually puts Matilda inside of this spikey, Medieval-seeming contraption is more awful than anything else she does. If anything, it certainly gave us a life-long fear of school authority figures.
#5: The Boat Ride
“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971)
When you first put on “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” you get the feeling that you’re going to see something whimsically delightful. The famous chocolatier’s entrance might give you pause as to whether you can trust the man, but it also makes him seem fun and spontaneous. But just you wait – danger is on the way. The group of Golden Ticket winners climb into a boat that proceeds to hurtle them through a kaleidoscope of terror. As the children and their parents grow more agitated, Wonka begins to sing in a sinister manner. The boat ride might not be as blatantly frightening as some other aspects of the film, but it’s the first time you fully realize that something is not right.
“Watership Down” (1978)
Listen, we did our best to try and find a specific moment of “Watership Down” that we could use for this list. But in all honesty, everything about this movie is downright upsetting. Based on Richard Adams’ 1972 novel, “Watership Down” follows a group of rabbits, but its themes are anything but fluffy and sweet. In fact, the violence inflicted on the rabbits is so dark, so bloody, it’s a wonder that this film was made at all. Yet when the movie first came out, a lot of critics deemed it perfectly suitable for kids. While we agree that “Watership Down” has an important place in film history, its brutal depictions of death traumatized a generation.
#3: In the Dark of the Night
In one of Don Bluth’s most beloved animated films, “Anastasia,” he more than lives up to his reputation as an animator who likes to walk on the wild side. Based on a legend about the famous Romanov princess, the film has romance, adventure, and amazing songs. But on the flip side, it also has a terrifyingly realistic coup sequence and a nightmare scene that’s beyond troubling. But the scariest part of “Anastasia” comes in the form of a song. The film’s villain, Rasputin, sings “In the Dark of the Night” as he sends his minions to kill Anastasia. The design of these creatures from the pits of hell and the daunting, orchestral music is enough to make our blood run cold.
“The Witches” (1990)
We’ve already talked about a few Roald Dahl adaptations on this list, like “Matilda,” and “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.” But now, we come to the reason that we could never meet Anjelica Huston in real life. In 1990’s “The Witches,” Huston plays Miss Ernst, a witch whose greatest goal is to turn children into mice. Yikes. Throughout the film, Eva appears in a gorgeous, human form – she is played by Anjelica Huston, after all. But then, the transformation happens. After gathering together, all the witches remove their human facades to show their true ghastly forms. In all honesty, watching Anejlica Huston take her face off made us worried about witches in disguise for years on end.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
The Rhino Cloud, “James and the Giant Peach” (1996)
Rhinos Belong on the Ground, Not the Sky
Kidnapped, “Labyrinth” (1986)
We Could’ve Done Without Nightmares About Goblin Baby-Nappers
Stay Away From My House, “Monster House” (2006)
You Don’t Need to Tell Us Twice
Lena & Simone’s Backstory, “Scooby Doo on Zombie Island” (1998)
Don’t You Hate Finding Out Your Friends Are Actually Werecats?
The Flying Monkeys, “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
Still Scary So Many Decades Later
#1: Button Eyes
Based on a Neil Gaiman novella, “Coraline” is about a young girl who feels neglected by her parents and happens upon a magical, parallel universe. When she first arrives, she meets her “Other” parents, who dote on her. Coraline’s Other Mother offers to let her stay in this new world, but in order to do so, she would have to sew buttons over her eyes. That’s right. All the people in this world have button eyes. Terrifying. Coraline later meets a group of ghostly children who explain to her that the Other Mother took their souls. But while that moment is haunting, we simply cannot get over the button eyes. Seriously, has there ever been a spookier image? We don’t think so.