Any parent has experienced this scenario a hundred times: It's Friday night and time to hit the video store to select a movie to watch at home with your rambunctious litter. Naturally, as you're looking for a film the entire family can consume, you make a beeline for the section labeled "Family." After all, anything you'd rent from this genre should be guaranteed to deliver a fun, responsible night of movie-watching, right?
Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily the case. Some family films -- even ones that are rated 'G' -- venture into dark territory that may disturb impressionable young viewers. To assist you the next time you're shopping for films to watch with your little ones, Moviefone has come up with a list of 12 scenes from excellent family-friendly motion pictures that just so happen to be bleak, startling, or downright terrifying.
If you have any suggestions for other family films with challenging scenes that parents might want to know about, by all means let us know about them in the comments section.
1. WILLY WONKA'S BOAT RIDE
'Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'
Ah, the happy story of an urchin who, by way of a magic ticket, is granted the opportunity of a lifetime -- sounds like a great movie night with the kids, right? It all goes smoothly at first, but then the film takes a sharp left turn right about the time the visitors enter Wonka's boat. The trippy tunnel scene features images of chickens being decapitated, dead bodies and giant lizards, all while Wonka is ranting and raving like a madman. If there is one thing all kids love, it's sudden descents into insanity.
2. THE FINAL "SHOT"
Is this a warm country tale about a family with a new pet -- or is it a terrifying anti-dog exploitation film? As it was with 'Bambi,' this one introduces the concept to children that animals do, in fact, get shot on occasion. But what makes 'Old Yeller' even more hard for kids to stomach is that it's the young boy, not a grown-up, who must fire a bullet into his beloved, rabies-infected pooch.
3. VOLDEMORT'S RETURN
'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'
While the 'Harry Potter' books provide adequate warning of what you will likely see on screen, parents might not realize that both the novels and the films get progressively darker as they move forward. So, someone familiar only with the very first 'Harry Potter' installment might not expect a moment so laden with evil and despair as the one that depicts Voldemort returning to life. Creepy enough is the evil one's frail, pale, alien-looking form. But a child also being murdered in the scene is evidence enough that the series has suddenly moved to a whole new level of darkness.
4. E.T.'S TERMINAL ILLNESS
'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial'
'E.T.' is a true classic and it added yet another epic success to Steven Spielberg's catalog. But toward the end of the film, the cute alien contracts a strange sickness that threatens his life and turns him stark white. His eerie moaning and disturbing appearance are all but guaranteed to bum your kids out.
5. THE FLYING MONKEYS
'The Wizard of Oz'
The Wicked Witch of the West sure does a masterful job of employing henchmen. The long-lasting potency of these fiends has everything to do with their creepy appearance, menacing theme song and the fact that they literally tear the Scarecrow to pieces. The freakiest thing about the winged mutants, though, is that their very existence suggests that bizarre, gene-splicing experiments must have been taking place somewhere in Oz. [Click on the image below to watch the clip.]
6. ARTAX'S DEMISE
'The NeverEnding Story'
Despite its flashy, fantastical veneer, 'The NeverEnding Story' is fraught with nihilistic moments. Among the darkest has to be when our hero watches helplessly as his horse sinks into the swamp of sadness. Atreyu's screams and pleas are heart-breaking as his horse does nothing to prevent its own death. The scene ends with a painful silence -- allowing you to listen to the sobs of your own children.
7. ARRIVAL OF THE DEMENTORS
'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'
The dementors are easily the scariest characters of the Harry Potter series. They exist to drain all the happiness from you and reduce you to a whimpering, weak pile of gloom. They resemble black-clad ghosts and will likely induce nightmares in younger viewers. When they first arrive on the train in 'Prisoner of Azkaban,' it becomes clear that the third film marks the turning point away from the cheery, lighthearted family fare about a boy wizard and sets in motion the dark chain of events that eventually leads to the near destruction of everything Harry knows.
8. THE BIG FACE-OFF
If there's one family film whose designation as such baffles the mind, it's 'The Witches.' The whole production is dark and menacing, and offers only brief reprieves from the tidal wave of unsettling moments. The most frightening of these bits has to be when the witches peel off their human skin to reveal their hideous true forms beneath. Just try to wean the kids off the nightlight after they see that.
9. LARGE MARGE
'Pee-wee's Big Adventure'
Although Pee-wee was a beloved children's television character, his first cinematic adventure offered far more entertainment for the big kids in the audience than the little ones. Most of the humor was so far above the heads of children that it would be years before they would be able to chuckle at the jokes. Still, it's worth taking in -- just be prepared for your toddlers' rapid departures from the room during the Large Marge scene. The claymation shot of her gruesome face will leave a mark in their consciousness that years of therapy will strive to undo. [Click on the image below to watch the clip.]
10. THE INCINERATOR SCENE
'Toy Story 3'
Woody and the gang slowly move toward the fiery furnace in the dramatic climax of 'Toy Story 3.' This is not only the bleakest moment of the 'Toy Story' series, but of any Pixar film to date. The toys all lock hands and make a silent pact to accept their grisly fate. Although they do escape at the last minute, the scene is difficult for even adults to watch.
11. JUDGE DOOM'S TRANSFORMATION
'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'
Christopher Lloyd doesn't get many opportunities to frighten little kids to their cores, so thank goodness for 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' and his sadistic Judge Doom character. Just after he gets flattened by a steamroller, which is horrific enough for a child to watch, he is revealed to be a toon. As the spindly, animated version of Lloyd creeps across the screen, every kid in the room should be disturbed accordingly. Sure, it's debatable whether the filmmakers intended 'Rabbit' to be family friendly, but it would be an easy mistake for any parent to make given have the cast is full of cartoon characters.
12. DOGGY HELL
'All Dogs Go to Heaven'
Don Bluth has quite a few animated family films to his credit, but almost all of them have at least one moment that is just plain grim. This particular scene involves the protagonist pup dreaming of his own damnation in doggy hell. There are lakes of fire, ravaging demons and a doggy devil all working in conjunction to elicit squeals from your petrified children. I guess all dogs don't, in fact, go to heaven.