It is a small wonder we've turned out so well, considering the PG-rated atrocities we've viewed over the decades. If you want your children to come out slightly less scathed, have a look at our chronological categorization of children's movies that actually might not pass the muster, due to adult-level content.
Gallery | Shocking Moments in Kids' Movies
- ‘Dumbo’ (1941)
Sure, the cute, baby elephant star of this classic film gets wasted ... on both booze and pills. But smaller tots may not even notice his digressions. What they will pick up on, however, is Dumbo being ripped away from his mother, and her subsequent incarceration. Heart breaking.
- ‘Bambi’ (1942)
Fuzzy, friendly forrest animals! Nature! Nurture! What could go wrong? Well, after about a half-an-hour, Bambi's mom bites the big one. And though the deer's journey is en-deer-ing subsequently, that hunter's gunshot can traumatize tots.
- ‘Charlotte’s Web’ (1973)
Not only does Wilbur lose Charlotte at the end of this devastating-yet-required children's film, but then her children leave him. Is there no justice?
- ‘The Bad News Bears’ (1976)
Obviously it makes sense to base a children's sports film on a down-and-out alcoholic coach. Right? Because children should definitely be exposed to substance abuse and camaraderie.
- ‘Watership Down’ (1978)
So. Many. Dead. Bunnies. How did our parents take us to this film in good conscience, despite the PG (PG!!!) rating? We had nightmares for years after this film.
- ‘The Fox and the Hound’ (1981)
If your young ones can make the leap from inter-species issues to those of race and violence, this is a movie to approach with caution. On top of an unsanctioned animal friendship, we also have a train track accident and several fatalities from hunting. Watch wearing camos, and holding tissues.
- ‘The Dark Crystal’ (1982)
On a purely personal note, we did not understand the nuanced subplots of this movie when we first saw it, at a young age. The quest epic was a new genre for us. But the one thing we did understand was that nightmares of the evil Skekses were responsible for months of bed-wetting.
- ‘The Secret of NIMH’ (1982)
A widowed mother, living in a cinder block, requires emergency care for her only child, who is dying of pneumonia. As their "home" is about to be leveled. And that's just the intro!
- ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ (1982)
Let's face it -- aliens can be scary for little ones. Even "huggable" aliens like E.T. But you know who little ones never want to hug? Terrifying government agents in Hazmat suits as they break through the '80s Venetian blinds covering your bedroom window in an attempt to raid your house.
- ‘The NeverEnding Story’ (1984)
Sure, he comes back to life and all's well. But in the moment, horse-friend Artax DROWNS IN THE SWAMP OF SADNESS. Minus his revival, it doesn't get much sadder. Explain that to your five-year-old.
- ‘The Black Cauldron’ (1985)
The villain of this movie is known as "the Horned King," and is pretty much the devil. He commands an army of the undead, and basically tries to ruin everything. Be prepared to answer big questions about our place on the planet from the little ones following a viewing.
- ‘Labyrinth’ (1986)
What's not to love about this David Bowie classic? Well, a few things, if you are an impressionable youth. For starters, the movie's plot is based on an older sibling banishing her baby brother to a demon kingdom because she'd rather not babysit. And on a completely separate note, "The contours of David Bowie's genitalia are often clearly apparent," according to IMDB.com. So there's that.
- ‘An American Tail’ (1986)
We can think of fewer heart-wrenching moments in the '80s than little Fievel Mousekewitz singing "Somewhere Out There" after being separated from his family during what must be the #WorstMoveEver. Prep your kids before packing any boxes.
- ‘The Land Before Time’ (1988)
Mama Longneck not only suffers multiple heartaches in her role as a single parent (of all her eggs, only Littlefoot survives), but she then makes the ultimate sacrifice for her only son after a battle with Sharptooth. Heartbreaking.
- ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ (1988)
OK, this movie isn't as heartbreaking as it is eyebrow-raising. It is based on pornography, adultery, alcoholism, and murder. And features a chain-smoking, womanizing infant! So there's that.
- ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’ (1989)
Spoiler alert: Charlie, the star of this animated film, is struck by a car and killed in the very beginning. He's later shot ... after he's already dead. They barely even do that on "Law & Order." Oh, and there's a drowning and an alligator attack. But, you know, kids' movies.
- ‘The Lion King’ (1994)
The circle of life, due to its geometric nature, also includes death. In this case, of father Mufasa. And little Simba can't quite make heads or tails of it, and cuddles up to dead Dad in a totally tear-inducing moment for audiences of all ages.
- ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1996)
Remember how violent and awful ye-oldey France was during the times of Les Mis? They were similarly crap-tastic when this deformed, indentured servant got caught up with a seductive gypsy girl. Be prepared.
- ‘Up’ (2009)
The first 10 minutes of this movie will leave you clutching the tissues and thankful your little ones (hopefully!) can't grasp the desperate depression following the loss of a lifelong love. Sure, the rest is a joyous balloon ride, but it's a hard start for sure.
- ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ (2009)
If your kids have a fear of flying, be forewarned: giant gummy bears tear a plane to bits in this film. And if they are averse to poultry, there will be no bringing them off the ledge -- giant chickens are perpetrators of heinous crimes in this otherwise hilarious film. It just isn't for the food-phobic. Finally, Flint's father doesn't show him any pride or value, so he winds up in the fetal position inside a trash can, which can definitely wrench at the heart strings and might upset little ones.
- ‘Mary and Max’ (2009)
Parents -- please rent this movie immediately, if you haven't yet seen it. But do so on a babysitter night, or after-hours. Though shot in that claymation-esque style of kid-friendliness, the tale is of a friendless youth with a horrible home-life, and a morbidly obese and depressed autistic.
- ‘Toy Story 3’ (2010)
Perhaps the saddest movie of them all (considering all of the warped and twisted tales from the '80s), this movie deals with death, life stages, bittersweet goodbyes and lots of tears for die-hard fans of the trilogy. 'Nuff said.