11 Family-Friendly Movies that Just Might Scare the Crap Out of You

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11 Family-Friendly Movies that Just Might Scare the Crap Out of You

By Agent Bedhead | Seriously Random Lists | August 15, 2012 | Comments ()


In the spirit of the upcoming Paranorman (whose trailer has already scared the scrap out of my 5-year-old niece), here's a short (and not-so-sweet) list of 11 family-friendly movies that can scare the crap out of someone just well as any of those "grown-up" horror flicks.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Naturally, I'm referring to the original (not the Johnny Depp-starring version) that scared the living hell out of me. Especially when Violet Beauregarde was carted off to the juicing machine. Yikes!


Arachnophobia: This one had a shower scene that was scarier than the one in Psycho.


Igor: "Mommy, why does that rabbit keep trying to kill itself?" "Because Steve Buscemi voices that motherfucker."


The Wizard of Oz: Flying monkeys and a melting witch! Enough said.


The Neverending Story: If that scary wolf didn't make you jump out of your seat at least a few times, then I'm sorry, but you have no soul.


Beetlejuice: Most people would characterize this as more "funny" than "scary," but very little kids would beg to differ.


Labyrinth: The notion of wishing one's baby brother away is truly terrifying. And that wig on David Bowie is the stuff from which nightmares are made.


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: This movie was slightly scary but did an immense public service concerning the dangers of strangers with candy.


Dumbo: Never mind the circus atmosphere ... those crazy pink elephants were enough to inspire a bad acid trip on their very own.


Coraline: My own daughter was petrified of the "other" mother who replaces her children's eyeballs with buttons.


Toy Story 3: Sure, the tearjerking moments got all the attention with this sequel, but did anybody else notice those clowns? Bloody hell.


Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.

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  • Jezzer

    Very small children might be frightened by Beetlejuice? Gosh, it's almost like the movie wasn't intended for them!

  • Cocoa

    Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, The Thing, all movies I enjoyed as a child. I was made of fucking Steel as a kid, my bravery forged in Freddy Kruger's Boiler room.
    None of the movies you list fazed me. I was unshakable...

  • BiblioGlow

    OH MY GOD I remember that video. I do not know why, or when I saw it, but good Godtopus, the part where she turns into a cake and they are just EATING HER and her tiny hands are flailing frantically...I should not have watched that.

  • Even Stevens

    You what part always got me in The Neverending Story? Those giant statues that shot laser beams. I don't know why but they freaked my shit out as a kid, way more than anything else in that movie.

  • causaubon

    Something Wicked This Way Comes?

  • Nicole_OCTV

    I can't believe that nobody has mentioned 'The Last Unicorn'. I watched it a lot as a kid and it never failed to scare the crap out of me (the red bull, the big people-eating vulture thing in the cage, it was all terrifying). I was also completely shocked to learn as an adult that Alan Arkin was Schmedrick, Jeff Bridges was the prince and Mia Farrow was the unicorn. It's a whole new viewing experience when you know that.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    That one weirded me out only because it's so treacly.

    Then again, I never watched it as a kid.

  • Gina

    I wasn't scared by that one, but I can understand how stuff like the skeleton and the red bull can be scary to kids...

  • dahlia6

    When the first Lord of the Rings came out, my best friend and I were having a rip roaring time until they wandered into the Mines of Moria. An unsettling ominous feeling make both of us clam up, and when that damned Balrog (I think?) started coming, when you first saw just the fire brightening up the corner, we both freaked the hell out. Once the movie was over and we were driving home, I asked her about that scene, and she once again got that freaked out look on her face. I asked her if she'd ever seen The Last Unicorn, and she turned to me, mouth open, and said "Oh my God, that's where that came from!" That movie had scarred the hell out of both of us as children, bad enough to cause flashbacks in two people who hadn't seen the movie in almost twenty years.

    Also, the boob tree. That was just wrong.

  • Bodhi

    THIS. I only saw that movie a few times, but it ruined me decades.

  • chanohack

    How is The Brave Little Toaster not on this list? That movie is fucking DARK, even if you fast-forward through the nightmare scene during which the DEMON CLOWN SHOOTS DEATH-BRINGING FORK WATER at our hero, which I always do. Also, that clown breathes fire.

  • dahlia6

    You really could have stopped at 'clown' but yeah, that was another therapy inducer.

  • Palaeologos

    Oh, and "Watership Down".

  • lele

    That shit has scarred me for life. I walk out of the room if someone puts it on.

  • Palaeologos

    No "The Dark Crystal"? Fail.

  • Tris

    F'ing Arachnophobia had me scared and sitting stock-still on my brother's upper bunk (where I had a good view of the room) for DAYS just looking for spiders.

    Neverending Story - The Nothing? That wolf? A kids' movie? Aw hell no!

    Dumbo was just sad as shit. I remember being profoundly disturbed by the pink elephants on parade even as a preschooler.

  • Barnacle Bill

    How about the Roald Dahl adaptation of 'The Witches'? Damn, that movie scared the living crap out of me when I was 7 years old!

  • Pnnylne

    I would like to add All Dogs Go to Heaven (that shiz is dark as hell - demons, hell, etc.)

  • Rochelle

    My 5 yr old cousin just watched the first 30 minutes of An American Tail and dissolved into hysterical crying. It had to be turned off. His 3 yr old sister is mad because she wanted to keep watching it. 1 movie - 2 screaming kids.

    Personally, I still can't watch The Wizard of Oz - those monkeys still show up in my nightmares.

  • Bodhi

    I fucking HATE American Tail. HATE it. You know why? Cause there are cats in America, damnit. I remember watching it & crying & crying because I knew those poor mice were screwed

  • No love for The Brave Little Toaster? That movie scared me shitless as a kid.

  • Bodhi

    Ditto. I still hate that movie

  • WILLOW. Holy shit.

    The wolves at the beginning? And when they turn into pigs and they look super realistic? And the horrible monster in the moat? Holy SHIT I had the worst nightmares from that when I was a kid.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    You mean the troll that turns into that two-headed critter? Gods, yes. I was twelve when i watched that movie, and it still freaked me out.

  • Be Adequite!


  • Bandit

    I haven't seen Dumbo in about 20 years, which may be a testament to how scaring is really was.

    I saw Coraline for the first time recently and fell deeply in love with it. I always did like the darker tales in life and this certainly ticks that box.

  • Salieri2

    Just before they made the movie, Harper Collins actually posted the book online for awhile, free. It was a creepy, creeeeeeeepy read. Probably scarier as an adult than as a child, honestly.

  • Wōđanaz Óðinn

    the witches freaked me out for years as a kid. still don't trust old biddies in gloves :(

  • Ash

    god that movie scared the crap outta me. the weird square toes (did that actually happen? i might be getting my nightmares confused with this movie) and the framed picture of the girl in the house (who disappears!)

  • blorft

    Yep. Also, the idea of being turned into an animal and not being able to communicate an dying a horrible mouse death seriously terrified me.

  • Obst N. Gemuse

    Lordy, but that wailing, one-eyed giant baby doll from Toy Story 3 was like a nightmare.

  • anatomycoloringbook

    I saw Arachnophobia in the theater by myself when I was in Jr High. At
    one point I took off my glasses due to the scary and put them on my
    knee. Then there was a scene where a spider jumped out and jumped so
    high that I knocked my glasses across the aisle. So embarrassing!

    Jurassic Park also freaked me out. The scene when Laura Dern is turning
    on the power and the raptor jumped out of the wires made me scream and
    jump into my friend's lap. I don't think he minded that much.

  • anatomycoloringbook

    It wasn't a movie, but the first part of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller', where he turned into a werewolf, scared the poop outta me when I was a kid.

  • ExUSA

    Dark Crystal? Scariest movie of my childhood.

    Followed by Willow, only because I saw it when I was 4 and it is terrifying to a 4 year old, even if it is awesome... now.

  • Salieri2

    It was awesome, because: Skinny Val, hair down to his waist, half-naked in a cage. Also, the evil queen actively snorting as she waves her arms around yelling "Pigs! Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigs!"

  • danielwcarlson

    We watched "Arachnophobia" in my 8th-grade science class. (Public school.) Scared the shit out of me for years.

    On a happier note, one of the most fun double-features I ever watched was when friends and I gathered to watch "Labyrinth" and "The Neverending Story" and drink. Amazing night.

  • zeke_the_pig

    The Neverending Story scared the childhood out of me as a child. I thank it for forcing me into adulthood.
    As did Flight of the Navigator for some reason.

  • tmoney

    Oh my god, Flight of the Navigator. When they put him in the asylum or whatever? Scary!

  • Bouj

    Secret of NIMH. It either scarred you as a child or you were made of iron.

  • Palaeologos

    My folks love that damned movie, and I've never figured out why. Probably the reason I'm worse than an elephant if a mouse pops into the room.

  • Drake

    I had a boyfriend who was terrified of spiders. I finally got him to watch Arachnophobia and he squealed and hid his eyes through most of it. The next morning we went to a coffee shop for breakfast, and I slipped a large rubber spider into his newspaper when he wasn't looking. When it fell out into his lap he screamed so loud the windows shook. Wonder why we broke up?

  • The Other Agent Johnson

    Wonder why we broke up?

    Clearly, because you were too fucking awesome for him.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Dot and the Kangaroo, my friends. Never underestimate the terror of the bunyip.

    And of course, The Dark Crystal. Freaky bird-demons hypnotizing the little hobbit-like creatures to DRINK THEIR LIFE ESSENCE?!

  • dahlia6

    Holy Crap! Dot and the Kangaroo! I think my mother was trying to drive me into therapy when I was little, because she kept putting that kind of stuff on the TV. Of course, she was a psych major, so its entirely possible I was some sort of biological experiment.

  • Siege

    David Bowie's *hair* was not the most terrifying thing about him in Labyrinth as I remember it...

  • BWeaves

    Uh, yeah. I agree. Something about his pants.

  • Stacey

    I agree, with the others about PB Solution and Pee Wee. I made my mom tape a commercial over the Large Marge part on the VHS copy we had, it freaked me out so bad.

    Shit, though, Bedhead. Was Arachnophobia a family-friendly flick? Although I did see it when I was in 6th grade, it just fucking RUINED me.

  • chipwitch

    I have not seen Neverending Story since I was 5 and I still have vivid memories of SPOILER (necessary?) the horse drowning and "the nothing" consuming everything. I have been traumatized ever since.

  • Rooks


    I loved this movie, wolf and all, but if dad wasn't around to put the VHS on fast forward through the drowning scene, I would end up sitting in the corner crying quietly to myself while hugging my knees and rocking back and forth. Honestly.
    I don't think I've watched this goddamn film consciously. I don't think I ever will.

    And I love Labryinth, but until this very day those red furry gnomes that poke out their own eyes and toss their heads around and stand on their hands and put the heads onto the wrong end of the torso... those freak me out so bad. Shudders.

    Also, did anyone else ever see Disney's Fantasia as a child? The T-Rex-kills-the-stegosaurus-part? Holy crap. The eyes. Those beagle-dog-eyes when he bites that long, vulnerable neck... Mom, dad, what the hell did you let me watch as a kid??

  • BWeaves

    Didn't the horse really drown in real life? Or is that just an urban legend? I haven't been able to watch it again. I just can't.

  • Steph

    Coraline totally freaked my son out. He could not abide by the thought that his beloved Mama could be "bad." They make some sort of line of dolls now that have buttons for eyes and he can't even look at them.

  • Brooke

    LaLa Loopsy dolls. My niece loves them and they give me the creeping willies.

  • Salieri2

    "LaLa Loopsy"?

    Just the name gives me the screaming meemies.

  • courtsinsession

    Ditto to Return to Oz. Wheelers were terrifying.

    I'd also like to add Fantasia, which my parents thought was a great kid's movie (with culture!). And it is a great, happy movie with dancing mushrooms and ballerina alligators and then HOLY HELL there's a terrifying demon on top of a mountain. I'm 28 and that cartoon satan still makes guest appearances in my nightmares.

  • Aislinn

    Oh my God, Chernabog. True story: the first time I played Kingdom Hearts and made it to that particular boss battle (introduced with *that* song, aka the soundtrack to my childhood nightmares), I almost threw the controller across the room. Cue me ejecting the game and spending at least a day psyching myself up for it.

    And then I schooled him. I flew up into his face and I curb-stomped that motherfucker. It helped that I was near level 95 at the time and carrying the most powerful Keyblade in the game, but good goddamn was that cathartic for my inner six-year old.

  • AudioSuede

    That "Season of the Witch" trailer for Paranorman is downright badass.

    I would totally add Nightmare Before Christmas to this list. And don't try telling me it's not a children's movie. I saw it when I was a child, and even then I knew it was supposed to not scare the shit out of me, but failed miserably at not doing so.

  • dizzylucy

    I think Willy Wonka is responsible for a lot of psychological damage to several generations.
    I'm in my 30s, and Coraline was so freaky I said "what the hell kind of kids' movie was that!" when it ended.
    Ditto for the scene in Toy Story 3 when they're all preparing to die via incinerator. I love those movies, but that was too dark!
    All I remember about Return to Oz was how creepy it was.

  • As I recall, I nearly shat myself during my first viewing of the "Large Marge" scene in PeeWee's Big Adventure.

  • Baboocole

    Whenever my stepdad wanted to terrify me, all he had to say was "It was a night just like tonight..."

  • anatomycoloringbook


    'And she looked like this!' Cue me with my head under a blanket.

  • TenaciousJP

    Don't forget the clown who becomes INSANELY EVIL when Pee-Wee realizes his bike is gone. I still cannot watch that part, and it's been over 20 years.

  • Shite. Must've blocked that one from my memory. <shudders>

  • FireLizardQueen

    I was scared of Oompa Loompas for YEARS after I saw Willy Wonka. Creepy boat ride + fresh of the boat 8 year old who didn't understand English = scarred for life.

  • Lipton

    Labyrinth scarred me for years. And, yeah, the wolf in The Neverending Story was creepy but it was the Southern Oracle sequence that scared the crap out of me. I spent most of my childhood closing my eyes during that part.

    Of course, I fully intend to indoctrinate the future Lipton generations in many of these fine movies. If you don't teach them to be afraid then you're not doing your job.

  • Aratweth

    I contend that it's not Bowie's wig you have to be scared of in Labyrinth, it's the terrifying beast he packed into those leggings.

  • marya

    There's a fine line between terrifying and tantalizing.

  • cinemaniac

    Willy Wonka amazingly didn't scare me until I rewatched it Freshman year of college, then that boat ride fucked me up.
    I second Return to OZ and would add a made-for-tv movie aired as part of ABC's Wonderful World of Disney series called 'The Peanut Butter Solution" That movie is jacked up in so many ways. Mostly that it's about a guy kidnapping children and taking their hair to make a magical paintbrush.

  • BobbFrapples

    I had forgotten about The PEanut Butter Solution until now. That was one seriously crazy movie.

    Also, Arachnophobia has made me distrust shower curtains for the rest of my life.

  • RilesSD

    Holy shit, the Peanut Butter Solution. The one where the kids pubes grew out from his bball shorts. <shudder>

  • cinemaniac

    It was etched in my brain so I couldn't forget it. But it wasn't until a few years back I finally found the name of it.
    Arachnophobia made look around the toilet bowl for spiders for like a year.

  • Jonah

    Return to OZ absolutely scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid

  • tmoney

    The attempted shock-therapy scene was traumatic as all hell when I was 8 years old. It was so awful and sad.

  • anatomycoloringbook

    I loved Return to OZ. I just rewatched it a few months ago and can't believe that I watched that movie over and over as a child. So scary and creepy.

  • Legally Insignificant.

    I bought this movie a few years back because I loved it as a child. I attempted to watch it with my girlfriend, who was 24 at the time. She made me turn the movie off. The reason why? She saw the movie when she was little and in order to cope, for 2 decades or so, convinced herself that it was actually a nightmare and not an actual movie. She used the term "pants-shittingly scary."

  • KatSings

    Coraline was creepy as fuck. And we watched it in 3D.

  • Miss Kate

    Willy Wonka! That boat ride scene scarred me for life.

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