5 kids’ films that scared the crap out of me

Anyone who’s been here before has probably picked up on my love of horror films.  I’ve liked them as long as I can remember, and started watching them as a youngster.  That said, there are a handful of films, apparently aimed at children, that I saw as a kid, and totally scared the crap out of me.  In honour of Halloween, and in no particular order, the fear-inducing films in question are:

The Secret of NIMH

If you never saw this one, it’s basically about a widowed mouse who must save her children, including her sickly son Timmy, from the plough that will imminently dig up the field where they live.  There’s also, a cheerful back-story about animal testing.  Nice.







Watership Down

Ah, look, there’s a nice little cartoon on TV later about rabbits!  No.  No there isn’t.  It’s Watership Down and it’s brutal, and sad and truly frightening.  I’m not sure I could ever watch this story, about a group of rabbits fighting for survival in the wild, again. [Shudders]

I should however say that, it is actually very good with some wonderful voice performances from the living legend that is John Hurt (why doesn’t he have a knighthood yet, damn it?) and the late Richard Briars.

I'm sure this must be the stuff of many a nightmare.

I’m sure this must be the stuff of many a nightmare.

The Dark Crystal

IMDB summarises the plot like so: “On another planet in the distant past, a Gelfling embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of a magical crystal, and so restore order to his world.”  It doesn’t sound that scary, and being that it was made by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, I’m not surprised this was deemed suitable viewing for a very small filmnerd, but, bloody hell this was scary!

Skekis - more nightmare fodder.

Skekis – more nightmare fodder.

Return to Oz

If you think about it, there are some pretty freaky bits in The Wizard of Oz, but this sequel really takes it to another level…

Even the good guys look kind of scary.

Even the good guys look kind of scary.

Following the events of the first story, Dorothy is now in a psychiatric hospital, receiving electro-shock therapy.  So far, so cheerful.  Once back in Oz there are myriad terrors, but the ones that haunted my childhood dreams were the oh so menacing wheelies and the extremely scary Mombi with her rows of sentient heads in glass cases.



1980s fantasy weirdness that seems like it must’ve been designed purely to scare the shit out of small children.  If that was the aim, it succeeds.

The biggest baddie of them all, the lord of darkness, wants to plunge the world into darkness, naturally.  The way to do this is apparently to kill the last of the unicorns or something.  There are a bunch of strange and scary goblin creatures, too.  And a very young Tom Cruise.

Pennywise and the devil?  Tim Curry, YOU are a legend!

Pennywise and the devil? Tim Curry, YOU are a legend!

What other films scared the crap out of you when you were a kid…?



19 responses to “5 kids’ films that scared the crap out of me

  1. I loved the books of the first two but haven’t actually seen the films. Return to Oz is definitely really scary though. My parents weren’t really big on TV or films when I was growing up… possibly because South Africa didn’t get TV till 1972 and then it was censored. I don’t remember being allowed to watch anything scary.

    • It’s weird because I remember watching plenty of 15 and 18 certificate horrors when I was growing up, but somehow it’s these ‘kids’ films that left a lasting impression!

  2. I read Watership Down when I was a kid and couldn’t bring myself to watch the movie……………………

    I just saw Return to Oz a year or so ago for the first time and it was a miserable thing….

    Legend rules!

  3. Watership Down was definitely nightmare fuel when I watched it as a kid. I own a copy of the book, but haven’t read it yet. There is an Italian band that did an entire concept album based off of the book.

    Dark Crystal was definitely a darker film compared to Henson’s later films. The Skeksis always creeped me out, especially the Chamberlain and that damn whimpering noise he made.

    • Watership Down is gut-wrenching. I recently watched The Plague Dogs, based on a book by the same author, and it would definitely have made this list if I’d seen it when I was young.


      I always preferred Labyrinth to The Dark Crystal, I found it too tough going.

  4. OK, I haven’t seen any of these films! Looks like I missed out (and gladly so!) as a kid. I did catch part of Leprechaun on TV when I was kid, and I was terrified that a chest of gold appeared in a character’s stomach! Tot his day, I haven’t forgotten it!!

  5. Fantastic list and inspired post idea! Totally agree with Return to Oz, The Never Ending Story had the same effect on me when she turned everyone into pigs.

  6. Agree these are terrifying! Especially The Dark Crystal & both Oz films. And Charlie & The Chocolate Factory! God our parents let us watched some fucked up shit….

    • People always raise an eyebrow when I say I used to watch horror films, with my mum, when I was a kid…but these are the really scary ones, and the ones that made a lasting impression on me.

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