The Top 10 Most Disturbing Moments in Kids Movies, Ranked
From button eyes to body horror, here are ten scenes that had us asking, “This was made for children?”
Come, little children, I’ll take thee away (into a land of old cartoons and weird practical effects). You might think kids movies would be tamer than their adult counterparts, but they still find a way to get a little spooky now and then.
Maybe a little more than spooky. Maybe in a way that traumatized us for life.
Here are 10 scenes that have us wishing we could invoice Walt Disney’s frozen head to cover our therapy bills.
10. A Christmas Carol (1983)
Every iteration of A Christmas Carol is inherently a little frightening. And we’re not even talking about the uncanny valley–ness of the animation in Jim Carrey’s 2009 adaptation.
The scariest part of this Yuletide classic is always the Ghost of Christmas Future. He shows up, dark and foreboding, and shows Scrooge two deaths: his own and Tiny Tim’s.
For some reason, filmmakers are obsessed with remaking this story with beloved children’s characters, so Tiny Tim is always a cute little baby Mickey Mouse or Kermit the Frog. It’s a devastating scene—and then Scrooge falls into the fires of hell. It makes the happy ending more satisfying, sure, but man is it scary if you’re watching it for the first time. Or the 30th.
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9. Toy Story 3 (2010)
When Toy Story 3 came out in 2010, it was supposed to be the end of a trilogy. We didn’t know that Disney Pixar would return for a fourth movie in 2019. We thought that was it!
So when, at the climax of the movie, Lotso betrays the toys and sends them into the furnace, it seems like that really is the end for Woody and the gang. There’s no hint that they might get out of this one alive. They all close their eyes and accept their death.
Of course, if the characters did die, ending the franchise, they wouldn’t get to keep selling merch.
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8. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Roald Dahl was a menace to society. Most of his stories are at least a little disturbing, and this tale about a child-murdering chocolatier is no different.
It’s been adapted with various levels of violence over the years—just ask anyone who’s seen the stage musical where a scurry of squirrels tear Veruca Salt limb from limb.
But today we’re focusing on a scene from the first (and superior) film adaptation with Gene Wilder. Gruesome projections of centipedes and eyes punctuate Wilder’s terrifying line delivery. The ’70s truly did not have to go so hard.
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7. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Again, we don’t need to pull in the more recent adaptation with Johnny Depp to talk about this bone-chilling scene. In the original 1951 film, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum tell Alice, unprompted, a fable called “The Walrus and the Carpenter.”
It starts innocently enough. The walrus and the carpenter are two pals strolling down the beach, half-singing a fun song with nonsense words. But then the pair get hungry, and things go downhill from there.
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6. Spirited Away (2001)
Okay, confession time from the writer: I’ve never watched Spirited Away all the way through. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about the dude with no face or the kid who’s maybe also a dragon? No clue.
It’s not that I dislike Ghibli movies or even animation in general. I think they’re great. But I could never get past that first scene as a kid.
You know the one—the protagonist is traveling with her parents, and they find a seemingly abandoned theme park in the countryside. Her parents want to explore and find a fresh buffet stuffed with steaming hot food, and despite the protagonist’s cries, they dig in.
It’s kind of a lesson for parents instead of children—listen to your kid, or you’ll be turned into a pig!—but from a child’s perspective, it’s terrifying. From anyone’s perspective, it’s terrifying.
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5. Brave Little Toaster (1987)
It’s not disturbing if it’s accompanied by a jaunty tune, right? Well, it wasn’t true for Alice in Wonderland, and it’s not true for Brave Little Toaster.
Much like in Toy Story, the trouble with anthropomorphizing inanimate objects is that you feel for them too much when their lifespans come to an end. Somehow, they find a way to make landfills even sadder than the environmental disasters they already are.
If this song where sullen cars sing about their own deaths turned you into a hoarder, we’re sorry.
The Brave Little Toaster is not available for streaming, but you can purchase the DVD on Amazon, and probably find the VHS in your parents’ basement.
4. Pinocchio (1940)
Pinocchio was honestly a wild choice for Disney to “reimagine” into its catalog of live-action reboots, for a lot of reasons. But mainly just because the original film aged, if not poorly, then strangely.
If you were as traumatized by this movie as we were as children, you might remember Pinocchio’s trip to Pleasure Island. What first appears to be a troublemaking kid’s paradise turns out to be a front for a child-turned-donkey trafficking scheme.
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3. Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022)
With a lot of titles on this list, you’d probably think, “Oh, that wouldn’t be made today.” But you’d be wrong.
2022’s Chip ‘n’ Dale reboot took a lot of bold swings. Foremost among them was the kidnapping of The Little Mermaid’s Flounder early on in the film.
The plot of the movie revolves around Chip and Dale investigating the smuggling ring, who get beloved characters hooked on cartoon drugs and kidnap them when they eventually fall into debt. They’re then forced into surgery to disfigure them and prevent them from crying out for help before being sold into slavery.
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2. Coraline (2009)
We had a hard time picking a singular spooky moment from Coraline. Rather than having just one or two disturbing scenes, the entire film was intended to fill you with dread.
If the idea of willingly sewing buttons over your eyes wasn’t horrifying enough, Coraline is held captive by uncanny imitations of her parents. The spidery Other Mother entices Coraline into a fantasy world, but she knows something’s wrong whenever she interacts with her distressingly goopy Other Father.
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1. Spy Kids (2001)
What could top a list filled with forced transformations, body horror, and kidnapping? More of the same, actually.
No amount of childhood terror comes close to the experience of watching Spy Kids for the first time. The twisted features of Floop’s mutants are one thing, but learning that their weird noises and arm flailing are actually pitiful cries for help is just too much.
In the words of Steve Buscemi in Spy Kids 2, “Do you think God stays in heaven because he, too, lives in fear of what he’s created?”
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