Inspired by The Independent’s recent roundup of 10 of the bloodiest bedtime stories, we decided to take a look back into our own childhoods, and came up with this list of 10 of the darkest children’s movies. From more subtly disturbing films like Bambi to the truly gruesome ones, like Watership Down, check out our picks after the jump, and be sure to add your own sources of childhood trauma in the comments.
1. Bambi (1942) – So what if you don’t actually see Bambi’s mother get shot by the hunter. You definitely hear it, and we’d argue that for most imaginative kids, that’s much worse. And then Bambi’s absentee father seals the deal, telling him, “your mother can’t be with you anymore.” Oy.
2. The Dark Crystal (1982) – This film is set in a dark alternate universe where the evil Skeksis — a screeching reptile/bird hybrid — have massacred an entire race of peaceful, human-like Geflings, rounding them up and draining them for their “essence.” See also: Aughra, and her freaky eye.
3. Gremlins (1984) – It might look fake to us now, but when we were kids watching someone’s mom chop up a Gremlin with a kitchen knife after churning another one up in a blender was completely terrifying. Obviously we were not ready for Mogwai either.
4. Little Monsters (1989) – A monster played by Howie Mandell who lives in an alternative universe under your bed (and has been getting you in trouble with your parents) wakes you up in the middle of the night, scares the crap out of you, and then almost burns to death in front of you. You start hanging out with him, and then you notice that you’re turning into a monster, too. Oh, and then your little brother gets kidnapped.
5. The NeverEnding Story (1984) – We always found Gmork, the werewolf creature that stalks Atreyu, and almost manage to kill him in the Swamps of Sadness, much more frightening than his master, the Nothing. It was probably the fangs.
6. The Secret of NIMH (1982) – When a movie opens with a dying baby mouse whose house is about to be plowed over, you know that it’s going to be dark. That said, watching genetically altered rats murdering genetically altered rats is surprisingly brutal.
7. Watership Down (1978) – There are bleeding bunnies. Enough said.
8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) – Cheating spouses, a mysterious murder, and an alcoholic protagonist — all rather adult themes for an animated movie set in “Toontown” that’s bound to appeal to kids. And then there’s this horrific scene where Judge Doom (who has been dipping innocent cartoons in acid) is crushed by a steamroller…
9. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) – The body count of the bad kids aside, the psychedelic tunnel scene in this movie plays out like a horror film, featuring quick flashes of frightening images — including a chicken decapitation and a giant millipede crawling across a woman’s face.
10. The Witches (1990) – As if the physical appearance of the witches (pointy noses! sharp claws! no hair! no toes!) wasn’t scary enough, their terrifying goal is to wipe out all children. But we always that the most frightening moment in this creepy movie was when The Grand High Witch — who has been turned into a rather hideous looking rat — gets chopped in half by the hotel manager with a meat cleaver.