10 Movies That Prove Children’s Cinema Was Scarier in the ’80s


If you have fond memories of children’s movies in the 1980s, clearly you are much stronger than I am. The decade turned out lots of uncomfortably dark and incredibly terrifying movies, both live-action and animated, that make that final sequence of Toy Story 3 seem like Fantasia. In the spirit of celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of the scariest scary kids’ flicks, The Land Before Time (yup, 25 years ago this week! you’re old!), here’s a rundown of harrowing cinematic moments from our childhood.

The Land Before Time (1988)

If watching Littlefoot’s mother die so early in the movie didn’t destroy you, you then got to live in complete fear of Sharptooth constantly trying to murder those tiny, adorable dinosaurs!

The Dark Crystal (1982)

The Skeksis. These vulture-like creatures are gross as hell. Are you still having nightmares?

Return to Oz (1985)

This sort-of sequel to The Wizard of Oz made the Wicked Witch of the West look like your fairy godmother. The bad guys are much worse in this one — for example, the terrible Wheelers. But there’s also that multi-headed witch, Mombi.

The NeverEnding Story (1984)

The terrors here are plentiful: Mora, the Swamp of Sadness, the Southern Oracle. But that it was the Gmork that gave me recurring nightmares.

The Brave Little Toaster (1987)

The little toaster in question was much braver than I would have been when faced with animated household objects constantly trying to kill him. But then you have that fucking clown. What the hell were they thinking?

An American Tail (1986)

I know, I know, everything works out in the end. But don’t you remember watching this for the first time and feeling SO CERTAIN that Fievel would be lost forever or get eaten by one of those evil cats?

The Secret of NIHM (1982)

What the hell kind of owl was that? Good lord.

Labyrinth (1986)

No, it wasn’t David Bowie’s crotch that freaked most of us out as kids (on the contrary — it was perplexing). And the goblins were kinda cute! But the Junk Lady? Get outta here, Junk Lady.

Gremlins (1984)

This probably wasn’t supposed to be a kids movie, but our parents didn’t know any better. Hey, at least it kept us away from the microwave.

All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)