13 '90s Movies Which Were Actually Terrifying

People who are big fans of horror movies and understand the genre inside out know true terror when they see it, and sometimes that terror can come from unexpected places. As a bona fide horror enthusiast, I often find myself watching seemingly harmless movies only to discover that they're hiding a chilling, dark underbelly. Growing up in the '90s, there were a ton of movies considered family-friendly which would automatically give me nightmares — despite the fact that they weren't actually meant to be horror flicks. I'm talking comedies, dramas, and even cartoons. As an adult, I've discovered even more '90s movies which are secretly terrifying. The things which scare you as a kid might still translate over and continue to terrify you as a grown up, but the second you become an adult you realize that there's an assortment of real life horror out there too. Even issues as seemingly mundane as paying bills can become a chilling activity when you're awake at 4 a.m., drenched in a cold sweat, worrying about them. And sometimes that's more than enough for you to see scary things in '90s films that you never noticed before.

While some of the more terrifying details of many of these films come from the bizarre decisions to centre a plot around ghoulish, child-killing monsters, others are terrifying for how dark they now seem in retrospect.

1. Toy Story


Even as a kid, the idea that my toy collection could talk but didn't ever want to talk to me didn't just deeply hurt my feelings, it also horrified me. What were those toys plotting when I wasn't there? Did they complain about me? Did they read my top secret diary? There wasn't anything magical about it. It was pure horror.

2. The Lion King

Oh, come on. Those hyenas? Mustafa's death? The film still chills me to the bone.

3. Home Alone

Movieclips on YouTube

OK, so I realize that it's silly to underestimate the strength of a child's imagination, but Kevin McCallister took his imagination to the next level with all those elaborate traps that he created for the burglars. As such, Kevin potentially grew up to become Jigsaw from the Saw movies. Think about that next time you watch Home Alone.

4. Groundhog Day

Movieclips on YouTube

For those of us who currently feel as though they're sliding into a horrific regime of wake-work-sleep-repeat, Groundhog Day feels less like a comedy and more like a harrowing reminder of what our grown-up lives have become.

5. We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story

FilmsAnimationCom on YouTube

In this animated classic, two kids are given some pills by a mad professor that turn them into monkeys (uh, OK...) and which also transforms some adorable, friendly dinosaurs into total monsters. Nope. That is straight up nightmare fuel, right there.

6. Beauty And The Beast

You and I both know that Belle is basically suffering from a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome with the beast, and that just ain't cool, guys. But furthermore, why are the Beast's servants so damn happy with their lives when they've essentially been turned into literal objects? The entire concept of Beauty And The Beast is actually terrifying when you look closely at it in detail.

7. My Girl

jackymovieclips0576 on YouTube

The devastating impact of both growing up and experiencing your first love is hard enough without having to mourn the tragic death of your childhood beloved. As such, there is absolutely no need for the horrifying ending of My Girl. None at all. I remain traumatized by it to this very day.

8. Ernest Scared Stupid

Aaron Waters on YouTube

Rubber-faced Jim Varney's Ernest P. Worrell had an entire franchise of movies back in the '90s where he goofed around during specific holiday seasons and pulled faces which simply weren't human. He was terrifying to me as a kid, and he's terrifying to me as an adult. Ernest Scared Stupid decided to exploit this fear and add in the terrifying bonus of a troll who turned kids into tiny, wooden dolls. So, yeah — thanks for the nightmares, Ernie.

9. FernGully: The Last Rainforest

SKYTV on YouTube

After seeing FernGully: The Last Rainforest, you may have also spent a disproportionate amount of your childhood worrying about the destruction of the rainforest and drafting up informative leaflets in an attempt to save them. What's terrifying is that it's 2016, and the rainforest is still in danger of being completely destroyed. Did humanity seriously learn nothing from FernGully?

10. The Witches

Movieclips on YouTube

Anjelica Houston might be an absolute vamp goddess in this film, but that didn't help to disguise the fact that the central plot was about the witches forming a plan to kill all children. I'm sorry, but how was that family friendly viewing, again?

11. Babe

Movieclips on YouTube

If you're a meat-eater, then I can think of few things less horrifying than cooking up a set of finely fried bacon and settling down to watch Babe. Our eponymous hero is spared the slaughter that his mom and siblings endure to instead become an adorable and intelligent asset to society. It's enough to put you off pork chops for life.

12. The Mask

When Stanley Ipkiss puts on the wooden mask which is possessed by the spirit of Norse god of mischief, Loki, he basically becomes an reminder of the importance of learning self-defense tactics. Sure, he's an anti-hero and everything, but his horrifying sense of entitlement and complete lack of awareness of physical boundaries is all too familiar to the kind of guys who think catcalling is just a bit of fun. As such, get away from Cameron Diaz, you jerk! The whole film truly horrifies me.

13. Edward Scissorhands

Movieclips on YouTube

Romantic though the film may be, Edward Scissorhands actually brings up a puzzling set of logistics. I mean, how does his body process food? And how on Earth does he manage basic bodily functions without seriously harming himself? The fact that he never ages also brings up the idea that poor Edward is going to be stuck alone in that old house, crying over melted ice sculptures of Winona Ryder and feeling crippled with loneliness for all time. I don't know how you feel about that, but it sounds to me like a horror film waiting to happen (and one that I would pay good money to see).

Seriously chilling. Now, if I can just get that Saw: Home Alone With Kevin script written, then maybe I can finally get some closure on some of these nightmarish visions from otherwise harmless '90s movies.

Images: 20th Century Fox