16 Movies That Totally Messed With You When You Were A Kid
It's honestly baffling what some people think is appropriate for children to watch. Looking back at some of the formative (and messed up) cinematic experiences of my childhood, it's frankly astonishing that I've managed to grow up into the (somewhat) balanced individual that I am today. But the truth is, these experiences are pretty universal: In all likelihood the messed up movies you saw as a kid are the same ones that I saw and boy, some of them were totally not child-friendly. What's most surprising about the sort of movies that messed with you as a child, is how the majority of them were absolutely made to be supposedly "family friendly."
Sure, some of these films simply had the odd scene here and there that was terrifying, soul-crushing, or weird, but quite a few of them are messed up from the opening shot to the final frame. These are films which made you cry or scream, or which infested your mind with such vivid nightmares that you didn't sleep well for a long time after seeing them.
But it's OK, guys. This group session is totally happening right now, and we're going to face our childhood fears, anxieties, and heartbreak together via 16 of the most messed up movies of our childhood:
1. The Neverending Story
I'm a fully grown woman, damnit, and I still can't process all the complex emotions that come with Artex being unable to fight the sadness of the swamp and simply allowing himself to be pulled in and killed by it. It's heavy now, and sweet heavens, it was an absolutely obliterating scene to watch as a child.
The plotline basically gets you super attached to this unbelievably adorable little furball called Gizmo... then leads to a pack of sadistic and terrifying monsters painfully sprouting from him who then go on to thrill from torturing him. I screamed the house down on my first viewing of this film as a kid, and frankly? I still totally scream inside when I watch it now, too.
3. The Dark Crystal
As a child, you likely heard the name Jim Henson and thought, Yay, adorable puppets having crazy, fun times — but then you saw The Dark Crystal and were instantly traumatized for life. Those scenes where the Podling slaves have their life essence drained out of them are nothing short of nightmare inducing.
4. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory
"You're going to love this. Just love it," says Willa Wonka with a sinister, foreboding smile on his face in this film... right before plunging us all into a nightmarish hell tunnel which is only about one level of horror away from being in a horror movie. Nope times infinity, thanks.
Baby theft? Check. Creepy creatures in basically every scene? You betcha. High intensity peril at every corner? Very much so. David Bowie wearing a terrifyingly pronounced cod-piece? Oh yeah. For a kid, Labyrinth was messed up something wicked from start to finish.
6. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
As a child, I really didn't care how full of love, sweetness, and compassion E.T. was, because he absolutely scared me to the core.
7. Watership Down
Suffice to say, Watership Down is messed up from start to finish and in retrospect, definitely wasn't child friendly. But those brutal rabbit battles? Good lord. What a bloodbath.
8. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
Hey kids! Want to watch a movie in which a screaming guy has his still beating heart torn out of his chest before being unwillingly dipped into boiling lava? Of course not, because that'd be ludicrous, right? Except so many of us did and it completely messed us up.
9. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Judge Doom was legit one of the most grim movie characters of many people's childhoods. But, it was the devastating scene in which a cute little cartoon boot is slowly dipped into acid and reduced to little more than a bubbling, inky puddle which taught me just how brutal the world could be.
For those of us with a very sensitive, nervous constitution, Jumanji was an endless anxiety attack of a movie to see as a child. The film basically presents an neverending array of relentless threats when all anyone ever wanted to do was play a damn board game.
11. The Mummy
Scarab beetles crawling under the skin? Yeah, that's definitely not an idea that the fertile imagination of a child brain should be subjected to.
12. Return To Oz
The Wheelers were likely one of the most haunting gang of villains of many peoples cinematic, childhood experiences. The decision to combine wheels with high-pitched, shrieking cackles as a way of providing some extra menacing characters to the film is like pouring a whole pint of hot sauce into a recipe that only demands a single drop.
13. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
Of course Tim Burton would have something to do with one of the most messed up kid movies of all time: Trust me, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure is it. From the hideous jump scare of Large Marge to all of the terrifying clowns, the film was cold-sweat and sleepless nights central.
14. The Witches
No child needed a movie in which a woman peels off the actual skin of her face in order to reveal her ghastly, horrifying true form. Not a single one.
Yeah, don't worry about me Mom and Dad. I just don't want to ever go near a sea, river, lake, swimming pool, bath or shower ever again because water clearly equals sharks and I really like being alive, thanks.
OK, so with a little maturity (like, 10 years old), Ghostbusters was clearly endless fun and worthy of multiple rewatches as often as possible. But as a young kid? Hell's bells, it was bone shaking. I was out of the room the second that librarian busted out into her true ghost form.
Like scars, there are some chilling movie moments which will truly never leave you. And the 16 mentioned above will definitely stay with me, like an existential scarab beetle scuttling under my skin, for the rest of my poor, anxious life. Ah well.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures