Kids in Danger: Top 10 Craziest ’80s Kids Movies

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am,

the wizard movie poster Kids in Danger: Top 10 Craziest 80s Kids Movies

The Wizard (1989)

The Wizard might just be a 100 minute-long commercial for Nintendo, but it’s also one of the crazier kids films of the 1980s. In case you’re unfamiliar with the movie, the plot revolves around an institutionalized little boy (his twin sister’s drowning left him mentally scarred) running away from home with his half-brother to compete in a Nintendo tournament.

Tell me, does the prospect of three preteens hitch-hiking across the country and hustling people out of their money sound okay to you – or does it sound phenomenally dangerous? Add in the fact that the hustler is an escapee from a mental institution and you’re dealing with a pretty crazy movie. On the plus side, it did show the world the awesome power of the Nintendo Power Glove :-P.

et poster Kids in Danger: Top 10 Craziest 80s Kids Movies

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

It’s one of the most beloved family films of all time, but E.T. is also one of the crazier movies of the 1980s. E.T. is definitely a cool alien, but the psychic link he forms with Elliott almost leads them both to die. Factor in the menacing, gun-toting federal agents (or radio-toting if you’re watching the lame 20th anniversary edition) and you’re dealing with some pretty dangerous stuff.

Then again, one of the reasons that E.T. works so well is precisely because the plot forces characters into situations with real consequences. A well-made kids movie is no different than a well-made R-rated action film: It must have a strong plot with interesting characters who make compelling narrative choices. E.T. succeeds on all counts.

(My apologies. The best E.T. video on YouTube was the trailer for the 2002 re-release. Yes, the same one I just said was lame.)

Bottom line: When kids watch movies they want to be entertained, and there’s nothing entertaining about a boring no-stakes plot. Not all of these movies were great, but at least they offered plenty of danger – and often enough another word for danger is “thrills.”

What do you think of our list? Did I leave out any other movies from the 1980s where kids face almost certain death?

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TAGS: et, flight of the navigator, gremlins, the goonies 2, the monster squad

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  1. “Sloth is a monstrous man-child who has spent the majority of his life chained up in a basement.”

    Thanks Rob, that really made me laugh.

    • That comment about Sloth could ALMOST describe my sister-in-law, except for one detail: Sloth has better manners and better social skills.

      Seriously…I just found out why Sis-In-Law has basically hated me from Day One of our meeting 17 years ago [Before reading this, please be securely seated and have your mouth empty of all food/drink, as I don't want you to damage your computer]…Ready?

      It seems that I committed The Most Unpardonable Sins One Can Make:

      1. I was correct in spotting/recognizing Brent Spiner in a non-Star Trek role on Night Court; S-I-L, the self-appointed Trek Expert, said it wasn’t him.

      2. Three months into dating my future wife, I grievously offended future S-I-L by CHANGING THE TV CHANNEL!

      These are the reasons S-I-L hates me…for those who think S-I-L needs serious therapy, Jesus Christ will be starring in the next Bill & Ted movie (standing in for Keanu Reeves) before S-I-L ever goes to therapy.

      • That is one of the most awesome comments I’ve ever read in my entire comment-reading career.

        The last half was absolute comedy gold. Pitiful childish behaviour, hilariously retold. Laughed even more the second time I read it. Bonus lulz for the numbered bullet format.

        And get a load of your introduction. Pure win. On moment you’re talking about a character in one of the movies above, then with an amusingly flimsy segue you grab us by the throat and launch into this random p!ss funny rant about your sister in law.

        Bravo! Walk away from it! Now it belongs to the ages.

  2. What about The 3 Ninjas? Or their horrific sequels? :-)

    By your rules, I wouldn’t put The Labryinth on the list, since it was in a fantasy world. If it does belong there, then so should The Neverending Story.

    • I would say Kicka**. It is not an eighties movie,b ut confused me as it seemed aimed at kids, yet it was too violent. Still confused about what age group they were aiming at.
      (I did not spell the whole movie name as there is no profanity written above this comment box).
      I loved the Sister in law post. I have a brother in law who hates me. Before I married my husband brother in law, his wife, and two sons borrowed money up in the thousands from my single husband. I didn’t know all this until my husband told me in a way to say, “I am a good man, I help my family when they need it.” I took it as my husband has a good heart.

  3. what about……children of the corn, people under the stairs, lost boys ?

    • I dont think Children of the Corn is a kids movie.

  4. You forgot Coak & Dagger!! Oh and D.A.R.Y.L.

    • Cloak*

  5. never ending stories

  6. Explorers (1985)

  7. It is amazing how many had Fred Savage

  8. I would’ve put The Dark Crystal up in here…

  9. Yes lovin this list! They don’t make them like they used to! Infact taking my son today to see 30th anniversary exclusive one day one showing event of ET at the movies tonight. I’m 30 yrs old this will be both our first time to see ET on the silver screen!

  10. How is Time Bandits a drama?-its a pure family film, thats like picking on The Goonies for swearing and some slightly scary scenes! Anyhow this list is redundant without the mighty Time Bandits.

  11. The Peanut Butter Solution is hands down more bizarre and scary than anything listed above.

    • I am watching Peanut Butter Solution on YouTube right now. Strangest movie ever but I thank the YouTube gods for putting the whole movie on there for the world to see (and then to scratch their heads in confusion).

  12. Looking for the name of the movie with the two squirrels or chipmunks named no-no and clicko I think..they fly out of a building..old 1980 kids movie

  13. Not sure how you can make a list like this and NOT include the best film of that era that was made for this category: The Lost Boys

    • Absolutely agree

  14. What about Stand by me? or Liscence to drive? or The gate? or Tennage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Ghostbusters 1 & 2….So many to mention..and don’t forget it was the MTV era

  15. Grabbing the brass ring by producing film fantasies for adolescent boys does little for humanity, and is anything but innocent.

    Investment in vulgarity and irresponsibilty is the equivalent of the Pied Piper leadin children off the cliff with entertainment.
    Surely, greater callings can be found.