When watching a kids’ movie there are certain expectations. There might be singing, there might be some important lesson to be imparted and there will probably be a lot of bright and colorful sequences.
Yet every so often there’s a moment that sticks out in a kids’ movie, that’s completely shocking and surprising. These are moments that are so “adult,” that it almost seems as if they were inserted from another much more mature film.
It’s not these moments shouldn’t exist or be included in the movies. It’s not even to suggest that their life-changing or damaging for the kids watching them. However, they do end up being so surprising that it’s worth wondering, even idly, if the movie should’ve been rated R because of them.
The scenes, characters and jokes collected on this list probably wouldn’t be notable if they were found anywhere else. However, it’s because they come so suddenly and in an otherwise kid-friendly atmosphere that they stick out like appalling sore thumbs.
The moments in question are often of a scary nature. Yet at other times they might be overtly inappropriate or violent. All of them, however, were probably slightly traumatic if you watched them at a young enough age.
Here are the 15 Kids’ Movie Scenes That Should Have Been Rated R
15. Large Marge in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
The entirety of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is a little subversive. Although that’s only natural given the character (and director Tim Burton). Still there’s a moment when the movie goes just a little bit over the edge. It’s during truck driver, Large Marge’s, short but terrifying scene.
The jump-scare where Large Marge transforms into a monster is the obvious horror moment. Still nearly everything about Large Marge belongs in a much different and darker movie.
The music is incredibly ominous, while Marge gives on a long gruesome and graphic account of a deadly car crash. The transformation is perhaps the scariest moment, at least for kids, but the whole sequence is a horror show.
14. The Grand High Witch Reveal in The Witches
Though it was received well upon release, The Witches isn’t a kids’ movie classic. It’s been more or less forgotten but that could just be because every child who watched in the 90’s wants to bury all the nightmares it caused.
In one climatic scene, the main witch, played by Angelica Houston, stands in front of a crowd of women. With one dramatic announcement, Houston’s character peels off her own face, an act that’s shown almost in its entirety. Meanwhile, the rest of the women in the audience transform and twisting into ugly, misshapen, witch-like figures.
The special effects are shockingly realistic-looking and it happens so suddenly (and grossly) that it leaves quite an impression. Even if there’s magic involved, the centerpiece of the scene is a woman peeling off her (real-looking) skin in a movie made for children. There’s something very off about that fact.
13. Night on Bald Mountain in Fantasia
Fantasia is a beautifully animated movie with a gorgeous orchestral soundtrack. It is, though, incredibly dull to watch as a child, having no dialogue or any songs with lyrics. Yet Fantasia was presented as a kids’ movie and it manages to be a colorful, if rather dull experience for kids… up until one sequence.
“Night on Bald Mountain” which closes out Fantasia’s series of musical vignettes and thereby serves as the movie’s “climax” is nothing short of nightmare fuel.
If the pounding instrumentals by Modest Mussorgsky aren’t enough, the dark animated sequence is filled with literally hellish imagery. Night on Bald Mountain is a depiction of Hell on Earth in its purest form and it’s a kid’s movie!
12. Lord Farquaad’s Private Magic Mirror Watching in Shrek
The Shrek series is peppered with many jokes and references that are far from kid-friendly. They range in terms of cleverness as well as obviousness. One of the most blatantly inappropriate moments though occurs in the very first movie. It concerns Lord Farquaad, whose name itself is a rather expletive-heavy pun.
About halfway through the movie, Lord Farquaad is lying in bed. He’s using his Magic Mirror to stare at Princess Fiona over and over and over again.
While creepy that’s not the questionable part of the scene. That moment occurs right in the middle of the sequence, when Farquaad gets excited in a way that only men can become.
Nothing is explicitly shown, besides a noticeable facial reaction from Farquaad and some ruffling of the covers. Yet for fans of a certain age, it’s undeniable, being completely and unexpectedly dirty.
11. The Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The vast majority of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is about as wholesome a movie as you’re going to find in children’s entertainment. The colorful musical is imaginative and bright. However, darkness still lurks in its corners, specifically with the character of the Child Catcher.
His name describes exactly his function, but Chitty Chitty Bang goes a bit beyond with that their implications.
The Child Catcher doesn’t seem to be purely interested in trapping children. He is, quite plainly, a pedophile as Chitty Chitty Bang rolls out every cliche about the child-preying criminals possible with him.
It’s more than little offensive, as the Child Catcher also displays some stereotypical “gay behavior” too. Still there’s very little getting around that a pedophile is a semi-major antagonist in a seemingly innocent family musical.
10. The Other Mother in Coraline
Coraline is one of those movies so horrifying, that although it’s animated and based on a book for children, it should’ve never been considered a kids movie. Yet Coraline is, in fact, made for children and most likely has terrified all of them.
There is a plethora of moments in Coraline that could be easily translated to an adult horror movie. The most terrifying of them involves Coraline’s Other Mother, particularly when she transforms into her second form.
The Other Mother is always creepy thanks to her soulless black button eyes. But it’s during her thin, almost spider-like appearance in her second form where the real terror sets in.
She’s just human enough to be unsettling but not so monstrous (as she is the end of the movie) that she’s hard to see as anything relatable. Familiarity with an edge of menace is a horror trope that Coraline uses far too effectively.
9. The Confrontation with Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The easy thing to point with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Is that Jessica Rabbit is way too intimate for a cartoon, let alone a kids’ movie character. While there’s definitely something vaguely scandalous about Jessica, she isn’t the most alarming element of this cartoon crime noir mash-up.
The real shocking moment of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is when the proper villain, Judge Doom is revealed. There’s no real reason that Doom should be so scarring.
In fact the big reveal, that he’s a ‘toon himself is rather silly in concept. Still Christopher Lloyd’s performance, going completely unhinged, feel totally at home in the gritty crime films that Roger Rabbit is spoofing.
8. The Helping Hands in Labyrinth
In other sections of the movie Labyrinth there might be literal decapitations and David Bowie. Bowie just can’t help from being racy. Yet the most disturbing Labyrinth characters are the ones with the most innocents of names, The Helping Hands.
When main character Sarah, played by a young Jennifer Connelly, encounters The Helping Hands they immediately start grabbing and groping at her. It’s just as shocking as it is palpably uncomfortable.
Things don’t improve at all once The Hands start talking. The Jim Henson Company, who created most of the creatures for Labyrinth, made The Hands a strange contradicting mix of realistic and otherworldly.
7. Mufasa’s Death in The Lion King
As long as Disney keeps making kids’ movies, the parental figures will keep dying in them. In other words, it’s a trope that will go on forever, outliving us all. So Mufasa’s death in The Lion King isn’t unique and not just because it’s based on Hamlet. Still it’s definitely one of, if not the most, disturbing Disney parent death.
The thing that sets Mufasa’s death apart is that he’s murdered and not by some faceless hunter like in Bambi. Mufasa is killed by his own brother.
Although the death scene doesn’t have any blood in it and doesn’t show Mufasa being trambled by the wildebeest horde that Scar throws him into, it does show pretty much everything else.
6. Queen Mombi’s Castle in Return to Oz
The Wizard of Oz is an instant classic being and is nearly perfect. It’s sequel, which was released years later, is neither. Return to Oz is a tortuous experience and not just because it’s a bad movie, it’s full of imagery that has no business being presented to children or anyone for that matter.
There are plenty of freak show moments in Return to Oz, which sticks closer to the disturbing Frank L. Baum material than the original movie. The worst has to come in the villain’s, Queen Mombi, palace.
As a very young Dorothy, who by the way received electro-shock therapy earlier in the movie, sneaks around the castle she discovers a secret. Mombi has a fascination with decapitation. The walls are lined with heads, all of which start screaming at Dorothy.
5. Charlie Goes to Hell in All Dogs Go to Heaven
An unwritten rule of cinema seems to be that if there’s a dog in a movie, something terrible will happen to it. Even when the dog is the main character, they’re not exempt from abuse. This is the lesson that All Dogs to Heaven makes quite clear.
It turns out that title of All Dogs Go to Heaven is a bit of a lie. This is because in one dramatic scene, our canine hero end up being forced into the depths of Hell. All the typical motifs are present. There’s fire, brimstone, evil creature and, of course, abject terror on an adorable puppy face.
Thankfully the whole nightmare turns out to be an actual nightmare. Charlie is not in any real trouble of eternal damnation. However, the mere fact that it’s suggested would seem to cross some ratings guidelines.
4. The Incinerator Scene in Toy Story 3
The magic of Toy Story is that makes it audience believe that toys are real and have sentient life. It’s a brilliant merchandising technique but it’s also heartwarming and adorable. The titular playthings feel like people. This is why one scene in Toy Story 3 is so unbelievably dark it’s shocking, it made it to the movie.
Towards the end of Toy Story 3 our heroes made of plastic, felt and other easily manufactured materials find themselves in an incinerator.
Slowly they inch ever closer to a fiery and painful doom at the center of the blaze. It never happens, thankfully, but Toy Story sells the audience on the idea by having the toys determinedly link hands in some quasi-suicide pact.
3. Artax’s Death in The Neverending Story
The “neverending” in the movie’s title refers to something hopeful and magical. For those fans who remember how the hero’s horse companion dies, the word might have a double and much disturbing meaning.
It’s not all too shocking that horse, Artax. Animal companions seem to be created specifically to meet their makers in any story, whether it’s meant for children or not. It’s how Artax goes out, in a painfully slow and heartbreaking way that’s the real shocker. Taking the death from a normal expectation to trauma of the highest order.
Artax doesn’t go out heroically, he sinks down slowly in the appropriately named Swamp of Sadness. He inches down and down until he’s completely consumed.
2. The Tunnel Trip in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
There’s many disturbing implications in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Chief among them is what exactly happens to all the kids during the tour after they’re taken out.
Since they’re never seen again, so it’s not hard to argue that Wonka is really running a juvenile slaughter house, not a candy making plant. Still if there’s one scene that’s undeniably horrifying it’s when the tour takes a trip through a tunnel on a river of chocolate.
Gene Wilder is at his most manic and upsetting. The lights are flashing in a seizure inducing way, Wonka is reciting (screaming) some indecipherable verse and the characters are nearly as terrified as the audience.
1. The Bunny Massacre in Watership Down
Watership Down should never have been aimed at children. Just because it involves talking animals and it was animated doesn’t necessarily mean it was meant for kids. George Orwell’s Animal Farm definitely isn’t a family friendly romp. Yet Watership Down was marketed, somewhat, as a kids movie and that’s terribly misguided.
The heroes might be fluffy bunnies but there’s nothing cuddly about them. Watership Down is violent, often very gross and full of graphic depictions of blood. Yet upon release the movie received a really mundane PG rating.
There’s so many scenes of violence that are difficult. The worst is when a dog character runs amok and kills several rabbits. The entire massacre is shown. One moment in particularly has the dog swing a lifeless bunny body from its mouth, while blood drips down. It’s hard to watch at any age, let alone as a kid.
What are some of your most memorable and disturbing scenes from kids’ movies? Do you agree with our list? Sound off in the comments!
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