11 Surprisingly Dark Childhood Movies

Have you ever re-watched one of your favorite childhood movies, only to be met with a feeling akin to, “WTF, was this movie always so dark?” Either we’re tougher as kids than society gives us credit for, or the sadness just sort of goes over our heads. It’s probably a little bit of each.

If you can relate, you probably watched at least one of these 11 surprisingly dark childhood movies. From movies like The Land Before Time and Where The Wild Things Are, to old DCOMS like Don’t Look Under The Bed and Tru Confessions, we’ve got it covered.


All Dogs Go To Heaven

Kids movies in the '80s were just more dark in general, it seems like. I mean, can you imagine a kids movie today including drowned puppies, drunk cartoon dogs, and a narrow escape from hell?

Don't Look Under The Bed

Okay, I know that this DCOM was meant to be scary. What I didn't know, and didn't fully appreciate as a kid, was that there were so many themes about death and fear. Also, one of the characters was dying of Leukemia! This kind of movie would never be made by Disney Channel these days.

The Land Before Time

This movie has it all. Dead moms? Check. Neglected children dinosaurs? Check. Potential extinction on the horizon? Check. Other dinosaurs that are trying to kill them? Check, check, check. Yikes.

The Rugrats Movie

This movie has the great honor of being the first movie I remember crying at as a kid. But now that I think of it more, this movie was pretty damn disturbing. First of all, those violent monkeys. Then we have the fact that there are a bunch of kids who are lost, alone, and prone to getting snatched. But what took the cake was the scene in which Tommy almost murders his baby brother, Dill out of jealousy. Damn.

Tru Confessions

OMG. Not gonna lie, this might be Shia Labouf's best performance. Yes, in a DCOM. He plays a mentally slow teen and there are so many scenes that still make me squirm with sadness to this day. Definitely the saddest DCOM out there.

Where The Wild Things Are

Okay, to be fair this movie probably wasn't geared towards kids. But here's the deal: When I read the book, I didn't expect to enter a movie about a kid who has problems at home and potential neglect issues.

The Adventures Of Mark Twain

No hate to the artsy people behind these character designs, but the claymation design of these characters is already creepy. So that, plus a particularly dark scene about mankind's eventual destruction due to our sinful lifestyles...makes for a really disturbing lesson for little kids. I'm not even a little kid anymore and I still can't watch that scene!

The Brave Little Toaster

Can we talk about how his fellow kitchen appliances are pretty much trying to kill him throughout this movie? Because, uh...yeah, that's the movie in a nutshell.

The Secret Of NIMH

Okay, I haven't seen this movie but multiple sources have confirmed that this movie is creepy AF. After watching the trailer, I can verify that I already know that I'm glad my parents didn't subject me to this as a kid. Can somebody please explain the creepy owl?!

Tower Of Terror

Who else was terrified of elevators after watching this movie? Um, me! This is straight up a movie about a bunch of people who died and have ghosts chillin' in a penthouse.

Susie Q

This movie seems cute at first, until you really think about the fact that this entire film is about a girl who died in a tragic car accident.

Did any of these movies freak you out? What other movies were pretty dark in retrospect?  Tell us in the comments!

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  • Leah Little

    I understand that, yes, these are dark themes for children, however, these movies did provide a realistic reality for us growing up compared to the child movies and cartoons made today. For example, watching Lion King helped me understand the circle life, obviously a huge theme in the movie, and that some may go, but someone else comes as well. That’s what helped bridge that childhood understanding into what happens realistically. So, yeah, these movies are a little dark, but reality never hurt anyone.