The 20 Most Unintentionally Terrifying Movies of All Time

Sometimes, Hollywood sets out to make a fun movie for kids — and it winds up being nightmare fuel for everyone, including adults. Whether it's Dumbo's drunken severed elephant head monster dreams, or the helping hands from Labyrinth, supposedly cute movies have been freaking us out for years.

Here's our collection of the most terrifying movies — that probably weren't supposed to be quite so upsetting.

Labyrinth (1986)

An older Goblin King (David Bowie) with a monster in his lycra pants abducts a High School girl's infant brother, because he loves her. And that's not even the scary part. Director Jim Henson let his horde of terrifying creatures just straight-up torture this poor girl. She's dropped down a mountain, dosed and trapped in a magic ball, fooled into thinking she's back in her home with a real life recreation of her bedroom. And the creepy part is it's all out of the Goblin King's love, "Everything that you wanted, I have done. You asked that the child be taken. I took him. You cowered before me, I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you! I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me. Isn't that generous?" It's a terrifying obsession. And we haven't even mentioned the creepy, grabby helping hands creation. Shudder.

The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Sure watching a bunch of humans torture mice with hideous yellow injections was creepy — but that was just the icing on the cake. When this cartoon wasn't trying to drown the main characters children in mud, it was sucking characters down air vents, stabbing rodents in the back and waving million-year-old mice with wart hands and body long mustaches at the screen.

Alice In Wonderland (1985)

The TV movie Alice in Wonderland went to great lengths to terrify us all. Little Alice is attacked by a Jabberwocky, trapped in a mirror world of her own home and even rescues a baby that turns into a pig in her arms. It was disgusting. But nothing, NOTHING compares to watching Carol Channing (who was playing the White Queen) turn into a sheep. WHY! WHY GOD WHY!

Dumbo (1941)

Dumbo was a pretty brutal creation from the get go. Take one adorable giant eared baby elephant, mercilessly tease him about his birth defect, lock away the one person who loves him (Mama elephant) for going "mad," and then get him drunk and torture the baby with creepy pink elephant dances. There are fever dreams that aren't as scary as the Pink Elephant dance in Dumbo.


Brave Little Toaster (1987)

After making the audience care about the plight of household objects, this movie then proceeds to destroy these creatures at every turn. There's even a death song in the junkyard, where each item croons about how it's "Worthless" just before it's crushed to bits. But that's not all the objects also have to deal with — there's rage, struggle with losing their minds (i.e. sucking up their own power cords), deception from other household appliances, and nightmares about clowns. NIGHTMARES ABOUT CLOWNS!

Unico Island of Magic (1983)

Oh my god, screw this movie so hard. Unico is perhaps the most adorable little Unicorn baby in the world, but paired with the most horrifying cackling villain in the history of villains. Meet Lord Kuruku, the crazy wizard who turns everyones parents into faceless clay puppets to do his bidding. Then he flies around in his ball-like body screaming in such a way you're certain that Satan himself has come through the television to collect your soul.

Witches (1990)

Anjelica Huston is absolutely terrifying as the Grand Witch in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl's book. Make up and acting aside, the basic plot of this film itself is enough to keep you awake under the covers. The witches are devising a plan to kill all of the children. First they turn them into mice, then they stomp them to death with their shoes, fun!

All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989)

Not entirely scary — until the Dog goes to hell. Hell is a bad, bad, bad place.

Watership Down (1978)
Talking rabbits rip each other to shreds for 100 minutes. Then when they're tired of spilling each other's blood, a dog comes by and rips out their insides. So much rabbit blood.

The NeverEnding Story (1984)

I'm well aware that G'mork was supposed to be scary. But the Southern Oracle, when Artax Dies in the swamp of sadness, Morla (who speaks in the royal we), and the creepy magic mirror gate — these are all things I did not expect to terrify me for years to come. But they did.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Thank Gene Wilder for taking a seemingly innocent story and twisting it about until it leaked out terror. Sure the kids all almost die, but it never seems that horrible until Wilder describes how they're going to juice one character or starts screaming "You Lose —Good Day Sir!" But nothing beats the old boating scene.

Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue (1990)

We were forced to watch this during drug awareness week, and things took a turn for the terrible after the main character was sucked into a drug carnival and made to look like a zombie.

Return to Oz (1985)

The vacant eyes of the pumpkin creature, Mombi's hall of heads that she "took" from the women of Oz... and of course, The Wheelers. This movie is for children? Fairuza Balk never had a chance for normalcy, did she? Not that we'd have her any other way she's brilliant in The Craft.

Pinocchio (1940)
Pleasure Island scene.


Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947)

Mostly fun and games — until Donald Duck turns into a hunger crazed lunatic and tries to eat, well, anything.

We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (1993)

Brain Drain is disgusting. Brain Drain was the cereal that turned two little kids into monkeys and the pack of friendly dinosaurs into monsters — no, thank you! Plus Professor Screweyes' (who is a man with an actual screw for an eye) final exit (death by crow) was nothing to laugh at, I thought this was for children!

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

Heffalumps and Woozles torture the silly old bear.

The Plague Dogs (1982)

Ok so this isn't technically a children's movie (at least I hope not) but a lot of people (like myself) were mistakingly given this to watch by their parents. It's directed by Martin Rosen of Watership Down fame, and follows two dogs who escape from a laboratory and are hunted as possible carriers of the bubonic plague. The clip sums up exactly why children really shouldn't have ever been exposed to this movie.

UPDATE: Adding more more horror!

‪Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure‬ (1977)

Split between real life and the cartoon drawings of child playthings come to life, this movie must have been created while the whole team of animators were on acid. Every single toy is a walking nightmare, including the dancing twin dolls that sing everything they say. Oh and Andy is kind of a total dick through the beginning of the film, which is even stranger. Here's a clip os Ann, Andy and Camel getting stuck in the taffy pit with some monster called "The Greedy." Thanks to Nixie.

Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)

Ernest's usual hijinks were eclipsed by the insanity of a monster that turned children into tiny little wooden dolls.Thanks to Socialvegetable

This post was originally published on November 11, 2011.