Kids love going to the movies, and movie studios, in return, pump out plenty of kid-themed content to satisfy the demand. Children’s movies, for the most part, are heavy on imagination and light on the things from which most parents try to shield their young: violence, sex, drugs, gratuitous profanity, and the like. Films aimed at the pre-teen crowd also tend to feature plots that lose their appeal around the time you begin to sprout armpit hair. Try as they might, adults and older teens can’t seem to get lost in the plots of movies that star talking animals or kindergarten kids.
The challenge is, kids can’t drive themselves to the movies, so as adults, we’re often forced to sit through fare we’d just as soon skip. This explains why most of the parents you know can sing every song from Frozen on cue, and can do that stupid Minion dance from Despicable Me.
Fortunately, the makers of children’s movies occasionally extend an olive branch to the adults in the audience, perhaps recognizing that most would rather not be there and wanting to offer at least a small consolation for them wasting two hours that could be spent on more productive uses. Embedded in many kids’ movies are scenes that fly over the heads of their target audience but offer a bit of entertainment for the adults in attendance. These scenes often feature content that’s not kid-friendly. Here are 15 shockingly inappropriate scenes from children’s movies.
15. Big (1988) – “I Get To Be On Top”
The plot of Big speaks to a fantasy held by every undersized pre-teen male. After being denied access to a carnival ride on account of his small stature, 12-year-old named Josh approaches a fortune-teller machine and wishes to be big. He wakes up the next morning and, what do you know, he’s big. Now inhabiting a 30-year-old’s body, Josh, played by Tom Hanks, sets off for New York City and lands a cushy job as a toy tester. He also meets an attractive woman who can’t resist his boyish enthusiasm. They strike up a relationship, and in one scene, she accompanies Josh back to his apartment. She initiates that she’d like to spend the night, and because what 12-year-old doesn’t like a sleepover, Josh eagerly agrees. Referring to the bunk beds inside his apartment, he exclaims, “I get to be on top!” She then accompanies him inside. The only problem: Josh, despite his change in appearance, is still a 12-year-old boy, meaning this scene is potentially pedophilia.
14. Problem Child 2 (1991) – Tangy Lemonade
If Problem Child 2 had been pitched to a movie studio in 2017 rather than 1991, it wouldn’t have made it past the planning stage. Social justice warriors and mommy bloggers would have lost their minds over a film that glorifies a third-grader’s pervasive disrespectful and borderline criminal behavior. But in the early ’90s, with social media a decade from becoming a reality, SJWs lacked a sufficient platform to whine and complain. Which was great, because us ’90s kids got a steady stream of politically incorrect humor to keep us laughing through childhood and adolescence.
In Problem Child 2, titular character Junior, a red-headed mini-demon, is summoned by the annoying twin girls down the street to refill the lemonade jug for their lemonade stand. Hopefully you can deduce what happens next. After Junior returns with his straight-from-the-bladder concoction, the girls’ father stops by for a glass. He downs it in one gulp, emits a satisfied sigh, and exclaims, “Tangy!”
13. Ladybugs (1992) – The Dressing Room Scene
In Ladybugs, Rodney Dangerfield plays a suburban working stiff angling for a promotion. His company sponsors a girls’ soccer team, from which his hyper-competitive boss expects nothing less than a Championship every year. Lacking a coach for the season, the boss calls on Dangerfield, and eager to impress, Dangerfield accepts, despite his complete lack of soccer knowledge. To make matters worse, the team sucks, the best players from the year before having moved on. But that’s okay, because Dangerfield has a secret weapon — his girlfriend’s 13-year-old son. He convinces the boy to don a wig and become Martha, and Martha immediately turns the team’s fortunes around. Once again, we’re glad SJWs didn’t have a platform then, as they would have clutched their pearls and reached for their pitchforks upon hearing this premise.
The most inappropriate scene occurs at a clothing store, where Dangerfield helps “Martha” try on a dress for a team party. Another customer approaches while they’re in the dressing room, and all she can see are two sets of feet, one big and one small, under the door. The customer hears the following from Dangerfield: “Don’t you dare tell your mother about this!” “Hold on, I’m almost finished!” “If it’s too tight, you’ll get used to it!” Nothing says family movie night like a good child sexual assault joke.
12. The Sandlot (1993) – Like a Girl
In 2014, a company that makes feminine hygiene products launched a viral social media campaign to spread the message that using “like a girl” is an insult and is offensive to women. The campaign was a success, as Facebook news feeds everywhere exploded with SJWs sharing the video and adding their own comments of approval. As a ’90s kid, a piece of my childhood died with this campaign. One of the great baseball movies of all time, 1993’s The Sandlot, features a fantastic insult battle between two pre-teens on a baseball diamond. The barbs escalate in nastiness, until finally, one of the kids, the chubby Ham Porter, throws down the ultimate gauntlet: “You play ball like a GIRL!” The other kid is shellshocked, and stunned silence ensues. You just didn’t go there as an 11-year-old boy in 1993, and not because you cared about being politically correct. In Porter’s defense, he was in the unenviable position of having to respond to perhaps the best on-screen insult ever: “You bob for apples in the toilet — and you like it!”
11. Shrek (2001) – Lord Farquaad’s Castle
First of all, the villain’s name in this children’s classic is Lord Farquaad. Maybe it’s a total coincidence and the screenwriters had no ulterior motives in choosing the name, but coming off the tongue, it sure sounds like a decidedly not-kid-friendly word that starts with “F” and ends with “wad.” You can judge for yourself. But the scene from Shrek that had the kids in the audience looking quizzically at their chuckling parents was when Shrek and Donkey approached Farquaad’s castle and marveled over its expansive dimensions. Shrek, impressed by the size of the castle, turns to Donkey and observes, “Do you think maybe he’s compensating for something?” Later in the movie, Farquaad scores an adult joke of his own. Speaking of Snow White, Farquaad says, “She lives with seven men, but she’s not easy!”
10. Space Jam (1996) – Performance Issues
1996’s Space Jam had all the ingredients of a blockbuster kids’ movie. There were imaginative themes, including space aliens possessing the talents of NBA stars. The film married animation and live action, a concept that was still revolutionary in 1996. And, best of all, it featured a collection of the most beloved sports stars of the era, including Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird and, of course, Michael Jordan. The formula worked, as the film remains the highest-grossing basketball movie of all time, bringing in over $230 million at the worldwide box office. Issued a soft PG rating, Space Jam rarely strayed from kid-friendly territory, save for one scene involving a doctor and Patrick Ewing. The doctor asks Ewing if, other than on the basketball court, he is experiencing any “performance issues.” Ewing’s face, as you might expect, registers a heap of embarrassment. Parents enjoyed a good belly laugh, their kids blithely unaware of the racy remark.
9. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) – Evocative Euphemisms
The beloved Mrs. Doubtfire was a cute family movie that offered a beautiful message about the lengths a devoted father will go to in order to spend time with his kids. The late, great Robin Williams plays a recently divorced dad who, after losing a custody battle to his ex-wife, dresses like an old lady and takes a nanny position watching his kids after school. Neither his ex-wife nor his children have any clue as to his true identity. Like several other early ’90s flicks on this list, go ahead and throw a trigger warning on this one for the 2017 SJW crowd — Mrs. Doubtfire derives a ton of humor from cross-dressing. But its most shocking scene, at least for parents with young kids in tow, happens when the title character unleashes a litany of creative euphemisms for the deed, the best of which include sinking the sub, hiding the weasel and parking the porpoise.
8. Ghostbusters (1984) – Alluring Apparition
In 1984, the children’s movie business had yet to emerge into its own thriving sub-niche of the film industry, and as a result, you had more movies that melded kid humor with adult themes. Case in point, Ghostbusters, the classic comedy film that, despite its PG rating and ghost-centered theme that appealed heavily to children, featured a heavy dose of adult humor. Most of the sex jokes are pretty tame, at least by 2017 standards, but one scene, featuring Dan Aykroyd in a tryst with a sensual spirit, seems way out of place in a PG movie. Aykroyd’s character is asleep, and in his dreams is visited by a beautiful ghost. The ghost hovers over his crotch area, followed by the camera zooming on his fly seemingly coming unzipped on its own. The scene closes with a shot of Aykroyd’s O-face as the ghost works her magic. Look on the bright side, parents: Maybe your young son won’t be so terrified anymore of ghosts coming into his room at night.
7. Howard the Duck (1986) – Ducky Love
If Ghostbusters demonstrated that sexual relations with an apparition are fair game, then why not a roll in the hay with a cartoon duck? The year 1986 saw the release of the much-ballyhooed Howard the Duck. Originally scripted as an animated film, the movie became live action as a result of studio demands. Despite an all-star cast and plenty of hype, Howard the Duck bombed at the box office and fared even worse with critics. It occupies a spot next to Showgirls and Bio-Dome on the list of movies generally regarded as the worst ever made. The duck-human love scene, which features the animated title character getting frisky in bed with human actress Lea Thompson, is an oft-cited example of the film’s horrible screenwriting and acting, not to mention questionable decision-making by the filmmakers in having a kids’ cartoon character get jiggy with it on the big screen.
6. The Lion King (1994) – Sand Dunes
Disney’s The Lion King was one of several blockbuster Disney movies released during the 1990s. Animated and rated G, this film presented no ostensible worries to even the most protective parents. Profanity is nowhere to be found, nor does the film feature violence, drugs or overt sexual content. Overt being the operative word, because there are a couple of doozies present for those who look hard enough. A close-up of a pair of sand dunes, pictured above, shows what sure look to be nipples on top. Now, maybe certain sand dunes in certain deserts just tend to collect a ring of slightly darker sand right at the tip, but we’re not convinced. Moreover, this isn’t the only scene where the filmmakers appear to subtly slip in something naughty. Another sequence presents the main character collapsing on a precipice and sending a cloud of dust swirling in the air. Look closely, and it appears the dust particles spell out “SEX” while suspended in air.
5. Peter Pan (1953) – The Infamous Shadow
Animated Disney films tend to eschew objectionable content, and that was even more the case during the zenith of American wholesomeness, the 1950s. So we’ll give the studio the benefit of the doubt and assume that a particularly giggle-worthy moment in 1953’s Peter Pan was unintentional, and not slipped in on purpose by a mischievous production staff member to be naughty. Look at the main character’s shadow on the wall in the above picture. If you’re seeing what I’m seeing, he isn’t going to put Ron Jeremy out of business, but for a young boy, he’s got nothing to be ashamed of. Disney apologists explain the mishap by pointing out that the shadow corresponds with Peter’s shirt tail, which, as you can see, dips below his crotch in the back. But the shapes don’t really match up, leading many to believe it was actually a surreptitious shot of Peter’s peter.
4. Home Alone (1990) – Stepping On a Nail
Kids everywhere lived vicariously through Kevin McCallister’s heroics in Home Alone. I mean, seriously, what eight-year-old wouldn’t want a week of freedom with no parents and no obnoxious older siblings, punctuated by an all-out assault on a pair of bumbling burglars to protect their house? It’s the stuff kids’ fantasies are made of, at least until they get older and have a different kind of fantasies. The entire showdown between Kevin and the burglars is pretty savage, featuring a BB-gunshot to the junk, a hot iron to the side of the face, and a pair of full paint cans thrown onto the criminals from a second-story landing. But the most cringeworthy moment in the sequence comes when one of the burglars, played by Daniel Stern, steps on a massive nail while making his way up a booby-trapped flight of stairs. Ouch! Now might be an excellent opportunity to teach your kids about tetanus shots.
3. Problem Child 2 (1991) – The Babysitter’s Dirty Deed
This movie was so inappropriate that it deserves several spots on this list, but we’ll limit it to two. When Junior wasn’t urinating in lemonade pitchers, he was hard at work on other shenanigans, such as hypnotizing his grandfather’s beloved dog and breaking into a carnival ride’s speed controls, touching off an epic projectile vomit scene. But his crowning achievement occurs when his father, played by John Ritter (RIP), leaves him at home with a babysitter to go on a date. The sitter’s much older boyfriend arrives on a motorcycle and whisks her to the master bedroom. Junior, irritated they’re treating his house like a motel, exacts revenge in a Junior-esque way: He films their tryst and projects the video onto the side of his house. When his father returns from his date, he finds a crowd of neighbors in his front yard, sitting in lawn chairs with popcorn and enjoying the show. Listen carefully during this moment, and you’ll hear a neighbor in the background deliver the film’s best line: “Hey, she’s not a natural blonde!”
2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) – Ripping Out His Heart
The MPAA had only four movie ratings in 1984: G, PG, R and X. Most films were rated either PG or R, with the PG rating awarded to movies deemed kid-friendly, and everything else slapped with the more restrictive R rating. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the second installment in the popular series, carried a PG rating, and with kids eager to see it after loving the first Jones film, parents obliged without much worry. Many would soon come to regret the decision, as the movie, aside from being much more violent in general than in its predecessor, featured one particularly disturbing scene. While performing a sacrifice, an evil sorcerer reaches into a man’s chest, extracts his still-beating heart, and holds it into the air in triumph. Enough parents were outraged that the MPAA received a deluge of angry phone calls. The organization, largely in response to this scene and the reaction it provoked, added the PG-13 rating, which was applied to the third Jones film, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
1. E.T. (1982) – Dinner Table Insult
Yes, E.T. captivated a generation of adults and kids alike, and set a new bar for fantasy films. Watching the bond develop between E.T. and Elliot was heartwarming, and who didn’t shed a tear at the end when the creature returned to his home planet? It was the consummate family movie, though a scene near the beginning threw a lot of viewers for a loop. Sitting at the dinner table with his mom, older brother and younger sister (played by an adorable Drew Barrymore), Elliot is describing his first encounter with the alien. The older brother laughs off the claims and uses the opportunity to tease his little bro, first claiming it might have been a “pervert.” Then he speculates that maybe Elliot saw an elf or leprechaun, prompting Elliot to stand up and shout, “It was nothing like that, penis breath!” I laughed at this line as a little kid, simply because it included the word “penis.” But rewatching the film when I was older, I laughed even harder, understanding the full weight of Elliot’s comment.