It’s hard to find appropriate movies for kids to watch. Every child is different, and their threshold for fear and suspense varies greatly. Some kids may find a scene terrifying, while others will laugh it off without a second thought.
The movies that are aimed for the younger demographic are thought to be a safer bet. However, they sometimes include too much “adult” content for kids to fully grasp. Others, such as classic Disney movies, offer problematic themes and scary scenes that will induce nightmares in even the bravest of children.
Some of the best kids movies are sometimes the least appropriate to watch with children. Movies that adults also enjoy should usually be saved for an older family audience, as some of the content will be too sad or intense for a young child to enjoy. We all grew with the classic Disney movies, but it’s important to watch them before you assume that they’re appropriate for a two-year-old. There are some seriously creepy scenes in some of these movies.
Again, every child is different, and parents know best. If you think your child will take the movie in stride, then it’s obviously fine. Some kids are more sensitive, though; and shouldn’t be shown anything that’s too upsetting or realistic. It’s important to know what each movie contains before showing it to your kids, especially if there are some parts you’d like to fast-forward through.
15. The Land Before Time
The Land Before Time was a classic for kids who grew up in the early ’90s as it sparked interest in dinosaurs for every kid who watched it. In the progression for dinosaur fans, this movie worked for the younger age group who graduated to the evil side of dinosaur life in Jurassic Park.
While The Land Before Time was, for the most part, a lighthearted cartoon about dinosaur friends, it had some darker moments too—namely, the onscreen death of Littlefoot’s mother. This scene was one of the only scenes that parents may have to fast-forward in The Land Before Time, but the death of one of the fan-favorite character’s mother had kids across the country in tears. If you don’t want to explain the ins-and-outs of existence in the universe to your child, either stay away from this one or get ready to fast-forward.
14. The NeverEnding Story
The NeverEnding Story is one of the classics in the fantasy world that so many enjoyed as children. This is one of the movies that parents can’t wait to show their kids because of how much they enjoyed it. But, a word of caution. Please, first make sure that they’re old enough.
While the plot of the movie is excellent, much of the scenery is dark and some of the themes and scenes should only be watched by kids who can handle it. One of the moments that sticks out is the death of Artax, the beloved horse of Atreyu, in the Swamps of Sadness. There are some tense and scary moments in the movie as well, with the image of the wolf of The Nothing being known to linger with some of the children who watch it.
Overall, The NeverEnding Story is a great fantasy movie for a lot of kids, but parents should screen it ahead of time to make sure that their children will be able to handle some of its darker contents.
13. Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo is an excellent movie, which is one of the reasons why it isn’t great for young children. If a child is old enough to appreciate suspense and tense moments, then Finding Nemo is a great selection. If you’re looking for a blissful voyage for the length of a movie, you should probably look elsewhere.
Finding Nemo does a great job in getting the viewer invested in the two main characters. After that, they are separated and put in constant danger, with a threat lingering around every corner. There are countless scenes that can scare the pants off of a little kid, and the moral of the story is overshadowed by the terror that faces the protagonists. In the end, some kids may get the message that they should never leave home.
12. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
The story of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is a timeless classic, and one that children and adults have grown to love. Tim Burton‘s recent reboot of the film seemed like it would have been a darker take on the material, but it was surprisingly lighter than the film it was based on.
If you haven’t seen the film in a while, you may be surprised to see it on this list. Yes, the extreme physical ailments that most of the kids endure are striking, but they offer a general moral and aren’t too traumatizing if you come to think of it. The real dark content comes in the boat scene, where the group is treated to a frantic trip down the river. The boat goes faster and faster, flashing spooky images as the guests protest. As the boat speeds down the river, Wonka begins to sing manically, eventually screaming his lyrics as the lights flash on his crazed face.
Frozen received mostly positive reviews from parents who saw it, with most criticism circulating around the unnecessary amount of song in the movie. Overall, the movie was a big hit, but there were some themes that should be considered when you sit down to watch it with your child.
At around six or seven years old, reality starts to supersede fantasy in terms of what scares children. A dragon, while they may be scary in the context of the film, won’t usually have a child cowering under the covers. Death of parents, however, can be something that will linger.
Seeing a person die is much more striking than a personified animal. Part of Frozen‘s setup is that the parents of two sisters die, leaving them to take care of themselves. This kind of plot point can stick with a child, and make them wonder what would happen if their own parents died.
10. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
Snow White is a classic, and is definitely one of the first movies that comes to mind when you think of appropriate kids movies. Disney Princesses are usually popular with little girls, but there are some dark elements to this film that may induce some nightmares.
The main reason why Snow White appears on this list is because of the demographic to which the Disney Princess markets caters. They are aiming for young girls, but the content may not be suited accordingly. This movie is probably fine for children who are about six to eight years old. However, younger audiences may be scared by some of the scenes. The huntsman scene, for instance, where a scary-looking hulking man holds a knife up to Snow White, can scare a little girl more than you may realize.
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Tim Burton‘s dark Christmas movie became an instant classic when it was released, and is great for young adults and kids who aren’t disturbed easily. But, it should certainly be screened before you bring it to your little ones.
As a whole, the movie is a good one with a good message. If you believe your child will be able to handle the dark themes, then this might not be the worst choice. There are, however, some disturbing content that should be monitored.
There are countless disgusting images in The Nightmare Before Christmas, as well as some scary scenes that can petrify young children. Perhaps the most disturbing scene is when the three children set off to abduct Santa Clause while singing songs of the disturbing scenes of torture they plan to put him through.
8. The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid is another Disney movie that should be screened before it’s shown to younger kids. Some kids will be able to handle the scary scenes that The Little Mermaid offers, but others might want to wait until they’re older.
The Little Mermaid isn’t the worst of the movies on this list, but it’s usually geared towards younger viewers; especially girls. Some parents have taken issue with the message of the film, as Ariel gives up her voice in order to seduce the man of her dreams. She succeeds on her looks alone, and in the end of the movie, she gets everything she wants. Some parents feel as though this is a bad example for little girls, citing the fact that the original text had Ariel fail in her attempt to seduce Eric.
7. The Harry Potter Movies
The Harry Potter series is often referred to as accessible to all demographics. These are tough ones because the first couple of movies are good for all ages, just as the books were. It’s when the series gets darker that it becomes too much for younger viewers.
The mystical world that Harry Potter creates is great for kids, but as soon as the good vs. evil theme gets into full swing, it becomes a little too much for younger children. Kids don’t understand many of the themes presented in the latter films, and the tragic deaths can be too much for them to deal with.
6. Alice In Wonderland (2010)
Tim Burton seems to be the king of kids movies that aren’t really for kids. Alice in Wonderland and the sequel that was released a few years after have far too many adult themes to be considered a good choice to be shown to kids.
Much of the parental criticism came from the depiction of marriage in the film. Of course, the themes presented in the movies are relatively realistic. But they aren’t necessarily something you’d want your kids to be asking about.
Some other parents were concerned with the counter-culture message in the film. Both movies are extremely trippy when viewed through the eyes of an adult. Some even say that it encourages kids to be “weird” or different for no other reason than to go against the norm. It may have been a misinterpreted message, but the movies seem to be less about being happy and more about being different.
Gremlins is a movie that kids either love or hate. There are some genuine scares and tense moments in the film, but the general tone of the movie is light and any of the scary parts can be overcome by children with a higher spook tolerance.
Some kids will find the movie too scary to watch, and parents should definitely watch this one ahead of time. One of the most glaring parts of the movie, though, is when one of the characters is talking about why she hates Christmas. She tells the story of how her father died in the chimney one Christmas while he was pretending to be Santa Clause. She says that’s how she found out that Santa didn’t exist. Well, that’s how many other children found out Santa doesn’t exist as well. Way to go, little girl!
Dumbo is one of the Disney classics, which many parents believe are inherently appropriate for children. Unfortunately, there are some pretty terrible scenes and adult content in the movie that may provoke some unwanted conversations.
First of all, there is rampant alcoholism and animal cruelty in this film. It’s no wonder why so many kids are scared of clowns. Look no further than Dumbo. On top of that, Dumbo provides what can only be described as a bad acid trip in “Pink Elephants on Parade,” which showcases an incredibly animated scene that is sure to traumatize children and have parents staring in shock.
Up is another excellent movie and one that can be enjoyed by a wide range of viewers—young and old alike. Pixar, though, usually aims to please children and parents first; and in this case, they didn’t succeed.
Up is just too adult for most kids. First of all, it deals with adult issues that may go over the head of many children who watch it. Within the first few minutes, the audience is treated to a lifetime relationship coming to an end in one of the most heartbreaking animated scenes ever created.
On top of the heavy content in the film, there are multiple scary scenes that put our protagonists in danger. The scenes with the dogs are particularly frightening, and the suspense can be too much for a younger child to handle.
2. Babe: Pig In The City
In a list that features some strange movies, Babe: Pig in the City may be the strangest. Everyone loved the original Babe and the heart it displayed. But the sequel fell flat, leaving parents dumbfounded and kids traumatized.
The whole movie is extremely dark. The creators clearly missed the mark on whatever vibe they were going for, and scene after scene, the movie depicted things that toed the line on animal cruelty. At one point, Babe saves a dog that was drowning. The scene is supposed to convey the fact that Babe helps animals in need even if they are against him. The only problem is that audiences are treated to an elongated clip of a dog twitching as his head is submerged in the water. Sure, this personified animal is supposed to be the bad guy, but we’re still watching a dog struggle for its life.
The reason Bambi is number one is the same reason you saw it coming a mile away. The killing of Bambi’s mother is so historically traumatic that it’s the first thing we all think of when we think of traumatic kids movies.
It’s a meme for a reason. Bambi’s mother’s death has left its mark on all of us. The scene is perfectly created and far too much to lay at the feet of a 4-year-old. There’s no graphic image involved—only a gunshot. Bambi continues to run until he gets home and doesn’t even realize what has happened.
The rest of the movie is appropriate for kids, save for a few tense scenes. So it’s possible to fast-forward through the sad bits and watch the rest with your kid. The fact remains, though. You don’t need to look far to see the evidence of Bambi‘s ability to traumatize.