Everything seems so pure and innocent when we're children. Being so pure and innocent ourselves, we never expected any of our favorite movies or stories or books to be about people breaking the rules or putting others in danger or getting what they want at the expense of others around them (especially others that they care about). So we'd watch our movies and laugh when we were supposed to, and get scared when our protagonist was in danger, and cheer them on when they evaded trouble -- but it never entered our minds to question if what the protagonist was doing was justified or right.
Kids can be fairly Machiavellian: "the ends justify the means." By that logic, it's totally cool for the characters of our favorite children's movies to break any laws necessary and get themselves and those around them in heaps of trouble all in the name of happy endings. Cute idea, but not how the real world works; a lot of our favorite protagonists should be facing some significant jail time.
Want an example? It's so obvious we didn't want to include it in our list: Home Alone. First of all, these parents are heinously neglectful that they forgot a child behind when rushing to a foreign country. But then, this kid evades police (why? not entirely sure) who are checking up on him and, oh yeah... terrorizes the men coming to rob his house. Yes, he was defending himself against robbers, but his actions were so physically harmful that these guys were lucky to have survived. These days, the robbers (with good legal representation) might have won in court if they sued Kevin for assault.
Now that you know what you're in for, let's jump right in. Here are 15 kids movies filled to the brim with illegal activities.
Let's start with one of our favorite Christmas movies, for kids and adults alike: Will Ferrell's Elf, about a man who gets adopted by elves when he crawls into Santa's toy sack as a baby. The movie, which also stars Zooey Deschanel, James Caan, and Mary Steenburgen, is certainly a favorite to all modern believers in Santa -- but few of us have stopped laughing at Will Ferrell long enough to notice just how naughty this little elf is. First of all, Buddy the Elf travels from the North Pole through Canada and into the United States all without a passport, which is breaking international law. Then, Buddy jaywalks a lot (which is a minor crime, but still not one that kids should think is acceptable), gets employment without paperwork indicating his identity (meaning he's evading taxes), he vandalizes/procures inventory from Gimbels, and he aids in Santa's evasion from park rangers when he crashes an unregistered aircraft into Central Park. Sure, Buddy's not from here -- but ignorance of the law is no excuse for violating it.
We all loved Jumanji! -- the story was about a game that was all too real. You'd roll the dice, and whatever scenario your piece stumbled onto would become an all-too-real threat that the players had to deal with in real life. But this game brought on so much terror and pain that the players should've been held culpable just for playing the game! Think of all of the obstacles incurred in the game that wrought havoc for everyone else in the small community: a hunter comes out of the game and shoots up a store and the town streets with a sniper rifle; a stampede is unleashed on the town, likely resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries; at the very least, the number of wildlife, like monkeys and lions, terrorizing the streets brought on millions of dollars in vandalism and personal property injury. STOP PLAYING THE GAME AND BURY IT LIKE THOSE KIDS IN THE BEGINNING DID!
13 Mrs. Doubtfire
Honestly, illegal activity is the main story line in Robin Williams's Mrs. Doubtfire. The movie is about Daniel, played by Williams, a father going through a divorce. While it's pretty clear that things are done and over with his wife, he's losing custody of his three children whom he holds dearer than anything. With custody agreements limiting his visits, he disguises himself as a nanny and works for his ex in order to be closer to his kids. So let's review: Daniel hosts a house party for minors, many of whom's parents have no idea where they are (this incites the separation). He then forges an identity to be able to work for his ex-wife. He also assaults his ex's new boyfriend on numerous occasions and vandalizes his car -- and poisons him at the climax of the movie, remember? At least the movie ends with Daniel on the losing side of a lawsuit.
12 The Parent Trap
These little rascals were bound to have broken a few laws along their way, don't you think? Or should we say rascal? Lindsay Lohan should be in a lot of trouble; that's what we're trying to say. While The Parent Trap is filled with a lot of shenanigans and silly foibles, you're probably reviewing the events in your head and wondering, "What did they do that was actually illegal?" Sure, the camp feuds they had together might be called malicious bullying in our modern times, but they weren't illegal. Well, what they did do wrong classifies as a felony and should've earned them 7-10 years in prison, minimum. When Hallie and Annie chose to switch places, Hallie used Annie's passport to leave the country -- a VERY illegal act of misrepresentation. Then, when their mother figures out it's Hallie and has to bring her back to the States, she knowingly commits the felony AGAIN!
11 A Series of Unfortunate Events
The premise of the movie, A Series of Unfortunate Events, was fairly straightforward: three orphans who have just lost their family and home in a mysterious fire are shuffled around to different legal guardians as they're deemed suitable, unsuitable, or die in sudden and mysterious ways. Right off the bat, you know that there's got to be something weird and probably illegal going on -- but you probably don't get just how much. First of all, we know that Count Olaf is constantly breaking the law: he's forging identities, impersonating others, attempting murder, succeeding in murder -- not to mention, his acting is basically a crime. But consider the banker, Mr. Poe, executor of the Baudelaire parents' estate, whose negligence in finding a suitable guardian for the children is criminal. Or consider the Constable (played by Cedric the Entertainer) who's so terrible at keeping Count Olaf's attempts at bay, he could be considered a willing accomplice.
10 Monsters Inc.
Well, we all know that Sully was breaking a bunch of laws when he first didn't report that a child had touched him, but then again when the kid escaped into the world of monsters, and then again when he elected to harbor the child and pulled Mike into his series of crimes. But those aren't the crimes we're talking about. Think about this movie from the perspective of Boo's parents -- Boo disappears in the middle of the night from the safety of her bedroom. If they're any sort of good parents, which it seems they are, judging by the plethora of toys in her room and goodies lying around, they immediately called the police and began an investigation into the kidnapping of their child. Sully is guilty of kidnapping, and if he were caught by human officials, he would likely be euthanized. It's a good thing he was able to return Boo in the middle of the night!
Wall-E lives in the desert wasteland that used to be The United States of America. However, there's no government left on Earth, there are no people whose rights can be infringed or impeded, and there's nothing and no one to harm. So how could Wall-E break the law? Well, he didn't, but we're not talking about Wall-E or Eve. We're talking about the humans and the story behind the love story of these robots. So Earth becomes nothing more than a garbage dump, and all the people are made to leave it in corporate-sponsored spaceships until Earth decomposes and becomes "habitable" again, a scenario that apparently can never happen. That means that corporations and politicians have ignored and abandoned not only all United States regulations on climate care but also all international standards set forth by the United Nations. Then, autopilot systems have been programmed to sustain and maintain corporate profit by preventing a return to Earth at all costs, which include the destruction of evidence and impeding the duties of high-ranking captains.
8 The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas doesn't take place in any country that we know of -- it takes place in Halloweentown, which is just a door-in-a-tree away from Christmastown. It's a little world where the holidays are "made," for lack of a better term; where all the spookiness comes from. And Jack Skellington didn't necessarily break any rules in Halloweentown (he most certainly did in Christmastown, by kidnapping Santa, but moving on); we're more concerned about the laws he broke in our world. Jack gets in a sleigh and takes over Christmas, visiting the world of humans for a night. We assume he visits The United States since the humans speak English with no accent. If that's true, Jack likely committed one of the greatest acts of terror the U.S. had seen at the time. He quietly invaded homes and left treacherous gifts that shocked people at the least, attacked them at the worst. We were so threatened that we shot down Jack's sleigh with missiles!
7 The Incredibles
Let's rewind: sometime in the late 1940s to early '50s, superheroes became a common commodity. They abused their vigilante powers perhaps a bit too much in the pursuit of peace on Earth, and the government instituted the Superhero Relocation Program in 1955. As time passes, Helen and Bob Parr are shuffled into the hands of the new government program that essentially acts as a Witness Protection Program. However, on multiple occasions, Bob has violated the restrictions placed on him and has demonstrated his super-abilities in front of civilians, causing the government to relocate his family -- we know this because Helen nearly blows a gasket when Bob nearly uproots the family again by saving people from a fire. However, it likely wouldn't work like that. Bob's frequent violations would force the government to lock him up due to inability to cooperate; Bob would either be in prison or a specialized facility for his many transgressions against the government that's offered to keep him in hiding.
6 Spirited Away
In the movie Spirited Away, Chihiro is a young girl whose family is moving -- which, of course, is a bit of trauma to any young child. But things get a lot worse when she stumbles out of her human world and into one inhabited by spirits. How'd she get there? We still don't really know -- all that we do know is that she's there now. So how does she get back? By indentured servitude. Chihiro is promised by the evil Yubaba that her parents, who have been magically turned into pigs, may be returned to her if Chihiro works for her for an indeterminate amount of time. So this young girl is forced into slavery and child labor, cleaning a bath house for odd spirits. Plus, Haku is a slave to the same boss -- remember when Yubaba tries to kill him? We're not sure what the laws are in this spirit world, but in the HUMAN world, Yubaba wouldn't be able to escape the clutches of governmental bodies regulating child labor.
The beloved tale of an orphan adopted by a cold millionaire in a public relations move has been retold so many times, it's started to get annoying. But the original movie back in the early '80s starring Carol Burnett and Aileen Quinn is still known as the classic. Annie is super cute, but this little girl was at the center of a whole lot of illicit activities. Sure, we all know that Rooster and his girlfriend, Lily St. Regis, aren't the good guys, so their attempted cons, assaults, and murders don't count as surprises here. But even the good guys were completely acting in nasty ways! The police never seem to notice that Miss Hannigan is running a child labor shop that doubles as an orphanage, and Mr. Warbucks only adopted Annie to lessen the negative attention coming his way after a PR scandal involving his companies.
4 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Before Willy Wonka sent five golden tickets into the world for children to win in order to visit his factory, he had disappeared from the public eye for years. Well, apparently, Willy should have stayed in hiding because stepping into the limelight meant exposing himself as a human trafficker, a child abuser, and a psychopath. Think about it: Willy Wonka discovers Oompa Loompas in his travels and secretively brings them all to his factory, employing a bunch of illegal immigrants of an unknown race in his factory in order to cut wages. Then, when he invites kids to his factory, he has no safety regulations in place to prevent the children from ruining his product or from them getting hurt by his machinery, thus leading to four of the kids getting severely injured. Sure, he's passing his company off to Charlie Bucket -- but Charlie's likely to inherit a bunch of lawsuits in his wake.
If you haven't seen Matilda, you're missing out on one of Roald Dahl's best works, as well as one of the best and most magical childhood movies of all time. Matilda is the story of a little girl born into a home of negligence and ambivalence, but she grows to be an ambitious and brilliant little girl... who happens to have magical powers that she learns to harness for her and the greater good. While Matilda is a great little girl, that doesn't mean that everything she does is good -- or legal. First of all, she uses her powers to break into her evil Principal Trunchbull's home and to steal some candies and a toy for her teacher, Miss Honey -- but she also uses her powers to terrorize her principal into fleeing town (possibly to the brink of suicide "since no one ever hears from her again") and to interfere in a federal investigation against her fraudulent father.
2 The Sound of Music
Well, obviously The Sound of Music has some bad behaviors in it. The movie takes place in Austria just before the Nazi occupation swallows the country in its grasp, so you know some sketchy things are likely to be happening toward the end of the movie. What's great about the writing of this movie/musical is that it depicts the early stages of the occupation as was it was: disconcerting and unnerving, but the movie showed us only a few acts, if any, that were blatantly horrifying enough to know that one should flee as soon as possible. The biggest illegality in the movie, of course, happens when the Von Trapp family (who was a real family, by the way) fled the concert hall immediately after their performance only to be pursued by the Nazi officials whom the father had already agreed to work for (in order to placate them). They hide until the Nazis lose their track, then flee the country as refugees. However, if you know anything about geography in Austria, if the family had fled through those mountains, they'd be running straight to Germany and to Hitler's mountain retreat.
Big might not be considered a children's movie, but we all watched it when we were kids, didn't we? The movie sure seems like it's meant for kids, at least up until the part that Elizabeth Perkins unbuttoned her top, and we got to see Josh touch a woman's breast for the first time. Let's pretend it was meant more for kids than for "the whole family" and get down to brass tacks: Josh makes a wish that he wishes he was "big," and the wish comes true. The following morning, he wakes up as a man in his late 20s. He goes downtown and gets a motel room and hunts for a job while he's stuck this way. He forges an identity, a resume, and a social security number in order to get a lousy desk job (just goes to show how much a company checks up on you when you apply), which then leads him to a bit of wealth and aplomb before he figures out how to return to his natural age.
Sources: timeout.com; pastemagazine.com