’80s movies for kids were absolutely bonkers

Some of us had our formative years in the ’80s, and let’s just say it was a different time. There was no such thing as helicopter parenting or attachment parenting or any other parenting “style”—there was a whole lot more freedom and a whole lot less of any real exploration into the kind of media we were consuming. This is why there are a ton of nostalgic kid movies that may not really, actually be for young kids.

You may have some great memories of some nostalgic kid movies from your childhood—from ET to Gremlins to My Girl. But in case you’ve forgotten how disturbing scenes from some of these movies are, here’s a list of reasons why you may want to think twice before letting your kid (at least the littler ones) enjoy a movie night featuring one of them. And yes, some of the below were rated R, but that did not stop our parents.


Rated PG

A dad brings home a special gift for his son after last-minute shopping in Chinatown. He ends up with an adorable little creature called a Mogwai and is warned very sternly not to feed him after midnight or let him near water! Of course, he gets fed, which turns him into a terrifying creature called a Gremlin. Water multiplies the creatures, and all hell breaks loose. You may remember the adorable Gizmo, but let me remind you of the way some of the Gremlins perished in the movie: one mom chops up a Gremlin with a kitchen knife, another dies by blender, and yet another dies in a scene that has stayed with any kid from the ’90s or early ’90s—death by microwave.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Rated G

This nostalgic kid movie from the late ’60s was still very much in circulation when we were kids in the ’80s. It told the story of a family with a magical car, and honestly, it’s pointless to even get into the plot because it is wildly confusing. But the one thing that stayed in my mind after all these years was the villainous “Child Catcher,” which is honestly probably where the warning “never take candy from a stranger” comes from. This man skips around town with lollipops in an attempt to trap children, all while wearing an incredibly suspect outfit and top hat. I realize this does not sound terrifying, so just watch the YouTube clip above to understand why under no circumstances you should give your young children this nightmare fuel.


Rated PG

I recently convinced my nine-year-old to watch ET. It’s one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater, and I was nine at the time, too. Well, it turns out that we must have been exposed to a lot more movie “death” back then because she was absolutely destroyed by the scene where everyone thinks ET is dead. I mean, not just upset, but actually angry at me that I let her watch it. I believe her exact words were, “How could you?” So maybe rewatch the near-death scene before you let your kids watch. Oh, and that first scene where all the tweens are sitting around the table playing cards? There’s a smoking cigarette sitting in the ashtray in the middle of the table—implying one of them was smoking. Ahh, the ’80s.

The NeverEnding Story

Rated PG

The NeverEnding Story starts out as a relatable tale of a young boy (Bastion) ducking into a bookstore to avoid bullies. There, Bastion finds a book called The NeverEnding Story, and for some reason reads it in his school’s attic. The lines between fantasy and reality become blurred when Bastion reads a description that sounds eerily similar to himself and begins to believe the magical land in the book, Fantasia, needs him to survive. There is an impending dark gloom that acts as the villain in this movie, which is basically just a dark cloud that envelops everything it passes, called the Nothingness. If that terror wasn’t enough, Bastion’s beloved and gorgeous white horse Artax dies, and no child of the ’80s has ever recovered from that scene.

My Girl

Rated PG

“Do you want to go tree climbing, Thomas J?” Oh my god. The 1991 movie My Girl destroyed kids everywhere. Destroyed them. Vada is a tomboy whose mother died while giving birth to her, and if that weren’t morbid enough, her dad runs a funeral service out of their house. She’s an outcast with only one friend (MacCauley Culkin). They have the sweetest little friendship, and a lot of other things happen, but the main thing is that he runs into the woods to find a mood ring Vada lost and gets swarmed by bees and dies. Vada sees him in his casket and has a breakdown because he’s being buried without his glasses on, and “he can’t see without his glasses!” Ugh. I’m crying just thinking about it. Never let your child watch this movie.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Rated G

Ok, hear me out. The scene on the boat in the tunnel when they leave the wonderland of the factory entrance to go into the different parts of the factory is the most terrifying one-minute of film I saw my entire childhood—full stop. It was the point of the film where you realize the children are definitely not safe in Mr. Wonka’s hands—and their parents wouldn’t be able to help them either. And there’s a worm crawling all over someone’s face. No thanks.

The Wizard of Oz

Rated G

Okay, why is this Rated G, and is this considered a nostalgic kid’s movie again? Side note: The Wicked Witch from this movie was so terrifying that when she visited Sesame Street in character, the episode that featured her was banned from syndication for frightening children. So, yes, the Wicked Witch is terrifying. But she doesn’t hold a candle to those flying monkeys that haunted my dreams for years after I saw them—with their creepy vests, coifed mohawks, and eerily stiff tails. Don’t even get me started on the noises they made.

Stand by Me

Rated R

I was 13 when I saw this in the theater, and I’m still scarred. It was such a great movie, though, and therein lies the difficulty in making some of these decisions; our kids are so much more sheltered than we were in so many ways. After finding out a stranger has been killed near the town where they live, a group of tween boys set out to go look at the body. Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, River Phoenix, and Corey Feldman played the group of friends who go on an adventure that ends up totally changing the way they look at life. There’s so much swearing in this, and the matter of the dead body, but this is one that is so, so good—as long as you think your child is mature enough. Watch it again first before you decide.


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