Top Ten Scariest Moments in Children’s Films

Screaming Children

Thank god for directors like Joe Dante, who understands that children, at heart, love to be scared. With The Hole he has had the tweens quaking in their socks, and sleeping with the light on. In honour of scary clowns and things that go bump in the night, here’s my top 10 films to terrify the tinies, including some suggestions from my lovely readers.


10. Legend Of Sleepy Hollow – The Headless Horseman
I remember being positively terrified by this as a child. Maybe it was the flaming pumpkin head, maybe the fact that it was narrated by Bing Crosby, a voice I associated with cosy nights in with the grandparents, so felt bitterly betrayed when it all got decidedly scary. Now of course, I wonder what the heck I was bothered by. It’s still brilliant though.

9. The Black Hole – In Hell
I wasn’t allowed to see The Black Hole, after my dad read reviews that described as a poor answer to Star Wars. One of Disney’s darkest films, it had people lobotomised and trapped in robot bodies, while the finale involves the spaceship travelling through the black hole and into hell. Funnily enough, this seemed to be missed by the novelisation…

8. Something Wicked This Way Comes – Mr Dark and the Carnival
Another incredibly dark Disney film, although this suffered from heavy-handedness from the producers, John Mortimer being brought in to rework part of Ray Bradbury’s script, and further drastic re-editing, this is still a decidely haunting tale. I saw it too late to be scared by it, be assured it’s on the list of films I’ll be cosying up with Junior Miss Moviegrrl to watch very shortly.

7. Monster House
The house eats people… and while you can call it horror-lite for tweens, it’s remarkable well paced and hits the mark perfectly.

6. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – The Transformation
Those people who think that Snow White is just a cute fluffy film should take a good long look at it again. The sequence where Snow White escapes through the forest is totally terrifying. But for me, even worse, is the evil queen’s transformation from icy beauty to old crone. As she withins and grows older, you get the feeling it just really hurts.

5. The Brave Little Toaster – The Nightmare
Not content with showing an Air Conditioner unit so depressed he ‘commits suicide’, Brave Little Toaster also has a dream about clowns. Which, as I think we all now agree are feckin’ scary.

4. Return to Oz – Wheelers and the Nome King
One wonders if Disney really knew what they were getting into when Return to Oz went into production. While the Wizard of Oz is in glorious technicolour and resoundingly upbeat for most of the film, the sequel is intensely dark. Those who saw it as children will cite the Wheelers as particularly traumatic, but the killer scenes have to be those featuring the claymation Nome King. A resolutely old school approach, but one that still scares new viewers to the film even now.

3. The Wizard of Oz – The Wicked Witch
With or without her flying monkeys (and don’t get me started about them), Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West absolutely terrified me as a child. While the role was originally given to Gale Sondergaard to be played similar to the evil queen in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Hamilton is perfect and utterly relentless in her pursuit of the the ruby slippers. Iconic.

2. Coraline – The Other Mother.
Buttons for eyes. Think about that for a moment. Buttons for eyes. And Coraline is expected to share the same fate.

1. Sleeping Beauty – Maleficent
I think I must have first watched this when I was five or six, back before VHS even existed and Disney films were re-issued at the cinema every few years. Maleficent scared me witless. Part Margaret Hamilton, part the evil queen from Snow White, and all dragon by the end of the movie; she stills give me chills, 38 years later. When I worked at HMV and the title was released on video, we had a Maleficent standee with red light bulbs for eyes. *shudders*

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on October 3, 2010.

2 Responses to “Top Ten Scariest Moments in Children’s Films”

  1. Snow White was the first film I ever saw at the cinema. My dad took myself and my little brother to the now sadly demolished due to heinous overpriced corporate multiplex Kelburn cinema in Paisley – I was five years old. And the transformation made me cry and hide under the seat.

    I don’t think any experience I have ever had at the cinema has moved me in quite the same way since.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Anne Billson and PabloCheesecake, Moviegrrl . Moviegrrl said: Top Ten Scariest Moments in Children's Films: http://wp.me/pVs0H-fc […]

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