If you grew up in the 80s, you not only got to enjoy a truckload of great and iconic movies like E.T. and Back to the Future and Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, if you're at all like me, you grew up with some interesting "kids movies" that in reality are none too kid-friendly. Seriously, how did we all watch this stuff? (HBO and late night cable!)
As we celebrate the 35th Anniversary of The Dark Crystal (4K review coming soon; interview with Lisa Henson HERE), we've started reminiscing about all of the great kids' movies we grew up with - that actually scared the crap out of us!
Here are our Top 8 Scariest "Kids Movies" for 80s Kids:
When having a discussion about how friggen scary The Dark Crystal can be for a little kid, it's impossible not to bring up The Jim Henson Company's 1986 musical fantasy followup Labyrinth. While the film may have a few catchy tunes courtesy of star David Bowie, the film is often unsettling, and creepy what with those goblins kidnapping a little kid. That can mess you up when you're five years old and leave you questioning the safety where you keep your clothes and toys.
Yes I know, this is a hilarious comedy featuring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson battling diabolical specters throughout New York. It's funny to me now, but when I was a kid I couldn't understand why everyone wanted to watch this movie. Sure Slimer was great, but that Library ghost, Gozer, and those devil dogs freaked me the hell out and I'm pretty sure it messed up a couple other 80s brats out there.
There's a reason Tim Curry was perfect casting to play Pennywise in the 1990 TV movie version of It. Not only is he a chameleon of a character actor and can swing from being hilarious in something like Clue, he's also damn scary as Darkness in Ridley Scott's Legend. The film is a stylized visual wonder and plays well into the fantasy cravings of the 80s, but yeah, not 100% kid friendly. My sister was particularly upset by this one because of her love for unicorns.
Speaking of unicorns… The Last Unicorn is another prime example of what would superficially appear to be a simple kids' flick but ends up being dark, ominous, and at times outright scary. Featuring a terrific voice cast including Alan Arkin, Mia Farrow, and Jeff Bridges, it's Christopher Lee's evil King Haggard and Rene Auberjonois's The Skull who steal the show. Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin offered up a distinctly beautiful animation style with unique - and creepy - stories for kids.
When I was a kid, I loved going on adventures with my friends. I lived out in the woods and had plenty of wooded, swampy land to traverse. Richard Donner's The Goonies inspired a number of great times. However, as a three-year-old in a theater, numerous creepy skeletons and a crazy family about to put a kid's hand in a blender was not my idea of a great time - just ask anyone sitting next to us in the theater that day. Thankfully I grew into it and I experienced no lasting damage.
Sure, The Goonies had its creepy moments and wasn't completely kid-friendly, The Monster Squad, on the other hand, had the classic Universal Monsters actually hunting down a gang of little kids! He may have had nards but damn it all Wolfman was scary as hell when you're a kid with an older sister who loved scary movies and forced you to watch them. Plus, you have to love those Stan Winston creature effects!
A creepy hospital. Ladies with their heads cut off. Wheelers. I don't care how old you are, for a Disney movie this is pretty messed up. Sure it deals with all of your favorite characters from The Wizard of Oz, a flying bed, a wind-up soldier, a talking moose head - but that doesn't make up for any number of terrifying sights and sounds throughout this movie. If there was a flick that left lasting damage to me as a child, it wasn't repeated Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter on TV, it was this movie. Squeaky wheels still give me the creeps.
You know that cute little cuddly critter you love oh so much? What if you gave it too much water and accidentally fed it after bedtime? You wouldn't think that it would replicate and turn into a demon creature - but for this flick, that's exactly the case. Spielberg kinda had a dark patch producing this film and Poltergeist within a couple years of each other. It's a Christmas Classic in my house now, but when I was a kid, seeing that gremlin pop in the microwave, or when Stripe starts to multiply in the fountain with those things coming out of his back - yeah, that kinda puts you off your eggs.
Considering all of the "kids" movies that came out in the 80s with their own unique dark touches, it's difficult to call any list definitive or complete. Did we miss a favorite on your list? What's in your Top 8? Let us know in the comments!