Horror movies are almost always aimed at adults. After all, things that frighten adults would likely be far too alarming for children to watch, especially if they deal with particularly dark or mature themes. Yet, the horror market is lucrative enough where there have been lots of attempts to create scary films specifically for children.
The only problem is that this requires a careful balancing act from the filmmakers. They don’t want the end product to be too lame as it won’t excite younger viewers but it cannot also be too distressing otherwise parents would not want their kids to go and see it. When done right, though, the end result can be a truly terrifying experience.
19 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Released in 1968, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang contains one of the scariest characters of all time. The Child Catcher is even more terrifying because of the fact that the rest of the film is rather whimsical and good-natured. Not only does he look incredibly scary, but he also steals children away, tricking them with candy.
18 The Black Cauldron
The Black Cauldron was a new type of movie for Disney. It was their very first animation to receive a PG rating with its focus on darker themes. The movie would go on to give nightmares to many who watched it, thanks mainly to the transformation scene that saw deceased warriors resurrect into a zombie horde.
17 The Witches
The Witches is a pretty jovial affair that sees a group of children attempting to outwit and escape from a group of evil witches. Although most of the film is not really that scary there is one moment that would terrify most kids. This involved seeing the witches remove their wigs and peel away the skin on their heads to reveal their true hideous forms.
Even though Jumanji is very much marketed as a movie for the whole family, it certainly has its fair share of horrific moments. Just the board game itself is pretty scary, with its moving tiles and creepy messages, but that has nothing on the sinking sand that swallows up Robin Williams or the morphing of one of the youngsters into a monkey-like creature.
15 Return To Oz
Hardly anyone would argue that The Wizard of Oz is a scary film, but this not the case for its unofficial sequel, Return to Oz. Many who went to see the film expected it to be similar to the classic film, but were left reeling when Dorothy receives electroconvulsive therapy. Later parts see the protagonist almost drown, a headless witch, and a gruesome-looking Nome King that almost eats one of her companions.
14 All Dogs Go To Heaven
Most of the film All Dogs Go To Heaven is not scary, but rather sad. However, things switch around when it begins to explore themes such as murder, alcoholism, and the concept of Hell. The culmination of this is a truly horrifying scene in which Charlie goes to hell and gets to see pits of fire and demonic dogs.
Many of the early Disney films were based on stories that were actually much more terrifying than the animated movies that came afterward. With Pinocchio, though, it seems like many of the scarier moments were kept in the film. Sequence after sequence, including the whale scene and the transformation of Lampwick into a donkey. That doesn’t even begin to cover the child abduction that frequently happens throughout the movie.
12 Watership Down
Watership Down, a 1978 British film, might seem like a cute and cuddly experience, but if you watch it for a little while you discover that it is not the ideal movie for young children despite the colorful animation. Bunnies are buried alive, attacked by all sorts of other creatures, and some are even enslaved. The entire film is filled with extreme violence as the rabbits have their throats ripped open in a cruel battle with nature.
11 Clash Of The Titans
1981’s Clash of the Titans is filled to the brim with violence and gore, with frightening monsters often showing up to give children a good scare. Of course, there is also the alarming woman with snakes growing out of her hair and a collection of massive scorpions. It released at a time where movies were still blending the lines between demographics.
10 The Watcher in the Woods
The Watcher in the Woods follows the story of the Curtis family, who has recently moved to the UK. They buy a house with a suspiciously low cost that is seemingly haunted with a mysterious force. As the story progresses, it becomes ever creepier with a lot of jump scares and a drowning scene that would almost certainly lead to a fear of water for some people.
There is a lot of disturbing content in Coraline, a film adaptation of the 2002 novella by Neil Gaiman. Despite being meant to be seen by children, it is very much a horror film. It aims to scare kids with all kinds of different imagery, however, its the threat of Coraline’s eyes being poked out and replaced with buttons that's most scary.
Labyrinth, which came from the minds of Jim Henson, David Bowie, and George Lucas, has become a cult classic since its release. A major reason for this stems from the dark themes and scary moments that are littered throughout the film. The bizarre imagery often ends up being creepy and there is even a torture scene. Many kids were left traumatized after watching it for the first time.
7 Teen Wolf
Teen Wolf is not exactly the scariest of movies. However, there is one moment in particular that will more than likely have frightened almost everyone who watched it, especially any young kids in the audience. That is the first transformation scene when Michael J Fox’s character slowly morphs into the wolf.
6 Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is one of the most beloved cartoons of all time, as it contains so many different characters from the likes of Disney and Warner Bros. Although it is filled with some adult content in the form of raunchy jokes, it is the ending that is the most scary. Judge Doom is revealed to be a monstrous toon who is then flattened by a steamroller.
5 The NeverEnding Story
Released in 1984, The NeverEnding Story is a film based on a German book of the same name. There are lots of scary scenes in the film. It even begins with Bastian being teased by his father after his mom has passed. Then comes the depressing speech from the Rock Biter and the overarching theme of non-existence. Of course, the most terrifying sequence is when Artax sinks into the mud and dies.
4 Something Wicked This Way Comes
The 1983 film Something Wicked This Way Comes sees an evil carnival threaten a town. A group of young boys then attempt to stop their machinations. The truly scary parts include a chase scene with the dust witch and a dark room filled with giant tarantulas. It's a film that'll sit with any kid.
3 The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal is one of the films that left an entire generation of kids with nightmares. Although some enjoyed Jim Henson’s fantasy world, a large majority were left scarred. There is terrifying imagery around every corner and one of the main characters even gets savagely stabbed. Each character, whether they are ally or villain, has a creepy appearance that gives the entire film an otherworldly feeling.
2 Stand By Me
Stand By Me might not have been specifically aimed at kids, but it’s a child heavy cast with a coming-of-age story meant told in a way that was always likely to attract a younger audience. Based on a Stephen King story, it builds a huge amount of tension and is properly disturbing when the group finds the dead body.
1 The Gate
The Gate was designed to be a horror film that would scare children without being too terrifying for youngsters. While that was the plan, the 1987 film still had plenty of terrifying moments that would shock children. Some examples include zombie-like corpses bursting through walls as well as demonic creatures that attempt to devour the other characters.
Sources: bloody-disgusting.com, buzzfeed.com, nerdist.com, slate.com, dorkly.com, ew.com, independent.co.uk.