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When most people think of children’s movies, they think of family-friendly flicks even the youngest kids can enjoy. Movies from Pixar and Disney are usually a safe bet. ’80s movies were not always a safe bet.

The 1980s were similar to the Wild West when it came to family films. This is also why many ’80s babies are traumatized from seeing a movie classified as “family friendly.” The PG-13 rating didn’t come around until Red Dawn in 1984. Even that doesn’t excuse some of these terrifying children’s movies.

Here are three ’80s movies that definitely traumatized kids.

Lynn-Holly Johnson, Bette Davis, and Kyle Richards stare at the camera in a black and white still from 80s movie 'The Watcher in the Woods.'
Lynn-Holly Johnson, Bette Davis, and Kyle Richards in ‘The Watcher in the Woods.’ | Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

‘The Watcher in the Woods’

When the Disney logo pops up on the screen before a movie, does anyone ever think, “Maybe this isn’t appropriate for children?” No, because Disney makes movies for children. In 1980, however, things weren’t that cut and dry.

The Watcher in the Woods starred Bette Davis and a young Kyle Richards, now of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fame. Most youngsters thought they were settling in for a nice, family-friendly movie and had nothing to worry about. 

They didn’t expect Bette Davis in her creepiest role since Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and teenagers performing seances to summon aliens from outer space. That’s what they got, however. 

Before it’s all said and done, we learn that an alien called The Watcher was summoned 30 years ago and kidnapped Davis’ character’s daughter. All’s well in the end, but we’re sure plenty of children had trouble sleeping after watching that. 

‘The Neverending Story’

This movie recently popped back up on the pop culture scene thanks to Stranger Things Season 3. Fans of the hit Netflix series might not know the true horror that comes along with The Neverending Story.

This movie, marketed as a “fantasy” flick, has magical flying Luck Dragons, princesses with no name, and easily the most traumatizing scene in any kid’s movie. Spoilers ahead for any who haven’t been scarred by watching this yet.

In The Neverending Story, a young boy, Atreyu, treks across a fantasy world to save the princess and their world from being consumed by The Nothing. Atreyu’s trusty steed, Artax, is his mode of transportation and his best friend. Sounds sweet, right? 

It’s lovely up until the moment Artax gets stuck in this quicksand-like mud. Atreyu begs and pleads for Artax to work with him to get out of the ground, but the horse is too tired. He’s consumed by the mud as Atreyu watches, and little children around the world wept with him.


‘The NeverEnding Story’: What Happened to the Actors Who Played Bastian, Atreyu, and the Childlike Empress?

‘The Last Unicorn’

The Last Unicorn is an animated fantasy movie with a star-studded cast of voice actors. Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Alan Arkin, and Christopher Lee all lend their voices to the menagerie of characters.

However, Angela Lansbury, who eventually voiced the beloved Mrs. Potts in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, is the voice of one of the film’s most horrifying characters. Mommy Fortuna is the owner of what appears to be a sideshow circus filled with odd and fascinating creatures. 

She somehow manages to see the Unicorn, even though they aren’t visible to the human eye. She wants the Unicorn for her show and proceeds to cast one of the darkest sounding spells to ever be uttered in a kid’s movie.

As an animated movie, parents probably thought they were in the clear showing this to their children in 1982. Unfortunately, The Last Unicorn easily slides into the category of nightmare fuel instead of sweet dreams.

Filmmakers have honed their moviemaking skills over the years and what’s acceptable for children is now much more apparent. Most fans are glad things have toned down, but as ’80s babies can attest, something was exciting about not knowing exactly what they would get when it came to family movie night.