1990s children’s movies that were actually terrifying

With each generation comes a little more worry and supervision from parents. I can’t imagine being a kid nowadays; asking your parents to watch a movie, and them scouring the internet for reviews, warnings, and general advice from other parents about what is and isn’t okay.

The '90s were a great time to be a kid, because while we weren’t quite the latchkey kids of the '80s, most of us didn’t have true helicopter parents.

But, it came with a few drawbacks. Some of the children’s movies we saw downright terrified us. My brothers and I avoided almost all children’s movies from the '80sThe Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Return to Oz, The NeverEnding Story – with good reason.

But there were still plenty that left us (and our parents) with sleepless nights, despite the fact they were all clearly marketed as kiddo-friendly. Let’s revisit some of the movies from the '90s that completely creeped us out.

We’re Back

Every kid loved dinosaurs — especially in the '90s. Jurassic Park had recently come out, and we all wanted to know what it was like to come face-to-face with a T-rex. We’re Back looks like a really cute animated children’s movie about dinosaurs… and it is. But there are a few things that are unsettling to watch as a kid.

Firstly, the Professor is terrifying. His name is Professor Screweyes, and he actually has a screw for an eye. His circus, meant to scare instead of entertain, is also terrifying.

But the worst part? His death. The scene where crows circle him and descend, eating him to death… yikes. Eject the VHS tape please, mom!


Rasputin from Anastasia.
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Anastasia is a great movie that sparked a lifelong interest in the fall of the Russian royal family. It also freaked me out. Granted, the premise of the movie is dark, but it was Rasputin that truly made it nightmare fuel. Literally. The trippy nightmare Anastasia has definitely isn’t a nice dream, especially when it ends with bat demons and a mountain of skulls.

Rasputin is absolutely petrifying, but when his head falls into his chest, I stopped watching the movie. I couldn’t tell you the end of it.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

This is cheating a little bit, because it’s from 1988. But it’s close enough to the '90s, and it’s creepy enough that it deserves to stay. First of all, mixing people and cartoons isn’t right. It’s just not! However, I’m sure many would make an exception for Jessica Rabbit…

Anyway. The entire movie is slightly off, but the most horrendous part is at the end. A person gets run over by a steamroller, and then gets up.


Oh, plus, Judge Doom’s eyes were enough to shock children well into the '90s and beyond.


Robin Thomas in Halloweentown.
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While this is a fun Halloween movie, there were parts that were scary. Firstly, when the sweet old lady turns into an evil monster and emits that weird growl – big yikes. Then, the guy who actually turns people evil is a hooded looking monster. Just creepy!

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Well, it’s a Tim Burton movie so it’s supposed to be scary – I get it. The main character is a skeleton, and all of the other characters are just as terrifying.


The singing skeletons hanging from nooses weren’t exactly a sweet scene. But the real kicker? Scary Teddy. Cue the shudders!


A still from 1995's Jumanji.
opyright by respective production studio and/or distributor. Intended for editorial use only.

“I've seen things you've only seen in your nightmares. Things you can't even imagine. Things you can't even see. There are things that hunt you in the night.”

Well, I straight up hated that. My imagination went a little too wild. A lot of the scenes were a little too scary for children, but the quicksand scene really terrified me.

My mom had to pick me up early from a friend’s birthday party and convince me that quicksand isn’t a real threat.

James and the Giant Peach

Unnnnghhhhhhhh. Ugh! What was a good children’s book turned into a completely spooky animated movie. Of course, this was produced by Tim Burton.

His parents die, there is a shark, a rhinoceros is in the clouds….

Creepy spider from James and the Giant Peach.
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Oh, and there’s a lady spider with a human face. Nope! Nope nope nope.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

What a delightful children’s film.


Oh, what’s this? A child snatcher? How… joyful.

The Witches

It’s a movie about witches, so of course it’s going to be slightly creepy. A huge convention of witches, they want to turn all children into mice… Eh. Okay so it isn’t a Disney princess movie. But when they pull off their masks, true horror sets in.


In my child mind, I really thought if I went to a hotel I’d discover a witch that turned me into a mouse. I wasn’t ready for a life of cheese...

About the Author: Kelcey McClung is a freelance reporter who has been featured in a variety of publications. She loves Star Wars, Animal Crossing, and almost every PlayStation game ever made. If you think you’ve completed all the park objectives in Roller Coaster Tycoon more times than she has, she’ll take you up on that bet.

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