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10 Disturbing Movies Millennial Parents Show Their Kids

You remind me of the babe...

Fairuza Balk as shocked Dorothy in Return to Oz.

Many millennial parents, like myself, try to parent differently from previous generations. We like to focus on positive and authoritative parenting instead of the authoritarian or neglectful styles many of us dealt with growing up. Instead of barking orders, we try to reason with our kids and teach them logic. It’s not perfect, but we try.

We like hanging out with our kids (not constantly, we are human) and sharing feelings. So of course we want to share beloved things from our childhoods with our children. If we loved it, then they will too, right? Sometimes that is true. Superheroes and dinosaurs seem to be pretty universal. However, there is a huge generational divide with it comes to movies. After showing my kids several of my favorite movies from the 80s and 90s, I learned that we used to watch some pretty disturbing stuff. I still love these movies, yet I have found that our kids think they are borderline traumatic.

1. The Dark Crystal (1982), PG

(image: Universal Pictures)

The Dark Crystal is an amazing fantasy featuring only Jim Henson puppet creations. Two Gelflings go on a quest to restore the broken Crystal of Truth and heal the land. What I think is an immersive storytelling experience with loveable puppets is actually nightmare fuel. The cruel Skeksis and wise Mystics are apparently a lot scarier than I ever thought.

2. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993), G

(image: Disney)

One of Disney’s live-action movies, Homeward Bound should be beloved by all children, right? Wrong! The story of three talking house pets traveling across the wilderness to get back home isn’t a fun journey for kids. Watching the two dogs and the cat facing constant peril, from predators to a waterfall, is a traumatic experience. In the end, all the animals make it back home, but that doesn’t erase all the near-death experiences any better.

3. Matilda (1996), PG

Matilda (Mara Wilson) celebrates overthrowing the tyrannical Ms. Trunchbull in Matilda.
(image: TriStar Pictures)

Matilda is a “fantasy comedy” for kids based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. Genius and neglected child Matilda finally gets to go to school for the first time. Instead of a paradise of learning, she encountered a villainous principal who throws children by their hair and force-feeds them as punishment. Matilda is so stressed out by all of this, she develops psychokinetic abilities. Her teacher, Miss Honey, is the only decent adult who actually tries to help Matilda.

4. Labyrinth (1986), PG

(image: TriStar Pictures)

Another Jim Henson production Labyrinth features fantastical puppets and David Bowie in some of the tightest pants to grace the silver screen. Even the cool soundtrack can’t keep kids from questioning the creepy plot. Teenage Sarah calls out to the Goblin King to take away her baby brother because he cramps her style. Instantly regretting her choice, Sarah must traverse the labyrinth and resist Bowie to get her brother back before he’s turned into a goblin. I wouldn’t mind being turned into a goblin to worship at the feet of Bowie’s Jareth, but hey it isn’t for everyone.

5. The Witches (1990), PG

(image: Warner Brothers)

The Witches features both a plot by Roald Dahl and puppet effects by Jim Henson, a combination I now know can make for terrifying results. A young boy and his grandma go on vacation only to find their sleepy hotel is also hosting a convention for witches. The witches disguise themselves as human women until they are alone and strip off their faces to reveal horror underneath. Their mission is to turn children into mice and eat them. It’s a fun time for everyone!

6. Legend (1985), PG

(image: Universal Pictures)

I love Legend and will argue that is the only good Tom Cruise movie. The scene where a gothed-up Lili danced with the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) changed me. Yet when I tried to share it with my oldest child, we didn’t get past the first scene. It opens with a silhouette of a person being butchered while alive to be eaten by the Lord of Darkness and his goblin minions. We didn’t make it to the unicorn having his shown cut off, the world plummeting into darkness, or the horrific swamp creature Meg.

7. Willow (1988), PG

willow ofgood and elora danan in "wllow"
(image: Lucasfilm)

Making it to the opening credits of Willow was a challenge. The evil queen heard a prophecy that a baby born soon will end her reign. She did the only logical thing and gathered all the pregnant women up to murder them and their babies. The prophetic child is born and her mom convinced a midwife to smuggle the baby out. The midwife puts the baby in a makeshift raft to send down the river before being eaten by pigdogs.

8. The Secret of NIMH (1982), G

A still from the animated film The Secret of NIMH that depicts a rat with glowing eyes looming over a mouse
(image: MGM / UA Entertainment Co.)

The Secret of NIMH starts out with Mrs. Brisby, a mouse, mourning the loss of her husband. Her son is sick with pneumonia and cannot go outside until he is better. The human farmer that owns the field they live in, decided to start plowing sooner than usual. Mrs. Brisby must find a way to move her house before the plow arrives or else her son (and the rest of her children) will be killed! The only solution is for her to ask the genius rats for help. Why are they super smart and can use human technology? Because the National Institute of Mental Health did experiments on them. Wholesome, really.

9. Hook (1991), PG

julia roberts dustin hoffman and robin williams on the poster for hook
(image: Amblin/TriStar)

Hook stars Robin Williams as an adult version of Peter Pan revisiting Neverland and reconnecting with his inner child. The subplot and motivator for Peter are a bit shadier. Captain Hook kidnaps his two children. Peter will do anything to get his kids back, even though he ignores them most of the time. While Peter is getting his Pan groove back and having Tinker Bell hit on him, his children are being brainwashed by a pirate. The Lost Boys also try to convince Peter to give up on his children and live with them again. He can fly, he can fight, and he can crow, but I have questions about his parenting.

10. Return to Oz (1985), PG

Fairuza Balk as Dorothy Gale in the film Return to Oz looking into the distance as Jean Marsh as the disembodied head of a witch looks over her shoulder
(image: Buena Vista Distribution)

Return to Oz is a sequel to The Wizard of Oz, but not in any way one would expect. It continues the story of Dorothy (who is younger than in the first movie) after she came home from her first trip to Oz. Her stories made everyone question her sanity, so they started her on electroshock therapy (the obvious choice in a children’s movie). She escapes back to Oz with her talking chicken to battle terrifying wheelie monsters and her new friend, Jack Pumpkinhead, comes across as more creepy than friendly. Then there is the evil Princess Mombi, who changes her head as the mood strikes her. Dorothy wandering through the room where her extra heads are kept is priceless children’s entertainment that will probably warrant at least one visit to a therapist.

(featured image: Disney)

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D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a freelance pop culture writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.