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Trauma was pretty standard back in the day. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Movies That Ruined Childhoods in the 80s."
For this list, we'll be taking a look at the movies that may have scared your leg warmers off if you were a kid back in the 80s.
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#10: Stand By Me
There were a lot of coming-of-age movies in the 80s, with Stand By Me taking the crown for most deceptively scary. The plot centers on Gordie Lachance and a group of his friends venturing into the woods to see a dead body. Along the way, they're chased by a dog supposedly trained to bite where it hurts, nearly run over by a train, and threatened at knifepoint by the town bully (played by a young Kiefer Sutherland). But perhaps Stand By Me's most frightening scene is Gordie's sad epilogue, because nothing is more terrifying than growing up.
#9: Return to Oz
It's doubtful that many people were longing for a sequel to The Wizard of Oz. The first film did a pretty good job of wrapping everything up. However, the first thing that we learn from Return to Oz is that Dorothy did not live happily ever after. Upon her return to Kansas, Dorothy was, in fact, put away in a psychiatric hospital and subjected to electroshock therapy. Luckily, she escapes and ends up back in Oz. Only this time, just like Kansas, it's a lot darker. Terrifying Wheelers with roller-blades for feet hunt her down on behalf of Princess Mombi—a witch who collects heads in the same way that some people collect shoes.
On paper Gremlins seemed like just another fun kids film—what with the cute, mischievous puppets and its Christmas setting. However, Gremlins was a lot darker than anyone was expecting. Firstly, if you weren't already completely grossed out by the bloody and inventive ways that gremlins are dispatched, there's the fact that the little monsters launch a disabled elderly woman through a second floor window, among many other violent scenes. No doubt about it, Gremlins is not your average Christmas movie; a fact it proves with Kate's story about her father dressing up like Santa and dying in a chimney.
#7: The Dark Crystal
When you watch a movie with puppets, made by none other than Jim The Muppets Henson, you obviously have certain expectations. Expectations that The Dark Crystal shatters into a million pieces. Instead of bright colors and cheeky, anthropomorphic animals who sing and joke at every opportunity, The Dark Crystal features monsters like the Skeksis, a mysterious and frightening tone, and a dense backstory. And even Jen and Kira's cute pet, Fizzgig, has a tendency to scream like a demonic, hell beast. The world of The Dark Crystal is a fantasy land that most children would choose not to visit.
Anyone who grew up with with siblings knows it's not unusual to wish they'd be taken away by goblins sometimes. But when Jennifer Connelly's Sarah summons the goblin king to kidnap her baby brother, he actually turns up. Oh, And he's David Bowie. Bowie's Goblin King tells Sarah that she must traverse a giant labyrinth within 13 hours or her brother will become a goblin himself. Sarah's companion is a salty creature called Hoggle, who gasses fairies for fun. Labyrinth's frightening and sometimes creepily sexual imagery will stay with you for years. And when you've seen David Bowie's pant bulge, you'll never be able to unsee it.
#5: Pee-wee's Big Adventure
Back in the 80s, Paul Reubens' comedic alter-ego "Pee-wee Herman" was seen as being pretty damn wholesome. So it came as something of a surprise to those watching Pee-Wee's first feature film just how damn scary it was. Away from his cartoonish set, Pee-Wee Herman embarks on a surreal journey that would fit right into something made by David Lynch. After his bike is stolen, Pee-Wee takes off an adventure that features biker gangs, escaped convicts, terrifying dreams about clown surgeons, and, of course, Large Marge.
Although Ghostbusters 2 also deserves a mention—specifically for the scene where Janosz tries to steal Dana's baby while in disguise as a demonic Mary Poppins—the first movie is always the best. With its funky Ray Parker Jr. theme tune, fun costumes, and witty one liners, it's easy to forget many of Ghostbuster's darker moments. For example, the ghost at the library with the terrifying jump scare, and the scene where Dan Akroyd appears to be sexually assaulted by an invisible pervert. However, the most childhood-destroying scene may be the finale, in which the Ghostbusters are asked to choose their own doom. That, or all the casual smoking.
#3: Child's Play
Although Child's Play isn't specifically for children, its subject matter—a small boy forced into a battle of wits between himself and his magic doll—is obviously marketed towards kids. Due to this, many an 80s child was exposed to Chucky at a young age. And if you were anything like us when you were younger, this film definitely gave you nightmares that a dead serial killer's soul was hiding in your Stretch Armstrong, just waiting to frame you for murder and steal your body. Perhaps the most haunting scene is the one where Chucky is slowly roasted alive while screaming.
#2: All Dogs Go to Heaven
All Dogs Go to Heaven is the story of a dog named Charlie B. Barkin who is sent back from Heaven with a magical watch that can rewind time. So far, so Disney. But, All Dogs Go To Heaven earns its place on this list with its adult themes of drinking, smoking, gambling, and murder. Eschewing the family friendly tone of most other animated flicks, All Dogs Go to Heaven starts with the main character escaping from the pound, getting blind drunk, and then being murdered. And if you thought that was the end of the movie’s edginess, let's not forget that nightmare sequence where Charlie literally goes to Hell.
Before we reveal our number one entry, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit
- The Land Before Time
#1: The NeverEnding Story
Although The NeverEnding Story seems like any other fantasy adventure for children, it's important to remember that, besides Gmork (who's really more of a scary henchman), there isn't really a big, bad villain in the film. Instead, Atreyu actually tackles the abstract concepts of entropy, depression, and nihilism—represented by a dark force that is ravaging Fantasia called "The Nothing." If this sounds a bit heavy for children, that's because it is. And, to this day, 80s kids are still haunted by Atreyu's haunting screams of "Artax!" as he watches his horse sink into the Swamps of Sadness.