Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Countless movies from the past which were intended for children may not be as kid-friendly as you may remember. Alice in Wonderland is among a list of films which may not be suitable for youngsters. Based upon the 1865 novel by Lewis Carroll, even the original material was more in-line for adult readers. The world in which Alice ventures to is not at all a safe or friendly environment.
This is perhaps because of the time the book originates from. Carroll uses the various characters Alice comes into contact with as symbols for society. One example being the Walrus and Carpenter who represent the working class and higher class, respectively. Additionally, the use of drugs (Alice ingests a bundle of mushrooms) and smoking (the water-pipe used by the caterpillar) are littered throughout the film.
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Return to Oz (1985)
All avid horror fans looking for their next scare should look no further than Return of Oz. In the sequel to the 1939 classic (The Wizard of Oz), Return of Oz turns the familiar Land of Oz into a place where nightmares are built. Dorothy returns and nobody believes her tales about venturing down a yellow-brick road with a lion, a scarecrow, and a man made of tin. Many believe Return of Oz to be the most faithful adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s original work, capturing the subtle horror hidden within the text.
Anybody hoping for the whimsical nature of the 1939 film were greeted by downright horrifying scares. To be fair, Return of Oz doesn’t waste any time letting the viewer know what kind of film they would be in store for. The first few minutes of the film present a darker tone with no munchkins in sight. When Dorothy finally arrives in Oz, she finds the land in ruins — overrun by a terrifying gang of “wheelers” whose seemingly only goal in life is to keep you up at night. If you’re introducing kids to the Oz series, it might best to skip this one for a few years…
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Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
While the 2005 version — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — featuring Johnny Depp was probably more overt in its horror themes, the 1971 film had plenty of scares in its own right. Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory is one strange movie from start to finish. The mood is set during the strange boat scene which features Gene Wilder’s Wonka berating his visitors while disturbing visuals and flashing colors disorient the audience.
By the end of the tour, it is assumed that Wonka offed the contest winners and their parents– minus Charlie (and his grandpa), who was just wise enough to avoid an untimely demise. And, don’t get us started on the Oompa Loompa’s. Pure terror.
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The Corpse Bride (2005)
Tim Burton was responsible for the 2005 remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and has a knack for turning stories meant for children into something more mature. Or, does Burton simply water down more adult-themed tales into a more palatable version for kids? Either way, Burton’s movies have a sense of eeriness to them even when they’re assigned the “PG” label.
The Corpse Bride earned a PG rating with citations of mild language and some scary imagery. Some is really putting it lightly. The stop-motion animated film starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as the leads revolves around death and decay and featured numerous decomposing bodies. Themes that parents might not deem suitable for their young children.
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Not expecting this to be on the list? While Ratatouille is beloved by many, it perhaps is a bit more mature than fans remember. This comes in the form of more nuanced humor than some of the other inclusions on this list. The use of racial stereotypes is heavily featured throughout the film — including a handful of insulting accents. Several characters are shown to be drunk — and alcohol is even used as a bargaining chip at one point.
An old woman fires a shotgun repeatedly at a group of rats. In fact, there is quite a bit of weapon use throughout the film. In one scene, a woman fires a gun at a man immediately before the pair begin kissing. There are more than a few scenes Pixar likely wouldn’t be able to get away with in 2022…
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The Shrek series is king when it comes to inappropriate jokes. The filmmakers use a trick to get the audience to believe a dirty word is coming, only to replace it with a harmless one — allowing it to go over the heads of children while sticking in the mind of adults. When talking about Snow White, the narrator makes a comment about her being selective despite living with seven men.
There are also constant reminders of the male character’s manhood. When Shrek and Donkey first encounter Lord Farquaad’s massive castle, they wonder if its due to the Lord compensating for something else. On a number of occasions, characters are startled by seeing a naked Shrek galivanting around.
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Over the years, fans of Disney have uncovered hidden messages throughout the company’s catalog of child-friendly films. We’ve seen hidden text written in the stars and countless inappropriate jokes which eluded the grasp of younger audience members. Aladdin is perhaps the most criminal offender of such hidden messages. On the surface, Aladdin tells the story of a petty thief who discovers a magical lamp which harbors a mystical genie. It’s a typical rags-to-riches story as the young boy, Aladdin, eventually claims his rightful place among royalty.
However, there are some fairly shocking scenes throughout the film that you may only catch after watching it as an adult. Aladdin boasts some of the most brutal death scenes in any Disney film. A man has his throat slashed by a monkey, and another is smashed upon a bed of spikes. At one point, Aladdin even enters a brothel — and, it’s insinuated that he’s a regular given the women’s familiarity with him.
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What could possibly be wrong with Pinocchio? Oh, where should we begin? For starters, Gepetto seems like a nice enough guy, but the old man comes off as a bit creepy. He makes a new wood carving and immediately wishes it were a real boy. Something is fishy about an elderly man living by himself wanting to become a father to a literal child.
Don’t get us started on Pleasure Island — which already has one of the creepiest names of all-time. A place where boys go to smoke cigars and gamble, and eventually become child slaves working endless hours in a coal mine. It’s there where Pinocchio watches his buddy Lampwick get turned into a donkey. Nothing about this movie seems appropriate for children, and even some adults might get frightened from watching this 80-year-old film.
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How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
All of Dr. Seuss’s works have a bit of a creepy tone attached to them. The live-action The Cat in the Hat was a box office disappointment, likely due to the fact kids were absolutely frightened by the look of Mike Myers’ Cat. How the Grinch Stole Christmas enjoyed significantly more success and is far more cherished today. However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t exactly kid-friendly. In a flashback scene, the inhabitants of Whoville are actually attending a swingers party — a tidbit you may have not caught onto as a kid.
The Grinch, of course, has his fair share of inappropriate comedic moments. At one point, he holds mistletoe over his rear end — motioning for all of Whoville to kiss his backside. After being invited to a party, Grinch wonders if there will be a cash bar at the venue. At a later scene, Grinch takes a swig of an unknown substance and immediately gets behind the wheel of a vehicle. Drunk driving in a kid’s movie? Hardly a good look.
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The Mask (1994)
Jim Carrey shows up again with another main character who partakes in some truly abhorrent behavior. The Mask was advertised as a comedic superhero film, but it teeters on the boundary of downright horror at times. Carrey plays everyday banker Stanley Ipkiss. Ipkiss happens upon an archaic wooden mask which transforms him into a green-faced menace with supernatural abilities.
While Ipkiss’ wrongdoings are mostly comical in nature, the film takes a turn when the antagonist — mafia member Dorian Tyrell — gets a hold of the mask. Tyrell transforms into a hulking creature with a demonic voice. He uses the mask’s powers to terrorize others. Not even Gotham City had a villain as scary as this.
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Grease served as an introduction to the musical genre for countless teens and even younger viewers. The PG rating signaled to parents that it was okay for their children to watch, but the John Travolta-led flick would have earned a far more mature rating if it were released today. Grease is filled with racy material that make us raise our eyebrows watching it in 2022. The sexual innuendos can barely be contained.
The dialogue in the film can’t go a full minute without referencing something inappropriate for children. References to condoms, hookers, and roofies are abundant. At one point, the character Rizzo calmly asks a peculiar question to a group of gentleman – “what do you guys think this is, a gang bang?”
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Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is the kind of film which was enjoyed by youngsters at the time of its release (1988), but likely wouldn’t be suitable for that age group today. The film features several adult themes which wouldn’t pass the stringent rating system of present-day Hollywood. There is an abundant amount of swearing, alcohol use, and sexual references throughout the film.
The movie’s big bad, Judge Doom, is a terrifying villain who would likely be better suited in a Stephen King novel than a children’s movie. But perhaps the most jarring example that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was meant for an older audience is the sexualization of one Jessica Rabbit. Disney even admitted their mistake by giving the famous character a modern remake with a far more modest look.
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Coraline is a perfect example of a film which earned a PG rating but has no business being watched by children. Most kids would likely be frightened by the creepy atmosphere and dark tone. The films centers around a young girl named Coraline who is neglected by her workaholic parents. Searching for more love and affection, Coraline discovers a whole new world dubbed the Other World hidden in the depths of her apartment. There, she discovers an alternative set of her parents — except this pair is far more kind and caring.
She quickly discovers that these “Other” parents are in fact monsters who want to imprison children in this horrifying universe. Kids who wish to stay in the Other World must have their eyes replaced with sewn-on buttons. That is downright terrifying stuff for children to watch. Add in the countless ghosts Coraline comes into contact with, and the presence of death is far too abundant for a youthful audience.
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The NeverEnding Story (1984)
The issue with the fantasy genre is that filmmakers can get a bit too creative with their worldbuilding. Take The NeverEnding Story, for example. While it tells the fantastical journey of a child who simply wants to be accepted, The NeverEnding Story is filled with dark themes and frightening characters. The film’s star, ten-year-old Bastian (Barrett Oliver), is a shy boy who is raised by a widowed father. He is often bullied at school, and typically retreats to the library due to his love of books.
One day, Bastian happens upon a book which whisks him to the world of Fantasia, filled with mystical creatures and evil monsters. Anybody who has seen the film will never forget its most traumatizing scene. When the warrior Atreyu is traversing through the Swamp of Sadness, his horse gets caught in a pool of black goop. Many tears were shed as Atreyu’s horse slowly sunk into the pool, not to be freed from its clutches.
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All Dogs Go To Heaven (1996)
The premise of this film wouldn’t have made it past the cutting room floor in 2022. The animated film was released in 1989, and starred Burt Reynolds as the lead voice. Reynolds plays Charlie B. Barkin — a German Shepard who is violently murdered by his best friend, a pitbull-terrier mix named Carface Caruthers. Barkin is briefly sent to an animated version of Hell.
Of course, he isn’t there for long (after all, all dogs go to Heaven) but the audience is given enough of a glimpse of the underworld to ensure they’ll never forget the horrifying imagery. The film features plenty of violence, drinking, gambling, theft, and even some horrifying demons for good measure.
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Bee Movie (2007)
Who would have thought a movie about bees could be so dirty? Bee Movie is a 2007 DreamWorks animated film about — you guessed it — bees. It released to a mixed reception, but has since gained a cult following thanks to internet users who made several popular memes about the film. The movie’s lead is voiced by Jerry Seinfeld, who also helped write and produce the film. Seinfeld’s Barry B. Benson — a bee — develops a love interest with a human florist named Vanessa (voiced by Renee Zelwegger). Even Seinfeld can admit that Bee Movie took it a bit too far with this concept:
“I apologize for what seems to be a certain uncomfortable subtle sexual aspect of the Bee Movie,” Seinfeld said. “[It] really was not intentional, but after it came out, I realized this is really not appropriate for children. Because the bee seemed to have a thing for the girl, and we don’t really want to pursue that as an idea in children’s entertainment.”
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Toy Story 3 (2010)
Arguably the darkest edition in the series, Toy Story 3 takes the audience through a much more serious story than its predecessors. In the film, Andy throws away his toys as he prepares to leave for college. They resurface at a daycare which is led by an evil toy bear named Lotso. Though a majority of the movie plays out like any other Toy Story inclusion, 3 features arguably the most traumatizing scene of the entire series.
Towards the end of the film, the entire cast of toys get trapped inside a furnace. As their impending doom awaits, the toys seemingly accept their fate and begin to hold hands with one another. This dramatic scene hit home for some longtime fans of the series as well as first-time watchers. Fortunately, the toys are saved at the last moment by a claw, but there wasn’t a single dry eye in the theatre by that point. Toy Story 3 is a tough watch even for adults.
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Hocus Pocus (1993)
Though it has become a Halloween mainstay today, Hocus Pocus wasn’t nearly as successful at the time of its release. That was probably for the better as the film’s content isn’t exactly suitable for the kiddies. Hocus Pocus is centered around a trio of resurrected witches on the hunt for their stolen book of spells. The witches are called the Sanderson sisters and are played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker (before Sex and the City).
While the film is comical in many ways, it certainly has plenty of horror elements. In the beginning of the film, the Sandersons are set to be hung for murdering a pair of siblings. Midler’s Winnie reanimates an old lover who attacks the protagonists in a zombified form. At one point, the protagonists attempt to burn the witches alive — yet the Sandersons manage to escape.
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Scooby-Doo: The Movie (2002)
We have to cut the live-action Scooby-Doo film a bit of slack. Yes, it’s a far more mature take on the familiar gang of paranormal investigators. However, that was all part of the plan. The original show ran from 1969-76, but had massive staying power and kickstarted several spinoffs. Both the spinoffs and the original series were enjoyed for decades beyond its original run. In a sense, the 2002 film was a gift for Scooby-Doo fans who had grown up with the show. That being said, the film earned a PG rating and was obviously seen by a bountiful amount of kids.
Older fans simply had to infer that Shaggy and his ol’ pal Scoob indulged in certain recreational acts. The younger audience who watched the 2002 film were slapped in the face with Shaggy’s illicit drug use when he meets a character explicitly named Mary Jane (he claims it’s his favorite name). And, that’s what this film accomplishes best. It takes all of the topics the original series tip-toed around and placed them front and center — like Fred’s shallowness and Daphne’s striking beauty.
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Ghostbusters seems harmless enough to anybody who grew up in the 80s. A lovable group of paranormal investigators going toe-to-toe with all sorts of ghostly creatures. However, the series of beloved films is a bit scarier than fans care to remember. The first film gets it started right off the bat with a spooky library scene which features a shocking jump scare.
If the horror element wasn’t enough, the original film features not just one, but two inappropriate sexual scenes featuring the main characters. Safe to say, ghosts getting it on isn’t the greatest idea for a family film. Censors in the UK agreed, bumping the film’s rating up from a PG to a 12A (children under 12 years old must be accompanied by an adult) last year.
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The Brady Bunch Movie (1996)
Remember The Brady Bunch show from the 70s? Sure, it tackled some more serious topics over the years, but it always stayed the course of a family-friendly show throughout its iconic run. The 1995 film, The Brady Bunch Movie, didn’t quite follow the same guidelines. Intended to be a satirical rendition of the original show, The Brady Bunch Movie cast an entirely new group of actors in familiar roles.
Those looking for the same family-based ideals as the original show were sorely disappointed. The plot of the film centers around the family’s house facing foreclosure after the couple is charged with tax delinquency. It gets worse. The film had a sequel, aptly named A Very Brady Sequel, which delved into the tension between the family’s eldest siblings — Marcia and Greg. The pair succumb to their feelings for one another, and even share a kiss. The original show would never dare to delve into such a storyline!
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Beetlejuice is the rare film where the main character is the one audiences should be most afraid of. I mean, just look at the guy. Another Tim Burton inclusion, the film boasts a fairly star-studded cast, including Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder in one of her breakthrough roles. A dark tone is set early on when a couple is tragically killed in a car crash. However, the main attraction of this film is Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the mischievous miscreant of the underworld, Betelgeuse (pronounced Beetlejuice).
Sure, he’s good for a few laughs here and there, but Betelgeuse is not your friendly neighborhood ghost. He attempts to marry a teenager and routinely antagonizes the other characters. What’s worse is that a sequel is in the works. Betelgeuse will get to haunt a whole new generation of youngsters!
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These creatures are the stuff of nightmares. Movies like Gremlins were easy enough for parents to avoid. Though the fiends in that film seemed cute and cuddly enough, Gremlins was still marketed as a horror film featuring dangerous monsters. Labyrinth, on the other hand, presented no such disclaimer. Children rushed to theaters in droves to see what they believed to be the next, great fantasy film.
What they got was 100 minutes of pure nightmare fuel. It doesn’t help that the film was directed by Jim Henson (The Muppets) and executive produced by George Lucas (Star Wars), giving the sense that it would be a film the whole family could safely enjoy. Those poor parents had no idea what they were getting their kids into.
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Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
One last Jim Carrey inclusion on this list. Carrey seemingly has an affinity for playing wicked antagonists who single-handedly bump a film’s rating up a notch or two. For what it’s worth, the film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is actually a watered-down version of the original set of novels it’s based upon. This was likely done to achieve a PG rating, though it very well should have earned at least a PG-13 label.
Carrey plays the vile Count Olaf. Olaf becomes the legal guardian of three children after their parents are tragically killed in a house fire. Olaf routinely berates the children, beats them, and even tried to have them flattened by a train. Carrey is hardly funny in this role, and he leads the way for a film that is truly morbid as a whole.
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E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Everybody has seen E.T. — and everybody probably saw it a few years earlier than they should have. The story of this classic film is harmless enough. A boy befriends an alien whose goal is to return home. Steven Spielberg directed a masterpiece which made nearly $800 million in the box office — working with a budget of just $10 million. Though, the beloved film had more adult themes than fans may realize.
Children of a certain age may have not been ready to view select scenes throughout the movie. This includes when Elliott must say goodbye to E.T. at the morgue as the alien passes away. Of course, E.T. comes back to life — but that doesn’t make the final goodbye as he boards the spaceship any easier. These emotional moments would be tough for any youngster to stomach, and perhaps were better suited for a bit more of a mature audience.
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