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The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark 

Ranker Film
Updated May 27, 2020 3.2k votes 548 voters 12.7k views 22 items

Swamps that overwhelm you with sadness. Candy that transforms you into fruit. A witch that's out for your head. These may sound like the trappings of horror flicks, but they're actually features of a few highly acclaimed children's movies. When you think about it, some of the best classic children's flicks are downright terrifying. The best dark children's movies feature young characters fighting scary villains and often coming to terms with personal tragedies. This is a list of the top dark kids movies including everything from The NeverEnding Story to All Dogs Go to Heaven to Willow.

What films will you find on this list of dark classic movies for kids? You won't be surprised to spot Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory here. The imagery from Roald Dahl's original book is scary enough on its own, but Gene Wilder solidified his spot in countless kids' nightmares with his narration of that psychedelic boat trip. The Labyrinth, starring David Bowie, is another dark classic kids film featuring characters that are more than a little spooky. Bambi may seem like a cute animated film, but early in the story the title character becomes an orphan after a horrible hunting excursion. Other movies featured on this list include The Dark Crystal, Return to Oz, and The Witches.

Which classic kids film gave you nightmares? Give the best movies a thumbs up and share your thoughts in the comments section.

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1
Willy Wonka & the Ch... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Tim Brooke-Taylor

Released: 1971

Directed by: Mel Stuart

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a 1971 musical fantasy film directed by Mel Stuart, and starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. The film, a film adaptation of the 1964 novel Charlie and ...more

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2
All Dogs Go to Heaven is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Loni Anderson, Dom DeLuise, Vic Tayback

Released: 1989

Directed by: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, Dan Kuenster

All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 American–Irish animated musical adventure comedy film directed and produced by Don Bluth and released by United Artists and Goldcrest Films. The film tells the ...more

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3
Bambi is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Sterling Holloway, Sam Edwards, Cammie King

Released: 1942

Directed by: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Paul Satterfield, Bill Roberts, Norman Wright, + more

Bambi is a 1942 American animated drama film directed by David Hand, produced by Walt Disney and based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Austrian author Felix Salten. The film was ...more

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4
Gremlins is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Steven Spielberg, Corey Feldman, Phoebe Cates

Released: 1984

Directed by: Joe Dante

Gremlins is a 1984 American horror comedy film directed by Joe Dante, released by Warner Bros. The film is about a young man who receives a strange creature called a mogwai as a pet, which then ...more

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5
Who Framed Roger Rabbit ... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd, Bob Hoskins

Released: 1988

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a 1988 American live-action/animated fantasy-comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis. The screenplay by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman is based on Gary K. Wolf's ...more

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6
Labyrinth is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie, Frank Oz

Released: 1986

Directed by: Jim Henson

Labyrinth is a 1986 British-American musical adventure fantasy film directed by Jim Henson, executive produced by George Lucas and based upon conceptual designs by Brian Froud. The film stars ...more

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7
The NeverEnding Story is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Gerald McRaney, Limahl, Moses Gunn

Released: 1984

Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen

The NeverEnding Story is a 1984 West German epic fantasy film based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ende, about a boy who reads a magical library book that tells a story of a young ...more

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8
Dumbo is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Sterling Holloway, Cliff Edwards, Verna Felton

Released: 1941

Directed by: Wilfred Jackson, Samuel Armstrong, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen, Norm Ferguson, + more

Dumbo is an American animated film produced by Walt Disney Productions and premiered on October 23, 1941, by RKO Radio Pictures. Sound was recorded conventionally using the RCA System. One voice ...more

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9
The Dark Crystal is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Lisa Maxwell

Released: 1982

Directed by: Frank Oz, Jim Henson

The Dark Crystal is a 1982 American–British fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. The plot revolves around Jen, an elflike 'Gelfling' on a quest to restore balance to his alien world ...more

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10
The Secret of NIMH is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Shannen Doherty, Wil Wheaton, Derek Jacobi

Released: 1982

Directed by: Don Bluth

The Secret of NIMH is a 1982 American animated fantasy adventure drama film directed by Don Bluth in his directorial debut. It is an adaptation of Robert C. O'Brien's 1971 children's novel Mrs. ...more

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11
Return to Oz is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Fairuza Balk, Piper Laurie, Nicol Williamson

Released: 1985

Directed by: Walter Murch

Return to Oz is a 1985 fantasy adventure film based on L. Frank Baum's Oz books, mainly The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz. The plot begins with Dorothy's return to the Land of Oz, and her ...more

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12
The Witches is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Rowan Atkinson, Anjelica Huston, Brenda Blethyn

Released: 1990

Directed by: Nicolas Roeg

The Witches is a 1990 comedy-fantasy film based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl. It was directed by Nicolas Roeg and produced by Jim Henson Productions for Lorimar Film Entertainment ...more

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13
Watership Down is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
John Hurt, Denholm Elliott, Richard Briers

Released: 1978

Directed by: John Hubley, Martin Rosen

Watership Down is a 1978 British animated adventure drama film written, produced and directed by Martin Rosen and based on the novel of the same name by Richard Adams. It was financed by a ...more

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14
Legend is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Tom Cruise, Tim Curry, Mia Sara

Released: 1985

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Legend is a 1985 British-American fantasy adventure film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Billy Barty, Cork Hubbert, and ...more

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15
Lord of the Flies is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Nicholas Hammond, James Aubrey, Kent Fletcher

Released: 1963

Directed by: Peter Brook

Lord of the Flies is a 1963 British film adaptation of William Golding's novel of the same name. It was directed by Peter Brook and produced by Lewis M. Allen. The film was in production for ...more

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16
Willow is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Val Kilmer, Kevin Pollak, Warwick Davis

Released: 1988

Directed by: Ron Howard

Willow is a 1988 American fantasy film directed by Ron Howard, produced and with a story by George Lucas, and starring Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Jean Marsh, and Billy Barty. ...more

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17
Something Wicked This Wa... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Pam Grier, Jason Robards Jr., Diane Ladd

Released: 1983

Directed by: Jack Clayton

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a 1983 American horror fantasy film directed by Jack Clayton and produced by Walt Disney Productions from a screenplay written by Ray Bradbury based on his ...more

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18
Clash of the Titans is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Ursula Andress, Maggie Smith, Laurence Olivier

Released: 1981

Directed by: Desmond Davis

Clash of the Titans is an 1981 British-American fantasy adventure film involving the Greek hero Perseus, and features the final work of stop motion visual effects artist, Ray Harryhausen. It was ...more

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19
The Addams Family is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
brian-barker added Christina Ricci, Christopher Lloyd, Anjelica Huston

Released: 1991

Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld

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Young Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Sophie Ward, Michael Hordern, Brian Oulton

Released: 1985

Directed by: Barry Levinson

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21
Little Monsters is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
brian-barker added Little Monsters Fred Savage, Howie Mandel, Ben Savage

Released: 1989

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22
Masters of the Universe ... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark
Courteney Cox, Dolph Lundren, Frank Langella

Released: 1987

Directed by: Gary Goddard

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