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The Best Classic Kids Movies That Are Kind of Dark

Updated May 27, 2020 4.1k votes 564 voters 13.3k views22 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 Chocolate Factory
    317
    126

    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

    Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson

    Released1971

    Directed byMel Stuart

    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a 1971 musical fantasy film directed by Mel Stuart, and... more on Wikipedia

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  • 2
    All Dogs Go to Heaven
    209
    73

    All Dogs Go to Heaven

    Loni Anderson, Dom DeLuise

    Released1989

    Directed byDon Bluth, Gary Goldman, Dan Kuenster

    All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 American–Irish animated musical adventure comedy film directed... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    Labyrinth
    179
    61

    Labyrinth

    Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie

    Released1986

    Directed byJim Henson

    Labyrinth is a 1986 British-American musical adventure fantasy film directed by Jim Henson,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 4
    The NeverEnding Story
    167
    54

    The NeverEnding Story

    Gerald McRaney, Limahl

    Released1984

    Directed byWolfgang Petersen

    The NeverEnding Story is a 1984 West German epic fantasy film based on the novel of the same... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Gremlins
    191
    71

    Gremlins

    Steven Spielberg, Corey Feldman

    Released1984

    Directed byJoe Dante

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  • 6
    Bambi
    215
    88

    Bambi

    Sterling Holloway, Sam Edwards

    Released1942

    Directed byJames Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Paul Satterfield, Bill Roberts, Norman Wright

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  • 7
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    189
    72

    Who Framed Roger Rabbit

    Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd

    Released1988

    Directed byRobert Zemeckis

    Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a 1988 American live-action/animated fantasy-comedy film directed... more on Wikipedia

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  • 8
    The Secret of NIMH
    149
    50

    The Secret of NIMH

    Shannen Doherty, Wil Wheaton

    Released1982

    Directed byDon Bluth

    The Secret of NIMH is a 1982 American animated fantasy adventure drama film directed by Don... more on Wikipedia
  • 9
    The Dark Crystal
    145
    49

    The Dark Crystal

    Jim Henson, Frank Oz

    Released1982

    Directed byFrank Oz, Jim Henson

    The Dark Crystal is a 1982 American–British fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz.... more on Wikipedia

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  • 10
    Dumbo
    170
    84

    Dumbo

    Sterling Holloway, Cliff Edwards

    Released1941

    Directed byWilfred Jackson, Samuel Armstrong, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen, Norm Ferguson

    Dumbo is an American animated film produced by Walt Disney Productions and premiered on... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    The Witches
    113
    46

    The Witches

    Rowan Atkinson, Anjelica Huston

    Released1990

    Directed byNicolas Roeg

    The Witches is a 1990 comedy-fantasy film based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl. It... more on Wikipedia

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  • 12
    Return to Oz
    133
    64

    Return to Oz

    Fairuza Balk, Piper Laurie

    Released1985

    Directed byWalter Murch

    Return to Oz is a 1985 fantasy adventure film based on L. Frank Baum's Oz books, mainly The... more on Wikipedia
  • 13
    Watership Down
    102
    42

    Watership Down

    John Hurt, Denholm Elliott

    Released1978

    Directed byJohn Hubley, Martin Rosen

    Watership Down is a 1978 British animated adventure drama film written, produced and directed... more on Wikipedia

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  • 14
    Legend
    98
    41

    Legend

    Tom Cruise, Tim Curry

    Released1985

    Directed byRidley Scott

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  • 15
    Lord of the Flies
    108
    68

    Lord of the Flies

    Nicholas Hammond, James Aubrey

    Released1963

    Directed byPeter Brook

    Lord of the Flies is a 1963 British film adaptation of William Golding's novel of the same... more on Wikipedia

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  • 16
    Willow
    87
    52

    Willow

    Val Kilmer, Kevin Pollak

    Released1988

    Directed byRon Howard

    Willow is a 1988 American fantasy film directed by Ron Howard, produced and with a story by... more on Wikipedia

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  • 17
    Something Wicked This Way Comes
    75
    46

    Something Wicked This Way Comes

    Pam Grier, Jason Robards Jr.

    Released1983

    Directed byJack Clayton

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  • 18
    The Addams Family (1991)
    37
    11

    The Addams Family (1991)

    Christina Ricci, Christopher Lloyd

    Released1991

    Directed byBarry Sonnenfeld

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  • 19
    Clash of the Titans
    68
    50

    Clash of the Titans

    Ursula Andress, Maggie Smith

    Released1981

    Directed byDesmond Davis

    Clash of the Titans is an 1981 British-American fantasy adventure film involving the Greek... more on Wikipedia
  • 20
    Little Monsters
    18
    15

    Little Monsters

    Fred Savage, Howie Mandel

    Released1989

    Directed byRichard Greenberg

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  • 21
    Young Sherlock Holmes
    43
    53

    Young Sherlock Holmes

    Sophie Ward, Michael Hordern

    Released1985

    Directed byBarry Levinson

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  • 22
    Masters of the Universe
    38
    57

    Masters of the Universe

    Courteney Cox, Dolph Lundren

    Released1987

    Directed byGary Goddard

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