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18 Ridiculous Things We Grew Up Fearing Thanks To Movies

Updated August 21, 2021 4.4k votes 379 voters 9.2k views18 items

List RulesVote up the weird, specific fears that movies and shows kept insisting were real.

Movies rot people's brains. They convince kids that pits of quicksand are waiting around every corner and that vats of toxic waste can dissolve a human body with just one drop. But is quicksand even real? If so, is it something you even need to worry about? Like man-eating piranhas, killer dolls, and evil dogcatchers, quicksand is one of many ridiculous things you may have grown up fearing because you saw it in a movie.

Most viewers understand that what they're seeing in a film is a form of heightened reality; audiences know that what they're seeing isn't real. But when a trope like quicksand or a garbage disposal mishap occurs again and again throughout cinema, it's hard not to worry that these things are real. Some of these movie fears can actually come true, but usually not in the way you see on-screen.

Each of these vaguely scary concepts comes from cinema, but thanks to groupthink and reused ideas, they've been distorted into genuine fears.

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  • 1. Quicksand

    Photo: Krull / Columbia Pictures

    The threat of quicksand, of slowly sinking into a gritty sludge as it fills your lungs, is inextricably linked with our DNA. Or at least it feels that way. Quicksand has been around since at least the 1950s, when adventure stories took place in mysterious jungles and deserts. As those stories fell out of fashion, quicksand narratives kept chugging right along thanks to Disney.

    Cartoons like Aladdin, Darkwing Duck, and Ducktales (just to name a few) all have subplots in which someone sinks into quicksand. It's almost like animators were warning children that these dangerous sinkholes could be around every corner. The Princess Bride gave audiences a variation on quicksand with "lightning sand," which swallows up anyone who steps into its radius with amazing speed.

    Think about it: How does quicksand even work? Wet sand doesn't have a suction effect, so there would have to be a kind of bottomless pit beneath the sand where you would presumably fall. Could one pit of quicksand exist? Sure. But it's ludicrous to think the planet is crawling with quicksand pits waiting to swallow everyone up.

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  • 2. Elevators That Suddenly Plummet

    Photo: Speed / 20th Century Fox

    What goes up must come down. In the case of an elevator, that often occurs when the cables snap and drop someone to a painful doom. Or at least that's what happens in films like Gremlins 2 and, more notably, Speed, where a terrorist rigs the cable wires to snap, dropping the elevator and its riders a few floors before it's caught by the emergency brakes. Moments after the hostages are evacuated, the elevator crashes to the ground.

    Elevator cables have snapped in the past, but not with the regularity this trope would have audiences believe. Even if an elevator does fail, there are a number of backups and safety procedures in place to keep the people on the elevator relatively unscathed. Feel free to ride elevators in peace - just don't do that thing where you hit all of the buttons on your way out.

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  • 3. Dolls That Come To Life When You're Not Watching

    Photo: Child's Play / United Artists

    Dolls with minds of their own aren't just found in horror movies like Child's Play and the Puppet Master series. Toy Story, Monsters University, and Coraline all have dolls that move around on their own. Even if they're not homicidal dolls like Chucky, these clandestine living toys are all existentially horrifying.

    Obviously, there's no such thing as a doll that can follow you from room to room in the middle of the night, waiting to cut your Achilles' tendon. There aren't even dolls that have their own private lives while you're out of the room. Does that make a room full of dolls any less creepy? Of course not - dolls are scary, and they always will be.

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  • 4. The Bermuda Triangle

    Photo: The Addams Family / Paramount Pictures

    You're not alone if you felt genuine stress about the Bermuda Triangle in your youth. Stories about disappearing boats, lost time, and creepy creatures have been a staple of this section of the North Atlantic for decades. In the 1970s, the Marvel Comics character Skull the Slayer introduced young audiences to the concept of a time warp in the Bermuda Triangle, a portal that left him stranded in the Savage Lands.

    Modern pieces of media like The Addams Family and Percy Jackson suggest that not only do monsters and world-ending weather patterns swirl around this area, but that a person can lose their mind and memory if they spend too much time in the Triangle.

    This is all freaky, but it's important to remember that the Bermuda Triangle is off the coast of Florida, and it extends to Puerto Rico. People literally live in the Bermuda Triangle, and they're not getting sucked into vortices or losing their memories on a daily basis. (Unless they are and we just don't know about it.)

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