Scariest Movies You Weren’t Allowed To Watch As A Kid But Did Anyway

Over 300 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Scariest Movies You Weren’t Allowed To Watch As A Kid But Did Anyway
Voting Rules
Vote up the scariest movies you snuck a viewing of as a kid.

Scary childhood movies come in many different forms. Sometimes, it's just a creepy character who haunts kids, and on other occasions, children's movies are unintentionally frightening. But for the truly brave kids out there, sneaking a glimpse of a real horror movie strictly forbidden by parents was where they got their thrill. 

Sleepovers often ended with an older sibling showing a room full of terrified 12-year-olds A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th, much to the chagrin of parents the next day. Then, there were the nights when a kid sucked up all of their courage to tiptoe into the living room for a very ill-advised viewing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre while their unsuspecting guardians sat close by.

It's definitely a rite of passage: Finally exerting free will by sneaking a viewing of the scariest childhood horror movies just to find out what regret really means.

  • 1
    190 VOTES
    Photo: ABC

    Scariest Scene: True to its Stephen King source material, this miniseries has a lot to be afraid of for kids - and adults. Perhaps the most unnerving, most upsetting scene for children comes when Pennywise (Tim Curry) pulls himself up through a shower drain to go after Eddie (Adam Faraizl). Taking a bath or shower was never the same again. ​​

    How You Watched It: Older siblings have a responsibility to trick younger kids into watching things that they shouldn't, and that's exactly how Pennywise the Clown entered the nightmares of so many younger brothers and sisters. Sometimes, having a sibling babysit isn't the smartest plan. 

    • Actors: Tim Curry, Seth Green, John Ritter, Annette O'Toole, Jonathan Brandis
    • Released: 1990
    • Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
    190 votes
  • 2
    187 VOTES

    Scariest Scene: After being thoroughly scarred for life seeing a toddler creamed by a semi truck, a guy with brains falling out of his head, and a very wrong cat, one scene in this Stephen King adaptation stood out above the rest. Once a kid saw Gage (Miko Hughes) slash Jud's (Fred Gwynne) Achille's tendon, they never walked past their bed without fear again. 

    How You Watched It: During an unsupervised evening, this gem came on HBO and the opportunity to create a lifelong fear of toddlers was born.

    • Actors: Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist, Michael Lombard
    • Released: 1989
    • Directed by: Mary Lambert
    187 votes

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  • 3
    189 VOTES

    Scariest Scene: In a movie full of terrifying imagery, a young girl snatched by ghosts in the walls, and a house built on a Native American burial ground, somehow one scene stood out among the rest as The Scary Scene. Perhaps it was the introduction of the idea that not even a child's bedroom was safe from their own toys, but the clown going after Robbie Freeling (Oliver Robins) likely inspired a sharp rise in coulrophobia during the 1980s. 

    How You Watched It: Sneaking into the living room as parents watched it on VHS, unaware that one of their children wasn't in bed.

    • Actors: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins
    • Released: 1982
    • Directed by: Tobe Hooper
    189 votes

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  • Scariest Scene: The ending is notably the scariest part of this culturally important horror flick, as it proved to kids that the Big Bad always comes back. The only saving grace for children afraid Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) would haunt their nightmares was Nancy (Heather Lagenkamp) defeating him. When that was undone at the film's conclusion, years of insomnia were induced.  

    How You Watched It: A group of kids has ways of sneaking into movies they aren't allowed to see, such as buying tickets to The Karate Kid and instead entering Freddy Krueger's theater.

    • Actors: John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Johnny Depp
    • Released: 1984
    • Directed by: Wes Craven
    167 votes

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  • Scariest Scene: Choosing one scene from this nightmare of a film is like choosing the best smell at a spoiled egg convention: it's tough. There is, however, one moment that stands above the rest for its sheer intensity and the inability of the character to counteract Leatherface's (Gunnar Hansan) malicious intentions in any way. Pam's (Teri McMinn) fate on the business end of a meat hook is enough to keep a child up for days in a cold sweat, hoping Leatherface never pops out of their closet.

    How You Watched It: On a dare at a friend's house while their parents sat blissfully unaware downstairs, thinking normal childhood shenanigans were the only things happening.

    • Actors: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail
    • Released: 1974
    • Directed by: Tobe Hooper
    161 votes

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  • 6
    165 VOTES

    Scariest Scene: Seeing that a parent could lose their mind was a tough pill to swallow for young people watching this Stephen King adaptation, but the odd costumed people performing intimate acts, terrifying twins, and other horrors were just as unnerving. Among all of the life-altering imagery, Jack (Jack Nicholson) taking an ax to a door while his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), screams in terror is right up there.

    How You Watched It: This flick was a rite of passage for kids also reading Stephen King novels without their parents' permission. All it took to see this one was a sleepover and some well-meaning but laissez faire parental units hosting it.

    • Actors: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson
    • Released: 1980
    • Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
    165 votes