To this day, the only movie that has directly given me nightmares is Watership Down. I saw it when I was 7 or 8, and I'm sure that my parents had only the best of intentions. Yes, it was based on a serious book about societal conflict, but it was also an animated movie about rabbits ... some of whom happened to be absolutely terrifying, with their ragged appearance, red eyes, and evil intentions.
You can argue that Watership Down isn't really a little kids' movie—and I would be the first to agree. But what about movies that are targeted at kids and families and seem innocent enough at first glance? Some have scary scenes that seem to come out of nowhere -- or just happen to push the wrong buttons for certain kids. An informal survey of our readers, editors, and friends turned up these prime examples (Warning: possible spoilers!) of scary scenes they didn't necessarily see coming:
Much as we might like to, it's impossible to protect our kids from every potentially scary scene in every movie they'll ever see. And as they get older and learn to distinguish fantasy and reality, they'll be better equipped to handle the things that go bump on the screen. (Some of them will, anyway; I can still count on one hand the number of real horror movies I've seen.) In the meantime, these tips will help prepare you for this parental rite of passage: