[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="241" caption="Gene Wilder in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" courtesy of theneave.com"][/caption]
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The remake with Johnny Depp actually may be scarier overall, with Tim Burton's gothic direction and set design. But the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has a strange message - be good or you may be in great danger. The oompa-loompas are freaky and Gene Wilder's turn as the factory owner is just off-color enough to make you wonder if he has dangerous ulterior motives. And the scene on the boat in the tunnel is downright terrifying.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="227" caption="Scene from "The Dark Crystal" courtesy of focusonfantasy.com"][/caption]
The Dark Crystal (1982)
The Jim Henson studio did a lot of work in the 80's, designing creatures for feature films and television. The Dark Crystal is pretty much nothing but puppets and tells the story of a crystal on another planet ruled by vulture-looking things called the Skesis 1000 years ago. I had a migraine the last time I saw this film, when I was around ten years old, maybe. Later that night, I threw up on my brother's head. I'm not saying there's a connection. I'm just saying...
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="244" caption="Scene from "The Neverending Story" courtesy of fanpop.com"][/caption]
The Neverending Story (1984)
Not only is The Neverending Story a little scary, but it's really confusing for children. There are bullies, a rock monster, a giant turtle, and a luck dragon, which kind of looks like a giant cross between a flying dog and a hairy snake. And those aren't even the antagonists in the film. Any filmmaker with the nerve to name the villain in a kids film "the nothing" has to be a tad off his rocker. And in the end, it's all about using your imagination. Hurray...
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="269" caption="Scene from "Return to Oz" courtesy of phoenix.metromix.com"][/caption]
Return to Oz (1985)
In this chilling sequel to The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy gets taken to a mental hospital. Yes, a mental hospital. Thankfully, she escapes and heads back to Oz, where she travels to save the scarecrow from an evil gnome king with her new friends, Billina, Jack Pumpkinhead, Tik-Tok, and Gump. And there's a talking chicken. Needless to say, it plays out like an acid-fueled version of the original, except with a very young Fairuza Balk as Dorothy!
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="294" caption="Christopher Lloyd in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" courtesy of backtotheeighties.net"][/caption]
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
It's actually a pretty good little film noir, but the back and forth of real-life and cartoons can get excessive. The film is not scary at all until about 15 minutes from the end, when an insanely cartoon-ish (literally) Christopher Lloyd begins to lose it. It's a terrifying ending to an otherwise light-hearted film and can't be forgotten. Thank God Jessica Rabbit is in there to soften the blow a bit.
Movies for children aren't supposed to be scary. But, in some way, shape or form, most of them have elements that can be steered in that direction. These are just the ones that did the most damage.