Throughout history, children’s movies have included scenes that test the boundaries of what children can, and should be asked to handle emotionally. Here are 14 clear examples:
1. “The Iron Giant” (1999): The Iron Giant sacrifices himself to save a town from a nuclear strike.(Spoiler Alert: He comes back at the end.)
2. “Pete’s Dragon” (2016): Right at the start of the movie, Pete is lost in the forest and terrified, after his parents are killed in a car accident.
3. “E.T.” (1982): E.T. says goodbye to Elliott with his “I’ll be right here” line. (Personally, Young Me was way more traumatized by E.T.’s “death scene”, even though it turned out he wasn’t really dead.)
4. “Toy Story 3” (2010): The toys hold hands and accept the fact that they’re about to be melted down in a landfill incinerator. Of course they DO survive, which leads to #5.
5. “Toy Story 3” (2010): Andy gives his toys away and says goodbye as he leaves for college. (Though heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time, I always found this ending totally unrealistic. What would have happened is that Andy would have gone on eBay and seen what those toys were worth, especially Woody and his clan . . . and got himself a nice little chunk of change to buy textbooks. Or beer.)
6. “Inside Out” (2015): Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong the pink elephant, realizes that she doesn’t need him anymore and basically sacrifices himself.
7. “The Neverending Story”: (1984): Atreyu’s horse Artax sinks slowly into the Swamps of Sadness.
8. “Transformers: The Movie” (1986): Killing off Optimus Prime? How dare they???
9. “The Last Unicorn” (1982): Molly finally realizes her lifelong wish of meeting a unicorn . . . long after life has beaten her into despair.
10. “The Land Before Time” (1988): Littlefoot almost gets eaten by a T-Rex, then sees his friends die in an earthquake, and has to watch his mother slowly die.
11. “Up” (2009): Watching Carl’s devastation when his wife Ellie dies.
12. “Old Yeller” (1957): Travis has to put his beloved dog down after he gets rabies.
13. “Bambi” (1942): The death of Bambi’s mom. Obvi.
14. “The Lion King” (1994): Simba watches his father die, then tries in vain to wake him up.