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Strange Movies I Watched as a Kid
Okay, so I can guess most people my age grew up with their fair share of Disney films, but for the most part I was having none of that. I was a bit of a tomboy and the princesses always getting suckered in by some suave-o knight or prince really bugged me, even at a young age. That being said, Lion King and Aladdin were still staples of my childhood. That’s about as average as my childhood movies get. I don’t know what my parents were on, or if I had learned some secret about where they stored the videocassettes, but by a certain age I was watching some movies that I probably shouldn’t have. Some inappropriate to my age, and some just generally really out there. Some both.
Beetle Juice (1988, rated PG-13)
I love this movie and will defend it to the grave (haha little pun there), but it is definitely not fit for kids. It’s one of Tim Burton’s darker and creepier movies, and in my mind it goes hand in hand with Edward Scissorhands (1990) visually, though the representation of the subject is sort of campy and therefore lighter at heart.
In case you’ve never seen it or just can’t remember, it’s about a couple, the Maitlands (played by an astoundingly young and skinny Alec Baldwin and a radiant as always Geena Davis) who tragically die in a car accident, only to come back as ghosts stranded in their own home. Soon after, a family of uptight city people moves into their home and remodels it to the point that it is no longer recognizable. The daughter, Lydia (a tiny Winona Ryder), is a sweet but morbid teen who dresses all in black and wants to join the Maitlands in the world of the dead. Beetle Juice is a self-serving ghost who wants to screw everything up for everyone.
Besides the obviously morbid themes of the film, the main reason it was weird to watch as a kid was that there was one very clear use of the F-word. I used to cover my ears. Also, there is some gruesome yet comical use of dead people, including a team of football players who were in a car accident, a flattened man who was obviously run over by a car (probably multiple times), a woman whose throat is slit, etc. The Maitlands at one point change their appearances to look scarier, and this honestly should have been very disturbing to me as a kid, but I’m happy to say no ill effects. I still think it’s awesome.
Grease (1978, rated PG)
I don’t know why I watched this movie so much as a kid. Musicals annoy me immensely now but this one I can at least tolerate. I guess something that can be sung along with has a certain appeal to a younger audience; however, this movie is probably not appropriate.
Grease is essentially the story of being in high school in America in the 1950s. If you had never been in high school, the most the movie had to offer was some catchy tunes. Many of the lyrics often went over my head, as well as various references to the characters’ sexualities—some subtle, some not so much. The one line that always got me so confused was Rizzo saying she felt like a broken typewriter, she skipped a period. I always wondered, what does it mean to skip a period? The male characters in this movie are astoundingly horny and occasionally curse and make reference to sex. I picked up on none of it as a kid. I still remember the songs though.
The Brave Little Toaster (1987, Unrated)
I didn’t even realize this movie might have been inappropriate for children until I read this. Even though it is definitely geared toward children, there are some mildly frightening, disturbing, or just plain depressing scenes mixed into the story. I honestly don’t remember any of them bothering me as a kid, but looking back on them now they are pretty intense, especially that clown bit in Toaster’s dream.
There are plenty of things I liked about this movie though. All of the main characters were very interesting and likeable in their own way. I’ll always remember the radio (voiced by Jon Lovitz), the only character without the anthropomorphic eyes and mouth, cheering everyone on by playing Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti.
Overall I’d say this movie might actually be good for kids; the characters face these bizarre hardships but in the end everything works out for the best. There is no actual gore or violence, only a metaphorical representation of violence done against machines rather than people. In a careful way it might be trying to teach hard lessons to children… or it might just be the brainchild of some freak that likes to scare kids. Judge for yourself.
Big (1988, rated PG)
In a way this movie is perfect for kids, and in another way, it totally isn’t. This movie is about a kid becoming an adult, and in order to fully appreciate this change in perspective, you need to know what it’s like to be a kid and an adult. For example, when Josh (Tom Hanks), the kid turned grown-up overnight, gets his first paycheck, he is thrilled by the amount: $187. A coworker (Jon Lovitz) next to him comments, “Yeah, they really screw you don’t they?” As a kid I didn’t really get the humor in this scene, since I thought $187 was a pretty good amount of money, and the phrase ‘screw you’ was not quite in my vocabulary.
Another thing that disturbed me slightly as a kid, and disturbs me way more now that I have the sensibility of an adult, is Josh’s relationship with his coworker, Susan (Elizabeth Perkins). At first they are just friends, which is hard to believe to begin with considering how twelve-year-old boys usually react to girls. Then, they start to become a little more than friends. Josh invites her to ‘sleep over’ at his apartment, and frankly says, “I want to be on top!” Little did Susan know he was referring to bunk beds. Joke’s on her. Too bad kids don’t really get the joke. Later on, the two of them get very intimate. They start to make out and Susan takes off her shirt and Josh cups her boob! Come on man, she’s as old as your mom! Needless to say, this is so wrong.
The Pebble and the Penguin (1996, rated G)
It is now my pleasure to introduce to you the king of all crazy movies for kids, Don Bluth. This man directed All Dogs Go to Heaven, the story of the dirty underground dog crime world that ends in one dog’s murder, subsequent reincarnation and revenge. He directed A Troll in Central Park, which I’ve mostly blocked out, but definitely featured horribly ugly troll creatures, including one that could turn you to stone at the touch of her thumb. And, how could I forget, The Secret of NIMH, which is just downright scary.
The movie of his I remember the best is The Pebble and the Penguin, because I watched it ceaselessly. It has some of the catchiest songs of any animated film I have seen, and it amuses me to no end even at my current age. The weird things about it include anthropomorphic penguins with hands at the ends of their flippers and teeth in their beaks, and a merchant ship called Misery that is stealing away penguins to sell to zoos. Out of all of the films on this list, this one has got to be the healthiest for children. That doesn’t stop it from being weird though.