Watch Out! Family Movies That Could Traumatize Your Kids

From loss to death and dying, a guide to the movie scenes that could cause emotional scars.
Betsy Bozdech Executive Editor, Ratings & Reviews | Mom of two Categories: Screen Time, Violence in the Media
Executive Editor, Ratings & Reviews | Mom of two
Watch Out! Family Movies That Could Traumatize Your Kids

I don't mind admitting that there are movies that make me cry. Steel Magnolias gets me every time (that scene where Sally Field loses it after the funeral?), and even WALL-E left me blinking back a few tears (happy ones, but still). I come by my cinema-induced emotions honestly (my dad still tears up at Disney movies), and sometimes I even prefer a good flick that will let loose a few sniffles in the dark.

But I'm not a kid, and most of the movies that have made me cry are ones that I knew in advance I should have tissues handy for. It's a far different experience to be settled in for family movie night -- ready for a few laughs, a few "awwww" moments, and maybe a nice message or two -- and then get hit by THE SCENE: the one you aren't expecting that leaves your kids upset, teary-eyed, or even sobbing. We've rounded up some family-targeted movies that fall into a few key "watch out" categories and might make the kind of childhood memories you'd rather avoid. (Warning -- lots of spoilers ahead!)

Death of an Animal
Even the most hardened moviegoers can lose it when an innocent animal suffers on-screen, and kids are hardly the toughest nuts. Dog lovers, especially, beware: Many of the saddest movies on this list deal with painful events befalling man's best friend.

  • Charlotte's Web: When Wilbur's dear friend and constant champion weaves her last web after doing so much for others, many kids are caught unprepared.
  • Hachi: A Dog's Tale: This exceptionally loyal dog lives a long life before passing on, but much of it is spent waiting in vain for a beloved owner who has died unexpectedly.
  • Marley & Me: If you think this based-on-a-true-story tale is a typical dog movie, beware. Many families think they're in for silly dog antics ... and are left distraught by Marley's sad death.
  • My Dog Skip: Skip is another movie dog who ultimately dies of old age -- but not before being bullied and beaten and nearly perishing in some very sad scenes.
  • Old Yeller: Along with Bambi, Old Yeller is one of the most frequently cited emotionally traumatizing movies for kids. After the brave, loyal dog has a run-in with a rabid wolf, his young owner must put him down himself. Devastating.
  • Red Dog: This story about the loss of an exceptionally intelligent, loyal pet offers both joys and sorrows for animal lovers.
  • Where the Red Fern Grows: Life is hard for everyone in the Ozarks in the 1930s, and raccoon hounds Big Dan and Little Ann are no exception. Their tragic end is bound to leave animal-loving kids in tears.
  • The Yearling: Adapted from the novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, this heartrending tale of a boy who loses his beloved pet deer addresses the often-painful process of growing up.
  • Honorable mention: The Fox and the Hound: The main animal characters in this movie don't die, but they aren't allowed to be friends anymore, and their enforced separation is really hard for young kids to take.

Death of a Child
Many kids, especially really young ones, have no sense of their own mortality -- and why should they? So seeing a young person in danger or worse can be extremely distressing. These movies deal with children's deaths and the emotional aftermath.

  • Bridge to Terabithia: Anyone who's read the book that this touching drama is based on knows what's in store for fearless, imaginative Leslie -- misfit Jess' only friend -- but those expecting a fantasy adventure à la Harry Potter should be warned: Tragedy ahead!
  • Grave of the Fireflies: Beautifully animated but unrelentingly sad, this heartbreaking WWII-set anime tale centers on two children -- brother and sister -- who sicken and die.
  • My Girl: The unexpected death of preteen Vada's best friend (by bee sting, no less) hits many kids very hard, especially since much of the rest of the movie has a sweetly nostalgic feel.
  • The Odd Life of Timothy Green: Technically Timothy doesn't die, but he disappears forever, causing pain for those who loved him, which can be just as hard for kids to deal with.
  • Honorable mention: E.T.: No, E.T. isn't exactly a child, and no, he doesn't really die -- but for a few moments, it seems as if he's died, and those few moments can be enough to send young fans of the spunky little alien into a tailspin.

Death of a Parent
Few things are more upsetting to young children than something bad happening to a parent on-screen -- separation is bad enough, and death is even worse. All these movies include scenes in which a parent is lost (or in which the loss is recent or imminent):

  • Bambi: Bambi's mother's death takes place offscreen, but it's still the first thing most viewers remember, even decades later. Bambi's subsequent frantic search for her is almost as upsetting.
  • Dumbo: Dumbo's mother doesn't die, but she's cruelly separated from him after she's provoked into a scary rampage. The follow-up scene in which she cradles him with her trunk through the bars of her cage window is gut-wrenching.
  • Finding Nemo: Some parents we know just skip the first scene of this movie altogether until their kids are old enough to handle Nemo's mom's untimely demise at the jaws of a menacing predator fish.
  • Fly Away Home: The 13-year-old main character loses her mother in a car accident at the very beginning of the movie; the car is shown flipping several times.
  • The Good Dinosaur: Arlo's dad is abruptly washed away by a flash flood during a scary storm; timid Arlo is terrified.
  • The Land Before Time: Young dinosaur Littlefoot's mother is killed by an aggressive T. rex in this otherwise generally upbeat prehistoric adventure.
  • The Lion King: Not only does Simba's dad get trampled to death by a herd of stampeding wildebeests, but Simba unfairly blames himself for the tragedy.
  • A Little Princess: Main character Sara has already lost her mother, and then she's informed that her father has died in battle, leaving her to mourn him through much of the movie.
  • Mars Needs Moms: The mom doesn't actually die in this touching adventure, but there are references to the fact that she'll be killed when she's outlived her usefulness, and at one point it looks as if she has died.
  • Stepmom: This story about a family dealing with divorce and remarriage takes a tragic turn when the kids' mom is diagnosed with fatal cancer.
  • Tarzan: Baby Tarzan is orphaned after an aggressive, scary leopard kills his parents; they're discovered with bloody paw prints nearby.
  • We Bought a Zoo: Here, the mom passed away six months before the movie begins, but the impact on her family is very much in evidence. Sometimes watching characters deal with grief can be even more painful than the death itself.
  • Honorable mention: Up: While Ellie isn't a parent (which is another emotional aspect of the movie), her death at the end of an extremely poignant montage early in the film has a powerful impact.

Whether you're blindsided because a movie's ads conveniently "forget" to mention that there was sad stuff amid the kid-friendly comedy or because you just didn't know that a certain plot twist was coming, you still have to deal with the aftermath. These tips will help:

  • Before you push play or buy a ticket, check out detailed movie reviews (like ours!) to get a heads-up on potentially upsetting scenes.
  • Watch with your child, and be ready to offer a comforting hug or to pause the movie to talk about why a scene was sad or scary.
  • For kids 7 and under, scenes that deal with loss, separation, and kids and parents in peril are particularly unsettling, so be prepared to help them deal with the tough issues they see. It's best to answer kids' inevitable questions with direct, simple, and honest information and reassure them where you can. It's also important to process feelings of sadness and grief by expressing them -- mainly through play or an activity such as drawing a picture, playing with dolls, or simply talking.
  • Though older kids may have some understanding of loss and death, they too can be upset by both scary scenes (kidnapping, for example) as well as emotional ones. They may be particularly concerned with the details of death and dying, may tend to think of death as punishment, and may worry about pain and suffering. Address their questions, and provide safe outlets for them to express themselves.
  • Don't be afraid to say no to a movie your kid isn't ready for.

And don't forget that, with the right context, facing emotional moments like these as a family can be really important for kids. Movies (and TV shows) can help children deal with fears they're bound to have at some point; if you talk about them together and help defuse these fears before they come up in real life, your kids will start to develop a solid foundation for coping with life's inevitable ups and downs.

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About Betsy Bozdech

Betsy's experiences working in online parenting and entertainment content were the perfect preparation for her role as Common Sense's executive editor of ratings and reviews. After earning bachelor's and master's... Read more

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Comments (161)

Parent written by sherryhud

When we recently watched E.T., I had forgotten the part where ET 'dies' (and then eventually comes back to life). My 7-year old found total delight in the movie until that part, at which point he was reduced to a sobbing mess. Ooops! I learned a lesson - when trying to introduce our kids to the movies WE liked as kids, watch it first because you don't always remember all the details. p.s. We stopped the movie with the intention of just ending it there. After a break he insisted on watching the rest. We hesitantly agreed and were glad he got to see ET come back to life, and see the rest of the movie. He (and I) will always remember that movie though!
Parent written by Tiki108

I'm not a parent and not having kids, so I'm not sure why it assumes if I'm over 18, I must have a kid. I love how Watership Down is not on here lol. I watched that in third grade, I turned out fine, I think losing my dad at 7 was far more traumatizing than any movie (and I've seen some really messed up films, like A Serbian Film, Salò, Antichrist, Irreversible, etc.)
Kid, 12 years old

Honestly, I hate talking about sad scenes/ movies afterwards. I like being comforted and watching something funny/ happy, instead- and address the matter later, when I'm better prepared (or over the shock).
Parent written by deelbe

I find it strange that parents concerned about how a piece of media might negatively affect their child get shamed and labeled "over-protective" by other parents and members of the media profession. Here's the truth: visual media is COMPLETELY unnecessary to a child's development. It's made to entertain. The content is created to do one thing: SELL. It's extra, not essential. A kid doesn't need to be scared or saddened by a cartoon to learn a life lesson. What kids DO need to do is go outside and play and explore the REAL world with other kids. Let them take physical risks on bikes and swings and social risks with playmates. How many of these parents complaining that this list is over-the-top are letting their kids roam the neighborhood like we all used to do? I think a lot of adults have been conditioned by news media to be fearful all the time. So what, you want to teach your kids to assimilate to media fear as well? In the real world the ability to handle a scary movie is a useless life-skill and, I would suggest, is a 0% indicator of future success. When we start relying on movies and shows and video games to toughen-up our children and prepare them for life, I think it's a strong possibility that media is playing too large a role in all our lives. And the real world? Not enough.
Parent written by MikeB 2

As an adoptive parent of 2 children who come from a traumatic history, we have to be especially careful about introducing them to certain themes and content. We in fact, limit television, it's a very special treat that is allowed once in a while. Thank you so much for creating this site and continuing to educate parents and guardians who may have no idea about what is appropriate among all of the content that is now available! The amount of content available (of which a lot is inappropriate depending on your culture and values) overwhelms even myself.
Adult written by CarolinaR

Actually many of these titles are good for introducing topics that most young children don't realize in thier "own world." Such as mortality, Ethnicity, gender, ect. Just as long as the child acknowledges them and even thinks about them is good.
Teen, 14 years old written by Carson3003

Honestly reading this websites biased reviews about movies and games that are completely based on this other than content traumatized me more than anything
Teen, 13 years old written by su avsar

I'm sorry, but some of these are ridiculous, I've watched most of these with my cousins, wo are 5 and 8, and they were not "traumatised" its not like I'm watching It or Misery or Poltergeist or The Sixth sense with them. honestly...
Parent of a 8 year old written by troymiller319

"The follow-up scene in which she cradles him with her trunk through the bars of her cage window is gut-wrenching." Gut wrenching? really? Whats wrong with you?
Parent of a 8 year old written by troymiller319

When we have reached the point where we are not letting our kids watch Bambi then the problem is not with the movie but with the parent.
Educator and Parent written by nea_parris

Most of the movies listed are a good way to open a discussion with your children about life's unpleasant episodes. I do think that traumatizing is a strong word, but knowing when to address these issues with your children is definitely a "know your kid" decision. I personally think it's important to bring things like this up early, but I can respect those who want to shield their young ones from life's unhappy events for as long as possible. Since we are not always privy to when these events are going to happen, a discussion in a controlled circumstance can make it easier when life throws a curve ball.
Teen, 14 years old written by Isaac T

Good idea, but some of these examples are unnecessary. Who cares if Bambi's mom dies? As long as it's off-screen it's fine. And most people I know could take the barracuda attack in "Finding Nemo" whether they were a kid or not. Also you forgot "Harry Potter." Loads of kids, animals, and adults are killed off, including many secondary characters like Fred or Lavender Brown or Cedric Diggory. "Coraline" can get every bit as traumatizing.
Parent written by tygertrip

Information is good, but to say these movies could potentially traumatize a typical child is nonsense. Good grief, I watched Alien when I was 7 and Gremlins was my favorite movie when I was 8! Now, Alien did cause me to sleep with a night light for about a week, but it far from traumatized me... maybe the harsh language, lol (Aliens joke!). Anyway, if those movies didn't harm me, I certainly have no worries about my children for the movies actually listed. I get a kick out of some of the overprotective parents posting here! Oh well, more power to y'all, long live information and free choice!
Parent written by Ultradude

I watched almost all of these movies when I was about 8 and I watch all the huger games in theaters an guess what!? None absolutely none scared or had any impact on me!!!! Also I watched jaws when I was 7. Did not scare or traumatize me!!! FYI since I'm a parent I don't recommend doing what I did for movies. people like me who aren't scared are rare. My 4 year old watched Bambi
Parent of a 6 year old written by LtTawnyMadison

It's great that you understand that all kids are different and will have different reactions! I was traumatized by some movies I saw which I definitely shouldn't have seen when I was about that age (7-8)... Pirahna, Alligator, etc. and had to go to a psychologist for help with severe nightmares. But yea some kids aren't affected!
Parent of a 6 year old written by LtTawnyMadison

If you click on the links to each movie, you’ll find that all of them were given a ‘green-light’ age of between 4 and 14 (and most under 11), so even CSM is not saying “don’t let children watch these movies EVER.” They probably should have made that more clear in the article.
Adult written by Randompersongurl

Oh Fox and the Hound! I was obsessed with that movie as a kid. Totally gut punched me, but I adored it. I even went out and bought the DVD when my VHS copy died. I remember randomly watching Return to Oz as a 6 year old once (during a storm of all times!) It scared the absolute crap out of me. I mean it. A room full of severed heads, creepy claymation, sand that literally killed you! Nightmares for weeks. Loved every single second of it and wore out my subsequent VHS copy. When I was 10 The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson version) was released at the cinemas. So naturally, being a newly formed Potterhead I watched it. It was the most epic and the most scary thing I had ever seen in my then short life. Certainly a stiff graduation from usual Disney fare. Many scenes not only scared me witless, but also disturbed me greatly. My cousins also happened to own the DVD shortly after it's release. So of course, we watched it again and again and again. Another one was this, tbh, random cartoon adaptation of The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Which lingered on the couple in the fire for an agonizing minute as both slowly burnt to death. I think I might have been 6 and it was on our free to air kids channel. Probably was a European adaptation, we get a lot of the European stuff where I live. Anyway, an ending like that was straight out of left field for me. And of course, it scared me beyond all belief at the time. So many nightmares that week and balled like a baby. It still remains my all time favorite adaptation of the story. That's only but a few movies that traumatized me during my childhood. TV was in some ways worse (ahh the craziness that was 90s.) And I don't regret a single solitary second of it. In fact, given the choice between being guarded from them and seeing them in all their glory as a youngster, I would always always choose the latter. It turned me into the relatively well adjusted adult I am today. I think people forget that nightmares are a healthy part of childhood. They are actually beneficial, since they allow a child to simulate/practice facing scary scenarios in a safe environment. Sure no one likes to see their child have them, but to shield them from them entirely is probably a disservice to child development. And of course I'm sure everyone here would gladly talk to their child about them so as to overcome them in a healthy manner.
Teen, 15 years old written by AntiPersona

I feel like these things are exaggerated a little bit. There's few movies on that list that I didn't watch as a child and I found myself traumatized by none of them. While I can appreciate that all you want to do is protect your children, starving them of even slightly negative experiences because they might find them traumatic is really going to do more harm then good. If you're a worried parent then could I just politely ask that while you're looking over this list please keep in mind children's psychologies are simply not this fragile.
Parent written by jeniebeens

Betsy, thanks for the heads up. I really don't think it's wise for kids to see movies that aren't appropriate for their age. Some of them really surprised me and some of them I was just ignorant to. No need to expose them too early. Why not let them enjoy their childhood and save them some bad dreams. As they mature (each at their own pace) slowly allow them to expose them to more and more. Also - they'll be exposed to things by their friends at school with older sisters/brothers. No rush. They have their life ahead of them and have plenty of time to watch Nemo, ET, Lion King etc. Maybe less violent movies at a young age would help their minds to develop compassion, patience an internal sense of peace and security as well as developing their own way of thinking. I'm not surprised lots of parents are outraged about your list. I've been to hell and back and am totally against sheltering my child since it would cripple him in this world. BUT there is a difference between sheltering and making a wise and conscious decision to expose a child to appropriate content by considering their maturity level.
Adult written by kitazari

Watership Down and Grave of the fireflies wouldn't be my first choice for a movie, much less one for kids, but consider this analogy: Parents who sanitize everything their child touches afford them no opportunity to gain immunity and tolerance to so many common pathogens and allergens. Later on in life they may not be able to shrug off exposure to regular dust and germs, suffering heavily from common ailments. So too children and their emotions.If you "immunize" your child by allowing them to experience a wide range of emotions and offer guidance in dealing with these feelings, you'll give them a point of reference when down the road they lose a loved one, have their first break-up, or experience a bout of poor fortune(Having their first inkling that the world isn't as safe or caring as their insular childhood might suggest.). There are many coping methods in this world, and giving your kids some minimally harmful ones is doing them a favor.
Parent written by snakea

Who wrote this article?? I ask as they seem to be off the beaten track..... There are far more harrowing films, that were aimed at kids! I'll mention just one, Watership Down! Why are these not mentioned but yet very tame films are??
Parent written by michelleb2

Up should have a warning for grownups; I think for most kids the opening sequence is not disturbing. My husband and I struggled with infertility before having our son, so the scene of Ellie in the doctor's office after she had been painting a nursery hit way too close to home. I had to leave the room so my son wouldn't see me crying. And when my mom watched it, she had just lost a good friend to terminal cancer and SHE had to leave the room. That five-minute montage has made every adult I know cry their eyes out! Whereas all the kids I've ever seen seem totally nonplussed.
Parent of a 6 year old written by LtTawnyMadison

My husband and I saw UP in the theater and there were two girls, probably 5 and 7, sitting next to me. We were crying when the wife died but not them. But when that bird's leg got hurt, they were really upset and crying.
Teen, 13 years old written by Disneymovielover77

If you watched Tangled Rapunzel's real parents are still alive. I watched E.T when I was about 7 or 6. I do understand about nightmares. I got scared from watching Disney's A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey. I got nightmares from that one. There are a few Disney movies where the parents are still alive like Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and others. What I don't understand is why parents will take a 4 year old to The Hobbit films or scary movies. I watched Narnia when I was about 4 or 5 and I didn't get nightmares from that one. Maybe Passion of the Christ several other pre-teens and teenagers at my school saw it and told me that it was so sad!!!
Teen, 13 years old written by Disneymovielover77

If you watched Tangled Rapunzel's real parents are still alive. I watched E.T when I was about 7 or 6. I do understand about nightmares. I got scared from watching Disney's A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey. I got nightmares from that one. There are a few Disney movies where the parents are still alive like Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and others. What I don't understand is why parents will take a 4 year old to The Hobbit films or scary movies. I watched Narnia when I was about 4 or 5 and I didn't get nightmares from that one. Maybe Passion of the Christ several other pre-teens and teenagers at my school saw it and told me that it was so sad!!!
Teen, 13 years old written by movie refferee

I have many problems with this list. Yes, some of the movies on here are true, but some films like Finding Nemo, My Girl, and Old Yeller are great movies for kids to watch. I do agree that Old Yeller might be to emotional for kids up to 9. The thing is it's not about the content of these KIDS MOVIES, it's about the lessons they can learn. In Finding Nemo yes the mom died, but it is not the main problem in this film. Its teaches you about father son relationships.
Educator written by Pallavi Aggarwal

Hachi: A tale of Dogs I still the movie and its concept. Day before yesterday I just searching some good movie channel and found hbo defined, here "We Bought a Zoo" was coming I watched and reminds the time when I saw it first time. Its really a good movie and scary too for me. :P
Teen, 13 years old written by Darky'sReviews

One movie I would worth consider being put on this list is How To Your Train Your Dragon 2. It's one that many families would be checking out in theaters this summer despite being completely unaware of a tragic death scene that occurs near the end of the film. The battle scenes and the villain can be quite intimidating as well. Another movie worth mentioning is The Little Princess, which is about a rich girl who loses her mother and unborn sister at the start of the film (not seen but is mentioned) and has to go to a boarding school while her father fights in the British army during World War 1. Everything seems to go perfectly fine until the girl's father gets himself brutally injured and is mistaken as dead. The girl then is forced to give up all her luxuries and work as a slave until her father finally recovers and finds her again. After all that girl has been through, I'm amazed that she still remains as kind and sweet as ever, even when she is at her lowest serving as a slave.
Parent of a 6 year old written by LtTawnyMadison

Well, you're 9... plenty old enough for most of these movies! The authors didn't really make it clear but it's mostly aimed at younger kids.
Parent written by FeistyMel

I don't think this article suggests kids should not watch the movies listed. It just warns parents of some (perhaps) unexpected content. With that in mind: "Mars Needs Moms" was traumatic for my son. The mom doesn't die, but she does try to sacrifice her life and for a moment we think she might have too. My son cried during that part, and hasn't watched it again.
Parent written by rkoldewyn

Grave of the Fireflies isn't really meant for young children/children. Yes, it's animated, but in Japan animated doesn't automatically equal meant for kids. I can think of many many animated Japanese TV shows and videos I would not want to show to my child for a large variety of reasons. And quite honestly, if you read the back description of Grave of the Fireflies, it is obvious that this movie is not going to have a happy ending and will be upsetting, heck, it's called "GRAVE" of the fireflies. I can see showing it to my tween, with some prep, since I read Hiroshima in 7th grade, but I wouldn't show it to a younger child ever. For unexpected traumatic parent death I'd like to nominate Fly Away Home. The promos concentrate on the young girl teaching her geese to fly, they don't mention the traumatic death of her mother (as well as her injury) in a car accident at the start of the movie.
Parent of a 6 year old written by LtTawnyMadison

This is in response to those who are criticizing this article for encouraging overprotection. If you click on the links to each movie, you’ll find that all of them were given a ‘green-light’ age of between 4 and 14 (and most under 11), so even CSM is not saying “don’t let children watch these movies EVER.” They probably should have made that more clear in the article. Yes, it would be ridiculous to withhold wonderful works of cinematic art from children indefinitely; deciding which films to watch when is dependent on the child’s age and disposition, which is what this site is all about. I don’t think this article or this site is advocating putting our children in a bubble. In the last paragraph it even stated that "with the right context, facing emotional moments like these as a family can be really important for kids." I am very much opposed to today’s trend of “helicopter parenting,” and the false self-esteem methodology in teaching/coaching etc. However, raising self-reliant, worldly-wise children can be achieved even if they are never allowed to watch any movies at all! Before movies were invented, children were not exposed to hard life realities by any means other than life itself and verbal or written instruction. And yet they were generally taught to be extremely self-reliant and mature at much younger ages than our society’s kids are expected to be. Children should not need fiction to teach them about the realities of life (parents should be doing that) or to experience being scared or sad (life does plenty of that and getting more of it through fiction is superfluous and can be detrimental). Because I am very sensitive and remember being very negatively affected by some films as a child to the point that I had to see a psychologist for my severe nightmares—some that were wildly inappropriate, such as Alien, Alligator and Piranha, and others that would have been okay had I been older—I have made sure to be careful about that with my daughter who is now almost 6. However, we have also been careful to teach her about life in a direct, honest way. When a small pet died, we let her see and touch the body and ask questions about it. We explain what's happening when someone dies and people are sad about it. We will take her with us to funerals. I read age-appropriate reproduction teaching books to her and talk with her about anything she wants to know or discuss, and we use the official terms for all body parts. We do not try to shield her from these things, but rather teach her about them at an age-appropriate level. When it comes to entertainment, a certain amount of shielding is healthy and appropriate. Children have enough real-life fears (creatures or people who will harm them, loss of parents or loved ones, etc) without adding to them through fiction. And as much as possible, they need to learn appropriate behaviors from their parents rather than from shows that may teach things contrary to their family’s values (such as Bratz, etc). And I think helping parents with that is one of the main purposes of this site.
Adult written by Evtops

I am an illustrator who's works in children's media, and over protective pieces like this amazes me every time I read it. By all means try and protect your child from the world. But don't close them off from any and all emotional challenges they might come across, or they will never grow as people. Children NEED to be challenged. We are doing them a great disservice by feeding them fluff for entertainment. Every single title mentioned here is a classic feature often with excellent narratives, that while sometimes present more challenging themes than Barney are ALL completely appropriate for younger audiences. Films and entertainment of this level allow children to be ready to take on even more mature (and not in a bad way) and complex entertainment later, not to mention teaching good morals NOW and introducing some admittedly tough issues via harmless entertainment. Professionally, the over protective attitude taken on today frustrates me. Our children are capable of understanding so much more than we give them credit for these days. How is it even vaguely ok that as a parents we have the right to withhold books and movies from our children that may expand their mental and emotional understanding just because WE are afraid THEY might not be able to handle it? By all means, hold off showing your kids The Godfather or Cannibal Holocaust, but Finding Nemo? Where the red fern grows? Don't let your child avoid challenging media just because it's challenging. If you are concerned that a scene in one of these old movies could maybe scare your child, then be there with her to talk about it. EDIT: I might like to add, that if a piece of media moves you to tears, scares you, or invokes any sort of emotion then it is doing it's job. You are supposed to cry when the dog dies. You are supposed to be scared when the villain come after the hero. If you don't feel anything, then the story has failed you. The fact that a group of people can weave a story and make you feel real emotions for a fake character will never stop being amazing or wonderful!
Teen, 16 years old written by JustaCommenter

I find this article, and the whole nature of it rather disheartening. Many of these movies are timeless classics that deliver incredibly powerful messages, and provide viewers with thoughts and unique perspectives on life in general. But now people are being encouraged to suppress these pinnacles of visual arts in order to preserve the over-sensitized personas of the kids that I myself have to interact with everyday in school, my neighborhood, and on the internet. These films create memories that should be experienced by children from an early age. Movies like Grave of the Fireflies and even Bambi create lasting impressions on children because of how masterfully they care portrayed through the medium of film, and in this case, animation. If children grow in DISTRESS because of this, then that is a result of how they are being parented, and not as a direct result of the films. These films do incite sad tones and bring the viewers to a rather uncensored, if you will, view of reality, but in cases such as this, that is not a bad thing! It is a bad thing if a child is raised all the way to adult-hood, having been instilled with the ideas that life is all sunshine and rainbows, only to then be hit in the face with the actuality of it all, and not have their mother around to cover their eyes. At the very least, parents should expose their children to sadness and teach them how to deal with it while the parents are still able to do it, rather than send them blind into society. Of the twenty movies listed above, I have seen 17. All before I had turned 11. I will go so far as to say that because of these experiences I have grown up with, it has enabled me to take charge of my life at an early age. I got my first job as a basketball referee when I was 14, have taught myself piano since I was 6 at NO insistence from my parents and without lessons, maintain a 4.0 un-weighted GPA in highschool, and have signed myself up for summer school in order to stay ahead of the academical curve, something I pay for myself. I can even cross the street without holding my mom's hand. My point is, independence and self-reliance is one of the most important traits someone can learn growing up and the sooner one can begin learning it, the more time they will have to decide how they will handle life according to their own principals. This article essentially dissuades parents from giving their children a chance to even FORM their own principals, as they will not be able to base them off anything, or at least anything that can correlate with society. Please understand how I am able to make these claims. I am literally the subject of whom the article says needs to be protected and am one who deals with others in such states as I. I can't understand how someone may think they are in a position to denounce the values of great works of art simply because of effects on their children that they view are detrimental, simply because the children are not taught to accept what they see correctly. Honestly, this site is called common sense, so please show some. I only regret not having the time to compose a more lengthy and comprehensive comment, and can only hope that a few will consider what I am trying to say in full. And I apologize to all the kids that will grow up never learning to take off their won training wheels. "I can't imagine how the human species survived thousands of years without helmets, antibacterial lotion, and "everyone's a winner" baseball."
Adult written by Dominicboo1

Everybody lives forever! La-de-da! No...not right...come on parents...death happens and would you want to die unexpectedly and your kids not understanding? I don't think so....
Kid, 12 years old

I'm pretty sure a soccer mom wrote this. I could understand movies like Caroline or Monster House. Most of those movies weren't even MEANT to be dark or scary. Besides, dark children's movies can make them stronger and braver in life rather than just watching Barney all day.
Parent of a 10 and 15 year old written by Peppers68

Add Jack Front to the list starring Michael Keaton. It's about a father, who can't keep his promises, dies in a car accident. One year later, he returns as a snowman, who has the final chance to put things right with his son before he is gone forever. I purchased this at Christmas time last year and we all starting to cry while watching it!! I didn't know the father died in a car accident and returned as a snowman. This movie should have never been made. Geeeze, the death of a parent during the holidays - how horrible is that?
Adult written by Evtops

Now THERE is a movie to not show your kids. In fact, don't show this movie to anyone. That movie has the distinction of being horrible in all meanings of the word. Remake this list, and write "Jack frost" 40 times. That snowman has some of the most terrifying cgi I have seen in years!
Kid, 9 years old

Well sad stuff dosent bother me cuz I know that when someone dies in a movie I know that it's a part of life and on big mirical the baby whale dies and that was sad but I dident cry but when villains die its sometimes violent .
Educator and Parent written by nashibanla

I think all of these are great suggestions. In addition to theme, I think a lot of the loud & different sounds in some of these movies can scare young kids. We recently watched ET with my almost 5 year old, as part of family movie night. And although I knew the plot points to talk about with him, ET's voice scared him to pieces. My son is more on the sensitive yet - but it's something to be aware of :) livingfilms.net
Adult written by Kristen Storm

Another Disney moving even I found grossly disturbing was The Hunch-back of Notre Dame. Quasimodo's mother dying to protect her child, the torture scenes and general belittlement left myself in tears. This should not have EVER been considered a children's movie.
Adult written by Evtops

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a dark feature, but I heartily disagree with you that it shouldn't have been made. It made a massive impact on me, scaring me as a child more than any other Disney film ever had, but I don't think that was a bad thing. As I got older, I became deadset on watching and understanding it, and it eventually became one of my favorite Disney films. It introduced me to some harsh themes that led into my own exploration and appreciation of the source material that I otherwise would have never been exposed to.
Parent of a 5 and 7 year old written by mrsmonners

I was definitely under-informed when my kids started watching these types of movies. My older son struggled a little with FINDING NEMO and actually refused to watch THE LION KING again! A couple more that are definitely worth mentioning are ICE AGE (the little boy's mum floats off down the river after being chased by sabre toothed tigers - 'where did the mummy go?') and ASTRO BOY (the little boy dies right at the start of the movie) and another one where fast forwarding through the first scene (like Nemo) might be a good idea is MONSTERS. Has to be said though that all these movies are great and even watchable as an adult so it's just a case of introducing them at the right age and being willing to talk openly about any troubling events in the movie. In fact they're quite a good way of broaching some of the tricky topics such as death and bereavement.
Kid, 11 years old

Timothy Green, that was a sad one :( I really wasn't surprised tho since kids at school couldn't STAND keeping that secret! Oh and one that is really good (but sad!) is Forrest Gump. It's a classic but has language, death...
Parent of a 11 year old written by kenyadee

I wish my mom had had this list when I was a kid! I cried every time an animal died - including on Little House on the Prairie and the Wonderful World of Disney. I still have a hard time (and now can add when children die on film, too, now that I am a mom).
Parent written by Morwalk

I'm glad you include The Odd Life of Timothy Green. My son (10) cried and said it was the saddest movie he's ever seen. I don't know why they couldn't have made an ending like in the Nanny McPhee movies, where she simply walks off into the distance. Timothy Green should be PG-13, simply for the ending. It's really too bad, too, because the boy is a great role model and an endearing character.
Parent of a 10 and 15 year old written by Peppers68

Thank you for the review. This is one movie I will skip. I thought it was more of a feel good movie. Might watch it as an adult, but, not with my ten year old.
Parent of a 6 year old written by GameboyHippo

While an important movie, I would in no way consider "Grave of the Fireflies" a family movie. While here in the west, we associate animation with either family friendly or adult raunchy comedy; in the east animation can tackle a wide variety of subjects. Grave of the Fireflies deals with the human aspect of collateral damage in war. Definitely not a family movie.
Parent written by dev1450

In general, society has become more liberal and free. Surely every parent experiences movies differently because they themselves are more or less sensitized to what is out there. I have never shown my children, ages 13,11,9 Bambi, Dumbo, ET or Lion King because I remember those very sad feelings as a kid and didn't want my kids to experience those feelings. That being said, I, as a parent, am more able to help my children than my parents were to me. Final word, a neighbor showed me and her daughter, at age 9-10, 'invasion of the body snatchers' and 'stepford wives' and to this day the concepts scare me terribly...
Parent of a 11 year old written by dblatner

We watched Mars Attacks with our two boys, when the younger was 6 or 7. BIG mistake. My wife and I remembered it as being funny and wacky, but it was terribly scary for them both. I think it was after that when we found and started using CommonSenseMedia for almost every movie.
Kid, 10 years old

earth ,Oceans, African Cats, and to the artic should be on DETH OF ANAMIALS
Parent of a 11, 16, 18+, and 18+ year old written by Familycircus

Gremlins should be mentioned - not because of the creatures but because her dad slips and breaks his neck in the chimney trying to play Santa. Finding out there is no Santa when they finally discovered that bad smell is missing dad - not a good kid movie.
Kid, 8 years old

The Lion King, Bambi, Dumbo, they still make my 20-year old sister cry, and my 14-year old sister's scared of it! These are really gut-wrenching, but I suggest The Cat in the Hat (live-action). After the crude humor and language, Sally and Conrad to, basically, get the hell out of here. The Cat looks really sad, and it's just him walking out of there, with a very sad face. But the crude humor and language (and joy) continues with the machine coming in the house with The Cat and Things inside, they're all really happy, and S.H.I.T. .... Pretty potty-mouthing vehicle.
Adult written by drrober

I would add to the animal list the movie Red Dog. It is a sweet story about an Australian dog who was very loyal (but like hachiko, to a deceased owner). Even tho I told my 7 yo that it was about a dog who USED to live and now has a statue in his honor, the scene where he died made my son cry hysterically. He also woke up crying for weeks afterwards, saying he had nightmares about his own dog dying. Also, my 7 & 3 yo boys are dino *fanatics* & wanted to watch Jurassic Park. I told them it was scary & we would turn it off as soon as they got too frightened. My 7 yo hid behind the sofa the whole time but didn't want it turned off... he just wanted updates from us about what was happening! And my 3 yo was on the side of the *dinosaurs*, yelling, "Get those people!" LOL!!! Whodathunkit... sometimes kids' reactions surprise even their parents. :)
Parent written by sloppyjava

I think most folks here really need to think a little harder about the use of the word "traumatized". Seriously? If you have no emotional investment in a character or story, what good is it? I'm not saying that kids should see Saving Private Ryan, but they NEED to feel sadness, fear, joy, love etc. as a part of growing up. Guarding kids from sensitive topics is probably the worst route to take imaginable. When sheltering a child from early exposure to these topics, you shorten your fleeting window of opportunity to, as a parent, bestow your values and beliefs upon the child within the context of the resultant conversation. I seriously doubt most of the helicopter parents here would ever take the plunge and start these all important conversations before it's too late without the help of these films. It's easy to pick a different flick, It's hard to have those talks. Sheltering kids is a cop out.
Parent of a 7 year old written by dulpurp

If you admit "kids" shouldn't see "Saving Private Ryan", then you admit there are limits to what you think is appropriate, and if you have kids of your own you have your own ideas of what those limits are. You also admit that some degree of sheltering is appropriate. Is it appropriate to judge others because they might have different limits? Maybe there ARE parents who think kids should see "Saving Private Ryan"... or parents who object to the crass emotional manipulation of Disney films. Why can't this article just be "information"? Why should "early exposure" to these topics take place in the context of movies? What's wrong with a parent wanting to allow their child to experience, sadness, fear, joy, love, etc. in "real life"?
Adult written by Carbonel

Sheltering kids is our job; just as much as is teaching them to be responsible, competent adults and helping them acquire happy, healthy habits. Just for example: Take a 3-year-old who's been traumatized by watching EMTs take her dad (heart-attack) to the hospital for emergency surgery at o-dark-thirty. Trust me, mom and dad will have had some very important serious conversations with this child about the death of a parent. Does this little girl really need to be horrified next year, watching a flick with a dead parent scene? Not at age 4--! Maybe when she's a little older, yes. A wise parent will shelter her from entertainment that will trigger pain and nightmares. There's a reason we call it "entertainment", folks. Common Sense Media is pointing out the common sense solution to responsible parenting in the media age: know your child. Know what you're watching. Make an informed choice *for your child*.
Educator and Parent of a 11, 14, 16, and 18+ year old written by Sunniemom

The movies that gave me nightmares when I was a kid were "The Wizard of Oz" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". I lived on a farm so the death of animals, while a source of grief, was a natural part of life, and sometimes part of dinner.
Parent of a 8 and 12 year old written by Mommakuh

I feel the need to mention Life Of Pi as far as tragic animal scenes. I am so glad I went to see it first and decided that it would really upset my son, he can wait till he's older if he wants to see it.
Parent of a 8 and 10 year old written by Amalthea

I'm almost 50 years old and "Bambi" still has a strong effect on me. However, it's not the death of Bambi's mother; it's a mostly-forgotten-about (by most people) scene while the hunters are approaching, the pheasants are hiding in the grass, and one of them has a panic attack...*shudder* THAT scene I still find traumatizing!
Parent of a 10 year old written by puchasr

Its' true that some kids are afraid of death, but depending on the parents views and beliefs, kids can handle these scenes on movies. I hold the 7day Adventist church beliefs about death, ( dead people sleep until Christ second coming, there's no ghosts, spirits, etc) my kids love nature shows and understand death is a part of life's cycle on animals as well as people. I agree with the article that some of these movies or tv shoes could be used to teach children about life's events and how to cope with them.
Parent written by MomMP

The list is helpful but it's remarkable how difficult it is to predict how any given kid will respond to a movie. My older daughter never gets scared when she sees things blown up but panics when she sees someone get sick. Here's a good post on the Wizard of Oz--two different kids two different takes http://lunchboxmom.blogspot.com/
Parent of a 8 and 10 year old written by Amalthea

I completely agree with you! My daughters wanted to see "Alice in Wonderland" (Tim Burton's). I watched it first (as usual), and there were 2 scenes that I thought would bother my younger one...and those 2 scenes turned out to be her favorites!
Parent written by CSM Screen name...

I would appreciate a similar post if possible about movies that could affect adopted children in a negative way. Things like death are often 'up front' in reviews but not so much adoption. 'Stuart Little' comes to mind. It was playing at a local theater recently and I considered taking my DD until I read the review on your site which was SO helpful! Is there a way to compile a list of movies that have potential to negatively affect adopted children? Thank you!
Adult written by Sunny Fox

WOW. Kids are REALLY sheltered anymore, judging by some of the movies on this list that are considered "traumatizing". E.T.??? Good LORD. Are parents THIS overprotective? They sure don't make 'em like they used to...guess we were all a lot tougher a few decades ago without all the psycho babble garbage. The idea of being "scarred for life" by a movie is ludicrous. Kids who survived the Holocaust---THAT'S scarred for life, literally and figuratively. If all it takes for today's parents to worry about irreversibly damaging their kid is some lame movie, no wonder the planet is in the state it's in. Better toss out the computers, iPhones, and every other electronic device while you're at it, because just the idea of a kid on Facebook is WAAAY scarier than any classic Disney movie.
Parent of a 7 year old written by dulpurp

There are people who come to this website for information, and there are others who only seem to come here on their high horse. Let it be said that the article says E.T. could "send young fans of the spunky little alien into a tailspin". Also, remember the old adage: the first person to bring up the Holocaust in any argument loses that argument. Consider "Carbonel"s point of view, too. This doesn't have to be an indictment of modern society. Consider what's here... just, information. If you want to show a John Wayne movie to your toddler to prove how tough you are, feel free.
Kid, 12 years old

Also, I recently watched Bambi, and would not reccomend it to young kids ether. I run from the hunters and get back to the cave and hop around and go Hey look how fast I went mom, Hry MOM! and she never comes back? SAD.
Kid, 12 years old

Common sense, i love this list of movies, but a few complaints. A movie about WWII where the kids die at the end does not belong on a children's movie list. The Dumbo scene? GUTWRENCHING! as a child (1st grade) I bawled during these scenes, as it felt so real, and the soundtrack only makes it worse. I would add movies like Gremlins, which has a PG rating, but involves a group of cute fuzzy animals that turn evil and kill people all over the town. Jurassic Park isn't as scary as gremlins, and it involes people being clawed and eaten alive! E. T., for the record can be scary, but I had 0 probs when I was younger. Then I paid more attention. The only scary scenes are when A: Elliot looks for E. T. in some corn and he finds him, screams, and drops his light, potentially disturbing kids. But the big one is before he dies. His brother looks for him and finds a Half-dead pink slan of unsettling fat that happens to be E.T. That traumatized me, but after looking at it again, it seemed fine. NOTE: you WILL cry when E.T. leaves, but I never cry when he dies, because he's not dead. And the scene is too short to induse tears. Overall, one of the greatest movies of all time. The Fox and the Hound made my cry alot in 1st grade, Finding Nemo and Monster's Inc. WILL frighten young one's so if you want to be a responsible parent, save those ones for older kids 7, 8, or mabey even 9 for sensitives. The main problem is Finding Nemo, which a shark attack, where his eyes turn pure black, and a barracuda are both extremely traumatizeing secuences. Also, Toy Story 3 is apparenty SCARY? I hear that all the time, but it being the best movie ever, the only scary parts happen in Imax 3D. A disturbing monkey, and an incinorator, only made scaty by an intense sound track. Finally, UP, which is scary, because it us potentiality more violent than most of Pixar's. Kids won't get most of what happens near the beginning, but after, a man threatens to kill a man and a child with a club, a sword, some scary dogs, and finally, a rifle, only before falling 1000 feet to his death. Then, he leaves his house and all of his only memories tho gently float away, leaving him forever in an extremely potent scene. Toy Story films deal with loss, forgotteness, and rejection, and in the biggest tear-jeaker of any film i've seen in my entire life, Andy gives his toys away, has one last good bye, then leaves them forever, making everyone in the theater bawl their tiny little eyes out, and that includes me!(that scene still makes me teary eyed today.) adding to the animals list, Ramona and Beezus has a sad scene involving the death of a beloved pet. These films and more can be disturbing, tear jearking, gut wrenching, or more, but isn't it ok to leave the theater a little teary eyed, because the emotional films, the ones that invoke feeling, are the ones we care most about.
Teen, 14 years old written by JonahC

Gremlins isn't meant to be scary. My little sister finds it hilarious it was meant to be funny.
Kid, 12 years old

Ok, I honestly don't mean to be rude, disrespectful, or even the least bit snotty, but i just can't take it.....SHUT UP COMMON SENSE!!!!!!! These movies were made for a reason! They are cute and friendly but also have sad parts. Kids need to be aware of this stuff! They need to know that people and animals die and that there's nothing you can really do about it! Life isn't always rainbows and unicorns, people die! I quote John Bender from The Breakfast Club: "Screws fall out. The world is an imperfect place." This is true! Kids need to know the difference between fantasy and real life. In real life, people and animals die, are treated unfairly, and suffer. I'm not trying to be cruel, but this stuff happens and your kids need to be exposed to reality!
Adult written by Titusaki

Well none of these movies have scarred me or anyone I know. Some of these are pretty good movies in my opinion. But if there are people who do not like sad movies, or just certain things inside the movies, then they should not watch them or have their children watch them. I watched Titanic and I was fine, my favourite movie as a child was the Little Mermaid and I was fine, I watched ET and I was fine and so on. If you have a child that gets easily tramatized by anything and everything, then dont let them be around certain things.
Parent written by MommyX3boys

I have three young boys who own and have watched most of the movies listed above and who, have never been afraid of anything in the movies. A child should not be sheltered from these movies for the sheer fact that learning about death, divorce, cancer, the loss of a pregnancy ( which the movie UP shows but doesn't discuss ) is important for a child to know about. What happens when a loved one passes away or parents separate? Children should have a base knowledge even in its simplest form of these things. I understand its only normal to want to protect our children from these topics but they are a fact of life. I believe that the movies listed above are perfectly fine for a child to watch. Some of the movies are meant for older children and yes we as parent should wait to let our children watch some of them but as for Megamind, UP, The Lion King and others like these are fine for a child.
Parent written by elsaluvsyah

I was thinking the same, some of these movies bring up questions and I personally believe that's a good thing. If someone shelters their children from animated films just because a character gets lost or hurt or possibly dies, then what about when a family member passes due to an accident, sickness or age? Its good to talk about some of these topics with your children. My own personal opinion is this list is a bit of an exaggeration.
Parent written by elsaluvsyah

I was thinking the same, some of these movies bring up questions and I personally believe that's a good thing. If someone shelters their children from animated films just because a character gets lost or hurt or possibly dies, then what about when a family member passes due to an accident, sickness or age? Its good to talk about some of these topics with your children. My own personal opinion is this list is a bit of an exaggeration.
Parent of a 12 and 16 year old written by Abigail10

Each child is different about what they find scary. WE took our eldest to the cinema for the first time when he was 4 - unfortunately we had chosed Disney's Dionsaur. Luckily it was pointed out to us just before we went that it was a PG not a U as we had assumed. He found the adverts quite scary, and the beginning bit with the egg getting lost really scared him so we had to leave. When he was 5 we went to see MOnsters Inc, and although he found bits scary we stayed - kept telling him it would have a happy ending. When he was nearly 11 he went to see Polar Express for a friend's birthday party - but it was at the IMAX and in 3D - it was so loud and big and scary that he wanted to leave - but he couldn't as friend had to stay to supervise the others. I would never have guessed it would scare him by then, and I think if it had been at a normal multiplex with smaller screen or on TV he would have been fine. You can't always tell what they will find scary, and whether that is a bad thing depends really on their age and maturity. The same boy just a few months later saw Hot Fuzz at another friend's birthday (bynow he was 11) and he loved it, even though that is a 15. My youngest son was equally sensitive with some films, and was totally traumatised by Coraline which he say at his Godmother's with her daughter who is 18 months younger than him. He was 10 or 11 at the time. If she had told me that was what they were going to watch I probably would have said no as had seen what it was about and thought it lookedtoo scary for my kids. He had trouble sleeping for days after - for months even to mention the film was traumatic. Would definitely put that on a list of films to be careful about.
Kid, 12 years old

This isn't AS hard for kids once you get up to 11 and become cynical. Maybe some of it went over my head 8 years back, and so I managed to live through it. EXPOSE THE KIDS TO THE FILMS WHEN THEY ARE 4, AND SHOW THEM OVER AND OVER! You'll be doing me a favor.
Teen, 14 years old written by Sol9000

Only film that has ever scared me from start to finish was 9, and in that film, EVERYTHING WAS ALREADY DEAD. xD
Kid, 11 years old

"We Bought A Zoo" killed me. I normaly don't cry in movies, but I sobbed when the son started screaming at his dad. Beware of that one..
Teen, 15 years old written by sisterwhocares

Great article! I still remember crying at the end of Marley and Me-- just so sad! For parents, here are some hanky-pullers I highly recommend for family movie night: Mrs. Doubtfire (12+, deals with divorce), Beaches (13.5+, very sweet and sad scenes, including an upsetting death), Courageous (11.5+, great Christian movie but also has upsetting death of a child), October Baby (13+, another great Christian movie, deals with abortion).
Parent of a 7, 12, and 16 year old written by styxrox69

Mars Needs Moms, of course we all need mommy right? Well Mommy get's mom-napped, she sacrifices herself for her son but lives, is unconcious and almost killed and in constant peril throughout the movie. My 3 girls and son are tough kiddos, but all of them were sobbing and frantic to hold Mommy during the last half of the movie. I CRIED! Children were even coming to me to hold me. Be warned. Excellent animation, great story, some heavy themes though.
Parent written by stellasowner

I believe that "desensitization" is another pitfall to watch out for. Maybe these movies didn't bother you or your kids, but each time the viewer becomes a bit more 'hardened'. After years of watching murders, animal abuse, violence, scary scenes, etc. the viewer does not seem visibly affected by 'anything' shown on the screen anymore. That is sad! For me, preserving a child's innocence and tenderness is important.
Adult written by Pandallin

I’m doing a research project that analyzes how death is conceptualized for children in movies. Participation in my project would be greatly appreciated. I just have a few questions. How did movies like these shape your personal understanding of death concepts? How do you think they've helped the children in your life to understand death and dying? Do you think death concepts in children's movies are accurate and appropriate? Which concepts are present? Which ones are missing?
Teen, 15 years old written by sisterwhocares

@Pandallin: I'd be happy to help, thanks for posting! Movies shape my personal understanding of death concepts by making me realize that death can happen to anyone, and it always comes when you least expect it. They help children understand this difficult concept to swallow by giving a hard, but realistic, viewpoint of death as it is: horrible, not glamorous. In many movies today, death in action movies is rarely seen as sad; it's just part of the plot. However, the gritty realism of these selected movies help kids understand that death is harder to take than it appears in the action movies. The realistic concepts in these movies cover the basics: death is hard, it can happen to anyone, it is usually unexpected. The only concept I can think of that is missing is the fact that as much as death can break us, death can shape us as well, making us stronger and more compassionate to human suffering. The death concepts in these movies and their level of appropriateness varies from age-to-age and child-to-child. Some children are more sensitive than others, and before letting their child watch a movie with them, parents must watch it first and use their discretion to determine if it is appropriate for their child to watch.
Educator and Parent of a 9 and 15 year old written by springglen

Movie studios should be more attentive and sensitive to potentially disturbing scenes for children. I believe children should be exposed to scary or sad subjects to strengthen them for the hard parts of life, but (1) some scenes could have been handled more appropriately. I wish I had seen your review of Fly Away Home before we took our children years ago. The movie started off with a graphic scene of the fatal car accident that took Mom's life. It could have been presented in a different way. "Edgy" shouldn't be a given in family movies (2) Give parents a clue that a movie like My Dog Skip is going to be realistic and sad by not making deceptive commercials and trailers! These are older movies, but the impact still resonates.
Teen, 13 years old written by FILMCRITIC500

this is pathetic! i never cry during films, nontheless these crud-filled messes. besides, all the films from this list that i saw, all the scenes you mentioned made me laugh. they were all so pathetic!
Educator written by Kelly Sue Mothe...

Add Hocus Pocus to the list. With all of the Halloween movies playing on TV right now, we turned on this movie. The witches suck the life out of the little girl at the beginning, and my 11-year-old son was very upset by that. We turned the channel, and he said no more movies where people die. I agreed.
Parent written by JW Parent Coach

Thank you for this post. I appreciate this site's approach to media and screens. They are a huge part of our lives and they aren't going anywhere, but we do need to make intelligent thoughtful choices about our children's use of them. Your posts are always informative and reasonable. Your media information combined with a parent's knowledge of their child is a good way to make informed decisions.
Teen, 13 years old written by youngmau5

i find that your selection is a little exagerated,when i was 6 i watched the harry potters that where out then,and i wasn't left with a scare OR a scar
Parent written by fabfourmom

I loved the Benji movies when I was a kid, and my girls are huge animal lovers, so I thought they'd love it. Turns out one of the bad guys kicks Tiffany across the room and she appears to be dead. They burst into tears asking me why I would "want them to watch such a horrible mean movie?" Did not see that coming!
Educator and Parent written by KristenMama

I have to add A Fox and A Child. This is a wonderful french movie with gorgeous cinematography and a nice slow pace but there is one scene in which the fox becomes frantic in a bedroom and falls out the window (seemingly to its death.) My daughter (9) and I were very upset by this and even after we learned that the fix was ok we felt traumatized.
Parent of a 4 year old written by goldn80s

Thank you common sense for putting this out there. It's true, there are alot of the movies mentioned on the list that I can't handle cause of the tragedy. I can always remember how really emotional I would get. When I look back I think "that was really strong for me to see".
Parent of a 9 and 9 year old written by bumpkin

For those parents with newly adopted kid(s) there are certain movies that do cause - I won't say traumatize - extra stress during what should be a pleasant and entertaining experience. In this category I place "Meet the Robinsons" where the protagonist goes back in time to find his birth mother giving him away. Another two would be "Megamind" (an orphan) and "Despicable Me" where three orphans that are treated despicably by the social worker and punished horrifically by the system. This last story's depictions of the adoption system may or may not be accurate in real life, but certainly not appropriate for adopted kids as they try to make sense and transition into a new family! There should be a new rating category which notifies parents about "Adoption Themes".
Parent written by d's mom

I agree that this would be very nice since a surprising number of children's movies touch on this theme. It's easy to get blindsided by an adoption/orphan theme or even just a negative throw away line, such as in The Lorax. I think a lot of us who are adoptive parents wish there was a more efficient way of finding out ahead of time than simply word-of-mouth!
Kid, 11 years old

Okay, I'm a kid and saw almost all the movies and I've haven't cried to them! Saw Finding Nemo when I was young it never made me cry. Bambi hasn't. The land before time was sad never cried at that. But in the 10th film, Littlefoot find his dad and that made me think that it was sad because all this time he never knew his father. Once scene I felt bad when Littlefoot said to his father, "Where were you all this time when mother died? Where were you?" but I've never cried. Lion king is my favorite movie but I've never cried but I felt bad for Simba because he never knew Scar killed Mufasa, not him but in the end he knows and tries to exile Scar but, Scar attacks him, ready to kill him. Never saw Dumbo but,the trailer has made me cry. Cried on Charlotte's web the new version. We rented it on demand when I was 4 and cried like a baby. Saw We bought a zoo. Almost cried. I never liked that one.
Kid, 12 years old

I think you guys are great for putting that stuff on your website its cool how you got a website so cool.Can you give me some space on your website to get some cool kid games pllllllllllease.
Parent of a 10 and 12 year old written by 3bluelphs

If it hasn't been said I'd just like to throw "Big Miracle" out there. My son was convinced Bambam was not really gone. So we had to have a heart to heart about how not every in life ends on a truly happy note. Still it was a good life lesson he was ready for. I'm only thankful I didn't let him watch it without a parent.
Educator and Parent of a 9 year old written by mpls_nic

The worst part about Up for my then 7 year old son was the revelation that The Childhood Hero was really The Bad Guy, and a pretty darn scary one at that.
Adult written by ATMT

So glad you have "Marley and Me" on the list - not only because of the demise of Marley (we never even got to that scene which is at the end of the movie). The movie contains many adult themes like relationship difficulties, some skinny dipping, and even a stabbing! A disastrous family film evening! After "Marley and Me" we started using Common Sense (so I guess some good came out of it...).
Parent of a 4 and 6 year old written by sahmcolorado

I agree with a previous poster, that death is something that is part of life. It does not have to be traumatizing, but I think the writer of this piece is mostly referring to children who are not ready to see it in an otherwise child friendly movie. We found Benji to be really upsetting. The children are kidnapped, but the worst part was when the kidnappers kicked Benji's dog friend and injured her badly. I had not remembered that scene from when I was a kid and it really caught us by surprise. Amazing that I didn't remember it, since they replay it over and over! Luckily, our kids were too young at the time to understand kidnapping.
Parent of a 7 and 9 year old written by lbow

This article is great. Not all children are exposed to the same topics or have experienced the same things at the same age. Therefore, being exposed to it the first time in a film can be very traumatic to some kids. I've been so happy to have Common Sense to turn to so that I can see all the perspectives on a film. Learning about the tone of a movie or the scenes let's me know if it's something that we want to watch or at least I can be prepared for a topic that will require discussion. The more information I have on a film and it's possible influence is just what I'm looking for!
Parent written by CSM Screen name...

My daughter was ten when the movie Coraline came out, and she was completely traumatizied by it. That sinister Other Mother, and the whole button eyes thing just about did her in! She is rarely affected by the content of most movies, so I was completely blindsided by her reaction to that one.
Parent of a 8 and 10 year old written by Amalthea

My daughter, age 10, saw Coraline with friends, and loved it. She also loves La La Loopsy dolls. I asked her if it bothered her...she said no.
Parent written by dfahn

Oh yeah, forget about it - totally creeped us out. And she HATES Lalaloopsy dolls - because they have button eyes!
Parent of a 10 and 12 year old written by KSwartz

Ooookaaaay. I have to admit that when I first read this I couldn't believe the stuff listed, most of which my children managed to watch without falling apart. But, as one commenter said, people are insane enough to take 3 year olds to see Harry Potter, a movie that doesn't even begin to look suitable for kids that young. Be sensitive to your child's particular emotional makeup but know that you can't always predict what will bother them. My 12 year old can't watch the part of The Christmas Story where the little boy gets his tongue stuck to the flagpole. Freaked her out. Also, I made the mistake when she was little of telling here that Jesus was watching over her. Thought it would make her feel safe but it scared the heck out of her. Usually I just talk to them a bit about death and dying when it comes up in movies. Several family members have died, and my youngest almost died at birth, so they've already been traumatized by real life, I guess.
Parent of a 12 and 13 year old written by tough cookie

Two Brothers. Heartwarming story with a happy ending, but very upsetting to our daughter, then 8 yrs., when the father is killed and the cubs are captured and separated.
Parent of a 10 year old written by hzg

The Firehouse Dog (2007) is the movie that disturbed my then 5-year-old's sleep for weeks and then, sporadically for a year. There is a long scene in the movie where the main boy character is in the firehouse engulfed in flames with the bad guy. The fire was set by the bad guy who is an arsonist. My son was afraid of our house being set on fire and losing me. Commonsense media's blurb says: "Equal parts dog adventure and father-son tale" and never mentions the "deadly" arsonist. "Traumatic" for our son? Yes. For every 5 year old? Maybe not, but it just reenforces the fact that there can be land mines in many "family" movies that you might step on. At 10 years old, this would not bother my son, but he is now old enough to separate reality from make-believe. Parents be aware.
Parent written by Choose Movement

I would add Close Encounters With The Third Kind. After reading on another website for parents that this movie would be appropriate for our children's age group (ages 5 and 9), and even was given a very positive recommendation, we watched it as a family. We parents had seen it ages ago, but didn't remember it much. We were surprised to see that the main father character undergoes a strange and disturbing obsession / depression, he ceases to function in daily life and gets fired from his job, the mother leaves him with the children, the father then finds a new woman friend and never sees his wife and children again. The thing wraps up with the father deciding to board the alien space ship and leave Earth and his family entirely. It all seemed at least potentially quite upsetting to some children.
Parent of a 4, 6, 8, and 11 year old written by Zedabeth

I'm anything but a helicopter parent. I believe in letting my kids make mistakes and learn from them. But there's nothing "helicopter" about being aware of movie themes that may shock young children. The article didn't give age ranges or absolutes. It simply reminded the reader of themes and movies to be mindful of. The notion that all children can handle any scene so long as their parent is sitting beside them is without scientific or experiential basis. (As for movies, I mistakenly took my kids to "Brave", which was much different from the ads. The whole movie was upsetting to my kids, but especially the scene where Merida has to keep her father from killing her mother with a spear. Go figure. Daylight or nightime won't make a difference on that one. Trust me.)
Parent of a 8 and 10 year old written by Amalthea

My daughters LOVED "Brave"...I was the one who had a problem with it, but it was because it brought up some mother/daughter issues I had as a young woman. I was a wreck by the end, but the girls were fine.
Adult written by Pnkprplorg

Oh yes, you missed one! How about Lilo & Stitch? I will never forget our little girls' '1st movie'. UGH!! All the ads made it seem like a cute little story about a sweet little Hawaiian girl. Well, WHY do they make coming attractions so deceiving, if that's not even the audience they're looking for?! It started out with aliens! My little girls were SO confused! Then it goes right to a scene of that 'sweet' little Hawaian girl beating up a girl in her dance class! Then we find out her parents died recently & she & her big sis are fending for themselves! Then, (not even addressing her rude behavior to her bis sis!), they attempt to separate her from her big sis!! AND their house goes up in FLAMES (SO NOT a happy scene!!!). And, THEN... her alien friend is taking away!! Sheesh... how much TRAUMA does a child need in ONE movie?!!! And, btw, what's up with Disney movies & the mom always either dying or being evil??? WHY IS THAT???
Parent written by heather s

What a disappointing article. Death is a natural part of living and many, many children experience the death of a loved one at an early age. Watching a movie where a character dies doesn't have to be traumatic. I would have preferred to read a more mature, thoughtful approach to this subject; one that focused on movies with real traumatizing components such as violence, intentional cruelty, or scenes designed to scare children. There are plenty of them out there. I hope that commonsense decides to show some common sense by removing this piece from their site and rewriting it with a broader perspective about what is truly traumatizing to kids and their families.
Parent written by robotclam

*Grave of the Fireflies* is not, in any way, shape, or form, a kids' movie. It's an adult movie that happens to be animated, a more common form in Japan than in the United States. It is a wrenching, harrowing war movie, a real masterpiece, but way too brutal and realistic for any but the most mature teenagers. I'm alarmed by this article's lumping it together with *Bambi* and *Marley and Me.* It's on a whole different level.
Parent written by PositiveActionParent

I am not surprised to see classics, even modern ones, in your list. Western Society is so distanced death and loss that children get little exposure other than the heightened-drama movie version. Avoid "helicopter parenting"! I DO agree--don't let kids watch these alone--grab the popcorn & tissues and join them. Kids need to experience feelings in a safe context, namely with Mom & Dad at the movies to help them.
Adult written by kaizanmom

To the comment about traumatize being too strong a word: my 8-yr-old daughter and I have been going through 5 wks straight of not being able to put herself back to sleep because she was scared by a Sat afternoon TV commercial at a friend's house. Several years ago it was nightmares of me dying that made sleeping difficult. I think articles like this are useful for parents to know what to expect. Whether we watch them with our kids or don't let them watch at all depends on the sensitivity of our children. Not letting them watch doesn't mean we're helicopter parenting, just that you might not want to go through 5wks and counting of waking up in the middle of the night to comfort your child. I'd also add Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the list - my preschooler son was very disturbed by the idea of children being kidnapped.
Parent of a 8 and 11 year old written by wdhoke

I'm so glad you mentioned Grave of the Fireflies. Been there, done that! It is a brilliant movie, but probably the most tragic one I've ever seen. Devastatingly sad!
Adult written by eeyore004

I think the compiler of this list has made the common mistake in assuming that all animated films are family films. "Grave of the Fireflies" is NOT a family film; what family sits down for a night of animated homeless children in World War 2 Japan? The fact that it doesn't have a rating should be warning enough for any sensible parent.
Adult written by Ccharron

Another "not for kids" movie is the Harry Potter series. The mature themes are definitely not meant for younger viewers but I was stunned to see kids as young at 3 and 4 in the theatre watching them. And then being taken out of the theatre part way through because they couldn't stop screaming in fear. Not a pleasant memory for those poor kids. :( And I do think traumatize is the right word, my 4 year old son had nightmares about fires and his mom (me) dying for MONTHS after a well-meaning adult let him watch Bambi. He's still afraid of fire (beyond the usual caution) at age 11.
Teen, 14 years old written by JonahC

WHAT! Harry Potter is the best! Why do all these cheesy critics treat it like the antichrist! Its not that bad!
Parent written by smurraynarb

We took our daughter to see "Brave" and had to leave the theatre because she was absolutely terrified of the Mother Bear as she became more "bear-like". I think we'll try it again when it comes out on DVD, where it won't be quite so big, loud and dark, and we'll be able to pause it to explain what is happening. Even then, I am sure we will watch it during the day.
Parent written by dfahn

I totally agree! We had no idea from the ads (girl power, archery, a few shots of bears) that the mother/bear would be SO truly frightening!!! I was a bit shocked at the freaky-scariness - we were completely caught unawares, and had to hide our eyes during those scenes!
Educator and Parent written by agervais

The Hunger Games is another good movie to be on this list. Many of my friends have let their children watch it, but I'm not sure my own kids can handle a movie about a society that kills kids for entertainment.
Parent of a 15 and 18+ year old written by LMmom64

Don't forget "The Yearling". The boy in that loses his friend, his father almost dies from a rattlesnake bite, and he has to kill the deer he has raised because the deer is eating their crops. Gut-wrenching for sure, but an excellent coming of age movie. Personally, I don't really consider "Stepmom" a family film-- it deals with some pretty mature themes.
Parent of a 6 and 10 year old written by JRThall

Little Mermaid. No parent dies...no one really dies except Ursula. Safe movie, right? Well, for children under 7, apparently the choice for Ariel to leave her Father and her sisters to live with Erik on land is incredible traumatizing...at least for my kids. That scene where she is waiving good by to her family from the ship, my kids cried. All they kept saying is, "Why is she staying on the ship, she will never see her family again!". So much for a happy ending. This article is spot on. Do not underestimate our kids inability to even consider life without their parents...or their pets. Good job Common Sense Media!
Parent of a 15 and 18+ year old written by LMmom64

I didn't want my daughter watching "The Little Mermaid". I thought she was a terrible role model. She lies to her father, runs away from home, and changes everything about herself to be with a man she's never really met ( he was unconscious when she saved him)-- but she thinks he's cute. Now Belle, on the other hand, reads incessantly, sticks to the way she is, and falls in love with someone who isn't attractive on the outside. She doesn't want anything to do with the town hunk who is a jerk. Much better role model, in my book.
Adult written by eeyore004

I can't say Belle is a great role model either. She stays in an abusive relationship and he changes through the tremendous power of her love for him. She also wants to see the world. . . but then she gets married. So much for that. *wince*
Parent of a 2 and 8 year old written by lppence

This summer my 8 year old son came strolling in the room while we were watching Titanic. I didn't expect the show to catch his interest, but he stuck around and watched with us. A couple of scenes he was inconspicuously sent out of the room to grab a soda and such... Any how, at the point the ship was about to go down, my son freaked out and asked that we immediately change the channel. It scared him to death! Later that summer, while on vacation, we made a stop at the USS Alabama. My son was terrified and refused to stay aboard. It was unbelievable to me that this movie, Titanic, had planted this fear...! I totaly did not see that coming! I feel really bad about having let him watch what I thought was a harmless love story...
Parent of a 4 year old written by FumblingAngel

I think all of these are great suggestions. In addition to theme, I think a lot of the loud & different sounds in some of these movies can scare young kids. We recently watched ET with my almost 5 year old, as part of family movie night. And although I knew the plot points to talk about with him, ET's voice scared him to pieces. My son is more on the sensitive yet - but it's something to be aware of :)
Parent of a 9 and 12 year old written by alexpa66

I would not let my kids watch ET until in their teens. Besides what is mentioned in the article here, there are lots of other reasons to not let young kids watch, like bad language and inappropriate behavior. Another one to watch out for is Bad News Bears. A friend of mine let her kids watch, having forgotten the bad language, drinking, and smoking. A lot of movies from the 70s and 80s that were for families at that time are now considered too adult.