12/10/2013 11:01 am ET Updated Feb 09, 2014

40 Movies You (Might) Regret Showing Your Kids

Blend Images - Don Mason via Getty Images

By Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media movie editor

It's impossible to avoid every potentially upsetting/awkward scene in every movie your kids will ever see. But before you push play or buy a ticket, check out detailed movie reviews to get a heads-up on potential red flags. Watch with your kids, and be ready to offer a comforting hug or pause the movie to talk about why a scene was sad, scary or strange. 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 "blindside" moments -- especially the sad or scary ones -- as a family can be really important in helping kids develop a solid foundation for coping with life's inevitable ups and downs.

  • 1 Bambi
    Why you should watch out: 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. Read the full review.
  • 2 Dumbo
    Why you should watch out: 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. Read the full review.
  • 3 Finding Nemo
    Why you should watch out: 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. Read the full review.
  • 4 The Land Before Time
    Why you should watch out: Young dinosaur Littlefoot's mother is killed by an aggressive T-rex in this otherwise generally upbeat prehistoric adventure. Read the full review.
  • 5 The Lion King
    Why you should watch out: Not only does Simba's dad get trampled to death by a herd of stampeding wildebeests, but Simba unfairly blames himself for the tragedy. Read the full review.
  • 6 Stepmom
    Why you should watch out: This story about a family dealing with divorce and remarriage takes a tragic turn when the kids' mom is diagnosed with fatal cancer. Read the full review.
  • 7 We Bought a Zoo
    Why you should watch out: 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. Read the full review.
  • 8 Up
    Why you should watch out: 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. Read the full review.
  • 9 Bridge to Terabithia
    Why you should watch out: 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! Read the full review.
  • 10 Grave of the Fireflies
    Why you should watch out: Beautifully animated but unrelentingly sad, this heartbreaking WWII-set anime tale centers on two children -- brother and sister -- who sicken and die. Read the full review.
  • 11 My Girl
    Why you should watch out: 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. Read the full review.
  • 12 The Odd Life of Timothy Green
    Why you should watch out: 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. Read the full review.
  • 13 E.T.
    Why you should watch out: 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 has, and those few moments can be enough to send young fans of the spunky little alien into a tailspin. Also, plenty of kids who love the little alien are still afraid that he might be living with their stuffed animals in the closet... Read the full review.
  • 14 Charlotte's Web
    Why you should watch out: When Wilbur's dear friend and constant champion weaves her last web after doing so much for others, many kids are caught unprepared. Read the full review.
  • 15 Marley & Me
    Why you should watch out: Many families decided to watch this based-on-a-true-story tale because of ads featuring silly dog antics... and were left distraught by Marley's sad death. Read the full review.
  • 16 My Dog Skip
    Why you should watch out: Skip is another movie dog who ultimately dies of old age -- but not before being bullied, beaten and nearly perishing in some very sad scenes. Read the full review.
  • 17 Old Yeller
    Why you should watch out: 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. Read the full review.
  • 18 Where the Red Fern Grows
    Why you should watch out: 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. Read the full review.
  • 19 The Fox and the Hound
    Why you should watch out: The main animal characters in this movie don't die, but they aren't allowed to be friends anymore, either, and their enforced separation is really hard for young kids to take. Read the full review.
  • 20 Big
    Why you should watch out: Another '80s Tom Hanks classic, this PG-rated comedy includes a kid (Hanks' character's best friend) using "f--k," plus a few "goddamn"s, "a--hole," "bastard" and more. Watch out for a fair bit of smoking, innuendo ("I get to be on top!") and even a scene in which Hanks -- playing a 12-year-old boy trapped in a man's body -- touches his love interest's breast. Read the full review.
  • 21 Ghostbusters
    Why you should watch out: Bill Murray's dialogue alone has plenty of double entendres, but the real eyebrow-raisers in this 1984 supernatural comedy are the scenes in which it's implied that Dan Aykroyd's character receives oral sex from a ghost and in which Sigourney Weaver's character, while possessed, writhes around and asks Murray to have sex with her. Read the full review.
  • 22 Grease
    Why you should watch out: Most of the strong language in this perennial favorite is in the racy song "Greased Lightning" -- from "s--t" to "p---y wagon" -- but a lot of it is said/sung so quickly that kids might not pick it up. Characters also say "crap," "ass" and "God" (as an exclamation). And then there's all the smoking, flirting and virginity-mocking in this classic 1970s musical, as well as a teen pregnancy subplot that involves discussion of a broken condom and having a "bun in the oven." Read the full review.
  • 23 Parenthood
    Why you should watch out: This 1989 Steve Martin comedy is about a big family and has lots of kid actors, but it's rated PG-13 and there are plenty of references to sex -- including between teens -- as well as a very memorable scene in which the power goes out and someone grabs what they think is a flashlight but is definitely not. Read the full review.
  • 24 Airplane!
    Why you should watch out: The granddaddy of all spoof movies may be rated PG, but it's from 1980, before the PG-13 rating existed. And it has plenty of innuendo -- not to mention a scene with a brief glimpse of a topless woman. Read the full review.
  • 25 Sixteen Candles
    Why you should watch out: Most of us probably do think of this as a teen movie, but lest you be tempted to put it on for younger kids due to the PG rating (another relic of the pre-PG-13 era), don't forget about the scenes involving a teen girl's panties going on display to a group of guys, a girl's naked torso in the shower and the strong implication of drunken sex. Read the full review.
  • 26 Beauty and the Beast
    Why you should watch out: From the angry mob storming Beast's castle to the rooftop battle in the rain, there's plenty here to keep kids on edge. Sure, it's a Disney princess movie, but the scene in which everyone participates in the rousing number "Gaston" has a surprising amount of jiggly cleavage on display, courtesy of the buxom barmaids. Read the full review.
  • 27 Annie
    Why you should watch out: The climactic moments in which Annie flees from her captors by climbing up a raised railway drawbridge is the kind of peril that can leave young children cowering. Read the full review.
  • 28 Brave
    Why you should watch out: Pixar's mother-daughter tale is beautifully animated, but the scenes that feature large, angry bears may leave you ducking for cover. Read the full review.
  • 29 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
    Why you should watch out: This fantastical tale of a flying car features a supremely creepy "child catcher" character who could be the stuff of nightmares for sensitive kids. Read the full review.
  • 30 Curious George
    Why you should watch out: George getting caged up and sent to the jungle might be too distressing for the youngest viewers. Read the full review.

About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go