Do NOT Screen for Kids


“I don’t know how much movies should entertain.
To me, I’ve always been interested in movies that scar.
The thing I love about Jaws is the fact that I’ve
never gone swimming in the ocean again.”
– David Fincher

A recent study by the universities of Michigan and Wisconsin yielded a report titled, quite simply, “Scary movies can have lasting effects on children and teens.” The researchers found 90 percent of the study’s participants (college students) reported a traumatic reaction after viewing select films during their childhood. About 26 percent still experience “residual anxiety,” according to the report, which continued by printing a list of symptoms longer than Ephedra. Had they seen any of the films listed below as children, my response would be, “No shit.”

The researchers categorized the participants’ phobia-producing stimuli into five categories: animals (Jaws, Tremors, Gremlins), environmental (Grave of the Fireflies), blood/injury (It, Child’s Play, Friday the 13th), situational (Marathon Man, M, Happiness), and aural/visual disturbance (The Piano, Pretty Baby). The moral of the report is quite simple – if you allow your children to see these, they’ll probably be scarred for life.

Battle Royale (2000): Imagine Lord of the Flies with combat weapons and multiply it by 10.

Better Off Dead (1985): A first break-up is tough, and though this movie comically parodies that pain, kids may need to be a bit older to see the humor in suicide.

Child’s Play (1988): Gift-giving seasons will become extra hard when your kids refuse to have creepy dolls in the house.

Clueless (1995): This excellent modern adaptation of Emma and parody of spoiled high schoolers may be lost on youngsters, who will emulate the behavior thinking it’s cool.

The Devil’s Backbone (2001): While I encourage all adults to see this one over The Ring or The Grudge, kids will freak out at this summer camp from hell.

Frailty (2001): This crazy movie by Bill Paxton has him playing a widowed father of two boys that believes he is charged by God to kill demons with the help of his youngsters.

Friday the 13th (1980): Try convincing children to head off to a summer camp after this one.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988): This entrancing anime film about war, which was double-billed with My Neighbor Totoro, has managed to be more depressing than The Deer Hunter.

Grease (1980): It may seem harmless enough – a celebrated musical that led to the Disney High School Musical series – but there’s a lot of sexual situations to explain.

Grizzly Man (2005): That’s right kids, you can walk right up to bears and pet them …

Happiness (1998): An almost empathetic profile of a child rapist. It’s touching … literally.

Harold and Maude (1971): Mommy, daddy, can we see this dark comedy about a suicidal teen who falls in love with a 79 year-old woman?

Heathers (1988): When your child has a grudge with kids at school, this movie could convince them that murder is the answer.

Heavenly Creatures (1994): A vicious mixture of homoerotic friendship and twisted imaginations lead two 15-year-old girls to murder a parent.

If … (1968): Lindsay Anderson’s classic satire might be over the heads of your kids, and they may realize their school system needs a machine gun-fueled revolt.

Jaws (1975): Even you will think twice about going in the water after this one.

It (1990): The circus and parades will no longer be fun after this clown killer horror flick.

Life is Beautiful (1997): Imagine explaining the Holocaust after this feel-good film.

Leon: The Professional (1994): When Natalie Portman’s teacher asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, she said “a hit man.”

Let the Right One In (2008): A young boy makes friends with a young gal vampire. And it’s harmless for a while …

Lolita (1961): Preteen girl meets middle-aged man, need I go further?

M (1931): Fritz Lang’s classic flick follows a compulsive child killer. Not exactly toddler fodder.

Marathon Man (1976): Try getting a kid to the dentist after this one.

Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005): Miranda July’s inspired modern classic throws two typical children into the wild world of online chat rooms.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939): Gives children false hope concerning politics.

My Life as a Dog (1985): Sex with a beer-bottle, peeping in on a nude artist, old men who enjoy magazine descriptions of undergarments, need I say more?

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006): Proves real life is scarier than all of Grimm’s Fairy Tales combined.

The Piano (1993): Kids will think tattle tales and peeping toms will be punished by getting their parents’ fingers cut off.

Pretty Baby (1977): Replace “a hit man” in the Leon explanation with “a whore.”

Rebel Without a Cause (1955): This is an iconic movie to enjoy as a teenager, but early exposure may lead to knife fights, early hormones, and chicky runs.

Shogun Assassin (1980): A great way for a toddler to learn counting to upwards of 350, just like the main character here does, as his samurai father kills that many ninja villains while avenging his wife’s murder. Knowledge is brutal!

Song of the South (1946): Revising pre-Civil War relations between plantation owners and their slaves was a bad, bad idea.

Team America: World Police (2004): Just because it stars marionettes doesn’t mean they can’t swear, smoke, drink, puke, or have filthy filthy sex.

Tremors (1990): The man-eating worms give video game-aholics a reason not to go outside.

Tron (1982): This movie is awful. Just awful. Don’t watch it. I beg you.

Twilight series (2008-2012): Rumor is any preteen and teenage girl that watches this is guaranteed to fall deeply in love with vampires or werewolves or Hot Topic or all of the above.

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995): Budding sexual curiosity, torment, and rebellion – ah, middle school.