Are Classic Christmas Movies Too Scary for Today's Kids?


How the Grinch Stole ChristmasChristmas is not a holiday most of us associate with horror movies. But before you go and throw on a DVD to keep the kids happy while you're wrapping presents on the sly, you might want to sit down for a preview.

It turns out some of those touchstones from our childhood are a lot scarier than we remember! If you don't want to spend Christmas night trying to convince a freaked out kid to go to sleep, you might want to hit the fast forward on these classic holiday movies (apologies in advance for any spoilers, but they're for your own good!):

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. If you've ever been to a kid's Christmas play, you'll know that little red noses and reindeer equal Christmas. But beware this movie. Because nothing yells "terrifying tots" like the Abominable Snowman, a big-toothed monster who hates Christmas (and seems like he's going to eat Rudolph).

Miracle on 34th Street. Natalie Wood's doe eyes don't make up for the threat of Santa being thrown in the clink. Imaging Santa in there with all the creeps they see on the news is rough on a kid.

Disney's A Christmas Carol. This is a new one with a decent Rotten Tomatoes rating, which means plenty of parents will be picking it up to add to the holiday collection. But don't let the animation fool you. The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future will scare the Christmas spirit right out of your kids. That's if they manage to get past the opening scene with a dead Jacob Marley with pennies on his eyes -- pennies Ebeneezer Scrooge steals. Other versions offers up their own bit of scary, but this one may be the new king of creepy.

Frosty the SnowmanThe Nutcracker 3D. If giant nutcrackers coming to life wasn't scary enough, they had to go and make them jump off the screen at you with the 3D version.

The Kid Who Loved Christmas. I don't care how old you are. This old Cicely Tyson movie masquerading as a Christmas special is a tearjerker of the highest order. Which may not sound exactly like a scary movie, but just wait. A little boy is waiting to be adopted by a wonderful couple, but the mom dies (forgive me for forgetting the details a bit, I refuse to watch it again). The dad still wants to go through with the adoption, but now he'd be a single parent and the mean, awful beasts with social services say no. Pure evil, I say.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Some people find Jim Carrey scary any day of the year, but he's particularly noxious in the 2000 version of an old favorite that is officially the scariest portrayal of a story that's got its warts in any version. What part of green guy who hates Christmas and wants to ruin the whole thing doesn't sound scary to you?

Frosty the Snowman. Adults understand that Frosty is just a big pile of snow, but try explaining that to a hysterical toddler who just saw their new friend melt away in the greenhouse.

Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. What part of dead mom doesn't scare you? Nestor's mama dying while sheltering her little donkey from the storm is every kid's worst nightmare. Every mom's too, come to think of it.

A Christmas Story. Santa's a jerk when Ralphie goes to the department store to ask for his Red Ryder BB Gun. But it's the cackling elves who like to throw kids down the slide after they've had their visit with Santa who will have your kids up nights wondering how something so evil could really be responsible enough to make a decent toy truck.

What Christmas movies give you the willies?


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LovemyQ LovemyQ

It certainly depends on the child. I wasn't scared by the original Grinch, but felt so sad for the dog.  I was scared by the Abominable Snowman and the mom dying in Nestor the long Eared Donkey sent me crying.  I don't know if my parents ever realized I was upset (except for the crying) so they never addressed the issues.   Besides, I already knew it was not real, but it scared me just the same. The sadness was what got me most of the times.

I will let my son watch movies that he will be able to handle and I don't care if they are family classics that everyone should watch every year.

I don't think parents who are concerned for their children's emotional well-being are being helicopters or over-the-top.

Freela Freela

I can remember being so upset as a child when Frosty melted! Nonetheless, I managed to pull through and recover emotionally! I've found that things that I think might be scary for my kids don't freak them out at all, and some things that I find completely innocuous have scared the hell out of them! My kids have definitely seen worse than this... Monster House got regular airplay over Halloween, and Nightmare Before Christmas is my son's favourite 'Christmas movie.' In a way I think that kids can benefit from being 'scared' in a safe situation like a movie or tv show. Sheltering them from everything only makes them feel like there is something in those movies they can't handle. I have one friend who shelters her child from almost everything... she now has a six year old who is terrified to see anything new because 'it might be too scary for me.' She has completely picked up on her mom's anxiety that she can't handle these things and is really struggling because of it.

Mandy Wilcox

Scary? I don't honestly believe so. I remember as a child that I was slightly afraid of the abominable snowman, but not downright scared. Most of these movies are pretty tame and I have to wonder about how some kids are raised if parents are so worried about these movies being frightening.

Chris Palmer

Not only did I watch every one of the films you mention when I was young (the ones that were released that is, so I'll substitute the incredibly good Chuck Jones version of the Grinch for the, ugh, Jim Carrey version), but I'm pretty sure none of them made me lose the least bit of sleep.

For the record, we were almost that paranoidly strict with my daughter who is now 18 (first child, helicoptering, etc.). We did let her watch Christmas movies, though. The only result of all of that protecting her from scary stuff was that the first time she saw a real horror movie at a friends house as a teen, she was petrified (she did, of course, get over it).

The only thing that protecting your kids from the mild scares does is set them up to be unprepared for the big scares.

nonmember avatar amber

Please tell me this list is a joke. My daughter loves all the movies on this list, and has since she was very young.

If this isn't some kind of joke, I'm really sorry, but I'm more afraid for your kids than mine if they'll be growing up that sheltered.

Elatia Grimshaw

Ms. Sager, I beg to differ. I grew up on a lot of these movies and never had any problems with them. I was never scared of the abominable snow man. Kids are tougher than you think and don't need to be shielded from every little thing.

nonmember avatar Dan Someone

Joke, right?

Karin Smolinski Aguirre

Are you serious? Or, is this supposed to be a funny, ha ha, satire?

talon... talonblackhart

Gotta say, I enjoyed the comments on this post almost as much as I enjoyed the post itself... I also read it as sarcasm, satire, not serious, unlike most of the people reading this.

Will say that the Jim Carrey version of the Grinch is terrifying, but only because they continue to let that monster ruin perfecty good Dr. Seuss classics.

nonmember avatar LauraL


If you have a super-sensitive child, then by all means, do what you need to do to raise that child into a more secure one. But to flat-out say these films are scary is just wrong, and disappointing. I hope this was just a joke.

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