Fear of: Stepmothers.
Brought to you by: Cinderella.
Why it scarred for life: Having to endure your parents getting divorced is painful enough for any child. But how does one of the most beloved animated films of all time, with an evil stepmother as its villainess, help the situation? No matter who your stepchildren meet, odds are they have already met Cinderella’s Lady Tremaine first, which is probably not going to make her all that eager to fall in love with you.
Also the scene where the stepmother has her daughters rip the clothes off of Cinderella looks a little too much like gang-rape.
Fear of: The Great Mole Rat.
Brought to you by: An American Tail.
Why it scarred for life: The Giant Mouse of Minsk was meant to horrify. Unfortunately, fear of the Giant Mole Rat—which is apparently a real thing—was a common side-effect.
Fear of: Mirrors.
Brought to you by: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Why it scarred for life: Introduced children to the concept that even beauty can be evil is one thing, but it still doesn’t change the fact that there were still plenty of horrific scenes to haunt you from the first few minutes of Snow White alone. Perhaps chief among them was the Magic Mirror, which introduced a whole world of children to how creepy Walt Disney can be if you give him enough money.
Fear of: Whales.
Brought to you by: Pinocchio.
Why it scarred for life: Because as terrifying as most of Pinocchio was, his encounter with Monstro the whale just might be the closest Walt Disney ever comes to make a goddamn horror movie. Oh, and the best part: Pinocchio dies at the end.
Fear of: Nothing.
Brought to you by: The Neverending Story.
Why it scarred for life: Because ‘The Nothing‘ looks little more than a storm cloud, something a kid will be sure to see regularly throughout his life. All you need is for some asshole older brother to point in the air the moment a dark cloud approaches and boom: instant childhood trauma.
Fear of: Monkeys.
Brought to you by: The Wizard of Oz.
Why it scarred for life: Because The Wizard of Oz holds a special place in many children’s hearts as not only their most beloved film, but also as the first move to tell them that “movies can be scary”. However, while most ‘caution’ stories throughout history have modest villains such as big bad wolves or evil spinning-wheels, The Wizard of Oz leaves them all behind with first its horrific Wicked Witch of the West, and then its even-more frightening flying monkeys.
Overall, it’s tough to say what part of the flying monkeys struck the most fear in children. Maybe it was their rebel yell, or their blue faces, or the fact that they were clever enough to disarm Tin Man of his axe (a tactic which might explain their West Point uniforms), or the fact that they fucking gang-banged poor Scarecrow, it should be no surprise that this image of flying monkeys has haunted children for decades.
In sum, if there’s one reason why the AFI chose to include The Wizard of Oz on its list of America’s Most Heart-Pounding Movies, it was the shock-and-awe the flying monkeys simultaneous unleashed around the world.