Deseret News Archive

“Ender’s Game,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” are set to hit the silver screen this holiday season, all of which are popular young adult novel adaptations.

The books have sold millions of copies and have resonated with audiences around the world. But with such dark subject matter, the excitement among young moviegoers has some wondering if its good for young audiences.

Time Magazine’s Christopher J. Ferguson weighed in on the subject, saying, “Parents are free, of course, to use their moral compass to decide which media is appropriate for their families, but some of my own research suggests that the best option is for parents to consume violent-themed entertainment alongside their children rather than to either shield kids from it or leave them on their own.”

Others feel that children can wait. Referring to the first Hunger Games film, Deseret News columnist Carmen Rasmusen Herbert wrote, “Because of the extreme graphic descriptions of some of the tributes’ deaths in the story, I would say that any tween or young teen that has a hard time with watching or reading about violent acts would be haunted by these disturbing images for weeks.”

But these aren’t the first controversial movies aimed at youths. Shows such as “The Wizard of Oz,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” are well known for pushing the envelope in the area of dark material for young audiences. Here are 45 movies that parents have been talking about for years — or will be.

"The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
Deseret News Archive

Dark material has been a mainstay of kids movies for decades. Flying monkeys and the scary forest anyone?

Release Date: Aug. 25, 1939
MPAA Rating: G
Family Media Guide Rating: G
Worth Your Time Rating: 86%
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 6+

"The Lord of the Flies" (1963, 1990)
IMDb.com

"The Lord of the Flies" by William Golding is on most high school reading lists, and the less overt 1963 film is often shown in classrooms after completing the book.

It starts out as a tale of hope but devolves into a commentary on social Darwinism and the capacity of even very young, seemingly civilized boarding-school students to be broken down into savages willing to commit murder.

Release Date: Aug. 13, 1963, March 16, 1990
MPAA Rating: 1963 - None (pre-MPAA), 1990 - R
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your rating
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your rating
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review: Here's the 1990 Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 12+

"Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" (1971)
IMDb.com

Oompa-Loompas were scary enough, but the boat ride through the psychedelic tunnel set a new standard in youth film creepiness.

Release Date: January 1, 1971
MPAA Rating: G
Family Media Guide Rating: PG
Worth Your Time Rating: 92%
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 8+

"The Lord of the Rings," animated film (1978)
IMDb.com

There is no shortage of blood, dark themes and creepy monsters in this early Ralph Bakshi version of the J.R.R. Tolkein classic.

Release Date: Nov. 15, 1978
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your rating
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your rating
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review: None available
CSM Age Recommendation: 9+

"Watership Down" (1978)
IMDb.com

A blood-soaked field and ruthless totalitarian bunny police. And that's just in the trailer.

Release Date: Oct. 1, 1978
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your rating
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your rating
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review: None available
CSM Age Recommendation: 11+

"The Watcher in the Woods" (1980)
IMDb.com

Believe it or not, this terrifying offering from Disney was billed as a family film, but ask anyone who saw it as a child, and they'll probably tell you it was nightmare inducing. NERAK anyone?

Release Date: April 17, 1980
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: High PG
Worth Your Time Rating: 0%
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: None available.

"Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
IMBb.com

Stephen Spielberg has a knack for pushing the envelope with violence in his films aimed at younger audiences.

This film's final face-melting scene was likely burned into many impressionable minds.

Release Date: June 12, 1981
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 100%
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review
Common Sense Media Review: 11+

"Taps" (1981)
IMDb.com

This dark film starring a young Timothy Hutton and an even younger Tom Cruise and Sean Penn follows a group of students at a military school fighting — and dying — to keep control of their school and to reinstate their ousted commander played by George C. Scott.

Release Date: Dec. 20, 1981
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: None available
Worth Your Time Rating: None available
Worth Your Time Rating: None available
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
CSM Age Recommendation: 14+

"The Plague Dogs" (1982)
IMDb.com

This film must have converted many a PETA lover. It may be the darkest cartoon ever made for young audiences. Is there anything worse than seeing cute animals being tortured as lab subjects?

Release Date: Oct. 21, 1982
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your rating
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your rating
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review: None available
Common Sense Media Review: None available

"The Dark Crystal" (1982)
Deseret News Archive

Some consider this Frank Oz's masterpiece. But terrifying creatures sucking the life force from innocent little Fraggles push it pretty close to the edge for young viewers.

Release Date: Dec. 17, 1982
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your rating
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your rating
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review: None available
CSM Age Recommendation: 7+

"The Secret of NIHM" (1982)
IMDb.com

Based on the dark novel for youths, "Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIHM" the movie isn't nearly as dark as the book, but this one has had generations of kids fearing rats in rosebushes.

Release Date: July 30, 1982
MPAA Rating: G
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your review
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your review
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 8+

"Something Wicked This Way Comes" (1983)
IMDb.com

Why Disney would choose to make a film based on the horrifying Ray Bradbury novel of the same name has had audiences wondering for years.

Release Date: April 29, 1983
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your review
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your review
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review: None available
Common Sense Media Review: None available

"Red Dawn" (1984, 2012)
IMDb.com

"Wolverines!" Call that out to any guy who grew up in the 1980s, and you'll probably get a smile of recognition for this 1984 cult film.

Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen star alongside C. Thomas Howell in this gritty drama about teens taking back their Midwest town from Soviet troops during an imagined World War III.

Remade by Dan Bradley in 2012.

Release Date: Aug. 10, 1984
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your review
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your review
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review: None available, here's the link to the upcoming 2012 remake
CSM Age Recommendation: 14+

"Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom" (1984)
Deseret News Archive

Kali ma. A beating heart being ripped from a man's chest ... say no more. This second offering in the Indiana Jones series would certainly have received a PG-13 rating a few years later.

Date: May 23, 1984
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 75%
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 11+

"The NeverEnding Story" (1984)
IMDb.com

If The Nothing rolling across the land destroying everything in its path doesn't cause childhood anxiety, I'm not sure what will. And that creepy wolf creature. Yikes.

Release Date: July 20, 1984
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: PG
Worth Your Time Rating: 100%
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 8+

"Gremlins" (1984)
Deseret News Archive

Another Spielberg offering that probably would have received a PG-13 rating in another era. "Gremlins" starts out cute, but turns way too nasty for young audiences.

Release Date: June 8, 1984
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 67%
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review: None available
CSM Age Recommendation: 9+

"Young Sherlock Holmes" (1985)
IMDb.com

It shouldn't come as a surprise to see another Spielberg film on the list. Once again, he wasn't afraid to walk the edge by turning to the Occult and drug-induced hallucinations to drive this action-adventure.

Release Date: June 4, 1985
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your rating
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your rating
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review: None available
CSM Age Recommendation: 11+

"Return to Oz" (1985)
IMDb.com

Apparently there was someone at Disney in the early '80s who wasn't afraid of scaring the snot out of kids. Yet another out-of-character freak-out film from "The Happiest Place on Earth."

Release Date: June 21, 1985
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: add your rating
Worth Your Time Rating: add your rating
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review: None available
CSM Age Recommendation: 8+


"Labyrinth" (1986)
Deseret News Archive

I'm not sure what was scarier, David Bowie in spandex or creepy goblins sneaking into the baby's room to steal him away.

Release Date: June 27, 1986
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: High PG
Worth Your Time Rating: 100%
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 8+

"Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993)
Deseret News Archive

There's no denying Tim Burton's penchant for creepiness. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" ends up fairer than fowler, but there are plenty of scenes to scare the little ones away.

Release Date: Oct. 29, 1993
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: PG
Worth Your Time Rating: 100%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 0, Violence/Gore - 2, Profanity - 0
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 7+

"Jurassic Park" (1993)
Deseret News Archive

Stephen Spielberg's recreation of the Michael Crichton novel explores what happens when you mess with Mother Nature.

Children play a major role in the film and experience numerous dark moments where people are eaten by dinosaurs and put in terrifying situations of their own.

The film was controversial in its time for enticing younger viewers with a Disney-esque park and "cute" baby dinosaurs to what was clearly a very adult-oriented film.

Release Date: June 11, 1993
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Low PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 100%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 0, Violence/Gore: 6, Profanity: 2
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 12+

"The Lost World: Jurassic Park" (1997)
IMDb.com

The sequel to Jurassic Park. Just as violent as the original, just as enticing to younger viewers.

Release Date: May 23, 1997
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: High PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 0%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 0, Violence/Gore - 7, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 12+

"Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone" (2001)
Deseret News Archives

There was/is no end to the debate around the appropriateness of the Harry Potter series for kids. This first film in the series doesn't delve quite as deep into witchcraft and evil creatures, but it certainly sets the stage.

Release Date: Nov. 16, 2001
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: PG
Worth Your Time Rating: 100%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 0, Violence/Gore - 4, Profanity - 2
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 7+

"Jurassic Park III" (2001)
IMDb.com

The final Jurassic Park film is even more gory and frightening than the earlier films, with clearly more adult themes but still aimed at young audiences.

Release Date: July 18, 2001
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your rating
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your rating
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 1, Violence/Gore - 8, Profanity - 2
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 12+


"Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets" (2002)
Deseret News Archive

The second Potter film doesn't quite go to the dark places the later films do, but whispering voices in the walls talking about murder and a roaming troll can be pretty scary for young audiences.

Release Date: Nov. 15, 2002
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: PG
Worth Your Time Rating:
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 1, Violence/Gore - 4, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 8+


"Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004)
Deseret News Archive

"Everything will change." That tagline for the third Potter film is spot on. Azkaban turns south in a big way with some very disturbing scenes and a much darker atmosphere, and it's not just the Dementors that bring on the chills.

Release Date: May 31, 2004
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: High PG
Worth Your Time Rating: 88%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 1, Violence/Gore - 5, Profanity 2
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 10+

"Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire" (2005)
Deseret News Archive

"The Goblet of Fire" ends with the appearance of "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" and the dark murder of one of the main characters. This is the first of the Potter films to earn a PG-13 rating.

Release Date: Nov. 18, 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 84%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 3, Violence/Gore - 6, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 12+

"Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" (2005)
Deseret News Archive

Leave it to Tim Burton to make a movie about a corpse marrying Johnny Depp. Pretty freaky.

Release Date: Sept. 23, 2005
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your rating
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your rating
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 1, Violence/Gore - 4, Profanity - 1
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 10+

"Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix" (2007)
Deseret News Archive

If you're wondering how dark this fifth Potter film is, just look at the poster. As the audiences matured, so did the material.

Release Date: July 11, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 83%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 2, Violence/Gore - 6, Profanity - 1
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 12+


"Twilight" (2008)
IMDb.com

The first film based on the Stephanie Meyers young-adult phenomenon. This ain't your baby brother's "Littlest Vampire." These guys don't just suck blood, they tear each other apart, literally.

Release Date: Nov. 21, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your review
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your review
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 4, Violence/Gore - 7, Profanity - 2
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 13+

"Where the Wild Things Are" (2009)
Deseret News Archive

Spike Jonze turns the beloved Maurice Sendak picture book into a brooding, adult-themed romp in costume through the woods of Australia. While it may not be too scary for young audiences, it's certainly nowhere near as fun for them as the book.

Release Date: Oct. 16, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: PG
Worth Your Time Rating: 42%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 1, Violence/Gore - 4, Profanity - 1
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 8+

"Coraline" (2009)
IMDb.com

If there's a children's storyteller any more demented than Tim Burton, it may be Neil Gaiman. His lush illustrated novel is a cross between "The Langoliers" and "Alice in Wonderland" — pretty terrifying. Makes you wonder why anyone thought this would make a good movie for kids. My daughter still has nightmares over this one.

Release Date: Feb. 6, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 46%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 4, Violence/Gore - 5 , Profanity - 2
Deseret News Review
CSM Age recommendations: 9+

"9" (2009)
IMDb.com

The Deseret News' Jeff Vice called this "surprisingly dark and dour." That may be an understatement for this creepy post-apocalyptic Elijah Wood vehicle.

Release Date: Sept. 9, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: None available
Worth Your Time Rating: None available
Kids in Mind Rating: None available
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 12+


"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (2009)
Deseret News Archive

The second Twilight film adds werewolves to the mix and takes a darker turn.

Release Date: Nov. 20, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: High PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 17%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 5, Violence/Gore - 7, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 13+

"Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince" (2009)
Deseret News Archive

Built on the premise of heart-breaking loss, the Harry Potter series is no stranger to death, but the sixth film in the series takes it to a new level.

Release Date: July 15, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG
Family Media Guide Rating: Low PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 85%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 4, Violence/Gore - 6, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 12+

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" (2010)
Deseret News Archive

Gorier and darker than the previous two, "Eclipse" sets the scene for how dark this series is willing to go.

Release Date: June 30, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 47%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 5 , Violence/Gore - 7, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 13+

"Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" (2010)
Deseret News Archive

"Deathly Hallows" may have the most frightening scenes since "The Goblet of Fire. "Nagini the snake on a rampage and the inventive but spooky tale of the deathly hallows.

Release Date: Nov. 19, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Add your rating
Worth Your Time Rating: Add your rating
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 4, Violence/Gore - 7, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 12+


"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1" (2011)
Deseret News Archive

Perhaps the creepiest childbirth scene since "Rosemary's Baby."

Release Date: Nov. 11, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: High PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 19%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 6, Violence/Gore - 8, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 14+


"Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" (2011)
Deseret News Archive

The final Potter film remains true to the darker turn the series took around "The Prisoner of Azkaban." More heartache and death but an ending worth waiting for.

Release Date: July 15, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 75%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 3, Violence/Gore - 7, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 12+

"The Hunger Games" (2012)
Deseret News Archive

It’s about as dark as you would imagine a film about a dystopian future where a totalitarian regime forces children to fight to the death in arenas would be.

It’s not as dark or brutal as the books, however, so if your child has already read those, you have nothing to lose. But might want to avoid it for those 8 and under.

Release Date: March 23, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 88%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 3, Violence/Gore - 7, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 13

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2" (2012)
IMDb.com

The highly anticipated final film in the Twilight Saga showed both romance and violence.

Release Date: Nov. 16, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating:High PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 60%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 6, Violence/Gore - 7, Profanity - 3
Deseret News Review
Common Sense Media Recommendation: 15+

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012)
Deseret News Archive

While "The Hobbit" is tamer than J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, it contains enough brutal battle scenes and severed limbs to keep the kids up at night.

Release Date: Dec. 14, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Low PG-13
Worth Your Time Rating: 89%
Kids in Mind Rating: Sex/Nudity - 1, Violence/Gore - 6, Profanity - 2
Deseret News Review
CSM Age Recommendation: 11+

"Ender's Game" (2013)
IMDb.com

Although “Ender’s Game” is a popular young adult novel, the film may be a bit too harsh for young viewers.

Release Date: Nov. 1, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Not Yet Available
Kids in Mind Rating: Not Available
CSM Age Recommendation: Not Available

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (2013)
IMDb.com

More than a year and a half after the first “Hunger Games” film, fans eagerly await the second installment in a series about children battling one another to the death.

Release Date: Nov. 22, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Not Yet Available
Kids in Mind Rating: Not Available
CSM Age Recommendation: Not Available

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (2013)
Deseret News Archive

The second installment of Bilbo Baggins adventures is sure to feature drawn-out battle scenes and others scares for young kids.

Release Date: Dec. 13, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Family Media Guide Rating: Not Yet Available
Kids in Mind Rating: Not Available
CSM Age Recommendation: Not Available