The one messed up thing nobody talks about in these classic family films

Some movies are just destined to be classics. Whether they're truly great films that will stand the test of time for decades, or they're loved by children when they're released but serve only as a point of nostalgia in the future, classic family movies hold a special place in our hearts. 

Sometimes, however, love is blind. Some of the most beloved family movies, whether they're classics from the early days of Disney or more contemporary classics that know how to pull our heartstrings, also have some really messed up parts that no one really wants to talk about. There are also quite a few things that totally went over our heads when we watched some of our favorites as kids. 

We're breaking the silence, so prepare yourselves. Here are the super messed up things you never noticed (or were willing to acknowledge) in some of the most classic family films, old and new. Spoilers ahead.


There are a lot of messed up things about Dumbo, not the least of which is the treatment of Dumbo's mother, and the fact that the titular elephant himself is an outcast. But neither of those things is easy to miss. What you might not realize is that when Dumbo gets accidentally drunk by drinking champagne spiked water, the pink elephants he hallucinates are a sign of something much more dangerous. 

Delirium tremens (DT) is the medical condition to describe the sometimes fatal symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in heavy drinkers. Now, admittedly, Dumbo was not a heavy drinker, and his symptoms were a result of actively drinking, not withdrawal, but the pink elephants he sees have become shorthand for the hallucinations often experienced with DT. 

That shorthand pre-dates Dumbo, which was released in 1941. In fact, the 1913 Jack London book John Barleycorn has an alcoholic character who hallucinates blue mice and pink elephants. While Dumbo is ultimately fine after this experience, the entire segment is a thinly veiled commentary on the dangers of drinking.

The Wizard of Oz

When a movie has been around since the 1930s, some elements are bound to hold up better than others. Released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz was based on L. Frank Baum's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. While stories like Wicked have since made us question what really happened to make the Wicked Witch of the West a baddie, no one questioned it at all in the 1939 movie. In fact, violence is seen as the answer to any problem in the movie, with no regard to finding out why the witches of the East and West, respectively, are deemed wicked by the Munchkins and Glinda. 

When Dorothy accidentally drops a house on the Wicked Witch of the East, she's celebrated as a hero — and Dorothy is just fine with that. Sure, she seems a bit confused at first, but upon being told the witch was wicked, she has no scruples with the fact she killed her (despite never hearing her side of the story). Then she melts the Wicked Witch of the West (another accident) and is again celebrated. 

Sure, the Wicked Witch of the West had kidnapped her, but it was all in the name of getting back the shoes that rightfully belonged to her family. Things are certainly handled differently in Oz. Good thing that's not how the legal system works here.

The Goonies

The Goonies is one of the greatest family adventure films of all time, but it's not without its problems. While it's made pretty clear in the movie that the Fratellis are terrible people, the treatment of Sloth — brother to Francis and Jake Fratelli — is really messed up. 

Sloth suffers from some kind of deformity and his mother and brothers have literally chained him to a wall because of it. No one ever really talks about how messed up it is that these characters have decided that the logical thing to do with a deformed person is to chain him in the basement (and that deformed people are seen as inherently "dangerous"). 

Sloth ultimately saves the kids, but it's meant as some great surprise, and that's also really messed up. It's set up like, "Look, guys, the weird deformed guy is actually totally kind and heroic!" Deformity does not equal danger and, as fantastic as The Goonies is, it's time to set the record straight on that.

Iron Giant

All the tears this movie caused aside, there's one seriously messed up part that doesn't get mentioned too often. That's probably because the scene in question wasn't included in the original run of the film. 

To refresh your memory, Iron Giant is the movie that chronicles a young boy named Hogarth befriending a giant robot after he saves it from complete destruction. It wasn't until the Signature Edition was released that we got a chance to see the Iron Giant's dream memory, which gave us a glimpse into where he came from (and what his purpose was meant to be). In the dream, things that young Hogarth and his pseudo father figure Dean have said to the giant, like, "Don't you remember anything?" and "You came from the sky, right?" play behind scenes of the giant and several other giant robots destroying cities and entire planets. This means that our lovable Iron Giant isn't the only giant robot built for destruction. 

If you're hoping that they were all destroyed when the planets in Iron Giant's dream were destroyed, I'll draw your attention to the end of the movie when the piece of the giant that Hogarth had in his room leaves to rejoin the other scattered pieces of our friendly giant. This suggests that the giants can regenerate after being destroyed, even by a missile. I'd say that's pretty good evidence that these planet-destroying giants just might be joining our friend on planet Earth at some point.

The NeverEnding Story

The really messed up thing about The NeverEnding Story is the metaphor of the entire movie. I remember watching it as a kid and wondering how something called The Nothing could possibly be scarier than a giant evil wolf named G'mork. One day in college, it hit me: The Nothing is depression and it's destroying Fantasia. 

The signs are everywhere. Young Bastian is depressed from the start, having lost his mother, being misunderstood by his father, and being bullied on his way to school. Once he enters the world of Fantasia through the book he's reading, we learn that the ailing Empress is the only hope of saving Fantasia, but that there is a "mysterious link between her illness and the nothing." She's dying. The symbolism continues with the swamps of sadness, in which "whoever let the sadness overtake him would sink into the swamp" and where "you have to move or you'll die." Even the laser-eyed sphinxes kill people who don't see their own worth. 

G'mork tells Atreyu that Fantasia is dying because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams so The Nothing grows stronger. It is "utter despair" destroying this world. It is only once Bastian gives the Empress a name, thereby putting a name to his own hope, that The Nothing can be defeated and Fantasia can be rebuilt. Not exactly the feel-good kids' movie you remember, eh?

Space Jam

Many '90s kids look back on Space Jam with lots of nostalgia. Combining the era's best basketball players (led by Michael Jordan, of course) with Looney Tunes was a recipe for instant success among kids. What you may not remember, however, is just how adult a lot of the humor was. 

Take, for instance, the scene after the NBA stars lose their abilities to play basketball and are describing what happened. As Patrick Ewing is talking to a therapist while lying on the couch, the song "Basketball Jones" plays in the background. Just as a very sensual, "Yeah, yeah" plays, the therapist asks Ewing if there are "any other areas, besides basketball, where you find yourself unable to perform?" Ewing is offended at this presumed questioning of his manhood and insists that isn't the issue. 

In another scene, when Bugs Bunny is first introduced to Lola Bunny, we see Lola waltz up to Bugs and stroke his cheek as she admonishes him to never call her "Doll." Bugs responds to Lola's touch by his whole body going, er, stiff. These are two jokes, in arguably one of the most iconic kids' movies of the '90s, that are decidedly not for kids.


Flubber is a 1997 Disney movie starring Robin Williams as the absent-minded Professor Philip Brainard. This remake of 1961's The Absent-Minded Professor is an under-the-radar classic that people often forget about — even though we loved it as kids, admit it. 

For a little bit of a refresher, Brainard discovers a substance that has the potential to help save the college where he works from being closed thanks to its energetic properties (did we also mention it's a Disney Sci-Fi movie?). While the movie has a stereotypical "bad guy" character in the film who tries to steal Flubber as well as Robin Williams' character's fiancé, what no one really talks about is the general exploitation of the Flubber by everyone in the movie. 

After all, we know the Flubber is sentient from the moment it's discovered. That the whole movie is based around who has the rights to it and what it should be used for to make the most profit is super creepy. Let's just leave it at that.

Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead

This is a movie about kids who hide the fact their babysitter has died and take on adult responsibilities so that their mother, who is vacationing in Australia, won't return home early. Sure, that's already pretty messed up, but as a kid who desperately wanted to do adult things like have a job and make money (oh, naïveté), it was a fun ride. I was a little young to be watching a PG-13 movie when it came out in 1991, so I missed a lot of the innuendo throughout. Watching it as an adult, however, you see that the really messed parts happen because Sue Ellen is just 17, but everyone thinks she's a lot older, which leads to some really uncomfortable moments. 

Take her boss, for instance, who quips, "Sue Ellen, every girl over 25 should have a cucumber in the house" — and she isn't talking for salad-making. Then there's the ultra cringeworthy moment when the character Gus (played by then-45-year-old John Getz) describes the maturing of women as a "ripening" at which time "juices start flowing." Now I suddenly understand that PG-13 rating. Sorry for ever doubting you, MPAA.

The Parent Trap

It doesn't much matter if we're talking about the 1961 version your parents (or, help us all, grandparents) watched, or the 1998 version with Lindsay Lohan. The messed up thing about The Parent Trap is the same in both version — the parents are awful. Look, divorce is hard and a divorce when there are kids involved is even more difficult. That said, the answer to dealing with that difficulty is definitely not to separate your identical twins and raise them on separate continents without any knowledge of each other! 

If we can put aside how truly messed up that is, we can't ignore that it was also super sloppy (or just plain stupid) to then send the daughter that was raised in England to summer camp in America without, I don't know, double checking the other daughter wouldn't be there. How traumatizing for those poor girls to learn that their parents have been lying to them their entire lives and that they not only have a sibling, but an identical twin, they never knew about. 

The girls ultimately have fun with it in an attempt to get their parents back together. But is it really a good idea for these petty parents — who can't even manage to compromise about their children — to get back together? I guess they deserve each other. Coming soon to a theater near you: The Parent Trap 2: Therapy for Life.

Monsters, Inc.

Released in 2001, Pixar's Monsters, Inc. capitalized smartly on the success of the Toy Story franchise with a similar animation style and a focus on worlds that only exist in kids' imaginations. When Boo, an adorable (human) toddler, manages to enter the world of Monstropolis (where all the monsters in your closet actually live), it's up to Sully and Mike to protect her and get her back home. 

It seems like Boo is in Monstropolis for about a day (even going to work with Mike and Sully). Plus, we know she appears at night, and it's also night time when the monsters return her home. While it's possible time passes differently in Monstropolis than it does where Boo's from, you can't help but wonder what Boo's parents were doing in the time she was gone. 

Did they discover her missing? They must have if she really was gone for about a day. If so, were the police called? That place should have been swarming with cops when Sully returned Boo to her bedroom. Instead, it seems Boo's parents are none the wiser that their little girl was ever missing. Here's hoping that a day in Monstropolis is equivalent to an hour in Boo's world. Either way, these parents should really get a video monitor.


In the movie Madagascar, animals from the Central Park Zoo that had attempted to escape are being sent to an animal preserve in Africa. The penguins on the ship, determining Africa "ain't gonna fly," take over the ship. This means overthrowing the ship's crew, naturally. While the heroes of the film, a lion, a hippo, a zebra, and a giraffe, are accidentally lost overboard in their crates when the penguins turn the ship around (eventually washing up on Madagascar), the penguins are set on taking the ship to Antarctica. 

Later in the movie, Gloria the hippo asks the penguins what happened to the people. Skipper, the mastermind penguin behind the mission, tells her, "We killed 'em and ate their livers." When the hippo looks freaked out by that, he covers quickly by saying, "Just kidding doll, the people are fine. They're on a slow boat to China." The phrase "slow boat to China" was originally a poker term and describes a journey that takes so long, it may never reach its destination. Let's be real: This ship's crew is probably dead.


Rapunzel, like many fairytale princesses, suffers at the hands of an evil hag and ultimately gets her happily ever after. While there are a lot of things about Disney's take on the princess in the movie Tangled that you might not notice as a kid, the really messed up thing about the movie is Rapunzel's hair. 

Frankly, when I saw the previews for this movie and then saw all the merchandise being released, I couldn't wrap my head around why Rapunzel's hair went from blonde while long to brown once cut short. Surely there was something in the plot I was missing. It turns out that what I was missing was the super messed up way blonde hair is portrayed as magical, while brown hair is boring and average with no magical properties at all. 

If you haven't seen Tangled, when Rapunzel sings the "Healing Incantation" her blonde hair glows bright gold and can heal the sick and bring the dead back to life. It's this magical hair that got her kidnapped in the first place. So when it's cut for her own protection, it's drained of magic and becomes brown. Sure, that's a fine explanation, I guess. But how messed up is it that little girls with blonde hair are getting the message that their hair is magical, while little girls with brown hair are getting the message that their hair is just average and what's left over when all the magic is gone?


While Moana may not be a movie you watched as a kid, the 2016 movie captured the hearts of kids and adults alike, making it an instant classic. If you haven't yet seen it, it's the story of a young girl who sets off on an adventure to save her island and embrace her destiny, much to her parents' chagrin. Along the way she encounters several roadblocks, not the least of which is Tamatoa. 

While Tamatoa the crab is a minor villain in the movie, taunting Moana and threatening to eat her while he extols the wonder of all things shiny, his fate is still pretty messed up. 

When Moana and Maui escape Tamatoa's lair, he is thrown on his back and just left there. It's a joke at the end of the movie in an end credits scene that he's left there because he isn't as charming as Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, but it's seriously pretty messed up that he's just stranded like that by our heroes.


Another instant classic, it's impossible to watch the movie Frozen without belting out the song "Let it Go" at one point or another. You can admit it, we've all done it! It's very catchy. It's also a super empowering song, encouraging people to embrace who they really are, haters be damned. In Elsa's case, it also means unleashing the power to freeze everything, a power she's kept locked away for years. 

As laudable as it is for Elsa to be embracing who she really is, her chilly outburst must have had some deadly consequences that weren't shown in the movie. We know from the scene at Wandering Oaken's Trading Post that the movie is set during the summer, which means all the plant and animal life is starkly unprepared for the frozen winter that greets them when Elsa decides to leave Arendelle. 

Not only did the flowers and trees definitely die as a result, we're guessing some of the animals (and maybe even some of the people, given the state of the "winter department" at Wandering Oaken's) didn't fare too well, either. Yikes.