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10 Dark Disney Moments

Jo N. . . . Comments

Disney’s got quite a track record of rewriting history, literature and myth, with rainbows, butterflies and musically gifted woodland creatures. They’ve taken Grimm’s wicked stepsisters and instead of hacking off their toes to fit a silver slipper, they’ve given one stepsister a sequel in which she finds herself a nice baker boy, and the other one a backstory. The Little Mermaid, instead of dissolving into mist and spray, marries the prince, and lives happily ever after in his kingdom by the sea. Disney’s Hercules becomes a god when he puts the life of another above his own, where the mythological Heracles becomes a god when he begs to be set on fire to end the pain of being tangled in a poisoned shirt. Although these Disney tales have their happily ever after, other Disney films have taken a darker turn. Although there are plenty more, here are ten such dark Disney moments.


Bambi’s Mother Dies

Bambi Born

The death of Bambi’s mother is a quintessential moment in dark Disney moments. She dies midway through the movie, horrifically, after we’ve gotten a chance to know her, after we’ve seen her raise Bambi and teach him the ways of the forest. A harsh winter follows a scant summer, and one day, when they’re out in the meadow grazing, she senses danger. There are hunters in the woods. Bambi’s mother tells him to run, to not turn back, and to keep running. They sprint. There’s the sharp crack of gunfire. When Bambi has made it safely back to the thicket, he turns, gleefully saying, “We made it, Mother.” There’s nobody but him. Alone, snow falling, he searches for his mother. He calls out for her, but there’s only silence. Later, he is told that she could no longer be with him.


Becoming a Real Boy


Pinocchio is the story of the puppet who becomes a real boy. The trials he goes through to become a real boy are insane and trying: he is kidnapped by con artists and made to work in a puppet show lest he be thrown into a fire, and escapes only to find himself on Pleasure Island, an island where boys who “make jackasses of themselves” turn into literal donkeys and are sold to work in the salt mines and circuses. After escaping from Pleasure Island, he is swallowed by the giant whale that also swallowed Geppetto, his maker, who had been venturing out to rescue Pinocchio from Pleasure Island. They enrage the whale with their efforts to escape, and Pinocchio sacrifices himself to save Geppetto. The Blue Fairy, seeing his selflessness, brings him back to life and finally, turns him into a real boy.


“How many messengers does it take?”


It feels like a minuscule moment in a film about warfare, and I’m sure there are darker ones, but this short scene in Mulan always surprises me with its cruelty. Two Imperial scouts have been captured by Shan-Yu, the Hun leader, who gives them a message to take back to the Emperor of China. As they run away, Shan-Yu asks one of his comrades how many messengers it takes to deliver a message. Drawing back his arrow, his comrade answers, “One.” It’s not something I caught until rewatching it years later, but it’s so striking to see now, the way human life is treated so insignificantly between the two sides.


The Fox and the Hound
Copper Hunts Tod


In the beginning, The Fox and the Hound feels like a charming, old-timey film about the way friendship transcends, but, somewhere in the third act, the story takes a sharp turn. Copper’s mentor Chief, gets hit by a train in a mishap caused by Tod. Copper vows to “get him.” Copper’s owner, Slade, sets traps, and soon, Tod is backed up in a burrow with fire on one end and Slade and Copper on the other. Tod leaps through the fire. Copper catches up with him. They clash, swiping at each other, snapping and howling, all remnants of their childhood friendship forgotten. Tod manages to escape when a black bear appears, and Copper rushes to defend Slade. But then, Tod turns back. He sees his old friend in distress, and lures the red-eyed bear down a rushing waterfall. The ending that follows is surprisingly adult and achingly bittersweet. Tod and Copper are in their respective homes. An old conversation plays—“We’ll always be friends forever, won’t we?” says Tod. “Yeah,” replies Copper. “Forever.”


Lilo & Stitch
“We’re a broken family, aren’t we?”

Lilostitchphoto 09 Hires

The darkness in Lilo & Stitch is a very different kind of darkness than in other Disney movies, but still so significant as not to be overlooked. This darkness is about the hurt of a disjointed family, a broken family as Lilo says. After a comic, but ultimately disastrous visit from a social worker, Nani must prove that she is fit to care for her younger sister, Lilo. After she hears Lilo praying on a shooting star for a friend, she decides to get Lilo a pet. That pet—Stitch—turns out to be an alien. More disasters ensue with Stitch at the center of many of them. The social worker returns, telling Nani that the best option for Lilo might be one without her. That night, Stitch, seeing the trouble he has caused, leaves. Lilo tells him, “I’ll remember you; I remember everybody who leaves.” At its core, Lilo & Stitch is about loneliness, finding a place to fit in, about needing companionship and the families we create. Lilo & Stitch shows that sad, human darkness starkly, honestly and sincerely.


Clayton’s Death

Jane And Tarzan

At this point of the film, Clayton’s motivations have been revealed. He plans to capture the gorillas and sell them in England, a task much easier with Tarzan out of the way. Clayton shoots Kerchak, a fatal wound, and Tarzan goes after a maniacal Clayton along the rainforest roof. After some struggling, Tarzan wrestles the gun away from Clayton, and has it pressed against his throat. Clayton dares Tarzan to shoot him, telling him to be a man. Instead, Tarzan destroys the gun, tossing it to the jungle floor. Clayton pulls out his machete and follows Tarzan across the vines, but in trying to slash Tarzan, he cuts away at the vines holding himself up. He cuts all but one—the one wound against his neck. There’s a short drop and a sudden stop. Against a flash of lightning, there’s a shadow—Clayton’s lifeless, hanging figure.


The Lion King
Mufasa’s Death


A surprising number of Disney movies have main characters with dead parents, or parents who simply aren’t there. In early Disney movies, their absences were rarely mentioned and never explained. There was Snow White’s missing parents, and Belle and Ariel’s missing mothers. In The Lion King, Simba has both his parents, but his father’s most climatic moment is his death. Not only is Mufasa’s death not mentioned in passing or in exposition during the length of the film, but on screen, and Simba is made to understand that he is responsible for that death. Mufasa’s murder is conniving, cold-hearted, and at the hand of Scar, his brother, who immediately drives Simba to run away, and subsequently sets hyenas to kill him. In the end, justice is served—Scar dies, and it is bolstered by Simba’s actions. And of course, there is Simba’s iconic Forever Alone moment, the subject of a thousand memes, when he, crying, crawls under his dead feather’s arm.




This song takes place at the height of the film, under circumstances that have cause to be on this list individually—the natives and the settlers on the cusp of war, Ratcliffe’s outright greed and racism compelling the settlers to march to battle, Powhatan seeking retribution for the death of Kocoum, Smith being led to execution. The intensity of lyrics like “what can you expect from filthy little heathens/here’s what you get when races are diverse/their skin’s a hellish red/they’re only good when dead” and “behind that milky hide/there’s emptiness inside/I wonder if they even bleed” are incredibly compelling for the first Disney film to deal openly with racism and imperialism, and although this story gets a happy ending of its own, there’s still a darkness and urgency in this song number that is unknown to other Disney films.


Hunchback of Notre Dame


Like “Savages”, “Hellfire” is a villain song that touches on Disney taboos. Instead of racism, imperialism and war, however, these Disney taboos are sensuality, sex and rape—a far more forbidden fare for Disney. Judge Frollo, having just watched Esmeralda perform essentially a pole dance, and subsequently save Quasimodo from his punishment, is aroused and infuriated by her in equal parts, a scary combination. Consumed by lust, he seeks her out in the only way he knows how—by asking her to “choose me or your pyre.” Under the cloak of Tony Jay’s haunting voice, with lyrics like “destroy Esmeralda/and let her taste the fires of hell/or else let her be mine and mine alone” and to imagery that conveys the fierceness and fearsomeness of religion, “Hellfire” is a song of impending doom and a sad judge’s sexual frustration.


The Black Cauldron


Considered Disney’s darkest animated motion picture, The Black Cauldron is the story of Taran, a young boy with dreams of heroism, who must find and destroy an enchanted black cauldron before the Horned King can use it to raise an army of the undead. The Black Cauldron was the first Disney animated feature to be rated PG for dark and violent images, one of which must have been the Horned King. Modeled after Satan in both temperament and appearance, the Horned King was a figure of calculated, unrelenting evil. Under his dark cloak, he was nothing more than a horned skeleton with glowing red eyes. The set too, was a frightening picture—a crumbling castle littered with rotted corpses, the dungeon where Taran is held early in the movie, a dank cellar where those of Cauldron born rise from the waters. As a whole, The Black Cauldron is a chilling and deeply unsettling movie, a well-deserved end to my list of dark Disney moments.

  • SamuraiHP

    saw a documentary on this kind of thing before.

    nice list.

    • Gabs

      Do you remember what it was called?

    • cmon man

      Yeah cmon, samuraiHP, this is listverse. a documentary on this subject would be extremely interesting. you gotta give us a name.

    • AL

      This list is inadvertently humorous because of its harsh truth, as we’re talking about cartoons that are largely geared towards young kids.

      There are sad damn moments in Disney films. The first one was great (“Everything”). Bambi’s mother should have been way higher up on the list, neck and neck with the Lion King one, as it effects basically anyone who has parents they care about (which is most people, I would imagine).

      Regardless, an original list concept and well written. Good job.

  • I’ve never even heard of the Black Cauldron, so that’s cool. Good list!

  • salo hes

    oh. this is just plain boring. wat r we? 12 years old disney fans. more post sir,

    • MG227

      From your spelling ability apparently you are a 12 year old Disney fan.

      • simon

        From your post MG227 you’re quite clearly a genius! :)

      • saio hes

        ur right. im sorrry, just trolling like an idiot. my bad.

    • Magnumto

      I’m a 54-year-old geologist, and I hope I never “outgrow” Disney movies.

      • A geologist?

        Really? I knew I liked you!

        • godwarrier

          ya well u r all stupid fukks. go die sumwere

          • C

            It’s sad that with the whole wonderful world of the internet out there that you need to use it to be a FID.

          • Maeve Wirsow

            Judging by your spelling ability (or lack of), you’re the stupid one.

        • sheldon cooper

          geology is not a real science!!!!


  • Stu Miller’s Gust

    101 Dalmatians has some dark moments as well. Good list, here’s the antidote…

    • Metalwrath

      That little girl is so smart! At least more so than the average kid her age. Incredible.

      And grateful to boot? wow :p

      • Napalm

        Totally agree! Cute kid, bet she had the time of her life.

    • Otter

      Thank you so much for posting that. It seriously made my day. :’-)

  • NeesahD22

    Everyone watches those movies but in light hearted way. Interesting turn&read.

  • Pjaney

    The fox and the hound is my favorite disney movie and I’m embarrassed to admit but it made me cry! Ugh, the only downside to listverse is the need to watch every movie or read every book mentioned in a list :( there’s too little time for it all!

  • pamma

    ok list..not much of my interest

  • Sarah

    The Black Cauldron is a highly underknown and underrated disney classic – nice to see it get a mention! Great list

  • Planet Earth

    Never saw #1 what year was the Black Cauldron release ? I want to watch it .

    • Sarah

      It was released in 1985, based upon parts of Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain series

      • Eric

        Ahhh the Chronicles of Prydain…. That still is one of my top 3 favourite series to read, which is surprising as I’m 19 and those books were published in the 60’s if I remember correctly.

  • Rob

    This is a comment not specifically to this list, but to all of listverse.

    What the hell has happened?

    The last 5 or so lists have been so un-interestingly appalling they barely

    make it over 100 comments.

    This has got to be listverse at its lowest. Top 10 adorable cartoon characters?

    Think who your writing for. The numbers speak for them selves popularity in this

    site is dipping. Badly. Get some more interesting lists JFrater. Or better yet, you should of sold when listverse was in its prime… Not this, this is an insult.

    • Armadillo

      I don’t unberstand why so much people here consider cartoons to be beneath them.

    • Mira Bel

      I agree that Listverse isn’t quite what it used to be. But don’t claim that you aren’t insulting him when you clearly you are by making statements such as “you should of sold when listverse was in its prime”. I haven’t liked many of the list lately myself by I wouldn’t attack JF especially for lists he didn’t even write. Have a bit more couth. You want to gripe to the author about their boring list fine, but at least show some respect to the creator of this site because despite the “bad lists” lately no other site can compare or we wouldn’t continue to return here day after day. This was not an insult ;-)

      • Arsnl

        Do you have any objective reason to say that LV is not “what it used to be”.

        It had some lists that are quintessential to what LV is all about: pop culture, literature, travel, music, history. Let’s face it the only reason why lots of lists got huge comments is because they were very confrontational or controversial (american or global politics, religion, and lists of famous movies) where every idiot has an opinion.

        If you think it’s having underpar lists (altough i do admit i miss some science or Blogball lists) maybe you just got bored.

      • Le Tel

        Actually, since he is the owner of the site he is responsable for what gets published. I have got to agree with Rob though, I would rather see 2 amazingly well written and interesting lists a week then 7 half-hearted attempts. That said, doesn’t stop me coming back :)

      • Ryan

        If you look at the older lists on the site, you would see that the lists now are actually much more professional and well written than before. Old listverse was more for fun and enjoyment, until commenters started criticizing every list that was posted and constantly complaining. I think the only thing going downhill with listverse is the commenters.


          I agree, the site is fine, but even comparing the lists is a moot point.

          Rob is likely a bitter [email protected]$$ who either had a nerve struck by a Disney list or never had his own published in the first place.

          If not those two things, I can’t imagine what the hell he’s so passionate over a free-to-use website for, that still offers as much variety as it ever did for its kind.

        • Maggot

          @Ryan: I think the only thing going downhill with listverse is the commenters.

          With popularity comes increased banality in the comments. The comment count these days is lower because, in part, there aren’t as many actual discussions going on in the comments. Additionally, the so-called old days had more comment contribution from “regulars”, who would engage in much back and forth repartee. Now more often than not, there are too many one-off comments that don’t spark any follow-up dialog, and many times on the ones that do, the OP doesn’t bother to come back to continue the discourse or defend themselves if challenged. Except for on the obvious “controversial” topics, it seems like it is more difficult these days to get a good debate or conversation going.

    • mom424

      There is nothing wrong with a Disney list – Disney holds a big corner of popular culture as well as a decent sized chunk of most peoples’ childhood. Not only in North America either – it’s a world wide phenomena.

      That said there is an ebb and flow to most sites – visitors come and go, contributors go through spates of productivity, even regulars take a break now and again – in order to remain fresh. Not only that, site owners and administrators and contributors have personal lives, that no matter how hard we try, will influence both the main articles and the commentary. And of course there is personal taste to take into account – personally I hate all those so-called mysteries related lists; devil’s triangle, airplanes taken by ufos, bunkum lists imo; but I know other people just love them… I wait patiently. I counsel that you do the same. You’ll see.

      PS: I do agree with one point – We need a Blogball list!

      • KT85

        whats a blogball list?

        • mom424

          Blogball is a contributor – the very best contributor. He also goes by the name Paul Holtum. Here’s a sample.

        • Jay Karlson

          Blogball is a Listverse badass. Whenever I think I’ve written anything near decent, I read Blogball and have a tall glass of STFU.

    • whoareyou

      Top ten adorable cartoon characters? What list are you reading? This is top 10 dark Disney moments, actually very typical of Listverse. Get your head out of your ass, nutbag.

    • DaPhilth

      I agree with Rob & Ben and the others who have commented on the drop in quality of the lists lately. Stataing the facts as a customer and it’s up to the business owners to do with the feedback what they will. The numbers speak fro themselves.

      • DaPhilth = Rob

        What numbers? You know the site hit count per article? Sure. Numbers in your head, bud.

    • Jade

      Rob, you’re a prude if there ever was one.

  • bunnylee

    i just cannot let my kid get sucked into the evil vortex of the magic kingdom…geez!

  • Mira Bel

    This was better then that cutest animal list. Disney has definitely had its dark moments which I liked because at least it shows kids not everything can always be happy and perfect, that shit happens. Good list.

  • Jennybean

    I always thought it was strange how Ariel, Belle and Jasmine’s mothers just weren’t there!

    • Rachel

      True. Maybe Belle’s mother could have explained Stockholm Syndrome to her.

  • MoBbin

    I actually think this list was very good Rob, it’s good to have a variety of different lists. This list took us deeper into some of our childhood favorites and showed us the darker and deeper side to them. Its a list based on childhood movies but shows the complexity and brilliance behind them. I can assure you that after reading this list I appreciate these movies so much more. Ya, some lists lately have been horrible, but since I have joined Listverse I swear people are always complaining about how bad its getting and how its all going down the drain. Just shut the fuck up already. Seriously. If you don’t like how it’s going then please, write us a beautifully entertaining list that will just blow our fucken minds away! If its so simple, just do it. This was a very good list actually, and I don’t think you have the right to trash it with your stupid negative comments. Save it for a day when its really needed.

  • Loved the list. Some of these titles we still own at home . . . VHS cassettes stacked in dusty boxes. Seems like Disney has pretty much ruled the animated film category, would like to see a non Disney list of films like Prince of Egypt or Charlotte’s Web . . . i still really enjoyed the list :)

  • QueenWeiner

    My brain isn’t as good as it used to be, but wasn’t The Brave Little Toaster made by Disney? If so that movie REALLY needs to be on the list.

  • diana

    The Lion King, Snow White and Cinderella traumestized me deeply, but they are still some of my favourite films. I miss the days when Disney would make films that didn’t insult the audience, disspite the fact that most of the audience were children.

  • omg lemonade

    bambi’s mothers and mufasa’s death haunted me as a kid, even thinking about them now almost brings tears to my eyes ='(

  • CrazyBeatutiful

    I know Anastasia is by Fox Animation but for me it’s one heck of a dark movie. :)

    • Mira Bel

      I agree! I was shocked to that it wasn’t by Disney myself.

  • angela

    I don’t know if you agree with me but Disney’s Fantasia also has a dark side on it. The scene where the devil gargoyle is on top of a mountain and summons spirits from a nearby cemetery during the night is truly haunting considering that the film is geared towards children.

    • Fantasia has more than one dark scene! I had a terrifying nightmare, as a child, after seeing Fantasia.

    • Rangatang

      I would have nightmares about all those brooms coming to life. And the scene where Mickey chops it to pieces with an axe traumatised me.

  • CrazyBeautiful

    Oh, Aladdin has it’s dark moments too.

  • Metalwrath

    I’m usually not into these kinds of lists but I gave this one a read and actually enjoyed it. I did relate to some items in this list, because I remember being shocked seeing some scenes at an adult age and thinking “is this really suitable for kids? :o”

    Good list.

  • Mimi Later

    Dumbo was a sad movie too. It made me hug my mom a little tighter as a kid

    • The “Baby Mine” scene still makes me cry as an adult!!

  • Hithere

    I thought Treasure Planet was pretty sad in the same way lilo and stitch was when his dad left, except a little worse because instead of death he chose to leave. But I don’t think a lot of people could relate or even understand unless they were from a home in which the father left and it tends to get belittled and made fun of because of “daddy issues” for that reason.

  • WafflesWafers

    This list was actually interesting for me.

  • S.K.Epperson

    I’ve always thought that if Disney decided to go into the horror movie business no others would stand a chance.

  • Bart

    great list, but i still dont get the one about mulan, maybe it’s because i havent seen the film since i was 12

  • oouchan

    I would have to add Oliver & Company to this list. That has to be one of the darkest I’ve seen. This was an interesting list today. After the happy endings, one forgets the dark parts that got them there.

    Good list.

  • karl

    as much as i love Disney and their animations, their darkness has nothing on Japanese Anime, Princess Mononke and Spirted Away are two personal favs of mine both of which as darking moments than those mentioned here. Still great list, nice to Black Cauldron mention :D

    • karl

      Sorry just out of uni lecture so my mind is away and so just to correct a line there

      both of which have darker moments*

    • JonnieDanger

      Dude, Disney released Spirted Away in North America.

      • karl

        your joking right? Spirited Away is made by Studio Ghibli

    • Yun

      The difference is that people, in the West at least, expect anime to be directed to a more mature audience. Disney, by contrast, is generally considered children’s/family entertainment which makes the darker portions of their films more notable.

  • Christine Vrey

    Whooao, I have been away for too long!! Now there are tons of lists for me to go over. I realy loved this list!! I am a true disney fan, and have wiped away tears at many of these “dark” moments. I have to admit that Mufasa’s death gets me every time I watch it. Fantastic list =)

  • David

    Return to Oz was made by Disney.. That thing gave me nightmares for weeks..

  • Gabs

    I liked it, but how did you miss Dumbo? The ‘Pink Elephants On Parade’ scene is among the darkest Disney’s made.

    • Yes… without Pink Elephants on Parade, this list is invalid. One of the most terrifying experience I ever had as a child

      • pffft

        Not as “invalid” as most of your complaints on articles, actually.

    • Yun

      YMMV. I thought Pink Elephants was hilarious even as a kid, and it’s still my favorite Disney moment ever.

  • gav

    Disney = *yawn*

    I’ll take Chuck Jones cartoons like Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies over Disney anyday.

    The only thing Disney has going for them is Winnie the Pooh which they just about destroyed in their haste to jump on the 3-D CG renderings.

    Oh well. I’m old, and no one wants to listen to the ramblings of an old man reliving his youth on the internet

  • mom424

    Great list, excellent topic. By picking the dark moments you’ve also illustrated the reason that Disney films are loved by children – they don’t patronize. Children are not stupid; they know bad sh*t happens and Disney doesn’t try and hide that. Happily ever after isn’t a given and even when you get it; it’s not all that great. Remember Hansel and Gretel – no matter what awesome Gingerbread house they end up with, they still have to live with the fact that their Dad picked the evil step-mother over them.

    (I always thought that nasty Octo-b*tch from The Little Mermaid way creepy)

    • MF

      Ursula is my favorite Disney villain! Nasty for sure…well, thanks for the good laugh! :)

  • Courtney

    MORE disney lists! I’m a major Disney fan and me and my mom always make up our own lists. I totally agree about number 1. The Black Cauldron freaked my sister and I out when we were little and made us cry. Also I thought EVERYTHING about The Hunchback of Notre Dame was dark. But PLEASE more Disney lists!

  • Crimson_RTR

    The song from the Little Mermaid: “Poor Unfortunate Souls” was the only part in any Disney movie I have watched that legitimately made me think….This is some DARK shit right here…..

    Mufasa’s death is a close second in that you actually watch him die, see grief and a feeble attempt at understanding by an immature main character while in the presence of the body. It’s so real it’s chilling.

    Anyway good list.

    • Crimson_RTR

      Scratch that, it’s not so much the song itself, but the point in the movie where it shows Ursula’s “soul collection” and King Triton getting turned into some withered thing”for all eternity”.

      The song still is …..creepy

  • Baldguy

    “In The Lion King, Simba has both his parents, but his father’s most climatic moment is his death.”

    climactic? :-)

  • Andy

    Am I the only person who thinks turning little boys into Donkeys is er, horrible? And shouldn`t be in a cartoon?

    • Old Bastard


    • yes… this was the frightening scene from Pinocchio

  • Courtney

    I’ve always thought Pinnochio was the WORST Disney movie. It has a lot of dark moments and I don’t understand why people like it. I have agree with the statement about Chernabog from Fantasia, and the whole scene with him is incredibly dark and should be on here. My mom would turn the movie off when I was younger cause she thought it would scare me and when I was older and finally watched it, I’m glad I didn’t watch it when I was young.

  • GWSpicer

    “Tangled’ had a baby kidnapping, brainwashing, a subsequent hostage situation, and a fatal stabbing.

  • Mmailler

    Great list! Love disney movies, they are such a big part of my childhood :D

  • Mental Floss > Listverse

    These lists are continual weak sauce now. WTF! I will begin my listverse boycott by returning to .

    • Mental Floss is Spam

      Instead of writing some great lists yourself, or getting friends to write them (maybe you’ve heard of ‘having friends’, other people do it, anyway) you’re advocating a feeble and trivial boycott of a popular website to promote your own unknown crap. Wow. That’s pathetic. You must be proud of yourself. Well, that’s more sad if you are.


        I don’t write for MentalFloss. Maybe they should do a list pertaining to common fallacies, because there seems to be a lot of ad hominem in these message boards.


  • imddonkey

    i always thought fox and the hound was a 20th century fox film.

  • khassandr

    I would have added the scene in which Frolo plans to slaughter the baby Quasimodo afer he had killed the boy’s mother. Frolo is stopped “in extemis” by the friar in Front of Notre Dame.

    By the way, That is not a Walt Disney movie, but “the secret of Nim” is very Dark too.
    It begins with a mouse named Brisby, looking for a cure for her child dying.
    Futhermore, she is a widow.
    She lost it, escaping a hungry monstruous cat – who ate her husband-, but thanks to a crow got it back.
    Her son is saved as long he rest in bed, any disturbance will be fatal.
    But the problem is that the familly is settled in a brick in a field soon to be plough. Meaning the death of all who stay. But moving with the kid would kill him.
    Great !

    The more you advance in the story, the darkier it becomes:
    Murder, blood, animal experimentation, awful death, etc.
    I highly recommend it to anyone, it really marked my childhood.

    Ps: I apologie for possible mistakes as I am French and English isn’t my mother’s tongue.

  • Yun

    I’m a little surprised Facilier’s “death” scene from The Princess and the Frog didn’t make it. A man getting dragged directly to Hell by his ankles is some pretty disturbing sh*t.

  • jay

    Fantasia’s pretty dark…no? And for some reason the magic duel between Merlin and Madam Mim in The Sword and the Stone used to creep me out. And what about Dumbo’s mom getting locked in the clink? That was pretty dark. Or even his psychedelic trip with the pink elephants. There’s probably a little darkness in most Disney movies. Good list.

  • The true story of Pocahontas is, if anything, even darker than the Disney movie.

    • uhhh .yep.

      Well, yeah. It’s true, for starters. -_-

  • Lisa D

    Something I didn’t catch when I was a kid but did recently: Peter Pan is flirting with the mermaids on the rocks. They start splashing Wendy and pulling on her skirt. Peter finally tells them to stop and one of them says “We were only trying to drown her!” When I watched it again a few months ago my jaw kind of dropped. It’s pretty dark.

  • Mira Bel

    I thought of one more, All dogs go to heaven. The other dog setting up Charlie’s murder.

    • sorcy79au

      OMG I haven’t watched that movie in decades! I used to watch it religiously when I was a kid!

      • Mira Bel

        LOL unfortunately now my son does! I honestly never cared for the movie but I never forgot that part were he was set up by the dog with the glasses.

  • Sure, Dumbo has the dark moments, but it also has one of the funniest scenes. “If I seen a elephant fly”, sung by the crows. Today, this would be considered insensitive racism, but it wasn’t considered such at the time.

  • Josie

    Awesome list !
    Awesome List !
    I enjoyed it.
    Forget these list hating “intellectual” Hipsters
    The dark side of Disney, veryyy interesting
    more subliminal message Lists

  • rio de janitor

    How about a list of top 10 Disney deaths?

  • frenemy

    The fox and the hound is my favourite disney movie. I remember being a kid and realising that people might not be friends forever but the respect you have for eachother stays.

  • Poppy

    I absolutely LOOOOVE The Black Cauldron, it’s my favourite Disney film. My friend had a Disney fancy dress party for her birthday last year and I dressed up as Princess Eilonwy

  • Magnumto

    I guess these are limited to animated Disney films, but when I saw the title, I thought for sure that Old Yeller would be on here.

    I never would have guessed Disney had so many dark moments. Bambi, yes, but the others were always just good clean fun to watch. Sigh. Now I know better.

    • Whippersnapper

      Yeah, the rabies scene always scarred me every bit as Bambi’s Mom’s death.

  • diana

    Despite how much adults worry about the dark themes in some Disney movies, they all had great life lessons; Although we suffer loss and tragedy, love and courage triumphs over evil. I would much rather have my kid watch something intense but educational (Bambi, The Lion King etc) than something fun but meaningless (Hannah Montana, High School Musical etc)

    • This list points out the rare dark moments in Disney films. Disney is famous for reworking tales and fairy stories to make sure they come out “nice”, “happy”, and without the dark, sad, violent moments of the original stories.

      This can backfire, though. My kids already knew the “Little Mermaid” before the animated movie came out. They were horrified that the movie had Ariel live and marry the prince. They actually wrote the studio to complain!

  • JWynter

    Well, I’m going to go rematch the Black cauldron now. Haven’t seen it for years, but now I want to see it again.

  • Dory

    I’m certainly glad I don’t work for these people!

  • Lisa Marie

    On this list I only saw Lion King, and I bawled my eyes out in the cinema along with many of the kids there, I never saw it again…and I don’t plan to

  • sorcy79au

    Awesome list! For those who object to these sorts of lists, not everyone wants to see lists on scientific theory or holes in the earth or most gorey deaths in the UK (actually that one might be a cool list). Some of us have deep respect and love for Disney or any other animations. One list is not going to satisfy absolutely everybody, everywhere, all the time.

    Now after saying that, I think I’ve seen The Fox and Hound maybe twice when I was little and that movie has scarred me so much that I have not seen it since. That best friends could be torn so brutally apart had me in tears and heart broken (apparently for years). I’m still not keen on watching it again. Pinocchio disturbed me also, especially the parts with the puppet master and Pleasure Island. (The “I want my mama” still resounds in my head from time to time. I can hear it perfectly.)

  • Bernard Marx

    Its so ironic, these movies are marketed towards children but when you watch them again as an adult you enjoy them even more because its so much easier to understand them. Oh and thanks for putting Hellfire on the list, that is by far my favorite movie song sung by my favorite movie villain.

  • penguin casserole

    I’m unclear how a list about some of the most popular and beloved movies ever made could possibly be leading people to the conclusion that is in decline.

  • Mike Giggler

    What about the Princess and the Frog?

    I’ll get my coat.

  • roadlflorp

    Is it just a coincidence that this was also one of the sporcle quizzes today?

  • tmm

    Most Disney movies are dark and evil things in my opinion. Lilo and Stitch gave me nightmares. Show me every horror movie in existence. Nothing. Lilo playing Elvis. Nightmares.

    What about Atlantis? Over 200 people die in one scene.

    • adrianne

      oh! yeah! “atlantis: the lost empire” most definitely ahould’ve been on this list

  • Gabryel

    good list , although i have never watched number 1 before .

  • Gabs

    Dumbo would have been fitting on this list.. like the animal torture themes and the scene where they put up the tent.. not to mention ‘Elephants on Parade’.

  • Gabs

    Dumbo would have been fitting on this list… at least more fitting than Lilo & Stitch. What with the animal torture themes, and the ‘Pink Elephants On Parade’ song.

  • moopersoup

    I think that Disney deals with darkness well. Looking back at my memories of watching those movies I can still recall the emotion the darkness evoked. It was emotionally effective, more so for not being overused.

  • Melissa

    I actually thought I had made up the Black Cauldrons existence. Apparently I watched it all the time as a kid before my brother and sister were born, and my parents weren’t too fond of it. Now that I think about it it scared the crap out of me! But I really was quite confused when I mentioned it and no one had heard of it.

  • BobM

    Keep in mind that Disney no longer has much to do with cute movies. For them social commentary is far more important. Walt is doubtless spinning in his grave.

  • My Addiction for Eccentric Action

    some of the list gives me the heartaches. specially the lion king

  • Landao

    Maybe I’m shallow, but how is Pinnochio becoming a real boy considered dark? Else, I am assuming the path to becoming a real boy is the dark part.

  • Landao

    I don’t think they were ever meant to be cute. Sure on the surface and as a kid they are cute. But the only thing that has changed is how we interpret them. Don’t you think?

  • Adrianne

    you forgot about the voodoo in “the princess and the frog”. That was pretty dark

  • Mirei


    So happy to see “Hellfire” on here!

    • eve

      Me too! But I seriously think The Hunchback should’ve been No.1 – that is THE darkest Disney movie, period! I watched it with my best friend the other day since she barely recalled what it was about; it’s my favorite Disney movie so I’ve mentioned it a lot during the course of our friendship. We had literally barely seen past the first 10 minutes before she sobbed “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THAT THIS MOVIE WAS SO EFFING SAD??!”

      I’m a sucker for that though :D Best movie ever, but sadly, so underrated…

  • Tribol

    I remember having the Black Cauldron in VHS when I was a kid and watching it all the time, it never scared me or anything I loved the movie but looking at it now I realise that holly shit that thing is really freaking dark

  • Cooper

    I always hated the scene in Alice in Wonderland where the walrus lures the baby oysters away from their mother and eats them. It’s done in kind of a cheery way but it’s really quite horrible! Alice in Wonderland was a spooky film in general

  • Cassy

    I was not expecting ‘The Black Cauldron’ on the list, but it’s my favorite lesser known Disney movie. Then again, I was one of those kids that loved to be scared.. Bambi should have been up higher, but I think it would have been to obvious.

  • ItsMyLittlePonyandLionKingBITCH

    do you remember the title of the doc?

  • Sami

    I have to say,I didn’t get the Mulan one until later when I was watching it with my son. I gasped and burst into tears. (I was hormonal ok)

  • Matt

    Sorry to beat a dead horse, but this list looks like it’s upside down. Bambi’s Mom dying is just the classic and Litmus test for all other Disney deaths. No Pixar at all?

  • sorcy79au

    One of my catchphrases when watching a film that has an early death in it is “is this a Disney film?” because so many of their films start out with deaths.

  • Alex

    Whenever I see one of these somewhere about sad or dark moments in Disney, I always hope to see Cinderella get mentioned, in the scene where the stepsisters tear her dress apart, but I don’t think I ever have. I mean, it’s not up there with Mufasas death, but am I the only one who found it completely heartbreaking?

  • gigi

    Beauty and the Beast had a few moments. Gaston plotting with the doctor to blackmail Belle into marriage. Beast’s depression and stabbing (probably my earliest memory of animated blood.)

    The Princess and the Frog touched on a few dark topics. Ray’s death (my sisters and I sat there slacked jawed for nearly a minute), Facilier being dragged to Hell, mild prejudice based on race, gender and financial status.

    Watching Tangled was particularly disturbing because of how similar Gothel is to our mother (pretty sad hearing my 9yo sister say “Oh my god, it’s Mom!”) Aside from that, kidnapping, stabbing, the death scene, relinquishing freedom in exchange for another’s life.

    Toy Story 3 had a couple of moments, but the most notable is the incinerator scene. Yet another scene where the older of us siblings were shocked into silence, and my nephews arenot allowed to watch it.

    Night on Bald Mountain in Fantasia scared the hell out of me when I was a kid, and to this day the song makes me nauseous.

    • eve

      If it wasn’t for that you have a 9 year old sister, which I don’t, I might’ve thought you were MY sister…! My sister is also called Gigi, and when she, I and two other of our siblings saw Tangled we all looked at each other and said that they must’ve modeled Gothel after our mother! Pretty disturbing indeed, but yeah we don’t get to choose our parents…

  • Cerem
  • disney used to be deep, I guess. sort of forgot about that.

  • Anonomys

    That was literally one of the best written reviews of movies I have written, and I read SEVERAL! I might be very young and most of these movies I have watched in the last 3 years and have thought wow these movies are so cute and are just for kids. But this really opened my eyes to more of an abstract and underlying meaning…. You really have to be really smart to write this and I applaud you!

  • Mabel

    “A surprising number of Disney movies have main characters with dead parents, or parents who simply aren’t there. ”

    In children’s fiction, many times the adult figures are incompetent or absent. This allows child readers/viewers to identify with the protagonists, who must rely on their own wits/talents/friends/luck to survive or cope. It removes interfering adults and allows the story to concentrate on the kids.

    Also, “Heaven’s Lights/Hellfire” is an amazing song. They play it often on my soundtrack channel and it gives me goosebumps every time.

  • Kym

    Where is dumbo in this list? Saddest Disney movie EVER made. I was expecting it to be number 1 x

  • Richard H

    Great list. There are still plenty dark Disney moments out there. I remember being terrified during the scene in “A Bug’s Life” where Hopper is eaten by the baby birds. I am surprised that “Toy Story 3” (the last 20 minutes in particular) is not on here. Also, isn’t “The Brave Little Toaster” a Disney film as well? That was one especially dark for its time.

  • Pecca

    Simba crawled under his dead feather’s arm…That’s so sad. *Look at the last sentence of that one*

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  • Null

    The Fox and the Hound is the most underappreciated Disney film of all time. I’m a 21-year-old man and the ending still brings tears to my eyes.

  • Jes

    When Copper hunted Todd, I cried so hard. I think that was the saddest moment of any Disney film.

  • Meg

    And there was the time Disney made horror movies or at least slightly horror movies “watcher in the woods” and the “child of glass” I had nightmares for years because of the child of glass. These are not really what you were going for with this list but they were Disney products.

  • Link

    I cried throughout this whole list, I have all of the disney classics on video, and obviously the newer ones on dvd and I’m just all filled with nostalgia now XD I’m re-watching them all with my 3 year old brother right now and I’m so glad that he’s getting to experience them aswell!

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  • sam

    re: number 4, his poor dead feather :(

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  • ashleysweet

    hahahahaha the black cauldron: everything.

    that made me laugh. hard. thats my favorite disney movie…makes me wonder about myself sometimes…

  • Lyam

    When I was a little girl (1-3) my mom used to show me all these films in spanish. I don’t know if they traumatized me or what but some films I never watched again. When I was older I realized I hated all the films that had really dark topics or they were very sad, like The Black Cauldron, Dumbo, Bambi(didn’t even finish watching it, according to my mother), The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and for some reason Lady and the Tramp (those siamese cats freaked me out). I would have imagined Alice in Wonderland to be here, I found that film really disturbing.

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