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The 18 Trippiest Kids' Movies Ever

To celebrate the arrival of Disney's 'Alice Through the Looking Glass,' we're looking back at some of cinema's more kaleidoscopic offerings

1 / 18

'Return to Oz'

Loved The Wizard of Oz? How about the 46-years-later sequel, a terrifying dystopic tale that takes all the insanity of Wizard and dials it up 75 notches?! –Zach Dionne

2 / 18

'Gremlins'

Gremlins is your typical “let’s teach kids responsibility and to not disobey authority” tale. Only Gremlins did it by scaring the living crap out of kids and young adults back in 1984. While there are plenty of funny moments in the movie, it is mostly remembered for the cute little creatures that would spawn into creepy little evil monsters if a couple of specific rules weren’t followed. Of course these rules were ignored, and the ugly little bastards left a path of destruction that spanned two movies. –Juan Cadavid

3 / 18

'Alice in Wonderland'

Before Tim Burton got his hands on the film’s live-action remake, it was the 1951 Disney original that ignited the imaginations of curious kids everywhere. The naïve Alice is transported to a nonsensical magical wonderland filled with unforgettable moments. The potion that makes Alice large or small, the hookah-smoking Caterpillar that tells her to eat mushrooms, the “unbirthday” celebration by the wacky Mad Hatter and March Hare duo, the bread and butterflies and the crazed Queen of Hearts—the entire movie can be translated to a long psychedelic drug adventure, despite author Lewis Carroll reportedly being sober while writing the novel. –Bianca Gracie

4 / 18

‘Labyrinth’

So imagine this: your baby brother is stolen by a goblin and you have to retrieve him by finding your way through a hazy maze...and then David Bowie shows up. In the Jim Henson–directed movie from 1986, nothing is what is seems, and by the end, you’re left wondering what is home and what is the labyrinth.
–Emilee Lindner

5 / 18

‘Time Bandits'

All your favorite Monty Python actors are in this 1981 weirdo cult classic. I honestly don’t even know what it’s about and I probably never will. Terry Gilliam directed the time-traveling tale, which stars a bunch of folks, like Sean Connery, John Cleese and my girl Shelley Duvall. Enjoy. –Emilee Lindner

6 / 18

’The Witches’

What can be more mind-boggling than a boy on a mission to stop an army of witches, but as a mouse? It’s a terrifying thought for a child, especially if you believe in witches. The scene where the Grand High Witch, played by Anjelica Huston, says “You may remove your shoes! You may remove your wigs!” and all the witches reveal their true selves is truly beastly and creepy.

The 1990s fantasy film may come off a little bizarre, but it also gives us the storyline of a boy, Luke, trying to transition from the death of his parents to living with his grandmother, who is a complete smoking hippy. Luke definitely adjusts and finds himself coming up with a master plan to take the witches down and give them their own cat and mouse medicine. –Amissa Pitter

7 / 18

'Spirited Away'

Hayao Miyazaki’s ultimate masterpiece is driven by this plot: a young girl’s parents are turned into pigs, and she must enter the spirit world to save them. One of the most successful global animated films of all time is also one that features masked phantoms, dragons and a “stink spirit,” so you know it’s not playing around.
–Jason Lipshutz

8 / 18

‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’

Tim Burton’s first feature film offers a lot of competition for the trippiest moment: Large Marge? Tequila dance? Pet shop rescue? Nope, I think it’s this killer breakfast scene. –Laurie Ulster

9 / 18

'The NeverEnding Story'

There's nothing more consciousness-stretching than thinking, as a kid, that you are about to start watching a movie that will never end. It does, sadly, conclude, but not before giving you six acid trips worth of wildness. If you've ever imagined an insane thing, it's in this movie.

Also that old guy in the bookstore looks exactly like my grandfather, which is a trip for sure. –Zach Dionne

10 / 18

'Drop Dead Fred'

Everyone remembers what it was like to have an imaginary friend...right? Drop Dead Fred is all about a girl who is all grown up but can still see and interact with her imaginary friend, Drop Dead Fred. Obviously this doesn’t bode well for her, or for any chances at a normal adult life. The movie's rated PG-13, so it qualifies as a kids' movie, but by no means was it your standard kids' flick. It features dirty jokes, sexual innuendos and some trippy practical effects, all courtesy of the mischievous title character. If that wasn’t enough, the mother in the movie is referred to throughout the movie as “the super bitch." –Juan Cadavid

11 / 18

'The Nightmare Before Christmas'

Breathtaking in its creativity and scope, The Nightmare Before Christmas is also deeply disturbing to anyone who cherishes the wholesomeness of Christmas imagery. I mean, this is literally a story about ghouls and skeletons invading the holiest of nights—and it’s for kids! It’s a cult classic now, but The Nightmare Before Christmas was probably a tough sell in the early '90s. –Jason Lipshutz

12 / 18

‘Fantasia’

The original Fantasia, released in 1940, was a flop—but that’s because it was ahead of its time. A spectacular explosion of colors and images set to classical music, the movie didn’t find its audience until the late '60s, when psychedelic drugs hit their heyday. The animators were constantly asked what drugs they took before creating it, and the answer was none, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the movie. There’s never been anything as visually engrossing since.

Since the trailer doesn’t quite do it justice, check out the excerpt below, which was used to relaunch Micky Mouse’s career (whose popularity was waning) in the mesmerizing and occasionally terrifying The Sorcerer’s Apprentice–Laurie Ulster

13 / 18

'Rock-a-Doodle'

Not the most memorable animated film, which definitely speaks to the 1992 flick's weirdo status. A devilish fat owl in a cape turns a real-life, live-action boy into a cartoon cat. There's an Elvis-y rooster named Chanticleer. It's in some ways a traditional "cute animals go to New York" story, but so many choices make it a total brain-expander. –Zach Dionne

14 / 18

'Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory'

Johnny Depp attempted to recreate the absurdity in 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,, but nothing beats this 1971 classic. From the mysterious Slugworth to the Oompa-Loompas (why is their skin orange?!) to Violet Beauregarde getting juiced and Charlie almost getting chopped to death with Grandpa Joe, the film was just plain weird—which makes it so great! Oh, not to mention that completely horrifying tunnel scene that hasn’t stopped haunting me ever since I first watched it as a kid. Thanks for the nightmares! –Bianca Gracie

15 / 18

‘Yellow Submarine’

Part of what makes Yellow Submarine so beautiful is that it was done without computers: every cell was hand-drawn or painted individually. It doesn’t even matter that The Beatles' voices are soundalikes (until the Fab Four show up in live action at the end), because this movie is FUN! Bright colors, freaky characters, and a mix of surreal images, psychedelia and just plain silliness inspired a new interest in animation when it hit screens in 1968. The story begins when Blue Meanies attack Pepperland and turn everyone into statues by dropping giant green apples on them. Only The Beatles can save the day! And they do, after journeys through the various Seas: Time, Science, Monsters, Holes and Nothing, plus a lot of kickass music. –Laurie Ulster

16 / 18

'Dumbo'

Sure, this 1941 Disney film is more known for the adorably big-eared Dumbo, but there is a certain scene that probably wouldn’t fly in modern children’s films. Poor Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse accidentally get drunk off champagne, which results in a hallucination about a pink elephant parade. I of course didn’t understand it as a child, but now that I’m older it looks more like the Disney equivalent of an acid trip. It was revealed last year that Tim Burton (who previously directed the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland remakes) will also be behind the live-action version of Dumbo. So prepare for your harmless Disney nostalgia to be totally screwed up. –Bianca Gracie

17 / 18

'Coraline'

Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel and helmed by Henry Selick, who utilized the same stop-motion creepiness in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline is basically The Wizard of Oz but with a nightmarish alternate universe—where everyone has buttons for eyes—instead of a yellow brick road. The ending, where Coraline’s alternate-universe mother turns into a spider with needle legs, is some downright madness.
–Jason Lipshutz

18 / 18

'The Wizard of Oz'

The damn thing syncs up perfectly with The Dark Side of the Moon and revolves around flying monkeys, a witch with a poison-green face, Munchkins, a yellow brick road, getting fucked up on poppies and a lion, robot and scarecrow with serious issues. All that needs to be said. (TBH we could've just stopped after "Dark Side of the Moon.") –Zach Dionne

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