The ’80s were an awesome time to grow up. We had a doddering president who loved jellybeans. Charles was still in charge. Life was great. Or at least, it seemed to be. There was, of course, a dark side. Divorce was as trendy as Kajagoogoo, and with many parents working for the first time, the only thing left to raise us kids was the TV. And the things we were exposed to were often bizarrely dark.
We all remember the first time we saw a disturbing pop culture moment. One night your brother let you stay up late to watch cable, or your mom missed that one traumatizing scene in a cartoon about talking mice, and you’re looking at a lifetime of night terrors. Here are some of the most damaging moments from our childhood.
12. Large Marge in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
Hey, remember that scene at the Alamo? Or what about the Tequila dance? Sure you do, but if you ask anyone growing up in the ’80s what Pee-wee’s Big Adventure scene they still get the sweats from, you will get two words in return. Large. Marge. On that very night, 30 years ago, Pee-wee needed a ride, and our childhoods would never be the same.
11. The Grady Twins from The Shining
There are two types of twins — beer ad twins and creepy kid twins. The prototype for the disturbing kind can be seen in this classic horror film, that too many of us watched at far too young an age. Somehow rivers of blood and naked old ladies can’t compare to these little girls in matching dresses. Turn around, Danny. Turn around for all of us.
10. Psycho Blair from The Facts of Life
I know what you’re thinking — the only thing scary about The Facts of Life was the hacky writing. But you would be forgetting the episode “Seven Little Indians,” when the girls are murdered one by one by a psychotic Blair, driven mad by a perm gone wrong. Seriously. That’s an episode. Sure it was all a dream, but a generation tuning in for their regular fix of sassy Tootie comebacks had no way of knowing that. George Clooney wasn’t the only one to die in this episode. So did our innocence.
9. It from It
Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise the Clown has to be the scariest thing ever committed to film. If you told me right now Mr. Curry was possessed by the Devil while shooting this miniseries, I would believe you. They may all float down there, but up here we’re weighed down by the crippling anxiety he caused us later in life.
8. That Faceless episode of G.I. Joe
G.I. Joe was famously a show with zero stakes. Everyone had a laser rifle, but no one ever got shot. Planes blew up, but the pilot’s parachutes always worked. No matter what happened, everyone was going to be alright. That is, until the episode “Glamour Girls” aired, in which Cobra — working with a vain tycoon named Madame Veil — went about stealing womens’ faces, so they could remain forever young. This left the women alive, minus eyes, noses and mouths. A flap of skin covered where their faces used to be, their muffled screams clear from underneath. Go Joe?
7. Horror Movies Our Older Brother Watched
From Jason to Freddy to Chucky, the ’80s was a time when horror doubled down on gore, at the exact moment the VCR became popular. Now, your stoned older brother could force you to watch 15 minutes of Pumpkinhead at his leisure, and you could start figuring out ways to save up for a psychiatrist.
6. Decapitated Heads from Return to Oz
Boy, kids sure do love The Wizard of Oz. And the musical The Wiz was so much fun. Wait, there’s another movie coming out about the crazy hijinks in that land over the rainbow? Sign me up. Is the Tinman there? The Cowardly Lion? What’s that, there’s a hallway filled with dismembered heads, staring at you as you pass by? Dorothy isn’t in Kansas anymore. She’s in Hellraiser.
5. The Claymation Devil from The Adventures of Mark Twain
The 1985 classic The Adventures of Mark Twain tells the author’s collected works through Claymation. Charming fun for kids of all ages, that is until we stumble upon a fallen angel named Lucifer floating in the void. The filmmakers somehow manage to take the materials behind the California Raisins, and make us question the existence of God, the futility of life, and the causal indifference of nature. “Life itself is only a vision. A dream. Nothing exists, save empty space and you. And you… are but a thought.” Oooookay then.
4. That Scary Punky Brewster Episode
What in the what were they thinking? We weren’t prepared for this! Outside of the occasional episode where someone got stuck in a refrigerator, Punky Brewster was about rainbow bright clothes and wacky hijinks. And yet, in the “Perils of Punky” Halloween episode, an evil spirit tries to drive Punky insane with fear. That’s how Punky’s little buddy Alan found himself turned into a zombie wall of some sort. Dead eyes. Rotten teeth. Holy Macanoli, I need a drink!
3. Body Horror in The Last Starfighter
Only in the ’80s could a lighthearted Star Wars rip-off feature a scene of body horror right out of a David Cronenberg movie. It wasn’t enough to just have aliens leave a clone of our hero behind. No, they needed to grow it inside out, pulsing and pussing mere feet away from a sleeping little boy.
2. Artax’s Death in The Neverending Story
Here’s the moment when most of us realized life wasn’t fair. Atreyu’s trusty horse Artax dying of depression is like Chewbacca committing suicide after a tough divorce. It’s too brutal and real for our little minds to comprehend. Thankfully, they have medication for the Deadly Swamps of Sadness now.
1. Mr. Boogedy in Mr. Boogedy
This 1986 “Disney Sunday Movie” took a simple haunted house story and turned it into the stuff of nightmares. With his pockmarked face and glowing green aura, the Mouse House continued its proud tradition of messing with kids’ heads with their horrifying creation Mr. Boogedy. We wouldn’t realize he was glowing green because they couldn’t fix the green screen effect for another 20 years.