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Family Movies Where Way Too Many Characters Die

Death, whether it comes suddenly or gradually, is a natural part of life, and that's something all children grow to eventually understand. To help facilitate this understanding of what death is and how it works, we have stories to fall back on. Family-friendly stories, including many of our favorite movies as children, are full of lessons for dealing with death, and just about everyone has a memory of the first time they watched a beloved character in a children's film pass away. 

For a lot of family movies, one character death is enough, and sometimes it's a death that's only implied rather than shown on the screen. For others, though, the deaths come in waves, and we watch numerous characters face mortal peril and often outright lose their lives in a way that's a little overwhelming. Just as we remember our first big character deaths, we also remember the first time we watched a film where it just seemed like everyone was dying. From fantasy flicks to sci-fi films, here are some of our favorite family movies where way too many characters die.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is a harrowing ending to a beloved series

The Harry Potter films (and the books that inspired them) are all about the various trials and tribulations of growing up, and creator J.K. Rowling never shied away from the fact that growing up brings with it no small amount of tragedy ... and even horror. Harry begins his life surrounded by death as his parents are murdered in their home, then deals with it firsthand in both Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince, as he loses friends and father figures to the violence of the wizard war. Watching the films together creates a sense of slow burn as Harry grows up and gets a little more used to the violence that surrounds him, which helps him understand what he must do. Then comes Deathly Hallows – Part II and the Battle of Hogwarts. 

Even in the context of everything these films have done to prepare us for the deaths of beloved characters, the final battle in the Potter saga is a lot to take in. It's so harrowing and full of violence that Harry (and by the extension, the audience) doesn't even realize certain characters have died until he looks back over the carnage. It's those moments in particular, when Harry realizes death is so present that he can't even account for all of it, that hit the hardest. Nothing can you prepare you for that, even if you're a diehard fan of the series.

Gremlins gets pretty gory

Gremlins is a masterclass in how to pull off a family-friendly horror-comedy. Introduce a cast of lovable (and lovably nasty, in some cases) characters in a picturesque location, lay out a simple set of rules, and then explore what happens when those rules are broken. Throw in some amazing creature design, and you've got something unforgettable. 

Because it's designed so well, Gremlins is able to pull off something almost like a magic trick with its various character deaths, in that it both convinces you that they're not a big deal and adds an extra layer of creepiness at the same time. Jerry Goldsmith's iconic score helps with this as the Gremlins are wreaking havoc on the town, because it starts to feel like a romp and not a slaughter. Then, as the Gremlins are taking punishment from the humans, the realism of the creature design makes the horror element really sing, while also almost making you feel bad for the little monsters. It all combines for a film experience that's fun and frightening in equal measure, especially if you're a kid.

There's way too much death in Watership Down

More than four decades after it was released, everybody knows that Watership Down is a famously brutal animated film, which makes it hard for the original effect it had on audiences to be replicated at this point. Even if you haven't seen a second of footage from Martin Rosen's adaptation of Richard Adams' beloved fantasy novel, there's a good chance you know it by reputation. Imagine, though, that you knew nothing about this film's infamous, bloody death sequences, and then you watched it for the first time. It would be sobering, to say the least, especially if you were a little kid. 

In terms of plot, the film is a fantasy saga about a group of rabbits who go in search of a new home after one of them has a vision of their current home being destroyed. In terms of how that unfolds, well ... it's a beautifully animated bloodbath. Rabbits rip each other apart, bunnies get torn up by dogs, animals are caught in snares, and in perhaps the most infamous sequence in the film, rabbits are buried alive and smashed together in agony until the life goes out of them. It's an unflinching adaptation responsible for more than a few nightmares over the years.

The Incredibles is really intense for a family film

The Incredibles is a bright, family-oriented adventure film that features only one major on-screen death. That scene, in which the supervillain Syndrome dies after his cape sucks him into an airplane turbine, is a memorable one, but it's also the punchline to costume designer Edna Mode's declaration of "no capes." So yeah, it's a brutal death and the end of a joke all in one, but it's not the darkest thing the film throws at us. 

The Incredibles takes place in a world where superheroes have been forced by the government to retire from their costumed lives, and as Mr. Incredible's story shows in the film, they've all been craving a return to the spotlight. Syndrome's big scheme involves exploiting this desire among the supers to return by luring them into a trap in which they must fight his Omnidroid. 

In perhaps the film's darkest scene, Syndrome reveals to Mr. Incredible that he's just the latest in a long line of supers who've fought various versions of the Omnidroid, and that all of the previous opponents are now dead. Even if they managed to survive one version of the robot, Syndrome would just upgrade it and fight them again until they were killed, leaving a trail of superhuman bodies in his wake. He's definitely a supervillain.

Tarzan is messed up for a Disney movie

Disney's Tarzan is a film about a human who learns to live amid what his fellow humans dub the savagery of the jungle ... and then he finds that people are often way more savage than any animal he's ever met. The film spends much of its runtime playing up this juxtaposition, focusing on the harshness of nature, as well as the harshness of the human condition, and that translates to quite a few deaths. 

In the very beginning, Tarzan's parents manage to rescue him from a shipwreck, but it's pretty clear a lot of people on board the sinking ship went down with it. Then, we see the gorillas Kerchak and Kala lose their son to a leopard attack, followed by Kala's discovery that the leopard has also killed Tarzan's parents. That all happens in the opening song

From there, we settle into the main story, but we're not done with death yet. By the time the film is over, Tarzan has killed the leopard himself, the evil explorer Clayton has shot Kerchak, and in the film's most memorable death scene, Clayton dies as the result of an accidental hanging. Tarzan is a lot of fun, but it's also one of Disney's bloodier affairs.

It's death, death, death in The Brave Little Toaster

The Brave Little Toaster was, in some ways, Toy Story for the 1980s. It's the story of a group of sentient objects who are worried they're going to be replaced, and they have to go on an adventure to reunite with their owner. It's also, in many scenes, terrifying to the right child. 

The film spends much of its runtime establishing that Toaster and his friends Blanky, Lampy, Kirby, and Radio are real beings with personalities and desires, and the appliances around them are the same way. Then, when they find themselves in a junk shop, Toaster and friends are forced to witness the shop's owner taking a blender apart and ripping out its motor. With the context of the rest of the film firmly in place, the scene plays out exactly like a murder might in another movie, right down to dripping oil at the end. 

Then there's the film's climactic junkyard sequence, which features a number of sentient cars singing about what they did back when someone wanted them, all while an evil electromagnetic crane patrols overhead. One by one, we watch as these singing cars with sad eyes are picked up and dropped into a crusher, and then we see the resulting cubes of scrap metal pop out. It's a slaughterhouse.

Mulan is a family film all about warfare

Mulan is a Disney movie, but it's also an animated epic about a war, and as a result, death definitely makes its presence known. The main story, of course, follows the title character as she poses as a boy and joins the Chinese army in the fight against the Huns so that her ailing father won't have to go. As she grows bolder, Mulan pushes for her unit of trainees to join the main Chinese army, and that's when things start to get really dark. 

Soon after, Mulan and her unit discover the burned-out remains of a village, and when Li Shang wonders what happened to the army led by his father, the camera pushes over a hillside to a show us a field absolutely littered with bodies. It's all there to demonstrate the cost of war and the savagery of the Huns, and if you're at the right age when you see it, it can hit hard.

That's not the end of the character deaths in the film, though. Soon after this discovery, Mulan kills most of the Hun army herself by burying them in an avalanche, and then the Hun leader Shan Yu meets his end by going up in flames in the middle of a fireworks show. No one ever said Disney movies are joyful all the time, but Mulan takes things to a particularly heavy place.

Once Upon a Forest starts off with some sickening deaths

Once Upon a Forest is probably not the greatest animated film from your childhood, but if you saw it at a certain age, you no doubt remember some moments of pretty intense horror near the beginning. Sure, Disney kills off quite a few parental figures in its movies, too, but it's not often that things get this gruesome. 

The film follows a group of young forest creatures called the "Furlings" as they go about their daily lives in the forest of Dapplewood. Everything changes when humans accidentally spill chemicals in the forest, sending toxic fumes everywhere. The fog of the chemicals sends the forest into a panic, as one of the Furlings, Michelle, runs home to find that her parents have succumbed to the fumes. 

This sequence, in which the Furling Abigail saves Michelle from certain death but sees Michelle's parents dead at their kitchen table, is horrifying, and the whole film is made scarier by the fact that we never really know just how many Dapplewood residents have died. There are a lot of happy reunions at the end of the film, but those two deaths launch an undercurrent of dread that might be the most powerful thing in the whole movie.

Star Wars is a family movie that pulls no punches

Yes, Star Wars might be picked apart endlessly by millions of adults all over the world, but it's also a family film, and most people can still tell you all about the first time they saw the original movie as kids. After all, it's a thrilling, funny, inspiring experience, full of cool space battles, laser swords, and talking robots ... and it's also packed with death. 

The film leads off with a gun battle, then transitions to a pretty graphic murder as Darth Vader chokes out a guy. Then the movie delivers the dead bodies of a bunch of poor Jawas who were just doing their jobs, and we get to watch as C-3PO throw their corpses on a fire. Then, of course, there's the scene that haunted a million kids' nightmares: Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru's charred bodies. And that's all before Luke ends up in space. 

By the end of the film, thanks to the destruction of Alderaan and the Death Star, billions of people are dead in the first Star Wars film. Yes, "War" is right there in the title, but when you're a kid just getting a grip on death, a movie like this can really throw you for a loop.