Top 10 Things 90s Kids Were Afraid Of

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Top 10 Things 90s Kids Were Afraid Of

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Mimi Kenny
90s kids knew the true meaning of horror. For this list, we'll be looking at the most awful things to spook kids growing up in the 1990s, both real and fictional. Our countdown includes "Goosebumps", “The Witches”, “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” Commercial, and more!
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Top 10 Things 90s Kids Were Afraid Of


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things 90s Kids Were Afraid Of.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most awful things to spook kids growing up in the 1990s, both real and fictional.

What scared you as a 90s kid? Let us know in the comments.

#10: Hearing “Do You Like Scary Movies?” Over the Phone

Long before smartphones, we had to rely on landlines to get in touch with others. And Caller ID wasn’t a guarantee. This meant that a mysterious phone call was the perfect way to scare your friends - especially the horror fans among them. In the now-iconic opening scene from “Scream”, Drew Barrymore’s Casey Becker is home alone and receives a call from a stranger who’s seen one scary movie too many. No matter how many times we watch this scene, there’s something about it that always sends shivers down our spines! According to Barrymore, the use of Caller ID tripled in the U.S. after “Scream”’s release. So, if your heart skipped a beat the next time your phone rang... Well, you weren’t the only one.

#9: “I See Dead People”

As soon as Haley Joel Osment said those four words, “The Sixth Sense” cemented itself as a modern classic of supernatural horror. It also had 90s kids seriously creeped out, looking at their friends twice to make sure they weren’t actually ghosts. Even if the film’s famous resolution has been spoiled for you, you should still see “The Sixth Sense”, especially if you love complex takes on horror. M. Night Shyamalan’s directing creates an atmosphere that’s tense but also quite humane. And Osment, Bruce Willis, and Toni Collette all turn in career-high performances. But... consider watching it with the lights on.

#8: “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” Commercial

PSAs used to rule the airwaves, and one practically every 90s kid remembers is this nightmare fuel, starring Rachel Leigh Cook. There was another version of the commercial that premiered in 1987, but this is the one all 90s kids know. In the ad, Cook uses an egg as a metaphor for the viewer’s brain. Then, to establish the effects of illicit drug use, she smashes the egg with a frying pan, and creates even further wreckage in the kitchen. The commercial has been parodied many times, including by Rachel Leigh Cook herself, in an episode of “Robot Chicken”. We weren’t asking our parents for eggs at breakfast for a while after it started airing.

#7: “The Witches” (1990)

Roald Dahl fans are doubly-blessed. Not only do they get to read some of the weirdest and most exciting stories ever written, but they get great film versions, too. “The Witches” might not have the same name recognition as “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” or “Matilda”, but if you like your family entertainment suitably twisted, give it a watch. The film, about a young boy and his grandmother trying to stop some nefarious witches, more than holds up by today’s standards. Directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring a wonderfully evil Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch, the film perfectly captures the sinister fun of the original novel. It also contains some spectacular and shocking visual effects, courtesy of Jim Henson, who sadly passed away just before its release.

#6: Chat Room Creeps

Nowadays, the idea of meeting someone in person who you originally met online isn’t a big deal. But back in the 90s, anonymity reigned supreme on the internet, and you didn’t always know who you were talking to on AOL Instant Messenger or other chat platforms. That mystery could be exciting, but it was also very dangerous, and parents and kids had a whole new type of “stranger danger” to worry about. While talking with strangers on the internet has become a lot more normalized in the decades since, it’s still good to remember to never give out your personal information to - or meet - someone you don’t entirely trust.

#5: Your Tamagotchi Dying

It’s not quite as sad as your real-life pet passing away, but if you had a Tamagotchi in the 90s, you did everything you could to keep that little virtual pet alive. This wasn’t something you could just pick up and attend to when you felt like it. If you forgot to pause, you might have been sound asleep only to be broken right out of your peaceful slumber by your digital companion needing to be “fed”. You had to take care of your little pal right, otherwise, it would meet an early demise. The heartbreak of losing a Tamagotchi was felt by countless 90s kids, and it always filled us with regret about what we could have done differently. Cruel world! He was so young!

#4: “The X-Files” Theme Song

Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully encountered plenty of paranormal terrors on “The X-Files” but, for our money, no alien creature was quite as creepy as the show’s theme song. The opening credits’ visuals are spooky enough, but when paired with that eerie music, it enters a whole new dimension of frightening. Scary or not, it definitely made a cultural impact. The Mark Snow-composed song was so popular, it ranked second on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in 1996. After being turned into an internet meme, it is, admittedly, less chilling, but that’s only because we poked fun at it. Just trust us on this one: you’d have been scared too if your first time hearing it was in 1993!

#3: Y2K

Some people spent New Year’s Eve like how Prince told us to, but others were a lot more on-edge. Fear about the “Y2K bug”, a supposed computer error that would cause blackouts and worse, was prevalent towards the end of the 90s. And it was hard not to get swept up in the anxiety at least a little bit. Computer developers worked diligently to make sure devices were "Y2K ready". Roughly $300 billion was spent on preparing for Y2K, which is over $450 million today. The precautions were a good idea but, in the end, everything worked out without a hitch. We were able to keep our lights on, enjoy our continued use of technology, and look forward to something truly scary: 2000s fashion trends.

#2: “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” (1990-96)

Before "American Horror Story" or "Black Mirror", the scariest show for 90s kids aired on Nickelodeon. "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" was an anthology series where scary stories were told by the show's young "Midnight Society” and played out on-screen. Lots of these stories were rooted in urban legends and other sorts of lore, but they were likely the first place many 90s kids had heard them. And, while things stayed family-friendly, the show did a great job of introducing 90s kids to horror. Now, who’s ready to hear “The Tale Of The Dead Man's Float”?

#1: “Goosebumps” (1992-)

Next to the "Harry Potter" series, the all-time highest-selling book series is "Goosebumps". R.L. Stine's horror books have been published in more than thirty languages, and have sold over 400 million copies around the globe.. Those who grew up in the 90s know just how wonderfully spooky these stories are. If you didn't spend at least part of your childhood reading "Night of the Living Dummy" or "The Haunted Mask" underneath the covers, with a flashlight, past your bedtime, were you really even a 90s kid? And we can’t forget the television adaptation, which brought these spine-tingling stories to life in vivid detail. No matter how much new horror we encounter, nothing will give us ‘goosebumps’ quite the same way.
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