The Best Killer Kid Movies

The "killer child" film is an intriguing niche, one in which the perceived innocence of kids runs in sharp contrast to their violent actions on screen. It's a gimmick, to be sure, but quite a few such movies have reached beyond pure shock value to create great moments of thrills, chills, and even depth.

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Children of the Corn (1984)

Stephen King, author of 'Children of the Corn,' reads from his new novella 'Ur' at the Morgan Library & Museum February 9, 2009 in New York City.
Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images
One of the films most synonymous with the "killer kid" genre, this Stephen King adaptation actually isn't all that great, but it creates enough atmosphere -- especially in an early massacre scene -- to make it entertaining.
It will never be confused for a good movie, but The Pit remains absurdly watchable, thanks to its fascinating train wreck of a lead character. Watching 12-year-old Jamie is like watching a serial killer hitting puberty. He's an emotionally disturbed, pathologically lying perv who looks up women's skirts and sends harassing photos of naked women to his teachers. His teddy bear is even more pervy, prodding him even further into voyeurism. If there's anyone who shouldn't be trusted with a pit full of maneating troglodytes, it's him. But unfortunately for everyone else, he's the one who discovers the pit, and his natural inclination is to lure people he doesn't like (of which there are many) to it and push 'em in.
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It's Alive (1974)

It's Alive DVD
© Warner Home Video
The idea of a mutant killer baby is laughable, but cult writer/director Larry Cohen treats it with a remarkably straight face in It's Alive. The seriousness is helped by the fact that the claw-footed kid -- little more than a cheap rubber doll -- isn't shown much. Mostly you just hear it off screen, crying and screaming when it's scared...which is a lot.

After Drew Barrymore won our hearts in E.T., she set them on fire as the sympathetic title character in this Stephen King adaptation. She stars as a little girl whose ability to light fires with her mind draws the unwanted attention of the military...and weenie roasters nationwide.

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The Children (1980)

The Children DVD
© Troma
In this entertaining low-budget feature, six children on a school bus ride through a toxic cloud from a nearby nuclear power plant, turning them into zombies. These zombies aren't interested in eating anyone, though. The twisted plot has them developing the ability to burn people alive with their hands, meaning that all the kids have to do to kill their parents is to give 'em a hug.
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Case 39 (2010)

'Case 39' movie poster.
© Paramount

Playing like a feature-length version of the classic Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life," this long-delayed and underrated flick starring Renee Zellweger as a social working hired to handle a troubled girl delivers solid, if derivative, entertainment value.

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Sick Boy (2012)

SIck BOy
© Grand
One of the more underrated killer kid movies, Sick Boy's classic babysitter-in-peril setup is turned on its head when the source of the peril turns out to be the child she's babysitting. Cinematic direction, oodles of atmosphere, a strong cast and realistic, well-rounded characters overcome the low production value and make this a true diamond in the rough.
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Kill, Baby...Kill! (1966)

Kill, Baby, Kill DVD
© Dark Sky Films
Italian legend Mario Bava directed this tale of the ghost of a six-year-old girl (although the actress appears to be much older) who seeks vengeance on the residents of a small Transylvanian village who let her die years before. Despite a silly American title, this is a somber film that showcases Bava's visual style, with kinetic camerawork, dreamlike sequences and lush colors.
In this Stephen King adaptation, a grief-stricken man buries his young son's body in a magical burial ground that resurrects corpses. However, when the tyke returns, as they say down South, "That boy ain't right." It seems he's developed a fondness for the feeling of scalpels slicing through human flesh. Frankly, though, since he's just a toddler, he's hardly scary (And somehow, despite being run over by a tractor trailer, he has only a small scar on his forehead.). It's a testament to the movie, then, that it remains entertaining despite a nemesis you could pick up and toss with one hand.
Pale-faced, black-eyed zombie kids dressed in Depression-era clothes climb out of the mine they died in and roam the woods every night, carrying pickaxes. If that's not scary enough, they use the axes not only to kill you, but also to tenderize you before their meal.
A bus from the children's ward of a mental hospital crashes in the snow, killing everyone on board except for five little psycho buggers. The children (including a very young Leif Garrett) head towards a house in the hills, where they're taken in by a group of adults who think that they seem like normal enough kids. They couldn't be more wrong, though, as the crazy quintet sets up a series of grisly (yet admirably planned and executed) ambushes -- including the ol' piranha-in-the-bathtub gag.
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Wake Wood (2011)

Wake Wood
© Dark Sky
From the legendary Hammer Film Productions comes this tense and surprisingly grisly killer kid flick in the tradition of Pet Sematary, as a grieving couple is granted the chance to spend three days with their risen-from-the-grave daughter.
Fresh off of his stint in the family-friendly Home Alone movies, Macaulay Culkin opted to star as Henry, the pint-sized sociopath in the R-rated The Good Son, a guilty pleasure popcorn movie that affords us the opportunity to hear the 12-year-old use the "F" word (at last!). In the film, Henry's cousin Mark (Elijah Woods) comes to stay with him but soon discovers that this son is only "good" at murder and mayhem. The climax, in which Henry's mother must choose between the two boys, is a contrived thing of beauty.
This prototypical killer child movie finds an American diplomat and his wife taking in a child who turns out to be the son of Satan. Deadly "accidents" seem to follow the kid around, as do fanatical nannies who tend to toss themselves off of rooftops. A chilling entry in the Satan-centric films of the late '60s and '70s, The Omen single-handedly ensured that no child would ever again be named Damien.

This smartly crafted supernatural thriller plays like Ransom meets The Omen, as a quartet of ne'er-do-wells (including Lost's Josh Holloway) kidnap a wealthy family's son, only to realize that they've basically captured Damien. The eerily composed tyke has a talent for getting inside people's heads and making them want to kill.

This highly entertaining killer kid flick, shot in a POV ("home movie") style, tells the story of a husband and wife who, despite their efforts, end up with a couple of evil, evil kids.

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Citadel (2012)

'Citadel' movie poster.
© Cinedigm/New Video
Sort of like Them with a supernatural element, this hypnotic urban fairy tale from Ireland features hoodied otherworldly kids tormenting an agoraphobic father trying desperately to protect his baby daughter.
A demented Shirley Temple-type named Rhoda cold-bloodedly kills anyone who prevents her from getting what she wants in this black-and-white classic. I'm not sure how seriously this movie was taken in its day, but it's hilariously campy fun now -- with the theatrical overacting and the chess match between Rhoda and the family's caretaker, LeRoy, who sees her for what she is and tells her that they have special pink electric chairs for little girls like her. The tacked-on ending -- in which Rhoda experiences biblical retribution -- is the icing on the cake.
This mix of Village of the Damned and Devil Times Five plays on the astrology craze of the '70s, as three children are born in the same town on the same night under a particularly odd alignment of stars...or whatever accounts for astrological readings. A decade later, as their 10th birthday approaches, the three suddenly team up to kill as many people as possible -- shooting, stabbing, strangling and even running over victims in mild-mannered, sociopathic ways. While it doesn't necessarily make much sense, Bloody Birthday is quick-paced, fascinating and disturbing -- largely because it's so well done.

A mysterious (alien?) force impregnates the women of a small British town, who then give birth to blonde, bright-eyed children who are mature beyond their years and have the power to read minds and control the actions of others. Sort of like Miley Cyrus.

Orphan movie poster
© Warner Bros.
Broadly drawn characters and a ridiculous plot only heighten the deliciously dark fun of this popcorn thriller. More »

A psychologist specializing in "psychoplasmics" -- the physical manifestation of a person's rage -- treats a woman whose manifestations go well beyond the usual welts and scars. She actually births little mutant kids who kill anyone she feels anger toward. The little blonde monsters are malformed approximations of her real daughter -- down to the footed pajamas -- whose screeching fits of rage usually result in blunt-force head trauma. Arguably director David Cronenberg's most enjoyable picture.

Is there any more frightening cinematic child image than that of Samara crawling out of the well on TV...and then out of the TV? Here's a reminder. If only they had TiVo, they could've paused...

This terrifying French film delivers classic chills from marginally pubescent punks who remain mostly in the shadows, stalking and tormenting a couple staying in an isolated mansion. Awesome, powerful stuff.
This mostly English-language Spanish production has the apocalyptic feel of The Birds, but with kids instead of fowl. A British couple vacationing on a small Mediterranean island discovers that all of the adult inhabitants have been murdered by the children. Although we never get a definitive explanation of why the kids are so hostile towards adults, the film begins with a prologue detailing the long line of atrocities committed against children during the 20th century's wars, implying that somehow the kids have internalized resentment towards grown-ups. So basically, they're typical teenagers.