When I’m feeling down, I put on an animated movie from my childhood to feel better. There’s nothing like a Disney or Pixar flick (or two, or three) to remind you about all the good that you can find in the world. However, these movies aren’t all about lighthearted fun all the time—they’re not afraid to tackle serious themes and crushingly dark moments.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s healthy. Overcoming hardship and tragedy makes us stronger while dealing with sadness head-on makes us feel more human. In other words, animated films that have serious moments help us mature as people.

BuzzFeed asked its fans about the dark and serious moments in animated movies and compiled a list of some of them. Scroll down to check it out and let us know in the comments what you thought of them. Remember to upvote the ones that left the biggest impression on you, dear Pandas.

#1

Up

Up

In Up, some of the serious topics dealt with include miscarriage and depression that follows. Ellie found out that she was pregnant and she was so happy that she decorated the entire nursery at home. Later, she learned that she lost the baby.

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natie marie
Community Member
2 months ago

Saddest intro to an animation to date. At the time in the cinema, the short that was shown before Up was the one with the rain cloud and the stork and honestly I was a hot mess by the time reached its contemporary story.

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#2

Lilo & Stitch

Lilo & Stitch

In Lilo & Stitch, the movie deals with losing loved ones, grief, and feeling lost and confused.

This is most felt in the scene where Lilo talks to Stitch about how her parents died in a car accident. Stitch later admitted that he felt lost.

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Just a Purpler
Community Member
2 months ago

AHHHHHHHH THIS PHYSICALLY HURT ME

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#3

Zootopia

Zootopia

In Zootopia, the film's creators talk about segregation, racial profiling, and the ridiculous idea that biological differences between races influence behavior, throughout the entire movie. The movie also alludes to how stereotyping is wrong and that we should all work together to reach equality.

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ThreeOfAKind
Community Member
2 months ago

I love how this movie portrays racism in a way kids can really understand too

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Bored Panda reached out to talk about the serious topics in animated movies with Reddit user Niiue, one of the moderators at r/MovieDetails and an expert in everything related to films. Niiue told us that they believe one of the reasons why Disney references serious topics is because it serves "as a bonus for parents"—in other words, it keeps the adults interested in the story, too, not just kids.

According to the redditor, having serious topics in animations improves their stories because depth improves writing.

We also wanted to find out Niiue's opinion about the most serious moment that stood out for them in recent animated movies. "I think the first thing that comes to mind is how The Incredibles had numerous references to infidelity that I was too young to pick up on when I first saw it. I think the reason it stands out to me now is specifically because of how much it flew over my head as a kid."

#4

Inside Out

Inside Out

In Inside Out, the creators of the movie gave proper attention to Riley's depression. They showed her depression as a real issue, instead of stating that Riley was just an angsty kid. Riley's clothes even represented how she felt.

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miniarmour 42
Community Member
2 months ago

I really hate it when people say that kids don't get depression.

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#5

Dumbo

Dumbo

In Dumbo, the animation deals with separation, animal cruelty and how animals are abused in the entertainment industry. This is most obvious during the scene when Mrs. Jumbo goes berserk when a kid messes with her child, Dumbo.

However, things don't end well for Mrs. Jumbo: she is whipped, choked, chained, locked up in a trailer, and not allowed to see her own child.

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ThreeOfAKind
Community Member
2 months ago

That movie is incredibly sad :(

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#6

Mulan

Mulan

In Mulan, the creators of the animated movie deal with themes of misogyny in society. Mulan proves throughout the entire film that a woman's place doesn't have to be in the home. Every single person can be smart, witty, tough, and capable, no matter their gender.

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Iapetos
Community Member
2 months ago

Not all men are capable, though.

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For me personally, the darkest and saddest moments in animations are when Simba’s dad Mufasa died in The Lion King and when Marlin and Nemo were the only ones left alive after the barracuda attack in Finding Nemo. (No, these aren’t tears, there’s just something in my eye.)

Disney films are chock full of surprisingly dark moments that you start to notice more and more of when you spot the first one. Elly B writes on The Artifice that what connects both Disney and Pixar movies are that they’re willing to include “weighty and emotionally hard-hitting” topics. From grief to prejudice to living with disability.

#7

Moana

Moana

In Moana, one of the most bittersweet ideas is that the loved ones that we lose are never truly gone—they'll always be with you. This is best shown in the scene when Grandma Tala, who is dying, says goodbye to Moana.

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Katrin P.
Community Member
2 months ago

I ugly cried so much at this scene

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#8

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6

In Big Hero 6, the focus of the story isn't just about relocation—it's the heavy loss of a beloved family member and the grief that comes with it.

Baymax, who is a healthcare robot, sees that Hiro is grieving and helps him cope by helping him reconnect with his friends and the outside world. (Lots of hugs help, too!) The movie also deals with mental health, abandonment, and the theme of revenge.

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Colin L
Community Member
2 months ago

Grief is complex enough in it's simpler forms. Add to that feelings of family loss, guilt (whether real or perceived), and the regular emotional stew of growing up... Baymax did an amazing job.

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#9

Finding Dory

Finding Dory

In Finding Dory, the creators of the movie deal with the topic of being someone who is neuroatypical through Dory's character.

The film showed that it's alright to be neuroatypical, that you're not less of a person, and that people with intellectual disabilities can lead happy lives, just as Dory was able to find her parents.

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Palestinian warrior
Community Member
2 months ago

Baby Dory is so cute! 😍

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Of course, some parents might think that their kids are too young for some of the heavy lessons these movies might teach all of us. However, the harsh truth is—you can’t always protect your kids from the real world. No matter how much you might want to.

What Disney movies do is they present a serious, sometimes dark, issue and help the characters and the audience understand what the best way to deal with the situation is. So instead of ignoring possible problems that kids might run into, these films help provide them with emotional toolboxes to overcome the challenges that await them.

#10

Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo

In Finding Nemo, Disney and Pixar talk to the audience about the topic of love and losing those closest to you. Dad Marlin and his baby son Nemo were the only ones who survived the barracuda attack. Marlin lost his wife and all of his other children.

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glowworm2
Community Member
2 months ago

This part hit me hard--especially when Marlin makes that promise to the last egg left.

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#11

Beauty And The Beast

Beauty And The Beast

In Beauty and the Beast, Disney tackles the very serious topics of sexual harassment, sexism, social shunning and male entitlement. Nearly every scene with Gaston and Belle in it shows his ungentlemanly and demeaning attitude toward her.

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Leo Domitrix
Community Member
2 months ago

And the Beast didn't start out a treat, either. I still love the sly meaning Belle gives "I just don't deserve you". (As in, I'm too good for you, whereas he hears he's too good for her.)

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#12

Brave

Brave

In Brave, the creators deal with the serious topics of sexism, forced gender roles, and the expectations that the patriarchy has of young women throughout the entire film.

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Monday
Community Member
2 months ago

I feel like Brave is a better example of overcoming sexism than Mulan (I love Mulan, just saying). Merida sets out to prove herself, she doesn't want or a need a man fighting for her. Mulan sets out to save her father, she doesn't particularly care about changing the way society sees her, she just wants to save her family.

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#13

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Disney deals with lots of dark themes, including bullying others because they're different, ableism, racism, sexism and sexual harassment, poverty, genocide, and corruption.

One of the most powerful and darkest scenes is when the crowd bullies Quasimodo, throws tomatoes at him, and ties him up because he looked different.

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Vorknkx
Community Member
2 months ago (edited)

For me, this is Disney's darkest film. Minister Frollo is such a scary villain because he is a very accurate depiction of the villains from real life. People with power who brutally exploit others, while hiding behind a facade of high morality and grandeur.

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#14

A Bug's Life

A Bug's Life

In A Bug's Life, the topics of authoritarianism, fascism, dictatorships, and government corruption are discussed throughout. Some also interpret the movie to have some overt references to Nazism.

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Vorknkx
Community Member
2 months ago

I was lucky to be born shortly before the totalitarian regime in my country fell. But I've heard quite a few scary stories from my parents and grandparents about growing up and trying to find your place in such a society...

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#15

Monsters, Inc

Monsters, Inc

In Monsters, Inc., one of the most serious topics is learning how to say goodbye to those that you love the most. It's perfectly encapsulated in the scene when Sulley hugs Boo goodbye and leaves through the closet.

Some other serious themes peppered throughout the film deal with corruption and capitalism.

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EHops
Community Member
2 months ago

I cried So Hard during this scene, especially because Boo doesn't understand what's going on and Sully did what he had to do to protect her

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#16

Toy Story 2

Toy Story 2

In Toy Story 2, the movie deals with abandonment issues and the idea that just because somebody was abandoned doesn't make them incapable of love.

In the animation, we learn more about Jessie's backstory, specifically that she was abandoned. However, this doesn't mean that was was no longer able to give or receive love. What's more, this didn't make Jessie less deserving of being loved.

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lenka
Community Member
2 months ago

The message wasn't that she was no longer able to give or receive love, but that she was worthy of being loved.

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#17

The Lion King

The Lion King

In The Lion King, the animated movie touches upon the topic of how power corrupts and how the desire for power can lead to awful things, even tearing families apart.

This is shown especially vividly when Scar kills Mufasa and then blames it on baby Simba.

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Aragorn II Elessar
Community Member
2 months ago

I don’t care how morally good you are, given absolute power you will become corrupt. History has proven this time and time again.

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#18

Frozen

Frozen

In Frozen, the difficulties and challenges of building a healthy relationship with your siblings are analyzed, not just the positives.

The movie addresses how you have to come face to face with pain, ambivalence, jealousy, rivalry, and sometimes even hate if you want to create a compassionate relationship with your sibling.

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deanna woods
Community Member
2 months ago

My siblings and I have been through so many ups and downs together and thankfully we have come out strong. My sister hung out with a bad crowd in high school and seeing how this changed her changed our relationship for a while. My little brother, who is really my godbrother, has essentially been abandoned by his parents into the care of my parents. He has trust issues with male figures in his life and sometimes argues with my dad which makes me get mad at him. However, at the end of the day, I love both of my siblings more than anything in the world.

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#19

Hercules

Hercules

In Hercules, the themes of sexism and sexual harassment are featured in the movie.

These two topics are addressed through Meg's character who in one scene says that men think that 'no' means 'yes' and 'get lost' means 'take me.'

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Stille20
Community Member
2 months ago

It mentions it, but in a way that makes it "normal". Hercules is a hero because he's not like other men who "think no means yes". That hold men to a pretty low standard.

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#20

Coco

Coco

In Coco, the characters deal with the serious topics of friendship and betrayal.

The scene that teaches the audience about these two themes is the one where Ernesto reveals that he poisoned Héctor,

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glowworm2
Community Member
2 months ago

This scene was seriously dark. The fact that Ernesto even uses a poisoning scene in one of his movies that imitates Hector's death straight down to the toast is downright twisted. It also is especially effective at revealing the twist villain. Up to this point, Hector was still seen as the comedy relief character and we still thought Ernesto was related to Miguel.

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#21

Pocahontas

Pocahontas

In Pocahontas, the film's creators address the serious and dark themes of racism, as well as colonialism and its negative effects.

These two themes can be seen throughout the movie.

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deanna woods
Community Member
2 months ago

I might get downvoted for this, but I don't care, Pocahontas was also about one race believing that they were superior to another and for that reason decided to treat the other race anyway they saw fit. It was also about thinking that you deserve something that didn't and never did belong to you.

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#22

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3

In Toy Story 3, the movie deals with the theme of how each and every one of us eventually outgrows our pasts and how that's a good thing.

The scene which captures the essence of this is the one where Andy gives all of his favorite toys to Bonnie.

What's more, Toy Story 3 also deals with themes of authoritarianism, just like A Bug's Life.

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#23

Tarzan

Tarzan

In Tarzan, the characters deal with the topic of finding hope even though they suffered losses that seem insurmountable and impossible to get over.

The scene that illustrates this best is the one where Tarzan rescues his loved ones and finds home in the family that he chose.

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Ireland Gacha
Community Member
2 months ago

"You came back." "I came home." I bawled

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#24

Cinderella

Cinderella

In Cinderella, the creators of the animated movie tackle the topics of losing a parent, parental neglect, and how far from everyone comes from a happy, loving home. One of the darkest scenes is when Cinderella's evil stepsisters tear off her homemade dress.

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glowworm2
Community Member
2 months ago

This scene did not sit well with me as a kid. I kept asking my mother afterwards why they did that.

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#25

Aladdin

Aladdin

In Aladdin, one of the main serious topics is extreme poverty, never having enough food, and the desire to live better.

In fact, you could say that if Aladdin didn't live in poverty, the entire plot of the movie (or its sequels) would never have happened.

Some of the other main serious themes were corruption, greed, slavery, and patriarchy.

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lenka
Community Member
2 months ago

Poverty was not the main topic here. The film certainly addressed poverty but corruption and power were far more important themes as was personal freedom from slavery (Genie) and patriarchy (Jasmin). Ultimately the message of the film was about doing the right thing - no matter what the personal cost might be, from Aladdin giving away his bread in the beginning to making his last wish in the end.

#26

The Rescuers Down Under

The Rescuers Down Under

In The Rescuers Down Under, the film's creators address the themes of environmental preservation and protecting endangered species. They also tackle the topic of illegal poaching.

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Xavier Wescott
Community Member
2 months ago

oh good lord it has been forever since I have seen this movie

#27

Bolt

Bolt

In Bolt, a couple of more serious topics that can be found between the lines are related to lying and treating animals right.

If Bolt never believed that he had superpowers, the entire plot of the movie would never have happened and there would be no need for the film in the first place.

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Sinkvenice
Community Member
2 months ago

That's a bit of a redundant point. If characters didn't do what they're supposed to, then there'd be no point of any movie being made. :)

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#28

The Princess And The Frog

The Princess And The Frog

In The Princess and the Frog, the topic of accepting your fate, however bad it might be, is shown to the audience.

Ray the Firefly accepts his fate, knowing that something good would come from having stolen the trinket and having fought off Facilier's demons. Ray then peacefully passes away, surrounded by his friends.

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Xavier Wescott
Community Member
2 months ago

Aren't they also forgetting that the actual princess in the frog accepted their fate? I think that's bigger than what they are going for

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#29

Cars 2

Cars 2

In Cars 2, the story throughout the entire movie talks about climate change, nature, and the effects that oil has on the world.

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Number 5
Community Member
3 days ago

also the feeling of being rejected.

#30

Oliver & Company

Oliver & Company

In Oliver & Company, the movie deals with the serious topic of living and surviving in extreme poverty.

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Sally Appleton
Community Member
2 months ago

Not gonna lie, I'm tearing up right now thinking about the beginning with Oliver in the box alone

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#31

Tangled, Cinderella And Frozen

Tangled, Cinderella And Frozen

In Tangled and Cinderella (and partially in Frozen), the topic of parental abuse and neglect is addressed. However, not everyone agrees with this interpretation.

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lenka
Community Member
2 months ago

Tangled and Frozen were not about parental abuse. Rapunzel's captor took on a parental role but she was never a parent and barely behaved like one. Elsa's parents in Frozen loved and adored her and were trying to protect her. They may not have got it right - but that does not constitute abuse.

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