5 Reasons Why Michael Jackson's Moonwalker Scarred Me as a Child

A lot of people talk about how that boat scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or the Wheelers in Return to Oz, really messed them up as children. And most of the time, those people are joking. Yes, those scenes and characters were bizarre and didn’t really fit in a “kid’s movie.” But they didn’t really mess anybody up, either. They were just creepy. Well, I’m here to tell you that the Michael Jackson movie, Moonwalker, which came out in 1988, and pretty much consisted of a few music videos strung together, legitimately did mess me up as a child.

And it’s because it slipped into my subconscious. Growing up, there are a lot of things connected to Moonwalker that I didn’t even realize were from this film that seriously freaked me out as a child, and I didn’t even know why. You might be wondering how this happened, and I can tell you. But do I want to? Yes. Yes, I do. Because it will be therapeutic for me, and I have to start somewhere, right? Annie, am I okay?

Michael Jackson with a bunny

I Used To Think I Dreamt This Movie

There are two movies that I thought I dreamt but could have sworn were real. One was a sequel to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that actually turned out to be a live-action version of The Little Prince, starring Gene Wilder. And the other was Moonwalker. Strangely enough, I was more convinced that the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory sequel was real since there is actually a sequel to the book called, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

But Moonwalker was the movie that was too weird to be real. In my dream of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sequel, Willy Wonka and Charlie land in a forest with their elevator, and these little creatures pop out behind trees. That’s all that I “remembered”. But in Moonwalker, I could have sworn I remembered these clay figures chasing Michael, and him turning into a robot. Obviously, that was all just a dream…wasn’t it?

Michael Jackson in Smooth Criminal

Segments In The Movie Became Actual Music Videos

And here’s why my lizard brain almost believed it was all just a dream. It’s because many of the segments in the movie actually became music videos. This is because Moonwalker isn’t really a movie, per se, as it is just a bunch of music videos that are loosely strung together. “Man in the Mirror,” “Speed Demon,” “Leave Me Alone,” and of course, “Smooth Criminal,” are all featured in this film.

And it’s weird that I didn’t believe this was a movie since I had the Michael Jackson Moonwalker video game for my Sega Master System. I played the hell out of that game, and I loved it. It was a platformer (of sorts) where you had to rescue children by opening doors. It was really fun, but something didn’t quite sit well with me when it came to a trench-coat-wearing bad guy with sunglasses. There was nothing really scary about this character. But then I saw the movie…

Joe Pesci

Joe Pesci Always Scared Me As A Child And I Didn’t Know Why

I found out that Moonwalker was a movie while watching an episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd. In the episode, which was about the Moonwalker game, the Nerd briefly mentioned that the game was based off of a movie, which made my heart leap into my throat. All those years where I just thought I imagined the movie finally came crashing home. I got goosebumps and had to see if it was real. When I found out that it was, I watched it and finally understood why I had an irrational fear of Joe Pesci growing up.

Because while most kids of a certain age found Joe Pesci to be funny as the short-tempered thief, Harry, in Home Alone, I always found him terrifying. For some reason, I thought he was either going to kill Kevin, or take him hostage and pump him full of drugs, which didn’t make any sense. Why would he give Kevin drugs? Well, it turns out that Joe Pesci plays a character named Mr. Big in Moonwalker, and he’s the main antagonist. And get this. He wants to make all the kids in America drug addicts, and even kidnaps a child. It gets worse…

Michael Jackson with a cowboy

I Had An Irrational Fear Of Being Kidnapped When I Was Growing Up

Parents always try to scare their children when they tell them about strangers so their kids don’t get kidnapped. So of course I had a fear of being taken. But my fear of being kidnapped was really bad. So much so that I had several nightmares about being taken to a lair where armed guards stood watch while my captor lurked in the shadows. Well, I now realize it was all because of this stupid movie that I was so afraid of being kidnapped.

In the film, there’s a segment that eventually became the video “Smooth Criminal.” I’m sure you’ve seen it—the white suit, the bending forward, the pool hall. All that good stuff. Well, in the movie, after the big music number, Mr. Big (Joe Pesci) kidnaps an orphan child and ties her up, threatening to inject her with drugs. And after I saw that, it all made sense to me why movies like Goodfellas and even My Cousin Vinny always gave me intense anxiety. But that wasn’t even the worst part…

Robot Michael Jackson

Robot Michael Jackson Is Nightmare Fuel

No, the worst part, and the part that actually made me scream as a grown ass man, was when Michael Jackson turns into a robot. It was something of a primordial, distant memory that struck me right in my heart when I saw him transform into a robot and shoot down people dead. Dead!

And what’s really strange is that this scene is also in the video game, but my mind didn’t make the mental leap. Seeing it on the screen just cleared up so many holes for me as to why I always loved MJ growing up, but was also really, intrinsically frightened by him. So much so that I couldn’t look at his picture for too long or I would feel really unsettled. I always thought it was because of his “Thriller" video, but no. It was Moonwalker and Robot Michael Jackson. 100% Robot Michael Jackson. That scene is terrifying.

And those are my 5 reasons. Do you have any films from your childhood that legitimately messed you up? If so, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments section down below.

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Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.