Mother’s Day is a week away, and while we bustle about wrapping gifts, planning brunches, and honoring those special women in our lives, not all mothers are worthy of such celebrations. Mothers in film have been wonderfully maternal, and frighteningly sinister. Those in the latter category are frankly horrifying, which often makes them more memorable. In preparation of Mother’s Day, let’s take a look at the top 10 worst movie mothers. Maybe it’ll help you appreciate your own mother more, or at the very least feel that you’re not alone in suffering from bad parenting.
1. Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury) “The Manchurian Candidate”:
- Eleanor Iselin serves as the puppeteer controlling her son Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) as well as his stepfather, Iselin’s husband Senator John Yerkes Iselin (James Gregory). Shaw’s mother controls his actions after a brainwashing process in Manchuria, essentially making him her pawn. Unfortunately the maternal domination doesn’t end there, as evidenced in the kiss Shaw and his mother share, on the lips. These incestuous suggestions turn Iselin from power-hungry psycho mommy to ok-you’re-completely-bonkers-mommy. Ironically, Lansbury played the affable Mrs. Potts in “Beauty and the Beast.” Hopefully Chip was spared the same fate as Raymond Shaw.
2. Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) “August Osage County”:
Meryl Streep has a truly commanding on-screen presence, and among her best roles is the caustic Violet Weston. A bitter, aging woman, Violet suffers from mouth cancer and addiction to various pills. She’s obstinate, foul-mouthed, and scarier when she’s not screaming. Violet manages to distance herself from her entire family, and even the housekeeper. “August Osage County’s” final scene features Violet alone in her house, and Streep’s performance exhibits the awfulness of the matriarch. Even viewers felt uncomfortable around Violet, despite her being on-screen.
3. Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) “Mommie Dearest”:
- The title “mommie dearest” has evolved into a recognizable phrase meaning “terrible mother.” Even those unfamiliar with the biographical film about Joan Crawford know the expression. Crawford adopts two children, professing to want kids, though her actions insinuate otherwise. Crawford physically and verbally abuses her children, concentrating the brunt of her anger on the daughter, Christina (Mara Hobel, Diana Scarwid). What makes “Mommie Dearest” so frightening is the stark realism of the narrative, largely thanks to Faye Dunaway’s riveting portrayal of Crawford.
4. Evil Queen (Lucille La Verne) “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”:
- Choosing just one horrible mom from a Disney film is a daunting task. Of the scarce living mothers in the Disney canon, most of them should save paper and forego submitting “Mother of the Year” applications. Among the more remarkable maternal figures is the Evil Queen from “Snow White”. After Snow White’s (Adriana Caselotti) parents die, she captures the throne as well as reign over White. As s stepmother, she’s jealous of her daughter’s beauty and assigns her manual labor tasks. Though it isn’t explicitly stated, we doubt she received minimum wage, much less benefits. Moreover she poisons Snow White with an apple. Responsible for many children visiting the doctor as a result of no apples a day, she’s one damn scary stepmother. At least Cinderella’s stepmom didn’t poison her.
5. Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) “The Graduate”:
- The light-hearted tone of both Simon and Garfunkel’s hit “Mrs. Robinson” and the classic film “The Graduate” don’t convey the awfulness of Mrs. Robinson’s parenting. Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) probably doesn’t share that sentiment, as he rather enjoyed her company and other amenities she offered, but it’s doubtful Elaine Robinson (Katherine Ross) reciprocated those sentiments. Braddock, a recent college graduate begins plonking Mrs. Robinson before realizing he can have a relationship beyond mere sex with her daughter, Elaine.
6. Rosemary (Mia Farrow) “Rosemary’s Baby”:
Rosemary is a complicated case. While she clearly isn’t at fault for giving birth to Satan’s child, bringing the son of the Devil into the world is notably absent from the “good mother” criteria list. Additionally, Rosemary displays admirable affection for her demon baby, especially considering its satanic origins. Overall, through no fault of her own, Rosemary makes the bad mother list. Sorry Rosemary
7. Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) “The Goonies”:
Quite possibly the most overlooked bad mom hails from the beloved Steven Spielberg flick “The Goonies.” Most fans fondly remember the truffle shuffle, Sloth (John Matuszak), Corey Feldman and Josh Brolin, and Data’s (Ke Huy Quan) wacky inventions. Mama Fratelli, one of the primary antagonists hurls insults at her sons and even keeps one of them (Sloth) chained up. During the finale we find out she dropped Sloth multiple times as a baby, resulting in his deformity and probable brain damage. One Eyed Willie’s long lost ship detracts from this moment, but not from Mama Fratelli’s horrendous parenting.