There really are some monstrous movie moms. They abuse their offspring physically and emotionally, neglect them or mollycoddle them to the point of suffocation, dash hopes and dreams and generally are the antithesis of a parent. They commit mayhem and even murder and most of the time it’s done in the name of love for their children. Here are some of my favorite monstrous movie moms (using the term favorite quite loosely there).
The daddy, ok mommy, of them all, the first one who really set the standard for monstrous movie moms is an accolade totally deserved by Mommie Dearest. Played by Faye Dunaway, the mom in question is actually real life actress Joan Crawford. Based on the memoirs of Christina Crawford, Joan’s daughter, the screen queen is portrayed as an alcoholic, being physically and emotionally abusive, and caring more about her career and fans than her family.
Mary Jones has to be one of the worst mothers in the movies. Dysfunctional, self-absorbed, devoid of understanding and abusive, Mrs. Jones (played by Mo’Nique), does nothing when her daughter, Precious, is a victim of incest and spoils her every chance of escaping the projects. As bad as a grandmother as a mother, she even drops her newly born grandson on the floor while attacking Precious.
Ok, so there are times all of us get cross with our mothers, but not so much that we make a pact with a new friend to bump her off. Actress Anne Ramsay is great at monstrous movie moms, also being mum in The Goonies, and in Throw Mamma from the Train, she is truly ghastly. To be honest, with Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito as the male leads, the comedy in this movie should be better, but there are some laugh out loud bits.
As if dealing with High School when you don’t “fit in” isn’t bad enough, poor Carrie White has to deal with an unhinged mother (played brilliantly by Piper Laurie). Believing everything that makes a woman a woman is sinful, she subjects her adolescent daughter to all manner of abuse and neglect, refusing to accept she is growing up. It’s enough to drive any teenage girl to develop telekinesis powers to wreak havoc at the Prom.
Setting new heights in terrible movie mothers is Lilly Dillon (Angelica Huston). We all hope that our moms are a role model and are there to guide us through the important choices in life, but what happens when your mom is a major con artist and drags you along that path with her? Sure, she claims she loves you and yes, you sure can share her success, but in the end, does she care more about the money or you? That’s the question.
Abusive moms in the movies come in all sorts of packages. They don’t have to be horrible or physically abusive and this is shown perfectly in Ruth DeWitt Bukater (Frances Fisher). It’s easy to think that in totally ignoring her daughter’s passions, hopes, dreams and ambitions that she only wants best for Rose. Pushing her into the clutches of rich slimeball Cal Hockley is less than making a good match to ensure her daughter’s future prosperity and happiness than her own. Her snobbery however fails to crush Rose’s spirit, thanks to one Jack Dawson.
It’s not unusual to find pushy parents who will pull out all the stops to ensure their offspring succeed, but when that goes too far and they live vicariously through their children, trying to put right what is wrong with their own life, or achieve their own failed ambitions, they become terrible movie mothers like Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley). Nothing will get in the way of Gladys’s daughter winning the beauty pageant, even if it means mom bribing judges and murdering and attempting to murder fellow contestants.
Giving trailer park parents a bad rap, Stephanie Smith (Kim Basinger), is the archetypal poor white trash. Her children Jimmy and Lily have to contend with deprivation as well as a mother who is alcoholic and abusive. She has noisy sex in the trailer with her young daughter trying to sleep and doesn’t care about her kids seeing her naked. Being engrossed by Jimmy’s fight to make it on the rap scene, viewers generally miss just what a terrible mother Mrs. Smith is.
In another perfect example of “what can possibly go wrong” when parents try to play out their ambitions through their children or control them to their own ends, the original version of The Manchurian Candidate features ones of the most Machiavellian and monstrous movie mothers. Angela Lansbury is the epitome of evil as she directs her son (played by Frank Sinatra) through psychological power in a plot to overthrow the US Government. And all along, she has been a … no, I won’t spoil it for you.
Even while she is a rotting corpse in the basement of the Bates Motel, Mrs. Bates controls her benign son to commit the ultimate crime – murder. Mrs. Bates may, physically, be only a bit part, but she is one of the unforgettable terrible movie moms. As if damaging him to the point where he dresses up in her old clothes is not far enough for her, she rants at him from the corner of his mind, turning his mild-mannered shuffling into dangerous intent.
These ghastly movie mothers make you realize your own mom is an absolute angel, don’t they? I hope all these terrible characters make you appreciate your moms more. Who’s your favorite terrible movie mom?
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