Mother’s Day is a special time of year. It’s a day of appreciation to show gratitude to the woman who raised you. But not every mother is so picture perfect. Sometimes a childhood can be an uphill struggle. Whether it’s a case of neglect, abuse, overprotection or a Communist set on killing the president, mothers have their downsides. Still, our upbringings are what mold us into the adults we’ll someday become. It’s a long road paved by hard knocks for the children that had to put up with these mothers. Thankfully, most of the stories are purely fictional.
We’ve polled moms from across the land, surveyed sons and daughters alike and even went rogue, posing like mothers for a whole week just to get the feel for what it takes to be a truly great homemaker. With that said, we can guarantee with absolute certainty that these mothers are the worst the movies have to offer. Take a look and judge for yourself, but afterwards make sure to call your mom and thank her for all the things she did right. Trust us. It could have been much worse.
[NOTE: This list is strictly non-horror films. Enough bad horror moms exist for a list all its own, but that’s best saved for another day.]
12. Ronnie’s Mom – Observe and Report
Mall security is a volatile profession. Everyday for Ronnie Barnhardt is another opportunity to disprove all naysayers who complain about the presence of petty thieves or parking lot flashers. Prone to violent outbursts, Ronnie’s back is against the wall. He’s bipolar and a police detective is looking to take over his responsibilities. It’s times like these that motivational pep talks from his mother could really turn things around. The only problem is she may be the one in need of some saving.
Ronnie’s mom is a lounging alcoholic, who narrowly manages to stay functional and occasionally mumbles poor words of advice to her clueless son. In his desperation to thwart the criminal acts in his mall, Ronnie turns to his only remaining parental figure for guidance. In response, she drinks herself into a stupor and uses his Clonazepam. By the film’s end, she does suggest changing her act for her son’s benefit. In a Mother of the Year-level of sacrifice, she tells Ronnie she’s quitting hard booze for good, “I’m switching to beer, I can pound those all day and still keep my s*** together, and I’m doing it for you.” If only we could all have mothers who care that much.
11. Helen ‘Mama’ Boucher – The Waterboy
We’re sure if Mama Boucher knew about her inclusion on this list, she’d dismiss it and tell you movie lists were the devil. In fact, a list of all the things “Mama says” is probably overdue. But unlike some of the other on-screen mothers on this list, Helen’s bad parenting skills are the result of some good old fashioned overprotection. Mama isn’t neglectful of her son Bobby. Instead, she goes to extremes to dole out life lessons for every part of his life, leaving him with some pent up aggression and a lingering stutter that results in ridicule from everyone he meets.
Bobby was homeschooled, taught how to avoid the ways of the devil and completely choked off from the world. When his talent for football-related violence is realized, he joins the Mud Dogs of South Central Louisiana State University, where he becomes a star linebacker and wins over the affection of Vicki Vallencourt. Mama Boucher lies to Bobby to dissuade him from playing, telling him that football is for the wicked, and later forbids him from seeing his new girlfriend and attending school. Helen becomes the proverbial roadblock in Bobby’s underdog story, but makes up for her flaws when she abandons her overbearing ways and loosens her grip on her son in the end — after she’s done some permanent damage to her son’s mindset, of course.
10. Kate McCallister – Home Alone
It’s a dream come true for prepubescent boys across the world to be left to their own devices. Of course, on the flip side, it’s a mother’s worst nightmare, discovering that her child has suddenly disappeared like a pair of misplaced keys. Even if Kevin McCallister had a tracker on his head at all times, we figure his mother would find a way to lose him again. Come on, she’s done it twice already — once at the family home and the other in the Big Apple — and both times during the holidays. Sure, Kevin can take care of himself, but Kate really deserves a timeout for her mistakes.
The only thing preventing Kate from sitting atop of this list is pure luck. Understandably, leaving your son stranded is grounds to have your parenting card revoked, but there is an upside to Kevin’s abandonment and eventual tussle with two petty thieves. If anything, he comes out on the other side less reliant on his parents for help, which is a positive thing considering he’s likely to be left behind again. Overall, he should be happy to be all grown up now. When it happens again, he can legally check into another fancy hotel, only this time he won’t have any bellhops conniving to have him thrown out.
9. Charlotte Goetze – The Diary of a Teenage Girl
The bond between mother and daughter is fraught with conflict. With the onset of puberty, even the most attentive mothers can let big life changes go unnoticed. But Charlotte takes the cake when it comes to letting her daughter run rampant. For Minnie, a hyper-mature 15 year old girl, her sexual proclivities are at the forefront of a long-lasting relationship of abuse with her mom’s new boyfriend. As Charlotte’s nights of reckless partying worsen, we witness an adolescent’s insecurities being exploited.
Set in 1970s San Francisco, Minnie dreams of losing her virginity. She begins having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe, a man 20 years her senior. What follows are months of Charlotte being so entranced by her new partner that she neglects to see her daughter sneaking behind her back. When she inevitably discovers the truth, she attempts to resolve the conflict by trying to marry her daughter to her pedophilic boyfriend, an idea which he isn’t opposed to doing. As the movie’s title indicates, the worst part of the whole ordeal is that Minnie documents everything, leaving room for Charlotte to confirm any suspicions she may have. Instead, the affair drags on for months and Minnie’s girlish innocence is lost entirely.
Psh, and we’re expected to trust her to save New York from a ghostly invasion?
8. Stifler’s Mom – American Pie
Every teenage boy has witnessed one, the mom who has defied all the stereotypes of motherhood. Mothers aren’t generally the cause of a teen’s overactive hormones. But on occasion, one stands out above the rest as the object of desire for every boy’s fantasies. For one particular set of teens, it was Stifler’s mom that restructured the motherly image which led to the creation of the MILF, a new word to categorize the teenage mom crush.
Think about all those times your mother tried to relate to you by overcompensating and acting ‘cool.’ Now imagine that she wasn’t only the life of the party, but was most likely the topic for discussion the morning after. That’s how Mrs. Stifler is portrayed, the embarrassing party-goer with an overt display of sex appeal to boot. All of the boys at East Great Falls High wanted a chance to get with the Stifmeister’s mom, but it was the philosophical, straight-A nerd Finch who turned his fantasy into reality. When your mother has the reputation as the experienced older woman who sleeps around, it’s easy to understand her placement on a list like this.
7. Momma Lift – Throw Momma from the Train
There are mothers who believe their children are too good for everything. Then there are mothers like Mrs. Lift, whose underachieving son has become so strained by her existence that he fantasizes about her death. Her son Owen is your typical middle-aged momma’s boy, still living at home and clinging to her every word. Despite being there to cater to her, she whines about her disappointment in him — he can’t do anything right. But more than that, he’s never been successful. She undervalues all the unpleasant chores he does for her and for that he makes a pact to have her murdered.
When the very sound of your mother’s voice is so abrasive it’s taking over your dreams, what’s a man to do? That’s where Owen’s pact with novelist Larry Donner comes in. In exchange for killing his money-grubbing ex-wife, Owen believes Larry will put an end to Mrs. Lift. The only problem to their little agreement is that much like a Looney Tunes character at the receiving end of a trap, she won’t seem to die, and they always get stuck holding the dynamite. After many foiled attempts to take her out, Owen eventually accepts his circumstances and learns to appreciate what he’s got. Sometimes it’s just better to take the high road.
6. Madame Sebastian – Notorious
Alfred Hitchcock had a vexatious history when it came to mothers. We all know about Norma Bates and her cross-dressing son, but other infamous Hitchcock baddies were also the result of a mother’s unspoken affections. Most notably is Alex Sebastian, the leading bad man for a secret organization of Nazis living in post-World War II Brazil. When Alicia, the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, is recruited by the U.S. government to get close to Sebastian, she falls for the debonair Agent Devlin. She’s persuaded to marry Sebastian and unearths a hidden bottle of uranium in his wine cellar. With Alicia getting too close, Alex asks his mother for advice.
Madame Sebastian disapproves of her son’s new wife. She has a sneaking suspicion about Alicia’s sudden liking to her son and questions her true motives. When Alex finally tells his mother about the reality of who is wife is, she is disappointed in her son’s naivety. She suggests removing the problem at its root by poisoning her. She slips arsenic into her daughter-in-law’s morning coffee every day, keeping her bed-ridden. In the film’s final romantic gesture, Devlin storms into the Sebastian household, blowing his cover and rescuing his partner. Meanwhile, Alex is left to deal with his Nazi mother’s ever-growing regret in raising such an easily manipulated pushover.
5. Lorraine Baines McFly – Back to the Future
How well do mothers know their children? What about pop culture references? We might not all be into the hippest trends or know the names of every fashion runway model, but we’re pretty sure we know the name Calvin Klein when we hear it. So why is it that Lorraine couldn’t recall the name of such a well known fashion designer years after her teenage son traveled back in time and used it as an alias?
From the beginning of Back to the Future, Lorraine wasn’t exactly the best example of an involved mother. If your child was to befriend a white-haired scientist with ties to a Libyan terrorist organization who claimed to have a time traveling DeLorean, you really should have some follow-up questions. On the off chance that there is a way to forgive Marty’s mother for letting him hang out with a potential paranoid Schizophrenic, there’s still no way to get over her going all googly-eyed for her teenage son and kissing him at the 1955 high school dance. If there is such thing as a mother’s instinct, Lorraine’s is far from the best. Some mothers just don’t have the maternal gene inside them, and no amount of time travel can ever fix that.
4. Eleanor Iselin – The Manchurian Candidate
Few mistakes are worse than turning your child into a secret weapon for the Communist Party. Eleanor is a political animal, setting up a facade marriage to Senator John Iselin, who falsely spreads accusations about the Communist Party under the command of his new wife to conceal their identities as Communist spies. Raymond Shaw, a staff sergeant in the Korean War, has always found his mother insufferable. After he’s brainwashed by Chinese agents in Manchuria, he returns home the decorated hero who saved his platoon. It isn’t until the memories start flooding back that Raymond finds out his mother’s plan for him to assassinate the U.S. president.
With everything slowly becoming clear, Raymond discovers a trigger — a Queen of Diamonds playing card — which will inexplicably surrender his control to his mother, forcing him to carry out the assassination. In the ensuing days, Raymond accidentally murders his true love Jocelyn Jordan as a consequence of the trigger. With his girlfriend dead, Shaw has his bodily control temporarily restored, and he uses the opportunity to murder his mother and step-father before eliminating himself. It can be hard living in fear that the Communist Party is manipulating you, but paranoia reaches a whole other level when that war manifests itself in the woman that gave you life.
3. Lilly Dillon – The Grifters
A life of swindling is hard for a con artist, cautiously eliciting money from others while playing the odds. Lady luck is never on your side, especially when your mother comes to town to muddle everything up.
Roy understands the life of the grift. He’s been on the receiving end of another’s fists many times. Even his social life has been inadvertently taken over by the grift. His girlfriend Myra is also a small time con artist, a secret Roy figures out too late. Before long, his mother has injected herself into both their lives, playing the angles in an attempt to make off with their loot.
Roy’s relationship with Myra is an unconscious manifestation of his incestuous feelings for Lily, a fact he realizes when he gets word she has been murdered. But when his mother shows up at Roy’s apartment trying to steal his cash, he realizes the disfigured face he identified at the morgue was that of Myra’s, another result of a con turned ugly. Lily seduces her son, knowing he has an interest in her. A bizarre briefcase bashing leaves him dying on the floor from a sliced artery. At least she gets to keep Roy’s money, a souvenir to always remember him by.
2. Mary Lee Johnston – Precious
The best performance on the list, Mo’Nique’s Mary was a frightening look at a monster without self-reproach. Precious is the product of a struggling inner city school system and a mother more interested in collecting welfare than raising her. The evidence of her neglect is in Precious’ inability to read and her unhealthy eating habits for which she is teased. In addition to Precious’s neglect, her child Mongo, born with Down syndrome, and her other unborn child are both fathered by her biological dad who repeatedly raped her. Mary blames Precious for running her father away and leaving her with no one, an excuse which she uses to try justifying her actions.
Mary’s inability to cope with her own distress is taken out on Precious, who is subjected to her beatings. In a key sequence, Precious is knocked unconscious by a frying pan during a dispute before escaping into her own fantasy world. Soon afterwards, Precious is told her father has died from AIDS and she has tested positive for HIV. With a new lease on life, she takes control of her story after meeting her new teacher and a social worker who helps her get her life on track. Mary predictably ends up alone and disheveled, without anyone left to pity her.
1. Joan Crawford – Mommie Dearest
Fame can be a cruel mistress. In Hollywood, star recognition is always fleeting, and your acting chops can never guarantee longevity. For the acting icon Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway), Mommie Dearest was a biographical account told from the perspective of her adoptive daughter, Christina Crawford. According to the latter Crawford, her mom rebelled against the aging mother stereotype people gave her, which directly attributed to a series of abusive outbursts. If you’ve seen the film, then you know Crawford takes a trip to bizarro land with a layover in hysteria town. Ever since, nightmares about wire hangers have never been more real.
Crawford goes the way of Gloria Swanson à la Sunset Boulevard, only with the added promise that every bit of it actually happened. Christina is at the receiving end of her mother’s wicked punishments: her hair is cut off after she tangles it playing dress up; her toys are given away to charity to prevent her from becoming spoiled, and she is mercilessly beaten for acting out. Joan wanted a fan, a supportive vote of confidence in her corner that would always take her side. Instead, she got a daughter whose best years were still ahead of her, a constant reminder that beauty doesn’t last forever. Joan was envious of Christina’s future, and the result made for cinema’s worst on-screen mother.
Which big screen movie mama was the worst in your eyes? Sound off in the comments section.