These days, people talk a lot about the portrayals of certain types of characters on screen. They talk about the inclusion of racial minorities, casting trans actors, ensuring that there’s a wide range of abilities, countries of origin, and body types—so that films represent the diversity we see in the real world. One of the things we don’t discuss often, however, is the portrayal of children in films. In real life, we all know kids who are smart, witty, clever, and cute. Sadly, we also know children who are obnoxious, rude, quick to hit, kick, or bite, or are so needlessly defiant you might be tempted to smack them one. Note: Hitting people is wrong, even when you’re confident they deserve it. But let’s not digress…
Sometimes though, an annoying kid can make a great point about how annoying it is to be around annoying people. Annoying, right? For the purposes of this list, we left off kids from movies that focus on terrible, rotten children. We’re also focusing on pre-teens—because teenagers are their own special batch of hell.
Here are The 15 Most Annoying Movie Children EVER.
15. Dudley Dursely – Harry Potter Series
This probably doesn’t require an explanation. Dudley is a truly terrible child; a truly unlikable, sadistic bully. But unlike many kids who abuse their peers, Dudley isn’t a bully because he’s being bullied at home. Dudley was indulged and praised relentlessly by his awful parents. He grew up believing that his behavior was perfectly fine, and that–despite his school not even having uniforms in his size—he was merely big boned. Lest anyone think we’re body shaming Dudley, Rowling has always made it clear that Dudley’s problem is gluttony and sloth, which are bad behaviors. Harry Potter has plenty of overweight characters who aren’t slothful or gluttonous.
Dudley is annoying because his terrible behavior is clearly the cause of a poor upbringing. Not only does that mean what we see is not necessarily Dudley’s fault, it also means it was completely preventable. We know that when Petunia and Vernon put their foot down and enforce actual rules, the desired results are easy to obtain. Dudley is a mean, horrible, bullying liar, but through very little fault of his own.
14. Buddy Pine AKA Incrediboy AKA Syndrome – The Incredibles
We all know one of those kids who is constantly underfoot, practically begging for any attention at all. One such child is Buddy Pine, only in his case, his desire for attention became downright dangerous. This truly irritating child decided he wanted to “assist” Mr. Incredible, and decided to begin his helpful crusade in the middle of a robbery. Buddy dubbed himself Incrediboy, which would be adorable if he wasn’t endangering lives with his nonsense. Unlike a “real” superhero that has super powers of one kind of another—Buddy Pine was a budding inventor. He created cool gadgets that, had they worked as planned, could make regular people seem super.
Buddy is annoying not because his gadgets caused more problems than they fixed. That’s sort of cute. He’s annoying and dangerous because he used untested devices to “help” a superhero who didn’t want or need his assistance. Instead of approaching Mr. Incredible during his down time, Buddy jumped into an already volatile situation to make it worse. And that’s all before he grew up to become the villain known as Syndrome.
13. Anakin Skywalker – Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
There was some debate about including this wee Vader on our list. Many fans feel that little Ani didn’t get annoying until he became a brooding teen. Some die-hard Star Wars enthusiasts are certain that Anakin was an annoying dweeb even when he still had a mom to live with. Still others were more irritated by the concept of midichlorians than with any one character. Was Anakin really annoying? Yes. Or should we say, “Yipeee!”
Most fans agree that both incarnations of Ani were miscast. We say that showing us Anakin’s backstory does little more than demonstrate that whiny, entitled, impatient children become whiny, entitled, impatient adults without proper guidance. And no, learning how to use a lightsaber and force-move things doesn’t count as “proper guidance.”
It can be argued that Anakin was a smart kid with a gift for engineering who made the best of being a slave. That may be why most people hate him. Child prodigies are inherently irksome, especially to adults who feel like failures. Certainly none of YOU anti-Anakin people fall into that category. We mean OTHER Star Wars fans.
12. Every Cousin – Krampus
The best holiday movies often revolve around our love of family. Christmas movies often focus on the importance of getting home to be with our loved ones, finding the perfect gift, or dealing with the quirky emotional torture that is interacting with relatives. Many of us have aunts, uncles, grandparents, and yes, cousins that we’re happy to see around the holidays. We also have relatives who can’t shut up about their political views, sports teams, books that should be banned, or humor on TV that “just isn’t funny.” In the 2015 film Krampus, a traditional holiday monster messes with families who have forgotten to engage in the love and family fun of the holiday.
Max, the main character, is mercilessly teased and harassed by his cousins, Stevie, Jordan, and Howie Jr. They mock Max for his name, his bookishness, his kindness, and because he still believes in Santa. C’mon. Every kid should know that even if you don’t believe in Santa, mocking kids for believing is just plain mean. Whatever your view of the holidays, it’s not that difficult to make the effort to treat your family well. When you don’t, monsters come.
11. Jack and Emily Poe – Home Movie
The 2008 film Home Movie has a loyal fan following despite unimpressive DVD and digital sales. It’s a found-footage style film, with the most famous cast member being Adrian Pasdar (Colonel Talbot in the MCU). The film revolves around the Poe family, which is headed by an alcoholic, former minister father. The mother is a child-psychologist who doesn’t recognize the folly of treating and medicating her own children—twins named Jack and Emily. The twins are very close, sort of too close (but not Lannister close, since they’re still pre-teens). They also have a peculiar fetish, oppositional defiant disorder, and an underlying sadism that impacts every choice they make.
Throughout the film Home Movie, the Emily and Jack make every effort to embarrass, upset, and humiliate their parents. When that gets boring, they kidnap and repeatedly bite a classmate. Yes, they bit him. A whole bunch of times. When their parents finally figure out how terrified they should be and ask child services for help, Jack and Emily stage a finale so awesome it must be seen to be believed. And if you like monstrous children who do annoying things just to anger you, you’ll enjoy this one a lot.
10. Veruca Salt – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Whether you’re a fan of the original film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or the more modern, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it can’t be denied that Veruca Salt is awful. Maybe she’s so awful that you love her, but she’s still awful. Veruca, like Dudley Dursely before her, is as bad as she is because no one tells her not to be. But what’s really annoying about Veruca Salt is that she honestly believes herself to be more deserving of…everything, than anyone else around her, even people she doesn’t know.
Veruca is sure she deserves fine and fashionable clothes, makeup, fur coats, and the like. She’s sure she should always go first. If she sees something she wants, Veruca believes the way to get it is to tell her father and wait for him to buy it. When this doesn’t net her the squirrel she wants (despite having many other animals she’s bored with), Veruca again insists that her Daddy get it for her. He doesn’t, and the resulting Oompa Loompa song is far more delightful than Veruca could ever hope to be.
9. Rachel – War of the Worlds
We’ve already covered some of the ways that very smart children can be annoying. Adults hate when little kids know more about something than they do—especially when it’s something important. It’s also unnerving when younglings know about things like EMPs, terrorism, or deadly alien invaders. While sci-fi fans can be divided on their feelings for Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, most of them agree that Rachel, played by Dakota Fanning, is really super annoying. Maybe she’d be less so if the world wasn’t under attack from aliens who wanted to drink us all like a discount Slim-fast. But under those circumstances, we might have just left her at Tim Robbins’ house.
Rachel is cute when she explains that there’s no need to pull her splinter out. But it’s almost unnerving to see a kid that small be that confident. Her older brother (played by the perpetually miscast Justin Chatwin) is possibly even worse than his kid sister, thus cementing Tom Cruise’s protagonist Ray Ferrier in the Hall of Fame of bad movie parents.
8. Brady – Silver Bullet
Silver Bullet is one of those great scary movies that the whole family can enjoy. It’s pretty clean, implies much of its violence, and is light on swears. It’s one of the many Stephen King stories that features kids as heroes, which is delightful. But Marty, the hero of the story, has a best friend named Brady, and he’s a complete jerk. Brady is mean-spirited, thinks everything is funny, and is especially cruel to Marty’s older sister—who he probably has a crush on, as is often the case with friends and their sisters.
Audiences tend to have empathy for Brady because he doesn’t have the best time in Silver Bullet. But if a real life kid was making obnoxious comments and encouraging their friends to ignore rules and curfews, we wouldn’t care much for that kid no matter how many werewolves attacked him. When Brady scared his best friend’s sister with a snake, that was already horrible. Not just for her, either; snakes probably don’t like being used that way. But when Brady throws the snake at her, then laughs when she falls butt-first into a puddle in front of half the town, we know that Brady is a real jerk.
7. Mike – Sixteen Candles
Speaking of the younger brother/older sister dynamic, Sixteen Candles does a great job of depicting some of the more difficult moments of suburban adolescence. Jealousy, mockery, finding joy in first-world hardships like room sharing—it’s all in there. In Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald’s little brother Mike thinks it’s hilarious that she has to hang out with Long Duk Dong and that she’s been foisted out of her bedroom and onto the family sofa to sleep. In fairness though, Mike also makes fun of his other sister, and how she took too many tranquilizers when she got her period the morning of her wedding.
In many ways, Mike is a typical younger brother. Everything is a joke to him, and he takes nothing and no one seriously, regardless of how upset they seem. When it’s finally revealed that the entire family forgot his older sister’s sweet sixteen, Mike responds in the manner of annoying younger brothers everywhere: “Hahaha, classic!”
6. Pearl – Night of the Hunter
We have to think that standards for child performers were much lower in the ‘50s, at least in terms of acting ability. Sally Jane Bruce was already considered an accomplished child actress when she was cast in Night of the Hunter in 1954. That seems suspicious, since she’s one of those kids who yells her lines and lisps like Cindy Brady (though it does seem more age-appropriate on little Pearl). Pearl Harper is the younger sister of John, a boy doing his best to keep his jailed father’s money out of the hands of the conniving preacher (Robert Mitchum) wooing his mother (Shelly Winters). As the pair of children flee the villain and seek help from a new caregiver (Lillian Gish), Pearl sticks out again and again as an annoying child actor.
Pearl yells her lines whenever she speaks, repeats her brothers name so often we wonder if she’s reminding herself, and blindly obeys the bad guy even after she sees him try to harm her brother. Pearl stands out as being extra annoying in Night of the Hunter, probably because the rest of the film is damn near perfect.
5. Sam – The Babadook
In recent years, the surprise-hit Aussie film The Babadook took horror fans by surprise–and by storm. This allegory for chronic depression revolves around a single mother raising a very difficult son. Sam is as loud and obnoxious as they come, and he has no concept of appropriate behavior. He doesn’t pick up on signals. He doesn’t care whether or not his mother is ever able to sleep. And he’s 100% committed to making sure the Babadook doesn’t get them. If he does, Sam knows that they’ll both be killed. In a way, the most annoying thing about Sam (after his voice, his face, and the things he says) is that he’s right. That Babadook will kill every last living thing in the house if they’re not careful. That’s how depression works.
Problem is, Sam’s acting out can cause serious consequences. At one point, his mom literally hadn’t slept in days. Even when she does manage to doze off, Sam’s panicked screams mean sleep won’t last long. When the Babadook appears in the family car, Sam almost causes an accident with his hollering. Again, he’s yelling about a serious problem, but the MacGyver-style weapons he builds are no match for appropriate medication and ongoing talk therapy…or are they?
4. Ellie – Pet Semetary
If you’ve seen the movie Pet Semetary, based on the Stephen King book, you know that there are a few annoying characters in it. Denise Crosby plays Rachel, a highly dysfunctional mother who wants to shield her children from any mention of death. Denise Crosby plays Rachel, a highly dysfunctional mother who wants to shield her children from any mention of death. Rachel’s parents are so self-absorbed and awful that they left their 9-year-old child home alone to care for their deformed and dying older child. Rachel’s children are Ellie and Gage. Ellie, the older daughter, is the one who makes our list. She’s irritating as hell, with her slow, whiny voice and tears that fall at the drop of a hat.
Under normal circumstances, we suspect that Ellen Creed might seem only slightly more annoying than an average child who’s pretty annoying. But in the context of characters dying and coming back from the grave? She’s way more annoying than the annoyingest thing you can think of. As if all that weren’t bad enough, Pet Semetary is one of those movies where only the most annoying people live.
3. Ernie – Harry and the Hendersons
There are certain stereotypes about ‘80s movies that stay with us, even years later. This is true even if we don’t know about it. For example, Steve from American Dad yells most of his lines. He does this because in the ‘80s, it was very common for child characters to shout, rather than give their lines in a way appropriate to the scene. You know, like an actor might do. This lack of subtlety in a child performer is best illustrated by Ernie Henderson in the 1987 family film, Harry and the Hendersons. He yells every single line—whether he’s eating breakfast, chatting in the family room, going to school, or watching TV. Ernie yells. Every. Single. Line.
Here’s the crazy thing about Ernie Henderson being listed as one of the most annoying children—and indeed, thought of as one of the worst child performances of all time—Joshua Rudoy is a perfectly good actor. We can only assume that Ernie is annoying because that’s what the director wanted. In Rudoy’s next film, Flatliners, he’s awesomely creepy as Billy Mahoney, the kid who torments Keifer Sutherland.
2. Alex O’Connell – The Mummy Returns
If you love Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (and honestly, what kind of monster doesn’t smell what The Rock is cookin’?), you were probably pretty stoked for the 2001 sequel to The Mummy, The Mummy Returns. If you’re one of the people who raced to the theater to buy a ticket, sure that The Rock was gonna be amazing—please allow us to apologize on behalf of Hollywood. That movie was awful. And The Rock was only in it for about a minute, and was badly CGI’d for the rest.
But that wasn’t the worst thing about The Mummy Returns, not by a long shot. The O’Connells had a child, Alex. Young Alex fancied himself an intellectual, which makes sense if you consider that he’s smarter and more mature than his Uncle Jonathan. But Alex is highly annoying, smug, and ridiculous. Not all of that is his fault, since this whole movie is embarrassingly terrible with writing that would have to look up to see a daytime soap. But why go to the trouble of putting a kid in your movie if he’s just gonna make us cringe?
Surprise Upset: Lacey Chabert: Lost in Space
Many people only know Lacey Chabert as the first voice of Meg on Family Guy. That’s a shame, because she’s actually a delightful actress. Fans have mixed opinions on the theatrical Lost in Space movie from 1997. Some sci-fi fans hated on it as soon as the cast was announced. Granted, Gary Oldman wouldn’t have been our first choice for Dr. Smith either—but you can’t argue with success. Lacey Chabert as Penny Robinson is a surprise upset on this list with good reason. Fans went into the theater already dubious about how good a serious reboot of Lost in Space could possibly be. And then, we meet Penny.
Penny doesn’t seem age appropriate for one thing. And that voice. Ugh. She’s literally that chick with the annoying voice in some circles. Viewers were fully prepared to merely tolerate her and her irksome sound hole. But then…Penny turns out to be clever, highly competent, brave in the face of danger, and isn’t even that squeamish when confronted by space spiders. Sorry Lacey. We’re sorry we judged you. That’s why you’re our Surprise Upset.
1. Short Round – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Do we even have to explain this one? If you’ve seen the second Indiana Jones movie, you’re already hearing that runty dweebish kid say “Dak-Tah Jonz” over and over in your head. We bet you’re already annoyed. Jonathan Ke Quan is a cute enough kid, and went on to appear in The Goonies after his turn as Short Round. He was also Jasper Kwong on the TV series Head of the Class. Despite his annoying voice and exaggerated accent, Short Round isn’t the most annoying performer in this movie. Kate Capshaw, cast because she was married to director Steven Spielberg, is universally reviled by fans for her godawful performance and obvious miscasting.
Short Round is annoying for reasons beyond his voice and accent though. First of all, he deserved a name. Everyone does. Secondly, it’s a pretty racist depiction, not unlike those Ken Watanabe was famous for in the ‘80s. In fact, Watanabe would surely have been cast as Short Round if he were age appropriate. We will say this for Short Round though: he was instrumental in the freeing of the child slaves. That was pretty dang brave.
Did we forget the child who annoys you most? Tell us about it in the comments!
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