13 Worst Movie Parents of All Time

Mother's Day

The nature vs nurture debate has always been a big question amongst psychiatrists. While it's still up for discussion, filmmakers provide solid answers for us in movies. No matter how much they try, a terrible parent can never hide from their audience, even if they try.

All of the parents on this are objectively horrible people, but the messages they send are completely different. Some knowingly commit evil while others think that they are doing it for the greater good. Their children either overcome their evil or just become a carbon copy of it.

Here are the 13 Worst Movie Parents of All Time.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Lily Tomlin and Danny DeVito in
Start Now

13 Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood (Matilda)

Lily Tomlin and Danny DeVito in

The most magical thing about Roald Dahl is how he wrote his children to be much smarter than the adults that surround them. He managed to create some of the slimiest parents and villains that could have come straight out of a child’s imagination.

Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood are classic examples of antagonists taken for a ride by a much smarter child. Mr. Wormwood is a crook who sells people below average cars with the charm of, you guessed it, a used car salesman. Mrs. Wormwood only cares about her looks and material goods. They call their daughter a “smartass” and constantly berate her for reading books instead of watching television like her brother. But through wits and pranks, Matilda is able to outsmart them every time and even get a new guardian who actually loves her.

12 Norma Bates (Psycho)

Subliminal Secret Movie Message Psycho Skull

Norma Bates may take the cake for the most influential parent. After the death of her husband, she made sure that her son, Norman, didn’t have a life away from her. He became isolated, socially awkward and sexually repressed. She made him believe that women were whores and any sort of sex was evil (even though their relationship could be interpreted as incestuous). And even when she’s murdered, she still lives on through her son in his head.

The viewer listens to these disturbing voices who continually insult Norman and make him carry out such horrific acts. The fact that Norman mummifies her dead body and keeps it in his office shows a loyalty and guilt that never died. That is the epitome of a mama’s boy.

11 Margaret White (Carrie)

Margaret White in Carrie

If your closets are lacking religious shrines and your menstrual cycle is a natural occurrence instead of a sin, then your life is way better than Carrie White’s. After her husband was “taken away by sin” (a.k.a leaving her for another woman), Margaret White tries to save her daughter from moral and spiritual corruption. The “prayer closet” and constant religious speeches were always meant for Carrie’s well-being, but ended up doing more damage than good.

Carrie already has problems at schools, but it’s nothing compared to her mother’s constant abuse disguised as “redemption.” And when she finally cracks from all the torment, Carrie makes sure that her mother knows how she feels through the end of a knife. Piper Laurie got an Oscar nomination for the role, a rare occurrence for a horror film.

10 Joan Crawford (Mommie Dearest)

Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest

Some of the worst mothers are the ones in the limelight, such as Hollywood star Joan Crawford. Based off an autobiography of the same name, Mommie Dearest showcases the abusive behavior that Crawford had towards her adopted daughter, Christina. While it wasn’t entirely accurate, Faye Dunaway stole the show with a menacing and eccentric version of the actress. She taunts her daughter, is abnormally competitive, and obsessively gardens in the middle of the night.

The most famous example is when Crawford has a mental breakdown over her daughter's clothes being hung on wire hangers and proceeds to beat her with the hangers. It was very uncomfortable to watch and should have earned Dunaway an Oscar nomination. If that doesn’t want to make you go and hug your mother right now, then nothing else will.

9 Darth Vader (Star Wars)

darth vader 10 most dangerous star wars villains

The intense lightsaber battle in The Empire Strikes Back provided not only entertainment but one of the biggest twists in cinematic history: Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker’s father. With that tidbit of information, it proves that Vader is possibly the worst father in the universe.

He killed his son’s (and his own) mentor; planned to exterminate millions of people; then dismembered his son when he refused to join the dark side.  The writers try to redeem Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, but he’s way past any sympathy at that point. The prequels attempt to explain his turn to the dark side through a weak and cliché backstory, but thankfully most fans seem to disregard it.

8 The Proprietor (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

We all know Leatherface and his iconic weapon, but where did his murderous personality come from? In the nature vs nurture debate, he most definitely belongs in the latter category. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films all have one in common: the family ties. To travelers, the proprietor is just an owner of a gas station. While he isn't necessarily a parent, he is the head of the cannibalistic family and a father figure to his brothers. He has Leatherface and his brother scout out victims to torture and chop up.

Their idea of a family gathering is sitting around the table with a nearly dead grandfather and trying to help him smash a girl’s brains in. And because that girl escaped without killing the leader, he still managed to groom his psychotic sibling for more terrible sequels.

7 Mother (Flowers In The Attic)

Louise Fletcher in Flowers in the Attic

After the death of her father, Cathy and her siblings are whisked off to their grandparents’ mansion only to be locked in a room below the attic. Their mother assures them that this is only a temporary arrangement and soon they'll living in luxury. Her plan is to get their dying grandfather’s inheritance, but can only do so if he doesn’t know about their existence. However, when days turned into months, Cathy realizes that something is wrong.

Killing off the children one by one through pancakes with arsenic on top, Mother never intended on bringing them home. She didn’t even show remorse when she basically murdered her youngest son. Instead, she planned on marrying another man and starting a brand new life with him. The karma couldn’t have been more deserved when Cathy stomps in on her mother’s wedding and accidentally pushes her over the balcony, causing her to suffocate via vines. To describe it as satisfying would be an understatement.

6 Jack Torrance (The Shining)

Best Unscripted Movie Scenes Shining Heres Johnny

While it wasn’t loved by critics (or even Stephen King) at the time, everyone remembers Jack Nicholson’s chilling performance in The Shining. While it is vastly different from the novel’s version, the film showcases such a steep descent into madness that it's not only frightening, but also a captivating character study.

At the beginning, Jack Torrance wasn’t exactly the most loving father. He was an alcoholic that spent most of his time working and isolating himself rather than being there for his family. When he takes a caretaker job at the Overlook Hotel, his wife, Wendy,  and son, Danny, witness the madness that starts to encompass his mind. Danny’s telepathic power allows him to see the spirits that are tormenting his father, but can’t do anything to help him. By the end of the film, his father is so far gone that he attempts to kill him in a hedge maze. He may have loved Danny at one point, but his obsession with working and alcohol made him a dull father.

5 Daddy (The Loved Ones)

The Loved Ones

When your daughter gets her prom invitation rejected, it’s best to try and make her feel better— even if that means aiding in torturing her crush. We don’t really know the extent of Lola and her father’s relationship except that it could be described as incestuous. She undresses in front of him, dances with him, and even calls him her prom king. The seduction tactics have him wrapped around her finger tightly like a bow.

In exchange, he does all the dirty work such as nailing their genitals to chairs, cutting initials into their skin and forcing food down their throat. Lastly, she has him lobotomize them with a power drill and boiling water. His mind doesn’t seem to be all there, but he genuinely thinks that he will get his daughter’s love (and possibly more) if he does her bidding.

4 Bill Maplewood (Happiness)

Dylan Bakeri n Happiness

There is an endless amount of creativity coming out of Todd Solondz’s brain. He creates rich and vibrant people who range from inspiring to downright disturbing. And even though all of his parental characters are awful, Bill Maplewood is the worst. On the outside, he looks like a loving husband and father, but deep down, he is much more sinister. He is a pedophile who drugs and rapes two of his son's classmates.

Despite the horrific events, the film gives off a much lighter tone than expected. Solondz gives it a “perfect sitcom family” vibe presents it in a way that Full House would. There isn’t much focus on the assaults but more on the explicit (but cheerful) interaction between Bill and his son.

3 Mary Jones (Precious)

Mo'Nique in Precious

As much as the writers want it, there is no reason to feel sympathy for Mary Jones. To keep her in line, she’ll hit her with pans, emotionally abuse her, and even attack her own grandchildren. She constantly makes fun of her weight (despite being quite heavy herself) and even force her to eat when she’s not hungry.

By the end of the film, the viewers see a weakened and insecure mother who takes out all of her jealousy on her poor daughter. Mo’Nique won an Oscar for this role because it was raw and more horrific than any slasher, because she actually exists in the world.

2 Natalie Koffin (Mother's Day)

Mother's Day

In the '80s, Charles Kaufman (not to be confused with Charlie Kaufman) hit a few nerves with his cult classic, Mother’s Day. Viewed as a classic exploitation film, it’s about a group of women who get captured by men who do unspeakable things to them under the command of their mentally unstable mother.

Darren Lynn Bousman directed a remake with a slightly different take but with the same female villain. Rebecca De Mornay is one of a kind as the mad matriarch Natalie Koffin. She’s conniving and terrifying similar to Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Her children hold people hostage for her simply because they live in her foreclosed house. In reward, she makes two of the hostages fight each other to determine which of their spouses will get to sleep with her son. As she says disturbingly says, “I’m proud of my boys. They never forget their momma.”

1 Gertrude Baniszewski (An American Crime)

Catherine Keener and Ellen Page in An American Crime

The true story of Sylvia Likens is a tragic one. Considered the worst crime on an individual, Gertrude Baniszewski is frequently nicknamed as “The Torture Mother.” While the film doesn’t scratch the surface of what she did to poor Sylvia, it’s plenty disturbing and jaw-dropping on its own. Left in the care of a family friend, she’s tied up in the basement and left to the rage of Gertrude and her demonic children. After Sylvia accidentally humiliates one of her daughters, she lets her children and the whole neighborhood torture her.

They sexually assault her, give her cigarette burns, and even brand her with the words “I’m a prostitute and proud of it.” This torture continues until she finally dies from the combination of pain and starvation. Gertrude may not have done the majority of the beatings herself, but to encourage a group of children to take part in such violent behavior is even worse.


Do any other parents deserve to be on this list? Let us know in the comments!


More in Lists