Notorious Movie Moms: 13 On-Screen Mothers With (Very) Bad Reputations

This Mother’s Day, as you fete your mom with flowers, brunch, and a homemade card, we pause to remember those movie matriarchs who never got the love they felt they deserved. Joan Crawford never got respect from her own daughter in “Mommie Dearest,” and Carrie didn’t heed her mother’s warning about how they were all going to laugh at her at the prom. Tsk tsk, movie children. Your monster — er, mother — worked so hard to raise you right. It’s such a pity you disappointed her in every way.

For this list, we focused on those moms who truly went above and beyond mere nagging and guilt-tripping, and ascended into the ranks of The Most Notorious Mothers in the History of Movies.

  • Faye Dunaway, ‘Mommie Dearest’

    We obviously had to include this over-the-top, narcissistic, tantrum-throwing performance, as Dunaway brings classic Hollywood icon Joan Crawford to screaming life in this camp classic based on the scathing bio of Crawford’s adopted daughter. The film’s most memorable moments include the <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUkE9qaVgmo” target=”_blank”>”No wire hangers!” harangue</a> and <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtwRKtvezd8″ target=”_blank”>the “Bring me the ax!” scene</a>, not to mention when Joan tries to choke her grown daughter to death.

  • Jo Van Fleet, ‘East of Eden’

    You’re a troubled youth who doesn’t bond with dad, so you go look up your mother and find she’s a successful madam who never regretted walking out on you and your brother and doesn’t have a maternal instinct in her body. No wonder Cal (a never-better James Dean) is such a brooding loner in this 1955 classic based on the John Steinbeck novel.

  • Mary Tyler Moore, ‘Ordinary People’

    Audiences were shocked to see beloved star Moore (who could “turn the world on with her smile” in her famous TV theme song) play against type as a cold, unfeeling mother who can’t forgive her suicidal youngest son (Timothy Hutton) after he survives a boating accident that kills her oldest son. Its hard to watch her recoil from a hug or even a conversation as she pretends everything is fine when it clearly isn’t.

  • Michelle Pfeiffer, ‘White Oleander’

    Astrid (Alison Lohman)’s mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) murders her boyfriend and goes to jail, leaving her daughter to be raised in a series of foster homes. That’s bad enough, but the real damage is done in the prison visits when her mother crushes every bit of hope or happiness she’s found along the way. Soon Astrid is seeking the most slovenly of foster mothers since she can’t stand anything that resembles genuine mothering.

  • Susan Sarandon, ‘Pretty Baby’

    This controversial 1978 film by Louis Malle starred a then 12-year-old Brooke Shields as a child prostitute whose virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder at a New Orleans brothel, all under the loving approval of her mother, a hooker named Hattie (Sarandon). Plenty of people also were shocked that Shields’s real-life mother let her film a nude scene at such a tender age.

  • Amy Ryan, ‘Gone Baby Gone’

    Ryan plays a hard-partying mother who’s been known to leave her four-year-old daughter in a hot car to nearly die of heatstroke, so is it a change for the better or an even worse fate when the girl goes missing? Ryan received an Oscar nomination for her role in Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, based on the Dennis Lehane novel.

  • Kathleen Turner, ‘Serial Mom’

    In this parody from John Waters, average suburban mom Beverly is secretly bumping off her neighbors for the slightest infractions, like stealing a parking space. She manages to do it all while whipping up a great dinner or batch of cookies, never dropping that perky smile.

  • Jacki Weaver, ‘Animal Kingdom’

    Women don’t come much colder than this crime family matriarch, who plots the death of her own grandson after he informs on them. <a href=”http://www.showbiz411.com/2010/08/12/animal-kingdom-a-plus-tarantino-down-under” target=”_blank”>One critic</a> called her Oscar-nominated role “one of the most diabolical mothers in cinema history.”

  • Shelley Winters, ‘A Patch of Blue’

    Winters won her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a bigoted mother who abuses her blind daughter and violently opposes her finding love with a black man (Sidney Poitier). Even worse: Mother’s a prostitute who caused her daughter’s blindness in the first place when she threw acid at her husband and missed.

  • Angela Lansbury, ‘Manchurian Candidate’

    What kind of mother sacrifices her own son for her own political ends? Lansbury plays Senator’s wife Eleanor Iselin, who pulls the strings of her husband’s McCarthy-esque campaign of fear and collaborates with America’s greatest enemies. Her son is a sadly disposable pawn in her high-stakes poker game.

  • Rebecca de Mornay, ‘Mother’s Day’

    In this 2010 horror film, Natalie Koffin (nudge nudge) has raised three sons who will do her every bidding, even if it’s murder. They crash the party of the new owners of their old house and begin a reign of terror, all following mother’s bloody “rules.”

  • Piper Laurie, ‘Carrie’

    Carrie (Sissy Spacek) would never have wreaked such devastating damage if it weren’t for her insanely terrifying mother. Laurie was Oscar-nominated for playing a religious zealot who’s made her daughter’s life a living hell. The smile on Laurie’s face as she stabs Spacek is one of the scariest things in this horror classic.

  • Mo’Nique, ‘Precious’

    Comedian Mo’Nique won an Oscar for her portrayal of one of the most hateful mothers we’ve ever seen: She not only calls her own daughter “dummy” and “b*tch,” but terrorizes her and molests her. It’s hard to say what the most awful moment is in this harrowing movie, but <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-xCcoG6Wlc” target=”_blank”>the scene where she tells her daughter</a>, “I should have aborted your motherf*cking ass” before threatening to kill her is on the list.


This Mother’s Day, as you fete your mom with flowers, brunch, and a homemade card, we pause to remember those movie matriarchs who never got the love they felt they deserved. Joan Crawford never got r…

This Mother’s Day, as you fete your mom with flowers, brunch, and a homemade card, we pause to remember those movie matriarchs who never got the love they felt they deserved. Joan Crawford never got r…

Filed by Sharon Knolle  | 

 

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