Some of the best female movie roles are mothers — especially the bad ones. We’re talking about moms who don’t have a single nurturing bone in their bodies, who take their personal woes out on their offspring, and who do generally cracked-up things that make Peg Bundy look like Mother Teresa. In honor of Mother’s Day, here’s a look at ten psycho movie moms who should definitely be blacklisted by 1-800-FLOWERS.
10. Kathleen Cleary (Jane Seymour), Wedding Crashers
Cleary has no qualms about seducing men half her age, while her husband and kids are in the same room. It’s funny to watch, but her aggressive advances scare the objects of her affections (Owen Wilson, in this case). We’d be scared, too, if someone cornered us in a bedroom, bared her naughty parts, and then called us a pervert. Her predatory nature doesn’t necessarily make her a bad mom, though, so she ranks low on the list.
9. Mrs. Lift (Anne Ramsey), Throw Momma From the Train
“Owen!” Who can forget that grating summons screamed repeatedly by the prune-faced Lift? “Clumsy poop” and “lard ass” are just a few of the names she slings at her son (Danny DeVito), when she’s not slapping him in the face, and her abuse conjures up all sorts of murderous fantasies in his head. Lift is unbearable, but she does share some tender moments with her son. For that, she’s at number nine.
8. Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner), Serial Mom
It’s nice when mom is on your side, but Sutphin takes it to an extreme. She runs over a math teacher who criticizes her son. She impales her daughter’s date with a poker. As an anal-retentive housewife who kills anyone who violates her pathologically uptight standards (she bludgeons a woman to death for wearing white after Labor Day), Sutphin is one crazy mother, to say the least.
7. Rose Hovick (Rosalind Russell), Gypsy
There are murderous moms, and then there are showbiz moms. Hovick is the quintessential stage mother, ushering her daughter from spotlight to spotlight, so that she can vicariously bask in the glow of fame. “I was born too soon and started too late,” she bemoans, in a self-pitying rant. “I just wanted to be noticed.” Amid all her efforts to get noticed, she barely had time to notice how overbearing a mother she is.
6. Norma Bates (Anthony Perkins), Psycho
Sure, Bates ends up being a dude, but that doesn’t stop her from being one of the most terrifying mother figures in movie history. Who knows what kind of mom Norma was when she was alive — for all we know, she was a sweet old lady. The Norma we know, though, existed in one half of Norman Bates’s schizophrenic head, and she was a jealous, knife-wielding maniac with a dowdy fashion sense.
5. Deirdre Burroughs (Annette Bening), Running With Scissors
Burroughs is a self-centered freak in need of psychiatric help — and the fact that she’s based on a real person makes her careless ways all the more shocking. Too obsessed with her own problems to make the time to raise a kid, she foists her son on a creepy psychiatrist who runs a household of weirdos. It’s no environment for an impressionable young lad, which makes Deirdre — certifiably crazy though she may be — a very, very bad mom indeed.
4. Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway), Mommie Dearest
Speaking of crazy real-life mothers, Crawford was a notorious one. A narcissistic neat freak, she put her adopted daughter, Christina, through hell. When she finds Christina trying on her makeup, she chops her hair off. When she finds a wire hanger in Christina’s closet, she flies into a rage. You can’t blame the real-life Christina for seeking vengeance in the tell-all book on which the movie is based.
3. Lilly Dillon (Anjelica Huston), The Grifters
Dillon is a horrible person, in addition to a horrible mother. A longtime con artist, she at first tries to discourage her son, Roy (John Cusack), from entering the grift business. She gets points for the concern, but she loses all sympathy at the end, when she tries to seduce Roy before cutting his throat, stealing all his money, and leaving him to bleed to death. The murder was inadvertent, but that’s a minor technicality.
2. Mary (Mo’Nique), Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
In one of Precious‘s many harrowing scenes, Mary hurls a television several stories down a stairwell, aimed at her daughter and her infant granddaughter. This lazy welfare leech does unthinkable things to her daughter over the years, and her rotten heart manifests as an onslaught of verbal and physical abuse. Mo’Nique won an Oscar for playing this monster of a mother, and she also earns our runner-up slot. But the top honor goes to…
1. Mrs. White (Piper Laurie), Carrie
Poor Carrie: not only does she get bullied at school, she also has to deal with her religiously oppressive, psychotic mother when she gets home. White berates Carrie for everything from going on a date to having her period. As far as she’s concerned, Carrie is a spawn of the Devil who should have been killed the day she was born. White has no redeeming maternal qualities whatsoever, and her final-act treachery puts her at number one.