Korean director Joon-ho Bong may have created the ultimate image of matriarchal generosity for his new movie, Mother. Determined to prove her mentally challenged son innocent of murder, the woman (played indelibly by Hye-ja Kim) will do anything to rescue him from incarceration. If that means crossing a few moral boundaries in the process, so be it.
Not all mothers are so selfless, though. Some, in fact, are downright hellacious. And while watching parental sacrifice can be an uplifting and occasionally thought-provoking experience, the sight of a mom warping filial devotion to her own ends — with the kids sometimes getting their own back in return — can be downright fun. So it was no trouble for us to come up with a list of the top 10 toxic moms. If you're feeling guilty after reading it, remember that your own mother is as close as a phone call, so get in touch soon.
Or maybe next week.
Look, sometime, okay?
10. Throw Momma From the Train (1987)
Or poison her, or chuck her down the stairs, or ... please, just do anything!
Here's a little bit of hell for you: a woman who's mean, abusive, insulting, manipulative, self-pitying, lazy, stupid, willful, and — pax Mary Poppins — practically imperfect in every way. Is it any wonder that Momma (Anne Ramsey
) provokes her son Owen (Danny Devito
) into vivid flights of murderous fantasy? It'd probably be best, though, if Owen restricts such nefarious designs to the novel he's writing — turns out that, in reality, the rabid old bat has the resiliency of a cockroach.
9. Carrie (1976)
And today, we're going to talk about childbirth. Here, step on this broken glass.
Discussing the mysteries of womanhood can be a special, and sometimes challenging, time for a mother and daughter. Margaret White (Piper Laurie
), however, has a very simple lesson to impart upon her child, Carrie (Sissy Spacek
): Women are filth, they always have been filth, and they always will be filth. However you feel about the sentiment, you've got to question her tactic of locking the girl in the closet for a little solitary prayer time. That's the kind of thing that'll make a daughter have bad thoughts about her mother. Literally, we mean.
8. Aliens (1986)
Motherhood is beautiful, but in your case, the universe has made an exception.
Okay, now we're talking toxic. If the acid blood and the mandibles within mandibles of the alien queen don't clinch the title, her face-grabbing, chest-bursting offspring make it a definite lock. And when this oversized egg-laying factory sets her sights on a li'l orphan girl, it's going to take no less than Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver
) to prove that nothing can overcome the might of a truly loving, if adoptive, mother. Provided she's fortified with some badass hardware.
7. The Little Foxes (1941)
And, from now on, you can get your own damn beer, too.
Regina Giddens (Bette Davis
) really has only one priority: money, lots of it. And if her invalid husband (Herbert Marshall
) is incapable of providing, the woman sees no problem in arranging a financially expedient marriage between her daughter and the oafish son of her quite wealthy brother. Steely Dan called this, "A little down-home family romance," we just call it, "Ewwwwww." Don't think about objecting to her plans, though — turns out if you go against Regina, you'd first better be sure the local pharmacy makes home deliveries.
6. Coraline (2009)
If it's all the same to you, we're going to hold out for Velcro.
Your mother loves you. Your Other Mother wants you. With her. Forever. Little Coraline (Dakota Fanning
) learns this the hard way when she crawls through a mysterious doorway into a seemingly enchanted mirror-world presided over by the doting, button-eyed doppelganger to her real, but frequently distracted, Mom (Teri Hatcher
). No doubt about it, the Other Mother has a beguiling way of convincing one to accept the simple eyeball-to-button replacement procedure that permits permanent residency in her domain. Too bad she doesn't mention that it comes at the cost of one's soul.
5. Notorious (1946)
But she draws the line at buying him a PS3.
We won't argue the point: Madame Anna Sebastian (Leopoldine Konstantin
) loves her son, Alexander (Claude Rains
). In fact, she'd do anything for him. That's great for Alex, not so great for the American spy (Ingrid Bergman
) who has married the former Nazi to infiltrate his Brazilian social circle. In the wild, momma has teeth and claws to protect her offspring. In the human jungle, a chilling kind of cunning can make you wish for those teeth and claws.
4. The Grifters (1990)
She still has photos of when they pulled their first pigeon drop together.
When you're a con artist, the whole world appears to be on the grift. And when Lilly (Angelica Huston
) discovers her son Roy (John Cusack
) has hooked up with the toothsome Myra (Annette Bening
), her automatic conclusion is that it's anything but love. She may or may not be right; in any case, she's determined to end the relationship. Problem is, for Lilly the solution to every problem rests in her considerable, criminal skills. And while crime may eventually pay, it doesn't always abide by blood ties.
3. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
While we're at it, Mrs. Iselin, we can also program him to clean up his room.
Give The Grifters
' Lilly this: Her manipulations of Roy may be morally questionable (and borderline perverse), but at least she tries to make the experience a more-or-less pleasant one. Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury
), however, seems to go out of her way not only to bend the will of her son Raymond (Laurence Harvey
), but to extract as much pain from the guy in the process. And if she can't make her intransigent progeny obey, she's perfectly fine with turning him over to a bunch of Chinese doctors and their medicine chest of mind-warping drugs. Dr. Spock would not be happy.
2. Mommie Dearest (1981)
CAA could probably have worked up a package that included the kid, a dog, and a wisecracking maid.
Supreme actress all the way, for Joan Crawford
), "good mother" wasn't so much a lifetime commitment as the ultimate role. Unfortunately, when the newsreel crews went home, there was still this tiny, demanding, and — let's face it — unglamorous little creature to deal with. You can sort of see the problem from Joan's point of view: Not only did Christina (Mara Hobel
) seem to lack any appreciation for being cast in this once-in-a-lifetime gig, she also had the nerve to ignore the wire hanger clause in her mother's rider.
1. Precious (2009)
Yes, she's the one who inspired the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol to drive their van over a cliff.
You'd need a Stephen Hawking to adequately explain the devastating physics of Mary Jones (Mo'Nique
). Here's a woman whose anger, ignorance, and self-centeredness are so inexorable that once light, happiness, or hope enter her gravity, they have no chance of escape. Daughter Precious (Gabourey Sidibe
) will have to summon every ounce of strength if she's to save herself from Mary's overwhelming influence. Wish her luck — people who can survive so toxic a mom are few and far between. (As are supporting actresses who can survive the competition