Mother's Day Movies: 10 Screen Moms From Hell - NBC Bay Area

Mother's Day Movies: 10 Screen Moms From Hell



    Mother's Day Movies: 10 Screen Moms From Hell
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    Piper Laurie (with knife) and Sissy Spacek in the 1976 film "Carrie."

    Mother's Day is the perfect excuse to curl up on the couch with mom and indulge in a few tear-jerkers you may have watched during your adolescence ("The Sound of Music," "Bambi"), or enjoyed together as adults ("Stepmom," "The Kids Are All Right," "Mamma Mia!").

    In reality, though, mothers come in all shapes and demeanors and are not the cookie-cutter versions often peddled by Hollywood.

    So if the idea of saccharine celluloid goodness leaves you and mom wanting, why not cozy up with a few mothers you can both rest happy in the knowledge are no relation at all?

    Evil moms may not be what you want to come home to after school, or when you need a shoulder to cry on, but played well (Angela Lansbury, Mo'Nique, Sharon Stone), or even when played over-the-top (Faye Dunaway), a mother character from hell can make a great movie a true classic.

    Here, 10 mothers you and your mom will have no problem agreeing on. They're mean, cruel and have left a lasting impression on the popular culture. Long may they reign onscreen, and long may they remain absent from around our Thanksgiving tables.

    "The Manchurian Candidate" - Eleanor Iselin (1962)

    This American Cold War suspense thriller stars Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh, and features Angela Lansbury in the role of Eleanor Iselin, a ruthless political wife who makes "House of Cards'" Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) look positively genteel and ineffectual. 

    Iselin drives the political career of her senator husband, pushing his profile to new heights when he claims numerous communists are working within the Department of Defense. However, it's Iselin herself who is the threat. She's turns out to be a communist agent with plans to secure the presidency, even brainwashing her own son to turn him into a political assassin.

    Lansbury was nominated for the best supporting actress Academy Award thanks to her malevolent and icy portrayal of a mother who would stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

    "Precious" - Mary (2009)

    Directed and co-produced by Lee Daniels ("The Butler"), "Precious" is a film adaptation of the 1996 novel "Push" by Sapphire and stars Gabourey Sidibe. Mo'Nique won the best supporting actress Oscar for her role as Mary, Precious' mother.

    Dysfunctional, abusive and unemployed, Mary spends her time inflicting physical and mental torture on her obese, illiterate 16-year-old daughter Claireece "Precious" (Sidibe).

    In a memorably monstrous performance, Mo'Nique as Mary continually subjects Precious and Precious' children to unspeakable cruelty, including deliberately dropping her three-day-old grandchild and informing her daughter that her father has died of AIDS.

    Ultimately, Mary must face her actions, and her daughter, when they meet at a social services office. Mary begs the social worker to help her to get Precious to return home with her, but due to the extent of the abuse - dating back to when Precious was 3 years old - the social worker refuses. 

    "Throw Momma From the Train" - Mrs. Lift (1987)


    Anyone who has seen "Throw Momma From the Train" knows who shouts the above name. The overbearing Mrs. Lift (played to the nines by actress Anne Ramsey) takes her resentment of life out on her timid son Owen (Danny DeVito) who still lives with her.

    A student at community college, Owen enlists his writing teacher Larry (Billy Crystal) to embark on a plan - based on Alfred Hitchcock's movie "Strangers On A Train" - to murder Larry's ex-wife and his own mother, figuring their lack of connection to each victim will lend them both the perfect alibi.

    Ramsey, who earned a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for the role, easily had some of the funniest lines in the film, particularly when insulting or berating the hapless Owen:

    "He's trying to kill me! I asked for the salted nuts! He brought me the unsalted nuts! The unsalted nuts make me choke!"

    "Your friend had an accident, he's dead! You go bowling and leave a corpse to take care of me!"

    "Casino" - Ginger McKenna (1995)

    A heartless casino hustler living in Las Vegas in the 1970s, Ginger (Sharon Stone) meets casino manager and mob associate Sam Rothstein (Robert DeNiro) when he catches her stealing poker chips in this Martin Scorsese-directed gangster movie. Sam becomes infatuated with the two-bit crook and eventually convinces her to settle down with him, ignoring her warnings that she is not the kind of woman who will make a good wife and mother.

    The pair marry and have a daughter ahead of Ginger's spiral into depression and heavy drug use. In her unhappiness, Ginger seeks attention from other men and has two affairs, one with her ex-boyfriend who was also her pimp from her days as a prostitute.

    Sam's patience with his wife is finally pushed to the limit when he discovers Ginger has tied their daughter to a bed so she can spend a night with her lover. Ginger steals money from the family home and leaves, eventually dying, almost penniless, of a drug overdose in Los Angeles.

    Stone was nominated for the best actress in a leading role Academy Award for her portrayal of the voracious Ginger, and won a best actress in a drama Golden Globe Award.

    "Mad Men" - Betty Draper (2007)

    The wife of philandering advertising executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Betty (January Jones) is a housebound 1960s spouse and mother who is barely more mature than her inquisitive daughter Sally.

    Though cooly elegant in the manner of Grace Kelly, Betty is insecure and selfish. She struggles with unhappiness as she attempts to summon a shred of maternal instinct. Betty constantly smokes and drinks, diets while pregnant, and avoids bestowing affection on her children whenever possible. At one point, she admonishes her son Bobby, telling him to "Go bang your head against the wall" as a form of punishment.

    "I don't care what they do up there, I just like a few hours of quiet," she says of her regular habit of sending her children to their rooms.

    In one of her most damning scenes while discussing her absent daughter, she remarks in a tone almost devoid of emotion except contempt that "Sally looks fat."

    "Mommie Dearest" - Joan Crawford (1981)

    A camp classic starring Faye Dunaway, it's based on the memoir by Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of Oscar-winning actress Joan Crawford.

    Chronicling the relationship between mother and daughter, the film depicts Crawford as a compulsive and selfish woman who competes with her daughter at any given opportunity.

    When Christina is given numerous gifts as a child, her mother allows her to choose only one to keep, then donates the rest to charity. After beating Christina in a swimming-pool race, Crawford openly laughs at the child. Caught imitating her mother, Crawford, in a fit of hysteria, chops off all of Christina's hair.

    In what is perhaps the most famous, and most reenacted scene from the movie, Crawford, her face slathered in cold cream, returns a dress to Christina's bedroom in the middle of the night only to discover another garment placed on a wire hanger - a no-no in the carefully controlled Crawford household.

    Flying into a fit of rage, Crawford pulls clothing from the closet, screams and strikes Christina with the offending hanger and yells the now much quoted line: "No wire hangers!"

    Following her eventual death from cancer, the adopted children learn that Crawford has disinherited them from her will.

    "Serial Mom" - Beverly R. Sutphin (1994)

    This John Waters-directed dark comedy stars Kathleen Turner as Beverly Sutphin, a sweet suburban mom who hides a bloody secret: she's a serial killer who happily dispatches her Baltimore neighbors over any real or perceived slight. 

    Beverly's first known victim is her son's high school math teacher. After learning the teacher has criticized her son and questions his mental health and family life, Beverly seizes an opportunity to run him down with her car.

    Her killings begin to snowball and eventually Beverly is arrested and her trial becomes a national sensation with the media dubbing her "serial mom."

    A savage satire on suburban American life, the film opened to mixed reviews but has gone on to become a cult classic. Though the film states it's based on a true story, it is in fact totally fictional. 

    "Psycho" - Norma Bates (1960)

    Rock-a-bye baby, in the upstairs window.

    While Norma Bates meets a not so kind fate at the hands of her son Norman (he poisons her and her boyfriend Joe with strychnine), she was hardly a candidate for mother of the year in this Alfred Hitchcock-directed shock-fest. After the death of her husband, Norma raised Norman with a mixture of cruelty and psychological manipulation, teaching him that sex is evil and all women (except her) are whores.

    Norma begins dating Joe when Norman is a teen and soon announces plans to marry her new beau. Believing she is abandoning him, a jealous Norman murders the pair, making it look like suicide.

    Unable to bear what he has done, Norman snaps, mummifying Norma's corpse and hiding it in the basement allowing him to visit with mom and speak with her on his terms as if she were still alive. He begins to speak to himself in her voice, dresses in her clothes, and in his mind becomes her. His mother personality soon takes hold and when she becomes aware of Norman's desire for a motel guest (Janet Leigh), murder - dressed as mom - is on the bill.  

    "Friday the 13th" - Mrs Voorhees (1980)

    20 years after two summer camp counselors are murdered when they sneak off to have sex, Camp Crystal Lake is finally reopened and prepares to accept its first warm weather inhabitants.

    A slasher classic, "Friday the 13th" methodically kills off the new counselors and associated other victims, all while never revealing the murderer until the very end.

    Most audiences believed the killer to be either the reanimated body of the boy, Jason, who drowned in the lake two decades prior, or his ghost returned on a murderous spree.

    In fact, the ruthless killer with a thirst for blood is none other than the boy's now middle-aged mother, Mrs. Voorhees (actress Betsy Palmer), who blames her son's drowning on two counselors who were having sex, unaware that Jason was struggling in the lake nearby.

    In the time-honored tradition of horror flicks, the deranged Mrs. Voorhees is thought to have finally been killed as the film races toward its climax, only for her to continually come back for another slash and grab.

    Eventually meeting her end at the end of a machete, the franchise - one of the most successful ever created in the genre (it was produced on a budget of $550,000 and grossed over $39 million at the box office) - is given new blood when audiences learn that Jason's body was never actually recovered from the lake.

    "Carrie" - Margaret White (1976)

    Created by novelist Stephen King, Margaret White is the domineering, fanatically religious and abusive mother of book and movie title character Carrie (Sissy Spacek). Portrayed by Piper Laurie in the 1976 film version (and subsequently by Julianne Moore in the 2013 remake), Margaret finds anything to do with sex or the female body to be sinful.

    When Carrie raises the notion of a first date, Margaret throws scalding tea in her daughter's face and screams that she is dirty. Upon learning of her daughter's telekinetic abilities, Margaret becomes convinced that Carrie is a witch, the spawn of Satan, and decides to purify Carrie by killing her.

    When her daughter returns home after unleashing her murderous powers at the prom, Margaret attacks Carrie, stabbing at her as she recites the Lord's Prayer. But she is no match for her daughters otherworldly abilities.

    Directed by Brain De Palma, the film was a hit when released and Laurie earned Golden Globe and Academy Award best supporting actress nominations for her frightening portrayal. Such nominations are still rare for a performance in a horror movie.