Skip to main content
Jackie Weaver as Smurf in Animal Kingdom, looking up at her son prepping for kisses Don't be fooled by Smurf's smile
  • Top 5 Worst Movie Mothers


    Posted on: 28/04/2016

    It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday and what better way to celebrate than reminding yourself it could be a lot, lot worse.

    If you had to spend the afternoon with one of these malevolent matriarchs you might want to think about taking some mace instead of flowers (or just get her something cool from the ACMI Shop). To help you appreciate your own mum, we put together a list of the most frightening mothers in film.

    Warning kids, there are spoilers ahead.

    Norma Bates - Psycho (1960)

    Psycho Skeleton Gif"I think I must have one of those faces you can't help believing."

    While it’s hard to blame the murder of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) on Norma Bates herself, no list of nasty on screen mothers would be complete without the apparent antagonist of Hitchcock’s Psycho. A domineering presence in her creepy hillside house, you get the sense that Norma may be more than a little responsible for the quiet creepiness of her taxidermist son. Seriously, talk about controlling, she promises to ‘kill the bitch!’ when Norman invites Marion to dinner – imagine if he could’ve dealt with his sexuality in a healthier way and somehow managed a normal relationship with Marion, what would that have done to Norma?

    Psycho A Boys Best Firend Is His Mother Anthony Perkins Original Hitchcock

    Of course, audiences know how Norman expressed that sexuality – it involves a wig, dress and a butcher’s knife. That shower scene, the bloody plughole and Norman’s exclamation of “Oh, mother! Oh, God! Blood! Blood!” is only eclipsed in celluloid history by the film’s final revelation that Norman is Norma.

    Or, Norma is part of Norman, or Norma wouldn’t hurt a fly and it was always Norman that was screwed up and she was his first victim. We’re confused now, but if you want to see how Norma contributed to her son’s murderous delusions, see Vera Farmiga’s portrayal in the Bates Motel TV prequel. 

    Norman And Norma In Bed Bates MotelVera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore in Bates Motel

    Also worth mentioning this…

    Honourable mention in this category goes to Mrs. Voorhees, who is the ying to Norma’s yang, the mother possessed with the murderous spirit of her dead son.

    Mrs Voorhees Kill Her Mommmy Kill HerBetsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees in Friday the 13th

    Margaret White - Carrie (1976)

    What is it with ultra-conservative Christian mother’s hell-bent on safeguarding your purity that makes them scarier than the Devil?

    Carrie Sinsofwomen

    Portrayed by Piper Laure in Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel, Margaret White terrorises her daughter Carrie (Sissy Spacek), routinely locking her in the closet, beating her and generally sabotaging any chance she has of embracing womanhood by telling her every bodily awakening or desire is “dirty” and “sinful”. Even though Carrie is tormented at school, it pales in comparison to her home life.

    Maragret White Carrie

    Convinced her daughter is a witch upon discovering her telekinetic powers, Margaret determines to purify Carrie by killing her – as Exodus 22:18 suggests, ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’. Guided by the good book, Margaret lights candles all over the house (while Carrie is at the prom killing everyone), waiting to receive her beloved daughter and lead her in the Lord’s Prayer… at which point she stabs Carrie in the back with a butcher’s knife.

    Not a great idea when your daughter’s got the telekinesis…


    Mam – Bad Boy Bubby (1993)

    Don’t think Australians are getting out of this list, with one of the most twisted mother’s on film appearing in Rolf de Heer’s 1993 cult classic Bad Boy Bubby.

    During his 35 years on this earth, Bubby (Nicholas Hope) has never ventured outside his mother’s filthy apartment in an industrial area of Adelaide. Unlike The Wolfpack, Bubby doesn’t spend his captive years recreating famous films with his siblings, but rather attending to Mam’s special needs after she’s convinced him that outside is an apocalyptic wasteland.  

    Mam Bad Boy Bubby"One of the seven wonders of the world... it's perfection..."

    These needs include applying her princess pink lipstick, letting her scrub his naked body clean in a rusty bucket and of course, having sex with him while whispering “good boy… good little boy”. Of course one day he snaps and extracts a Cling-Wrap revenge before escaping to become an indie rock sensation.

    Well of course…  

    No wonder film critic Luke Buckmaster asked, ‘Is there any Australian film weirder than Bad Boy Bubby?’

    Joan Crawford – Mommie Dearest (1981)

    Was Joan Crawford really this petty, vindictive, jealous and generally awful? Well according to her adopted daughter Christina Crawford’s autobiography, which the 1981film is about then yes, yes she was.

    Played by Faye Dunaway in a performance that earned her a Razzie Award, Mommie Dearest (1981) was a critical bomb yet a commercial success that became a cult classic, mostly for the infamous ‘wire hanger’ scene.

    If beating your adopted daughter with a coat hanger isn’t bad enough (compared to some of the other mother’s on this list, this isn’t actually too damaging), the psychological abuse continues throughout, culminating in Crawford sending her kids to strict boarding school, disowning them and cutting them out of her will.

    But seriously, Dunaway looks more monstrous in this scene than Norma Bates, Mam and Margaret White combined.

    Mommie Dearest Slap Gif

    Smurf  Animal Kingdom (2010)

    Ever got a creepy kiss from your grandma? Well that was nothing like the lingering lash Jackie Weaver’s Smurf lays on her criminal sons in David Michod’s stunning debut, Animal Kingdom.

    Jackie Weaver Animal Kingdom Compared To Ellen Burstyn

    Now, we can’t really say that Smurf is a bad mother. Technically she loves her children (probs a little too much), but does she have their best interests at heart? You know, what with the overseeing the murder of police and deciding that protagonist and grandson J ‘needs to go’.

    But Weaver’s performance is astounding in its quiet maternal menace, whether she’s taunting policeman Leckie at the supermarket or blackmailing corrupt cop Randall, Weaver earned her AACTA as well as her Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress.

    - Matt Millikan

    Is your mum a little less traditional like Smurf and likely uninterested in another tea-towel or candle this Mother’s Day? For great gift ideas for mum, head to the ACMI Shop and pick her up some pop culture curios, from rare books on cinema to iPhone projectors.

    Definitely don't give her wire hangers.

    comments powered by Disqus