Monstrous mothers on film

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As you raise a toast to your mum this weekend, be glad you didn't have any of these - frankly deranged and often murderous - characters bringing you up. Sure, your mum might have nagged you to clean up your sock drawer, but at least she didn't murder your boyfriend, brainwash you into becoming an assassin or denounce you as the spawn of Satan. Oh, and she probably didn't try and lobotomize your cousin, either.

While mothers generally get a good run of things in popular culture, when they go bad, they go really bad. Forget tucking you into bed with a hot cocoa - this lot are a group of psychotic, knife-wielding maniacs who thrive on lies, abuse and manipulation. Hear a cheer to good mums everywhere as you come meet the most monstrous matriarchs known to film.

Words: Anna Brech, Photos: Rex Features

  • Margaret White

    Carrie (1976)

    "Oh, Lord! Help this sinning woman see the sin of her days and ways. Show her that if she had remained sinless, this curse of blood would never have come on her!"

    Having a fanatical, abusive zealot for a mother isn't the best thing when you're a bullied teenager with telekinetic powers. Needless to say, Margaret White doesn't lend her daughter a sympathetic ear. Instead, she pours burning tea over her face and brands her a witch before trying to kill her. As you do.

  • Mrs Voorhees

    Friday The 13th (1980)

    "Kill her, Mommy! Kill her! Don't let her get away, Mommy! Don't let her live!"

    We can't fault Mrs. Voorhees' loyalty to her dead son, but the way she goes about avenging his apparent death from drowning at Camp Crystal Lake is perhaps a little extreme. Rather than having a quiet word with each of the teenagers involved, she chooses to decapitate them one by one. Cue: a low-budget gore fest.

  • Evelyn Stoker

    Stoker (2013)

    "You know, I've often wondered why it is we have children in the first place. Personally speaking I can't wait to watch life tear you apart."

    Evelyn Stoker is a chilling, strangely vacant character who seems to take no real interest in her daughter India. She's competitive and clingy but at the same time, remote. Little wonder her daughter ends up as a Class A psychopath.

  • Mrs Wormwood

    Matilda (1996)

    "Miss Honey doesn't want you. Why would she want some snotty, disobedient kid?"

    OK, Matilda's a little precocious but Mrs. Wormwood isn't exactly the most nurturing of mothers. As well as ignoring her daughter's talents, she constantly puts her down and berates her and does everything she can to obstruct her development. Matilda was lucky not to end up a gibbering, therapy-reliant mess.

  • Mary

    Precious (2009)

    "I shoulda aborter your mothafuckin' ass! 'Cause you ain't shit! I knew it when the doctor put you in my goddamn hand you wasn't a goddamn thing!"

    Precious tells you all you need to know about the damage that can be unleashed at the hands of alcoholic, abusive mother. Mary spends her days tormenting her daughter with violence and a torrent of heart-breaking abuse. She is the archetypal mother from hell.

  • Mrs Bates

    Psycho (1960)

    "It's not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?"

    It's fair to say Mrs Bates did a good number on her son in this classic horror flick. Her domineering, meddling presence lingers like a toxin, to the point that Norman wanders around in her mildewy clothes. We can hardly blame him for her ending up in the basement.

  • Joan Crawford

    Mommie Dearest (1981)

    "You love it, don't you? YOU LOVE TO MAKE ME HIT YOU."

    Based on the memoirs of Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of screen legend Joan Crawford, this story is not for the fainthearted. "Mommie" here is a compulsive, alcoholic workaholic who invests all her hopes and fears in her daughter, along with all her emotional baggage. She's terrifyingly manipulative, abusive and the scene where she hacks off all of her daughter's hair is one of the worst in the film.

  • Mrs Violet Venable

    Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

    "See how she destroys us with her tongue for a hatchet? You've got to cut this hideous story out of her brain."

    We know grief can affect people in different ways, but trying to force the family doctor to lobotomize the only witness in your son's death (who also happens to be your niece) is what we call an overreaction. A protective mum she may be, but Mrs Violet Venable's rampant use of manipulation and bribery to cover up the shady circumstances of her offspring's demise is not to be condoned - she does, however, get her comeuppance.

  • Grace Stewart

    The Others (2001)

    "At first I couldn't understand what the pillows where doing in my hands and why you didn't move, but then I knew, it had happened, I killed my children."

    Grace Stewart's stories to her children about the undead are not your average bedtime fare and as the film develops, her protectiveness moves from devoted to stifling. The devastating conclusion is practically a foregone conclusion with a mother as eerie and oppressive as this.

  • Lilly Dillon

    The Grifters (1990)

    "THAT's me. That's who I am. You were never cut out for the rackets, Roy."

    Mommy's little boy is not an enviable title in this gripping tale of petty crime and betrayal. We bet Roy Dillon wishes he'd never given his estranged mum the time of day, after she comes back into his life and turns it upside down. A cold-blooded con artist, she will stop at nothing for a quick buck - including seeing off her son's girlfriend and ultimately, her son (not before trying to seduce him though. Nice.)

  • Olivia Foxworth (grandmother)

    Flowers In The Attic (1987)

    "So that you understand me now, I will give you food and shelter, but never kindness or love."

    You'll hardly get the Grandmother Of The Year award by branding your brood "devil’s spawn" but Olivia Foxworth is not your average granny. No treats and soothing advice here; instead this grandmother is happy to reign down physical and verbal abuse on her daughter Corinne and her four grandchildren, who live a claustrophobic and miserable existence locked in the family's attic. However it's a case of like mother, like daughter as Corinne herself is unveiled as the most unsavoury character in this sorry tale.

  • Marietta Fortune

    Wild at Heart (1990)

    "Yoo-hoo! Sailor boy! How would you like to fuck Lula's momma? "

    Marietta Fortune is many manicured nails off being a model mum. First off, she hires a gangster hit man to wipe out her daughter's boyfriend (leaving a body count along the way). And to add insult to injury, she doesn't even think twice about propositioning the same guy, her offspring's man, in a public bathroom. Bad mummy.

  • Mrs Eleanor Iselin

    The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

    "Raymond, I'm your mother. How can you talk to me this way? You know that I want nothing for myself. You know that my whole life has been devoted to helping you... "

    You know it's bad times when your own mother brainwashes you into becoming a political assassin. A secret communist agent, Mrs Eleanor Iselin is a power-hungry matriarch who uses her son as a pawn to forward her own ambitions (namely, bringing down the government). She also tricks him into shooting his new wife in the head. Just your average mum behaviour, then.

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