Moms With a Vengeance
TV shows and movies are replete with wholesome mothers who selflessly devote their lives to their children. Then there's the other kind. Here are the absolute worst — from manipulative and megalomaniacal to downright homicidal — moms, some so nasty they make us want to send our own mother extra flowers this year.
Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) in “Mommie Dearest”
Why is the high-camp Joan Crawford in this 1981 movie still regarded as one of the most hideously awful moms in pop culture history? Four words: No. More. Wire. Hangers.
Mrs. Lift (Ann Ramsey) in “Throw Momma From the Train”
Between her Oscar-nominated turn verbally abusing Danny DeVito and her role as Mama Fratelli in “The Goonies,” Ann Ramsey made a career out of playing nasty moms in the '80s. Her Mrs. Lift, in this comedic takeoff on Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train,” is the gold standard.
Livia Soprano (Nancy Marchand) in “The Sopranos”
The Medea of New Jersey, Livia Soprano doesn’t just hector Tony to death — she actually conspires to have him killed. Livia is one of the most vicious characters ever on “The Sopranos,” and that's saying something, given that it’s a show about murderous mobsters.
Peg Bundy (Katey Sagal) in “Married With Children”
More interested in sitting on the couch eating bonbons than spending time with her kids, Peg Bundy is the dysfunctional answer to perfect '80s mom Clair Huxtable. At the end of the day, Peg loves her family (even grumpy old Al) — just as long as they don't interrupt her chain smoking.
Mrs. Costanza (Estelle Harris) in “Seinfeld”
Spend five minutes with Mrs. Costanza and you understand why her son, George, grew up to be the stunted nebbish we all know and love. Then again, George gives her reasons to shriek: Just consider what she caught him doing with her Glamour magazine.
Kate McAllister (Catherine O’Hara) in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”
We’ll give Kate a pass for the first “Home Alone” movie. Sure, she inadvertently left young Kevin behind when her annoying family tramped off for a holiday in France. But she endured all manner of travel disasters in order to get back to him in time for Christmas. In the “Home Alone” sequel, however, Kate not only forgot Kevin a second time, she made little effort to find him on his New York City adventure. Looking out the window and wondering how he’s doing isn’t the same as getting on the plane.
Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) in “August: Osage County”
The drug-addled, cancer-ridden mother in this awards season favorite believes in her own brand of “truth telling.” Basically that means she uses family dinner hour as an opportunity to berate anyone within five feet of her. No wonder most meals at the Weston homestead end in brawls.
Margaret White (Piper Laurie) in “Carrie”
Perhaps history has unfairly judged Mrs. White, the fanatically religious nut of a mother who terrorizes poor Carrie. Sure, she locks her naïve daughter in a “prayer closet.” But had Mrs. White not pushed Carrie to the edge, would the girl have developed telekinetic powers? If this were an X-Men movie, Mrs. White would be considered an innovator like Professor X. Though Professor X never stabbed his daughter in the back with a butcher knife. Scratch that. Mrs. White is pretty terrible.
Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter) in “Arrested Development”
The tipsy matriarch of the Bluth family might be the most self-involved of the bunch. Just look at how she has warped poor Buster, transforming him from a son into her personal lackey. (The less said about “Motherboy,” the better.)
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) in “Game of Thrones”
The Queen Regent of Westeros claims she does everything for her children. But the things she does are reprehensible. And then there's that little matter about her son Joffrey, who is (spoiler alert!) the product of her incestuous relationship with her brother Jaime. Like most denizens of Westeros, Cersei is mostly concerned with power. How she gains it — though lying and backstabbing — doesn’t exactly scream “motherly.”
Betty Draper (January Jones) in “Mad Men”
Icy and stern, Betty Draper has been slowly warping the childhoods of poor Sally and Bobby throughout the course of “Mad Men.” When Sally puts a plastic dry cleaning bag over her head, Betty warns her not to wrinkle the clothes. When Bobby is bored, she suggests that he bang his head against the wall. Of course, Don Draper is hardly a model father. At least Betty spends time with the kids and teaches them things, like how to mix a Manhattan.
Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker) in “Weeds”
Sure, Nancy started out as a well-meaning suburban mom, dealing pot to keep her family afloat. But things went quickly off the rails, with Nancy getting mixed up with a drug cartel and even helping one of her sons cover up a murder. Maybe she should’ve considered a part-time hostessing gig at the local Denny’s.
Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury) in “The Manchurian Candidate”
Some mothers push their children to become ballerinas or politicians. Mrs. Iselin pushes her son to assassinate a politician in the name of her Communist agenda. Who knew sweet Angela Lansbury could be so diabolical?
Mom (Tress MacNeille) in “Futurama”
Basically the 31st Century’s answer to Mr. Burns on “The Simpsons,” Mom rules the all-powerful MomCorp with the same iron fist she uses to terrorize her sons Walter, Larry and Igner. Although her public persona might be chipper and wholesome, behind the scenes she’s like Donald Trump, if the Donald had killer robots at his disposal.
Norma Bates in “Bates Motel”
In the “Psycho” movies, Norma may be dead, but her lingering presence drives her son Norman to murder. When she was alive, she removed Norman from the world and taught him that all women are trollops. A&E’s recent television series makes Norma a bit more sympathetic, but it also delves into her highly inappropriate relationship with her son, which helped turn the timid lad into a cross-dressing killer.
The Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) in “Coraline”
Sure, the Other Mother in this stop-motion fairytale seems like a doting June Cleaver type. But when Coraline tries to leave her realm — and refuses to have her eyes replaced with buttons — the Other Mother turns into a terrifying spider-like creature that looks like something out of Lady Gaga’s nightmares.
Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) in “Serial Mom”
Part Martha Stewart, part Dexter, Beverly Sutphin is a doting housewife and mother — and cold-blooded killer. She’ll do anything for her family, even if it means running over the teacher who criticizes her son or taking out her daughter’s two-timing boyfriend with a fireplace poker.
Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge) in “American Pie”
As the boozy mom of dimwitted jock Stifler, Jennifer Coolidge started the whole cougar/MILF phenomenon when she seduced wannabe ladies' man Finch. Sure, we all want our mothers to be close to our friends. But not that close.
Mary Jones (Mo'Nique) in “Precious”
As if subjecting Precious to years of physical and psychological torment wasn’t bad enough, Mary turns a blind eye to her daughter’s sexual abuse at the hands of her father. For her performance, Mo’Nique scored a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. But suffice it to say, Mary won’t be winning any Mother of the Year awards.
Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) in “Friday the 13th”
Say what you will about Mrs. Voorhees, she loves her son Jason. She loves him so much, she viciously murders a bunch of young coeds at Camp Crystal Lake, blaming them for allowing young Jason to drown. Let’s just say her knives aren’t strictly for cooking.