1. Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981)

Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981) Paramount Pictures

Played by: Faye Dunaway
Mother to: Christina (Diana Scarwid), Christopher (Xander Berkeley)
Terrible traits: Prone to sudden violent tantrums; psychologically and physically abuses Christina over imagined slights and minor infractions, like using wire hangers; admits to adopting her children for publicity
Redeeming qualities: Lavishes her kids with gifts, even though she eventually takes most away; gives Christina excellent material for her eventual autobiography


2. Pamela Voorhees in Friday the 13th (1980)

Pamela Voorhees in Friday the 13th (1980) Paramount Pictures

Played by: Betsy Palmer
Mother to: Jason Voorhees (Ari Lehman)
Terrible traits: Homicidal, knife-wielding maniac; murders teenagers she blames for her son’s death, even if they weren’t actually responsible; ruins the prospect of post-coital cuddling with an arrow through the throat
Redeeming qualities: Truly protective and devoted to Jason; knows how to rock a sweater; never forgets her son’s birthday


3. Madame Anna Sebastian in Notorious (1946)

Madame Anna Sebastian in Notorious (1946) Criterion

Played by: Leopoldine Konstantin
Mother to: Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains)
Terrible traits: Controlling and overbearing; Nazi sympathizer; convinces Alexander to slowly poison his new wife Alicia (Ingrid Bergman)
Redeeming qualities: Good at problem solving, particularly when her son is in trouble; knows how to murder someone and have it look like natural causes


4. Barbara Daly Baekeland in Savage Grace (2007)

Barbara Daly Baekeland in Savage Grace (2007) IFC Films

Played by: Julianne Moore
Mother to: Antony (Eddie Redmayne)
Terrible traits: Serious boundary issues; deeply unhinged; seduces Antony and coerces him into an incestuous affair
Redeeming qualities: Well-mannered and classy, when the occasion calls for it; open-minded and supportive of her son’s sexual exploration; introduces Antony to naked Hugh Dancy


5. Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) United Artists

Played by: Angela Lansbury
Mother to: Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey)
Terrible traits: Secret Communist agent; power-hungry and manipulative; has Raymond hypnotized into becoming a dangerous sleeper agent and uses him to assassinate political targets.
Redeeming qualities: Aids the political career of her husband, even if it is for her own benefit; lets her son believe he is a hero by having false memories of accomplishment implanted, again as a means to her ends


6. Mary Lee Johnston in Precious (2009)

Mary Lee Johnston in Precious (2009) Lionsgate

Played by: Mo’Nique
Mother to: Claireece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey Sidibe)
Terrible traits: Horribly physically and emotionally abusive to Precious, and to Precious’ young children, including an infant; knows Precious has been raped by Mary’s husband and blames her for it
Redeeming qualities: Won Mo’Nique an Oscar


7. Violet Venable in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Violet Venable in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) Columbia Pictures

Played by: Katharine Hepburn
Mother to: Sebastian Venable
Terrible traits: Deeply ashamed of Sebastian’s sexuality and the truth behind his death; bribes doctors in an attempt to get her niece Catherine (Elizabeth Taylor) lobotomized so she can never reveal what really happened to Sebastian
Redeeming qualities: Devoted to preserving her son’s memory, at any cost; helped Sebastian get laid by acting as bait for young men when he was alive; basically a (flawed) gay icon


8. Beverly Sutphin in Serial Mom (1994)

Beverly Sutphin in Serial Mom (1994) Universal Studios

Played by: Kathleen Turner
Mother to: Misty (Ricki Lake) and Chip (Matthew Lillard)
Terrible traits: Psychotic serial killer; torments those around her with vulgarity; murders anyone she considers to be rude or otherwise inappropriate
Redeeming qualities: Protective of her family; murders her daughter’s boyfriend after he stands Misty up and Beverly sees him on a date with another girl; doesn’t kill her kids


9. Mrs. Taggart in The Anniversary (1968)

Mrs. Taggart in The Anniversary (1968) 20th Century Fox

Played by: Bette Davis
Mother to: Henry (James Cossins), Terry (Jack Hedley), Tom (Christian Roberts)
Terrible traits: Emotionally manipulative and domineering over her three adult sons; torments and tortures her children, while reminding them that she controls their finances
Redeeming qualities: Knows how to accessorize with a color-coordinated eyepatch; fun at parties


10. The Witch in Into the Woods (2014)

The Witch in Into the Woods (2014) Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Played by: Meryl Streep
Mother to: Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy)
Terrible traits: Vindictive and holds grudges; prone to cursing those who cross her; locks Rapunzel in a tower for most of her life and blinds the Prince (Billy Magnussen) who tries to rescue her
Redeeming qualities: She was just trying to be a good mother


11. Gladys Leeman in Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

Gladys Leeman in Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) New Line Cinema

Played by: Kirstie Alley
Mother to: Rebecca Ann Leeman (Denise Richards)
Terrible traits: Lives vicariously through her daughter; obsessed with winning at all costs; murders and maims all of Becky’s competition in order to ensure her victory
Redeeming qualities: Encourages an interest in the arts; makes her daughter feel special, despite her objective lack of talent


12. Hélène in Ma mère (2004)

Hélène in Ma mère (2004) TLA Releasing

Played by: Isabelle Huppert
Mother to: Pierre (Louis Garrel)
Terrible traits: Terrible at boundaries; seduces her son away from his life of piety; encourages Pierre to take part in depraved sexual encounters with her friends, then begins an incestuous relationship with him
Redeeming qualities: Sexually uninhibited and open-minded; gives Pierre the kind of sex education he could never get in school; a great lover, provided she doesn’t slit her own throat in the middle of sex


13. Hattie in Pretty Baby (1978)

Hattie in Pretty Baby (1978) Paramount Pictures

Played by: Susan Sarandon
Mother to: Violet (Brooke Shields)
Terrible traits: Auctions off her 12-year-old daughter’s virginity and pushes her into a life of prostitution; once she gets married, leaves Violet behind to fend for herself at the brothel
Redeeming qualities: Eventually returns and stops Violet from marrying the much older Bellocq (Keith Carradine), ensuring that she’ll have a more normal life. All’s well that ends well?


14. Rose-Ann D’Arcey in A Patch of Blue (1965)

Rose-Ann D'Arcey in A Patch of Blue (1965) MGM

Played by: Shelley Winters
Mother to: Selina (Elizabeth Hartman)
Terrible traits: Cruel and deeply racist; blinds her daughter by throwing chemicals in her face; tries to force Selina into prostitution to supplement her income; works to end Selina’s relationship with Gordon (Sidney Poitier)
Redeeming qualities: She wasn’t actually trying to blind Selina when she threw chemicals in her face — she was aiming for her husband.


15. Erica Sayers in Black Swan (2010)

Erica Sayers in Black Swan (2010) Fox Searchlight Pictures

Played by: Barbara Hershey
Mother to: Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman)
Terrible traits: Overbearing to the point of abuse; pushes her daughter so that she can live vicariously through Nina’s dancing career; does not recognize the serious psychological strain that Nina is under
Redeeming qualities: Genuinely proud of her daughter, in her own way; she’s overcome with emotion watching Nina’s climactic perfect performance


16. “Ma” Jarrett in White Heat (1949)

"Ma" Jarrett in White Heat (1949) Warner Bros.

Played by: Margaret Wycherly
Mother to: Arthur “Cody” Jarrett (James Cagney)
Terrible traits: Overly ambitious and attached to Cody; pushes her easily manipulated son into his life of crime; babies him far past an age where it’s appropriate
Redeeming qualities: Consoles Cody and comforts him when he’s suffering from one of his frequent headaches; inspires her son to make something of himself, even if that is a criminal


17. Marietta Fortune in Wild at Heart (1990)

Marietta Fortune in Wild at Heart (1990) Kino Lorber

Played by: Diane Ladd
Mother to: Lula Pace Fortune (Laura Dern)
Terrible traits: Psychotic and controlling; tries to break up Lula and her boyfriend Sailor (Nicolas Cage) by hiring a private detective to find them, as well as a contract killer to murder Sailor; loses her shit
Redeeming qualities: Has great connections (to assorted lowlifes willing to do her bidding); finds a creative new use for lipstick


18. Mother in Mother’s Day (1980)

Mother in Mother's Day (1980) Anchor Bay

Played by: Rose Ross
Mother to: Ike (Holdem McGuire), Addley (Billy Ray McQuade)
Terrible traits: Completely deranged; encourages her children to rape, murder, and otherwise brutalize young women for her enjoyment
Redeeming qualities: Shows genuine pride in her sons’ activities, however heinous they may be; strongly believes in family bonding


19. Olivia Foxworth in Flowers in the Attic (2014)

Olivia Foxworth in Flowers in the Attic (2014) Lifetime

Played by: Ellen Burstyn
Mother to: Corrine Dollanganger (Heather Graham)
Terrible traits: Staunchly religious and obsessed with sin; abuses her grandchildren for being alleged deviants; has no problem at all with keeping four children locked in an attic for years
Redeeming qualities: Inadvertently allows love to blossom between a young man and woman, even though they’re siblings; seems at least a little reluctant to actually kill anyone


20. Corrine Dollanganger in Flowers in the Attic(2014)

Corrine Dollanganger in Flowers in the Attic (2014) Lifetime

Played by: Heather Graham
Mother to: Cathy (Kiernan Shipka), Chris (Mason Dye), Carrie (Ava Telek), Cory (Maxwell Kovach)
Terrible traits: Flighty and frequently absent; locks her children in an attic for years, long after she has to; poisons her kids with donuts and refuses to take Cory to the hospital when he gets sick; gets married and leaves them behind
Redeeming qualities: Works to redeem herself in the third film in the series, reflecting some regret over her past misdeeds; gives her kids donuts, which are delicious, poisoned or not


21. Lilly Dillon in The Grifters (1990)

Lilly Dillon in The Grifters (1990) Miramax FIlms

Played by: Anjelica Huston
Mother to: Roy Dillon (John Cusack)
Terrible traits: Ruthless grifter who brings her son into her criminal life; tells Roy he’s not really her son while trying to seduce him; accidentally slashes his throat and leaves with his money while he’s bleeding out
Redeeming qualities: Passes on lucrative cons to Roy, helping him earn money; didn’t really mean to kill him, anyway


22. Janine “Smurf” Cody in Animal Kingdom (2010)

Janine "Smurf" Cody in Animal Kingdom (2010) Madman Entertainment

Played by: Jacki Weaver
Mother to: Andrew “Pope” Cody (Ben Mendelsohn), Craig Cody (Sullivan Stapleton), Darren Cody (Luke Ford)
Terrible traits: Cold-blooded and volatile; puts on a pleasant front but is willing to do anything to protect her crime family; turns on her grandson J (James Frecheville) when she realizes he’s a liability
Redeeming qualities: Her home is a place of refuge for her family, as long as she’s not feeling threatened; gves great hugs, presumably


23. Margaret White in Carrie (1976)

Margaret White in Carrie (1976) United Artists

Played by: Piper Laurie
Mother to: Carrie White (Sissy Spacek)
Terrible traits: Mentally unstable fundamentalist; psychologically and physically abuses Carrie with her so-called religious teachings, including locking her in the closet and forcing her to pray; declares Carrie a witch and stabs her in the back
Redeeming qualities: Her abuse helps unlocks Carrie’s telekinetic powers; she also has the courtesy to die terribly at her daughter’s hand