10 Terrifying Moms In Movies That Will Make You Feel Like You're Doing A Bang Up Job

No one ever said motherhood is easy!

One person we can always rely on in movies is a mom. Even if the mom isn’t part of the plot she’s somewhere in the background. Ready to listen or help or even just be a comic foil because of how consistently there she happens to always be. This tends to be the case almost everywhere, but what happens when the mom is unreliable? The bad guy? Just plain old spooky? What in the world are we meant to do then?

There’s a reason spooky moms in horror movies are rare and terrible, perhaps even worse than scary kids in movies. They leave the main character, particularly if that main character happens to be their own child, well and truly stuck. Who do they turn to in a crisis if they can’t turn to their mom? If their mom is the very person who is making their lives awful? That’s what makes scary moms so compelling. They are ripping the carpet out from under an old stereotype of all moms being universally angelic.

In the case of these 10 moms, nothing could be further from the truth.

Margaret White in Carrie

In the 1976 film adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel Carrie, you might think that Carrie is the scary one. What with her telekinesis and her burning down the school gym covered in pig’s blood and such. Plus, no offense at all to Sissy Spacek but she has that eerie, clear-eyed stare that can be a shade off-putting. Especially when you know she killed a whole school full of people. But in reality, it’s her mom, Margaret White, who is especially terrifying. A religious zealot who beats Carrie and refuses to allow her an inch of freedom, right up until the moment she happily plans to stab her daughter to death, Piper Laurie’s performance as White will keep you up at night hearing her scream “They’ll gonna laugh at you!” as she did to Carrie. And the worst part is, she was right.

Rent Carrie on Amazon Prime Video.

Annie Graham in Hereditary

I would argue that a case could be made that Annie Graham (played by the inimitable Toni Collette) in the 2018 horror Hereditary was herself the child of an unhinged mom. Her own mother, who is already dead in the movie yet somehow controlling everything and everyone from beyond the grave, was horrible to her. There’s some evidence that she tried to take over her daughter Charlie. But when Charlie dies in the movie and Annie starts to unravel, she becomes possessed. Terrifying. Leaving her husband Steve and son Peter to try to get away from her as she climbs all over the ceiling. What makes it more difficult to watch is that Collette is such a good actress, you actually believe she is possessed.

Watch Hereditary on Hulu.

Carolyn Perron in The Conjuring

You really have to feel for poor Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) in The Conjuring. She thinks everything is going to be great when she and her husband (Ron Livingston) move into a lovely old farmhouse with their five daughters. Unfortunately a demon named Bathsheba has other plans. Intent on punishing and possessing the mother in the household, she waits until Perron is having a nap, exhausted from trying to exorcise this demon who keeps attacking her, to enter her body by vomiting in her mouth. Carolyn takes two of her daughters and tries to stab them while possessed, and seeing this shift from a loving mom to a demon is truly terrifying.

Watch The Conjuring on HBO Max.

Mama Fratelli in The Goonies

Not only was Mama Fratelli an unreliable mom to her own three sons in The Goonies from 1985, she was pretty much horrible to every person she ever met. Mom, played by Anne Ramsey of Throw Momma From The Train fame, is on a mission to steal One-Eyed Willie’s gold. And she’ll get rid of anyone in her path, including a group of local kids calling themselves The Goonies who are trying to save their neighborhood. She threatens them, she hunts them down, but perhaps worst of all, she has no remorse about dropping her son, who she also named Sloth which seems especially unkind, on his head as a baby and then locking him up in a basement for years.

Watch The Goonies on HBO Max.

Amelia in The Babadook

An Australian horror movie written and directed by Jennifer Kent in 2014, The Babadook is so real and accurate to the plight of a single mom, it’s genuinely terrifying. Essie Davis plays Amelia, mom to 7-year-old Samuel who was born the same day that her husband died in a car crash taking her to the hospital to give birth. Samuel is a bit of a handful and keeps telling his mom that the Babadook, a character from a book they found in their home, is coming for them. Amelia slowly gets taken over by the Babadook and stops taking care of Samuel. She won’t feed him or let him leave the house. And when he tries to call for help, she rips the phone out of the wall. Because the Babadook wants her to get rid of her son, and she doesn’t seem able to stop it. Watching her turn from touched-out mom to monster feels a little too close to home, but so worth a watch.

Stream The Babadook on PlutoTV.

Missy Armitage in Get Out

Do not take tea from Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener) in Get Out. She looks like the kind of person who will be comforting and kind which is the absolute worst kind of scary mom in a movie. The kind who has not been possessed or is some sort of zealot, but clear-eyed and calmly doing horrible things like it’s no big deal. Like, for instance, hypnotizing Black people so that they are essentially locked in a small sunken corner of their own brains so that rich white people can take over their bodies for a price. It’s all business for her, no matter what her loose cotton clothing and easy smile tells you. Do not drink that tea.

Rent Get Out on Apple TV+.

Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest

It’s important to remember that the 1981 movie Mommie Dearest was based on the autobiography of Christine Crawford, Joan Crawford’s estranged adopted daughter. It is a dramatization, not a documentary. And I really hope the worst parts of it aren’t true because Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford was really, really something. Vicious, exacting, comfortable with beating her children, especially if they used wire hangers when they hung their clothes. She might not be paranormal or possessed, but she is pretty terrifying to watch in this role. There’s a reason people have been watching this for years.

Watch Mommie Dearest on Hulu.

Grace in The Others

Spooky moms don’t always know they’re being spooky. They don’t even necessarily know that they might be the villain of the piece. This is the lesson to be learned in the 2001 period horror The Others. Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a World War II-era mom left abandoned in the country with her two children, both of whom have a condition where they cannot be exposed to any sunlight. Grace is struggling in the dark, hoping her husband will come home from the war, and she’s becoming convinced that the house is either haunted or her new staff members are playing tricks on her. But is the house haunted? Or did Grace actually murder her children, kill herself, and now continues to haunt the house to this day?

Rent The Others on Amazon Prime Video.

Norma Bates in Psycho

Norma Bates is a mom who really, really can’t let her son go in the 1960 Hitchcock horror Psycho. Even after she is dead, she continues to have a strange hold on her son. Any time he might look at a woman, for instance, there he is wearing his mom’s dress in the corner, speaking in her voice and saying things like “I won't have you bringing some young girl in for supper! By candlelight, I suppose, in the cheap, erotic fashion of young men with cheap, erotic minds!” And let’s not forget that Norman is Norma whenever he kills a woman, as he is wont to do at the Bates Motel. Some people just can’t let go I guess.

Watch Psycho on Peacock

Mama in Mama

The poor little girls in the 2013 movie Mama. First they are abandoned in a little cabin in the woods by their father after he kills their mother and a bunch of his business partners. He is about to kill them too but a strange figure in the cabin stops him and takes his life instead. The girls’ uncle (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) goes searching for them with his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) for years, and when they find them the girls have turned wild after being alone in the woods for so long. They also bring along someone they both call “Mama,” a ghost whose baby was taken and now she’s feeling jealous that the girls are being cared for by other people. It doesn’t go well for anyone. Least of all Mama.

Watch Mama on Peacock.

No one ever said being a mom is easy, but trust me. You’re going to feel like you’re doing a bang up job after watching these 10 moms act like absolute nightmares.