Top 10 Scary Mothers in Film

Only about five people saw the 1989 flop My Mom’s A Werewolf. I was one one of them. But it did raise an interesting issue: mothers that kill! Here’s some of my favourites.

There’s been enough talk, certainly in British film recently, of an uncontrollable feral youth plaguing society – particularly the wholesome, educated values of the middle class – that we forget to look behind the curtain.

Back at home mum bakes cakes, does the ironing while watching Eastenders and has supper ready and on the table by six o’clock. It is all sweet smiles and flowery aprons. Or is it? Some mums aren’t programmed the same way as rational human beings. Sometimes they don’t know how to love, at other times they love their “little” ones too much. From time to time, Hollywood shines a light on female monstrosity as displayed by Mother. These are my favourite ten.

10. The Queen (Aliens, 1986)


James Cameron had to up the ante in Aliens after Ridley Scott’s classic original. He did it by upping the number of monstrous aliens and introducing us to their mum who has a momentous duel with superwoman Ripley leading to the classic line: “Get away from her you bitch!”

9. Mrs Loomis/Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf, Scream 2, 1997)


Another mother who loved too much – Billy Loomis’ mum takes revenge Mrs Voorhees style on the poor kids at Windsor College. She’s annoyed that her serial-killing son got a bullet in the head in Scream 1 so enacts a few horror film sequel clichés on her way to a similar demise.

8. Vera (Elizabeth Moody, Braindead ake Dead Alive, 1992)


Poor Lionel has to care for his bloodthirsty mother after she gets bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey and turns into a ravenous zombie in Peter Jackson’s gore fest.

7. Mrs Mott (Rebecca De Mornay, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, 1992)


After losing her baby during pregnancy, unstable widow Mrs Mott becomes the nanny to the family she blames for a multitude of things including failing to get her grubby hands on her dead husband’s money.

6. Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner, Serial Mom, 1994)


John Waters turns his attention to the story of serial-killing suburban housewife Beverly Sutphin. It doesn’t matter how you cross her, whether you’re not doing your recycling properly or stealing her favoured car park spot at the local supermarket, it is off-with-your-head!

5. Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar, The Brood, 1979)


Nola spends most of her time at crackpot psychotherapist Oliver Reed’s secluded institute birthing part-human children from a sac protruding from her stomach. These entities then go around killing various people in increasingly horrible ways.

4. Mother (Helen Horton, Alien, 1979)

The disembodied voice representing spaceship the Nostromo’s master computer system is curiously known as Mother. Like Hal in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, this macabre, god-like controller of all things “life support” is unnervingly powerful in the great outer reaches of space.

3. Mrs Voorhees (Betsy Palmer, Friday the 13th, 1980)


The mother who loved her son too much. Mrs Voorhees is out for revenge, stalking the furiously horny teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake, blaming them for the death of her son.

2. Norman Bates’ Mother (Psycho, 1960)

The most infamous Mother is also the most incapacitated yet that doesn’t stop her. While we only get a fleeting glance at Norman Bates’ mom, it is enough to make her appearance a chilling memory.

1. Margaret (Piper Laurie, Carrie, 1976)


God-fearing fanatic Margaret would rather see her pubescent daughter Carrie White burn at the stake than have an orgasm. The scariest mother ever to grace the cinema screen is brilliantly brought to chilling life by Piper Laurie.

Written and compiled by Daniel Stephens.

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Hmm, good list Dan, although I disagree with some of your choices….

    “Mother” from Alien is a bit of a stretch, to be honest, because the computer is really only a technological creation going on a set of programmed responses. I still think the list should retain at least human mothers to maintain its integrity. Having said that, I do have to agree with including the Alien Queen in at #10, because even though she’s not human, she’s still alive, and able to behave like a mother to her (alien) children.

    I’d have had Vera from Braindead up a little higher, and definitely would have Norman Bates’ mother in at #1, and Rebecca DeMornay would also move up a couple of spots. Otherwise, not a bad list, my friend!

  2. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Rodney: Thanks Rodney. I think Mother in Alien has a macabre maternal quality in addition to her suitably named persona. “She” had to be on the list since it was “her” who got the idea buzzing around my head. 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Pete Reply

    Sarah Connor gets pretty scary when she rolls off to take out Miles Dyson all by herself! Mrs Bates and the Alien Queen are my favourites!

  4. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Pete: Yeah, I wouldn’t want to mess with Sarah Connor.

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    Castor Reply

    Some scary, psychotic mothers indeed. I would probably add one of the incarnation of the mother in The Mandchurian Candidate!

  6. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    @ Castor – now THERE’s one I agree with. The Manchurian Candidate is terrifying…. great pick!

  7. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Castor: good one Castor!

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    Scott Lawlor Reply

    Dude I deffo commented on this one yesterday…..

    Anyway, it went like this….

    You haven’t seen my mum after a glass of wine! she will kick these all into touch!

  9. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Scott: Haha, that’s why I couldn’t include Mama Fratelli from The Goonies…she reminds me too much of my grandma.

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    mark Reply

    For what it’s worth, here we go:

    (1)Inna Korobkina in Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake – any woman who gives birth to a baby zombie has to be in this list.

    (2) Marietta Marich as the matriach in the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

    (3) Faye Dunnaway in Mommie Dearest (do adopted kiddies count?)

    (4) Angela Lansbury (before Meryl Streep) in The Manchurian Candidate.

    (5) Alberta Watson in Spanking the Monkey (c’mon – she has to take some responsibilities for her actions, depression and booze or no depression and booze. Probably not the sort of mother a teenage boy would want to invite his pubescent buddies over to meet).

    (6) Angelica Huston in The Grifters – OK until the end … the then we see her true colours.

    (7) Susan Viddler in Trainspotting – it’s a scary womam who will let her infant child starve to death, smack or no smack.

    (8) Ingrid Thulin in The Damned – tragic in a Shakespearean way, but still a kinda nasty piece of work.

    (9) Helen Mirren in Excalibur – Morgana, mother or Mordred, who uses her bastard son to try to bring down her brother’s kingdom.

    (10) Agnes Mooreheard in Citizen Kane – more heartless than scary perhaps, but she is still nevertheless willing to sacrifice her son’s ultimate happiness for ambition.

  11. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Mark: …and there was me thinking I had exhausted the theme! 🙂

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    DEZMOND Reply

    I just adore SERIAL MOM, for me it’s Kathleen’s best role ever.

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    Dan Reply

    @Dezmond: I wouldn’t disagree with that. She really is that good in Serial Mom.

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    Victor De Leon Reply

    Great list! Love that you included Mrs. Sutphin! Good job. Thanks.

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    Christian Reply

    I think Rebecca de Mornay should appear twice: one for The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and again for Mother’s Day!

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    Bryan Reply

    Carlo’s mom in Deep Red by Dario Argento is pretty good too. Argento’s Trauma also stars Piper Laurie as the psycho killer mom.

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