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The worst parents in movie history

Being a parent is no easy task, but there are some moms and dads who make it look easy — especially in the movies. Liam Neeson puts his life on the line to save his daughter in Taken, Bob and Helen Parr fight crime while raising a family in The Incredibles, and Atticus Finch is the father we all wish we had. But then there's the flip side to these awesome parents — murderous moms and diabolical dads. For all the upstanding madres and padres that cinema has to offer, there are just as many evil parents plotting to destroy their kids. Maybe it's a mom putting her baby's life at risk or a dad stopping his son from pursuing his dreams. Or maybe the parents just want to straight-up kill their offspring. Whether they're letting loose with emotional abuse or trying to give their kids a permanent time out, these are the worst parents in movie history.

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A father in the world's freakiest cult

Directed by Gareth Evans, Apostle is a pretty grim movie. There's a goddess who loves gore and a guy who grinds up human meat, but in the middle of this darkness, there are two beams of light: Ffion (Kristine Froseth) and Jeremy (Bill Milner). These young lovers have grown up in a freaky cult on a mysterious island, but in the midst of all the madness, these two innocents have kept their romance going a strong… and a secret.

See, Ffion's dad isn't what you'd call an understanding dude. His name is Quinn (Mark Lewis Jones), and he's as nasty as they come. A psychotic cult leader, Quinn absolutely hates Jeremy. He's also got a lot on his mind, as the goddess of the island has put a curse on all living things. For example, the cult's livestock is giving birth to mangled and messed-up babies. So when Quinn learns that Ffion is running away with Jeremy and pregnant with his child, he decides it's time for a father-daughter talk.

Afraid her child will be some deformed creature, Quinn disembowels his own daughter, killing both her and her unborn kid. Making things even worse, he frames Jeremy for the murder and then murders the poor boy in the most grisly way possible. This all happens in the span of roughly ten minutes, which means Quinn didn't even pause to consider options that were a bit less than intense than, you know, sticking a knife in his daughter's guts. Crazy, violent, and more than a tad rash, Quinn definitely won't be winning the Father of the Year Award.

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An adoptive dad who snaps at his kids

Marvel dads are the worst. They lie to their kids, disappoint them, and in some instances, try to murder them. For example, King T'Chaka kept quite a few secrets from Black Panther. Most of Tony Stark's insecurities can be traced back to his billionaire dad, Howard. And Odin raised a warmongering death goddess and a manipulative trickster with illusions of grandeur. But when it comes to Marvel dads, they don't get any worse than Thanos, the Mad Titan with terrible parenting skills.

A purple warlord who wants to annihilate half the universe, Thanos (Josh Brolin) also fancies himself a father figure. When he's not murdering entire planets full of people, he's busy adopting kids to join his little death cult. And by "adopting," we mean killing their parents and kidnapping them. Naturally, life with Thanos can be kind of traumatizing, as he often forces his kids to fight each other in bloody, brutal duels. He particularly enjoys torturing his daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan), cutting off her body parts and replacing them with hunks of metal. And sure, he has fond feelings for Gamora (Zoe Saldana), but at the end of the day, he throws her off a cliff so he can get his hands on a shiny stone. And when your rock collection is more important than your own kids, it means you probably weren't cut out for this whole adoption thing.

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A mom who loves Bibles and butcher's knives

Life can be hard when you're an introverted teenager who's relentlessly bullied while developing scary psychic powers. A girl like that really needs a mom to care for her and guide her through those difficult times. Unfortunately for Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), her mother is an absolute nut job who'd rather stab her daughter with a butcher's knife than help her figure out high school.

Played by Piper Laurie, Margaret White is a Bible-thumping psycho who's terrified of sex and wants to keep Carrie as isolated from the world as possible. When Carrie has her first period, Margaret locks her in a closet and forces her to pray for forgiveness for her wicked ways. When she goes off to prom, Margaret does everything she can to keep Carrie at home, telling her all the other high school kids will just laugh at her. And when she thinks Carrie is a witch, Margaret decides it's time for some Old Testament justice. It all culminates in a candle-lit showdown when Margaret looks a little too happy while trying to stab her daughter to death. When it comes to Margaret White's child-rearing techniques, we're pretty sure Dr. Spock wouldn't approve.

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A dad who hates dead poets

One of the most inspirational movies ever made, Dead Poets Society finds Robin Williams as John Keating, an eccentric English teacher at an uptight boys' school. Serving as a father figure to a classroom full of teenagers, Keating teaches these kids about chasing their dreams, living life to the fullest, and seizing the day.

But not everyone is so crazy about Keating's philosophy of carpe diem. On the other end of the spectrum, there's Mr. Perry (Kurtwood Smith), a straight-laced 1950s father with very definite plans for his son Neil (Robert Sean Leonard). Mr. Perry wants his son to be a doctor, and no, Neil doesn't get a say in his own future. (This kid doesn't even get to choose his own extracurricular activities, much less a career.)

Perry uses every trick in the book to bend Neil to his will — anger, threats, guilt — and when Neil finally tries to chase his acting dreams, that's when Mr. Perry decides to send his son to a military school. There are no thespians allowed in the Perry household. But that "father knows best" mentality is just too much for young Neil. Dreading a future and unable to stand up to his dad, Neil opts for a bullet to the brain. But while Neil is the one who pulled the trigger, Mr. Perry was the one who loaded the gun.  

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A neglectful mom whose baby is gone

Gone Baby Gone stars Amy Ryan as Helene McCready, the nastiest character in a movie filled with killers, drug dealers, and pedophiles. She's a junkie who makes a lot of stupid decisions, like working as a drug mule and ripping off a gangster. And to make it all worse, Helene is the mom of an adorable 4-year-old girl named Amanda, and she keeps putting her kid in incredibly dangerous situations.

In one heartbreaking scene, we learn that Helene is so self-obsessed that she once got high and left Amanda locked inside a car for hours, leaving the girl to bake in the sun. She also takes Amanda with her during drug deals. And when Amanda is kidnapped, Helene keeps her criminal ties a secret from the police, even though those details (like the fact she stole from a vengeful drug dealer) might help them find her infant.

Granted, Helen isn't completely horrible. There are moments when she shows regret and guilt for how she's treated her daughter. But at the end of the film when she finally gets Amanda back, she quickly ditches her kid for a night on on the town, and in those final tragic scenes, we realize Amanda's future is very dark indeed.

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A dad with a really big ego

At first glance, Ego the Living Planet seems like the perfect dad. He saves his long-lost son, Peter Quill, from an army of bad guys. He invites his boy to live in a gorgeous paradise. Better still, he looks like Kurt Russell, and we all know Russell would be an even cooler dad than David Hasselhoff. Sure, he hasn't been a part of Peter's life for 30-something years, but now they're reunited, and both father and son are ready for an overdue game of catch.

Of course, with a name like Ego, it should come as no surprise this dude has some deep issues. Ego is a godlike being who wants to spread his seed across the universe, in more ways than one. His plan involves planting extraterrestrial flowers which will eventually transform entire planets into extensions of Ego's consciousness. But while Ego is an almighty Celestial, he needs help carrying out his plan. He needs another demigod with similar powers to help kickstart the terraforming process, and when you can't find another superbeing anywhere, you might as well make your own.

So Ego goes around the universe, seducing and impregnating basically every being he comes across. And when his kids are all grown, he brings them to his homeworld to see if they inherited any of his Celestial abilities. If they don't… well… daddy gets very angry. In fact, the Guardians of the Galaxy find an entire cave full of bones from all the kids that Ego has killed. Worse still, this guy murdered Peter's mom and plans on turning his son into a human battery for his nefarious plan. Far from being the perfect dad, Ego is the worst parent on any planet.

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A mom and dad who live in the dark

Set in the cruel Alaskan wilderness, Hold the Dark is a journey into the dark side of humanity. This icy thriller finds Jeffrey Wright as Russell Core, a writer and wolf expert who receives an unsettling letter asking for an unusual favor. A mother has lost her six-year-old son to a pack of wolves, and she wants Core to kill the animals who stole her boy away. But when Core arrives in the most isolated town in the world, he discovers this mom isn't exactly a model parent.

Played by Riley Keough, Medora Sloane is a strange, strange woman. She's as cold as the Alaskan wasteland, and there's something animalistic lurking in her eyes. The locals say that she "knows evil" and that she's been possessed by a wolf demon. In other words, she's not the mothering type. And Core soon discovers that, like some sort of crazed canine, Medora actually murdered her own son and hid his body in her basement. Too bad he can't do anything about it, because Medora quickly disappears into the woods.

Needless to say, Medora's husband is kind of ticked off about what happened to his boy. Played by Alexander Skarsgård, Vernon Sloane is an ultra-violent soldier who returns home and immediately begins hunting his wife. During his blood-crazed quest, Vernon kills everyone who in his way, and we quickly see that husband and wife are both possessed by a darkness they can't hold back. Maybe that's because they're also brother and sister, something the film strongly implies but never outright says. And that's why Medora murdered her son, to spare him from inheriting their uncontrollable darkness — but while she might've had the best intentions, there's never a good excuse for strangling a six-year-old.

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A chain-smoking mom who's not very n-ice

What does it take to become a great athlete? Ask LaVona Golden, and she'd probably say you need talent, hard work, and a really mean mom. Played to perfection by Allison Janney, Golden is a chain-smoking, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed devil woman, and one of the main villains in I, Tonya. The mother of infamous ice skater Tonya Harding, Golden does all sorts of horrible things to push her little girl to glory. She negs her from the sidelines, violently beats her, and forces her to skate so long that she urinates in the rink. Even when Tonya grows up, Golden keeps going with the put-downs, and every look she shoots her daughter is dripping with anger and disdain. She won't even tell her daughter that she loves her, probably because Golden doesn't love anything except her cigarettes. Later on, she justifies her awful behavior to Tonya, telling her, "I made you a champion, knowing you'd hate me for it. That's a sacrifice a mother makes." But really, Golden just drives her daughter into a life of abuse and scandal, and no matter how many medals Tonya wins, Golden is cruel, sadistic, and cold as ice.

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A monstrous mom and a demonic dad

Parents are supposed to love their kids. In fact, it's the way human beings are programmed. Moms and dads protect their children at all costs… but sometimes they might wonder what it would be like if their kids weren't around. Mom and Dad takes that idea to the extreme, with Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair as parents who've completely snapped. Instead of giving their kids tender loving care, they want to tear them limb from limb.

Granted, on an average day, Brent and Kendall Ryan (Cage and Blair, respectively) would never consider killing, even though both are pining for the glory days before parenthood. But there's a mysterious force sweeping across the U.S., and it's turning parents into mindless monsters. Once Brent and Kendall fall prey to this staticky signal, they try to butcher their babes with everything from a Sawzall to a meat mallet. Even more disturbing, chasing their terrified children around the house fills them with joy. Sure, they wouldn't suffocate their kids if it weren't for that evil force, but they're trying with such gusto that you've got to wonder if they've thought about this before.

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A father with a major god complex

Released in 2017, mother! was an incredibly polarizing film, thanks to its disturbing imagery and shocking scenes. But there's another controversial aspect that added to the uproar — the religious angle. According to director Darren Aronofsky, mother! is a religious allegory that borrows heavily from the Bible. While Jennifer Lawrence representing Mother Earth doesn't exactly fit with the Biblical angle, the movie does involve scenes lifted from the Old Testament like the fall of man, Cain killing Abel, and Noah's flood.

With all that allegory going on, it makes sense that Javier Bardem's character represents God. And if that's the case, then Aronofsky doesn't seem to think much about the heavenly father's parenting skills. Bardem's "Him" is a vainglorious poet and a horrible husband. Despite the pleas of his pregnant wife (Lawrence), he invites throngs of crazed fans into his home. And when his wife finally gives birth, his first instinct is to snatch the baby away from its sleeping mother and hand the infant over to the crowd so they can admire his son.

Since this is a religious allegory, the baby represents Jesus, and just like the Christ, the kid is killed and cannibalized by Him's worshipers. Needless to say, Lawrence's character is completely horrified, as is everyone watching the film. While Him can write some impressive poetry, his parenting skills are pretty god-awful.

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A suicidal dad with a hot idea

In the battle between good and evil, light and dark, Denethor lurks in a murky gray area. Played by John Noble, Denethor is the steward of Gondor, a citadel meant to protect Middle-earth from the armies of Mordor. But Denethor isn't doing a great job of keeping the orcs at bay. In Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, he's so grief-stricken by the death of his son Boromir (Sean Bean) that he can hardly focus on fighting wraiths and winged serpents.

Now, a dad feeling depressed after his son is murdered by monsters is a normal reaction. And even though he's slacking on the job, you've got to have some sympathy for the guy. But while Denethor adores Boromir, he isn't so kind to his surviving son, Faramir (David Wenham). Sure, Denethor is upset, but still, he shouldn't wish Boromor and Faramir could trade places, especially with poor Faramir standing right there. That's just wrong.

But their relationship gets especially fiery after Faramir is wounded in battle and falls unconscious. That's when Denethor completely cracks, and instead of checking for vital signs, he just decides that his second son is dead. So what else is he supposed to do now besides set the guy on fire? Fortunately, Gandalf shows up to save the day, but that doesn't stop this father-son relationship from hitting rock bottom.

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A father with an axe to grind

There are bad dads, and then there are straight-up evil dads. Jack Torrance from the film version of The Shining falls in the latter category. Played by Jack Nicholson, Torrance is a writer-turned-caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, a mountainside resort with a beautiful maze, an elegant ballroom, and lots and lots of ghosts. That would be pretty rough on anyone, but it's especially bad news for old Jack.

Unlike the more sympathetic character in the Stephen King novel, this Jack Torrance starts off a little psycho and just gets crazier as the film goes on. And that's not good for poor Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd), Jack's son. This tiny tot possesses a psychic ability called "the shining," which allows him to see all the evil spirits lurking in the Overlook. But despite his powers, he can't stop his dad from going completely insane, grabbing an axe, and calling Danny over for some bloody father-son bonding time. Jack chases little Danny all over the hotel and out into the snowy hedge maze, where the kid manages to outsmart and escape his dastardly old dad. And in Jack's final moments, he learns that trying to kill your kid does not make you a cool dad.

Well, actually, it kind of does.