The 10 worst TV and movie moms to make you appreciate your own this Mother’s Day

Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in Bates Motel
Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in Bates Motel (Image credit: AMC)

If you need that extra push to go buy that last-minute Mother's Day card and bouquet of flowers, allow us to remind you of some of the worst TV and movie moms to ever hit a screen. After all, nothing makes you more grateful for your own maternal figure like a list of unforgettable characters that have really lowered the bar for parenting. 

While some mentioned are worse than others, here are 10 TV and movie moms that should make you better appreciate your own this Mother’s Day (in no specific order).

1. Dr. Ellis Grey (Grey’s Anatomy)

Kate Burton and Ellen Pompeo talking as Ellis and Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy

Kate Burton and Ellen Pompeo in Grey's Anatomy (Image credit: ABC)

Dr. Ellis Grey (Kate Burton), famed surgeon and mother to Grey’s Anatomy Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), was not the kind of mother to sing lullabies, bake cookies for Christmas or give warm inspiring pep talks. Actually, on most occasions when viewers were treated to the Ellis and Meredith dynamic, the former was chastising the latter (one particular moment had Ellis ripping into her daughter with one word — ordinary.  

2. Kate McCallister (Home Alone)

Catherine O'Hara as Kate McCallister surprised in Home Alone

Catherine O'Hara in Home Alone (Image credit: Disney)

We’re sure there will be people who question why Kate McCallister (Catherine O'Hara) is on this list. But let’s be honest, the Home Alone mom is more than a bit neglectful. She lost Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) not once but twice. 

Let's focus on the very first Home Alone film.  Kate got into a van to go to the airport, checked into her flight and went through security and yet she didn’t notice Kevin was gone. You'd think sometime between her leaving the house and her walking on the plane that Kate would realize that she was short a kid. 

Wonder if Moira Rose from Schitt's Creek would have left David?

3. Monica Gallagher (Shameless)  

Chloe Webb as Monica Gallagher on Shameless

Chloe Webb as Monica Gallagher (Image credit: Showtime)

Monica Gallagher (Chloe Webb) most certainly earned her spot on this list. The mother of seven never took to the maternal role. However, it's probably hard to do a lot of mothering when you’re in a toxic on-again-off-again relationship with the likes of Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy), are heavily abusing drugs and aren’t around your offspring for most of their lives. 

Then in Monica's farewell to her kids, she tried to make amends and leave each of them a pound of meth to sell. That’s not exactly a grandmother’s necklace or a great-aunt’s vase, heck, it's not even legal, but it was on-brand for her.

4. Joan Crawford (Mommie Dearest) 

Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest

Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest (Image credit: Paramount)

Let’s be clear, we're arguing Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of Joan Crawford, not Crawford herself. With that being said, how can the film depiction of Joan Crawford not be mentioned? To this day, we as viewers of Mommie Dearest, still won’t entertain having a wire hanger in our closet.  

5. Maya Lewis (Scandal) 

Khandi Alexander pointing as Maya Lewis in Scandal

Khandi Alexander in Scandal (Image credit: ABC)

When Scandal fans found out that the mother of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) was still alive, they were hopeful she was the sane parent — between her and Eli Pope (Joe Morton). Then, Maya Lewis (Khandi Alexander) came on the scene — a homicidal terrorist that was loyal only to herself. Suddenly Eli looked like Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch. 

Even when Oliva was abducted, Maya refused to help the Gladiators rescue her daughter until they placed a flat-screen television in her prison cell. 

6. Margaret White (Carrie, 1976)  

Piper Laurie as Margaret White in Carrie

Piper Laurie in Carrie (Image credit: Red Bank Films)

While there have been other versions of Margaret White, Piper Laurie’s portrayal of the character in the 1976 Carrie is, so far, unmatched. From the constant chastising of her daughter Carrie (Sissy Spacek) to beating her with books,  showing her zero compassion about being bullied at school to even locking Carrie in a closet, Margaret was a horrible mother. Let’s not forget, that she’s the only one on this list who actually attempted to murder her child.  

7. Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Lena Headey in Game of Thrones (Image credit: HBO)

Prior to Tommen Baratheon (Dean-Charles Chapman) ascending to the throne, there was an argument to be made that Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) was a good mother. Sure she had a hand in the murder of several Game of Thrones characters and found pleasure in tormenting the Stark family. But there was no one she loved more than her kids and she was fiercely protective of them. Then Tommen started to rebuff his mother’s influence and allowed her to be locked up by the Sparrows. Big mistake!

Cersei made the cut on this list because once she regained her freedom, she went on a mission of vengeance and didn't care if her youngest son was collateral damage. Is it us or did she not seem that broken up with Tommen’s death? Or at least in comparison to when she lost her other two children.

8. Mary Jones (Precious) 

Mo'Nique as Mary Jones in Precious

Mo'Nique in Precious (Image credit: Lionsgate)

There’s a sense of irony here that Mo'Nique won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress playing the absolute worst mother. The character of Mary Jones was highly abusive to her daughter Precious (Gabourey Sidibe). Mary set up roadblocks for Precious to go to school, physically fought her daughter, hurled insults at her grandson and even blamed Precious for being a victim of assault at the hands of the teenager’s own father. 

We’d like to offer a redeeming quality of Mary’s mothering, but are unable to do so. 

9. Lucille Bluth (Arrested Development) 

Jessica Walter as Lucille Bluth

Jessica Walter in Arrested Development (Image credit: Netflix)

For those fans of Arrested Development, allow us to say now that there is no Buster Bluth (Tony Hale) here to defend the reputation of Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter). Although she was arguably the most entertaining character on the television sitcom, she was not a great mom. 

Lucille constantly nitpicked Lindsay’s (Portia de Rossi) appearance, manipulated Michael (Jason Bateman), babied poor Buster until he was like a turtle afraid to go outside his shell and she barely gave Gob (Will Arnett) the time of day.

10. Norma Bates (Psycho/Bates Motel) 

Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in Bates Motel

Vera Farmiga in Bates Motel (Image credit: AMC)

To be fair to the character of Norma Bates in the original 1960 Psycho, she wasn’t actually that "evil" or manipulative, given she was.... (spoiler) already dead. Instead, it was "Mother," Norman Bates’ (Anthony Perkins) alter ego that was a crazed murderer. He was unconsciously killing people as his mother would do, so his other persona thought.

In the AMC series, Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) started out alive and well, but she was incredibly manipulative of Norman (Freddie Highmore). However, Norma’s most heinous crime as a mom is she didn’t get her son help soon enough. Norman was definitely deranged and had she allowed a therapist to adequately help him early on, perhaps he wouldn’t have gone on to murder several people — as "Mother." 

Terrell Smith

Terrell Smith has a diverse writing background having penned material for a wide array of clients including the federal government and Bravo television personalities.  When he’s not writing as Terrell, he’s writing under his pseudonym Tavion Scott, creating scripts for his audio drama podcasts. Terrell is a huge fan of great storytelling when it comes to television and film. Some of his favorite shows include The CrownWandaVision, Abbot Elementary and Godfather of HarlemAnd a fun fact is he's completely dialed into the TLC 90 Day Fiancé universe.