Nicole Kidman in Stoker plays a recently widowed, starved-of-love mother of a teenager with questionable mental health who invites a mysterious uncle into their home.  Kidman has never shied away from ballsy material, and here she has never been better. Her character, Evelyn Stoker, while not a bad mother by any means, isn’t exactly a picture of mental health herself. Her character reminds one of some of the best mothers on the edge portrayed on film.  Here’s a look at some of the most memorable — and questionable — maternal figures from movies who aren’t in line to win Mother of the Year.


Amy Ryan as Helene McCready – Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Amy Ryan’s Oscar-nominated role in Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. is quite the piece of work.  Ryan embodies the trucker-mouthed Helene McCready, the less than perfect mother of a missing daughter. One of the most interesting moral dilemmas of the film is that you can’t help but think if this irresponsible parent really should get her child back. Ryan adds a lot of humanity to the character that will have most cringing while still feeling for.


Mary Tyler Moore as Beth Jarrett – Ordinary People (1980)

This is the side of the TV’s Mary Richards that America never knew existed.  Mary Tyler Moore showed a darker side in the Oscar-winning Robert Redford-directed family drama Ordinary People.  Moore plays Beth Jarrett, an upper-middle class wife and mother key on maintaining the facade of a perfect family with her husband and son. When her all-star son dies in a boating accident she can never let herself forgive her guilt-ridden surviving son.


Anne Ramsey as Mama Fratelli – The Goonies (1985)

Anne Ramsey has a special place in the Worst Movie Mom Hall of Fame. The smoker-voiced Ramsey played two iconic bad moms in Throw Mamma From the Train and in The Goonies. Ramsey takes the prize for her cantankerous matriarch Mama Fratelli in the delightful Richard Donner film.  Mama may love her sons, but she still keeps Sloth locked in chains down in the basement.


Jennifer Coolidge – American Pie 1999

How would you react if your sex-starved mother slept with your dorky best friend on prom night? Jennifer Coolidge’s iconic MILF is defiantly a questionable movie mom in the 1999 teen comedy American Pie. There is something tragic yet bittersweet about a middle-aged cougar waiting wistfully for a gawky teen to come stumbling into her den.


Jacki Weaver as Janie ‘Smurf’ Cody – Animal Kingdom (2010)

A seemingly sweet mother that loves her brooding gangster is no woman to cross. Just ask her grandson who spills the beans to the authorities. Jacki Weaver’s character, whom her boys call “Smurf,” is a mother lion who will do more than eat one of her own cubs to protect the pack. The performance was a sleeper hit of 2010, which earned Weaver her first Oscar nomination.


Lea Thompson as alternate 1985 Lorraine Tannen – Back To the Future Part II (1989)

When Marty McFly goes to the alternate 1985 in Back the Future Part II, it isn’t a pretty sight, and the toll it takes on his mother is tragic. In a world where she’s an alcoholic living in an abusive marriage to Biff, she sits back and watches her children get beat up and lets him rule over their family with an iron fist because he pays for everything in the penthouse of a sky-rise casino. Living with Biff has made her weak and compliant. Everything that our beloved Lorraine wasn’t when we last saw her in the first film.


Phyllis Somerville as May McGorvey – Little Children (2006)

Phyllis Somerville’s performance in the Todd Field film Little Children will break your heart.  She was everything a good mom could be for her child Ronnie (an Oscar-nominated Jackie Earle Haley), and it still wasn’t enough.  Ronnie is a mentally ill and dangerous pedophile who still has a caring mother to come home to.  May is helpless to her son’s faults but still stands by her little “miracle” in the end.


Tilda Swinton as Eva Khatchadourian – We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin is a woman who struggles to love her strange and creepy child Kevin. Does the lack of love lead Kevin to taking the lives of dozens at a school shooting?  The film doesn’t so much answer the question but examines the lead-up and aftermath. Swinton’s absorbing performance examines a mother on the edge, and it lets you into the mind set of a nervous breakdown.