4 Lousy Movie Parents You'd Never Want to Have

Woody Harrelson’s character in “The Glass Castle” won’t win any Parent of the Year nominations.

The new drama, based on Jeannette Walls’ autobiography, casts the “Cheers” alum as a hard-drinking hippie who’d rather go on a bender than feed his starving kids.


He’s not all bad, of course. He can be charming at times. Even sweet. Yet he still leaves four emotionally wounded kids who are lucky to live to adulthood.

And Mamma isn’t much better. Naomi Watts plays Mrs. Walls, a mother whose neglectful ways leave one child scarred for life.

The Walls parents aren’t the first wildly dysfunctional parents to grace the big screen. Consider the following four examples of movie parenting at its very worst.


Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt look like the perfect ’50s parents in this pitch-black 1989 comedy. Look closer, and you’ll find a deep, dark secret lurking in their home.

Mom and Dad are cannibals, resulting in one of the more off-putting films from the Reagan Era. It’s not for the squeamish, but it’s one of the decade’s unfairly forgotten gems.

Home Alone

If Kate and Peter McCallister left young Kevin home alone once …. that would be a nightmare. But things happen, and the kid proved pretty resourceful against those unsavory Wet Bandits, right?

Twice? Now, we’re talking Child Protective Services on line one. To be fair, the sequel features an airport kerfuffle that sends Kevin to a different destination. Still, the McCallisters need to seriously consider their parenting methods after leaving their young child alone … twice.

They’re still a loving duo, but you can’t talk about dysfunctional movie parents without name-checking them.


American Beauty

Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening made a cute couple in this Oscar-winning film. On paper, that is.

In reality, their characters are a mess. And that’s hardly good for their teen kids. Spacey’s Lester quits his job, and his responsibilities, to smoke pot and dream about his daughter’s teen girlfriend. Meanwhile, Momma Caroline (Bening) cares more about her real estate career than, well, most everything else.

Together, they’re a warped portrait of suburban angst that sets a low standard for parenting.


Harry and Zinnia Wormwood relish being rotten parents. How bad are they? They neglect poor young Matilda, leave her alone at an age when she still needs a guardian and refuse to let her go to school at first.

It’s all played to comic effect, and Matilda has the last laugh thanks to her amazing telekinetic powers. Still, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman play up their pathetic parenting style for all to see.


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