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The worst parents, teachers and principals in the best teen movies

In the best teen movies, in real life, either way—grown-ups are the worst, are we right?

Written by
Kate Wertheimer

To be fair, we counted a lot more loving, supportive, friendly parents, teachers and principals than crappy ones in our top 100 teen movies. But certain bad-guy grown-up tropes shone through: The pious, uptight mothers; the power-drunk authoritarians; even the campy villains whose demise is clear from the start. Some pretty stellar coming-of-age tales have been sparked by rebellion against a shitty adult. So we're here to thank some of the worst, for making these teen movies some of the best.

RECOMMENDED: More of the 100 best teen movies

Ed Rooney

Played by Jeffrey Jones in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, 1986

"I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind."

This is a principal with too much time on his hands. Granted, Ferris is kind of an asshole, and he drives Rooney literally insane—but Rooney deserves it. No man should get such pleasure out of the (attempted) destruction of a young student's life. Also, be nicer to your assistant, Rooney.

Margaret White

Played by Piper Laurie in Carrie, 1976

"He's gonna laugh at you. They're all gonna laugh at you!"

Do we really need to make a case for why Marge belongs on this list? In addition to being pious to a fault, the over-the-top Mrs. White berates her daughter on a regular basis, locks her in a closet to pray and eventually tries to murder her with a kitchen knife. She also calls breasts "dirty pillows"—we rest our case.

Richard Vernon

Played by Paul Gleason in The Breakfast Club, 1985

"Someday when you're outta here and you've forgotten all about this place and they've forgotten all about you, and you're wrapped up in your own pathetic life, I'm gonna be there. That's right. And I'm gonna kick the living shit out of you. I'm gonna knock your dick in the dirt."

No school is without its authoritarian figure drunk on power, and Assistant Principal Vernon certainly relishes his Saturday detention duties, despite what he may say. He also kicks kids while they're down, threatens to actually, literally kick them and tries to lure Bender into hitting him so Bender will get expelled. Sorry, Vernon, no dice.

Bunny Caldwell

Played by Christine Baranski in Cruel Intentions, 1999

"Keep your legs together. This isn't Jamaica."

Cecile's racist, social climbing mother is exactly the type of woman we imagine brown-nosing her way around Park Avenue. Not only is she meddling in everyone else's business (as if Annette wouldn't have found out about Sebastian's sexy ways without her), but she's horrified that black music teacher Ronald might want to meddle in her daughter's business. Loosen up, Bun.

Mr. Strickland

Played by James Tolkan in Back to the Future, 1985

"You got a real attitude problem, McFly. You're a slacker. You remind me of your father when he went here. He was a slacker, too."

Apropos of looking like a Wrestlemania contender, Strickland clearly has some anger issues. He passes out tardy slips like candy and has an inexplicable disdain for the McFlys, as well as what verges on a resentful envy of Doc Brown. Though we'd be lying if we said we didn't find his favorite insult amusing. "Slacker!"

Mama Fratelli

Played by Anne Ramsey in The Goonies, 1985

"The only thing we serve here is tongue! You boys like tongue?"

This woman finds pleasure in tormenting young children, pitting two of her sons against each other and keeping her third, deformed son (whom she dropped as a baby, by the way) locked in a cellar. Mama F is a perfectly campy villain, accessorizing with both pearls and a switchblade and somehow staying right on the heels of our rag-tag band of protagonists 'til the end. We're sad for Sloth that they're related.


Rex Manning

Played by Maxwell Caulfield in Empire Records, 1995

"Why don't you all just fade away."

Okay, so Rex Manning isn't technically a parent, teacher or principal. But he is a grown man whose crimes include bad music, bad hair, bad style, a wholly unnatural tan and, oh yeah, sleeping with a minor. He's also just a self-involved douche who certainly doesn't deserve a day.

Gladys Leeman

Played by Kirstie Alley in Drop Dead Gorgeous, 1999

"We're all God-fearing folk, every last one of us. And you will not find a 'back room' in our video store. No, no, that filth is better left to the sin cities."

Gladys Leeman is the ultimate stage mom, reliving her pageant glory days through her daughter and stopping at nothing (read: she's a murderer) to make sure she (er, her daughter) takes home the trophy. What makes Leeman even more diabolical is her unwavering faith and patriotism, both spouted in a thick Minnesotan accent and belying her cutthroat tactics.
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