To mark the upcoming release of the racially charged horror film Get Out (check out our chat with director Jordan Peele and costar Allison Williams), here are the most horrifying mommies and daddies ever to hit the silver screen:
Darth Vader in Star Wars Episodes IV, V and VI (1977–83) Between chopping off his son’s hand and leaving him for dead and the whole daughter-he-didn’t-even-know-existed thing, the Galactic Empire’s most-feared figure may also be the galaxy’s worst dad.
Lt. Col. Wilbur “Bull” Meechum in The Great Santini (1979) Robert Duvall looms over this drama as the walking embodiment of American authoritarianism; his sense of honor goes hand in hand with a savage drive for retribution.
Jack Torrance in The Shining (1980) Under the eye of Stanley Kubrick, Jack Nicholson transformed Stephen King’s real-life anxieties around fatherhood into one of the most disturbing, killer performances in horror-movie history.
Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981) Yes, Faye Dunaway’s turn as the glamorous and violently unstable screen icon Joan Crawford was a camp touchstone as soon as it was released, but it was also genuinely terrifying.
Mary Lee Johnston in Precious (2009) This bleak and utterly brutal slice of late-’80s Harlem life will always be remembered for introducing the world to Gabourey Sidibe, but the engine that drives its plot is Mo’Nique’s portrayal of a truly monstrous mother.