Ranking the Worst Parents of the 2015 Summer Movie Season
When it’s all said and done, the summer of 2015 will be remembered for a few things. The way Jurassic World dominated the humanoid world; the ocean of tears that flooded theaters showing Inside Out; Straight Outta Compton topping superheroes and reboots at the August box office. What’s likely to get overlooked amidst those stories is the summer’s biggest theme, one that ran through many of the season’s biggest hits and flops: Terrible parents.
From blockbusters to indies, a surprisingly large number of summer 2015 movies featured mothers and fathers doing an extremely poor job of raising their children (or, in at least one or two cases, an extremely good job of killing their children). There were a couple examples of good parenting — Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator (aka “Pops”) would do anything to protect Sarah Connor — but by and large it was a cinematic season ruled by bad parenting in every imaginable shape and size.
We’ve assembled the ten worst here, though there are many more examples. (Somehow John Krasinski’s character from Aloha, who acts like a mute and then walks out on his child because he thinks his wife is having an affair even though he has no evidence whatsoever, missed the cut.) Feel free to quibble with our picks in the comments section below, or to propose your theory why so many movies this summer were so obsessed with bad mothers and fathers. All we know is these movies made us want to call up our own moms and dads and thank them for doing such a good job raising us and not shipping us off to die in a dinosaur theme park.
And now, without further ado (and with a SPOILER WARNING for the films that follow), let’s get to our picks for the worst parents of summer 2015, starting with:
10. Eric and Amy Bowen from Poltergeist
Played by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt
Parental Sins: Buying a tract house built atop the mouth of hell; ignoring early warning signs (like hidden rooms full of creepy clown dolls); keeping their family in the haunted deathtrap even after it becomes clear it’s a haunted deathtrap. Admittedly, the Bowens have their children’s best intentions at heart, and they work hard to rescue their daughter after she’s sucked into an ethereal limbo dimension. But if your movie involves you holding your child’s arm while he or she is sucked into an unholy portal, you’ve already made some poor parenting choices.
9. Susan Cooper’s Mom from Spy
Played by N/A
Parental Sins: Conditioning her to expect nothing from life; repeatedly stomping on her young daughter’s dreams. Susan Cooper’s mother isn’t an onscreen character in Spy, but she looms large over the film and her daughter’s life. Every time she’s mentioned it’s in reference to some terrible piece of advice she gave Susan as a child, things like “Well-behaved women often make history,” or “Just blend in, let somebody else win,” or “Give up on your dreams.” She wrote that one in Susan’s lunchbox.
8. Ray Gaines from San Andreas
Played by Dwayne Johnson
Parental Sins: Abandoning his post as a first responder to save his daughter. True, he sacrifices life and limb to rescue his child from the ruins of San Francisco. But he does it by also sacrificing the lives and limbs of the dozens of other people he could have saved in the midst of the worst earthquake in recorded history. Think of the example he’s setting for her! Blake (Alexandra Daddario) is definitely her father’s daughter too; she freely and remorselessly steals supplies and walkie-talkies from a fire truck the same way Ray pilfers a helicopter (and a car [and a plane (and a boat)]) in his quest to find her. The apple doesn’t fall far from the massive, muscular tree.
7. Brian O’Conner from Furious 7
Played by Paul Walker
Parental Sins: Participating in numerous incredibly dangerous activities, including skydiving out of a plane in a muscle car, fighting with Tony Jaa inside a moving truck, and jumping a car from one skyscraper to another. All of this is supposedly done in the service of securing a future with his young son and girlfriend (who’s pregnant with his second child). And at the end of the movie, Brian does retire for a life of relative tranquility. But man, he takes the most hazardous route possible in getting there.
6. Rusty Griswold from Vacation
Played by Ed Helms
Parental Sins: Dragging his wife and sons on a road trip they do not want to take; renting a ridiculous and unsafe Albanian minivan when his own car would have comfortably fit the entire family; mistaking a toxic waste dump for a hot spring; c-blocking his son on numerous occasions; violently murdering a cow in full view of his young children; in no way resembling any of the Rusty Griswolds from previous Vacation movies. On the plus side, he does seem to care for his family. He just shows it very, very, very, very poorly.
5. Murry Wilson from Love & Mercy
Played by Bill Camp
Parental Sins: Trying to control the Beach Boys even after they fired him as their manager; selling the publishing rights to the Beach Boys’ songs for a paltry sum; not caring in the slightest about the precarious mental state of his son Brian; acting like an all-around jerk. The movie also suggests Murry abused Brian so violently as a child that he rendered him deaf in one ear via a blow to the head. So, yeah, not a great guy.
4. Scott and Karen Mitchell from Jurassic World
Played by Andy Buckley and Judy Greer
Parental Sins: Sending their two children to roam unsupervised through the deadliest theme park ever conceived by man; assuming the kids’ work-obsessed aunt would actually pay attention to them during their visit (she doesn’t); raising two young men so poorly they don’t think twice about driving a vehicle into a restricted area through a hole in a fence that’s clearly been put there by a rampaging dinosaur.
3. Hank Pym from Ant-Man
Played by Michael Douglas
Parental Sins: Smothering his adult daughter Hope; refusing to let her carry on her mother’s heroic legacy; hiding the truth of the Wasp’s death for decades; repeatedly sidelining the highly capable Hope so that some incompetent thief he’s recruited can play hero in her place; only relenting and letting her become the Wasp after the danger’s passed. Hank might be a superhero, but he’s a not-so-super dad.
2. Franklin Storm from Fantastic Four
Played by Reg E. Cathey
Parental Sins: Spending so much time at the Baxter Institute that he neglects his own biological son, who gets into constant trouble with the law; allowing his young students (including two of his own children) to perform experiments capable of destroying the universe with almost no supervision; encouraging them to travel to the alternate dimension they discover even though they’re scientists with absolutely no experience or training as explorers; permitting the government to experiment on the kids (and then to use them as living weapons) when they return from the alternate dimension with powers. Fantastic Four works overtime to find a villain, any villain, to antagonize the titular quartet in its finale, never realizing the real bad guy was hiding in plain sight all along.
1. Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road
Played by Hugh Keays-Byrne
Parental Sins: Forced polygamy; treating his wives like sex slaves; killing his own unborn child (and its mother) in a bloody chase across a post-apocalyptic wasteland; ignoring his grown son, Rictus Erectus, who looks like he could really use a positive male role model in his life, in order to retrieve Max and the missing wives; assorted acts of sickening misogyny. Other than that, though, he seems like a decent guy.