A very involved mother, shady Ma Jarrett (Margaret Wycherley) spawned deranged gang leader Cody Jarrett (James Cagney). Along with being a hardened criminal, Cody suffers from some pretty bad headaches, nearly debilitating him. Turning to his mother as sole confidante, Cody is egged on with a shot of whiskey and Ma toasting “Top of the world.” Rather than nurturing Cody towards a reasonable and respectable lifestyle, Ma goads him on to attempt unachievable success, through any nefarious means. Simply, this is a case of a son with special needs and a mother who makes some very bad parenting decisions. Ma knew Cody’s father died in an insane asylum, but took no precautions to make sure Cody wouldn’t turn out similarly. Her top priority all along may have been to make sure Cody didn’t end up in an asylum, but prison isn’t so far off. If all of this hasn’t made it clear that Ma wasn’t a saint, she reveals to Cody that she’s going to kill a man. Unfortunately or fortunately, Ma gets killed and the news causes Cody to go berserk, ultimately ending in a poorly botched robbery at a chemical plant. In his last moment, Cody doesn’t wring his wrists at the gods or have a brief enlightening existential moment, instead he yells to his dead mother, “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” Calling Freud, calling Freud!
Like most mothers, Mrs. Bates hoped that Norman (Anthony Perkins) would heed her words, no matter how psychotic (nudge, nudge). Based on notorious serial murderer and collector of female body parts Ed Gein, Norman has an affinity for killing women and for his mother’s skeleton, adorned in an appropriate dress. Dead, though not buried, for many years, Mrs. Bates is a prominent figure in Norman’s day-to-day life, enough so that the audience and the “Psycho” diegetic universe thinks that she’s still alive and kicking for most of the film. Clearly not all was right in the Bates household and as the single parental figure in Norman’s life, all roads lead towards Mrs. Bates. Norma (yes, she named her son after herself apparently) is a textbook case of extreme bad mothering: dominating, manipulative, and hypocritically anti-sex (beyond puritanical when it comes to Norman). As a result, Norman raises her from the grave (figuratively and literally). Other than killing her son by her own hands, Norma Bates could not be a worse mother and as such, the audience actually has a small amount of sympathy for the monster Norman Bates has become (similar to the sympathy for “Lolita” pedophile Humbert Humbert). Not for the weak-hearted or weak-stomached, Norma Bates is the most creepily blood-curdling item on this list. For Mother’s Day, the morbidly inclined of you may creep up behind your mother in your best Norma Bates voice and watch a good scare, but for the rest, get Mom some flowers and remember her date night doesn’t include you.