5 Terrifying Movies About Toxic Parents

5 Terrifying Movies About Toxic Parents
Image credit: Legion-Media

Five movies that reveal parent-child issues.

The 9th Life of Louis Drax

5 Terrifying Movies About Toxic Parents - image 1

Alexandre Aja's The 9th Life of Louis Drax is like a perfect Rubik's cube: plot twits follow each other at such a breakneck pace that they're bound to surprise even the most sophisticated film buff.

The beauty of this film lies in how it defies any and all genre boundaries: each new plot twist changes the film's tone completely. Louis Drax, the nine-year-old protagonist, narrates a series of near-fatal accidents, the most recent being a suspicious fall off a cliff during a family picnic, which lands him in a coma. At this point, an expert psychologist is brought in. That's when all the fun begins.

The Glass Castle

5 Terrifying Movies About Toxic Parents - image 2

Based on a biographical novel by Jeannette Walls, the film tells the story of a non-conformist family - a mother, father and four children - who lead a nomadic life.

They evade taxes, which means they can't stay anywhere for long. The lack of money and constant uncertainty take a toll on the children's psyche. So their parents invent a legend about a beautiful glass castle on the other side of the world that they are travelling to and where they will be truly happy once they reach it. The problem is that over time the glass castle story becomes an escapist illusion keeping the kids from engaging with reality. They fail to develop an adequate model of the world because they are too busy chasing a pipe dream.


5 Terrifying Movies About Toxic Parents - image 3

A perfect thriller about the outcomes of untreated psychological trauma.

The protagonists, Diana, a caring mother, and Chloe, her disabled daughter, are happy together, but something is amiss. At first, Diana comes across as an exemplary mother who lives for her daughter. Later, it transpires that there is a more sinister undertone to this idyllic picture. Maternal care turns out to be a sick addition that has hobbled Chloe since birth, making her life a nightmare.


5 Terrifying Movies About Toxic Parents - image 4

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos' drama Dogtooth is one of the most shocking and frightening films about parental abuse, illustrating how destructive outside influences can forever wreck a child's fragile psyche. The main characters - Anheliki, Mary and Christos - have never set foot outside their home. They only learn about the existence of the outside world through television. And in a particularly twisted form of gaslighting, their parents assured them that life outside the house did not exist, thus indulging their sick desire for absolute control over the kids. Naturally, one day, a riot breaks out in this enforced paradise, and real blood gets spilt.

White Oleander

5 Terrifying Movies About Toxic Parents - image 5

Based on the book of the same name, Peter Kosminsky's film tells the story of the relationship between Astrid Magnussen, a 15-year-old girl, and her mother, Ingrid, a freelance artist and femme fatale in every sense of the word, whose wild sex escapades eventually lead to tragedy.

In a fit of rage, Ingrid kills her lover and goes to prison, while Astrid ends up in foster care. Unfortunately, her mother's constant negative attitude towards her foster parents and the country's underfunded welfare system condemn Astrid to severe psychological trauma and endless loneliness.