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The Scariest Mothers in Animated Movies, Ranked

Not all cartoon mothers are sweet, loving, or what people usually think of when they use the word “motherly.” Some mistreat their own children, some antagonize others for the sake of their children, and some are a bit of both. Some evil mothers aren’t even actually mothers in any literal sense, but just use “mother” as a title to show their dominance.

It helps that fairy tales have always been a popular subject for animation. Many popular fairy tales feature characters antagonized by evil maternal figures. Wicked matriarchs have been a fixture in stories from Hansel and Gretel to Hercules. At the end of the day, the important thing is that viewers are left feeling glad these characters aren’t their mothers.



10 Shadow Weaver – The Secret Of The Sword (1985)

Atlantic Releasing

Shadow Weaver is a Horde witch who appears in the He-Man movie, The Secret of the Sword, introducing the hero’s twin sister, Princess Adora. It’s revealed Adora was stolen at birth by the Horde and raised to the rank of Force Captain, serving the villain Hordak. Despite this, Adora isn’t truly evil, but goes along partially because she’s raised to believe the Horde Is a force of good.

Shadow Weaver, who once manipulates Adora by saying how she’s always been a “mother” figure to the girl, also uses her magic to keep Adora in line. This becomes necessary at times when Adora realizes just how corrupt the Horde really is. Eventually, Adora breaks through the spell and becomes the heroine, She-Ra.

9 Queen Narissa – Enchanted (2007)

Queen Narissa Enchanted
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Queen Narissa serves as the antagonist of Disney’s Enchanted. Narissa is Edward’s stepmother and tries to prevent him from marrying all, so she can retain the throne. When Edward meets Giselle, Narissa sends the girl to a land where there are no happy endings: the real world.

Mostly a homage to classic Disney villainesses, some of Narissa’s later plans involve giving Giselle a poisoned apple and transforming into a dragon. Ironically, had it not been for Narissa, Giselle and Edward would not have found their actual true loves: Robert and Nancy, respectively.

8 Yeh-Shen’s Stepmother – Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story From China

Yeh-Shen's Stepmother

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China is based on a Chinese version of the classic story, believed to be one of the earliest known Cinderella stories. Yeh-Shen suffers under the care of her stepmother and stepsister. Her only friend is a talking fish called Gold-Eyes. When the stepmother learns of this, she cooks and eats the poor animal.

Luckily for Yeh-Shen, Gold-Eyes’ spirit lives on and grants her wishes. Eventually, with the help of a golden slipper, Yeh-Shen becomes a king’s bride. The wicked stepmother ends the story by bragging about how she must have raised Yeh-Shen right and will visit the new queen at the palace. However, the narrator assures us she and her daughter got their comeuppance: they got caught in a cave-in, never to be heard from again.

7 Zira – The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998)

Zira The Lion King
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Zira serves as the villain of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. Zira was a former follower of Scar and is a maternal figure to Kovu, Nuka and Vitani. Wanting revenge for Scar’s downfall, Zira raises Kovu, who Scar chose as his heir, to one day overthrow and usurp Simba. Unfortunately for her, Kovu falls in love with Simba’s daughter, Kiara. Zira also plays favorites with her children and gives up any pretense of caring when her children go against her wishes.

Ironically, as Kovu effectively became Simba’s successor, Zira is one of the few Disney villains who technically got what she wanted, just without the bloodshed she also desired.

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6 Gothel – Barbie as Rapunzel (2002)

Gothel Barbie As Rapunzel
Artisan Home Entertainment

In Barbie as Rapunzel, Rapunzel is raised by the witch Gothel who treats the girl like a slave and regularly reminds her that she was abandoned by her real parents. When Gothel catches Rapunzel venturing into a nearby village and meeting a handsome prince, the witch uses her magic to imprison her in a tower.

It’s ultimately revealed Gothel loved Rapunzel’s father and kidnapped her as revenge for him marrying another woman, commenting that Rapunzel would have been her “daughter” if he had married her. Interestingly, “Gothel” itself is an archaic word for “godmother.”

5 Mom – Futurama: Bender’s Game (2008)

Mom Futurama
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In the world of Futurama, Mom is the wealthy head of Mom Co. Serving as a sort of matriarch to the Earth’s robots, Mom presents herself as kind and lovable, but she is scheming and vindictive, serving as the closest thing to the series’ main villain. Constantly plotting to take over the world, whether literally or financially, Mom once even turned her robot children against the human race. Mom isn’t even that nice to her actual sons, treating them more like minions.

Mom notably appears as the villain of the Futurama movie Bender’s Game. When the world is transformed into a Dungeons & Dragons inspired fantasy, Mom naturally becomes an evil sorceress, “Momon,” complete with snakes in her hair like Medusa. Momon even succeeds in her goals, only to get defeated when the world resets to normal.

4 The Other Mother – Coraline (2009)

Coraline Other Mother
Focus Features

In Coraline, the Other Mother isn’t really anyone’s mother, but is an evil witch who lures children into her world posing as a twin of the child’s real mother. The Other Mother is initially kind and generous, showering her new ward with good food and toys. However, the Other Mother only sees her children as possessions and eventually grows tired of them, letting them waste away until she moves on to another target. Her true colors become apparent when she asks her wards to sew buttons on their eyes.

The spirits of her previous victims, who seem trapped in her realm, even call her the “beldam,” an archaic word for “witch.” The word also brings to mind the ballad, “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” or “the beautiful lady without mercy,” detailing an evil fairy who also lured victims to their deaths.

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3 Mother Gothel – Tangled (2010)

Tangled Mother Gothel
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Tangled is Disney’s take on the Rapunzel story and gives viewers a scheming villainess in Mother Gothel. Gothel kidnaps Princess Rapunzel as a baby and raises her to believe she is her daughter. In truth, Gothel is interested in harnessing the girl’s powerful hair, hoping to keep herself young and beautiful. Gothel keeps the girl a prisoner in a lonely tower, all the while raising her to be dependent on her and afraid of the outside world.

Gothel’s manipulations aren’t too successful, as Rapunzel still longs for the outside world. However, Gothel is willing to destroy anything and anyone that gets in the way between her and her prisoner. Mother Gothel also notably gets a macabre defeat: when Rapunzel is stripped of her powers, Gothel soon rots into nothing but dust and a cape.

2 Lady Tremaine – Cinderella (1950)

Lady Tremaine Cinderella
RKO Pictures

Lady Tremaine is Cinderella’s stepmother in the Disney adaptation of the classic fairy tale. Proving that a mother’s love can be as sinister and corruptive as it is powerful, Lady Tremaine refuses to accept her stepdaughter as her own all because she is more charming than her natural daughters.

Lady Tremaine proves she can destroy Cinderella’s happiness without lifting a finger, such as when she manipulates her daughters into ripping up Cinderella’s mother’s dress. When Lady Tremaine suspects Cinderella could be the girl the prince is searching for, she’ll stop at nothing to stop the girl from becoming the prince’s bride. At first, Lady Tremaine imprisons her stepdaughter in her tower room, knowing that no one will hear her screams for help. Young viewers can only guess in horror, imagining what Lady Tremaine would have done to Cinderella had her mice friends hadn’t rescued her in time. When Cinderella escapes, she destroys the glass slipper, not taking into account the girl had saved the matching slipper to prove her identity.

1 The Evil Queen – Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs (1938)

Evil Queen Snow White
RKO Pictures

In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Evil Queen is Snow White’s stepmother, and has already opened up the story having made the princess into a scullery maid. Hoping a life of servitude would destroy Snow White’s beauty, the Queen is horrified when her magic mirror reveals Snow White’s beauty outshines her. The Queen’s first course of action is to order a servant to cut out Snow White’s heart.

When that plan fails, the Queen decides Snow White deserves a fate worse than death: cursing her with the “Sleeping Death,” all the while cackling that the girl will be buried alive. Disguised as an old woman, the Queen tricks Snow White into eating a poisoned apple, promising her innocent stepdaughter that all of her wishes will come true. Fortunately, the Queen meets her end when Snow White’s faithful dwarf friends chase her to the edge of a cliff after being struck by lightning. The fact that either a force of nature or some higher power was needed to vanquish the witch shows that Snow White’s stepmother was one of Disney’s most powerful villains.

This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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