• Fri, Sep 20 - 10:48 am ET

10 Movie Parents Ranked By How Desperately They Love Their Children

Hugh Jackman Prisoners Attacking Desperate

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Hugh Jackman’s Prisoners opens in theaters across the country today. While there are a lots of Law & Order: SVU style twists and turns that that take place in the movie, the entire two-and-a-half-hour film can pretty much be summed up with the tagline “Hugh Jackman’s desperate to find his daughter because he loves her a lot. Like a lot a lot.” And in honor of that desperation, that drive to do whatever it takes to do right by their children, I thought it would be fun to rank movie parents by just how desperately they love their children. You know, just so we have it on record which movie parents love their movie children the most. As well as which parents are slightly lacking in that department.

Harry and Zinnia Wormwood (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman) in Matilda

Forget about desperately loving their daughter, half the time the Wormwoods don’t even remember that they have her. Which is a shame, because they could’ve made a lot of money on the run by turning her into a sideshow act and/or selling her to Ellen DeGeneres.

Desperation Level: Meh

Lindsay and Paul Davis (Felicity Huffman and Sean O’Bryan) in Raising Helen

They left their three young children with Helen (Kate Hudson) because she and Lindsay like the same music. Let me repeat that. When they sat down with a lawyer to decide the fate of their three young children, they choose cool Aunt Helen over responsible Aunt Jenny (Joan Cusack). Which means they not only rank low on desperately loving their children, but also on desperately loving Helen and Jenny. “Here Helen, have our kids that you never expressed any interest in having! And Jenny, here, deal with the aftermath of our irresponsible decision.

Desperation Level: Surprisingly Low

Maurice in Beauty and the Beast

Ummm, here’s a parenting tip from someone who’s never parented: never leave you daughter alone in a castle with a beast. Especially when you know that she has a wonderful suitor back home who is capable of eating many raw eggs in one sitting. I don’t care what she says or does, you sacrifice your life for her. That’s desperate parenting 101.

Desperation Level: Call Child Services

Chris Gardner (Will Smith) in The Pursuit of Happyness

Gotta give Chris mad props for raising his son while homeless while holding down a fulltime job. You know the Wormwoods would’ve dropped that kid off on the nearest door stop without even wishing him good luck. On the other hand, he didn’t go back for that action figure that his son dropped in the middle of the road….so I don’t know.

Desperation Level: Pretty Desperate

 M’Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field) in Steel Magnolias

M’Lynn loves Shelby (Julia Roberts) so much that she’s willing to spend 100% of her time worrying about her. While you might be like, “that must get real annoying for everyone involved,” you would be incorrect. Love = reminding everyone that your daughter’s son will kill her. #Diabeetus

Desperation Level: Too Many Tears To Check the Level

Goofy (Goofy) in A Goofy Movie

Even though Max behaves like a total brat in this movie, Goofy still works hard to show him how much he loves him by taking him on a traditional Goofy father-son road trip. And that’s not easy for a dog to do guys. So maybe Max could cut Goofy a little break and quit trying to get laid for like two minutes.

Desperation Level: High

Sam (Sean Penn) in I am Sam

You want to talk about good parents who will do whatever it takes to get their daughter back — WITHOUT resorting to murdering and maiming? Okay, let’s talk about Sam and he got his daughter back against all the odds. And — this is a big one — put in a support system for her that would give her everything she needed.

Desperation Level: Pass the Tissues

Marlin (Albert Brooks) in Finding Nemo

Despite having several undiagnosed anxiety problems stemming from his wife’s tragic and senseless murder, Marlin travels through the ENTIRE ocean to rescue his son Nemo from a minature sociopath named Darla. Tell me the last time your Dad conversed with a shark on your behalf. I’ll wait.

Desperation Level: Getting Higher

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) in Taken

Bryan Mills passes every test when it comes to showing how desperately he loves his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). One: taking on the search ‘n rescue all by yourself. Two: going to a construction site without taking the proper safety precautions. Three: maiming and murdering anyone who gets in your way. It’s just that, how did it happen AGAIN?

Desperation Level: Very High

Mama (Computer) in Mama

You want to talk love and devotion? Then let’s talk about how far Mama goes for her children in Mama. This creature-ghost follows them from her cabin, where’s she warm and comfortable, to their new house. And then, seeing that their caretaker’s (the totally random Jessica Chastain) completely incompetent, fights for custody of them. Is it a traditional custody fight? No. But I think we can all agree that Mama is not like your regular ghost Mama, she’s a cool  ghost mama.

Desperation Level: The Highest

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  • T-LexRex

    Honorable mention for Kate McCallister:

    “This is *Christmas*. The season of perpetual hope. And I don’t care if I have to get out on your runway and hitchhike. If it costs me everything I own, if I have to sell my soul to the devil himself, I am going to get home to my son.”

    • Jenni

      But she loses so, so many points for forgetting her 8-year-old at home. So that’s a toughie.

    • whiteroses

      In fairness, though, she had something like 5,0000 other kids, and Kevin was sleeping in the attic.

    • Jenni

      And her older son Buzz is an emerging sociopath.

  • flutergirl

    What about John Q? Guy takes a hospital hostage for his son, that has to count for something …

    • Jenni

      Ooo that one belongs up on the list. Huge oversight on my part.

  • CG

    Mama wasn’t their mother though…but she does whip the corpse of her dead baby off a cliff in a pretty badass fashion near the end of the film…

    • Jenni

      I would say she qualifies as an adoptive mother. She did raise them for several years.

    • Annie

      Spoilers? ):

  • HeyHeyHelen

    Will Smith’s character in Pursuit of Happyness seemed pretty selfish to me… Like he was willing to drag his son through being homeless (as in, sleeping in public restrooms homeless) rather than just giving him up while he got his life back on track. I get that ‘the system’ isn’t (maybe rightfully) trusted by many, but I like to think that a parent would take the option for their kid to have a bed at night and three meals a day above selfishly keeping them around.

    • Larkin

      Generally, being forcefully separated from parents is pretty damn traumatic for kids. Also, I work at a homeless shelter and none of the parents I’ve encountered have put their kids in foster care while they work things out. There have been a couple who had their kid stay with a relative for a while, but that’s assuming you have a local support system in the first place. When you’ve lost everything else, families tend to want to stick together.