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Memorable film portrayals of controlling parents
 

Ordinary PeopleDead Poets SocietyJoy Luck ClubAmerican BeautyAnywhere But HereLove StoryMommie DearestGreat SantiniShine

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Ordinary People

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Shine

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American Beauty

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The Great Santini

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Mommie Dearest

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Dead Poets Society

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The Joy Luck Club

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The Prince of Tides

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Anywhere But Here

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Love Story

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I Never Sang for My Father

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Now Voyager

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This Boy's Life

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The Squid and the Whale

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The Queen

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Like Water for Chocolate

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Black Swan


ORDINARY PEOPLE

Mary Tyler Moore plays a rigid, distant mother who shuns her depressed and struggling teenage son Conrad (Timothy Hutton) following the accidental drowning of Conrad's older brother. Winner of 4 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director (Robert Redford). (1980) More about the movie. Adapted from Judith Guest's novel

SHINE

Armin Mueller-Stahl plays the unyielding, tyrannical father of piano prodigy David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush). Nominated for 7 Academy Awards and winner of Best Actor Oscar. (1996)  More about the movie. Adapted from Gillian Helfgott's non-fiction account

AMERICAN BEAUTY

The controlling family living next door to Lester and Carolyn Burnham (Kevin Spacey and Annette Benning) provides the crucial plot twist in this 1999 Best Picture Oscar winner. Chris Cooper plays Col. Frank Fitts, an ultra-rigid, abusive ex-Marine married to a near-catatonic wife and dominating a secretive son. (1999)  More about the movie. Adapted from Alan Ball's screenplay

THE GREAT SANTINI

Robert Duvall plays Marine Lt. Bull Meecham who brutalizes his four children, especially his oldest, 18-year-old Ben (Michael O'Keefe). Duvall and O'Keefe were nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. (1979)  More about the movie.  Adapted from Pat Conroy's novel

MOMMIE DEAREST

Faye Dunaway portrays actress Joan Crawford's heart-wrenching abuse of her adopted daughter Christina, played by Mara Hobel and Diana Scarwid. (1981)  More about the movieAdapted from Christina Crawford's non-fiction account.

DEAD POETS SOCIETY

In this poignant subplot of Robin William's portrayal of life at an upper-crust boy's prep school, Kurtwood Smith is the coldly calculating father of Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), who yearns to follow his love of acting despite his father's threats. Won Best Screenplay Oscar. (1989)  More about the movieAdapted from N. H. Kleinbau's book

THE JOY LUCK CLUB

A heart-wrenching story of four Chinese-American mothers and daughters as they cope with tragic pasts and hopeful futures. Rosalind Chao, Tamlyn Tomita, Ming-Na Wen and Lauren Tom star as the adult daughters. (1993)  More about the movie.  Adapted from Amy Tan's novel

THE PRINCE OF TIDES

Nick Nolte gives a rich performance as a middle-aged football coach confronting the devastating impact his Cultlike, Abusive upbringing had on his suicidal artist sister (Melinda Dillon) as well as on himself. Barbra Steisand directs and stars as Dillon's New York psychiatrist. (1991)  More about the movieAdapted from Pat Conroy's novel

ANYWHERE BUT HERE

Susan Sarandon plays an unpredictable, Smothering, sometimes Childlike single mother who takes up the emotional oxygen in her relationship with her teenage daughter, played by Natalie Portman. (1999)  More about the movieAdapted from Mona Simpson's novel

LOVE STORY

Ray Milland is Oliver Barrett III, the disapproving and imposing father of Harvard Law student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O'Neal), who breaks from his father's control over his love for his wife, Jenny (Ali McGraw). (1970)  More about the movie Adapted from Erich Segal's novel

I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER

Gene Hackman plays a middle-aged widower, still trying to win approval from his distant father, played by Melvyn Douglas. (1970)  More about the movieAdapted from Robert Anderson's stage play

NOW VOYAGER

Bette Davis is Charlotte Vale, an introverted, depressed woman who ends up in a mental institution following years of her mother's (Gladys Cooper) domineering parenting. (1942)  More about the movie

THIS BOY'S LIFE

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Toby, a 13-year-old son of a single mother (Ellen Barkin) who moves in with a hot-tempered oddball (Robert DeNiro) who turns out to be chillingly abusive to Toby. (1993) More about the movie  Based on Tobias Wolff's Memoir

THE SQUID AND THE WHALE

Jeff Daniels plays a darkly-self-absorbed father whose rocky marriage and divorce to wife Joan (Laura Linney) causes angst and acting out in the couple's two boys. (2005). More about the movie. The movie, written and directed by Noah Brumbach, won Sundance Film Festival honors.

THE QUEEN

Helen Mirren's Academy Award-winning portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, trapped by outmoded tradition and rigid personality in the days following the death of Princess Diana.  (2006)  More about the movie
 

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE

This compelling love story based in Mexico tells the story of a young woman (Lumi Cavazos) who is forced to suppress her passions by her stern mother but channels them into her cooking. (1993) More about the movie. Adapted from the bestselling novel by Laura Esquivel

BLACK SWAN

Natalie Portman won the best actress Oscar for her riveting performance as a ballerina tragically driven by her own demons and by her darkly perfectionistic and overbearing mother, played brilliantly by Barbara Hershey. (2010)  More about the movie.
 

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If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace With Your Past and Take Your Place in the World
Published by HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright Dan Neuharth, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.