The 15 Most Problematic In-Laws in TV and Film


They say that you don’t just marry a person, but also their entire family. The hostile and tormenting in-law trope, whether it centers on a matriarch, a patriarch, or an entire, close-knit clan, is explored in numerous films and TV series, from comedy to drama, fantasy, and horror.


Even though some plots and dialogue lines are rooted in real occurrences, they are often exaggerated on screen for shock or comedy value. More often than not, the new spouse or spouse-to-be must be both taunted and assessed by their new family, regardless of their reasoning and motivation.

Our poor protagonists find themselves in a torturous situation, brought about by their intolerable in-laws. The following 10 memorable titles in TV and film explore different types of hostile in-laws, be they annoying, prideful, overbearing, psychotic, or downright deadly.


15 Mrs. Gibson — The Honeymooners (1955 – 1956)

CBS

The Honeymooners is a CBS sitcom starring Jackie Gleason, a comedian, writer and actor affectionately dubbed “The Great One.” He plays Ralph Kramden, a temperamental but well-meaning bus driver from New York City who is married to the sarcastic and devoted Alice (portrayed by Pert Kelton, then Audrey Meadows).

They’re best friends with their upstairs neighbors, the Nortons, whom they confide in about everything. That narrative, and Gleason’s character in particular, inspired the two main couples’ dynamic in the iconic animated series The Flintstones.

The Overcritical and Insulting Mother-in-Law

Ethel Owen stars as Ralph’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Gibson, an acerbic, austere, impeccably dressed woman who keeps criticizing his looks, behavior, and standing, not to mention overstaying her welcome and interfering in his and Alice’s affairs whenever she is around. She makes it very clear that her biggest regret is that her son-in-law isn’t richer or more poised, elegant, and prominent.

“Look, Alice, just because you’re married to a horse, doesn’t mean you have to live in a stable.” – Mrs. Gibson

In the episode “A Matter of Record,” a fed-up Ralph even proceeds to throw Mrs. Gibson out, but when Alice threatens to leave him, he is forced to apologize to them both.

Stream The Honeymooners on Pluto TV

14 Sybil Stone — The Family Stone (2005)

Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, The Family Stone is a dramedy starring Dermot Mulroney as Everett, an overachieving executive; Luke Wilson as Ben, his stoner brother; and Sarah Jessica Parker as Meredith, his controlling, nervous, and uptight girlfriend. When Everett invites Meredith home for Christmas with the intention of proposing, things don’t exactly go as planned, as his family, and especially his mother, treat her like an outsider and turn the holidays into an unpleasant experience.

For playing Sybil Stone, Meredith’s antagonistic and judgmental future mother-in-law, Diane Keaton was nominated for a Satellite Award in the Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role, Comedy, or Musical category. Sybil has aggressive breast cancer and withholds the heirloom engagement ring because she believes Meredith isn’t a suitable match for her son. It might be the only instance in which a problematic in-law turns out to be right, as Meredith actually ends up with Ben.

Stream The Family Stone on Hulu

13 Eleanor Sung-Young — Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Crazy Rich Asians is an award-winning and critically acclaimed romantic dramedy directed by Jon M. Chu adapted from a best-selling novel by Kevin Kwan. The plot centers on Rachel, a Chinese-American professor of economics who travels to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick and discovers he comes from a wealthy and prominent family. She is shunned by his family and considered a gold digger.

Related: 20 Movies Where Parents Are the Villains

The Suspicious, Snobbish, Xenophobic, and Belittling Matriarch

“The only thing crazier than love is family.” – Tagline

Oscar-winner Michelle Yoh portrays Eleanor Sung-Young, Nick’s overbearing and controlling mother who literally tells Rachel she isn’t good enough for her beloved son, not only because she is of a different class, but also because she deems her a threat to Nick staying in Singapore and taking over the family business.

“You’re a foreigner. American — and all Americans think about is their own happiness.”

To make matters worse, she hires a private investigator who discovers Rachel was conceived out of wedlock; a scandal that would besmirch the Young name.

Stream Crazy Rich Asians on Hulu

12 Jack Byrnes — Meet the Parents (2000)

Directed by Jay Roach, Meet the Parents is a romantic comedy starring Ben Stiller as Greg Focker, a Chicago nurse who is dating Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo), a school teacher. Unfortunately for Greg, his proposal plans are derailed by a series of events; he ends up meeting Pam’s family at their Long Island home and embarrassing himself while trying to impress them.

A Paranoid and Overprotective Ex-CIA Operative and War Veteran

Pam’s father, Jack Byrnes is hilariously played by Robert De Niro. As a former intelligence and military professional with a lot of contacts, he stops at nothing to prove that Greg will not make a suitable son-in-law, from grilling him to using a lie detector on him, secretly filming him, and even hiring a private investigator. He is a terrorizing nightmare who is excessively protective of his precious daughter.

Rent Meet the Parents on Apple TV

11 Bunny MacDougal — Sex and the City (1998 – 2004)

Bunny MacDougal and Charlotte in Sex and the City
HBO

HBO’s hit romantic comedy series Sex and the City explores the personal and professional lives of four tight-knit women, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda, as they navigate the tricky waters of the New York City dating scene. In the third season, Charlotte (Kristin Davis) meets Trey MacDougal (Kyle MacLachlan), a kind but spineless Scottish-American cardiologist and heir with intimacy issues.

The Racist and Manipulative Mother-in-Law Who Can’t Keep Her Hands Off Her Son

Trey’s aging mother, Bunny MacDougal, is brilliantly played by Frances Sternhagen. Bunny knows no boundaries when it comes to her controllable adult son, barging in on him when he is in the bathtub and gently touching his arm to manipulate him into decisions that should only concern him and Charlotte, from wedding preparations to their home décor.

She is, of course, very condescending to her daughter-in-law, as evident by lines like, “My dear child, you cannot not have a dust ruffle. It’s unsightly,” and “I’ve been in this house far longer than you, my dear. Believe me, the decoys may come and go, but I’m going to be here forever.” Not to mention her racist comments when she forbids her and Trey from adopting a baby from China.

Stream Sex and the City on Max

10 Viola Fields — Monster-in-Law (2005)

Monster-in-Law is a romantic comedy film helmed by Robert Luketic that grossed $154 million and marked Jane Fonda’s return to the big screen, 15 years after Stanley & Iris. The plot centers on Charlie (Jennifer Lopez), a free-spirited yoga instructor/dog walker who falls for Kevin (Michael Vartan), a doctor.

The relationship starts going downhill when she is introduced to her future mother-in-law, Viola (Fonda), a talk-show host who has a public meltdown when she is replaced by a younger presenter and is committed for several months.

A Psychotic Mother-in-Law With an Age Complex

Following her breakdown and subsequent treatment, Viola Fields is popping anti-psychotics and focusing on her son. It goes without saying that when she meets his healthy and beautiful girlfriend, she is very hostile towards her. Determined to stop their wedding, she enlists his vindictive ex-girlfriend and her personal assistant, and even fakes an anxiety attack to move in with the lovebirds.

“Hollywood is not so friendly to older women. I’ve had my career. I’m not looking to recreate a career. If I get an opportunity to play fun characters again from time to time, that would be great.” – Jane Fonda to Live About

Rent Monster-in-Law on Apple TV

9 Frank Vitale and His Clan — Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)

Kelly Makin’s Mickey Blue Eyes is a romantic comedy crime movie starring Hugh Grant as Michael Felgate, an English auctioneer living in New York City. After he proposes to his girlfriend, Gina Vitale (Jeanne Tripplehorn), he finds out that his future in-law clan is a prominent mafia gang headed by Gina’s father, Frank.

If You Can’t Change Them, Join Them

It doesn’t take long for Michael to get involved in a Vitale money-laundering operation, as he wants to impress the tough and prideful head of the family, Frank Vitale, wonderfully played by James Caan. Is there anything more problematic than turning into a life of crime to impress your future father-in-law and his hotheaded brothers and nephews? Unfortunately, the mishaps keep accumulating, and pretty soon, Michael becomes a walking target.

Rent Mickey Blue Eyes on Apple TV

8 Mrs. Slaghoople — The Flintstones (1960-1966)

Mrs. Slaghoople vs. Fred in The Flintstones
Hanna-Barbera Productions

Produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, The Flintstones is an animated comedy series set in a fictional Stone Age and centering on the titular family of three: Fred, a quarry worker with the catchphrase, “Yabba Dabba Doo!”; Wilma, his level-headed and intelligent wife with a weakness for shopping; and, starting in the third season, their baby daughter Pebbles. Their closest friends are the Rubbles: Barney, Betty, and Bamm-Bamm, their freakishly strong baby boy.

flintstones

flintstones

Release Date
September 30, 1960

Cast
Alan Reed , Jean Vander Pyl , Mel Blanc , Don Messick

Seasons
6

The Age-Old Trope of the Bitter, Hard-to-Please Mother-in-Law

Mrs. Slaghoople is the widowed, middle-aged mother of Wilma, and there is nobody in the world she hates more than Fred, who she constantly criticizes and berates. She is loud, short-tempered, prideful, and bitter, and gets triggered at the slightest phrase or action coming from her son-in-law, who she believes isn’t a good-enough provider for his family. In her defense, she doesn’t want her only child to face the same financial difficulties she experienced in her own marriage.

Her first name, Pearl, was created after the finale, and stuck in future adaptations; Elizabeth Taylor played the character in the 1994 live-action movie directed by Brian Levant in her last film appearance. Per Taylor’s official website:

“Elizabeth Taylor’s cameo as Pearl Slaghoople raised just over $330,000 for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Her five-day run as Fred Flintstone’s mother-in-law was a lively affair for everyone involved. She made final touches to her own makeup, received daily gag gifts from the crew, and made light of stressful situations, once stepping over a fallen light that landed right in front of her, which she responded to with a calm, ‘Carry on.’”

Stream The Flintstones on Max

7 Veronica Whittaker and Her Daughters — Easy Virtue (2008)

In Stephan Elliott’s British social comedy Easy Virtue, Jessica Biel stars as Larita, an American widow who marries a British man from a prominent English family, John Whittaker (Ben Barnes). When she meets her stuffy in-laws, they’re far from impressed, especially with her being a passionate car racer.

Prideful In-Laws Scheming for a Marriage of Interest

Kristin Scott Thomas plays the hard-to-impress Veronica Whittaker, while Kimberley Nixon and Katherine Parkinson portray her hostile daughters, Hilda and Marion. To save their estate from ruin, they attempt to sabotage Larita and John’s relationship, so he can marry his ex-girlfriend, Sarah, their chic and wealthy neighbor. Their cruelty reaches its peak when they accuse Larita of murdering her first husband.

Stream Easy Virtue on Hulu

6 Endora — Bewitched (1964 – 1972)

The beloved fantasy sitcom Bewitched stars Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha, a witch who has lived for several centuries and is now trying to lead a normal suburban life with her ordinary and hard-working husband, Darrin (Dick York). Using her signature nose twitch, she can’t resist resorting to spells every now and then to help her family, unwittingly causing many problems and misunderstandings.

A Witch Who Loathes Her Mortal Son-in-Law

The charismatic Agnes Moorehead portrays Endora, Samantha’s snobbish mother who disapproves of this mixed marriage. She is very proud of her long line of witches and has nothing but disdain for her helpless and mortal son-in-law, often casting spells to trick him and berating her daughter for not resorting to spells more often in her house chores. Her opinion about humans in general isn’t any better:

“They all look alike to me. Noses to the grindstone, shoulders to the wheel, feet planted firmly on the ground. No wonder they can’t fly.”

Stream Bewitched on Tubi

5 Frank and Marie Barone — Everybody Loves Raymond (1996 – 2005)

Everybody Loves Raymond is an iconic sitcom that was nominated for 69 Primetime Emmy Awards and nabbed 15. The story explores the daily clashes between two Italian-American families, the Barones: a married couple with three children consisting of a sports columnist, Ray (Ray Romano), and his stay-at-home wife Debra (Patricia Heaton) on one hand; and their nosy in-laws who live right across the street on the other.

When the In-Laws Are Rude and Meddling Neighbors

Portrayed by Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts, Frank and Marie Barone are Ray’s parents and often pop in announced. The former always demands snacks and is nothing short of misogynistic and sexist, while the latter spoils Ray rotten and constantly criticizes Debra’s cooking, cleaning, and the way she raises her kids. In one episode, she even sabotages Debra’s dish because she can’t stand the competition.

Stream Everybody Loves Raymond on Prime Video

4 Gemma Teller — Sons of Anarchy (2008 – 2014)

Jax's mother, Gemma as seen Sons Of Anarchy

Created by Kurt Sutter, Sons of Anarchy is an action and crime drama revolving around SAMCRO, a tight-knit outlaw motorcycle club. One main character is Jackson “Jax” Teller (Charlie Hunnam), the club’s vice-president and later president. He eventually marries his high-school sweetheart, Tara (Maggie Siff), a kindhearted doctor.

An Aggressively Protective Mother Who Winds Up Killing Her Daughter-in-Law

Golden-Globe-Award-winner Katey Sagal plays Gemma Teller, Jax’s hardened, cynical, and aggressive mother who sees Tara as an emotional threat to her son’s ruthless and lawless business and believes her a traitor. She ends up mortally stabbing Tara with a BBQ fork upon learning the latter is planning on taking her grandsons away. The heartbroken Jax eventually avenges his wife’s death by shooting his own mother.

Stream Sons of Anarchy on Hulu

3 The Armitage Family — Get Out (2017)

Get Out is yet another creepy horror movie about secret societies. Directed by Jordan Peele, it stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a black photographer from Brooklyn who is dating Rose (Allison Williams), a white girl from the prominent Armitage family. When she brings him to the estate for the annual Armitage get-together, he soon realizes it is not only racist remarks he has to be wary of.

Get Out

Get Out

Release Date
February 24, 2017

Rating
R

Related: 10 Movies Like Get Out to Watch Next

Prejudiced In-Laws Who Are Obsessed with Immortality

Chris’ main interactions are with Rose’s passive-aggressive family: her mom, Missy, a hypnotherapist; her father, Dean, a neurosurgeon; and her weird brother, Jeremy. The guests then hold an auction about him, and he later discovers that they’re part of a society that lures black people to kill them and transfer their consciousness into their brains in order to live indefinitely — and you thought your in-laws were bad.

Rent Get Out on Apple TV

2 Cersei Lannister — Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

Game of Thrones

Created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss for HBO from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, Game of Thrones is a medieval fantasy drama show set in a fictional world with multiple story arcs, one of which revolves around the ruthless Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who at the beginning of the show is queen consort and has three children from her incestuous relations with her twin brother: Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), and Tommen (Dean Charles-Chapman).

A Shrewd and Scheming Ruler Who Kills for Her Throne and Children

With her mind set on arranging marriages for her children with prominent houses to expand her reign, Cersei marries Joffrey off to Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), an impressionable teenager, after executing Ned Stark, her father. When the marriage to Sansa doesn’t, well, work out, she later marries the ambitious and seductive Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) to Joffrey when he becomes king.

Unlike Sansa, Margaery is strong-willed and shrewd; she becomes Cersei’s political rival and even marries the much-younger Tommen when he succeeds Joffrey on the throne.

“If you ever call me ‘sister’ again, I’ll have you strangled in your sleep.”

It would take ages to describe all the atrocities Cersei commits against her daughters-in-law and their families, but they culminate in her blowing off the Great Sept of Baelor and killing everyone inside, including Margaery and her father.

Stream Game of Thrones on Max

1 The Le Domas Family — Ready or Not (2019)

Ready or Not is a dark comedy horror film directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and starring Samara Weaving as Grace, the inexperienced and humble wife of the troubled Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), who comes from a wealthy and eccentric family. Little does she know that the Le Domas’ fortune was built on a deal made with a demon centuries ago.

A Satanist Family Tradition to Hunt a Young Bride on Her Wedding

At her new family’s “game night,” Grace draws the Hide-and-Seek card, which means she must be pursued and sacrificed to the demon by any Le Domas member before sunrise, or else they all die. Not exactly the welcome she was hoping for, despite getting some help from Alex and his brother, Daniel.

“Don’t take it personally; they’re just trying to figure out if you’re a gold-digging wh*re. You know, like my wife.” – Daniel

After an excruciating night, she ends up being the only survivor, and when questioned by the police, she simply replies with, “In-laws!”

Stream Ready or Not on Fubo



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