Top 10 Worst Movie Husbands

by Eric Melin on August 18, 2009

in Top 10s

Today’s list comes to us from Sean O’Connell, a New York City-based writer who also has also contributed his Top 10 Movie Brothers and Top 10 Rain Scenes. Thanks to Sean for another great list! If you have a Top 10 you’d like to contribute, email me at eric@scene-stealers.com. Here’s Sean:

Every day I take the subway to work, it is usually an hour commute into Manhattan. There is always this married couple that gets to the station the same time as me and are on the train for a majority of my ride. They look like the perfect couple on the outside, but it turns out the husband is a real jerk. He always blames her if they missed the train, or if they are running late, or he does not have enough money on him to get on the train. As he consistently blames her for everything short of the demise of the economy, she just sits there and takes the verbal abuse. So listening to them fight over the last six months got me to thinking, there have also been a lot of horrible husbands portrayed on the big screen. I know there have been some awful wives in Hollywood as well, but I am keeping this list dedicated to the awful husbands. Some honorable mentions that did not make the cut, Michael Caine in “Hannah & Her Sisters” (he has an affair with his wife’s sister), Ray Liota in “Goodfellas” (he cheats on his wife throughout the whole movie), and John Cassavetes in “Rosemary’s Baby” (he whores his wife out to the devil). So without further ado, here are the Top 10 Worst Husbands in Movie History.

dreyfuss close encounters10. Roy Neary – Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

I know right off the bat that many people will disagree with this one, but hear me out first. Forget the plot of the movie and just look at his actions. When we first see Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), he is trying to teach his son how to do fractions. His wife Ronnie (Terry Garr) is cleaning the house trying to get her husband’s attention, while he just ignores her and gives one word answers to her questions. Then after Roy sees the UFOs, he wakes up his whole family to go see the site where he had his encounter. Ronnie does her best to believe him, and all she wants in return is to be held and kissed like they used to do. Roy, in turn, pretends to kiss her while still looking up in the sky. Then when Roy is promptly fired for not showing up to work, does he deal with this? No. He leaves it all up to Ronnie. Then when Ronnie feels it is time to have a serious talk about Roy’s insane behavior, she finds him in the shower fully clothed. At the end of the movie, everyone is always happy that Roy gets on the spaceship. I see it for what it is: He is running away from his responsibilities to his family. Instead of trying to go to counseling to try and save his marriage, he jumps on the first alien ship out of here. Spielberg was quoted years later as saying that you can tell he was single when he made this movie because now that he is a family man he would never have let Roy get on UFO and leave his family behind.

Worst Husband Moment: Roy’s attempt to save his marriage leads him to instead destroying his house by building an extra large model of Devil’s Tower in his living room. He uses garbage, dirt, mud, bushes, and chicken wire. This act is what ultimately chases Ronnie away.

sisto waitress 20079. Earl Hunterson – Waitress (2007)

The culprit in this movie is Earl Hunterson portrayed by Jeremy Sisto. Earl’s wife Jenna (Keri Russell) works as a waitress at the local diner where her specialty is making pies for any occasion. Really her pie making is an escape from the horrible marriage that she has gotten herself into. We find out Earl is bad news from the beginning of the movie because Jenna wants to hide her pregnancy from her husband. The last time I checked this is supposed to be a happy event. Anyway, Earl can always be heard coming in the scene because he beeps his car horn constantly when he picks Jenna up from work. One beep will do, but he has to be a jerk. He also takes all her money that she earned because a husband is in charge of the money in his eyes. Then when he finds the money Jenna had been hiding all around the house, money she was going to use to help her escape from him, he promptly flips out. He destroys a table at her best friend’s wedding, makes her come home, and then offers to buy a camcorder with the money so they can make sex films (that is if she can get back into shape after she has the baby). When Jenna finally gets the courage up to leave Earl, she goes to the bus stop. Earl beeps his way there, stops her before she gets on, and slaps her across the face. Striking a woman, let alone your pregnant wife, will instantly get you on the top 10.

Worst Husband Moment: When Earl finds out that Jenna is pregnant, he says she can only have the baby if she agrees to never love the baby more than him. WTF? How insecure can one person be? Well his reminder of the agreement after the birth of their daughter is what prompts Jenna to finally tell Earl to hit the bricks.

aiello farrow purple rose cairo8. Monk – Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Next up on our list is Monk, played by Danny Aiello. Monk does not have much screen time in this movie but his actions as a husband have a significant impact on the movie. The wife here is Cecilia (Mia Farrow), who is a waitress in a local diner–wait, is there a trend here? Are all movie waitresses married to jerks? P.S. “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” doesn’t count because she wasn’t married to Harvey Keitel or Kris Kristofferson. So back to “Purple Rose,” after Cecilia works a hard day at the diner, she has to give her money to Monk who is out of work. Monk doesn’t pay bills with the money; he plays craps with his “friends” instead. By the way Monk is out of work and is playing craps when he is supposed to be out looking for a job. She tries many times to leave Monk but he always reminds her that she will be back because she has nowhere else to go. So the only escape she has from her awful marriage and constant beatings from her husband (we never see Monk hit her but he always reminds her that he will slap her silly again) is the movies. She goes everyday to see the same film, “The Purple Rose of Cairo.” Her devotion to the film leads to one of the characters stepping out of the film and insanity ensues. At the end though (SPOILER!), Cecilia does not get to run away to Hollywood with her new handsome actor boyfriend because he ditches her once the problems are solved. She is instead stuck in the movie theater again reminded that she has to go home to Monk because she has no other choices in life.

Worst Husband Moment: When Monk gets caught having an affair, he tries to convince Cecilia that it is her fault. He tells her he shouldn’t be left alone, that she should know how he gets when he drinks.

james mason lolita winters7. Prof. Humbert Humbert – Lolita (1962)

OK, the first three husbands were nothing compared to the next seven. “Lolita” … how do I even begin to explain how bad of a husband Humbert (James Mason) really is? For starters, he only marries Charlotte Hayes (Shelly Winters) so he can be closer to her underage (way underage) daughter Dolores (Lolita). Charlotte, who has no clue to what Humbert’s intentions are, sends Lolita away to summer camp. This makes Humbert depressed but he counts the days until she returns. When newlywed Humbert finds out that Charlotte plans to send Lolita to boarding school so that they can spend even more quiet time together, he becomes more withdrawn. Charlotte eventually finds his diary where he explains his ridiculous love for Lolita. This sends Charlotte into a frenzy and she wants Humbert out of the house, the great husband that Humbert is, he decides he is going to shoot Charlotte and make it look like a suicide. Well Charlotte beats him to the punch, while attempting to escape from Humbert she is hit by a car and dies. This news makes Humbert excited and he goes and gets drunk while taking a bath. Of course everyone just thinks that he is in denial. The rest of the movie just goes on to show that Humbert can also be a bad stepfather as well.

Worst Husband Moment: When Charlotte tries to seduce Humbert, the only way he can fulfill his husbandly duties is by staring at a framed picture of Lolita.

fishburne ike what's love got to do with it6. Ike Turner Sr. – What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)

Good old Ike is the only real-life bad husband to make the list, but I’m sure there will be more to follow in the future years (the eventual O.J./Robert Blake/Jonathan Gosselin movie). Laurence Fishburne, who brilliantly portrayed Ike Turner, is the first of the movie husbands on this list to be nominated for an Academy Award. Ike is a selfish jerk of a husband who is jealous of his wife Tina’s (Angela Bassett) career. When they first meet, it seems like everything is going to be great between the two musicians, but we quickly get glimpses of the rage that lies beneath Ike Turner. Ike is constantly beating and berating Tina to the point that she doesn’t know if she is coming or going. He always reminds her that he MADE her, and that she would be nothing without him. Well, Tina eventually gets up the courage and decides to leave Ike, but the great man that he is, he decides that she can’t have her name; he thinks he owns it. Tina’s real name was Anna Mae Bullock and Ike felt the Turner name was his. He even says, “The name is mine. The name got my daddy’s blood on it. If she wanna go, she can go wherever she wanna go, but the name stays home!” What kind of a sick man thinks he owns a name? We all know that Tina gets her name in the end.

Worst Husband Moment: After a recording session, Ike throws everyone out of the studio. He then starts to hit Tina, and then rape her while screaming like an animal. Every time I watch this movie I find that this is the hardest scene to sit through.

carlo rizzi russo the godfather 19725. Carlo Rizzi – The Godfather (1972)

Now, to be fair “The Godfather” has its share of bad husbands. Sonny Corleone cheating on his wife at his sister’s wedding and Michael Corleone lying right to his wife’s face at the end of the movie, but it is Carlo (Gianni Russo) who takes the prize. It starts out the way like many of the other bad movie marriages start where everything is great. Carlos and Connie (Talia Shire) have a storybook wedding that would make any couple blush. We eventually find out that Carlo only married Connie with dreams of one day joining the family business. When Sonny keeps shunning Carlo from family meetings, Carlo starts to take his frustrations out on Connie and ultimately decides to take matters in to his own hands. He makes a deal with two of the other rival mafia families to help take Sonny (James Caan) out. In order to achieve this, he must trick Sonny into one of his famous fits of rage. So Carlo decides to start going out all night, having affairs and having his mistress call the house looking for him. All of this makes Connie upset and forces her to confront Carlo. Carlo will not be confronted and decides to not once but twice beat his wife. Also, Carlo is the second husband on this list that hit his pregnant wife. Carlos is the first of our bad husbands who gets his in the end. Michael (Al Pacino) saw through Carlo’s little games and had him strangled on the day of his child’s christening.

Worse Husband Moment: The second time Carlo beats his wife, he first tells her to clean up all the dishes she broke. He then calls her a racial name and then chases her to the bathroom and beats her with his belt.

bergin roberts sleeping with the enemy 19914. Martin Burney – Sleeping With The Enemy (1991)

First things first: By no means do I find this to be a good movie, but Martin Burney (Patrick Bergin) is one bad husband. The reason I felt compelled to put him up so high the list is because of what his wife Laura (Julia Roberts) planned to do just to get away from him. Here is a girl that knew divorce would not be enough, that he would always terrorize her. He was abusive, possessive, and got jealous when a neighbor would just say hi. So she decides she is going to fake her own death. Laura is petrified of the ocean and has never learned to swim. Martin convinces her to go out sailing with her one night. A storm comes and Laura is knocked overboard. Speaking of overboard, the husband in the 1987 classic comedy “Overboard” (Grant Stayton III, played by Edward Herrmann) was not so great himself. Anyway, so Martin is lead to believe his wife had drowned. End of marriage and Martin will be forced to move on. Well we find out that Laura had planned this night for months. She was taking swimming lessons so she would be able to swim to shore. She even faked her own mother’s death and moved her into a nursing home with a different name months before she faked her own death just so she could still visit her. When she did visit her blind mother, she went in disguise just in case. Now come on, all this planning instead of a divorce just to get away from one man? Martin deserves his spot at number four. Laura does get payback on her husband by shooting him twice in the chest.

Worst Husband Moment: When Martin finds his mother-in-law in the nursing home, he decides he is going to smother her with a pillow. Only because she said her daughter was married to a monster. Does that comment really condone being killed and how can you smother your blind mother-in-law with a pillow? Don’t worry, she doesn’t die.

boyer gaslight 19443. Gregory Anton – Gaslight (1944)

Charles Boyer, who portrayed Gregory Anton, is the second husband on the list to be Oscar-nominated for his work. Gregory marries Paula (Ingrid Bergman), a woman who has been haunted by the death of her aunt years earlier in London. What does great new husband Gregory suggest she do in order for her to overcome her anxieties? Why, move into the very house that her Aunt died in of course. Paula agrees and soon she starts loosing small objects and hearing noises. When a watch that Gregory lost turns up in Paula pocketbook, he accuses her of stealing it–that’s classy. Poor Paula now starts to doubt her own sanity. It turns out that Gregory planted the watch there. Gregory was also hiding the small objects about the house and convincing her she was hearing noises. It turns out that Gregory’s master plan was to drive Paula crazy. Now that is what I call a wonderful husband. Bergman deservedly won the Academy Award that year for her amazing depiction of troubled Paula.

Worst Husband Moment: Gregory tells Paula that he is leaving every night, but instead he sneaks in the house through the attic. He turns down all the gaslights in the house the house so everything gets dim. Paula, since she is all alone and no one else experiences it, thinks that it is all her imagination.

william h macy fargo2. Jerome “Jerry” Lundegaard – Fargo (1996)

The third of our Oscar nominated bad husbands is William H. Macy for his creepy performance as Jerry Lundegaard. From the opening scene we get a glimpse of just how wacked out Jerry is. He is sitting in a diner with two criminals, Carl and Gaear (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare), informing them of his plan on how he wants them to kidnap his wife Jean (Kristen Rudrud). His hopes are that he can then get the ransom money from his father-in-law and give the criminals $100,000 and keep the rest for himself to pay off his debts. This plan is so insane that even Carl and Gaear are confused by his motives and they tell him to simply ask his wife for the money. Jerry just can’t do that, so he would rather rely in two ex-cons he never met before to carry out his master plan. Needless to say, it all goes wrong, people are dying, and all wackiness ensues. Jerry starts lying to his father-in-law, trying to control the situation, just so he can get his money. When it looks like a legit business deal that Jerry has been working on might work out, he tries to cancel the kidnapping. When he finds out that he can’t stop it, he decides to just go along with it. Meanwhile, Jerry has a teenage son that is absolutely crushed by the disappearance of his mother. Jerry just tells him to keep on telling everyone mom is out of town. Jerry finds no remorse in his actions, and in no way comforts his son. (SPOILER!) Well, Jean is eventually murdered by mad man Gaear, and the police find Jerry hiding out in a motel trying to flee the scene. This all could have been avoided if Jerry just manned up and asked his wife for the money, but what do we expect from the number two bad husband in cinema history.

Worst Husband Moment: When Jerry finds out that Carl murdered Jean’s father, he decides to hide the body in the trunk of his car. This man would do anything to get his hands on the ransom money.

nicholson the shining 19801. Jack Torrance – The Shining (1980)

Jack Nicholson takes the top prize on this list for his portrayal of the ax-wielding maniac husband from the Overlook Hotel. I know a lot of people are going to say that it was not his fault, that he had cabin fever. Really… I have been snowed in before to and I never felt the need to chop my family into bits. Then some might say, well he was possessed by the demons of the hotels past. The thing is, he was a jerk even before he got to the hotel. His loving wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) looks like she is afraid of her own shadow because she was forced to deal with Jack’s alcoholic past. He even ripped their sons arm out of his socket because he messed up his test papers. So even before we know what makes Jack tick, it is clearly established that he is a bad husband. Jack, as selfish as he is, decides to drag Wendy and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) up to an isolated hotel for the winter just so he can finish writing his novel. Wendy, the good wife that she is, just wants to make him sandwiches and spend some quality time with him. Jack’s loving reply to Wendy’s actions is “When you come in here and you hear me typing, or whether you DON’T hear me typing, or whatever the FUCK you hear me doing; when I’m in here, it means that I am working, THAT means don’t come in. Now, do you think you can handle that?” Jack then tries to find out who beat up their son and when he finds who did it, does he reprimand the lady in room 237, NO- he kisses the witch. Then Jack decides that it is time to destroy the snowmobiles so his family can’t escape, he destroys the radio, and gets an ax to kill his family. Of course, his plan fails and Jack becomes a frozen statue for all to see in the Overlook Hotel’s glorious botanical maze.

Worst Husband Moment: Wendy finds out that Jack has not been writing a novel at all. Remember, that was the main reason he dragged her up to the middle of nowhere. He instead has been writing, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again. Jack finds her reading his “novel” and starts to pursue her up the stairs. He then threatens to bash Wendy’s brains in with a baseball bat. At least he calls Wendy the light of his life first.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ross McG August 18, 2009 at 3:50 am

cracking list, cant really argue with the top choice, and good to see Patrick Bergin sneak in there as well. would maybe have to find room for a few others:
- Jeffrey Lebowski (not The Dude): pretends his wife is kidnapped. in fairness though, she had offered oral sex to a complete stranger…
- Maxim de Winter: provides his second wife with a lovely big house, but doesnt stop banging on about his first wife. not cool.
- Jake La Motta: would have eaten Ike Turner for breakfast
- Captain Vidal: forget the Labyrinth, the scariest thing in Franco Spain is this guy

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2 Xavier August 18, 2009 at 6:29 am

Chris Cooper as Colonel Frank Fitts from American Beauty deserves at least an honorable mention I think

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3 Hai August 18, 2009 at 9:21 am

Jake La Motta. how can you leave him out?

Completely agree with Roy Neary. I’m very glad you put him in the list. He completely neglects his family.

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4 Will August 18, 2009 at 10:50 am

I hate to be a spoiler, but the name was “Carlo Rizzi” not “Carlos Rizzi” (he is Italian after all)….but still a great list!!!!! Just reading about some of these descriptions just make me cringe…Another great mention is the husband in “The 400 Blows” talk about a guy that’s a complete bastard.

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5 Reed August 18, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Really well done, Sean.

The only one I can think of that was excluded was Robert Mitchum’s Harry Powell from The Night of the Hunter. Powell murdered his wife and then immediately set upon the stepkids. Heck, he only married her in the first place to get money.

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6 Sean August 19, 2009 at 9:11 am

I cant believe my whole life of watching and loving the Godfather 1 & 2, I have been calling him Carlos. I guess I had a mental block on that forever. I even went to spell check his last name and skipped right over his first. Thanks for the catch.
Also all the other suggestions are great, I am sticking to my guns with Ike Turner being worse than Jake La Motta because in addition to beating and abusing his wife, he was obsesssed with not letting her have his name. He was nuts.

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7 kt edmiston August 19, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Great list, the whole thing made me laugh. I have a soft spot for Waitress and I think Jeremy Sisto played that role amazingly well. Watching his performance gives me the heebie jeebies, and I always have to pick my jaw off the floor when he makes Jena promise not to ever love the baby more than him! SERIOUSLY demented!

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8 cleavy August 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Really great list, Sean! I hope some lucky lady has snatched you up, because you seem to be exceptionally perceptive to the female side of these doomed pairings!

Jake La Motta would’ve been a good choice, but Ike was so brutal (that scene IS so tough to watch). Also – The Shining – great #1!

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9 jeff August 21, 2009 at 11:30 am

hello? anakin skywalker!!!!!

then again I’m sure Palpatine was not a very good husband but we never get to see Mrs. Palpatine. Maybe we can do a spin-off movie about her.

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10 Ryan August 30, 2009 at 9:43 am

Im just going to echo what im sure has been said already but Jake LaMotta should be in there probably top 3 but at least on the list

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11 Thaddeus Buttmunch September 19, 2009 at 9:45 pm

What about a second nom for Jack Nicholson when he killed Kathleen Turner’s character in “Prizzi’s Honor?” (and didn’t even keep her around for necrosex?) And the dude the departed Farrah Fawcett torched in “The Burning Bed?” another real life example as was the Greta Rideout story.

Then there’s “Mr and Mrs Smith.” They BOTH were bad spouses (but made up at the end)

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12 ed mathias October 12, 2009 at 9:53 pm

worst movie ever “life aquadic “

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13 Fred Collins October 17, 2009 at 11:04 am

Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse) from Les Diaboliques should also get a mention. I would also highly recommend this version over the Chazz Palmentieri remake.

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14 QJ December 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Where’s Dennis Hopper’s character from Blue Velvet?

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15 jimjam September 27, 2010 at 9:13 pm

this list is totally forgetting “Jake the muss” in once were warriors a new zealand film made by lee tamahori. jake is the worst father who does understand his children and beats his wife in one of the most brutal scene ever in cinema. this is the man ur looking for the worst movie husband.

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16 JimiLives April 2, 2011 at 8:15 pm

The Great Santini.

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17 gustavo January 4, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Buenas! Soy nuevo. Me gustaria probar vuestros conocimientos aprovechando el tema con una escena de película que no supimos sacar su nombre mi novia y yo. No lo recuerdo muy bien a ver si me ayudan.

Todo transcurria en una cabaña (creo). Una familia estaba tran tranquila cuando todo se tuerce y aparecen los malvados por decirlo así, bueno que a fin de cuentas, uno de ellos se acerca a los rehenes y saca del grupo a una muchacha embarazada, delante de su familia y marido la apoya contra un mueble y la viola diciendo la frase, “siempre quise hacérselo a una embarazada”

Era bastante cruda por todo, porque fue dura y por estar su familia delante.

¿Alguien recuerda de que película se trata?

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