Abuse & Neglect Other

10 Examples of Domestic and Child Abuse in Movies

Domestic and Child Abuse in Movies | Hopeful Panda

You’ve likely come across a fair share of movies that delve into themes or issues like child abuse, abusive parenting, and domestic violence.

However, only a select few truly capture the harrowing realities of abuse and its effects.

Many movies and media in general tend to normalize or even glorify abuse or trauma. And this normalization can sadly send the message to victims that what they experience isn’t that serious. Or it reinforces that their feelings about it aren’t valid.

Being able to accurately portray what abuse looks like is a challenging task for many filmmakers. But there is pretty realistic abuse and its consequences in certain movies – whether they’re fictional or based on true stories.

Seeing films that portray what it’s like to deal with abuse adequately and take the subject seriously can perhaps provide validation, insight, empowerment, and catharsis.

For instance, seeing similar situations on screen can provide a sense of validation. It can help you recognize that you’re not alone and that your experiences ARE real and valid.

I personally learned how certain behaviors are considered toxic and abusive from TV. What I thought was “normal” was not. And these portrayals help validated my feelings and experiences. It also helped me recognize that I WAS experiencing abuse.

This post will list various movies featuring domestic and/or child abuse and abusive parents, with their abusive behavior ranging from “mild” to extremely severe.

Since these movies feature various forms and severities of abuse, please note that it can and most likely will be triggering. If you have certain triggers or sensitivities, please do your research before engaging with the film.

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1. Custody (2017)

Originally titled Jusqu’à la garde, this French film received critical acclaim for its convincing and realistic portrayal of domestic violence and abuse.

The story revolves around the aftermath of a bitter divorce and custody battle between Mariam and Antoine Besson. It primarily focuses on the impact the custody dispute has on their young son, Julien.

Miriam, concerned about her son’s safety, seeks sole custody, claiming Antoine is violent. On the other hand, Antoine pleads his case as a scorned father alienated by his vindictive ex-wife.

The judge, unsure who’s telling the truth, rules in favor of joint custody. Meanwhile, Julien is caught in the middle of this escalating conflict.

As the film unfolds, it explores themes of domestic abuse, control, and the damaging effects of parental conflict on children.

It also delves into the complexities of family dynamics, legal systems, and the toll experienced by those caught in the midst of custody battles.

Some of the abusive tactics portrayed in the film include manipulation, intimidation, control, gaslighting, threats, insults, and isolation.

2. Mommie Dearest (1981)

This is probably one of the most, if not the most, popular movies featuring child abuse and/or an abusive parent. One of my prior therapists actually recommended this film to me when discussing narcissistic parents.

Adapted from Christina Crawford’s 1978 autobiography of the same name, this film follows her upbringing under her adoptive mother, Joan Crawford.

The story delves into the toxic dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship. It highlights Joan’s erratic behavior, excessive discipline, and emotional abuse toward Christina and the impact it had on her as an adult.

Joan’s obsession with maintaining her public image and glamorous persona often came at the expense of her daughter’s well-being.

Mommie Dearest has faced criticism for its accuracy. Some people also find it dramatic, exaggerated, and even amusing.

While it can be considered an overly embellished film, anyone with a parent like Joan can resonate with Christina’s experiences.

Sometimes, our experiences do seem out there and unbelievable for anyone who hasn’t experienced it. For example, one of the lawyers involved in my case of trying to get custody of my siblings called my life a circus.

3. Enough (2002)

This film is based on the novel, Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen.

Enough focuses on a woman who escapes an abusive marriage and fights back against her abuser to protect herself and her daughter.

The story starts with Slim, who seemingly has it all. However, her perfect life takes a dark turn when she discovers her husband’s abusive nature.

She endures physical, emotional, and financial abuse. This prompts her to undergo intense physical training to prepare herself for the confrontation with her abusive husband.

Enough depicts Slim’s transformation from a victim to a survivor. This movie highlights themes of resilience, empowerment, and the fight for personal freedom in the face of abuse.

While this film focuses on how he’s abusive towards his wife, the behavior he displays are also common abuse tactics by parents. Also, by being abusive to his wife, he is also being abusive to his child.

4. Aurore (2005)

Aurore is a Canadian-French film based on a true story. This movie is also a remake of the 1952 movie, La petite Aurore: l’enfant martyre.

Set in 1909, the story follows Aurore, a young girl in Quebec, Canada. After the sudden death of her mother, Aurore was left in the care of her father and stepmother.

At the hands of her stepmother, Aurore suffered severe physical and emotional abuse as well as neglect and deprivation. This ultimately leads to her death.

The film centers around the coroner’s investigation that reveals the horrific abuse she suffered and the trial that follows. It sheds light on the true story of Aurore and the impact it had on Quebec’s society.

It also brought to light the voices of those who knew about the abuse but chose to remain silent.

5. Herself (2021)

This film tells the story of a single mother, Sandra, who escapes her abusive husband with her two young daughters.

Determined to provide a safe and stable home for herself and her kids, Sandra embarks on the challenging journey of building her own house.

With the help of a community of supportive friends, she overcomes numerous obstacles and setbacks in her pursuit of independence and a better future for her family.

This movie delves into the impact of domestic abuse on individuals. And it highlights the courage and determination it takes to break free from such situations.

Unlike the other movies on this list, this movie takes a more hopeful approach and explores themes of resilience, empowerment, and the strength of community.

While this story focuses on how the wife broke free from her abusive husband, the takeaways from the film can also apply to breaking free from abusive parents. It also demonstrates the importance and healing benefits of social support.

6. The Girl Next Door (2007)

The Girl Next Door is based on Jack Ketchum’s book of the same name, which was inspired by the true story of Sylvia Likens in 1965.

This film follows the extreme abuse and torture of a teenage girl, Megan, by her aunt, Ruth.

Set in the 1950s, the film explores the horrifying experience Megan goes through as she is subjected to prolonged physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

She was subjected to degradation, intimidation, humiliation, deprivation, severe beatings, torture, sexual exploitation, and sexual assault.

The movie delves into the complex dynamics of power, control, and manipulation. It highlights the silence and complicity of those who witness the abuse but choose not to intervene.

Please note that this film depicts intense and graphic content. It is not recommended for sensitive viewers.

7. The Glass Castle (2017)

Based on the best-selling memoir by Jeannette Walls, this film follows her unconventional upbringing in a dysfunctional family.

The film depicts Jeannette’s childhood, marked by her parents’ free-spirited and nomadic lifestyle.

While the movie doesn’t portray abuse in the traditional sense, her parents’ behavior is still emotionally and psychologically harmful.

Jeannette’s parents neglected her basic needs like food, shelter, and education. Their frequent moves, financial instability, and failure to provide a consistent parental presence also led to a lack of stability and security for their children.

The father also often manipulated his children and instilled false hope. And both parents often disregarded personal boundaries, invading their children’s privacy and personal space.

And most importantly, The Glass Castle delves into the emotional and psychological impact of growing up with parents who prioritize their own desires over their children’s needs.

For instance, Jeannette’s parents often imposed their ideals and beliefs onto their children without considering their needs and aspirations.

This film explores themes of resilience, family dynamics, the complexities of the parent-child relationship, and the impact of poverty on family bonds.

Jeannette’s journey unfolds as she deals with her complex feelings toward her parents. She wrestles with the love and loyalty she holds for them while also coming to terms with the neglect and hardships she had to endure growing up.

8. Precious (2009)

Based on the novel Push by Sapphire, this Oscars-winning film tells the story of Precious, a young girl living with her abusive mother, Mary, in Harlem during the 1980s.

The movie portrays the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse Precious endures and her journey toward resilience and self-discovery.

In the movie, Mary would often hit, assault, belittle, insult, degrade, and neglect Precious. Precious also endured sexual abuse from her father, resulting in the birth of two children. Mary would also blame Precious for her own abuse, making Precious feel responsible for the mistreatment she faces.

Precious delves into the themes of abuse, poverty, self-empowerment, and the transformative power of education.

It sheds light on the resilience of a young woman who refuses to let her circumstances define her despite the challenges she faced.

The film received critical acclaim for its raw performances, honest portrayal of a difficult subject matter, and message of hope and resilience in the face of adversity.

9. My Little Princess (2011)

This French drama is directed by Eva Ionesco who was inspired by her relationship with her mother.

This film centers around a mother, Hanna, who begins using her young daughter, Violetta, as a model for her provocative and controversial photographs.

Hanna subjected Violetta to uncomfortable and inappropriate situations for the sake of her artistic vision. She prioritized her own desires over her daughter’s well-being.

As Violetta grows older, she questions the impact of her mother’s choices on her own identity and self-worth.

The film explores themes of art, sexuality, and the complex relationship between a mother and daughter. It highlights the challenges of navigating boundaries and finding one’s own voice in the face of artistic exploitation.

My Little Princess delves into the psychological effects of Violetta’s upbringing as she grapples with her mother’s choices and seeks to assert her own autonomy.

Please note that this movie contains mature themes and explicit content. Viewer discretion is advised.

10. Carrie (1976)

This horror film is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. There is also a 2013 remake.

The story revolves around Carrie, a socially awkward and bullied high school student with telekinetic powers who lives with her abusive and fanatically religious mother, Margaret.

This film explores the themes of bullying, isolation, and the consequences of abuse. It delves into the psychological transformation of Carrie as she embraces her powers and seeks revenge against those who’ve tormented her.

Carrie showcases the destructive consequences of mistreatment and the tragic consequences that can arise from unchecked cruelty.

This film is particularly renowned for its iconic prom night scene and its examination of the effects of marginalization and repressed trauma.


Please remember that everyone’s experience of abuse and how it affects them is unique.

The situations in some of these movies are extremely abusive. Just because your situation doesn’t seem “that bad” doesn’t mean it isn’t bad.

Abuse and toxicity come in all forms and severities. But – as shown in these movie examples – they ALL leave some sort of lasting effect on the child (and/or the other parent) who endured it.

The abuse in movies examples provided in this post is simply to let you know that you are not alone in facing abuse and you are not alone in feeling like there’s no one to help you.

I hope it can also motivate you to help other children who may be experiencing something similar. One supportive adult in a child’s life can make a world of difference. One person speaking up for them can change their life.

Some of these movies are available to watch on Netflix. However, many of them may not be available in certain regions because they’re bound by distribution agreements. For instance, there are differences between Netflix in the US and UK. However, having a good VPN like VeePN installed can allow you to change your region and expand your library.

Before you watch any of the movies mentioned in this post, please do your research to ensure it is something you can handle. Witnessing other’s people abuse, even if it’s acted/fake, can still be triggering and potentially retraumatizing.

But in the end, I hope these movies featuring abuse can provide some validation and insight into your own experiences and motivate you to begin healing.

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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

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