main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Film: Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead
Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead is a 1991 comedy starring Christina Applegate.

When their mother goes to Australia for the summer, the Crandell children are loath to find themselves in the charge of a crotchety old babysitter. When she promptly dies, they decide to keep that key fact from their mother so they can enjoy their summer with no adults to tell them what to do. However, their scant funds soon run out, followed by their food. Oldest daughter Sue Ellen must figure out how to take care of her younger siblings while keeping their mother in the dark.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Accidental Pervert: Gus propositions Sue Ellen several times to which she refuses, and he has no intention of letting up. He doesn't know it, but she's 17.
  • Anything That Moves: Gus gets around a lot and wastes no time trying to get Sue Ellen into bed.
  • Asshole Victim: Mrs. Sturak. (Probably not a genuine example of the Trope, since it wasn't a murder.)
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: Inverted. Sue Ellen calls Kenny a "prick" twice and both times the line was re-dubbed to "punk" in order for the film to keep its PG-13 rating.
    • Later, when the car is stolen, Sue Ellen is clearly saying "Shit!" but the line has been re-dubbed to "Liza!"
  • Benevolent Boss: Sue Ellen's boss Rose at GAW is definitely this, even forgiving her for her deception when it is revealed, and offering her a job for real.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Rose well and truly takes Sue Ellen under her wing, helping to nuture her career and protect her form the machinations of Carolyn and Bruce.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mrs. Sturak, who acts the sweet old lady......until mom is out of site.
  • Brick Joke: After the babysitter, Mrs. Sturak, dies in her sleep, the kids put her body in a travel case and drop it off at the morgue. She's only briefly mentioned a few times afterward (when the kids' mother calls for Mrs. Sturak, they make up excuses for her absence), and her Buick is soon stolen by drag queens. The film ends with the kids' mother asking, "Where is the babysitter?"
  • Burger Fool: Sue Ellen briefly works at one of these before quitting and getting the job at GAW.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Mr. Egg, the manager of Clown Dog.
  • Cool Car: Sue Ellen keeps and drives Mrs. Sturak's Buick because "it's a classic."
  • Covers Always Lie: The film poster (seen above) suggests the kids treated Mrs. Sturak's body with far less respect than they actually did.
  • Credit Card Plot: The younger kids get into Sue Ellen's petty cash from work and go nuts with it. They spend three times what her check turns out to be.
  • Cucumber Facial: Rose suggests Sue Ellen relax after work by having a glass of wine and giving herself a cucumber facial.
  • Disappeared Dad: The Crandells' father is mentioned only briefly and not favorably.
    Melissa: I wish Dad was here.
    Mom: No you don't.
    • And another instance:
    Sue Ellen: We could call Dad.
    Kenny: Dad doesn't care.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Sue Ellen comes home late from work, the fight she and Kenny have is a typical "harried, overworked, exhausted housewife" vs. "harried, overworked,exhausted husband" argument.
  • Double Entendre: Rose's line to Sue Ellen about how all women over 25 should have a cucumber in the house.
  • Drag Queens: Liza Minelli steals their Cool Car.
    Kenny: Hey! What are you queens doing with our car?!
    Sue Ellen/Kenny: Liza???
  • Dumb Blonde: Averted. Sue Ellen is an unfocused teenager, but once she sets her mind to something, she is very competent and learns quickly.
  • Eat the Dog: After the kids return home from the supermarket and only being able to afford the necessities, one of the kids jokes about using their pet dog as emergency rations.
    Melissa: When our food's gone, we can eat Elvis!
  • Evil Duo: Bruce and Carolyn are both petty, vindictive, and slimy people. They seem perfectly happy together.
  • Fiction Business Savvy: The new fashion designs did not look cool in the 1990's or in the world of fashion.
  • Free-Range Children: Subverted since Sue Ellen is almost 18 and pretending to be 27. Played straight with everyone else.
  • Genre Blindness: Carolyn completely failed to realize that the receptionist position opened at GAW so she could get a promotion under Rose. The exact job Sue Ellen ended up getting.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Again, the line about all women over 25 having a cucumber in the house.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: This is what finally convinces Sue Ellen to quit her job at Clown Dog.
  • Hard Work Montage: When they clean up the house before the fashion show.
  • Homage: A couple of nods to Alfred Hitchcock. The scene where Sue Ellen finds Sturak's body was inspired by the ending in Psycho where Lila finds the body of Mrs. Bates. The music that plays during the scene when the kids get rid of Sturak's body was inspired Bernard Hermann's score from Pyscho.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Sue Ellen (17) and Rose (40's) become close friends as the movie progesses.
  • Jerkass: Gus again.
    • Also, Mrs. Sturak.
  • Karma Houdini: The drag queens most likely got away with stealing the Buick since Sue Ellen and her siblings didn't report it to the police, Mrs. Sturak was dead, and none of Mrs. Sturak's family (if any exists) were informed of her death. Even if they got pulled over, they could say they borrowed it since it was not reported stolen.
  • Lipstick and Load Montage: When Sue Ellen is getting dressed for her job interview at GAW.
  • Metal Head: Kenny.
  • Never My Fault: Carolyn blames Sue Ellen for being denied a promotion and being stuck as the receptionist, yet had she been a more pleasant person to both Sue Ellen and her boss Rose she wouldn't have been stuck in her job in the first place.
  • Poster-Gallery Bedroom: Mrs. Sturak stumbles into the Kenny's bedroom and reacts in horror at all the heavy metal posters on the walls. It's implied to give her a fatal heart attack that kicks off the plot.
  • Power Hair: In order to help pass as an "Executive Administrative Assistant", Sue Ellen puts her hair up in a fancy french twist.
  • Promotion to Parent: Sue Ellen
  • Really Seventeen Years Old: Sue Ellen lies about her age and falsifies a resume in order to get a job with a fashion agency. Everyone there assumes she's in her mid 20s.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Kenny, which causes Nicole to finally notice him.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The apathy displayed by the Crandell siblings towards their own mother, let alone Mrs Sturak, places the film firmly in the late 80's/early 90's era, when movie parents were far more often depicted as incompetent bunglers and/or overly strict, requiring avoidance at all costs.
    Sue Ellen: Do you really want to go crawling to aunt Pat, or one of Mom's semi-wretched friends?
  • Smoking Is Cool: Rose, and Sue Ellen on occasion.
  • Stealing from the Till: Sue Ellen "borrows" the funds in her petty cash check to feed the family, figuring she'll pay it back when she gets her paycheck.
  • The Stoner: Kenny.
  • Success Symbiosis: Sue Ellen gets a job in the fashion industry by lying about her age and keeps it because a mostly overlooked employee from another department is doing all the hard stuff for her.
  • Team Chef: Kenny, who is charged with taking care of the younger siblings while Sue Ellen works. At first he can't even make waffles without burning them to a crisp, but with practice (and watching a lot of cooking shows) he becomes a very good cook and also discovers that he enjoys cooking. By the end of the movie he is preparing gourmet dishes for Sue Ellen's fashion show and contemplating going to culinary school.
  • Technology Marches On: Sue Ellen, as a high-schooler, has no idea how to operate the GAW fax-machine (an essential piece of office kit in 1991), but the irony is that arguably most modern high-schoolers in 2011 would also be pretty stumped at how to operate this now out-moded device.
    • Their office was using Lotus. Also, Sue Ellen wrote her resume on a typewriter. At least the CD changer during the fashion show still looks semi-current, though.
    • When showing Sue Ellen her computer, Rose proudly points out the mouse as if it is state of the art. YMMV but this may be Truth in Television as most PC users in '91 were still using DOS-based systems. Windows 3.0, the first version of Windows to become really popular, came out in 1990, but Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize most big companies are slow to upgrade their workstations, home computers weren't as ubiquitous as they are today, and Apple wasn't "cool" yet. As such, the mouse probably was state of the art to them.
  • Tomboy: Melissa.
  • Tsundere: Kenny of all people, who in a movie full of catty women, has the most hair trigger mood swings out of all of them.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: This movie is painfully early 90s, caused mostly by it's focus on fashion. The catwalk show finale is particularly exemplary, and is a riot of gaudy neon and spandex.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: Averted. Sue-Ellen has trouble getting her computer to do much of anything. It's a text-based system, and every time she presses a key, it scrolls back to the main menu. She eventually offloads her computer-based work to an overlooked employee in another department.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of Mrs. Sturak's body and the money is finally answered right before the credits. She was given a nice burial by the mortuary workers who found the money and spent it in Vegas. Her tombstone reads the same as the note the kids left with her - "Nice Old Lady Inside. Died of Natural Causes."
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Carolyn, the GAW employee, still having a job. Even before Sue Ellen shows up, she is shown being very rude and condescending on the phone. It may have been a personal call, but when Sue Ellen simply asks for directions, Carolyn bites her head off. Rose can't even stand Carolyn, and in the real world, she would have been fired after the first, maybe second, time she spoke to someone like that. More baffling is the fact that she was supposed to get a promotion despite the fact that she both had shitty customer service skills and treated everybody around her like shit.
  • Woman Scorned: Carolyn, who seems like a top grade bitch even before Sue Ellen takes the job she was after. She sets out to destroy Sue Ellens prospects at GAW.
  • Zany Scheme: The whole movie.

Delirious?Films of the 1990sDouble Impact

alternative title(s): Dont Tell Mom The Babysitters Dead
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy