Freudian Excuse: Film
Film - Animated
- In 9, the robot that kills all living things on the planet was made by a scientist for peace, but as the military of the country were he was made (is not clear in what country the story of the movie happen) tear him away from his master, he seems to reach out as a child being torn from his mother. He then goes mad and tries to kill his oppressors. After being forced to make machines of mass destruction, he is sickened by humanity and orders the robots to slay everything that lives.
- Subverted and parodied hilariously in Monsters vs. Aliens, in which the Big Bad claims he is about to tell the heroine his life story... but he's strapped to a machine that stamps him into the ground every few seconds, so you never hear exactly what he's trying to say; only fragments that skip most of the crucial information!
- In Despicable Me, there are flash backs where it suggests Gru got an inferiority complex issue from his mother's lack of enthusiasm for his achievements, including building a fully functional rocket at a young age. Although he otherwise had a healthy relationship with his mother.
- Scar's desire to rule over Pride Rock, even killing his brother Mufasa and try to have Simba killed as well, becomes somewhat understandable after reading some prologue books for The Lion King that revealed that Scar (then known as Taka) was neglected by his own father, such as his father revoking a promise regarding teaching him to hunt. His earlier inability to be taught how to hunt might also explain why his unified hunting policies also resulted in Pride Rock being turned into a wasteland during his rule.
- Wreck-It Ralph's titular character had his home paved over by some callous individuals in order to build a hotel. Trying to destroy a building in which innocent people live isn't the most heroic action ever, but observers are already sympathizing with his plight, which is good, because he's trying to be a good guy in order to be well-liked.
- At one point in The Emperor's New Groove, Yzma mentions while on a rant for being fired from being Kuzco's advisor that she was the one who practically raised him, which implies that a lot of Kuzco's... personality and problems are a direct result of her influence.
- In an original story board of Disney's Aladdin they wanted to have Jafar, the villain, have a Freudian Excuse themed song explaining why he was angry and evil. It was later dropped and was replaced with a reprise of Prince Ali to satisfy the staff's wishes to have the voice actor sing, to the delight of most of the audience. when you think about it, why would Jafar need a Freudian excuse? We already know he's unhappy in his current position (which is sometimes all you need), thinks the sultan is an idiot, is greedy, and has a case of megalomania (thus the last genie wish).
- The rationale was probably to add depth to Jafar's character and provide an explanation (necessary or not) as to how he became so evil and twisted. As it turned out: No, not necessary, but all the more intriguing by its absence.
- Incidentally, Jafar's excuse mainly focused on being mocked and unpopular when he was young, and having to live and work underneath the bumbling Sultan in adulthood. The latter of these was clearly shown in the actual film. Sympathy is heavily undercut because Jafar now treats Aladdin as lowly as he himself was treated in childhood. If you're curious, the song and storyboards for it can be seen here.
- Hilariously inadequate to the point that it was most certainly intentional, the villain of Meet the Robinsons became villainous and lost his mind due to a minor mishap as a child in which he lost his baseball team the game because he fell asleep partway through. It fits in with the moral of the story of moving on, because while his team was upset for a while, they got over it and forgave him, but he focused only on that minor mistake and it ruined his entire life.
- On Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, Pete mentions during his Villain Song that the reason he's so evil is because his mother didn't like him and he wants to impress her by becoming king.
- In Toy Story 3, Lotso became evil after his first owner lost and replaced him.
- In Toy Story 2, Stinky Pete is evil because he was an unpopular toy and no child ever played with him.
- The underlying reason behind Tai Lung's fury in the original Kung Fu Panda. However, after he is told that he had no reason to feel this way, it doesn't matter to him and the years of feeling slighted by Shifu have turned him completely cold.
- By contrast in Kung Fu Panda 2, Lord Shen's feeling of being rejected by his parents in his youth is completely blown out of proportion in his mind considering they did that only after being horrified at him committing genocide against the Giant Pandas.
- According to Word of God, his albino coloring caused his parents to neglect him as child and others to treat him as a bad omen. It can be argued that Shen never would have turned cold enough to commit genocide if he had been more loved.
- Played Straight in ParaNorman, where the "witch" Agatha Prenderghast who cursed the town turned out to be an eleven year old girl who was unjustly prosecuted (and sentenced to death) simply because of her being able to speak to the dead.
- In The Book of Life, Joaquin's obsession with heroism and large ego all come from an entire life spent on his father's shadow of a great hero.
Film - Live Action
- In the Godzilla movie Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster, Godzilla explains (translated by 2 fairies called the Shobijin) why he hates humanity is because they attacked him unprovoked. Rodan, the monster he's fighting with, agrees with him as well.
- In Days of Being Wild, a film by Wong Kar Wai: The main character Yuddy/York (played by Leslie Cheung) is a self-centered playboy who mistreats/manipulates women by making them fall for him and breaking their hearts. It is strongly hinted in the film that this is because his biological mother deserted him when he was younger and having a troubled emotionally distant relationship with his foster mother.
- Played in the 2005 film Sky High. Sue became an evil supervillian bent on turning all the superheroes into infants because she was put in the Sidekicks class.
- Played straight in the 2010 version of The Killer Inside Me. The camera pans over the main character's bookshelf, lingering prominently on a volume of Freud. He immediately takes a bible off the same shelf, opens it, and finds forgotten photographs of his father's sadomasochistic relationship with the housekeeper, Helene.
- In Snow White & the Huntsman, Evil Queen Ravenna Ravenna's behavior is explained through a childhood flashback and the way a previous king treated her.
- In The Cell once Catherine Deane enters inside the mind of the Serial Killer Carl Rudolph Stargher, his innocent side shows her the abuse he suffered at his father´s hands.
- Deconstructed, however, by the cop stating that being abused as a child does not have to make you evil. He strongly implies that he was abused as a child. While he's sympathetic toward what the villain suffered as a kid, he has no soft spot for him as a serial killer adult.
- Inverted in a scene on the couch in Funny Games in which the two villains "Peter and Paul" come up with various reasons why they're doing what they are to the family. Of course seeing as how you should never trust a villain, they were all lies.
- Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker was raised as a slave on a hellish backwater planet, as Yoda pointed out in the very beginning. Then his mother gets killed by Tusken Raiders. Oddly, he seems to have been a fairly happy child. Probably would have cut his master's throat in the night if he'd made it to adolescence on Tatooine, though.
- This is expanded upon in the Expanded Universe though we do see that while Anakin had issues and deep-rooted problems, the real issue laid in that he had no idea how to deal with them and the Jedi didn't know how to help him nor paid enough attention. The Sith on the other hand, saw opportunity and exploited it.
- Psycho even gives us a psychiatrist at the end of the film to give us an explanation of how the Freudian Excuse applies in this specific case.
- 8mm has a character who goes out of his way to subvert the trope, blatantly declaring, "Mommy didn't beat me. Daddy didn't rape me. I'm this way because I am." The idea that some people are just twisted is a core idea of the film.
- This is subverted in the made for TV film Intensity, where the sadistic, sociopathic spree killer Edgler Vess, after being accused of abuse causing his current state of mind, proudly proclaims that his parents were extremely loving and that he was truly a sadistic person from the start (in fact he murdered his loving parents).
- The new remake of Halloween (2007) attempts this with Michael Myers.
- The original Halloween (1978), while appearing to be a shallow motiveless-serial-killer movie at first, it is notable for how it stresses just how strange Myers' behavior actually is. Behind the scenes, Nick Castle (the man behind the mask) reportedly tried to figure out just what would drive a serial killer like Myers and act accordingly, but Carpenter specifically insisted on the "soulless killing machine" approach. One of the main characters, Dr. Loomis, is an experienced psychiatrist who is both baffled and terrified at the seemingly causeless evil lurking behind Myers' eyes. The overall idea is that, by any realistic standard, there should be a reason for someone to be anywhere near as warped as he is.
- Sadako Yamamura in Ringu and her American counterpart Samara Morgan in The Ring have a particularly tragic one. Though it's also a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario, with some of her own disturbing traits contributing to making her childhood all the more horrific.
- In the David Cronenberg movie Spider, with Ralph Fiennes, a variety of flashbacks start to illustrate just what has turned Fiennes into a demonic version of Mr. Bean. It turns out that he imagined the whole thing, and just happens to be insane. His character suffered from schizophrenia, serious brain disease which you cannot control more than epileptic can control his convulsions. So he really could not help it.
- Turned on its head in the Korean film The Host. The hero gets a Freudian Excuse for his lethargy and occasionally carrying the Idiot Ball . He didn't get proper nutrition as a kid. A brain tissue biopsy later fixes all this. Apparently they removed his Awesome Inhibitor or something.
- Subverted in the 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight. The Joker explains what seems to be the source of his insanity when he reveals the origin of his smile-scars, involving an abusive alcoholic father who wanted to know why he was "so serious"—after killing his mother right in front of him. But later in the movie, he eagerly reveals the origins of his scars again, changing his story to one involving a wife who wanted him to smile more, who was disfigured to pay for her gambling debts, and taking to self-mutilation to make her feel better. Chances of both stories being outright lies (or at best delusions) suddenly look pretty good.
- Subverted in Simon Birch, where despite extreme neglect by his parents, Simon appears to be the nicest person living in a town full of assholes.
- In Gladiator, Commodus explains, prior to killing his dad, that all he wanted was a little love and a warm hug...and what he would have done to get it.
- In Ip Man, Rival Turned Evil Jin defends his actions, which include beating on all of Foshan's kung fu masters and robbing the factory of Ip Man's friend, by saying that he experienced poverty at a child and never wanted to starve again.
- The live-action movie of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! gave The Grinch a lot of exposition explaining his Grinchiness. In both childhood and in a present-day incident in the film, he very nearly comes to enjoy Christmas, but something goes horribly wrong that just reinforces his view that it's a selfish, materialistic holiday. It's only after seeing Christmas still celebrated even after removing all material possessions from the equation that the Grinch comes around.
- In the Tim Burton remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka's dentist father forbade him from eating sweets, and his obsession with candy was born of rebellion.
- In the backstory of Audition, Asami was physically and sexually abused as a child. Then she learns about piano wire...
- In Raising Arizona, the brutal biker and bounty hunter who kills furry animals for fun has a tattoo reading "Momma didn't like me".
- In the 1995 version of A Little Princess, Sara realizes that Miss Minchin's father didn't tell her that "all girls are princesses," which we are led to believe is the reason for Miss Minchin's loveless, horrible personality.
- This is actually subverted a little when you remember Minchin and Amelia are sisters. Whatever daddy issues she had, Amelia's kind personality (even after being put down so often by her sister) suggests that that alone couldn't have been the cause for the way Miss Minchin turned out.
- Regina of Mean Girls: slightly different in that rather than a bully, her mother is a mindless drunk who is so desperate to be seen as young, hip, and her teenage daughter's best friend that she has become a willing slave that Regina treats with total contempt - the suggestion being that her total ineffectiveness and lack of parenting is what created her daughter.
- Subverted in Phone Booth when the villain, while on the phone with Stu, starts sobbing and tells him that he had an unhappy childhood... then when Stu starts to believe him, he laughs and tells Stu that he actually had a very happy childhood.
- Everybody in The Breakfast Club, villain or not... Bender's parents despise him (and they burnt his arm with a cigar for spilling paint in the garage), Claire's parents pamper her to get back at each other, Allison's parents ignore her, Andrew's dad is a Stage Mom who is obsessed with his winning, and Brian's parents coddle him too much and are obsessed with him getting good marks to the point that he considers committing suicide because he got an F.
- On the sled symbolism in Citizen Kane, Orson Welles remarked: "It's a gimmick, really, and rather dollar-book Freud."
- This is at the heart of one of the better parts of Star Trek: Nemesis. Shinzon, a clone of Captain Picard, insists that he is what Picard would have grown up to be if he had lived his life. Picard tries to turn his "mirror" metaphor around on him, which Shinzon brushes off, but later admits that the idea has gotten under his skin. Data disagrees and (drawing a comparison to the "B-4" prototype he has been dealing with) sees a major difference: That in spite of their wildly different lives and experiences, he, like Picard, aspires to be better than he is, something Shinzon and B-4 seem to lack.
- In American History X this comes off as heartfelt rather than trite. Derek is transformed into the uber white supremacist after his father is shot by a black drug dealer, but flashbacks reveal that his father had laid the groundwork for this transformation by his rants against Affirmative Action. Derek had resisted buying into his father's racial stereotyping, instead looking to his high-school English teacher (a black man) as his mentor. It was only after his father was killed that Derek started to think: "Gee, maybe Dad was right all along."
- The murder of his mother by his father (on the urging of his grandmother and his father's concubines) is used as a partial excuse for why the King becomes so unhinged in The King and the Clown.
- The Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lecter profiles the serial killer Buffalo Bill.
Dr. Lecter: Look for severe childhood disturbances associated with violence. Our Billy wasn't born a criminal, Clarice. He was made one through years of systematic abuse. Billy hates his own identity, you see, and he thinks that makes him a transsexual. But his pathology is a thousand times more savage and more terrifying.
- In Iron Man 2, we learn that not only is Ivan Vanko driven to "avenge" his father, Anton, but that Anton spent the last 20 years of his life in Siberia in a "Vodka-fueled rage". In Nick Fury's words, not a good setting to raise a child - except Fury's tone definitely says "yeah, that sucks, but there's nothing we can do about it and you've still got to stop him."
- In the same movie, Tony describes his father as emotionally distant, "calculating", and not given over to displays of affection or love. This might help explain some of his present-day problems.
- It's suggested in The Public Enemy that Tom Powers (James Cagney) grew up to be such a violent Jerkass because he got spanked a lot when he was a kid.
- In Silent Hill, Sharon/Alessa Gillespie is revealed to have had a very troubled past, involving her being ostracized by her classmates, sexually assaulted by a janitor, and eventually burned alive.
- In the 2010 Centurion film, the Pict scout, Etain was raped and had her tongue cut out and had to watch her parents being murdered by Romans.
- The psycho killer Colt Hawker in Visiting Hours grew to loathe women after witnessing his Domestic Abuser father being attacked by his mother.
- In Addams Family Values, psychotic Debbie explains it was her parents getting her the wrong Barbie that caused her psychotic break. In the form of a slide show.
Debbie: My parents, Sharon and Dave. Generous, doting, or were they? All I ever wanted was a Ballerina Barbie. In her pretty pink tutu. (slide change) My Birthday. I was 10, and do you know what they got me? MAL-I-BU Barbie.Morticia: Malibu Barbie.Gomez: The nightmare.Morticia: The nerve.Debbie: That's not what I wanted! That's not who I was. I was a Ballerina, graceful, delicate! They had to go.(Next slide shows their house on fire.)
- In Red White & Blue, Erica, when confronted about her cavalier attitude about having unprotected sex with practically every guy she meets and not bothering to tell any of them that she's HIV positive, reveals that she lost her virginity at age 4 to her mother's boyfriend.
Erica: You get fucked two days after your fourth birthday, you tend to not care about anything much.
- Daido Katsumi/Kamen Rider Eternal, the Big Bad of Kamen Rider Double: A-to-Z, the Gaia Memories of Fate, tried to turn Fuuto into a city of the undead and his excuse given in the film was that he Came Back Wrong. However, later it's explained in W Returns: Eternal that was only a part of a much more solid excuse. He tried to save a village of psychics from a Mad Scientist named Dr. Prospect and they all died because he unknowingly triggered Prospect's failsafe. Prospect's actions effectively drove Katsumi completely insane and turned him into what he'd become in the movie, his actions being a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on the Museum and Foundation X, both of which helped Prospect with his project.
- Half Past Dead centered around a group of mercenaries or whatever trying to get a location on stolen gold from a death row inmate by taking a group of hostages. One woman asks the leader what his motivation was, to which he insinuated he was beaten by his father and raped by his mother. Though he never actually admitted this to be true, he subverted the trope by claiming it had nothing to do with his actions as he's simply a sociopath motivated by greed. Earlier it was revealed that he suffers from Gulf War Syndrome and may suffer from Post Traumatic Stress as well, which may actually play the trope straight.
- Played for laughs in The 51st State with the drug dealer Iky.
Iky: Ya'see, you're like me, Mr. Mc Elroy. You're a sky-high-etrist, I'm a sky-high-etrist. See, I always knew I'd be a drug dealer, even when I was a kid. I saw me dad hit me mother, me mother hit me brother, me brother hit me sister, and me sister fuck me father. So I suppose it's inevitable, really. I mean, you'd have to be on drugs just to live in that madhouse, wouldn't you?
- Lampshaded in Grosse Pointe Blank. The main character, hitman Martin Blank, comments that it is very likely being raised by an alcoholic father and insane mother influenced his career choices. Blank doesn't treat his childhood traumas as an excuse, merely an explanation, and takes full responsibility for his own actions.
- In Thor, the titular Norse deity's brother Loki is revealed to actually be adopted. What's more, his true father is Laufey, the leader of the Frost Giants, who are sworn enemies of the Asgardians. This combined with Odin's clear favoritism of Thor contributes to Loki becoming the main bad guy, as illustrated throughout the rest of the movie and in the subsequent The Avengers.
- In Madea's Family Reunion, Victoria let her daughter Vanessa be raped by her second husband in order to get him to stay. She says that she doesn't feel sorry for Vanessa because her mother pimped her out for crack.
John Ehrlichman: You got people dying because he didn't make the varsity football team. You got the Constitution hanging by a thread because the old man went to Whittier instead of Yale.Kissinger: "Can you imagine what he could have done if he had ever been loved?''"
- Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves provides one for the traitor who agrees to turn Robin over to the Sheriff. Will Scarlet is Robin's illegitimate half-brother. He and his mother, the mistress of the Robin's father after he was widowed, were sent away due to a young Robin's anger at his father over the affair. As a result, he grew up in utter poverty, resenting Robin from afar for "stealing" his father.
- After Sean in Boy Wonder watched his mother murdered and grew while the case was never solved, he grew into a solitary, obsessive, and violent boy. Having his father convince him to lie about who he saw at the scene didn't help.
- Subverted gloriously in Carlitos Way In the beginning, Carlito dismisses this by saying, "Now, I ain't sayin' that my way would have been different had my mother been alive when I was a kid, 'cause that's all you hear in the joint. 'I didn't have a chance'. No. Bullshit. I was already a mean little bastard while my mother was alive, and I know it."
- In Watch It, according to John, the reason why his estranged cousin Michael is such a Jerkass towards women is because his mother was crazy. Things got better when John's parents adopted Michael, and John promised Michael wouldn't have to go back to his mother, but when John's mother died, Michael was sent back to his mother. This is also the source of the estrangement between John and Michael.
- It's insinuated in Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth that He-Man Woman Hater night club owner J.P. Monroe was molested by his parents, potentially explaining why he's such an asshole in his adult life.
- In the anthology film Body Bags, Brent in the segment "The Eye" finds out through the dead serial killer John Randall's visions that he was horribly abused by his mother, such as putting out cigarettes in his face when he was still in his crib.
- Redbeard: The Mantis Woman is clearly upset by being sexually abused as a child, but Dr. Redbeard is quick to point out that not all sexually abused children grow up to be serial killers. He thinks there's something organic wrong with her brain.
- Magneto is a former victim of the Holocaust.
- In X2: X-Men United, apparently William Stryker’s son Jason blamed his parents for his "condition," so he used his powers of illusion to torture them with nightmares and visions - leading to Stryker's wife killing herself with a power drill. Of course, given that Stryker's not exactly the most reliable witness, how much of this information is accurate is debatable at best. We see plainly that he himself hated the fact that his son was a mutant and was under the impression Xavier's school was for "curing" mutants.
- In The Wolverine, Shingen covered for his father robbing his own company to extend his own lifespan, only for Ichirō to leave everything to Mariko instead.
- Cut from The Muppets, but the full version of Tex Richman's Villain Song includes his Freudian Excuse; when he was a kid the Muppets performed at his birthday party, and because he couldn't laugh, all the other kids laughed at him. Ever since, he's hated the Muppets.