In the new thriller "Stoker" (in theaters Friday), a girl (Mia Wasikowska) whose recently lost her father suspects the motives of the uncle she never knew she had. Matthew Goode plays the enigmatic "Uncle Charlie," surely a nod to the main character in Alfred Hitchcock's film "Shadow of a Doubt," in which a small-town girl discovers her beloved uncle is really a serial killer.
We doubt that's this Charlie's secret but it's often true in films that you simply cannot trust your uncle.
Take Hamlet's wicked uncle, Claudius, whose dastardly plan has inspired more than one cinematic villain's plot to seize power. Of course, Shakespeare also drew from real life, since murderous uncles and young heirs unfortunately go hand in hand. And then there are those uncles who get away with a different kind of murder, whether it's neglect or outright abuse.
Here are 12 of the creepiest, no-good movie uncles we could find.
PHOTOS & VIDEOS:
1. Uncle Charlie ('Shadow of a Doubt')
Bored small-town girl Charlie (Teresa Wright) is named after her favorite uncle, who comes to town on a rare visit. She's the only family member to spot a disturbing undercurrent as he rants about "faded, fat greedy women" who spend their late husband's wealth. His niece protests, "They're alive, they're human beings," to which he counters, "Are they?" She's already begun to suspect he's the killer of elderly women known as the "Merry Widow Murderer," and soon young Charlie is a target herself. Hitchcock's theme of violence and horror under the façade of normalcy was never more skillfully brought home.
2. Uncle Ernie ('Tommy')
In The Who's epic rock opera, poor deaf, dumb, and blind Tommy (Roger Daltrey) can do nothing when despicable Uncle Ernie (bandmate Keith Moon), baby sits and molests his young charge while singing the nightmarish song "Fiddle About."
3. Commodus ('Gladiator')
Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) is telling tales of ancient Rome in front of his sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and nephew, but the boy slowly realizes something is very wrong. He's not quite old enough to grasp the threat behind Commodus's words but she knows all too well when he threatens to "bathe in the blood" of those dearest to her unless she betrays her fellow conspirators. Since seeing the movie, we've never heard "busy little bee" without thinking of the mad, incestuously inclined emperor.
4. The Duke of Gloucester ('Tower of London')
If Vincent Price is your uncle and you are the heir to the a throne, consider your days numbered. In this 1962 horror film ("inspired by true events," as movie ads boast these days), Richard’s (aka the Duke of Gloucester) murderous spree begins when his elder brother, King Edward IV, names their other brother, George, protector of his fatherless young sons and heir. Before you know it, Richard has stabbed George, framed his in-laws, tried to prove the real heirs are illegitimate, murdered them, and proclaimed himself king.
5. Scar ('The Lion King')
Little kids may have never seen Hamlet, but millions were so traumatized by the death of Mufasa they might never have fully trusted their own uncles again. The evil Scar (deliciously voiced by Jeremy Irons), like his literary inspiration, plots to kill his brother Mufasa and his nephew Simba.
6. Claudius ('Hamlet')
Claudius (or, as Hamlet calls him, "thou incestuous, murderous, damnèd Dane") is one of the most enduring literary villains of all time. The man who murders his brother and marries his widow to seize the throne is a juicy role that's been played by Derek Jacobi, Alan Bates, Kyle MacLachlan, and Anthony Hopkins. In this clip from Kenneth Branagh's 1996 version, Jacobi delivers Claudius's self-serving marriage speech that feigns grief for the late king.
7. Teardrop ('Winter's Bone')
In his Oscar-nominated role as tattooed addict Teardrop, John Hawkes was scarily impossible to read. Was he there to help his estranged niece Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) when her father went missing, or to hurt her? In one unsettling scene, he asks if she's using meth yet, like everyone else he knows, and almost forces her to get high. And then there's this scene, where he quietly spooks the local cop who's pulled him over. This is not a man you mess with.
8. Uncle Ebenezer ('Kidnapped!')
In the classic Robert Lewis Stevenson tale, young David's father dies and he must live with his only remaining relative, greedy uncle Ebenezer, who promptly tries to kill him. When that doesn't work, he has the boy shanghaied. The story's been filmed many times, including a 1948 version starring Roddy McDowall as the luckless lad. You might be most familiar with the 1960 Disney version, co-starring Peter O'Toole and Peter Finch, in which future "Hawaii Five-O" star James MacArthur as David nearly falls to his death after being told to open a door to a room that isn't there.
9. Lt. General Leland Zevo ('Toys')
Michael Gambon has played villains in "The Insider" and "Gosford Park,” but one of his most memorable bad guys is the military madman who inherits his brother's toy factory and tries to turn it into a munitions plant. It's up to his sweetly goofy nephew, Leslie (Robin Williams), to stop him, disarm his child soldiers, and reclaim the factory for good.
10. Uncle Vernon Dursley ('Harry Potter' Franchise)
Uncle Vernon isn't necessarily evil, he's just oafish, narrow-minded, and utterly hateful towards his magical nephew. Much of that hostility stems from his hysterical wife, who's actually related to the boy. But Vernon commits more than his fair share of huffing, puffing, and petty tyranny (including making Harry live in a broom closet). While his son, Dudley, comes to realize Harry's worth, Vernon, that horrible man, never does.
11. Uncle Claud ('Hugo')
Poor Hugo. He's only got his father, the obviously amazing Jude Law, but one day, instead of seeing his father, his drunkard uncle appears and brusquely tells him of his dad’s death: "There was a fire. You're coming with me." They relocate to the train station, where the uncle is paid to maintain the clockworks, but since Uncle Claud is so fond of the bottle, the boy ends up doing most of the work.
12. Uncle Fester ('The Addams Family,' 'Addams Family Values')
Uncle Fester (played on the big-screen by Christopher Lloyd) is hardly the creepiest member of the Addams family, but he might give strangers the biggest start. The joke is that he's really a sweet, trusting soul targeted by a gold-digger (Joan Cusack) who keeps trying to kill him off.
(Need a creepy uncle antidote? Check out "Secondhand Lions," in which a gruff Michael Caine and Robert Duvall take in neglected nephew Haley Joel Osment or "Unstrung Heroes," where a boy's eccentric uncles help him through his mother's illness.)