Directed by Tate Taylor, ‘Ma‘ is a psychological horror film that centers around a middle-aged woman who befriends a group of teenagers in her neighborhood. The 2019 film follows Sue Ann (), a lonely middle-aged woman who allows a group of teenagers to use her basement for partying but with certain conditions. The kids should refrain from using abusive language; they should never go upstairs, and one of them must remain sober to look after the rest. They form a bond with Sue Ann and fondly refer to her as “Ma.” However, the kids soon realize that the hospitality Ma showcases is actually a wicked obsession in disguise. What begins as a teenage dream becomes a terrifying nightmare.
With Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer’s brilliant portrayal of the titular character, the film’s intriguing storyline is packed with elements of bullying, revenge, unexpected twists, and a cramped setting that adds to the eerie suspense of the overall story. If you’re looking to dive into more such movies, then don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with several recommendations that will be great additions to your list. You can watch most of these movies like ‘Ma’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
8. The Visit (2015)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, ‘The Visit’ is a found footage-style horror film. The story revolves around two siblings, Becca and Tyler, who go to visit their estranged grandparents in rural Pennsylvania. They intend to document their visit through a documentary film. As the days pass, strange and unsettling events unfold, revealing the true nature of their grandparents.
Both films explore the themes of trust and isolation. In ‘The Visit,’ the siblings are isolated in their grandparents’ remote house, and they struggle with trusting their seemingly loving grandparents, similar to ‘Ma,’ where the teenagers initially trust Ma as a seemingly harmless friend but eventually discover disturbing things about her. Generation gap as a means of tension is also applied in the narratives of ‘The Visit’ and ‘Ma,’ which adds to the sense of unease that the films carry throughout.
7. Run (2020)
‘Run,’ helmed by Aneesh Chaganty, is a dark examination of an obsessive relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter with a disability. The 2020 film revolves around the relationship between a teenage girl named Chloe (Kiera Allen) and her overprotective mother, Diane (Sarah Paulson). Chloe is a girl who uses a wheelchair. She begins to suspect that her mother may be hiding dark secrets about her health and past.
Both ‘Run’ and ‘Ma’ showcase the female leads — Diane in ”Run’ and Sue Ann in ‘Ma’ — taking on motherly roles. Diane is the overprotective mother of Chloe, while Sue Ann becomes a maternal figure to a group of teenagers. However, their nurturing facades start to fade as the stories move forward. Obsession is another common theme examined by both movies as the characters of Diane and Sue Ann become increasingly fixated on their respective relationships with the younger characters in their lives.
6. House at the End of the Street (2012)
Directed by Mark Tonderai, ‘House at the End of the Street’ is a psychological thriller that revolves around the events that occur after a mother and daughter move to a calm suburban neighborhood. The 2012 film follows Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence), who move into their new home and learn that it is located next to a house where a gruesome accident occurred a while back. Trouble ensues when Elissa befriends Ryan, the sole survivor of the accident.
In both movies, the central characters have mysterious and troubled pasts. In ‘House at the End of the Street,’ Ryan’s family history is a source of intrigue and fear, while in ‘Ma,’ Sue Ann’s past plays a significant role in her character development. Young characters are at the center of both movies, and it is the impulsive, and to a certain extent, curious, nature native to teenagers that acts as the catalyst for the plot to progress in ‘Ma’ and ‘House at the End of the Street.’
5. Mother! (2017)
Helmed by the auteur Darren Aronofsky, ‘Mother!’ is a 2017 psychological horror film that follows a couple (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem), whose peaceful, idyllic life is interrupted by an unwanted intruder. The plot revolves around a couple living in a secluded house whose tranquil existence turns to chaos when uninvited guests start to intrude upon their home, causing havoc and destruction.
Both films feature central characters who are somewhat isolated from society. In ‘Mother!’, the couple’s home is a secluded haven, while in ‘Ma,’ Sue Ann lives alone in a quiet, small town. This isolation plays a significant role in the development of the story and the characters’ psychological states. ‘Mother!’ and ‘Ma’ use their stories to comment on broader societal issues, ‘Mother!’ explores the relationship between artists and their audience and the destructive nature of blind devotion, while ‘Ma’ delves into the consequences of bullying and social exclusion.
4. Disturbia (2007)
‘Disturbia,’ a D.J. Caruso directorial, revolves around a young teen who starts spying on his neighbors after he’s sentenced to house arrest. The 2007 film follows Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf), who following a tragic accident, is sentenced to house arrest, during which he becomes increasingly paranoid and starts spying on his neighbors. He begins to suspect one of them of being a serial killer, and he teams up with his friends to uncover the truth.
Isolation is a central element that contributes to the tension and suspense of both movies. In ‘Distrubia,’ Kale is confined to his house, which leads him to take up spying as a way to pass the time, and in ‘Ma,’ Sue Ann, though not confined anywhere, lives a pretty isolated life. Both movies depict how friendship dynamics can be manipulated and exploited. In ‘Disturbia,’ Kale’s friends join him in his investigation and find their friendship being tested by their discoveries, while in “Ma,” Sue Ann exploits the teenagers’ desire for freedom and acceptance to lure them into her sinister world.
3. Unlawful Entry (1992)
‘Unlawful Entry,’ directed by Jonathan Kaplan, is a thriller that revolves around the lives of a married couple and the drastic change that occurs in it after an encounter with a police officer. The 1992 film follows Michael (Kurt Russell) and Karen Carr (Madeleine Stowe), whose lives take a dark turn when they encounter a charismatic but increasingly unhinged police officer, Pete Davis (Ray Liotta). Pete becomes obsessively infatuated with Karen and begins to manipulate and terrorize the couple, inserting himself into their lives in increasingly disturbing ways.
Both movies feature central characters who develop obsessive and controlling tendencies. In ‘Unlawful Entry,’ it’s the police officer Pete Davis who becomes dangerously obsessed with Karen, while in ‘Ma,’ Sue Ann exhibits a similar fixation on the group of teenagers who initially befriend her. Themes of isolation and vulnerability are quite striking in both films as the victims initially seek help or companionship but ultimately become trapped in their interactions with the obsessive characters.
2. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)
Directed by Curtis Hanson, ‘The Hand That Rocks the Cradle’ revolves around a pregnant woman named Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra) and her family, who hire a new nanny, Peyton Flanders (Rebecca De Mornay), to care for their children. However, it soon becomes apparent that Peyton is not who she appears to be. The 1992 film is a riveting tale of manipulation, revenge, and suspense. The movies share the element of a common setting where much of the tension and suspense unfolds within domestic spaces.
‘The Hand That Rocks the Cradle’ takes place in a family home, while ‘Ma’ largely occurs in Sue Ann’s house, which she opens up to the teenagers. Themes of revenge and obsession are explored in both films as we see in ‘The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,’ the nanny Peyton becomes obsessively fixated on her employer’s family, driven by a desire for revenge. Similarly, in ‘Ma,’ Sue Ann’s obsession with the teenagers she befriends takes a dark and vengeful turn as her past experiences fuel her actions.
1. Greta (2018)
‘Greta,’ a 2018 Neil Jordan directorial, revolves around Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young woman who discovers an abandoned handbag on a subway train. She returns the bag to its owner, Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert), a seemingly harmless and lonely widow. However, Frances soon realizes that Greta’s intentions are not as benign as they first appeared, leading to a disturbing and increasingly intense game of manipulation and obsession.
‘Greta’ and ‘Ma’ feature central characters who are initially portrayed as lonely, seemingly harmless, and even kind women who befriend younger individuals. Their loneliness and desire for companionship ultimately lead to an obsession with the younger characters, resulting in sinister consequences. The films explore the dark side of fixation with others and the dangerous effects that it can have. Both movies employ the classic trope of the cat-and-mouse dynamic, where the younger characters must find ways to outwit their tormentors, which creates suspenseful and tension-filled narratives.
Read More: Where Was Ma Filmed?