The Bad Seed


The Bad Seed

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 27


Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,623
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Movie Info

Young Patty McCormack received an Oscar nomination for her performance as a murderous child in this chilling dramatic horror classic. Shocking at the time of its release in 1956, The Bad Seed remains unsettling to this day as a mother discovers that within her seemingly angelic daughter beats the heart of a cold-blooded serial murderer.


Patty McCormack
as Rhoda Penmark
Nancy Kelly
as Mrs. Christine Penmark
Eileen Heckart
as Mrs. Daigle
Henry Jones
as LeRoy, Handyman,, Radio Voice
William Hopper
as Col. Kenneth Penmark
Evelyn Varden
as Monica Breedlove
Paul Fix
as Bravo
Joan Croydon
as Miss Fern
Frank Cady
as Mr. Daigle
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Critic Reviews for The Bad Seed

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (17) | Rotten (10)

Audience Reviews for The Bad Seed

  • Jun 24, 2019
    This film still holds up thanks to the performances and compelling storyline of psychopathic behavior by children. Mervyn LeRoy's direction is uneven as some scenes feel too theatrical and others are more cinematically filmed.
    Aldo G Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2016
    A seemingly prim and proper 8-year-old girl is suspiciously near a classmate who earned a medal instead of her when he drowns, thus setting off questions about her involvement in his death. The concept of an evil child is inherently eerie, and the film likens the possibility of one who can commit murder to Mozart showing his talent for music at a very young age. There are a couple of chilling moments as the mother's suspicions grow and the past unfolds, her own as well as the child's, but the film drags in places, lacks tension, and is too long at 129 minutes. It also suffers from a ridiculous ending which was not present in the novel or play, and entirely due to the Hays Code. Nancy Kelly is reasonably good in the role of the mother, but it's surprising to me that she and a couple of co-stars were nominated for Academy Awards, including Patty McCormack, the child, who was mediocre. I suspect the acclaim was due to the content being more shocking in 1956, but today, the film is just barely passable. As a side note, though, it's interesting that the band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds got its name from the novel.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 12, 2016
    If you are thinking about having kids you should watch this movie first. This is a tale of an evil little girl set on getting her way. She will not let anyone stand in her way, the best part of this movie is her piano playing. This movie is pure birth control.
    Jessica S Super Reviewer
  • May 28, 2014
    Originally a play, written by Maxwell Anderson, director Mervyn LeRoy stays virtually faithful in his adaptation. He even cast original actors Patty McCormack, as the careworn little girl named Rhoda, and Nancy Kelly as her inundated mother. The dialogue feels staged, as do the ellipses scenes, because it tries to look and feel like a play. This tone is substantiated by the ending, which is quick to show the link to the original play, and shush naysayers by attempting to show that its dark subject matter was based in fiction and not the real world, probably the only way the censors would let this film exist. Even today stories about little children as murderers just aren't broached unless there's a catch: they're possessed by demons, they're actually a middle aged woman, or they were brought back from the dead. Here the story is very straight forward: little girl kills, and then covers it up by killing some more. Instead of showing the gruesome nature of her crimes, the film builds up the backstory, and shows how she's capable of killing. Though it's a bit outdated in its concept, and wasn't as horrific as a modern interpretation might be, it's a creepy look at the inner workings of a so-called "bad seed" and based on that structure alone, this is a pretty interesting classic. LeRoy may not have been able to push the envelope as far as he wanted, but there's a dark subtlety to McCormack's performance that remains unmatched, even by today's standards.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer

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