Weekend Roundtable: Most Annoying Movie & TV Children

Children are our future. They are the best parts of us. They are everything we wish that we ourselves could have been. Sometimes (as in ‘Ender’s Game’), they may even be humanity’s last hope to save the world. Blah blah blah…. Let’s face it, sometimes kids can be just plain annoying too. Especially when Hollywood trots out that old trope about “wise beyond their years” children who teach jaded adults how to be better people and see the world through innocent eyes. Puke. In this week’s Roundtable, let’s sound off on our picks for some of the most irritating (fictional) brats from movies and TV.

Shannon Nutt

I’m not sure if it was because the bad guys were so stupid or if the kid was really that smart, but I hated almost everything about ‘Home Alone‘ and that obnoxious little brat Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay Culkin). Like a bad Road Runner cartoon, Kevin has the wherewithal (and supposedly unlimited resources) to create elaborate traps for two doofuses played by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci. What’s even more annoying is that this movie was written by the usually-reliable John Hughes, who seems to have either pulled an old, disgarded script out of a drawer, or come up with this because he owed the studio a screenplay. Naturally, thanks to a very undemanding public, the movie made millions and spawned a number of equally-dreadful sequels. (Fortunately, I’ve not seen any of those.)

Michael Spike Steinbacher

In general, I’m not a fan of children. I realize that this makes me a monster and a terrible human being, but there you go. I don’t necessarily mind precociousness, and I don’t necessarily mind cuteness. Put the two together, though, and I get a little sick to my stomach. I don’t know why. Really, children are just too much. They’re like miniature people, only louder, stickier, smellier, more selfish and more egocentric. Ugh.

Although I find myself frequently longing for the whiny ‘tweenaged emo Carl’s death on ‘The Walking Dead’, I’m going to give the current award for most obnoxious kid to Manny on ‘Modern Family‘. With his guayabera shirts and Pamama hats, this little punk is obnoxious, priggish and self-satisfied to the point where he actually detracts from the show in most scenes where he’s featured. He eschews childish things and mannerisms for those of sophisticated adults, but he hasn’t experienced enough to pull that off without looking like a smug retiree who fancies himself a lady’s man. (He’s not.) He lectures adults as if THEY were children. Somebody needs to surgically remove this kid’s vocal cords. And leave his scenes on the cutting room floor, for that matter.

Mike Attebery

I actually kind of liked NBC’s ‘Parenthood‘ when it started in 2010, but two things made me stop watching – no, that FORCED me to stop watching. The first was Lauren Graham, who took her Lorelai Gilmore routine and cranked it to the “Syrupy Egomaniacal Death” setting. The second was Max. Every time that kid was on screen, I wanted him to die. Max made me stop watching the show. I hate you, Max.

Gordon Miller

Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds? I know I didn’t before being informed by Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki) in Cameron Crowe’s ‘Jerry Maguire‘. Just by their nature, romantic comedies are expected to have sweet, touching moments, but Ray strains the limits of acceptable adorableness in one movie with his overly cute dialogue delivery. Although the youngest, Crowe also makes him the wisest character in the movie, because Ray knows Jerry and his mother Dorothy belong together before anyone else does. ‘Jerry Maguire’ is a good movie, but Ray is one of the reasons I’ve only watched it once.

Luke Hickman

Of course, Jake Lloyd is the best/worst example of this character type, but my pick is a more recent example. I took a lot of heat for my opinion of the movie in our site’s forums, but I loathed ‘Real Steel‘. When I think back upon how much I dislike it, the first thing that comes to mind is Hugh Jackman’s bastard son. Dakota Goyo is the new Jake Lloyd. Not only is the actor downright awful in the movie, his character is grating.

Have you ever heard of “OPK” – Other People’s Kids? This is a term that I use to describe children that I just don’t like being around. It doesn’t mean that I hate all kids but my own. Rather; it refers to wild and rude brats with no manners. Goyo’s character, Max, is the shining example of OPK. He not only lacks manners, he’s disobedient, selfish and inconsiderate – everything that I truly loathe in OPK. If I take my own kids to a park and OPK show up, we leave. I find them repulsive in real life, where I have no ability to stop them from coming around. If one appears in a movie, you can bet that I’ll never watch it again.

M. Enois Duarte

I know that ‘Liar Liar‘ has its fans and continues to be enjoyed to this day, but I’ve always thought it was a terrible movie. Not only do I find the premise to be asinine and utterly ridiculous, I think the little kid, Max Reede, is absolutely one of the most annoying and irritating child characters ever. Part of the blame goes to Justin Cooper’s performance. While I’m sure he did the best he could, it still made for lousy acting. The majority of the fault, in my opinion, really belongs to the character himself, a precocious little whiner who failed to win my sympathy. Because he’s such a blatant movie convention of a well-to-do kid, I simply could not care for his supposed plight. Then, of course, is the obnoxiousness of Jim Carrey’s physical comedy, but that’s a whole other conversation.

Jack Lilburn

Attention little Timmy (Joseph Mazzelo) and Lex (Ariana Richards) in ‘Jurassic Park‘: I understand that you’re under considerable stress, what with the man-eating prehistoric reptiles and all, but y’all need to calm the shit down – like, right now. I know that you’re integral to Alan Grant’s (Sam Neill’s) arc from child-hating paleontologist to surrogate dad/action hero, but you’re pushing it, big time.

For starters, Timmy, did you really have to pester the hell out of Grant so badly at the start of the JP tour? And why’d the two of you have to make such stupid decisions during that T-Rex attack? Poor Ian Malcom’s broken leg will probably never be the same! Timmy, nobody cares if you threw up. Just get out the damn tree before that Ford Explorer crushes you. And Lex, why so high and mighty about your vegetarianism and part-time hacking? How about a little humility in the face of life-threatening situations? It serves you right to get sneezed on by that Brachiosaurus. Both of you could have just found a nice, secure place to hunker down in the visitor center right before the film’s climax. But no, you went straight for the dessert tray and nearly became Velociraptor chow.

Then again, both of you are a hell of a lot less irritating than the gymnastics kid in ‘The Lost World’…

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Here are some of the bulletpoints for Max – y’know, Hugh Jackman’s kid – in ‘Real Steel‘:

  • He’s a fifth grader who always, always, always gets to take the moral high ground. His relationship with Jackman’s washed-up robo-boxer is one of those eye-rolling, “Who’s the parent and who’s the kid?” sort of deals.
  • He’s fluent in English and Japanese.
  • He knows pretty much everything about boxing.
  • He can quickly rewrite the firmware for indescribably elaborate technology he’s never really seen or touched before.
  • Oh, and he can basically build an invincible robot fighter from scrap metal.
  • Needless to say, he’s smarter than every adult in the flick, and he’s smug, smarmy and mouthy enough to let ’em know it too.
  • He’s enough of a ham to bust out some low-rent hip-hop moves with his friggin’ robot.
  • He’s Anakin Skywalker Mark II as if Jake Lloyd weren’t grating enough the first time.

Fewer overbearing, annoying kids! More robots punching each other!

Josh Zyber

This one may be a little obscure. Although I’ve forgotten most of the movie, one character really stands out in my memory. The 1991 film ‘The Rapture‘ was screenwriter Michael Tolkin’s (of ‘The Player’) directorial debut, about a sex addict burn-out (Mimi Rogers) who becomes Born Again religious and joins a cult. After her husband (David Duchovny) is senselessly killed, she doubts God’s will, and soon becomes so convinced that the Biblical apocalypse is imminent that she contemplates a murder-suicide with her young daughter in order to expedite their ascendance to Heaven. In the (theoretically) harrowing climax, the daughter, who’s been thoroughly brainwashed into the same beliefs, actually begs her mother to go through with it and kill her. After that, the movie drops a seriously deranged mind-fuck ending on the audience that is, quite frankly, the only truly memorable part of the whole thing.

All of this may sound intriguing and potentially the grounds for a compelling character drama. Unfortunately, in actual practice, the movie’s pretty tedious and amateurish, with dialogue that repeatedly beats you over the head to hammer home the obviousness of the story’s themes. Worse, the daughter character is so gratingly precocious that I struggled to restrain myself from screaming, “Just murder the little shit and get it over with already, would you!” at the screen. That’s not a reaction I often have to children in the movies, not even the annoying ones.

Which movie and TV children have irritated you the most? It seems to me that there must be hundreds of sitcom kids who qualify. Tell us in the Comments.


  1. The little fat kid from the Speed Racer movie a few years back. Really dislikes him! I liked the kid from Real Steel until he have the speech at the ring where he challenged the champion robot, after that I wished the robot would of punched him.

  2. Timcharger

    COULD.NOT.DISAGREE.MORE about the kid from Jerry Maguire, Gordon Miller.

    Loved that kid. Did you know that human head weighs 8 pounds?

    Jerry Maguire is drunk and chatting it up with that kid. Jerry wants to talk his dad & his life, and the kid wants to talk about zoos. Classic.

    Cuba Gooding calls and the kid picks up the cell phone. His interaction with Cuba is hilarious.

    I gotta go; I gotta go to bed; I hear my mom…
    Thanks for listening, kid.

  3. Jon

    Dana Brody from “Homeland”. I’m so tired of the “nobody understands me, I hate my parents, my life is so hard” teenage angst BS from her character. And she gets a RIDICULOUS amount of screen time for a show who’s main plot concerns conspiracy and terrorism looking to strike in the United States. Somehow, Dana Brody makes Meadow Soprano tolerable.

  4. scott

    You leave Mickey, Data, Mouth and Chunk out of this. They are perfect and embody everything that’s RIGHT is this discussion. They all have their own unique personality traits that when combined together, form a fordable combatant for the Fratelli’s. They … are … perfect!

  5. Kashtarreaper

    The consistently worst thing on Once Upon a Time is the little kid who plays Henry. Not since the days of CSI: Miami, have I been wishing for a single characters death just so I can go enjoy a show.

    Also I think picking Jake Lloyd is the easy way out:p

  6. sweetlows

    The kid from Terminator 2, id probably enjoy that movie, if he wasn’t in it.

    I agree with The Goonies, I did not like that movie, my guess is it’s got a +5 to nostalgia for most viewers.

    Yes Dana on Homeland is just, ugh.

  7. Cal

    Going a little further back, I think we need to show Pearl from The Night of the Hunter some “appreciation”. I have never wanted a child to die this bad.

    She cuts up money to make paper dolls, immediately goes to sleep while being chased by a psychopath, HUGS said psychopath when confronted with him again. I could go on, but I don’t want my post to turn into a rant.

  8. bluto18

    I watched the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. That kid’s a little prick and he doesn’t deserve any friends.

  9. I’m really surprised people actually said the Goonies, that is a staple movie of the 80s and IMO one of the best 80s films ever made, it shows the time, the kids and the families perfectly if you ask me. No way can I agree with that and NO I dont just add 5 points for Nostalgia, I still love that movie today and watch it frequently.

    I usually dont mind kids in movies that much, but even though I enjoy Phantom Menace quite a bit for being what it was, Jake Lloyd was pretty bad, but again so was the dialog by Lucas, it didnt get any better in Attack of the Clones and the back and forth between Anakin and Pademe was even worse than anything Lloyd had to say IMO, so I cant say I blame Lloyd that much compared to blaming Lucas.

    Home Alone is a classic Christmas movie that I watch every year, absolutely adore that flick, also really liked Real Steel and actually found that kid to be one of the better kids in a movie that I’ve seen in quite some time. So I guess I dont really have an annoying kid movie that I can think of right yet, will have to come back to this topic 😉

  10. hurin

    I thought about adding Anakin from Phantom Menace, but the movie is such a clusterfuck that one more bad thing doesn’t make a difference.

    • Elizabeth

      And if you’ve read the book, you know they could have been much worse. Lex in the book was dead weight the entire time. She wasn’t the computer expert, that was Timmy (who was also the dinosaur expert). Honestly, every woman in that book was portrayed mostly as dead weight.

      Besides, compared to Malcolm’s daughter in Lost World, Timmy and Lex were Oscar caliber performances.

    • William Henley

      Hands down Dakota Fanning’s worst movie! Dakota Fanning was one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood at that time when this movie was made. Not sure how much she made from this movie, but I believe she was averaging $4 million a movie. Why would you pay an actress that much to just look at the camera and scream?

  11. Elizabeth

    How about every Adam Sandler character? Despite the actual age of the characters, he really just keeps playing the same obnoxious (and mostly unfunny) role of a child.

    • Timcharger

      Good one. I thought you were going to mention a kid IN an Adam Sandler film, not the Sandman himself.

      Basically the name Grown Ups is sarcasm.

  12. William Henley

    My biggest issue is any child character that is either dead-weight or who just does not seem to act like a child (or a child their age – ie casting an 11 year old in a row that was clearly written for a 4-year-old).

    Biggest annoyance – any child ever cast on Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: The Original Series. Most annoying has got to be the episode where Picard is stuck on the turbolift with the kids who won the science fair. I think the youngest kid there was 11, one of the boys was a teenager, and they are FREAKING CRYING! I think the only kids cast in the series was Wesley (Not at first, but his character actually started getting decent lines about the same time he left), Naomi in Voyager and Jake in Deep Space 9.

    Ron in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Look at the camera and scream! Actually, ANY of the kids in the first two movies. You just really want to say “couldn’t you have done another take – that was awful!”.

    Poltergeist 2. Actually any of the characters in that movie. The first movie was was great, the second…. actually I think the parents were worse written than the kids. But Carol-Ann’s character in the second movie – the actress is like 8 or 9 years old and still has a toy telephone that a two-year-old would have?

    Brady Bunch – you would think that a show that revolves around six kids, you would have cast kids who could act, better written their characters, and directed them better.

    Penny in the original Lost In Space. Actually all the females in that show. It is probably the worst example of sexism in television – probably why I prefer the chraracters in the movie (the characters, not the story) – at least the characters in the movie had personality and were not dead weight and could do something other than cook dinner and make the beds.

    Judy Garland portraying Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She is MUCH too old for the role. Dorothy is about 7 in the books, and I believe the role was originally supposed to be cast with Shirley Temple, which would have been a bit more believable.

    ALL the kids in the original “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”.

    I may come back later with some more entries. Badly written roles for kids is one of my biggest pet peeves.

    • Josh Zyber

      Asperger’s (which doesn’t even exist as an actual diagnosis anymore) is the go-to cuteness quirk on far too many TV shows these days. Anytime a show introduces a character who behaves oddly, it’s a sure bet we’ll be told that character has Asperger’s. While I don’t watch Parenthood, I kind of agree that I’m getting sick of that trope.

  13. I was thinking Anakin, but then something hit me – how old is Luke supposed to be in the first movie? Seriously, he acts like he is 11, but his twin sister acts like she is 40. Oh wait, I forgot, its Lucas writing characters. Seriously, Anakin at six was less whiney than Luke at 20.

  14. Pedram

    The red headed kid from Problem Child has gotta be the worst ever, but I guess that was the point. 🙂

    The girl with the fake British accent in “Just Go With It” was pretty darn annoying also. Almost even more than the rest of the movie.