The Bad Seed (1956)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Horror  |  12 September 1956 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 9,208 users  
Reviews: 167 user | 77 critic

A housewife suspects that her seemingly perfect 8-year-old daughter is a heartless killer.



(screenplay), (play), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Evelyn Varden ...
Gage Clarke ...
Joan Croydon ...
Claudia Fern (as Joan Croyden)
Henry Daigle


Christine Penmark seems to have it all: a lovely home, a loving husband and the most "perfect" daughter in the world. But since childhood, Christine has suffered from the most terrible recurring nightmare. And her "perfect" daughter's accomplishments include lying, theft and possibly much, much worse. Only Christine knows the truth about her daughter and only Christine's father knows the truth about her nightmare. Written by A.L.Beneteau <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

colonel | dream | death | medal | lying | See All (85) »


For little Rhoda, murder is child's play. See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

12 September 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La mala semilla  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Final theatrical film of Nancy Kelly. Despite earning an Oscar nomination for this film, she never made another theatrical movie, only focusing on TV projects. See more »


When Christine scolds Rhoda for asking for a garnet as well as a turquoise, the reflection of someone, probably Mervyn LeRoy, sitting in a chair with his legs crossed is visible in the coffee pot. Addition: Just to the left of the reflection that is assumed to be LeRoy you can see other crew members moving in the shadow of the door-frame reflected in the coffee pot. See more »


Christine Penmark: You hit him with the shoes, didn't you? You hit him with the shoes, that's how he got those half moon marks on his forehead and on his hands. Answer me, Rhoda. ANSWER ME!
See more »

Crazy Credits

"You have just seen a motion picture whose theme dares to be startlingly different. May we ask that you do not divulge the unusual climax of the story. Thank you." See more »


Referenced in Kate & Allie: The Bad Seed (1985) See more »


Au clair de la lune
Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Lully
Played on the piano by Patty McCormack and whistled by Henry Jones
Played often in the score
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Assured portrayals of real characters in an amazingly chilling film!
5 May 2006 | by (Beverley Hills, England) – See all my reviews

What we have here is a fantastic classic horror film, which benefits from great performances from all concerned and a plot not typical of serial killer films. The film doesn't adhere to convention and builds its story around an idea that was frightening for the time - and still is to this day. The murderer in this film is as evil as any other; the only difference being that here the killings are committed by a decidedly amoral child. The film presents a good portrait of its star, as it presents its ideas very much from a child's point of view. The young girl doesn't see what she's doing as wrong as she is always given a reason to pass on the blame for wrongdoings, and this always comes across in a plausible way. The plot surrounding the atrocities is even more interesting than the central idea, as we follow the torment inflicted on the girl's mother. The situation that Christine Penmark finds herself in is the stuff of nightmares; just what can you do if you find that your eight year old child has committed murder? The Bad Seed makes excellent use of this dilemma, and the fact that it's incredibly easy to buy into the plot ensures that The Bad Seed prevails as an potently chilling film.

The film is based on a stage play by Maxwell Anderson, and this comes across often as the film takes place in just a few settings and the whole thing is very stagy. This is, however, to its benefit; as the locations make the whole piece more claustrophobic, and the fact that we don't see the murders themselves benefits the film immensely as it allows the audience to spend more time considering the implications; which are what the film is actually about. The main reason why this film works so well is down to a great performance by talented child actor Patricia McCormack. McCormack presents a portrayal that finds exactly the right pitch between the sweet and innocent youngster that she appears; and the dark persona that lies just beneath her exterior. Nancy Kelly similarly gives a defining performance as her tortured mother, and excellently puts across a torrent of emotion. The acting is typically melodramatic, but all the cast somehow manage to keep their acting down to earth. Every scene in the movie is perfectly pitched and nothing is wasted as we are continually taught more about the characters and their situations. The climax to the film is fabulously poetic, despite being implemented on the producer's orders and overall, I really don't see much wrong with this film. Highly recommended!

43 of 45 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Was the spanking part of the curtain call in the Broadway production? mcbrbb
Leroy was kinda stupid! barbbeck
Eileen Heckart's performance middsgo-956-41818
Nancy Kelly - 35 years old - good God! cadrega_82
Who do you think should play 'Rhoda' if they ever made a Remake? gitano_apo
What was the Original ending? potato2
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