The Top Ten Mother’s Day Films of All-Time

For every holiday there exists a list of accompanying films. Mother’s Day is no exception. Through out the years, there have been plenty of films that have shown audiences the role of a mother from several different perspectives, which I believe is important.

The films you’ll see here cover several genres. Some are comedies. Some are dramas. Some are horror, action or science fiction. What remains constant is the overall theme: these are stories of mothers who want the best for their children as well as the rest of their families.

Once again, this list doesn’t include TV films but may include a short film or two. As always, if you’re not in agreement or have a movie you wanna talk about, holla at ya’ boy in the comments.

These are my Top Ten Mother’s Day Films of All-Time.

10) Jerry Maguire (1996)


Yes, the movie’s main character is a guy (played by Tom Cruise, no less). But the movie’s heart and soul revolves around two mothers: Dorothy Boyd, played by Renee Zellweger and Marcee Tidwell, played by Regina King. Both actresses bring Oscar-caliber performances (the wouldn’t win them for this film, but would for films later in their careers) to their roles as the two work to balance their children and the men in their lives. Zellweger plays Boyd to a tee, a single mother who has “been to the puppet show and seen the strings”, according to Jerry’s only client, Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). She doesn’t mind the company from men but her entire life is her son, Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki) who she brings up in a home with her somewhat obtuse but protective sister, Laurel. (Bonnie Hunt). It’s never what’s best for her, it’s what’s best for Ray. For Marcee, she already has a strong presence among her children (the part where she immediately disciplines her son for shouting “THAT’S MY MOFO” during one of his dad’s football games is so true to life) and watching her fight for her family is absolute thing of beauty.


Jerry has been negotiating Rod’s NFL contract…which has turned out to be far less than what Rod and his wife were expecting. Rod is visibly upset and heartbroken. Marcee is fed up with Jerry’s inability to get Rod paid what he’s worth and threatens to dump Jerry for his former employer — until Dorothy reminds the family that Jerry is broke, working for the Tidwells for free and he actually, truly cares for the family, unlike his competition. A shaken Rod begins to accept his fate as a paycheck player — until Marcee centers him and reminds him of who he truly is. The scene is emotionally satisfying and beautiful and reminds viewers that behind most good men is an incredibly strong woman.

9) The Kids Are All Right (2010)


A married same-sex couple (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore) invites the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo), who is biologically responsible for the creation of their kids, to dinner and, soon, into their family which starts well but begins to become complicated. Jules (Moore) is bisexual and feels underappreciated by Nic (Bening) and ends up having an affair with Paul, the donor (Ruffalo) while Nic struggles to keep the fabric of her family intact as her kids are becoming adults with the oldest getting ready for college. The movie features incredible performances by all involved and shows viewers that family and motherhood isn’t always black and white.


The dinner scene where Nic grills Paul about his lack of education and disdain for college — all which Paul explains in front of Joni, Nic’s college bound daughter. Both mothers and children can identify with this scene.

8) The Joy Luck Club (1993)


It examines the stories of four Chinese women, born in the United States, to their mothers who were all immigrants from China. The film is emotionally harrowing as each mother and daughter examine their pasts which end up leading to a strengthening of their respective relationships.


The emotional showdown between Suyuan Woo (Kieu Chinh) and her daughter, June Woo (Ming-Na Wen) as June tearfully admits that she has come in far below her mother’s expectations — which weren’t expectations at all. Suyuan explains to June what she really wanted for her daughter and also tells her why she’s most proud of June.

7) Postcards From the Edge (1990)


Call this the darker sister of 1983’s “Terms of Endearment”. Adapted by the late Carrie Fisher from her own “semi-autobiography”, it tells the story of actress Suzanne Vale (Meryl Streep) who is attempting to restart her life after getting out of rehab in an attempt to kick a Cocaine-Percodan addiction. But, in order to return to work, she’s ordered to live with a “responsible adult” who will keep her in line because the studio’s insurance won’t cover her otherwise. This puts her on a collision course with her controlling, obnoxious mother, Doris (Shirley MacLaine) who treats her like a little kid. Ironically, it takes Doris’s drinking problem for them to reconcile in a film that’s difficult to watch but is no less compelling and hits home for anyone who has had to go back home after taking a personal fall.


The scene where Suzanne is told that she has to live with somebody “responsible” which nearly erupts into a verbal spat between mother and daughter right in front of Vale’s studio head.

6) Terms of Endearment (1983)


It’s one of the greatest mother-daughter films of all-time and one that’s impeccably cast, written and directed, all despite the ironic notion that Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine didn’t get along on set. It tells the story of Emma Horton (Winger) who clashes with her domineering mother (MacLaine) on a near-daily basis. Emma marries a bookish college professor (Jeff Daniels) and ends up in financial trouble which goes hand in hand with eventual marital discord. Despite being at odds with her mother, Emma remains close to her because it’s a bond that can never truly be broken, which is the ultimate lesson here. MacLaine is excellent as Aurora, a strong woman who will claw, bite and scratch for her kid, despite the fact that Emma is sometimes biting, clawing and scratching to get away from her. The movie does the service of showing us that the strict, tough love we get from our mothers is often for the best.


Easily, Aurora losing her patience with the hospital nursing staff and she screams at them for being complacent and apathetic towards her dying daughter by delaying her shot for the unrelenting pain Emma is going through. This scene, alone, shows why MacLaine won the Oscar for this film.

5) The Babadook (2014)


As much as it’s a slow-burn horror flick with some of the most creepy, original visuals ever captured on film, it’s very much a metaphor about the trials of motherhood, showcasing the frustration, the stress and the outright horror when a parent is plagued by something they are unable to grasp, leaving them unable to stop it or help their child. Essie Davis’s performance as Amelia Vanek is incredible as she plays a mother who is forced to bring her 6 year old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), up by herself after the tragic death of her husband. After reading a mysterious pop-up book called “Mr. Babadook” to him at her son’s request, Samuel becomes inexplicably haunted by the titular character, a creepy, pale-looking humanoid with a top hat and taloned fingers or claws. But is it really haunting Samuel? Or is this a manifestation of Amelia’s miserable psyche? Regardless, the movie stays with you long after it’s over and should resonate with any mother who has ever been frustrated with parenting.


Amelia vs. The Babadook, presented without commentary.

4) Juno (2007)


It gives you the perspective of motherhood from the eyes of a 16-year-old teenager named Juno (Ellen Page) who had sex with a high school friend (Michael Cera) and became pregnant. At 16, you’re barely ready to get up for school, let alone being a parent and the film explores Juno’s journey as she goes from shrugging teen to responsible mother. The cast is excellent, rounded out by the great J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney who play Juno’s incredibly supportive parents, Mac and Bran, respectively. The clever (and sometimes quirky) script is written by Diablo Cody, who was influenced by her own high school experiences.


Juno reveals the news of her pregnancy to her parents, a scene that’s as awkward as it is humorous and incredibly real.

3) Baby Boom (1987)


J.C. Wiatt is a businesswoman who has it all: a go-getter attitude which has propelled her into a six-figure job and a beautiful residence in the bustling city of New York. She’s even set to inherit a little something from a deceased family member…which ends up being the one thing she doesn’t have which unravels everything she’s built: a baby girl. Diane Keaton’s performance is outstanding and elevates a comedy which, on paper, looks basic and by-the-numbers. To judge it that way is at any movie fan’s peril. In “Baby Boom”, Keaton gives us a successful businesswoman knocked off her pedestal and forced to summon motherly instincts she didn’t know she had before rebuilding what she lost and sticking it to a world run by men by showing them that women really do have the ability to run the world around them. The film is hilarious, exhausting, and rewarding and will resonate with any 9-to-5 Mom who has ever had to balance work with the children who depend on them.


Wiatt has moved to the country after living in the big city for so long…and she’s not used to the many issues which come with it like caving roofs, broken radiators and dry wells all during the incredibly cold and snowy East Coast winter seasons. Here, she finally reaches the end of her rope when she figures out she has no more well water and can’t simply “fill it up with more”. (Sorry for the quality. For some reason, MGM doesn’t have many clips and won’t allow people to upload them.)

2) Auntie Mame (1958)


So many reasons. Rosalind Russell gives what I consider to be the performance of her career which should have won her the Best Actress Oscar she was nominated for. The film is based on Patrick Dennis’s novel of the same name and is about a young boy by the name of Patrick (Jan Handzlik – young/Roger Smith – older) who, following the death of his father, is tasked to live with his Aunt, one Mame Dennis, a free-spirited, eccentric and adventurous woman whose personal mantra is “Life is banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” The film follows Mame as she guides Patrick through life and teaches him how to truly live much to the chagrin of Patrick’s trustee, Dwight Babcock who wants Patrick brought up “properly” like his father wanted. Despite the chaotic, care-free occurrences in Mame’s residence, Patrick learns about the cultures of the world around him — but eventually nearly succumbs to the outside world Mame does her best to avoid. The movie is absolute magic, filmed in glorious and colorful 70 millimeter (and cannot be experienced any other way) and features some of the sharpest writing and quick-witted dialogue I’ve seen in a film. But more importantly, the bond between Mame and Patrick is undeniable and the film has the ability to make you double over in laughter as well as make you cry tears of bittersweet joy.


The part where Mame immediately becomes a mother by tucking Patrick in during his first night there is great…but the confrontation between Mame and a much older Patrick has so much power to it.

1) Mother (1996)

MOTHER, Debbie Reynolds, Albert Brooks, 1996


“Mother” covers everything. It’s about a science fiction writer named John Henderson (Albert Brooks, who also wrote and directed the film) who has just gone through his second divorce and can’t figure out why his relationships end in failure — so he conducts an experiment: he decides to go and live with his mother, Beatrice Henderson (Debbie Reynolds, in her first starring role since the 1960’s) to see if maybe there was something he missed in his relationship with her. Everything here is down to earth. Everything is believable from the minor debates and passive aggressive exchanges between John and his mom which includes everything from how to properly clean a room to the incredulousness of Beatrice’s grocery list (and the contents of her fridge). Reynolds plays Beatrice as an elderly mother who has accepted her failures in life and is set in her ways while John has come to her, seemingly too late, to try to unearth and unlock any further pearls of wisdom she might have for him. This was peak Albert Brooks with regard to his writing and directing. He basically plays himself here, the easy-going, yet terribly analytical son who most moviegoers would identify with and Reynolds is flawless, giving a performance that somehow went overlooked by just about every single awards organization. “Mother” is the best Mother’s Day Film of All-Time.


I have to combine two clips because it’s all one scene. John is offered a late-night snack as he settles into his first night back at his Mom’s. This is priceless.


Bao (2018) – From Pixar. A short animated film, telling the story of a Chinese mother living in Canada whose homemade steamed bun (or “Baozi”) comes to life, prompting her to raise it from infant to adult. The film seems strange until the final, emotional reveal of the overall metaphor of a mother at odds with her estranged son.

Aliens (1986) – A feminist’s action film with Sigourney Weaver battling aliens while playing a surrogate mother to a young girl who has survived the alien takeover of her colony. It’s not your typical “Mother’s Day film”, per se, but still showcases a strong bond between a mother and a would-be daughter.

Psycho (1960) – Classic Hitchcock. Anthony Hopkins plays the Norman Bates, an adult who never truly grew up thanks to a domineering mother who always kept him under her thumb and mentally scarred him so much, he was never truly able to let her go…saying any more than that would be criminal.

As Good As It Gets (1997) – I would have included it in the Top Ten except that the relationship between Carol (Helen Hunt) and her son, Spencer (Jesse James) doesn’t really take center stage. When it does, though, it’s very moving and any mother would identify with Carol as she cares for her son, who has a major problem with asthma and is seemingly unable to improve his health.

One Fine Day (1996) – This would have also been in the Top Ten, except it’s more of a co-op between two very caring parents, played by George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer. It is one film that any parent can identify with as it features a story about two parents who are forced to look after each other’s kids after they miss the ride to their school field trip. The film is exhausting as the kids drive both parents crazy as they attempt to balance them and their professional lives. Severely underrated and I have no idea why the film was a failure with critics or the box office.

Matt Perri
Matt Perri is one of those literary Ronin you’ve never heard of until he shows up and tells you he’s a literary Ronin. He’s a native Californian, a film buff, old school gamer geek, and a sports/entertainment fan. A lifelong Giants, 49ers and Sharks fan, he also covers the world of pro-wrestling, writing recaps for WWE Monday Night RAW and Total Divas at Scott’s Blog of Doom. You can follow the guy on Twitter via @PerriTheSmark as well as here at The Workprint and his own blog, Matt's Entertainment.

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