Mother’s Day movies that pull at ALL the heartstrings

Mother’s Day movies that pull at ALL the heartstrings
  • PublishedMay 12, 2024

Mothers may be the original muse.

This Mother’s Day Weekend, take a look at some of the most emotional movies inspired by moms. There’s bound to be something in here that will make the perfect watch for you and mom (or, you and child).

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ (2022)

Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in "Everything Everywhere All at Once."

Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Allyson Riggs/A24

While this film was an Oscar darling that received heaps of praise, it’s easy to miss the simple fact that behind its fun title and crazy metaverse trappings, “Everything Everywhere” is about a mother’s unflinching love for her daughter in crisis. The climactic scene in the parking lot of the family laundromat is impressive for the emotional acrobatics and acts of love that rival any of the spectacle that comes before it.

‘Guilt Trip’ (2012)

Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand in "Guilt Trip."

Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand in “Guilt Trip.” Paramount Pictures

Although this silly movie is mainly a road trip-meets-buddy comedy of sorts – with Barbra Streisand as a hilariously overbearing mom – “Guilt Trip” contains some emotional moments that show a child (Seth Rogen, at his awkward best) reapproaching and reassessing his relationship with his at-times irritating mother as not only a parent, but as a friend and confidante. The last shot utilizes some of the best background acting work that really drives home the universality of moms and motherhood.

‘Home Alone’ (1990)

Catherine O'Hara and Macaulay Culkin in "Home Alone."

Catherine O’Hara and Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone.” 20th Century Fox

Also a fixture on most Christmas movie lists, this beloved franchise-spawning movie stems from a simple yet major oversight that is immortalized by Catherine O’Hara’s closeup and incredulous utterance of, “KEVIN!!!” Her character’s love for her son is the driving force of “Home Alone,” and O’Hara even mentioned it late last year when her onscreen son Macaulay Culkin received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

‘Real Women Have Curves’ (2002)

Lupe Ontiveros and America Ferrera in "Real Women Have Curves."

Lupe Ontiveros and America Ferrera in “Real Women Have Curves.” HBO Films

This entertaining movie pits America Ferrera against her mom – the late and great Lupe Ontiveros (“Selena”) – when they differ on whether she should go to college or stay home and provide for the family. The film explores generational and cultural gaps in a Mexican-American family to often hilarious and insightful effect.

‘Georgia Rule’ (2007)

Felicity Huffman, Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan in "Georgia Rule."

Felicity Huffman, Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan in “Georgia Rule.” Moviestore/Shutterstock

Another look at a family and the intergenerational dynamics between mothers and daughters, this underrated drama stars Jane Fonda as a strict grandmother weathering her unruly granddaughter played by Lindsay Lohan, and daughter (Felicity Huffman) in full-blown crisis mode. Although the film was overshadowed by on-set drama, Lohan in particular knocks it out of the park with a layered performance.

‘Soul Food’ (1997)

Vanessa Williams, Irma P. Hall and Vivica A. Fox in "Soul Food."

Vanessa Williams, Irma P. Hall and Vivica A. Fox in “Soul Food.” Twentieth Century Fox

When family matriarch Josephine “Big Mama” Joseph (Irma P. Hall) falls into a coma, her daughters – played by Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox and Nia Long – are sent reeling. As they struggle to adjust to the new normal, old sisterly rivalries come up, new bonds are formed, and traditions – specifically, that of Sunday family dinner – are upheld.

The Julia Roberts corner

Sally Field and Julia Roberts in "Steel Magnolias."

Sally Field and Julia Roberts in “Steel Magnolias.” Moviestore/Shutterstock

Julia Roberts has more than held her own on screen as both a mother and a daughter, first with her Oscar-nominated performance in the 1989 tearjerker “Steel Magnolias,” in which she played a diabetic woman who challenges her worried mother’s (Sally Field) advice to not have a child of her own over fears for her health. “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special” is just one of the memorable quotes from the film. In 1998, Roberts took on the role of the titular “Stepmom” opposite Susan Sarandon in another cry-inducing drama, but it was her turn as overwhelmed legal assistant and mother-of-three in 2000’s “Erin Brockovich” that finally scored her an Academy Award, and deservedly so.

‘Monster’s Ball’ (2001)

Coronji Calhoun and Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball."

Coronji Calhoun and Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball.” Lionsgate Films

This one’s a doozy. Halle Berry won an Oscar for playing the wife of a death row inmate struggling to make ends meet and provide for her son. The story takes on Book of Job proportions as Berry’s character is faced with ever-mounting tragedy, while an unlikely bond somehow gives her the strength to move forward.

‘The Darjeeling Limited’ (2007)

Anjelica Huston "The Darjeeling Limited."

Anjelica Huston “The Darjeeling Limited.” Fox Searchlight/Kobal/Shutterstock

This odd and engrossing movie from Wes Anderson reminds us that a mother’s love can come in many forms, and can change, sometimes drastically. The film follows three brothers – played by Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson – as they search for their mother who has defected to India after their father’s death. While they don’t exactly get what they’re looking for when they find her, they each embark on a journey that ultimately helps them grow and evolve.

‘The Joy Luck Club’ (1993)

"The Joy Luck Club."

“The Joy Luck Club.” Hollywood Pictures

Based on the acclaimed novel by Amy Tan, this sprawling drama follows a posse of Chinese women in San Francisco who meet regularly to play Mahjong. Invariably, tales of history and family collide as the women reflect on their lives and those that came before them – as well as the wellbeing of their daughters – with vignettes and flashbacks that bridge generations and continents.

You can’t go wrong with Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep in "Sophie’s Choice."

Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s Choice.” ITC Entertainment

Often referred to as the greatest actress of her generation, some of Meryl Streep’s most searing work comes from her performances as a mother. Her Oscar-winning portrayal of a woman who leaves her husband and young son in 1979’s “Kramer Vs. Kramer” challenged societal expectations at the time. Three years later, Streep again won Oscar gold playing a woman trying to survive the Holocaust in an unspeakably horrific situation with her two children in “Sophie’s Choice.” In 1990, she played daughter to Shirley MacLaine in the hilarious yet heartfelt “Postcards from the Edge,” based on Carrie Fisher’s memoir of being raised by Hollywood star Debbie Reynolds (who starred in another brilliant Mother’s Day movie – Albert Brooks’ “Mother” in 1996). Other standout Streep-as-mom performances include her 1994 turn as a badass whitewater rafting expert in “The River Wild,” and as a dysfunctional mother to Leonardo DiCaprio and sister to Diane Keaton in 1996’s “Marvin’s Room.” (There’s also two films in which she played mothers stricken with cancer – “One True Thing” opposite Renée Zellweger in 1998, and 2013’s “August: Osage County,” which pitted Streep as a vitriolic mother against her daughters, one of whom was played by Julia Roberts.)

‘Baby Boom’ (1987)

Diane Keaton in "Baby Boom."

Diane Keaton in “Baby Boom.” United Artists

Speaking of Diane Keaton, “Baby Boom” is an ’80s gem that sees the comedic actress holding her own as a high-powered executive in her “Me Decade” prime, only to be thrown a curveball when a distant relative dies and leaves her a… baby to raise. The fish-out-of-water antics are amusing as handled by Keaton, as she learns to eventually embrace her role as de facto mother while also launching a new baby food line. If you’re a fan of Keaton, another excellent go-to (again, overlapping into Xmas movie territory) is “The Family Stone,” a thoroughly enjoyable 2005 romp with the actress playing the matriarch of a clan dealing with one son’s less-than-desirable choice for a mate (played to irksome effect by Sarah Jessica Parker). Make sure to keep the tissue box nearby though.

‘Terms Of Endearment’ (1983)

Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger in "Terms Of Endearment."

Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger in “Terms Of Endearment.” Zade Rosenthal/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

Hold on to those tissue boxes for this one too. Shirley MacLaine won an Oscar for playing always-about-her Aurora Greenway in what is arguably the mother of all mother-daughter movies, “Terms of Endearment.” The James L. Brooks-directed dramedy follows Aurora’s all-consuming relationship with her daughter Emma, played by an equally impressive Debra Winger, as the pair navigate love and family within their respective lives. When Aurora is confronted with her daughter’s sudden illness, her love and ferocity is on full display, especially in an indelible scene at the hospital when she asks the nurse to “give her the shot!!

‘Room’ (2015)

Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson in "Room."

Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson in “Room.” Caitlin Cronenberg/Element/Shutterstock

Another visceral entry is “Room,” in which Brie Larson turned in an Academy Award-winning performance as an abducted woman who strives to create an entire world for her son in the single room to which they’re permanently bound. The movie oscillates between being a reflective study on the perseverance of the human spirit and a pulse-pounding thriller showing a mother’s desperate attempt to gain freedom for her child.

‘Aliens’ (1986)

Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn in "Aliens."

Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn in “Aliens.” Twentieth Century Fox

A thrilling sci-fi sequel wouldn’t immediately be the first place you’d think to look for authentic mother-child drama, but James Cameron’s acclaimed entry in this franchise follows Sigourney Weaver’s central heroine Ellen Ripley as she wakes up after an accidentally prolonged bout of hypersleep to discover that her daughter back on earth has died of old age. Lost, Ripley eventually falls in with a platoon dispatched to the planet from 1979’s first “Alien” film, where she discovers a lone survivor named Newt (Carrie Henn). Ripley naturally takes Newt under her wing and they soon face off with the Alien Queen, in what becomes the ultimate showdown between two really pissed off mothers. Watching the director’s cut of this Oscar-winning film is highly encouraged.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *