The Best Movies to Watch on Mother’s Day
Not sure what to do for Mother’s Day? Well, if you want to avoid the brunch crowds and keep it simple, settling in for a mom-centric movie marathon might just be the ticket and we’ve got some recommendations to keep you in the Mother’s Day spirit. If you’ve ever been seated next to your mother in the wrong movie (Say for example, American Psycho at age 15, which I’m still uncomfortable about to this day), you know the value of picking the right film when you’re getting into a movie with mom.
I tried to keep the list light and fun, the kind of stuff you would want to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, sitting around celebrating mom. That said, there’s a proud tradition of weepy motherhood dramas in the vein of Stepmom, Beaches, and Terms of Endearment that might be more your speed if you and your ma’ are the emotional types. So in advance, if you’re looking for mom dramas, you won’t find them here. However, if you’re looking for a good laugh or fun-filled Mother’s Day movie to queue up, check out the list below and sound off in the comments with your favorite mom-centric picks. Whatever you do, just don’t watch the movie Mother’s Day.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
You’ve never seen a tougher mother than Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Set eleven years after the events of the first film, Terminator 2: Judgement Day shows us what it takes to raise the future leader of the human resistance through Sarah Connor and her son John (Edward Furlong). She may be a little tough on the kid, but that’s because the future of the human race is in his hands. In T2, Hamilton and director James Cameron took the shy, sweet Sarah Connor we met in The Terminator and transformed her into an iconic action character and on-screen mother, who not only had to raise a rebellious teenager, but shape him into the man that could prevent human extinction. It’s one of the best and most insanely re-watchable action films of all time, and if you’re looking for something a little less sentimental for your Mother’s Day, Terminator 2 may just be the ticket.
The ultimate family film/superhero hybrid, Brad Bird‘s The Incredibles puts a domestic spin on the popular genre with the Parrs, the perfect suburban nuclear family but for one small detail — they’ve all got superpowers. Pixar knows how to deliver a high-concept adventure, and The Incredibles delivers the goods with a refreshing spin on superheroes, which gave the genre a good skewering long before we entered the age of superhero saturation. When the Parrs are pulled back into the heroic lifestyle by a mysterious transmission, Holly Hunter‘s unwaveringly optimistic mamma bear Helen, aka Elastigirl, holds the family together with a regular string of encouragement and sure-headed guidance. The Incredibles is a rare family film that appeals to adults just as much as children with witty humor and propulsive action.
OK, so this movie is uh, a little ethically challenged to say the least, but you can’t deny the charm of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell at the peak of their early career on-screen charisma. Plus, to borrow a line from our social editor Aubrey Page, Goldie Hawn is mom catnip. Gary Marshall‘s 1987 comedy Overboard stars Hawn as a rude, self-involved rich lady who screws over the wrong handyman, Dean Proffitt (Russell). Her life gets a thorough makeunder when she falls off her yacht, gets a case of amnesia, and Dean gets revenge by convincing her she’s his wife and mother to his four children, getting some free childcare in the process. Russell’s all-American blue-jeans swagger is on full-blast and Hawn taps into her knack for physicality and comedic timing as the baffled woman trying to keep up with the demands of full-time motherhood. Together, the two are at their best, radiating charisma at a dangerous wattage, and despite the fact that the premise has aged in a particularly icky way, they make Overboard a delight.
You might think of Mrs. Doubtfire as more of a Father’s Day film at first glance, but Chris Columbus‘ kids classic is the kind of family film that works for all occasions. In one of his most iconic roles, Robin Williams stars as the titular nanny — who is, in truth, Daniel Hillard, a divorced father so desperate to see his children again that he creates an entirely new persona as a nanny. As Miranda, the mother to the Hillard family, Sally Field acts as a heartfelt anchor for the film through Williams’ hilarious antics. Mrs. Doubtfire never shortchanges the character, though she could have easily been painted as the villain in a divorce dramedy. Instead, we get a well-rounded depiction of a family unit that’s been pulled apart, but still loves each other very much. It’s an all-time family film classic, a legendary comedic performance from the late Williams, and a perfect pick for a nostalgic Mother’s Day.
“I don’t care if you’ve slept with hundreds of men, you’re my mother and I love you!” That’s a real line from Mamma Mia! and it pretty much sums up the vibe. A very goofy, strangely progressive (borderline Bacchanalian) musical inspired by the music of ABBA, Mamma Mia! stars Amanda Seyfried as a young bride-to-be who invites the three men (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard) from her mother’s past to her wedding in the hopes that one of them is her father. The result, as you might expect, is a farcical series of secrets and miscommunications interjected with absurd, flashy musical numbers. And it’s all set in the stunning, sunny splendor of a Greek island. It has Meryl Streep, ABBA tunes, and three strapping lads — what more could you want for a Mother’s Day rollick? Come for a celebration of the mother-daughter bond. Stay for Colin Firth dancing shirtless in the rain.
Nobody does angsty teenager as well as Jamie Lee Curtis. Based on the 1976 family classic of the same name, the 2003 remake of Freaky Friday stars Curtis alongside Lindsay Lohan as a mother/daughter duo who swap bodies and learn to respect each other in the process. The film is a delight (as was the original) and a fine exploration of the mother-daughter dynamics and generational divide that keeps parents from understanding their kids (and vice versa), but the real reason to watch Freaky Friday is Curtis’ uproarious performance as a teen trapped in a business woman’s body. Lohan does fine work in the reverse role, the stringent mother stuck in the sloppy world of her teenage daughter, but she’s essentially playing straight man to Curtis, who’s having the time of her life hamming it up, mastering the apathetic teen slouch and flourish for dramatic outbursts, and she will have you in stitches the whole way through.
Despite what advertising and media would have us believe, women don’t simply disappear after they’ve raised their children and retired from their jobs. They are still thinking, thriving women with wit, charm, and gasp, sexuality. Nigel Cole‘s delightful 2003 comedy Calendar Girls stars Helen Mirren, Julie Waters, and a whole host of proper British ladies who devise an unconventional way to fundraise money for an ill friend — by taking their tops off for a burlesque inspired naughty calendar. Needless to say, their decision rocks the small town, where they all come up against ideas of what’s appropriate for women of their age and struggle with their own images of their aging bodies. Utterly charming, giddy, and good-spirited, Calendar Girls celebrates “women of a certain age,” with a lively, infectious joy.
Even good moms get bad sometimes. Such is the thesis behind the appropriately titled Bad Moms, the breakout hit comedy that bucks against traditional ideas of the perfect housewife and mother in favor of something much more relatable and hilarious. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn star as three mothers who are done trying to live up to impossible expectations. First they start bending the rules, bringing prebaked goods to the bake sale, then they start breaking them, usually in a way that involves alcohol. Ultimately, what they’re all seeking is empowerment, and while Bad Moms always brings the raunchy fun, it’s fundamentally the story of women reclaiming their identities after losing themselves in motherhood.
20th Century Women
As the title might suggest Mike Mills‘ beautiful, heartfelt 20th Century Women is a portrait of womanhood in many forms. But the film finds its heart with Annette Bening‘s Dorothea, a woman earnestly attempting to raise her son as a good man with the help of the odd, but honest people she’s collected in her life and invited into her home. Taking very literal and very direct inspiration from his own mother, Mills grapples with understanding and honoring his late mom (who passed away nearly two decades ago) through the portrait of Dorothea; a generous and charismatic woman, who is also defined by reserved secrecy and self-dependence. The result is a touching portrait of motherhood and womanhood, tinged with Mills’ appreciation for simple human goodness, that serves as a fine reminder that you should call your mother right now.