A-List: Best Movies About Motherhood
By J. Don Birnam
April 28, 2016
As we await with bated breath the beginning of the summer blockbuster season, we take a look at some of the best movies about motherhood ever made. This weekend’s release, the perhaps aptly named Mother’s Day, is another one of those ensemble rom-coms that looks terribly irresistible and assuredly disappointing. Movies about motherhood, of course, aren’t exactly novel - one might argue most movies at some level express the filmmakers’ anxieties about their relationships with their mothers. Today we will focus on those that focus on the challenges of a mother vis-à-vis the relationship with the child - send us your thoughts, if you dare, on Twitter.
Because the list is plentiful, I’ll try to narrow down the rules. I’m excluding Pedro Almodóvar films - he is overdue for an A-List anyway, and most if not all his movies, from All About My Mother to Volver, have powerful mother figures. I’m also excluding movies that feature single mothers in difficult roles, examples of which include A Place in the Heart and Mrs. Miniver. Those women are more aptly about womanhood, and less about motherhood as such. The same goes for great movies like Ordinary People and August: Osage County, which feel more about family ties than necessarily about motherhood alone.
Then, there are the easy rom-coms which do not really belong on this list - undoubtedly you are familiar with Jane Fonda’s Monster in Law and Julia Roberts’ Stepmom. Good movies, of course, but only deserving of honorable mentions.
Finally, we’ll disqualify other movies that are strong about mothers but that we have discussed in the past - from Sophie’s Choice when we talked about Meryl Streep movies, to The Manchurian Candidate when we discussed movies about politics.
All of those mentions aside, then, I will try to focus on movies that really are about mothers and some of the challenges that either they or their children face in dealing with them - Norman Bates’ mother in Psycho not included.
5. Heartbreakers (2001)
Where Stepmom and Monster In Law, or even The Family Stone are funny or touching movies about mothers, Sigourney Weaver’s Heartbreakers is truly outlandish and unique in the story of motherhood.