30 Best Mother’s Day Movies to Watch with Mom
Curl up with popcorn and chocolate (and don't forget tissues!) to watch these great movies that celebrate moms!
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Movie night with Mom
There are lots of great ways to celebrate Mom for Mother’s Day, like getting her a great Mother’s Day gift or honoring her with one of these motherhood quotes. But you can also do something together on or around the special day—and what better way to bond by laughing, crying, or even singing along to a movie about moms and motherhood (or at the very least, with an awesome/relatable/human mom in there somewhere)? Here are 30 of our favorite Mother’s Day movies to watch with your mom (or just to celebrate her!). (If you and Mom are socially distant, consider a Watch Party!) Plus, check out all of our great ideas for celebrating Mother’s Day.
1. Mother’s Day (2016)
Yes, this might be a little on the nose for Mother’s Day movies, but maybe that’s just what you want. Mother’s Day is another one of the late great Garry Marshall’s holiday ensemble films (which include Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve.) This romantic comedy stars Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, and Jennifer Aniston, confronting different aspects of being a mom. The characters each face conflicts with their kids and with their own moms. Margo Martindale turns in a terrific performance as an overbearing mother who needs to face the truth about her daughter’s life. Watch women grapple with accepting stepmoms and coping with adoption in this lighthearted celebration of life as a mom.
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2. Terms of Endearment (1983)
You have the quintessential mother-daughter movie in this 1980s dramedy starring Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger as the two ever-bickering leading ladies who love each other like crazy. MacLaine won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as the grieving and passionate matriarch who can’t let her daughter go. Winger is devastating and moving as the free spirit who just wants her mom’s approval. The perfect film to celebrate the love between moms and daughters.
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3. Little Women (2019)
Little Women is primarily the story of four sisters learning to make their way in the world, but Laura Dern’s Marmee is the rock that holds the family together while her husband is away at war in this 2019 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868–1869 novel. It’s a star-studded, contemporary adaptation that shows a mother raising four very different girls in the Civil War era. You’ll laugh, you’ll tear up, and you’ll feel grateful for your relationships with the women in your life, including Mom.
4. Stella Dallas (1937)
Barbara Stanwyck is a vision in this 1930s weepie about the sacrifices that mothers make for the good of their children. Shot in shimmering black and white, the dramatic story is about a woman determined to climb the social ladder so her daughter can have a better place in society. Stanwyck turns in a winning, moving performance as a woman who can’t quite shed her low-class background. This drama is a searing look at class dynamics and the always-fraught problem of marrying up. It’s one of the movies from the Hollywood classic era that modern audiences still enjoy.
5. Imitation of Life (1959)
Lana Turner and Sandra Dee play a melodramatic mother-daughter team in this dazzling drama directed by the campy and caustic Douglas Sirk. Turner plays an actress who can’t quite help her narcissism and Juanita Moore is her long-suffering best friend and maid. The film takes a searing look at race relations and the social role of independent, single women while it explores the love between moms and their daughters. The costumes glitter, the performances sizzle, and the film still packs an emotional wallop. Keep your tissues handy for the tearjerking ending.
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6. Postcards from the Edge (1990)
A dramedy starring two acting legends, Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep, as mother and daughter and written by Carrie Fisher? Sign us up. Fisher wrote this screenplay based on her novel of the same name, drawing inspiration from her own experiences growing up with her superstar mother Debbie Reynolds. Streep’s character, an actress struggling with a drug addiction, reluctantly moves in with her mother—also an actress, but with a much squeakier image that’s caused Streep’s Suzanne to resent her. You’ll cheer for the way they end up supporting each other.
7. Mother (1996)
Albert Brooks co-wrote, and stars in, this dramedy that also stars Debbie Reynolds (in her first big-time role in more than 20 years!). Brooks plays a writer who, after getting divorced for the second time, starts wondering if he has some mommy issues going on. He moves back in with his mother to see where it all went wrong.
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8. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
Martin Scorsese directed this melodrama about a single mom played by Ellen Burstyn. She’s a woman who tries to make it on her own with her young and smart-alecky son in tow. She ends up waiting tables at Mel’s Diner. The movie inspired the sitcom Alice set in the same restaurant. Kris Kristofferson shows up as a rugged musician who offers a second chance at love. Burstyn won the Best Actress Oscar for her natural turn as a woman transcending struggle. Look for Jodie Foster, still a child, playing the precocious pal of Burnstyn’s little boy.
9. Soul Food (1997)
This film celebrates the power of family traditions—and the challenge for a family to move forward after losing their matriarch. Three sisters living in Chicago have gathered for dinner every Sunday with their mom, Mother Joe. But after Mother Joe passes, family tensions start to bubble to the surface. As the sisters and their significant others navigate romantic tensions and local injustices, Mother Joe’s young grandson comes up with a plan to get them all to work toward healing—knowing it’s what their mother would want. (There’s also an upcoming sequel!)
10. Bad Moms (2016)
Moms fell in love with this ode to rebellious parenthood. Grab your group of mom besties and settle in for some raucous comedy about the stress of PTA meetings and packing school lunches. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn each shine as moms struggling to hold it together in the face of everyday mom madness—and at least one cheating husband. Audiences made this women-centered laugh-fest a huge hit because it felt so relatable while being at the same time totally hilarious.
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11. Motherhood (2009)
OK, maybe another on-the-nose one. Uma Thurman stars as a new mom in the West Village who confronts the seemingly simple task of planning her two-year-old’s birthday party. This slice-of-life film takes place over the course of a single day.
12. Because I Said So (2007)
This rom-com stars a young Mandy Moore and feel-good film veteran Diane Keaton. Moore is Keaton’s youngest, and only single, daughter and Mom is determined to do something about it. As is to be expected, matchmaking by Mom does not go according to plan.
13. Stepmom (1998)
Susan Sarandon plays Ed Harris’s ex-wife and the mother of his two kids. Then Julia Roberts turns up as the titular “stepmom,” a much younger woman. This moving film shows the conflict between the two women, but ultimately illustrates a gorgeous example of women working together and supporting each other for the sake of family. Much of the film takes place at Sarandon’s character’s gorgeous country house with its lush natural surrounding. But bring your box of tissues for when the movie takes a heartrending turn that you may not expect.
14. The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Based on the groundbreaking 1989 novel, this film follows a group of older Chinese immigrant women living in San Francisco, all with adult daughters navigating their identities and the pull between two cultures. How many other Mother’s Day movies can say they were inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”?
15. Mamma Mia! (2008)
Meryl Streep singing and dancing to ABBA tunes on a gorgeous Greek island? You know you are so there! This enchanting musical follows Streep’s character as she prepares for daughter Amanda Seyfried’s wedding. But her daughter wants her dad to be there and since she doesn’t quite know who he is, she invites three possibilities, suitors from her mom’s past. Enter Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, and Stellan Skarsgård. And they’re all singing. What more do you need?
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16. Mildred Pierce (1945)
Joan Crawford stars as the original career woman, Mildred Pierce. She supports her unemployed husband with her awesome kitchen skills, but he can’t handle her independence so they separate. Soon, Mildred’s balancing single motherhood with running her own business. After her marriage ends, instead of sulking she follows her ambitions and soon runs a successful chain of restaurants. And oh yeah, since this is a classic film noir, she’s also being investigated for murder! It’s truly a story about the tenacity of an independent woman and one of our choices for best movies to watch during Women’s History Month.
17. The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are the coupled-up moms at the center of this story about family and adoption. When their grown kids (played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) want to find out about their sperm donor dad (Mark Ruffalo), things get a little crazy. Everyone turns in great performances that capture the stress, angst, and love at the center of families. But the film is a testament to the power and strength of moms, anchored by Bening’s acclaimed and much-nominated performance.
18. Sounder (1972)
This moving drama garnered lead actress Cicely Tyson a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Based on the acclaimed novel set during the Depression, the story looks at a family of sharecroppers who endure untold injustice. Tyson displays strength and fortitude in her strong performance as a mom holding things together after her husband receives a brutally harsh sentence for a petty crime. This film celebrates the courage of a Black family and the love and fortitude of the woman at its center.
19. Erin Brockovich (2000)
Julia Roberts plays the ultimate no-nonsense mother of three while proving that you should never underestimate the strength of single moms. She plays real-life legal activist Erin Brockovich who famously helped win a civil suit for citizens harmed by a corporation in an environmental disaster. Albert Finney gives a great performance as Erin’s grumpy boss. And Aaron Eckhart plays her kind-hearted motorcycle-riding boyfriend. Neither man is a match for this hard-working superwoman of a mother who has no problem investigating corruption in high heels with a baby on her hip.
20. Lady Bird (2017)
This Greta Gerwig film broke Rotten Tomatoes score records upon its release. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf turn in powerhouse performances as a daughter and mother in early-2000s California. It’s a coming-of-age story as Ronan’s Christine—who’s “re-named” herself Lady Bird—figures out who she is and what she wants during her senior year of high school, but her turbulent, funny, and relatable relationship with her mother forms the core of the story. Prepare your tissues.
21. Frozen II (2019)
Frozen and its sequel are primarily thought of as movies about the power of sisterhood—not to mention, the sisters lose both their parents very early on in the first film! So how can the Frozen films be Mother’s Day movies? Well, Frozen II sees Anna and Elsa learning a lot about their parents and the history of their family, culminating in a powerful scene where Elsa connects with her mother. (If you’ve seen it, you know the one!)
22. Mermaids (1990)
Cher plays the single mother of Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci, both kids, in this dramedy. Cher’s character’s unconventional, to say the least, parenting style alienates her daughters and eventually brings them to a small Massachusetts town right next to a convent. The town changes mother and daughter alike in different ways. Ryder and Ricci both won awards for their performances.
23. Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
In a family-friendly film about the power of both mother-daughter relationships and community, Keke Palmer’s Akeelah realizes her talent at spelling and tries to qualify for the National Spelling Bee—against her mother’s wishes. She confronts the massive pressures on her to succeed and the harmful prejudices in the competition. Oh, and superstar Angela Bassett plays her mother (who, spoilers, eventually gets on board).
24. Freaky Friday (2003)
You know the story: A mother and a daughter who barely speak magically switch bodies and must navigate each other’s lives while they find a way to switch back. If you haven’t seen the Jamie Lee Curtis–Lindsay Lohan version since its 2003 release, curl up in front of the TV with Mom and some popcorn for a giggly good time.
25. Dumplin’ (2018)
In this Netflix film set to the music of Dolly Parton, Willowdean Dickson is a plus-size Dolly Parton-loving teen who has a distant relationship with her beauty-queen mom, played by Jennifer Aniston. (It’s her mom who’s given her the nickname “Dumplin’.”) Will signs up for a beauty pageant in an act of protest, further driving a wedge between her and her mom—and they both end up surprised by the results and each other.
26. Anywhere but Here (1999)
This mother-daughter flick stars Susan Sarandon and a young Natalie Portman. In a bit of a role reversal, the mother is free-wheeling and carefree while the daughter is a down-to-earth planner as the pair navigates a spontaneous move to Beverly Hills and diverging dreams.
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27. Room (2015)
If you haven’t yet seen Brie Larson’s Oscar-winning turn in this powerful film, you should check it out and you’ll instantly understand why it’s a staple of any list of Mother’s Day movies. Larson’s Joy has been kidnapped and held captive in a single room, where she gave birth to a son (Jacob Tremblay, in his breakout performance). Now five, her son has no knowledge of the world outside the room. After Joy enacts a plan to get them both to freedom, she struggles to both acquaint her son and reacquaint herself to a world that feels strange and unusual to them both—and deal with her own parents’ conflicted reaction to her child.
28. 20th Century Women (2016)
In this generation-spanning slice-of-life film, Annette Bening is a single mother struggling to connect with her teenage son in 1979 California. She reaches out to her 20-something tenant, played by Greta Gerwig, and her son’s best friend, played by Elle Fanning, for some advice and help and ends up getting more than she bargained for. The Golden Globe-nominated film explores romance, society’s perceptions of women, and—you guessed it—motherhood.
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29. The Guilt Trip (2012)
If you missed this quirky comedy starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, add it to your list of Mother’s Day movies. Rogen’s science-savvy entrepreneur prepares to embark on a cross-country road trip, and when he learns about the lost love of his mother’s life, he invites her to join him. Streisand’s Joyce keeps things interesting as she constantly comments on and intervenes in her son’s life choices in the way only a concerned mom can.
30. Away We Go (2009)
Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski are a comedy dream team in this limited-release film that shows how parents start trying to make the perfect life for their child before it’s even born yet. When Verona (Rudolph) becomes pregnant, she and her boyfriend Burt (Krasinski), who were already struggling to find their place, decide they need to set down roots and set about finding the perfect place. They deal with the external pressures to parent a certain way while dealing with disappointments from their own families.