Finding a good flick you and your son can both enjoy takes one word: compromise. You may want a comedy, he may want an action movie; how do you both settle on a great film? This list of movies to watch with your son can help.
Turns out streaming platforms are full of great films, both foreign and domestic, that look at the tender topic of mother-son relationships. Some are silly, some will leave you reaching for your box of Kleenex, but all tell important truths about what it means to
raise a boy.
Depending on your son’s age, you might select a
cartoon or a deep dive documentary that looks at another family’s real life struggles and successes. And it doesn’t have to be any special occasion to invite your son to sit a spell for a little movie magic. The collective experience of bonding over a movie is timeless and a good choice regardless of the season. You might even find that when you’re having trouble relating to your boy, watching a movie together could help you find common ground or knock down walls that seem to be standing in your way. Or you can just enjoy the shared experience of silently enjoying a film together. 1 Yes Day
If your son has ever called you uptight or no fun, watch “Yes Day” with him. The Netflix original film starring Jennifer Garner is all about a mom who can’t seem to marry her fun-loving past with her role as a mother. But when she vows to say yes to everything they want for one day only, her true colors are revealed.
2 The Mitchells vs.The Machines
While the star of this movie is Katie Mitchell, who is film school bound until her bumbling dad insists on a family road trip, her brother’s relationship with his mom is a big part of the cartoon too. And the hilarious way this family supports one another makes for a great mother/son movie.
3 The Land Before Time
In this vintage cartoon, Littlefoot, a baby Apatosaurus, is orphaned when his mother is killed while protecting from a carnivore. But her advice on how to get to the Great Valley may just save his life.
4 Finding O’Hana
In this children’s adventure film, a single mother brings her son and daughter back to Hawaii when her father suffers a heart attack. There the kids find adventure but on their hunt for buried treasure, they stretch the limits of their mother’s patience.
5 Bigfoot Family
Here’s a film you can watch with your son. In this cartoon a boy discovers that not only is his Dad Bigfoot, but he has the same powers as well. When the boy’s dad decides to use his fame to protect a wildlife preserve from big oil drilling in Alaska, he and his mom journey to rescue him.
What’s a mom to do when her boy is all grown up and has seemingly forgotten her? Remind him, that’s what. This comedy-drama starring Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette and Felicity Huffman takes a humorous and heartfelt look at what it means to be a mama when your boy has grown and flown.
7 Other People
Another movie that looks at a mother and son dealing with a cancer diagnosis, this one stars Saturday Night Live’s Molly Shannon and her son Jesse Plemons (of Friday Night Lights fame) as he returns from his start-up career in comedy to take care of his dying mother. Expect laughter through your tears on this one.
8 Hidden in Plain Sight
What lengths would you go to protect your child? That’s the premise of this indie film about a mother who fakes her own death and her son’s to escape an abusive partner.
Cruel parenting is the topic of this mother/son movie from Japan. How can a son manage to thrive while being raised by a suffocating mother with ulterior motives? You’ll have to see to find out.
10 American Son
Race, biracial marriage, and social commentary on police brutality are all interwoven in this emotional film about a couple whose son has gone missing. As they peel back the onion, they discover their son and two Black friends were pulled over by a police officer. Later, a bystander video shows an officer shooting at a fleeing suspect, and the true devastation of the situation is revealed.
11 20th Century Women
Raising a young boy into a man is and has always been a challenge for mothers of any generation, as this movie shows. Starring Annette Bening as a single mom trying to raise an only son, she turns to two unique but wildly different young women (Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning) for help.
12 Notes for my Son
Break out the tissue box, this 2020 Argentinian drama is a real tearjerker. In it a mom suffering from cancer decides to write a one-of-a-kind notebook so that her four-year-old will remember her after she dies.
13 Hillbilly Elegy
Whether you read J. D. Vance’s memoir of the same name, a book that looked at wealth inequality, drug addiction, family, and his fight to break beyond this Appalachian upbringing, you can still appreciate the mother-son story of this film. Vance and his mother (played by Amy Adams) must navigate their relationship in spite of her addictions, a heart wrenching portrait of unconditional love.
14 Shonar Pahar
Can an elderly Indian woman’s broken relationship with her own son be mended through the help of an unlikely friendship with a 7-year-old boy? That’s what this emotional tale, based loosely on the screenwriter’s real life, examines.
15 Searching for Bobby Fischer
This is an oldy, but it’s worth revisiting. Bobby Fischer was a chess prodigy. But the movie isn’t about Bobby, it’s about another boy, Josh, with equally remarkable chess abilities and the lengths his parents will go to develop them, something every mother has certainly asked herself.
16 Franca: Chaos and Creation
What’s it like to grow up the son of the Italian Vogue editor? You can find out by watching this documentary by Franca Sozzani’s son, Francesco Carrozzini. Spurred on after the death of his father, he decides there’s only one way to find out more about his mother: ask.
17 Back to the Future
Granted, the storyline of Back to the Future is a little convoluted, but the appeal remains, and in this funny film a young man goes back in time to make sure his parents fall in love — the ultimate “be the hero of your own story” tale a son would likely appreciate.
18 Marriage Story
Take Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver and put them in a movie together and it’s almost guaranteed to be great. But Marriage Story is especially poignant because it’s all about the grief of divorce and what that means for a son stuck in the middle of it all.
19 The Fundamentals of Caring
Paul Rudd becomes the caretaker for a teen with disabilities and in doing so we see the trying and touching relationship the young man has with his overwhelmed mother. Inspirational and humorous, you won’t have to blow your nose the entire time.
20 The Dig
An emotional tale about a mother and son tucked into a story all about an extraordinary archeological dig, this based-on-real life film will leave you clutching your heart in its final moments and looking to give your boy a big hug.
21 The Impossible
If you prefer your emotive film moments with an additional dash of high impact thrill, then consider The Impossible all about the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts play parents of three boys who must navigate this harrowing experience to find safety.
The beauty of watching film depictions of some of the toughest and most touching times in a mother-son relationship is you can turn the movie off at the end and then go live your real life with your own boy, having learned a greater truth along the way. Now go give your son a big ol’ squeeze.