It’s hard to put what motherhood is into words. Poets have tried,
songwriters have penned tunes, but perhaps the best medium that depicts motherhood accurately is film — all the more reason to settle in with one of these best Mother’s Day movies with your loved ones this year.
Full of heart and humor, these flicks personify the mother's experience, from its frustrations to its epiphanies, failures to wins. Who can’t relate to Shelley Long’s hilarious mom determination as a
Troop Beverly Hills Wilderness Girls leader committed to helping her feckless scouts win the Jamboree? Or the heartache of a mom losing her daughter in Steel Magnolias? Or the plight of Maya Rudolph’s character in Away We Go as she and her husband (played by John Krasinski) search to find a home to raise their new baby?
The best Mother’s Day movies will hone in on a
specific yet universal part of motherhood familiar to mamas the world over — from the surprises of a new baby to the challenges of raising an angsty tween — then mine it for laughs and poignant pauses. And if watching something a Mother’s Day movie like that doesn’t sound incredibly therapeutic this holiday, what does?
So pop some popcorn, grab some Junior Mints, and snuggle in for a little screen time that’s all about the all too familiar #momlife.
1 Yes Day
The stuff of childhood dreams, on one day only an uptight mom concedes to her kids to say “yes” to everything they ask of her.
stars Jennifer Garner and Édgar Ramírez as the parents who give their three kids 24 hours of control. The whirlwind day of fun results in a chore-free, sundae-eating, Kool-Aid balloon throwing free for all. But is it a perfect world when kids get to run the show? That’s what you’ll find out when you watch this Netflix original. However, a word of caution. If you watch this with your children, chances are, they’re going to ask for their own Yes Day. Yes Day Stream Yes Day on Netflix. 2 Miss Juneteenth
A mom and her rebellious daughter (sound familiar?) find common ground when they team up to get the daughter a college scholarship by enrolling her in a beauty pageant in
. Mom, a beauty pageant alum, struggles to direct her daughter while making ends meet as a single parent. In this touching story, the lengths any mom will go for their child are made clear and the ways in which a child can misinterpret that love are exposed. The good news? This story has a happy ending moms and daughters can appreciate. Miss Juneteenth Stream Miss Juneteenth on Amazon Prime. 3 King Richard
The role of Venus and Serena Williams' larger-than-life father may be the focus of this Academy Award-winning movie starring Will Smith, but let’s not forget the powerful depiction it shows of the girls’ mother, Oracene Price played by Aunjanue Ellis. As
depicts, the working nurse was the glue that kept her large family together from the courts of Compton to the big stage at Wimbledon. And while Richard may have gotten all the glory, Oracene’s steadfast commitment to her family, the movie suggests, was foundational to the success of the greatest tennis stars’ on the planet. King Richard Stream King Richard on Apple TV. 4 Lady Bird
Whether you can relate to
herself (Saoirse Ronan) or her frustrated mother (played by Lauren Metcalf), there’s plenty to appreciate in this touching coming of age tale from writer and director Greta Gerwig. Like, did you ever fall out of the car as your mom was driving because you were so annoyed by her? No? But can you empathize, right? Thought so. The course of motherhood never did run smooth, and if you’ve ever had to hide in a closet to scream because your child is driving you crazy, then you’ll relate to this hilarious Mother’s Day movie. Lady Bird Stream Lady Bird on Netflix. 5 Mother’s Day
If this movie sounds a little too on the nose for this list, you’re right. In this star-studded film (see: Jason Sudeikis, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, and Jennifer Aniston) a series of parents find themselves navigating a host of issues that all come to a head on, naturally,
. There’s a single mom whose ex just got remarried. There’s a super dad trying to play the role of both parents. There’s a woman who avoids her mom. And an adopted daughter searching for her biological mom. But even with all of these tricky relationships, on Mother’s Day reconciliation becomes possible. Mother’s Day Stream Mother’s Day on YouTube. 6 Juno
A tale of two mothers is interwoven in this quirky classic as young Juno must reveal to her parents that she’s pregnant. How her own mother reacts and how Juno navigates her pregnancy as a high schooler is as touching as it is devastatingly poignant. And how she has to make the brave decision to let someone else mother her baby is just as powerful. It doesn’t matter if you had a child at 16 or 36, the themes in the cult classic
will move anyone who has carried a child. Juno Stream Juno on Starz. 7 Steel Magnolias
Few movies are closer to Southerners' hearts than
, and for good reason. In this 1989 ensemble film, a group of Southern women, whose lives revolve around a local beauty parlor, help one another handle the trials and tribulations of parenting with a healthy dose of snark and support. A Mother’s Day movie for the ages, it’s full of humor and heartache. When M'Lynn’s (Sally Field) daughter Shelby Eatenton (Julia Roberts) ends up in a coma on life support after undergoing a kidney transplant and later dies, well, let’s just say, we hope you have some Kleenex on hand. Steel Magnolias Stream Steel Magnolias on Hulu. 8 Parent Trap (1961)
You can’t include a list about motherhood without the 1961 classic
. Starring a young Hayley Mills, this beloved movie is about what happens when two twins, separated at birth, find each other and plot to bring their divorced parents back together. With fabulous sets, including a tony girl’s camp, London, and California, this movie is brimming with nostalgia that’s hard to pass up. And while it might be a difficult plot to buy, the charm of Mills, along with her parents played by Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith, makes this a great Mother’s Day movie. Parent Trap Stream Parent Trap on Disney+. 9 Parent Trap (1998)
Naturally, it wouldn’t be fair to include the original
without mentioning the 1998 remake starring Lindsay Lohan. Cast as both twins, Lohan’s megawatt charm is in full force in this darling reboot. She’s even got a convincing British accent. For the most part, the plot is entirely the same as the 1961 version, but the hijinks the twins exact on their parents and father’s potential bride-to-be are even sillier. This is one to watch with your kids as it’s a perfect PG Mother’s Day movie. Parent Trap Stream Parent Trap on Disney+. 10 Sound of Music
A musical that’s also a story of surrogate motherhood, the iconic
is always a great Mother’s Day movie. Try not to sing along. Just try. Impossible. Perhaps what makes this film so compelling is the idea that here’s Captain Von Trapp and his brood of seven children with no one to look after them. Then along comes Maria who throws their world wide open. It speaks to the power an adopted mother can have on a family, in the 1930s and today. With the backdrop of WWII, the story is all the more touching. Sound of Music Stream Sound of Music on Disney+. 11 Otherhood
Kids grow up. There’s no two ways about it. And when that happens, what’s a mom to do? That’s what
’s Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette, and Felicity Huffman must contend with when three best friends try to regain the appreciation and affection of their grown-up sons. How will they do it? They’ll surprise each of their boys in New York City, of course. As you can imagine, hijinks ensue when the moms drop in unannounced on their boys. But in the process, everyone gains a little more appreciation for each other. Otherhood Stream Otherhood on Netflix. 12 Secret Life of Bees
Based on Sue Monk Kidd’s novel of the same name,
is all about what happens when a 14-year-old motherless child is taken in by the Boatwright sisters (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo), who love her and teach her all about beekeeping. Lily finds support and solace in their care and the key to her mother’s past as well. While this movie came out in 2008, it holds up in the cherished canon of great Mother’s Day movies, especially for its depiction of the power of a mother’s love to see beyond race and class. Secret Life of Bees Stream Secret Life of Bees on Hulu. 13 Baby Boom
This classic ‘80s movie is the ultimate working mom flick all about how a New York City exec handles the sudden arrival of an infant in her life, and manages to find business and motherhood success in spite of it. Yep, this Diane Keaton classic comes complete with power suits, sky high shoulder pads, and enough ‘80s yuppie fashion to have your reconsidering popped collars. Along with that also comes a helping heaping of sweetness thanks to Keaton’s performance as a smitten new mom. Moms know this feeling which is why it’s worth rewatching
this Mother’s Day. Baby Boom Stream Baby Boom on YouTube. 14 Dumplin’
When mothers and daughters are different, it can cause challenges and that’s the case in this comedy called
. Willowdean Dickson (Danielle Macdonald), aka Dumplin’, as her mother calls her, was not made in the mold of her beauty pageant mother (Jennifer Aniston). But when her mom decides to put on a pageant in their small town, Dumplin’ uses the pageant to show her mom that she can be a queen too. Will her mom accept her daughter’s idea of beauty? You’ll have to stream this Mother’s Day movie to find out. Dumplin’ Stream Dumplin’ on Netflix. 15 Mamma Mia!
Love Abba? Then you’re already likely familiar with this send up to the pop group starring Meryl Streep. If not,
Mamma Mia! is still worth your time. Come for the love triangle, stay for the choreographed dance numbers because, let’s be real, musicals are hard to come by in this day and age. Mamma Mia! has all the highs and lows you can expect from a Broadway production, but with the benefit of some Hollywood mega stars — Pierce Brosnan anyone? Stream Mamma Mia! on Peacock. 16 Troop Beverly Hills
Shelley Long does not get enough credit for her power moves in the classic movie
. A rich, spoiled Beverly Hills mom, she takes up the call to lead a troop of Wilderness Girls (fictional Girl Scouts) and without a clue of how to operate beyond Rodeo Drive, proves that with determination and humility, you can overcome your own shortcomings. How’s that for real mom talk? Stay for the wildly over the top 1980s costumes, stay for the Wilderness Girls singing “It’s Cookie Time.” Troop Beverly Hills Stream Troop Beverly Hills on Vudu. 17 Mermaids
Cher, Winona Ryder, and a very young Christina Ricci are an oddball household of women trying to understand each other in this charming 1990 film. But when an older man becomes the object of the older daughter’s affection, the true strength of their bond is tested. Ultimately this is a heartfelt film with one iconic kitchen dancing scene that alone is reason enough to stream
. Mermaids Stream Mermaids on YouTube. 18 Away We Go
How do you pick where to raise your children? That’s what the couple (Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski) in
wrestle with as they drive across the country trying to find the right home for their forthcoming baby. What mom can’t relate to that? Even if you’ve never left town, the emotional weight of trying to find the perfect place to raise a child resonates. And the poignant vignettes in between, as the couple meet old friends and make new (who offer their parenting advice, like it or not) is wildly entertaining. Away We Go Stream Away We Go on Peacock. 19 Little Women
Louisa May Alcott’s classic book has been adapted at least six times for the screen, but Greta Gerwig’s interpretation is the latest. The 2019 release of
Little Women starred a host of new Hollywood favorites including Timothée Chalamet, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, and Florence Pugh. But it was the relationship Laura Dern created as Marmee March, the mother of the little women, that really delivered the emotional weight. As far as period pieces are considered, this is a groping classic of a mother and her daughters trying to get through the tough years after the Civil War, and the effort it takes to keep the peace in her own home. Watch Little Women Hulu.
Ready to cue up one of these Mother’s Day movie masterpieces? Pick one or a few and settle in for a little mama drama therapy.
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This article was originally published on
April 18, 2021