Your Mother’s Day might begin with a creative breakfast in bed, or there may even be crafts or flowers involved. My mother and I, however, always celebrate the special occasion by watching movies! That’s why I decided to compile a roundup of my favorite picks, in case you’d like to copy this tradition too. (It’s a good one!)
After making my final selections, I realized they all had more than a few things in common. For starters, the casts! If a movie has Sally Field, Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Bette Midler or Olympia Dukakis, for example, chances are it will qualify for a good movie to watch with your mom.
A lot of movies for Mothers Day also have similar themes. Here are some I noticed in the movies I picked:
- A dying or sick mom
- A maternal figure who sacrifices a LOT
- A plucky single mom
- A mom with big regrets
- A mother and a daughter who just don’t get each other
- Singing and dancing!
Because my mother, Lolly, has seen all of these films with me, I decided to ask her to reflect on each movie and share her thoughts. Did we miss any films that you and your mom love to watch together? Let us know!
1. The Turning Point
Lolly: Makes you think about women who made a choice: career or motherhood.
This is one of my all time favorite movies — it’s a classic. It stars Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine as former best friends. They once danced together in a ballet company, but one of them left to start a family. It’s a film about two paths that woman often stare down.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: This movie came out in the ’70s. Chances are your mom will have some thoughts about her career and motherhood, and this film is a nice way to start that conversation.
2. Terms of Endearment
Lolly: This scene is the “poster child scene” for mothering.
Me: When I watch this film, I sob every. single. time. And yet, once a year I find myself watching it.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: This movie is a total tearjerker, and chances are you and your mother have both seen it multiple times. It can be used as a great starting place to talk about a hard subject: What do you want to happen to your kids should something happen to you?
Lolly: How come the Mom always has to die?
Me: Susan Sarandon makes every movie better. This is a movie where you just need to put the box of tissues on the sofa next to you.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: It’s a great conversation starter for discussing potential legacies of motherhood. Sarandon’s character fears that her daughter will forget her. Talk to your mom about what she would want to be remembered for.
Lolly: It looks like she made the right choice, but was it?
Me: I actually had to remind my mom what this movie was about. It is based on the 1920 novel Stella Dallas by Olive Higgins Prouty. Stella is single mom who wants nothing more than to give her daughter the best in life.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: For starters, she probably has never seen it! It is also a great movie to talk about all of the things we do for our kids.
5. Steel Magnolias
Lolly: I love the zydeco.
Me: That’s your takeaway? Zydeco?
Lolly: Mmmm hmmm. The rest of it is too cliche
Me: I probably love this movie more than my mom does. I quote it alllll the time. (“I love ya more than my luggage!”)
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: Well, if she likes zydeco, she is in for a treat … This movie covers all the major themes of spring: death, birth, weddings, and Easter. The element of the movie that I love most is the friendships between the women. This would be a great film to begin a conversation with your mom about her friends. It could begin with, “Who is your Dolly?”
6. Postcards from the Edge
Lolly: I always wondered what you would do if I twirled.
Me: This movie is based on the mother-daughter life of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Therefore. you MUST SEE IT.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: This movie led to a great conversation between Lolly and me about embarrassing moments we have, er, created for each other. Watch this film, and then find the courage to bring up that time in the eighth grade when your mom mortified you by yelling your underwear size across the store, and holding up giant underpants to ask you if you needed “more pants.” No? Just me?
Lolly: I liked when the daughter saved the mother.
Me: Um … spoiler alert?
Me: I found Brave to have a pretty complex and interesting mother-daughter dynamic to it. I appreciated that it showed a mother that’s capable of evolving — because that’s what we all do.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: This is a film that could be fun for three generations of film watching. After the movie, ask your kids why they think the mom was able to change her mind.
8. And Then She Found Me
Lolly: Life is complicated. This movie is complicated.
Me: I’m just going to admit it: I am not a fan of this movie. However, I have a very good reason for including it in this list. Do all the people you know have great relationships with their moms? Nope. Mother’s Day is going to be a bit of a shoulder shrug holiday for some of our friends that, for whatever reason, don’t have a special bond with their mom. This film does a good job showing one of those cringe-inducing relationships.
(Side note: If you are undergoing fertility treatments, avoid this movie. Trust me on this one.)
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: Well, it’s always nice to look at a relationship and think, “At least we aren’t THAT messed up!”
9. Freaky Friday
Lolly: I could never trade places with my mother. I was too tall.
Me: When I would stay home sick from school, my grandparents would watch me while my mother was at work. They always put this movie into the betamax, and I day-dreamt about having a makeover day.
And yes, I prefer this version over the remake. I’m a fuddy-duddy that way.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: This would be a great film to watch with your kids as well as your mom. Here is your jumping-off question: What do you think I do all day?
10. Grey Gardens
Lolly: Cautionary Tale!!!
Me: HBO did a great film version of the 1975 documentary based on the famed Mother and daughter living in squalor in the Hamptons.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: Could you ever live with your mom? This is one of those OMG EXTREME stories that can really bring up some interesting conversations.
Lolly: I wish I could dance. I’ve got the hairspray.
Me: The original Jon Waters version is WONDERFUL, but this remake is just adorable. Bonus: Zac Efron.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: Your mom will get a kick out of seeing Travolta in a dress. Trust me on this. He does a sweet job as Edna Turnblad. This is a great film to talk history with your mom. If you haven’t quizzed your mom on what she was up to in the ’60s, now is the time!
Lolly: This was illuminating and inspiring.
Me: I started watching this three-part PBS documentary and then stopped because I knew that I wanted to watch it with my mom. It took us a few days to watch it because we kept pausing it to talk.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: I learned so much about my mom while watching this program with her. If you don’t have time to watch the entire thing, consider giving it to her as a gift.
13. Mamma Mia
Lolly: I would have picked the other guy.
Me: Singing! Dancing! Colin Firth!
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: Colin Firth! ABBA songs! This story is interesting because it touches on the idea that we sometimes don’t tell our children the whole truth. I think that provides a springboard for a good mother-daughter fireside chat.
Lolly: Gave me some good one-liners to file away for future use.
Me: This is, to put it mildly, one of the best movies ever. So there. As a hopeless romantic, I love just about every single moment in this film. Don’t even get me started on the bread baking!
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: One of the reasons why this movie is so perfect is the chemistry between Cher and Olympia Dukakis. Watch this film and then talk about the best way to make a fried egg or an opera. Or Nic Cage’s hairline …
15. One True Thing
Lolly: It was interesting to see their characters change.
Me: This is another sleeper movie, meaning there is a big chance that you have neither seen nor heard of it. Bring out your hankies because it has the sick mom theme that so many mother-daughter movies seem to embrace.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: One of the interesting questions this movie brings up is: “What would you do differently?” The daughter in the film feels like her mom should be making drastic changes to her life after finding out that she is sick, but the mom is content to continue life as she knows it. I think that’s a valuable conversation to have.
16. Anywhere But Here
Lolly: It reminded me about how we moved around a lot.
Me: This book and movie made me CRINGE. It’s a story of a large personality mom and a quiet personality daughter.
Why it’s great to watch with your mom: The big theme of this film is that the mom doesn’t listen to what her daughter wants and needs. Their personalities are so different. The mom is convinced that her daughter should be an actress. It brings up an interesting question: What did your mom wish for you? Do you know?