On this day where we find a day to honor motherhood and all it entails I decided to celebrate the best way I know how by listing my favorite moms from film. They portray motherhood as differently and diversely as possible but all share that unconditional love that women have with the children they raised. It is a primal force of nature that has been rendered to the screen hundreds of times but these ten examples portray it in the most unique and heartwarming ways possible. A Happy Mother’s Day to all the different kinds of mothers out there.
Sarah Connor From Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Having being told that she is the mother of the savior of the entire human race Sarah Connor takes motherhood exceedingly well. Linda Hamilton reprising her role from Terminator shows a stronger, tougher, and buffer character than when we last left her in the last movie. Starting out as a mousey needy californian girl now is evolved into a warrior woman in the blockbuster sequel. After trying to blow up the tech company Cyberdine in hopes of stopping skynet before it ever goes online she is committed to a mental hospital and taken away from her savior-to-be son John. Hamilton imbues Sarah with such grit and determination this time around in the sequel that it is more than believable that she could be the mentor to the leader of a future post-apocalyptic war against machines.
Mrs. Gump from Forrest Gump
Probably the motherly figure most moviegoers would turn to when thinking of heartwarming parenting. Sally Field gives a heart-breaking performance as the mother of her developmentally challenged but full-of-heart son Forest making Mamma Gump one of the actress’ most memorable on-screen characters. Endearing for her attitude towards raising her son with warmth and affection at every available turn helping to solidify the emotional anchor in the titular character’s journey through historical events and the emergence of pop-culture. Even as Forest travels far away, we know that because of love instilled in him by Mama Gump home is never too far from him.
Mrs. O’Brien from Tree of Life
In Terrance Malick’s ethereal and mediative Tree of Life, Brad Pitt plays the stern and forceful patriarch of the O’Brien family living in 1950’s Texas. His lessons are harsh, unforgiving and impatient as he imparts them to his three sons as they grow through childhood. To counter the patriarch of the family Mrs. O’Brien is the exact opposite in her treatment of their children. Nurturing, caring and always patient with her kids Mrs. O’Brien is the anti-thesis of her husband in nearly every conceivable way. A counterpoint that is sorely needed in their children’s upbringing, she is a calming and nurturing force in the storm that papa O’Brien brings home every day. A tribute to motherhood in the 50’s and 60’s that certainly was not like as ‘Leave it to Beaver’ would have you believe. Showcasing the central battle between the unforgiving force of nature and the comforting warmth of nurturing.
Ma Joad from Grapes of Wrath
A blast from the past sees John Ford’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic with the matriarch of the nomadic and poverty stricken Joad family, portrayed by an Oscar Winning Jane Darwell, just as tough and strong as the male members. Traveling from the dust bowl stricken midwest to California Ma Joad tries to keep her and her family’s heads up high as they face tremendous hard-ships and obstacles finding suitable work to live on. In the heartbreaking iconic scene in which her oldest son Tom Joad played by Henry Fonda has to leave her and his family forever, the scene is enduring not just for Tom’s “I’ll be there” proclamation but for a mother coming to terms with letting go of her son in the most desperate of times.
Mrs. Parker from A Christmas Story
In the holiday classic, Ralph Parker as an adult narrates his time spent as a child longing for that wonderful time of the year. He remembers the snow, his school buddies, the decorations, the gifts (especially that Red Ryder BB gun) but one of the things he most fondly remembers the warmth and affection from his mother in those days. Mama Parker is a nostalgic ideal in the story, a mother that is genuinely trying to help her son navigate the ups and downs of childhood and the holiday season. Melinda Dillion as Mrs. Parker perfectly encapsulates the nurturing and caring needed in a someone’s formative years.
Michaela Odone from Lorenzo’s Oil
The lengths at which a mother will sacrifice for her child is well-documented in film, never has it been so heart-wrenching as with Michaela Odone in Lorenzo’s Oil. When her son is stricken with an extermely rare disease she is told that there is nothing that current medical knowledge can do. As played with single-minded determination Susan Sarandon gives one of her most heart-wrenching roles as the mother to a child all but left for dead. She and her husband tirelessly become experts in the field of Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) the disease that is slowly killing her son. She goes for any and all leads that could help her son in any way, she cannot rest knowing that there is one last stone to turn over. Showcasing the emotional journey that rescuing family can instigate.
Christine Collins from Changeling
In Clint Eastwood’s L.A corruption epic Angelina Jolie plays embattled mother Christine Collins who searches for her son Walter after disappearing one afternoon after school. After investigating the police turn up a kid and returns him to Christine, a small problem the kid is not Walter, it is clear to Christine but the police refuse her pleas for the case to reopened. Even after the police commit her to an insane asylum for her refusal to accept the boy they gave her as her son she doesn’t give in. Christine is forced to endure ruthless examination and psychiatric test after test refusing to believe what the police are telling her knowing beyond a shadow of doubt of what she knows about her only son. Displaying uncanny strength and determination Christine Collins knows her real son is still out there despite the police forcing her to believe in a lie. She showcases that the bond of motherhood can be bent but never broken.
Jules and Nic from The Kids are Alright
Many a film has been done about a couple struggling to balancing the needs of one person vs the family unit, The Kids are Alright portrays a lesbian relationship as normal as a straight couple having these issues. Jules and Nic as played by both superbly by Julianne Moore and Anette Bening respectfully are the couple raising two artificially inseminated kids Joni and Laser (It’s an L.A thing I guess). When Laser seeks to find his and his sister’s sperm donor things start to become complicated at the household because Nic never wanted Paul, the sperm donor, part of their family’s life. She wanted the family unit to be hers and Jules alone. So as he comes into their lives and begins to build a relationship with the kids he never knew existed he beings to drive a wedge further between the couple by giving Jules the attention she has been craving for a lone while. Balancing what you want and what you think is best over the wants and needs of your children is a constant struggle in parenting and Jules and Nic display this both as well as any other heterosexual mothers in film.
Samantha from The Kid with a Bike
In the Dardenne brothers homage to Francois Truffaut Thomas Doret plays an aimless and full of angst Cyril committing acts of delinquency. Samatha, Cecil De France, is a kindly and understanding hairdresser that crosses paths with the in effect orphaned, his father doesn’t want to be in his life, child one day and asks to be foster mother for him. Indeed resembling the classic defining french new wave film 400 Blows as she puts up with several instances of angry outbursts and fits from Cyril she responds to his angst with a motherly warmth that has been wholly absent in his life. A single parent has hardly gets deserved praise for taking on the giant responsibility all alone. Samantha is an excellent example of both single parenting and caring for an adopted child. Showcasing that a motherly bond can be created out of thin air. A wonderful underseen gem of a movie.
Mother from Mother
Mother, as she is only called on-screen, from Korean director Bong Joon-ho is seeking justice for her only child after he is accused of murdering a school girl. She knows in her heart he is innocent of the unthinkable crime she just needs to prove it to the authorities. Her journey looking for her son’s redemption is one worthy of any great detective novel as she searches all around town for the truth. As the real story starts to reveal itself she must reconcile her past with her son. Mother as played superbly by Hye-Ja Kim is a reminder that even in the face of mounting evidence a mother trust her son to the bitter end.