Updated: Mar 30
Mothers are important – whether through their presence or their absence, or the results, both positive and negative outcomes – they inform the children they bear. Our moms are our teachers, guiders, protectors, and our most genuine connection to the past. They are the heroines of every life.
To celebrate, here is a list of fictional moms from films that have left an impression on me, both good and bad.
Sarah Connor – Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The mother of all movie moms. Sarah's journey between The Terminator and Judgment Day is a wicked one, one we don't see, let alone learn all that much about. But there is no denying the events of the first film took a serious toll on her, her attitude, and the role she believes she plays in the world as a whole. She inadvertently, (although again understandably), places much of the weight of this new destiny on her son, John, the future savior of all of mankind. The attributes of John that allow him to be the great soldier and leader his father Kyle speaks of in the first film, are all present in this version of Sarah. However, the world surrounding future-John and Kyle is a harsh and violent one, the possibility of death quite literally raining down on friends and family at any time. Sarah's world is a societal one, full of laws and order, where these characteristics and ways of thought are deemed irregular and inexcusable. But through this, however misguided, Sarah chooses to prepare her child for the future she knows he will have to fight for, understanding that his love for her is not as important as his ability to survive and help others in the world.
Beatrix Kiddo – Kill Bill Vol.1 & 2
The Bride is a brutal force of nature, symbolic of all women who have loved and been broken, whether physically or emotionally, by the one they loved. Her story as a mother begins with her visit to Vernita Green, a previous cohort in an international assassination squad, who has also become a mother in the lapse of their friendship. Where Beatrix's child - and her chance at a normal life - was stolen from her before she even met her daughter, Vernita has been allowed to raise her own child in the comforts of a seemingly average, suburban life. The conflicts at play within Beatrix throughout the two volumes are established right from the get-go with this scene between two mothers: The tender love a mother can give to her child, and the violent extremes to which a mother can go to protect/avenge her child.
Mrs. Bates – Psycho
While not the best of mother figures, the level of Mrs. Bates love for her son Norman, however disturbing and overbearing it may be, should still be pointed out. If nothing else, Mrs. Bates gave her son a sly intellect and fairly decent upbringing considering their surroundings. We never truly find out just how she and her new lover passed, whether by an accident or something more sinister from either of the Bates. But Norman loved his mother enough to keep her around, both in body and spirit. She must have done something to deserve that.
Bambi's Mom – Bambi
A movie that continues to teach four year olds that mom will eventually die someday. Bambi's mom, Princess of the Forest, raises her son all on her own, guiding him and teaching him the ways of the forest, a place he may one day live to rule. Her strength and kindness are the major attributes passed on to Bambi when he is alone following her death at the hands of a hunter (I'm not crying...) and pieces of her identity and relationship to Bambi are personified in the friendships he forms with Thumper and Flower. While Bambi's father remains never present throughout his early life, it is the lessons and values his mother imparted on him that turn him into the great stag he becomes.
Mrs. Gump – Forrest Gump
Chock full of catchy phrases and life motto's, Mrs. Gump always did what was best for her boy, continuously putting him before herself. From sleeping with the school principal to get him a good education, to consistently reminding him that he is no different from everyone else, Forrest Gump is one of the most adored characters in film. And he holds that title because of his humor, confidence, devotion to his loved ones and simple explanations of life's hardest challenges. Where do you think he got that?
Meg Altman – Panic Room
Protecting your child at any cost is an idea that even those without children can understand. But never has a better example of this been put on screen than in David Fincher's claustrophobic, B-movie-style Panic Room, where a mother and daughter fight against three burglars invading their home. Through every choice and mishap, Meg's only concern is the safety and well-being of her daughter, who herself exudes the same level of toughness and quick-thinking as her mother, going to lengths that are unimaginable to counter a situation that is equally so.
Ellen Ripley – Aliens
On the cusp of realizing her own daughter has died, Ellen Ripley immediately turns her maternal instincts to the young Newt, whose own parents have just recently passed. The camera work in the film is astounding when focusing on the relationship between these two women; they are always framed together as equals, eye-level, never with Ripley looking down on Newt, even when she needs to be authoritative. Ripley falls into the role of mother very naturally, even to us as viewers of the series – she spends most of the end of the first film putting her own safety on the line to rescue a cat! Pitting her against another great mom in the film, the Alien Queen, only drives home the themes of maternity and protecting your children, that make this film not just one of the greatest sequels, not just one of the greatest sci-fi action films, but one of the best movies ever made.
Mrs. Robinson – The Graduate
A woman of as much power and confidence as constant contradiction, Mrs. Robinson is just as much the focus of the film as Dustin Hoffman's Ben. As we watch Ben begin to gain confidence and assert himself, we also witness Mrs. Robinson's larger-than-life demeanor slowly deteriorate as his actions constantly usurp her control and manipulations. The more we learn about her past, and how she actually feels about her life, the more we learn that she is a layered person, in constant struggle, not with the choice of “what to do,” but with the question, “What have I done?” Her lessons and attacks on Ben and her daughter may lead them to stand up for themselves, but - as one of the most taunting endings proves - she may very well as simply set them up for the same life of regret she stumbled into herself.
Meredith Quill – Guardians of the Galaxy
Peter's mom isn't just a great mom to him; she's a great mom to all of us. We can all feel the love and pain Peter Quill feels for his mother, both while she is alive, however briefly, and long after she has left. She gave us great music from the 70's to add to our Spotify playlists, and she is overflowing with a kind of love for her child that many can connect to with their own mothers. The love she gave Peter is one of the most important parts of his character; heavily indicative of his personality and many of the traits we have come to know him for. Her nickname for him was Star-Lord, and now the galaxy knows him by this name, which hides all the pain and love he holds.
Lena Younger – A Raisin in the Sun
A woman who came from the beginning of the 20th century, the mother figure of the classic film is a testament to the different strengths a woman can hold in the family. At a time when the reality of slavery was still close enough to touch - a time when this family would quite certainly never have been - Mama Younger transcends. She sticks up for every member of her family, sometimes not in the way they want, but always in the way they need. Her famous monologue, summarizing the ideals of “looking at the whole picture” when considering how you feel about someone, is proof enough. She is the embodiment of a steadfast lesson in accountability and compassion. There is always something left to love.
Albert Goldman – The Birdcage
Although quite panicky (and moody af), Albert is nevertheless a solid mother to Val, the son of his husband, Armand. When Albert first hears news of the impending marriage that drives the film's narrative, he immediately jumps to protecting Val, who he thinks is far too young to be settling down. But once he accepts the inevitable, realizing that Val and his fiancé are very much in love, he goes through endless ventures to ensure their happiness, even belittling himself to the point of throwing away the very person Val has come to love and admire as a parental figure. He might be a little foolhardy from time to time, but if he's good enough for Robin Williams, he's damn sure good enough for the rest of us.
Pamela Voorhees – Friday the 13th
1980’s Mom of the Year, Mrs. Voorhees, who shamefully isn't as well revered as her son, Jason, is undoubtedly one of the toughest mamas of the horror genre. After her son accidentally drowns in the waters of Camp Crystal Lake, she murders the counselors who should have been watching over him. Then years later, when a bunch of pot-smoking hippies and Kevin Bacon decide to reopen the camp, she murders them too, all the while speaking to (or pretending to be?) Jason. Unfortunately, the “hero” of the film finally mows her down, but luckily for us, her son returns for 134 adventures of taking out horny kids while his mom continues to talk to him. That's fam.
Lorraine Baines – Back to the Future
Not to be confused with Lorraine Baines-McFly, who, at the beginning of the film, is kind of a saddened figure who passive-aggressively takes out her disdain for her situation on her children, and by the end of the film, just kinda seems doped up on happiness. No, this is about 1955 Lorraine, the girl who chased boys, calls boys and sits in parked cars with boys. Unfortunately, the boy in question here is her own son from the future, Martin Seamus McFly. Now, while many are quick to rightfully dismiss this situation as kind of freaky and incestuous, I've always seen the love-at-first-site attraction from Lorraine towards “Calvin Klein” as a subconscious maternal love, one that her teenage mind misinterprets as obsession. She wants to be with Marty at all times, following him home at one point, and proclaiming herself that she doesn't know what about him makes her feel so happy. It's an odd example, but a VERY different way to explore the bond between mother and son.
Tommy's Mother – Goodfellas
C'mon. What mother lets you borrow cutlery in the middle of the night without an explanation? She's the best!!
Peg Boggs – Edward Scissorhands
As the one who first connects with and empathizes with Edward, Peg is forever the moral center of the outsider's interactions with the rest of the town. While he initially intrigues most people in town, they are later outraged by fear and misunderstanding. Peg however, embraces Edward and his differences as special and unique, and stays on his side until the very end. Even when an accidental slip from Edward slices the fragile hand of her daughter, Peg still tends to her motherly duties for both of them, cleaning and calming Kim while telling everyone it was just a mistake.
Mother – The Jerk
Off the bat, tuna fish salad on white bread with mayonnaise, a Tab and a couple of Twinkies for her adopted son's birthday? That's a win in my book. But the mother of Steve Martin's Navin, however drenched in comedy the whole situation may be, is a perfect example of the care one can show an outsider, regardless of the difference of appearance or background. It's she who consoles Navin when he throws his fits of feeling different from everyone else in the family, and it's she who affirms the belief that all people can get along: “I'd love you if you were the color of a baboon's ass.”
Molly Weasley – The Harry Potter Series
Easy enough to call Mrs. Weasley one of the best movie moms of all time with her raising seven (arguably) awesome children, and still having time and love for Harry Potter, who she sees needs a parental figure of the loving nature. Throughout the series, Harry acquires and loses fathers and brothers who give him confidence, connection and talent, and even has a memory of his own mother, who gave her life to save him with literal love. But it is in Molly Weasley, and how she treats not only him but also her own children and husband, that truly teaches the Boy Who Lived what maternal love feels like.
Elaine Miller – Almost Famous
I tried to write something better than ANYTHING in this scene, but nothing can even come close to The Frances:
Founder of and programmer for Story Screen. Lover of stories and pizza in the dark. When he isn't watching movies, you can find him reading things about people watching movies. He lives in Beacon, NY with his cat who is named after Kevin Bacon's character from Friday the 13th.