It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday (quick, make your brunch reservations/order flowers now), and Hollywood is getting in on the holiday this year. Lorene Scafaria’s charming ode to interfering moms “The Meddler” and Garry Marshall’s disastrous star-studded omnibus “Mother’s Day” are both in theaters, and there’s even the indie “Mothers and Daughters” this weekend, with Susan Sarandon double dipping on the Mother’s Day movies this year.
We’ve marked Mother’s Day before, but whatever it says about us, we’ve focused on a lot of less-than-stellar examples of motherhood —here’s 5 of the Worst Movie Moms, 5 More Worst Movie Moms and 5 F*cked-Up Mother/Daughter Relationships— but this year’s feature as such is all about positivity. Or at least unforgettability. So we finally give 12 of our favorite movie Moms their due —they might not all be sweetness and light, but each of them illustrates something funny, scary or something otherwise true about the nature of Mother love. It can even serve as a guide for home viewing if you and your Mom decide to skip the multiplex on Sunday. So take a gander through our list of favorite screen mothers, from the fierce and frightening to the silly and sweet.
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” — Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor
Does your mom have guns like this? In “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” Linda Hamilton‘s Sarah Connor wields both pump-action shotguns and a set of ripped biceps and delts to beat Michelle Obama in an arm wrestling match. Hamilton morphs from the damsel in distress of the first ‘Terminator’ film to the hardcore mom of John Connor (Edward Furlong) in ‘T2.’ While Arnold Schwarzenegger might have had the most quotable lines as the T-800, Hamilton is the true badass of James Cameron’s flick. The thing about Hamilton’s portrayal of Sarah is that she’s tough but not invincible, which makes her that much mentally capable than the robots she battles to save her son. Her vulnerabilities, her softness and her motherly qualities are what make her human, qualities that may become extinct should Skynet prevail. Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke have also taken cracks at the character of Sarah, but Hamilton is the gold standard.
“The Fighter” — Melissa Leo as Alice Eklund-Ward
With a platinum Pomeranian poof of hair, chameleonic actress Melissa Leo is transformed as the feisty Massachusetts momager of boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and former boxer/crack addict Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) in David O. Russell’s explosive “The Fighter.” With a swagger to beat the best, she commands a crew of her seven rowdy daughters and tries to wrest back control of her son’s careers, not to mention their lives. She’s terrifying (she and the sisters jump Amy Adams’ Charlene), and in many ways, Micky has to fight her influence even more than he has to fight his opponents. But she’s fiercely loyal and incredibly protective to a fault. Leo as Alice beat out one of our other best moms, Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom,” for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2010. She’s one tough mama you’re going to want in your corner.
“Stella Dallas” — Barbara Stanwyck as Stella Dallas
A high watermark 1937 melodrama from King Vidor, “Stella Dallas” is often bracketed with “Mildred Pierce” as the apotheosis of the women’s picture, but ‘Stella’ depicts a different type of mother-daughter bond. Maybe that’s because there’s not a single hateable character in the film, despite the epic emotional arc (warning: the first time you see this film you won’t just cry, you’ll wail). The story of a goodhearted, social-climbing arriviste who can never quite mask her trashier instincts (which an outstanding Stanwyck plays as a sort of endearingly unpolished zest for life) what’s most unusual about the film is the relative lack of love interest subplot. Instead this is truly a romantic portrait of self-sacrifice in an unforgiving class system as the brassy, good-time Stella channels all her worst and best instincts into her unremittingly sweet daughter Laurel, before finally realizing that the one thing holding Laurel back is Stella herself. Even if you’re not a mother, hell, even if you don’t identify as female, you don’t just love Stella Dallas, you are Stella Dallas, and your heart breaks for her heartbreak.