Want mom movies? Here's the mother lode
If you're looking for movies to commemorate Mother's Day, you might want to skip "Mr. Mom," "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Mrs. Doubtfire" and other movies illustrating how dads can make better moms than actual mothers.
And you should definitely cross off your list Charles Kaufman's horrific "Mother's Day," a nasty film showcasing a sadistic nut-job who's given birth to other sadistic nut-jobs.
These 10 movie moms are as different as fingerprints. ranging from superheroes to super villains, with everything in between. Here we go, counting down to my personal favorite.
10. "Mommie Dearest" -- Faye Dunaway's performance as Joan Crawford is required viewing for movie fans, just to see how she turns the cantankerous actress into the 1981 version of Elsa Lanchester's bride of Frankenstein. The movie might not be good, but its depiction of the emotional and psychological scars that a mother can inflict on her children makes for train-wreck drama of the type that reality TV shows can only dream of.
9. "One True Thing" -- Realizing she will not be around to see her daughter's wedding, Meryl Streep's cancer patient delivers one of the greatest, tear-wrenching speeches to her daughter (Renée Zellweger) about the pitfalls of demanding too much from men and life. A truly magnificent scene.
8. "Postcards From the Edge" -- Otherwise known as the "Carrie Fisher Writing About Her Mom Debbie Reynolds Without Fear of a Lawsuit " comic drama. Starring Meryl Streep as Fisher's Hollywood actress alter ego.
7. "Ordinary People" -- Sitcom TV actress Mary Tyler Moore surprised the American public with her serious role as a North Shore mother with a midnight-dark side in Robert Redford's Oscar-winning directorial debut.
6. "Aliens" -- Yes, it's about feuding moms, one played by Sigourney Weaver, who becomes a de facto mother figure to an orphan girl found on a planet ravaged by alien critters. The other is played by the alien queen herself, out to protect her kids -- zillions of unhatched eggs -- from Weaver's rampage. Listen carefully to Weaver's dialogue near the end. It's like an intergalactic action version of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis going at it in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"
5. "The Others" -- A single mom (Nicole Kidman) becomes convinced her old house is haunted and resolves to protect her children from demonic forces. (As an alternative ghost mom movie, check out the 1944 occult mystery "The Uninvited," in which two ghosts fight for possession of a spooky mansion.)
4. "Changeling" -- In 1928 Los Angeles, a 9-year-old boy disappears. His distraught mother (Angelina Jolie) calls the cops, who can't help. The boy surfaces five months later. He says he's her son. He looks like her son. But Mom's Spidey-sense screams, "He's not my boy!" Clint Eastwood's mystery tests the endurance of a mother's love and courage.
3. "Sophie's Choice" -- Meryl Streep won a deserved best actress Oscar for her performance as a Nazi concentration camp survivor. If you know the story from William Styron's novel, you already know the meaning of the title, and what a devastating test of motherhood it presents. Alan Pakula's tragic drama demonstrates the erosive force of a mother's guilt and it remains unparalleled in its power to move our humanity.
2. "Psycho" -- Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller is all about the tragic and obsessive power of unconditional love between a son and his mother, even though it might not utilize a traditional mother character. This drama contains so many layers of unresolved mother-son issues that it would take Simon Oakland's shrink three more movies to unravel them all.
1. "Terms of Endearment" -- Yes, Shirley MacLaine's middle-aging mother can be a pain in the posterior, be judgmental about her daughter's choice in husbands, and be critical about daughter Debra Winger's life. But when her daughter lies writhing in pain in a hospital bed and the nurses don't move fast enough with the morphine shot, MacLaine's F-bomb-powered explosion in the middle of the room gets results, and fast.
Because when the chips are down and we need help, that's the mom we all want with us in the foxholes of life.