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Ten Best Mothers In Film

Best Moms in Cinema

Unforgettable Mother's Across the Cinematic Universe

Countless mother characters have appeared in films throughout cinema’s history, and there are a plethora of those who could be considered wonderfully horrible. Portraying nurturing, narcissistic, selfless, and self-absorbed women, their roles as mothers affect many of the life choices they make. Here we will look at the ten best mothers in film history and see what some of them have in common. 

10. Wendy Torrance in The Shining (1980)

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Wendy Torrance, played by Shelley Duvall, is the mother of Danny Torrance and the wife of John “Jack” Torrance. Throughout The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick, Wendy does everything in her power to protect herself and Danny from Jack. The film follows the abusive marital relationship and the close bond Jack develops with his son but depicts Wendy as a devoted wife and mother who agrees to go away to the Overlook Hotel to spend time together. Despite her character receiving much less backstory than her husband, Jack, she is still a compelling character that the audience can’t help but root for. Many critics have even called the Wendy on screen a different character from the one in the books due to her character nuances and story largely being sidelined on the screen. Wendy is portrayed as much more helpless in the film than in the books. Both the books and screen adaption have been criticized for their misogyny in the way the character is written. Some say this is emblematic of Steven King and Stanley Kubrick’s inability to write and direct characters that are complex and independent women. Once Wendy suspects Jack of trying to harm Danny, she is determined to get her son away from his father and far away from the Overlook. Despite being terrified, Wendy maintains her fierce desire to save Danny and to protect her son at all costs. 

9. Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment (1983)

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Aurora Greenway, played by Shirley MacLaine, with her sarcasm and negativity, is always fast to criticize her only daughter Emma, played by Debra Winger. Throughout Terms of Endearment, directed by James L. Brooks, a middle-aged widow who has raised her daughter on her own is practically devastated by her daughter’s decision to marry right after graduating high school. Despite her efforts to distance herself from her difficult mother, Emma is always drawn back to her. Aurora’s intense love and devotion to her daughter is always the most important thing in her heart, but it is often shrouded in her snappy comments and constant judgmental attitude. The audience watches as their relationship develops as they both come of age in a world where Emma tries to bring others into her life. Aurora will never find anyone special enough for either of them. 

8. Doris Mann in Postcards from the Edge (1990)

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Doris Mann, played by Shirley Maclaine, is chosen as the “responsible” caregiver her daughter is sent to live with when she is released from rehab. In Postcards from the Edge, directed by Mike Nichols, daughter Suzanne, played by Meryl Streep, must stay sober while living with her narcissistic, former movie star mother who loves alcohol. Doris also has a love for herself and her former success and popularity. The two love one another but seem to drive each other crazy like only a mother and daughter can. Doris isn’t always sensitive to Suzanne’s addiction and wants her to move on with her life and work on her career.  She loves her daughter and wants her to succeed but has little patience with her. Suzanne has followed in her mother’s footsteps but feels like she’s been in her mother’s shadow for most of her life. Addiction and difficult family relationships aren’t usually funny, but this mother-and-daughter duo make even these topics comical as they bicker, then laugh and cry together. There is an obvious competition between the two, but Doris, with her self-centeredness, devotes a considerable amount of time to care for and understand her daughter and ultimately wants her to succeed….maybe just not as much as she did. 

7. Sarah Conner in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

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Sarah Conner, played by Linda Hamilton, may be the true badass of the Terminator series. In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, directed by James Cameron, Sarah has transformed from a somewhat helpless character in the first Terminator film into a badass mom whose one goal in life is now to protect her son John from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s robot assassin character. Her personality and biceps have evolved, and she has morphed into a serious citizen soldier. She is, however, not a robot, so she has to be as mentally sharp as she is physically strong in hopes of outwitting Schwarzenegger and crew. The viewer mostly sees her acting on her own since the son she is trying to protect is no longer a child, but the severity of her intense love can be felt throughout the entire film. Sarah demonstrates intense physicality and is willing to make the ultimate sacrifices to keep her son alive at any cost, even her own life, if necessary. 

6. Molly Weasley in Harry Potter (2001-2011)

 Molly Weasley, played by Julie Walters, is a powerhouse stay-at-home mom. Appearing in all but one of the Harry Potter films, she not only manages her gang of seven children but also finds the time and space in her heart to act as a mother to Harry and practically adopt him into the Weasley family. Molly is an expert at domestic spells and uses them to protect and provide for her family. She is extremely kind-hearted, full of love, and isn’t afraid to show it with a big hug or Christmas sweater.  Molly does run a tight ship, however, and doesn’t allow any of her children to slack off, be rude, or shy away from doing the right thing, even if it could be dangerous. She can be overprotective but always puts doing what’s right over playing it safe. The Weasleys are not a family with means, but Molly’s resourcefulness and upbeat attitude persist even through tough times. She values her children more than anything and finds family her greatest treasure. 

5. Elaine Miller in Almost Famous (2000)

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At first glance, Elaine Miller, played by Francis McDormand, seems much like an antagonist. In Almost Famous, directed by Cameron Crowe, Elaine is often anxious, brutally honest, and controlling; however, upon closer inspection, her annoying or even frustrating actions are really just her looking out for her son out of immense love and care. Despite permitting her son William Miller, who is 15 years old in the film, to galavant around America with a tour bus full of rock stars, she checks in on him often, not allowing him total freedom and, of course, reminding him not to do drugs. While to a teenager, this might seem stifling and lame, what Elaine was really doing was encouraging her son to pursue his dreams, of being a music journalist, in a somewhat safe environment, even if that meant having to check in on him and give some “motherly talks.” 

4. Violet Newstead in “9 to 5” (1980)

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Violet Newstead, played by Lily Tomlin, is a widow with four children who can never seem to move up the corporate ladder despite her hard work. In 9 to 5, directed by Colin Higgins, Violet is a dedicated and knowledgeable long-time employee of Consolidated Companies and a huge proponent of a fair workplace environment. She is constantly frustrated with employees being undervalued and underappreciated and the recurring favoritism and sexism shown at the office. She is talked down to and treated poorly by a Franklin Hart, who she had previously trained. She befriends and commiserates with two of her female coworkers when she is passed over for a big promotion at Consolidated Companies. Together, they devise a plan to see that Mr. Hart gets what he deserves. She is an ingenious, very capable single parent and is one of the masterminds who decide the little people, especially these three women, are not going to take it anymore. 

3. Manuela Echevarria in Todo Sobre Mi Madre (1999)

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Manuela Echevarria, played by Cecilia Roth, is a nurse who possesses an unconditional love for her son Esteban. In Todo Sobre Mi Madre, directed by Pedro Almodovar, Manuela accepts and supports him. When Esteban dies tragically on his 17th birthday after being run over by a car while chasing after Huma Rojo for her autograph following a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire, Manuela agrees his heart should be transplanted for another patient to live. After she resigns from her job as a nurse goes on a journey to Barcelona to find Esteban’s father, who he never knew, to inform him about their son’s death. She finds Esteban’s father, who is now Lola, a transgender woman whom Manuela had never told about their son. Manuela’s life soon becomes intertwined with many in Barcelona, eventually adopting another child showing her care as a mother once more. [/caption]

2. Stella Dallas in Stella Dallas (1925, 1937, and 1990)

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Stella Dallas, the titular character in the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty and the subsequent film adaptations, is a controversial character because of her choices as a mother. While some may argue that she is not a good mother, there are compelling arguments to suggest otherwise. Stella Dallas has been played by three different actresses across the three films Belle Bennett in 1925, Barbara Stanwyck in 1937, and Bette Midler in 1990. All three films center around Stella and her relationship to her daughter Laurel or Jenny in the 1990 version. In the 1937 film, despite her flaws and her lack of “refinement” coming from a poor background, Stella is fiercely protective of Laurel and dedicates her life to her well-being. She desperately wants her daughter to be better off than her. Stella recognizes her daughter’s talents and abilities and works to cultivate them, even if it means putting her desires and needs aside. Throughout their marriage, her wealthy husband Stephan tries to teach Stella how to be a part of “high society,” but to no avail. Eventually, Stella and Stephan divorce after a long time of separation, realizing that he wants to marry his girlfriend, Helen. Stella sends Laurel to live with newly married Helen and Stephan, thinking it would be best for her daughter since Stella is not up to class status. When Laurel realizes the arrangement and wants to move home because she loves her mother, Stella pretends to want nothing to do with her daughter. Heartbroken, Laurel goes back to live with her father and stepmother. Stella watches her daughter from afar after that but never stops taking an interest in Laurel’s. In the final scene, Stella stands outside in the rain, watching her daughter exchange wedding vows. Her presence goes unnoticed in the darkness. Other curious people watch the wealthy couple marry. Stella gets asked to move along by a police officer. She stays watching Laurel’s veil get lifted before turning around to walk away, having secured her daughter’s future. 

1. Morticia Addams, The Addams Family (1964)

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Morticia Adams, played by Angelica Huston, is a loving wife, mother, and matriarch of the Addams Family. In The Addams Family, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, Morticia and her husband Gomez have an outwardly romantic relationship. Together, they provide an intense example of how to treat others to their children, Pugsley and Wednesday, and other extended family members. Morticia leads by example and teaches her children that being unconventional is just fine as long as you are true to yourself. Her uniqueness allows her to embrace the differences in her children and is what today may be referred to as “gentle parenting” as opposed to “helicopter parenting.” Morticia allows her children to experiment with what could only be called dangerous items today, and when they do cross the line in their behavior, she often asks them why they are behaving that way. Very engaged and caring but with a total open mind makes Morticia possibly most children’s perfect mother.


These mothers never gave up on their children or themselves. They were at times under-appreciated as mothers often are; however, their devoted and unconditional love always showed through. Although motherhood only defines part of a person, it does occupy a large part of their lives both on film and off. 

The Addams Family (1991). Offical Columbia Pictures Trailer. 

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Stella Crouch
In addition to writing for Dead Talk News, Stella has also been published by The National Organization for Women, The Aurora Philosophy Institute, Phase Zero Magazine, and more. She has loved film since she was little, particularly old and obscure films. Stella currently attends The New School in New York City.