1. Terms of Endearment
Term of Endearment is a tear-jerker that is loved by mothers, daughters, and Jack Nicholson fans alike. At its core, this film explores the highs and lows of all kinds of love, including mother-daughter relationships and romantic ones. Having Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger as a mother-daughter acting team is an added bonus.
2. The Sound of Music
How many songs from the beloved 1965 film The Sound of Music can you name off the top of your head? Honestly. I assume you mean every single one of them. The story of the Austrian nun-turned-governor-turned-matriarch and the seven Von Trapp children will have you singing along and clapping as the family famously tricks the Nazis.
3. Steel Magnolias
There are several films that deal with the subject matter, but one that has a lot of levity in it is Steel Magnolias, starring Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, and others. A wedding, new hairstyles, and an outburst of rage are all on the agenda for our Louisiana heroines.
The Bette Midler-starring 1988 film Beaches is a must-see for any mother-daughter moviegoing pair. It tells the narrative of two childhood pals, one of whom is affluent and the other of whom is poor, as they grow up together. Wind Beneath My Wings will never sound the same to you again.
This Disney-Pixar film is sure to bring tears to the eyes of both mothers and daughters. Go out and grab one right now. Brave tells the narrative of Merida, a young woman who defies her mother’s desires by refusing to marry. A change occurs in her mother, but not in the way Merida thinks after she begs a witch for a special cake to “transform” her.
Hairspray is a great movie to watch with mom, whether it’s the 2007 version starring John Travolta as Edna Turnblad or the 1988 version starring legendary cross-dresser Divine. After dreaming of performing on the local TV dance show, Tracy Turnblad ended up demonstrating her hometown of Baltimore how vital a healthy body image—and the blending of races in the community.
7. Little Women
The four March sisters and their mother, Marmee (Susan Sarandon), deal with their father’s absence during the Civil War in 1994. When Marmee leaves to take care of him, the girls are transformed into the titular “Little Women.” Throughout the film, Winona Ryder portrays the narrator Jo, who guides the girls on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Get a Kleenex ready, but no spoilers.
Stella, starring Bette Midler as a waitress in a bar who has an affair with a doctor and becomes pregnant, was released in 1990. Despite the doctor’s desire to be in a relationship with her, she raises her daughter on her own. Stella must make a decision for her daughter when upper- and lower-class conflicts converge. Sniff.
9. Pieces of April
Katie Holmes plays an estranged daughter in the 2003 comedy Pieces of April, which sees her play the girl next door. Living on the streets of Manhattan, April hosts Thanksgiving dinner for her family, which includes her terminally ill mother. When, of all things, her oven breaks down, everything goes horribly wrong. Drama—and sardonic levity—are in order.
10. Freaky Friday
Every mother’s worst nightmare and every daughter’s desire come true in 2003. When you and your child trade bodies, it can be amusing at first, but it quickly becomes awkward. That’s what happens when Jamie Lee Curtis swaps places with Lindsay Lohan in this comedy of errors. If only that had happened in real life, it would have been even more hilarious.
11. The Kids Are All Right
Two young children, played by Mark Ruffalo and Annette Bening in 2010’s The Kids Are All Right, go out in search of their sperm donor father, who is played by Mark Ruffalo. Remember, you don’t want to aggravate Annette Bening.
12. Secrets & Lies
Secrets & Lies, a British film released in 1996, explores the complexities of family life. In the film, a black optometrist (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) seeks down her birth mother, who turns out to be a white working-class woman (Brenda Blethyn). Of course, there’s going to be a lot of drama.
13. The Joy Luck Club
Based on the novel of the same name by Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club explores the cultural divide between the two countries’ respective traditional Chinese cultures. The adult daughters of four Chinese immigrant ladies, all of whom meet on a regular basis, are unable to comprehend their mothers.
Stepmothers have received a fair amount of negative attention over the years. (Insert music from nearly every Disney movie ever.) Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts star in the film Stepmom, but there’s a surprise (we won’t give anything away). To put it bluntly, no matter how much the little kid of divorced parents Sarandon and Ed Harris threatens to despise his mother, everyone eventually comes around.
1962: Talk about a stage mother’s dream come true! When Rose Hovick (Rosalind Russell) is a stage mom, she is desperate for one of her two daughters to become a superstar. Before things get better, things go ugly for Louise (Natalie Wood) when her mother puts her in the spotlight as a burlesque dancer.
16. The Blind Side
An Oscar-winning performance by Sandra Bullock as a mother-figure in this heartwarming drama earned her the honor of being named best actress of 2009. When a high school football player is transferred from foster home to foster home, his adoptive parents decide to take him in. See if you don’t get caught off guard by Bullock’s captivating performance in the video below.
17. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Overbearing but kind-hearted relatives? Check. What’s the problem? Check. Is there a strong mother-daughter relationship? Check. The surprise hit It was Nia Vardalos’ story of her search for love and marriage to a non-Greek man that made her an international figure.
18. The Incredibles
Who doesn’t have a superhuman mom? With Pixar’s film The Incredibles, Elastigirl, Helen’s real name, can stretch like rubber. In addition to that, what mom doesn’t experience that at least occasionally?
19. Mamma Mia
The 2008 film Mamma Mia! stars Meryl Streep, who shines as a dancing queen throughout the film’s 21 ABBA tunes. For a young woman who is ready to get married, the plot revolves around her desire to find out the identity of her father, who could be any one of three men.