How many great moms on film can you think of? They fall into categories. The first is the best kind, the mom who figures out motherhood along the way. There is the saintly mother – Grapes of Wrath, It’s a Wonderful Life. And the evil mother – Psycho, Mommy Dearest. They are all equally wonderful, wouldn’t you say? TIME Mag has a pretty good list.
You aren’t born a parent, you’re made one through your experience raising kids. Hollywood likes to make unlikely mothers into heroes and often these aren’t women at all, but men, like Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer.
Herewith, a list of my favorite mothers depicted on the big screen in good, bad and ugly ways.
Full disclosure, most of mine are mother and daughter relationship films, but not all.
20. Shirley MacLaine in Postcards from the Edge.
19. The miracle that is Meryl Streep in One True Thing is just insane. The greatest. She gets number 3.
18. And Meryl Streep again with Sophie’s Choice.
17. Sally Field in Forrest Gump.
16. Barbra Streisand in The Guilt Trip, a movie no one saw. Too bad.
15. Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.
14. Faye Dunaway, Mommie Dearest
13. Anjelica Huston, The Grifters
12. Faye Dunaway, Chinatown
11. Piper Laurie, Carrie — “I can see your dirty pillows.”
10. Shelly Duvall in The Shining. “As soon as possible!”
9. Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment, lest we forget.
8. Shelley Winters in Lolita
7. Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist
6. Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
5. Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate
4. Barbara Stanwyck, Stella Dallas
3. Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce
2. Viola Davis in Doubt
1. Kathy Bates in Dolores Claiborne – really and truly my favorite mother in film of all time, but as you can see, all of these women are great.
And Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment. For all of the scenes in this movie, but particularly this one: