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Moms on film: a Mother's Day compendium

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Mother's Day: a time for appreciating the women who birthed us, for being appreciated by our children, and for longer than usual brunch lines. If you're looking to go to the cinema, 20th Century Fox is marketing hard for the mother-daughter adventure comedy Snatched, starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. Seriously, this movie looks like focus-group robots built it from the ground up to extract cash directly from our holiday-mandated heartstrings. No clue whether Snatched will be any good, but the trailer one-liners seem OK, and Overboard was funny, so it may be worth rolling the dice.

Then again, Mother's Day is about so much more than blonde adults getting into hijinks. For those who'd rather stay in and experience this holiday through a rental but don't know where to start, here are a few suggestions categorized to fit our readers' many needs. Whether you're looking to celebrate motherhood, regret your choice to have children, or feel secure in never having had any, these films are for you.

Reluctant mothers rise to the occasion

In Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004), Beatrix Kiddo starts out as a cold-blooded assassin. But the moment she looks at that positive pregnancy strip—like a robot with an on switch—her life becomes maniacally focused on the well being of her unborn baby, and in that spirit, a four-hour, violent revenge rampage ensues. Is this how it really feels to be pregnant, or is it just macho director Quentin Tarantino's best guess at what women are like?

Kill Bill Vol. 2
  • Kill Bill Vol. 2

For a more complicated look, consider Juno (2007), which features not just a teenager who makes the mature decision to give her baby up for adoption, but also the woman who adopts the baby and the surprisingly tender relationship between Juno and her stepmom.

In Room (2015), we meet a 24-year-old woman who's been trapped in a room by her kidnapper for seven years. She had to have been motivated at least in part by loneliness and boredom to birth and raise her son, Jack, with a man she despises, but that doesn't make their love any less transcendent.

Mothers gone wild

For goth misanthropes who wish to slander this sacred holiday with examples of dastardly parenting, look no further than Mommie Dearest (1981), based on Christina Crawford's controversial memoir about her alcoholic, abusive mother, Joan Crawford, a woman with an illustrious film career who is perhaps now most famous for really disliking wire hangers.

Next up is John Water's campy black comedy Serial Mom (1994). The film stars Kathleen Turner as a perfect wife and mother, except for the relentless killing. Still, the film does a pretty good job of convincing us that most of these victims had it coming, with crimes that include not recycling and wearing white shoes after Labor Day.

Juno
  • Juno

It's going on the list because I can't help myself, but for God's sake, don't spend Mother's Day watching the World War II-era film Sophie's Choice (1982), about a woman who's forced to choose which of her children will survive the Holocaust. That's messed up.

Kids gone even wilder

Let's lighten the mood a little with a German horror picture called Goodnight Mommy (2014), about a couple of twin boys who become convinced that their mother is not who she says she is and so proceed to divine the truth with escalating torture methods. Imagine if Home Alone was rated R, everyone spoke German, and the kids weren't home alone.

Then we've got two sides of the same coin with some horror classics featuring children possessed by the demonic. In The Exorcist (1973), a young girl's mother puts up with some pretty unfriendly words to save her from demonic possession. The mom in Rosemary's Baby (1968) takes it a step further by joining forces with the dark side at her infant's behest.

When it comes to evil kids, it doesn't get better than the bone-chilling 2012 film We Need To Talk About Kevin. What does a mother do when she can see from an early age that her kid's kind of a psychopath? She loves him unconditionally anyway, of course. This film has a lot to say about how society treats the mothers of violent offenders, and it's not pretty.

It's complicated: blended families, adults and death

In last year's gem 20th Century Women, a divorced mother and two younger women come together to help raise 15-year-old Jamie in a Southern California boarding house in 1979. Surely his is an upbringing we can all relate to.

20th Century Women
  • 20th Century Women

Meryl Streep makes her second appearance on our list with 1990's Postcards from the Edge (not to mention the film's allusion to Mommie Dearest). In this comedy-drama, a semi-autobiographical story written by Carrie Fisher, a recovering drug addict is forced to move back in with her mother. Old dynamics die hard and lessons are learned.

Finally, in the 2014 backpacking film Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed's memoir, we may only see glimpses of Cheryl's mother in flashback, but her death and the grief it brought the author touch every corner of the story. This movie has a lot to say about what it means to lose a parent, and it does so with warmth, reverence and poorly planned backpacking.

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