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Mother’s Day is approaching, and this year in particular we all have lots of time to hang out and watch movies that remind us of the deep (and often complex) relationships we have or had with our moms. We’ve curated a list of the best movies to watch on Mother’s Day if you want to host an impromptu film festival. Grab the tissues, and let’s go!

the Mother’s Day movie marathon

Mother’s Day is approaching, which means it is the perfect time for us to remember all the ways our moms are there for us. They are the ones who take care of us, who listen to us, and who love us better than anyone else. They are our heroes.

The best movies to watch with Mom on Mother’s Day.

With that in mind, we know many of you may be interested in some mom-centric stories to celebrate the holiday. And that’s why we’re bringing you this list of twenty-one Mother’s Day movies to watch this May; we have happy stories, sad stories, and everything in between. No matter how you’re feeling about the holiday, there’s a movie here for you. Watch with your mom, with your kids, or on your own.

The best movies to watch with Mom on Mother’s Day..

And if you are a mom yourself, thank you for all that you do! We hope you see a little flicker of how amazing you are reflected in these twenty-one fantastic films.

What are the Best Movies to Watch for Mother’s Day?

1.  Steel Magnolias

Steel Magnolias is many people’s Mother’s Day movie of choice, and for good reason. It is about female friendship as well as motherhood, and is as warm and funny as it is touching and emotional. If you like stories about women supporting one another through hard times, or if you’re looking for a tearjerker to provide some catharsis, Steel Magnolias should be your go-to.

Heartwarming movies to watch with Mom on Mother's Day

The best heartwarming movies to watch with Mom on Mother’s Day: Steel Magnolias.

2.  The Joy Luck Club

Based on the book by Amy Tan, this classic tells the story of four different Chinese American women, and their relationships with their immigrant mothers. The film manages to paint a full portrait of every character, and show each of these four bonds as something specific and real. For those who like epic emotional landscapes that sprawl across time, you will fall in love with this sentimental film.

3.  Real Women Have Curves

Of course, motherhood can come with its fair share of disagreement. American Ferrera plays Ana, a first generation Mexican American teenager who receives a scholarship to Columbia – but whose parents want her to stay home and help provide for the family. The movie is not afraid to show the hard parts of growing up and struggling with your mom. It’s all the more relatable for the way it shows intergenerational conflict.

Movies about mothers and daughters perfect for Mother's Day viewing.

Movies about mothers and daughters best for Mother’s Day viewing.

4.  Soul Food

In this quintessential picture from George Tillman Jr., family is everything. And at the center of this family is Mama Joe (played by Irma P. Hall), the formidable matriarch who hosts dinner every week to bring everyone together. The movie weaves together the threads of the family’s very different characters for a tapestry that holds both joy and sorrow, and captures the warmth of family in a way that you will never forget.

5.  Room

For a movie that shows the outer limits of motherhood, Room is the unsettling film that earned Brie Larson her Academy Award. She plays the mother of Jack, a young boy who she has raised within the confines of one room – the space where they have been held captive for his entire life. If you want a movie that is bleak and challenging, but full of incredible performances and a truly unique story, then Room is the movie for you.

6.  20th Century Women

In this movie about how to raise a child, Annette Benning plays Dorothea, the matriarch of a found-family and the single mother of teenage boy Jamie. Worried about her son, she enlists their friends, played by Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning, to help ensure that he grows into a good man. 20th Century Women feels like a miraculous scrapbook, exploring topics of deep meaning in a way that maintains its lightweight feel, without ever ceasing to actively engage you.

Best movies to watch with Mom on Mother’s Day: 20th Century Woman.

7.  Girl in Progress

Belonging to a certain era of high school films, the self-aware Girl in Progress is all about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship: in this case, between the immature and irresponsible mom, played by Eva Mendes, and her daughter, who is struggling enough to “come of age” without having to worry about her mother’s behavior. It both embraces and subverts the archetypes of its genre, becoming a movie about motherhood that is sweet and funny and full of heart.

8.  Good Bye Lenin!

This dark German comedy is a very different take on the lengths children will sometimes go to in order to protect their parents. The premise is this: after a woman wakes up from a coma, her son, played by Daniel Brühl, must keep her from learning about the end of the Communist regime – because he fears the shock would kill her. It is escapist in the way that only absurdist humor can achieve, but it also plays in a sandbox of historical reckoning that make this mother-son relationship one of a kind.

9.  Mermaids

Who wouldn’t want to have Cher as their mom? In this 90’s classic, she is as quirky and unpredictable as you might expect, dragging daughters (played by Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci) from city to city, much to their dismay. This movie is the perfect comfort food, full of the teenage angst and familial acceptance we all crave from a Mother’s Day flick.

10.  Fast Color

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Lorraine Toussaint star in this incredibly special family tale about a gene for magical abilities that is passed on through the generations. Fast Color manages to stay clear-headed and cerebral where a lesser film might have opted for campiness. It is one of the best recent films about either family or magic. The love between these mothers and their daughters is anything but simple. It is the powerful force that drives this story through its magnificent conclusion.

11.  The Second Mother

In this stunning Brazilian film from Anna Muylaert, a woman leaves her young daughter, Jessica, so that she can become a caretaker for a wealthy family and financially provide for Jessica’s future. When the two reunite after many years, they are forced to grapple with the unresolved resentments in their relationship. This is a significant take on motherhood. It shows the way class can come between even the closest connections, and the way that being a good mother can mean an entire universe of different things.

12.  Saint Frances

Saint Frances was one of the best movies to arrive in theaters in the early months of 2020, and if you missed it because of the start of lockdown, it’s not too late to catch up. The film all about the difficulties of motherhood and childbirth, portraying its memorable cast of characters in a way that is singular in its empathy and authenticity. If you want a movie that we guarantee you will love more than you are anticipating, watch this feel-good film. It is about a dysfunctional woman who takes the position of a nanny to a precocious child, processing the experience of her own abortion along the way.

13. Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once needs no introduction. If for some reason you’ve yet to watch the historic film, then this is the perfect moment to press play. Not only does the Oscar winner feature a mother-daughter relationship for the ages, it also happens to be one of our favorite movies in recent memory. Don’t let the multiverse scare you, because superstar Michelle Yeoh is here to get you through the film’s wackiest and most daring turns.

what to watch with mom

What to watch with mom on Mother’s Day: Everything Everywhere All At Once. Courtesy Photo.

14. Parallel Mothers

As we all know, motherhood can be a complicated topic. It’s not always simple or straightforward, and sometimes even the most nuanced films fail to encapsulate the many forms motherhood can take. Well, not Pedro Almodóvar’s 2022 Oscar-nominated film. If you want a movie that shows how motherhood can take you to places you did not expect, then this should be your watch this year – it starts with two women (played by Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit) who meet in the delivery room, and it goes from there.

what to watch with mom

What to watch with mom on Mother’s Day: Parallel Mothers. Courtesy Photo.

15. Marvelous and the Black Hole

We know that for many, this is not an easy holiday. If you are missing your mom this Mother’s Day, then we recommend checking out Katie Tsang’s lovely film. A hit from Sundance 2021, the movie tells the story of thirteen-year-old Sammy (Miya Cech) who is struggling with the loss of her mother. She finds unexpected help in the company a children’s party magician (Rhea Pearlman) – and maybe you will too.

What to watch with mom on Mother’s Day: Marvelous and the Black Hole. Courtesy Photo.

16. Miss Juneteenth

Nicole Beharie stars as Turquoise, a single mother helping to prepare her teenage daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) for the Miss Juneteenth pageant. Turquoise is a former winner herself, and knows what’s at stake – a full college scholarship – but Kai is not so interested in competing. Will she follow in her mom’s footsteps, or forge her own path forward? Channing Godfrey Peoples’ lovely, heartwarming film was one of our favorites out of Sundance 2020.  It would make the perfect Mother’s Day watch.

What to watch with mom on Mother’s Day: Miss Juneteenth. Courtesy Photo.

17. Turning Red

If you’re spending Mother’s Day with a younger audience, consider the delightful Turning Red – that is, if you haven’t already seen it a hundred times (or maybe even if you have). Pixar’s latest project is all about coming of age, and the havoc it can wreak on mother-daughter relationships (especially when you sometimes turn into a red panda). Anyone who’s ever been a teenage girl knows how difficult it can be when you’re trying to become your own person, and your mom still sees you the way you used to be – and this beautiful film speaks to all of that and more.

best movies to watch about mothers

The best movies to watch about mothers this Mother’s Day: Turning Red.

18. Broker

Motherhood can take many forms – and so can family. In the recent film from Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters), a fraught journey begins when a young mother abandons her newborn son at a baby box. When she changes her mind and returns for him, she is too late – he’s already been sold by two men involved in an illegal adoption scheme. Improbably, the three embark on a trip to meet the baby’s new parents, having no idea how all their lives will change over the course of their adventure. If you don’t think this sounds like a sweet or heartwarming movie, you’ll have to trust us that it’s both – and that it serves as a wonderful reminder that even the most loving mothers are not always perfect. Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Bae Doona, and Ji-eun Lee star in one of our favorite movies from the first quarter of 2023.

19. Cha Cha Real Smooth

The charming film Cha Cha Real Smooth is about many things – primarily, the angst-ridden aimlessness that so many young adults feel after they graduate college. It also stars Dakota Johnson as Domino, the young mother of a thirteen-year-old girl with autism. When Domino meets Andrew, the recent college grad who is hosting Bar Mitzvahs for all the teens in her daughter’s class, the two begin an unexpected affair. Though it’s sometimes easy to forget, our mothers are people with complex and flawed emotions of their own, and we love the way Cha Cha Real Smooth is written to honor that fact.

20. Petite Maman

Petite Maman was made for Mother’s Day. Celina Sciamma’s small miracle of a film is difficult describe – and besides, we wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. Much of the film’s magic comes from the secret of its central conceit, and so this is one of those times where we suggest going in with as little knowledge of the story as possible. All we will say is that if you are struggling with any kind of grief or loss this Mother’s Day, this gentle film may offer some much-needed sanctuary.

21. Saint Omer

One of the best films we’ve seen so far in 2023 is not exactly your average Mother’s Day viewing. But we think it should be! Written and directed by Alice Diop, the film tells the story of a pregnant journalist named Rama (Kayije Kagame), who travels from Paris to Saint-Omer to attend the trial of Laurence (Guslagie Malanda), a young mother standing trial for the death of her fifteen-month-old daughter – whom she left to die on a beach in France. Some stories avoid the more complicated side of motherhood – as well as the way it intersects with race, with class, and with society – and we love the way this unforgettable film dives right in. if you’re looking for a story that is as nuanced as motherhood itself, then look no further.

What are the Best Movies to Watch with Mom on Mother’s Day?

That’s it! Our picks for the best movies about mothers to include in your Mother’s Day film festival. What’s your favorite? Did we miss anything?

Stay safe and healthy. And Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and all the women who serve as mothers to other people in their lives. We love you guys! And we appreciate you.

Abbie Martin Greenbaum

Abbie Martin Greenbaum is a writer, reader, and pop culture connoisseur, who loves storytelling, coffee, and dessert. Her work has also appeared in Playbill.