Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine are a dynamic daughter-mother duo in Terms of Endearment. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
There is no bond more primal than that the one between mother and child, no matter how long it’s been since baby came on board. Mothers nurture, sacrifice, and love (and all the other things) without reservation. It’s fertile and dramatic territory, so it comes as little surprise that so many of the films we love are, at their core, tributes to mom. 

Terms of Endearment

In this Oscar-winning mother-daughter drama from 1983, Shirley MacLaine plays the fierce and overprotective mother to Emma (played by Debra Winger). The film packs a lifetime of love and tears into its 25-year span, and was one of Greta Gerwig’s greatest inspirations for Lady Bird.

Steel Magnolias

In this 1989 tragic comedy about a sextet of powerful Southern belles, Sally Field and Julia Roberts shine as an emotionally overwhelmed mother-daughter duo in the throes of wedding planning.

Mommie Dearest

This docudrama from 1981 is based on Christina Crawford’s jaw-dropping memoir of growing up the daughter of Hollywood legend Joan Crawford (played by Faye Dunaway).  Watch if you want to feel better about your own parenting choices.


Albert Brooks is a national treasure, and his 1996 comedy exploring a grown son’s relationship with his mother (Debbie Reynolds) merits repeat viewings. 


The black comedy that swept the most recent Oscars was about privilege, pretenses, and the power of ambitious mothers. The matriarchs that Lee Jung-eun and Cho-Yeo Jeong play occupy opposite side of the class divide and set the wild story in motion.