As we celebrate Mother’s Day, and those women who are so important in our lives, let’s take a trip through some of cinema’s greatest (and in some cases infamous) mums. 


Mildred Pierce (1945)

Without a doubt, Joan Crawford’s finest hour came in this sensational adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel. Crawford sears the screen, and won an Oscar for her efforts, as a working-class single mother who builds a business empire, but is willing to sacrifice everything in order to provide a life of privilege for her two daughters. Sadly, for Mildred, one of her daughters cares more about the money than she does her own mother. Ann Blyth, who nabbed an Oscar nomination for her role as Veda is deliciously evil as Mildred’s thankless and venal daughter. A film that demands multiple viewings to fully appreciate all the nuances of Crawford’s stunning performance.


Mommie Dearest (1981)

You simply cannot create of list of memorable mommies without including this notorious camp classic. Faye Dunaway is a force-of-nature in this wildly over-the-top film, and won a Razzie award for her ferocious but somehow unconvincing portrayal of Joan Crawford. Diana Scarwid and Mara Hobel share the dubious honour of portraying Crawford’s adoptive daughter Christina.

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When Paramount Pictures realised that the film was actually pretty terrible they began to famously market the film with the tagline, “Meet the biggest MOTHER of them all.” Christina Crawford, Joan’s adoptive daughter continued to stand by her tell-all book and in a 2019 interview with The Guardian, claimed that her mother “should have been in jail.”


Volver (2006)

Pedro Almodóvar is an LGBTQI filmmaker with a long history of crafting achingly beautiful films focusing on the relationship between mothers and their children.

His most recent release, Parallel Mothers, with Penélope Cruz in her Oscar nominated role, received some of his best notices in years and All About My Mother remains a personal favorite. 

Volver, however, remains one of the director’s most poignant films, largely due to the casting of his two iconic muses; Cruz, in her seventh Almodóvar film, and the glorious Carmen Maura who starred in many of his early classics like Law of Desire and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

This story of mothers and daughters and the love that binds them together is superb and was nominated for a slew of awards including an Oscar nomination for Cruz as Best Actress, while the ensemble cast took home a collective Best Actress award at Cannes.


Pink Flamingos (1972) 

Iconic LGBTQI filmmaker, John Waters created this seminal and delightfully nasty classic, which remains as hilariously subversive as  when it was first released. Divine, is unforgettable in the film for which she will be forever remembered, and gained instant infamy for gobbling down some fresh doggie-doo for the film’s final scene. Divine plays Babs Johnson, otherwise known as the “filthiest person alive.” 

Babs is a deeply disturbed career criminal who lives in a trailer with her egg-obsessed mother, Edie (Edith Massey, another Waters regular), who dresses as a baby and sits in a crib and her son Crackers who is well…crackers. There’s no point in describing the insane plot…just sit back & enjoy…


The Kids Are Alright (2010)

Out director Lisa Cholodenko’s terrific film features Julianne Moore and Annette playing a lesbian couple who are happily raising their kids when their sperm donor (played by Mark Ruffalo) enters their lives and has an affair with one of the couple.  Cholodenko was nominated (with Stuart Blumberg) for an Oscar, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for Best Original Screenplay for the film. The entire cast is phenomenal.


Boy Erased (2018)

Nicole Kidman is one of the best actors working today. Her work is always compelling and her performance in Boy Erased in no exception. Kidman plays a conservative Christian mother who, discovering her son is gay, agrees with her deeply conservative husband (Russell Crowe) to send him to a conversion therapy camp.

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Kidman delivers a tightly wound and thoughtful performance as a mother who loves her son and comes to the realisation that loving someone sometimes means accepting uncomfortable truths.


Other People (2016)

Jesse Plemons, so memorable in Jane Campion’s Power of the Dog plays a gay man who moves home to help look after his mother (a terrific Molly Shannon) who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. A touching film about love, loss and acceptance, with excellent performances. 


Lilting (2014)

The story of a mother who is not only trying to come to terms with her son’s death, but also the realisation of who he was before he died.  Out actor Ben Whishaw is excellent and is matched by Cheng Pei-pei as his partner’s grieving mother. A beautiful and understated film.


Blackbird (2014)

Mo’Nique plays a Christian mother who is struggling to come to terms with the fact that her son is gay. A film which flew under-the-radar at the time of its release but features strong performances by the  entire cast.

It is interesting to contrast this film with Precious, the 2002 film by Out director Lee Daniels. Mo’Nique won a well-deserved Oscar for her showy turn as an embittered and unhinged mother, who emotionally and physically abuses her child. Despite her considerable talents, Mo’Nique has never really been given the roles she deserves.

The film was produced by, and stars, Isaiah Washington who gained notoriety for uttering a gay slur on the set of Grey’s Anatomy.


Stage Mother (2020)

While this low-budget Canadian film doesn’t always work, Jacki Weaver (excellent as usual) owns the screen as a Christian mother who decides to take over running her deceased son’s drag club. Weaver brings warmth and humour to the story of a woman who sadly realises too late how much her son meant, not only her, but to his friends and chosen family. Canadian / American director Thom Fitzgerald continues to impress as a storyteller of LGBTQ focused stories, following on his well-received films, The Hanging Garden, Beefcake, 3 Needles and The Event.


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