8 Uplifting Movies to Enjoy on Mother’s Day

Whether you are a mother, miss your mother or are celebrating your mother, these films will meet you where you are.

Posted in , Apr 6, 2022

Mothers and daughters watching TV

Many of us saw our first movies with our mothers. I remember when, throughout my childhood, Disney used to release classic movies like Snow White and Cinderella back into the movie theaters, and my mom would take my sister and me for a special afternoon out. The aroma of popcorn and the creamy bite of Junior Mints reminds me of those times to this day.

Now that I’m an adult, and a mother myself, movies are part of my memory, threads of connection with my relationships, my growth as a person and my place in my family. 

This Mother’s Day, if you are looking for a movie to uplift, to make you laugh (and maybe cry just a little), and to reflect on your connection with your mom, your kids, or both, start with these eight films (popcorn and Junior Mints optional).

This 2012 Disney Pixar film set in medieval Scotland is the fantastical tale of a princess, Merida, who longs to ride horses and fire a bow and arrow like the men in her clan. Her mother, Queen Elinor, becomes enchanted and turns into a bear, unable to speak and requiring her daughter’s aid to lift her curse. The fierceness of the love between Merida and Elinor—complicated as it often is between mothers and daughters—makes this beautiful viewing for mothers or daughters of any age.

Freaky Friday
Based on the famous young adult novel, this 2003 movie (or the 1976 original adaptation) hilariously explores the question of what would happen if a teenage girl and her harried working mother—who aren’t getting along very well—switch bodies for a day. The experience of spending a day in another’s shoes is not only pure comedy, it reveals a new level of respect and love the mother and daughter come to share.

The Kids Are All Right
This 2010 comedy features not one but two powerhouse mothers, a married same-sex couple whose 18-year-old daughter researches and locates Paul, the sperm donor who enabled the couple to have their two children. The relationship between the two mothers is complicated by Paul’s presence, and the family goes through a journey back to each other.

Mamma Mia!
A romantic comedy set to the exuberant music of ABBA, this 2008 film follows Sophie, a young woman who has never known who her father is—and invites three possible candidates to her wedding on the Greek island where her mother owns a hotel-villa. Her mother’s best friends—more mother figures to Sophie—go on the journey of discovery, emotion and celebration in this beautiful, moving story that also was a Broadway musical.

Soul Food
Matriarchy is a theme of this 1997 film about a close-knit African American family that lives in Chicago and is reeling after the death of “Big Mama,” whose Sunday meals kept the family connected and nourished—emotionally as well as physically. The experiences of Big Mama’s three grown daughters and their respective families and relationships are woven together and are brought back to the table by 11-year-old Ahmad’s desire to see the family’s traditions survive.

Forrest Gump
Of all the famously quotable lines from this 1994 Oscar-winning film, it’s “What’s my destiny, Mama?” that always brings a tear to my eye. The title character’s mother is a fierce protector of her son’s unique strengths and challenges, the moral heart of her son’s life and the kind of mother whose impact is felt well beyond her years on earth.  

The Joy Luck Club
Chinese immigrant mothers and their daughters are at the heart of this powerful 1993 film based on the Amy Tan novel. The story unfolds as the mothers choose carefully when to share their stories—or not—with their daughters, as we see the beauty and complexity of generational connection and discovery in flashback scenes interspersed with current issues for the main characters.

Steel Magnolias
This 1989 classic film about mothers, daughters and lifelong friends is a famous tearjerker, but it is also rich with humor, joy and deep and honest love. Don’t kid yourself—keep the tissues nearby. But if you need to let out some feelings this Mother’s Day, you can consider this movie your first stop. 

What are your favorite uplifting movies for Mother’s Day?

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