The art of cinema and television are wonderful aids for personal reflection. Actors and actresses give us the ability to identify our past, present, and future. Their work helps us interact with our sense of self more clearly.
Here is a list of my favorite movies and shows about motherhood. Whatever motherhood looks like to you, feels like to you, or what you hope motherhood will be (or not be), this list is for you!
Not every movie or show I have listed is easy or light, but each portrays a real side of motherhood. The films and television series reflect our vast human experiences. This curated list is meant for adults, but some selections you may be able to view with your children.
Movies for the New Mother
This 1988 film stars Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern. While Rotten Tomatoes gives this film two stars …er, tomatoes… I think it’s worth the watch. I haven’t watched She’s Having a Baby in over fifteen years, but I remember the film depicting the range of human emotion when it comes to having a baby. There must be some cringy cultural moments – 1988 you know? But the 1980 era offers a sort of pleasant nostalgia (plus Kate Bush’s song Woman’s Work will reel you in)!
This documentary follows the lives of four babies living in different parts of the world. The film documents each child’s first year of life, from birth through age one. Babies is a delightful film portraying the differences in culture yet the sameness of human need and connection.
I watched this film when I was pregnant with my first child. I’m glad I did and recommend other pregnant women do the same. What a plethora of warmth to absorb while you wait on your new arrival!
John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph star in this endearing comedy about a couple expecting a baby. The couple decides to travel across the country with the goal of deciding where they want to raise their family. During their travels, they experience varying family dynamics. In the end, the couple defines what family and home mean to them.
My husband and I watched this movie shortly after my first child was born. I found the film a coming-of-age story I needed to watch. As parents, we are born again! That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. We can either continue down the path handed to us by our own ancestors or change the course of a generation.
Tully is one of my favorite films on this list. Charlize Theron gives a stunning performance as a mother experiencing postpartum depression. In this raw sometimes heartwarming and also heart-wrenching portrayal of motherhood, we see the great need for our partner’s empathy. Even more important, is the need to be seen and loved by a community during the early days of having a baby.
I wish I had watched this movie prior to having children. As a person who experienced postpartum depression, yet didn’t know how to recognize the signs, this movie is both helpful and healing.
Tully creates awareness and acknowledges that isolation in motherhood is real. We shouldn’t have to mother alone.
Another favorite! Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney star in this hilarious and raw comedy series about unexpected pregnancy, marriage, and family.
I highly recommend Catastrophe for parents who are in the thick of it. Thick of it meaning you are raising infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children. Catastrophe was exactly the show I needed after long, lonely days with my three children under the ages of five.
I see you momma’s. You need all the belly laughs with a mix of relatability! This is a perfect show to watch with your partner.
Coming of Age
I can’t recommend this movie enough! Boyhood is an epic masterpiece. A gorgeous film based on the vantage point of a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane). Viewers get to see Mason’s point of view of his family and milestones over the course of time. This film is honest and the acting phenomenal. Ethan Hawk and Patricia Arquette star as Mason’s parents and they do not disappoint!
Not only does Mason come into his own, but so do his parents, again and again and again. This film reminds me we never arrive but evolve over and over again.
Saoirse Ronan plays a teenage girl fighting for her independence while her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf, does her best to parent while making plenty of mistakes (as we do). The Lady Bird story is about a seveteen-year-old girl and her mother clashing, pulling apart, and wrestling with how to love one another while sticking to their own ideals.
Moonlight is another epic film. It is visually stimulating, and the acting is brilliant.
The film is about a young black boy’s evolution from boy to man. Chiron’s childhood is wrought with trauma as he tries to find a foothold. Chiron’s mother is an example of what absence can look like in a child’s life. Parental absence, physical or emotional, is a very real experience for many.
Chiron is played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes. Along the way, Chiron is met with loving characters who influence the direction of his life.
OK! This movie is a MUST SEE. Everything Everywhere All At Once is life-changing. Possibly saving? Yes, it is about motherhood. That said, it is also about our current role in life. This film is captivating, thought-provoking, iconic, creative, and goosebump-inducing. This piece of cinematic art will give you permission to relish in your own life’s “what if’s” alongside the “right now”.
Please watch Better Things. Pamela Aldon plays a single mother to three girls growing up in California. This show is about generational trauma and generational healing. The relationships between mother, daughter, and grandmother are honest, quirky, and portray a range of human emotions. You will laugh ’til you cry, identify deeply, and cry because each character is so lovely.
Also, if you love eccentric and eclectic, you will love the family’s aesthetic.
The Thick of It
This is both classic and iconic. The 1974 gem was directed by Martin Scorsese. Ellen Burstyn plays Alice, a recently divorced mother to one, Tommy. Alice takes her son and tries to move from New Mexico to California hoping to make it as a singer. They end up in Arizona along the way where Alice starts a job at a diner in order to make enough money to get to California.
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is about a woman filling the role as a mother while also seeking an independent goal for herself. Along the way, Alice meets a handsome rancher, David, played by Kris Kristofferson.
Motherhood and independence isn’t always what we think it will be and that’s ok.
Miss Juneteenth explores the black experience in terms of girlhood, womanhood, and motherhood. As a former pageant queen, Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie) wants her daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) to win the Miss Juneteenth pageant in order to receive a college scholarship. Turquoise wants the best for her daughter Kai, while Kai’s desires may not match her mother’s.
This coming-of-age mother-daughter duo explores what it means to triumph in adversity, work hard, as well as love well through affection and shared moments.
Illness and Sorrow
If you haven’t watched Grey Gardens, you should. This 1975 classic documentary about mother and daughter duo, Edie Bouvoir Beele and Edith, will have you hooked.
Relatives of Jackie Onassis, Edie and Edith take you into their Hampton estate. A home that once stood tall is now falling apart along with Edie and Edith’s mental health. Grey Gardens is a true story about two co-dependent, eccentric women reminiscing about their past while aging into the unknown.
Edie and Edith’s mother-daughter relationship is the epitomy of enmeshment yet pulled at my empathetic heart strings. As a society, we’ve come a long way in mental health services and treatment.
Revolutionary Road is a film adaptation that takes an honest look at marriage and motherhood. Set in the 1950s, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet star as a married couple building a life. Set in an era when women kept their mouths shut in regulars to their needs, this film depicts an unhealthy marriage dynamic and what can happen as a result.
Again, thank goodness for the evolution of mental health services! Honest communication saves us as partners and parents, no matter how difficult or painful the truth may be.
This unique film is another film adaptation directed by Maggie Gylenhall. The Lost Daughter takes an uncomfortable look at the darkest, more frightening versions of ourselves, as mothers and women.
Leda (Olivia Colman) is the lead character who becomes entranced by Nina (Dakota Johnson) a pretty, fiery young mother. This film navigates the awkward often fictional perceptions we have of ourselves and others. Leda is a self-consumed character which does not bode well in motherhood or any relationship for that matter.
While this film made me uncomfortable, it also made me think more deeply about self-obsession, self-care, and self sacrifice. All things that affect our relationship with our kids and others.
As I gathered this list of movies, I found a slew of others I want to watch but haven’t. Take note of The Devil To Pay and In Our Mother’s Gardens. Also check out The Florida Project and Pieces of April, two more of my favorites.