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The 12 Best Movies to Watch on Mother’s Day

Celebrate moms near and far with this spring bouquet of comedies and dramas streaming right now (just make sure the tissue box is handy!)

spinner image Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried in the musical romantic comedy Mamma Mia
(Left to right) Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried in "Mamma Mia!"
Peter Mountain/Universal Studios

My mother and I share a sense of humor — and the love of movies that led me to become a critic. My college-age daughter’s favorite job ever was working at the box office of our local art house theater. The movies that we love and share unite three generations — and, come Mother’s Day, we’ll celebrate by watching movies about mothers. Whether comedy, tragedy or somewhere in the middle, these are the 12 mom movies to which my family keeps returning.

spinner image Andrea Riseborough in a scene in the film To Leslie
Andrea Riseborough in "To Leslie."
Momentum Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

To Leslie (2022)

Andrea Riseborough got a long-shot (and well-deserved) Oscar nomination for her tough, torn and tattered titular boozer. Leslie tries and tries again to go straight in order to rescue her frayed relationship with the grown son (Owen Teague) she abandoned as a youth. It’s a detailed, heart-wrenching performance in a drama about the intersection of motherhood and addiction — and one woman’s battle of the bottle versus the baby.

Watch it: To Leslie on Prime Video

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spinner image George Clooney and Julia Roberts arrive on a beach in the film Ticket to Paradise
Julia Roberts (center) in "Ticket to Paradise."
Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Ticket to Paradise (2022)

Seeking a mother-of-the-bride from hell? Look no further than Julia Roberts, 55. What’s the only thing that the pissed-off divorcée can agree on with her ex-husband George Clooney, 62? Their only daughter shouldn’t go through with her destination wedding in Bali. These A-list opposites can’t help but attract, and both are easy on the eyes as they unite in a dastardly attempt to thwart the nuptials, only to trip on the last threads of their affection for each other.

Watch it: Ticket to Paradise on Apple TV, Prime Video

spinner image Meryl Streep smiling in a scene from the film Mamma Mia
Meryl Streep in "Mamma Mia!"
Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

Mamma Mia! (2008)

Irresistible! This sun-drenched, ABBA-fueled musical has a beat you can dance to in your living room. Meryl Streep, 73, sings her heart out as an island-bound earth mama whose “Dancing Queen” daughter (Amanda Seyfried) returns home to wed. When it comes to marching her down the aisle, who’s her papa? Is it Stellan Skarsgård, 71, Pierce Brosnan, 69, or Colin Firth, 62?

Watch it: Mamma Mia! on Apple TV, Prime Video

spinner image Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in the film Lady Bird
(Left to right) Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in "Lady Bird."
A24/Courtesy Everett Collection

Lady Bird (2017)

Writer-director Greta Gerwig’s knockout coming-of-age dramedy plumbs the complicated relationship between a high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) and her overworked mother (Laurie Metcalf, 67). Their emotional tug-of-war is so relatable! As the younger woman struggles to define herself as an individual, inevitably part of that process requires pulling away from the bewildered mother who shaped her.

Watch it: Lady Bird on Hulu, Prime Video

spinner image Sigourney Weaver holding an assault rifle holding Carrie Henn in her arm in the film Aliens
Sigourney Weaver (left) and Carrie Henn in "Aliens."
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Aliens (1986)

In the original Alien (1979), the mother of all monster movies, astronaut Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, 73) encounters a slobbering carnivorous creature from outer space. In the sequel Aliens, Ripley gets between a monstrous matriarch and her babies, protecting a little girl from the aliens’ clutches. The result is out-of-this-world scares wedded to an emotion to which humans can relate: the fierce protective love a mother has for her offspring.

Watch it: Aliens on Prime Video

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spinner image Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds in the lingerie section of a store in a scene from the film Mother
(Left to right) Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds in "Mother."
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Mother (1996)

Albert Brooks, 75, wrote, directed and stars in this bittersweet classic. Laugh until you cry as neurotic twice-divorced John (Brooks) reluctantly moves in with his judgmental nutjob of a parent, played by the late Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds. According to Carrie Fisher’s biographer, Sheila Weller, the Star Wars star lobbied Brooks to cast her mother in a role that was intended for Doris Day — and movie mama history was made.

Watch it: Mother on Prime Video

spinner image Shirley MacLaine hugs Debra Winger in a photo for the film Terms of Endearment
Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine (right) in "Terms of Endearment."
Courtesy Everett Collection

Terms of Endearment (1983)

Who needs an excuse to weep when this Debra Winger-Shirley MacLaine best picture Oscar winner written and directed by James L. Brooks, 83, is just a stream away? After daughter Emma (Winger, 67) gets the Big C, she and her perfectionist mother, Aurora (MacLaine, 89), confront the ravages of the disease and navigate the trickier curves of their close relationship. Hankies, please!

Watch it: Terms of Endearment on Prime Video

spinner image The female cast members of The Joy Luck Club posing for a picture together
(Left to right) Kieu Chinh, Ming-Na Wen, Tamlyn Tomita, Tsai Chin, France Nuyen, Lauren Tom, Lisa Lu and Rosalind Chao in "The Joy Luck Club."
Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Best-selling author Amy Tan, 71, adapted her bighearted, multigenerational novel, weaving the highlights and heartaches of four Chinese women and their American-born daughters. Celebrate the sprawling yet intimate movie that Roger Ebert called, “One of the most touching and moving of the year’s films.”

Watch it: The Joy Luck Club on Prime Video

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spinner image Annette Bening and Julianne Moore sitting on a couch in the film The Kids Are All Right
(Left to right) Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in "The Kids Are All Right."
Suzanne Tenner/Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Teens Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) have two absolutely fabulous mothers — Nic (Annette Bening, 64) and Jules (Julianne Moore, 62). When the kids become curious about their biological father (Mark Ruffalo, 55), it challenges their carefully curated home life. The Oscar-nominated alternative family comedy from Lisa Cholodenko, 58, is funny, touching and universal.

Watch it: The Kids Are All Right on Apple TV, Prime Video

spinner image Zelda Harris and Alfre Woodard looking at each other in a scene from the film Crooklyn
Zelda Harris and Alfre Woodard (right) in "Crooklyn."
Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

Crooklyn (1994)

Writer-director Spike Lee, 66, digs into his family’s Brooklyn roots for this charming, warmhearted tale about the Carmichael family in crisis in the early ’70s. Alfre Woodard, 70, and Delroy Lindo, 70, shine as the parents, while their adorable elementary schooler (Zelda Harris) grows up fast when she discovers a family illness threatens her security.

Watch it: Crooklyn on Prime Video

spinner image Jamie Lee Curtis places her hands on her face as Lindsay Lohan looks on in Freaky Friday
Jamie Lee Curtis (left) and Lindsay Lohan in "Freaky Friday."
Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett Collection

Freaky Friday (2003)

The idea that you don’t really know a person until you walk in their shoes is taken to comedic extremes when mom Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis, 64) and daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan) magically switch bodies. Always memorable is the scene where the weight-conscious mother gobbles french fries without guilt, one of the perks of her daughter’s more forgiving metabolism.

Watch it: Freaky Friday on Disney+

spinner image Saoirse Ronan places her head on Laura Dern's shoulder in Little Women
Saoirse Ronan and Laura Dern (right) in "Little Women."
Wilson Webb/Sony Pictures

Little Women (2019)

Writer-director Greta Gerwig adds a fresh bounce to the Louisa May Alcott chestnut about the four March sisters (Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen) and their beloved Marmee, beautifully played by Laura Dern, 56. Nominated for six Oscars — and scoring a win for costume design — Gerwig’s vibrant adaptation cherishes the special bonds between mothers and daughters and the inevitable crises that test them. 

Watch it: Little Women on Apple TV, Prime Video

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