10 Fascinating Films Exploring Mother-Daughter Relationship

Today (11th) is Mother’s Day in the UK, and I am exploring a mother-daughter relationship on screen. At times, this relationship is sweet and inspiring, at other times – it is challenging and even devastating. Recent films that explore (partially or otherwise) a mother-daughter relationship include “Lady Bird” and “I, Tonya”, and the question arises – what other movies do the same? In no particular order:

Terms of Endeartment PosterI. Terms of Endearment (1983)  

This is a comical tearjerker of a movie about the relationship of a mother and her daughter (Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger), and its enduring nature. Underneath, the movie is about many things, such as accepting people for who they are and making peace. The film also features the performance from Jack Nicholson.  

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Mildren PierceII. Mildred Pierce (1945) 

 The film perhaps shows a more destructive mother-daughter relationship, but a relationship neverthelessJoan Crawford gives an outstanding performance as the mother of a spoiled daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) who only thinks about social-climbing and is ashamed of her mother’s blue-collar profession. Will there be a time when Veda goes too far and Mildred snaps?  

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christine_ver2III. Christine (2016) 

The centre of this story is, of course, Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall), a real-life personage, and her mental deterioration, but her relationship with her mother, played by J. Smith-Cameron, is also given ample focus in this movie. Sometimes stormy, sometimes touching, this mother-daughter relationship is such that the two often find themselves at cross-purposes, despite evidently wanting to be as close as possible. 

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Black_Swan_poster IV. Black Swan (2010) 

This is another example of a more or less destructive relationship between a mother and a daughter, which even sometimes reminisces that found in “Carrie” (1974/1976). Nina (Natalie Portman) is an aspiring ballerina, but she often finds herself in the clutches of her controlling mother Erica (Barbara Hershey). However, despite Nina’s ultimate rebellion, what is evident is that Nina still loves her mother, desiring to appease her, and her relationship with her mother is more complicated than first meet the eye. 

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The PianoV. The Piano (1993)

This movie just needed to be included in this list because the relationship of Ada (Holly Hunter) with her daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) is so understandably close in this one. The two are outsiders in the new-to-them environment in New Zealand, but they feel united against others not only through their relation and foreignness, but also through their ability to communicate without speaking. 

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Steel Magnolias posterVI. Steel Magnolias (1989)

Seeing that I have mentioned “Terms of Endearment“, it will be a crime for me not to mention “Steel Magnolias“, a film about a group of female friends who share each others’ joys and sorrows. The mother-daughter relationship between M’Lynn (Sally Field) and Shelby (Julia Roberts) is moving and inspiring. Like “Terms of Endearment“, the movie is about acceptance, sacrifices and the importance of not letting joyful moments pass us by.

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margaret-poster-artwork-anna-paquin-j-smith-cameron-jean-renoVII. Margaret (2011)

Surprisingly, this film again features Anna Paquin (“The Piano“) and J. Smith-Cameron (“Christine“) as it tells the coming-of-age story of Lisa whose life changes after she finds herself being morally responsible for the death of a woman on the road. In this complex movie, Lisa’s relationship with her mother Joan forms many pivotal moments, as it is also so evident by the ending.

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220px-StepmomVIII. Stepmom (1998)

No list like this one would probably be complete without the mention of “Stepmom“, the movie about mothers and motherhood. This is a comedy and a tearjerker at the same time where Susan Sarandon plays a mother, Jackie, to Anna (Jena Malone) and Ben, while Julia Roberts is portrayed as their stepmom, Isabel, and a carrier-oriented person. The clashes between Isabel on the one hand, and Anna and Jackie on the other, finally culminate in forgiveness and acceptance. 

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Chocolat_sheetIX. Chocolat (2000)

Much like “The Piano“, in this movie a mother, Vianne (Juliette Binoche), and her daughter, Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) arrive to a place unknown to them to settle there. Vianne opens up a chocolate store in a small French village to the dismay of a local priest. The mother and daughter share a close bond in this film, being very protective of each other, and this is more evident by a particular scene where Vienne, thinking her daughter’s life is in danger, jumps into the water to save Anouk.

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p29417_v_v8_aaX. Panic Room (2002)

In this movie, Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart (“Personal Shopper” (2016), “Still Alice” (2014)) play a close union of the mother and her daughter whose new home is being invaded by burglars. They hide in their panic room, but the complications soon arise. For example, as in “Steel Magnolias“, the daughter suffers from diabetes and needs attention.

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13 Responses to 10 Fascinating Films Exploring Mother-Daughter Relationship

  1. Good choices. Another one I like is Postcards From The Edge (1990).

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      That’s a great suggestion, thanks! I vaguely remember seeing this film, or maybe only half of it, maybe on a TV. I need to see it (again). I love Meryl Streep, and normally films that deal with hardship and addiction are high up on my list to watch.

  2. Chris says:

    Great to see Margaret included, a great film that often gets forgotten. You’re right about I Tonya and of course The Florida Project would fit this category too which I know you reviewed.
    Another mother-daughter relationship I remember is in the film Anywhere But Here (1999) w/ Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman. Actually two actresses already on your list!

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      Margaret and its infamous tortuous production. Sad, really, but the film should really be seen by more people.
      Anywhere But Here looks like a great choice too. I don’t recall this movie, I will check it out, thank you. Isn’t it funny how the same actresses (such as Portman, Paquin, J. Smith-Cameron, etc.) appear in the same roles in similar-plot movies? Sarandon was also the mother in Little Women.

  3. alexraphael says:

    Great idea for a post and suggestions. My first thoughts for ones on your list were Freaky Friday and Thirteen.

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      Thanks a lot for suggestions. In all honesty, I have not seen either, but have heard a lot about them surely at the time of their release. I am not sure about Freaky Friday, but Thirteen had been on my to-watch list for far too long already.

  4. Great list. Love the inclusion of Christine and Black Swan, two movies that I don’t think many would include in a list like this, but they fit so well.

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      Many thanks. Christine, Black Swan and Margaret are actually the ones that first came to my mind, because I thought that the mom-daughter relationships there were important elements to the plot.

  5. Sara says:

    I could have bet my aunt’s collection of Julia Roberts movies that Stepmom was going to be on this list. It really is an unavoidable film in the ‘mother’ theme.

  6. I think you have to consider ‘night,Mother as Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft are absolutely amazing as a daughter planning to commit suicide and a mother trying to save her life.

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