Top 6: Movie Moms

Posted in Top 6 at 4:59 am by Sam

Movies have given us all kinds of moms, some you’d want and some you wouldn’t. In recognition of Mother’s Day, which comes this weekend, we’ve selected our Top 6 Movie Moms for Episode 32. Who are your favorites?

As always, we recommend listening to the episode before reading further.

  1. Mrs. Bates, from Psycho (1960)
  2. Mrs. Iselin, from The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
  3. Sarah Connor, from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  4. The Bride, from Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (2004)
  5. Mrs. Lift, from Throw Momma From the Train (1987)
  6. Mrs. Voorhees, from Friday the 13th (1980)
  1. Mrs. Ryan, from The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005)
  2. Ma, from The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  3. Mrs. Iselin, from The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
  4. Mrs. Henderson, from Mother (1996)
  5. Mrs. Miniver, from Mrs. Miniver (1942)
  6. Mrs. Day, from Life With Father (1947)


  1. Jeffrey (84) said,

    May 8, 2007 at 10:43 am

    Good pair of lists, glad to see Mrs Bates and Mrs Vorhees on Stephen’s list. When I was thinking of this subject I naturally gravitated towards the horror genre (including Psycho and Friday the 13th) and melodrama for having the most memorable mothers.
    ‘Throw Momma From the Train’ was on TV over the weekend which also made me recall Anne Ramsay’s other notable performance in ‘The Goonies’.

  2. Heather (11) said,

    May 8, 2007 at 11:42 am

    I think you have numbers 3 and 4 on Sam’s list switched…should it be Mrs. Henderson as #4 and Mrs. Iselin as #3?

  3. Sam (405) said,

    May 8, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Heather: Nice catch. Thanks. Fixed now.

    joem: So, ok, when you wondered back in the Summer Movies thread which one of our choices for this list would identify more with mothers and which would identify more with the kids, how on earth did you get us the wrong way around?

  4. joem18b (231) said,

    May 8, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    Hmm… must…think…deeply… We know that Sam is the kid and Stephen is parental: the summer movie reviews prove this. Then how to explain these mom lists? Easy! Sam comes up with a list of warm, caring, strong, lovable moms that only a son would think of and want for his own. Stephen comes up with the kind of off-the-wall list of obvious (but slightly old-fashioned) teen favorites that a parent would devise, seeking to feel young again and connect with the youth culture.

    (But two great lists.)

    Meanwhile, my mom list:

    1. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - Kali (uncredited statue), mom of all Nature

    2. Moses - Jochebed (Anita Zagaria), mom of Moses

    3. Children of Men - Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), mom of THE ONLY BABY IN THE WORLD

    4. Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen - Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Katherine (Lee Remick), moms of THE DEVIL

    5. The Bible - Eve (Ulla Bergryd), mom of the HUMAN RACE

    6. King of Kings - Mary (Siobhan McKenna), mom of the SON OF GOD

  5. Sam (405) said,

    May 9, 2007 at 8:07 am

    joem18b: You’re insistent, aren’t you? I’m not the kid. Ultimately I identify with adults, and that’s not an admission I make lightly — I’m almost sad to realize it, not just that it’s the case now, but that it’s been that way for a long time. The other day, a ball hit the window. The kids on our street were playing catch. I got annoyed. My wife said, “They’re kids. It happens.” And she was right. They’re kids. It happens. Dumbest thing in the world to be annoyed, especially with nothing broken. Ideally, I should have been out there with them, but I wasn’t.

    By the way, I’ve pegged you as identifying more with adults now, too. Only an adult would come up with that kind of reasoning. Kids don’t appreciate parents being “warm, caring, strong, lovable” until they’re grown up. Well, I did. But I identified more with adults than my peers even while growing up, honestly, though obviously not to the same extent as now.

    Hilarious list, by the way.

  6. Jeffrey (84) said,

    May 9, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Talk about your convenient TV scheduling, The Long Kiss Goodnight was on last night. Here’s a whole bunch:

    Dumbo – Mrs Jumbo

    Bambi – Bambi’s mother

    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – the wicked queen/stepmother

    The Graduate – Mrs Robinson

    Imitation of Life – the African-American housekeeper whose daughter attempts to ‘pass’ herself off as white.

    Ermo – a Chinese film where the mother strives to buy the biggest TV in the village to make her neighbours’ jealous (the son always goes to his friend’s house to watch TV). She makes and sells noodles all day long, and resorts to selling blood and even prostituting herself to make enough money.

    Dancer in the Dark – Bjork plays a woman slowly turning blind who tries to earn enough money to pay for her son’s operation to cure his genetic eye condition.

    Braindead (US title Dead Alive) – Mother turns into a zombie after getting bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey. Also, a zombie nurse gives birth to a zombie baby. Early Peter Jackson masterpiece, the original rom-zom-com predating Shaun of the Dead by a decade.

    Notable mentions to Mildred Pierce, I Remember Mama and Mother India.

  7. Ferrick (140) said,

    May 9, 2007 at 10:53 am

    No Mommie Dearest, eh?

    I would have to add Frances McDormand in Almost Famous and Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona.

  8. joem18b (231) said,

    May 9, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Hi, Sam. My babysitter is always telling me how grown-up I am.

    Anyway, I’ll take your word for it that you align with the adults. I imagine that if we asked your wife, she’d probably say that you’re more like her father than like some big goofy kid. She probably takes your association with RinkWorks as a sign of maturity. And she’d never say anything like “Oh, Sam! Grow up!” or “Sam, I’m not your mother!”

    I was going to post my list of essential movie moms, Jeffrey and Ferrick, but my top two entries were Dead Alive and Mommie Dearest. Elizabeth Moody in Dead Alive is my ultimate mom; to say that she turns into a zombie is something of an understatement, in view of the finale. I was also looking forward to listing the moms of Dumbo and Bambi. (Do we actually know that Dumbo’s mom was married?)

    Essential moms:

    1. Ma and Pa Kettle Go To Town - Phoebe Kettle (Marjorie Main)

    2. Long Day’s Journey into Night - Mary Tyrone (Katherine Hepburn)

    3. Autumn sonata - Charlotte Andergast (Ingrid Bergman), Bergman + Bergman

    4. Sound of Music - Maria Trapp (Julie Andrews)

    5. Tarzan and the Huntress - Jane (Brenda Joyce), mother of Boy

    6. Oedipus: the Movie - Jocasta (Stephanie Fredricks), Oeipus’ mom and main squeeze. All parts played by vegetables.

  9. Sam (405) said,

    May 9, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Ok, let’s ditch the psychoanalysis. Your comments aren’t even close enough to the mark to be wrong, let alone right — they just don’t make any kind of applicable sense — and it’s a little disconcerting to have someone who very obviously doesn’t know me and who especially doesn’t know my wife argue about who I am and what kind of relationship we have. Sorry to turn so serious on what is, I know, intended to be a frivolous conversation.

    To steer things back on track, your Tarzan and the Huntress pick caught my eye. I’m still trying to figure out how to con Stephen into supporting a 10-part Series Spotlight on Tarzan. Anyway, I was curious why you picked that particular film, of all the entries in the series, instead of something more like “Tarzan Finds a Son,” a better movie with a better Jane, Maureen O’Sullivan…who, speaking of motherhood, was the real-life mother of Mia Farrow.

    Boy was adopted — the production code wouldn’t have permitted Boy to be Tarzan and Jane’s biological son — but she counts as a great movie mom all the same.

  10. joem18b (231) said,

    May 9, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Hi, Sam. I was saving Maureen O’Sullivan for a list of movie moms with movie-star kids. Plus, Brenda Joyce was the Jane of my impressionable youth and she was ok by me. The fact that Boy was adopted totally went over my head at the time.

    Btw, I read the other day that Cheeta is still alive - the world’s oldest living chimp (b. 1932).

  11. Stephen (221) said,

    May 9, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    If I hadn’t deliberately been trying to subvert Sam’s mushy Mother’s Day list, I would’ve absolutely put Frances McDormand from Almost Famous on my list.

  12. wintermute (157) said,

    May 10, 2007 at 11:10 am

    I’m kind of surprised that Stephen didn’t include Grendel’s Mother from Beowulf. There’s a classic tale of a mother swearing to kill her son’s murderer; alas, without success in this case. But Stephen was always a sucker for a tragic heroine, right?

    True, the version of Beowulf that looks like it might be worth seeing is yet to be released, but there was a 1999 version staring Christopher “There can be only one” Lambert as the eponymous murderer, and Layla Roberts as his matriarchal nemesis…

  13. joem18b (231) said,

    May 10, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I loved the scenery in Beowulf & Grendel.

    Some moms I’d put on a list with Grendel:

    1. Them - Queen moms in the drains of Los Angeles
    2. Aliens - Queen mom makes baby formula out of troopers
    3. Men in Black - Mom has baby in car, with tentacles.
    4. Men in Black - Edgar with all the little cockroachy Edgars. So he’s a mom?
    5. Godzilla - Birth in the subway. I wasn’t there at the end. Does Godzilla actually give birth, or what?
    6. One Million BC - Momma bird dangles Raquel over nest full of hungry babies.

  14. joem18b (231) said,

    May 11, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    I wonder what it’s like for an actor to be playing his/her first role as a parent, especially if the actor is a good parent playing a bad parent, or vice versa. Some of my favorites, in mom roles:

    Chinatown - Faye Dunaway

    The Grifters - Angelica Houston

    Bridges of Madison County - Meryl Streep

    Off the Map, Pleasantville - Joan Allen

    8 Mile - Kim Basinger

    Hideous Kinky - Kate Winslet

    (Speaking of Frances McDormand, I liked her in Laurel Canyon. Movie not so hot, but she’s always great.)

  15. vballgirl (4) said,

    May 13, 2007 at 2:23 am

    I wasn’t ready for the trend that emerged when I started thinking of my favorite mom movies.

    The first one that came to mind was one that deeply affected me. I didn’t have children when I first saw it. It is 1) Not Without My Daughter - with Sally Fields. I think it had to do with soul-searching the amount of courage I possess. I’ve had a discussion with you, Sam, about the whole courage bit after watching Black Hawk Down.

    The next movie that came to mind was 2) Mommy Dearest - Sally Fields. Yikes! That one was beyond belief. I can’t imagine being that cruel to anyone, let alone an innocent child who believes you are there to protect them! It was hard to watch.

    Then I thought of 3) Mrs. Doubtfire - yep, Sally Fields again! She’s a little too uptight for me to applaud her as a mom in this role, but she gets credit for wanting her kids to do their homework, that beautiful house, and getting to date Pierce Brosnan!

    The next one that came to mind was 4) Murphy’s Romance - *again* with Sally Fields! I liked the fact that she was a hard worker and didn’t talk down to her son.

    OK. One that isn’t a Sally Fields pick. Finally. 5) Ever After - with Anjelica Huston as the step-mom. She did a superb job in that movie. Just as in the Cinderella movies, the step-daughter had to do all the work and the step-sisters did none. At the end of the movie, the step-daughter asks her step-mom, “You are the only mother I have ever known. Was there a time, even in its smallest measurement, that you ever loved me at all?” The step-mom replies, “How could anyone love a pebble in their shoe?” Ouch!! What makes the movie good is that each individual gets their comeuppance in the end.

    I’m leaving my sixth choice open in case I think of a super good one. An ideal mom brings to mind Mrs. Cleaver, but of course, she’s a TV mom. Who vacuums and gardens in a dress? The only thing they show her doing for enjoyment is reading the paper… As far as being a mom, she’s pretty ideal because her family is her life. (She’s almost a Stepford Wife)

    I liked Stephen’s pick of Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. She’s a pretty tough chick and nice to have around if there’s trouble, but otherwise what a lousy mom. Stuck in a straight jacket. Also, Mrs. Lift is an excellent pick. She did a great job making the audience want to kill her. Poor Danny Boy!

    I think I’ve only seen one of Sam’s picks. (Life With Father) I like movies that depict a mom that knows what goes on with each child daily and acts as a buffer or spokesperson toward the dad. She decides what’s important for him to know or not.

    I just thought of my 6th pick that would actually have to be moved to my #1 pick. 6) Yours, Mine & Ours! Lucille Ball does a fabulous job of running a widowed household of eight children, marries and becomes a mother of 18, and proceeds to add yet another to that! Good thing Henry Fonda didn’t buy her that Statue of Fertility. Maybe she’d have had quadruplets. I enjoy watching her cook breakfast for that crew, catching the toast as it pops up. I also think it’s pretty cool that she lets her husband ship out without telling him she’s pregnant. It’s a heart-warming ending when she has earned the respect of her eldest step-son and he accepts her as “Mom”. She even gets a commendation from the judge for being a great mom!

  16. joem18b (231) said,

    May 13, 2007 at 3:43 am

    Hey, vballgirl, great choices! What a category.

    My Sally Fields choice is Norma Rae.

    Angelica Huston is one of my all-time favorites. What better mom than Mortica in the Addams Family movies?

    Yours, Mine, Ours might be the perfect Mother’s Day movie. (The remake isn’t bad, but Lucile Ball is just right.)

    Here’s my Mother’s Day list:

    American Pie - Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s mom)
    Running Scared - Vera Farmiga.
    Serial Mom - Kathleen Turner
    Medea - Katja Schuurman
    Superman Returns - Kate Bosworth

    The Day Reagan Was Shot - Holland Taylor (Nancy Reagan)
    Rocky II - Talia Shire
    Freaky Friday - Jamie Lee Curtis
    Conan the Barbarian - Nadiuska (Conan’s mom)
    Ben Hur - Martha Scott (Ben’s mom)

    Pinnochio - Christian Rub (Geppetto)
    It’s a Great Life - Penny Singleton (Blondie)
    Safe - Julianne Moore
    Rose Tattoo - Anna Magnani
    SherryBaby - Maggie Gyllenhaal

    Madea’s Family Reunion - Tyler Perry
    Quincinera - Emily Rios
    Sesame Street - Sonia Manzano (Maria)
    White Heat - Margaret Wycherly
    Sopranos - Edie Falco

    Good Fellas - Catherine Scorsese (Joe Pesci’s mom)
    Bloody Mama - Shelly Winters
    Transamerica - Felicity Huffman
    Junior - Arnold
    We Were Soldiers Once - Madeleine Stowe

    Gone With the Wind - Vivien Leigh
    Gypsy - Rosalind Russell
    The Mother - Anne Reid (”with” Daniel Craig!)

    Some excellent mom movie titles

    Crash Test Mommy II
    Your Mommy Kills Animals
    Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

  17. LaZorra (60) said,

    May 13, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    I don’t see enough movies to really do a Top 6 list, but I did have a few great (if atypical) movie moms spring to mind:

    Robin Williams from Mrs. Doubtfire. Sure, he’s their dad, but he spends most of the movie as a mother-figure.

    Julie Andrews from the Sound of Music. The kids aren’t hers at the beginning, but she sure does a great job being a mother to them anyway.

    And OK, you’re all going to think I’m nuts for this, but Fred McMurray’s wife in Follow Me, Boys. Come on, the woman loyally puts up with endless years of her husband’s Scout obsession (I saw this movie with a bunch of Scouters, and everyone roared at the line, “Just one more year, dear, and then I’ll quit, I promise!”), and even adopts and raises a wayward Scout! That’s some mother right there.

  18. L Mo (1) said,

    May 15, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Joan Crawford — MOMMIE DEAREST
    Mrs. Vale — NOW, VOYAGER
    Regina Giddens — THE LITTLE FOXES
    Aurora Greenway — TERMS OF ENDEARMENT
    Beverly Sutphin — SERIAL MOM
    M’Lynn Eatenton — STEEL MAGNOLIAS

  19. joem18b (231) said,

    May 15, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    I had Fred McMurray himself down as a mom for his work in My Three Sons, even though it was a TV series, just because I liked the show so much. But then I thought maybe William Frawley and later William Demarest served more as the mom than Fred did.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.