Movie moms often have it tough. They have to save their families from cyborgs, dust storms, bikers, groupies, demonic possession and Janet Leigh.
But they generally prevail.
For Mother’s Day, here’s a look at some of Hollywood’s most memorable movie moms. No particular order, no pretense at being exhaustive. Feel free to make your own “mominations” in the online comments section.
▪ Rusty Dennis — Peter Bogdanovich’s film “Mask” was, by all accounts, essentially faithful to the real-life story of Rocky Dennis, a normal teen with severe facial abnormalities, and his mother Rusty. Cher’s performance was astounding but the character of Rusty, the unconventional woman who loved drugs and bikers but helped guide her son into a fulfilling life, is downright inspirational.
▪ Ma Joad — In the beginning of “The Grapes of Wrath,” Ma Joad is ably guiding her family through tough times. As the story unfolds, she has to muster the strength to forcefully lead them through crises. She’s perhaps is the most memorable character in one of the greatest American films of all time (even more memorable than Tom Joad, in her way) and once you see the film you can’t read the book without picturing Jane Darwell as Ma.
▪ Tess Coleman — A fabulous comic performance by Jamie Lee Curtis makes the underrated 2003 Remake of “Freaky Friday” something special to watch, and the character of Tess, played by Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, transformed from a cold and nasty mom into one of the coolest moms ever.
▪ Elaine Miller — The uptight and perpetually panicked mom in “Almost Famous,” played by Frances McDormand, cared about nothing more than her son’s moral well-being. And you’d freak too if your innocent teenager was on the road with a bunch of ’70s rock stars and groupies.
▪ Donna Sheridan — The film version of “Mamma Mia!” is pretty bad. (If you’ve never seen the stage show, don’t let the film dissuade you from checking it out. It’s lots of fun.) But Donna, played in the film by Meryl Streep, is cool. She gives her daughter Sophie an idyllic upbringing on a Greek island and turns out to have been a minor rock star in her younger years.
▪ Sarah Connor — Somewhere between “Terminator” and “T2,” Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) transforms herself into the baddest mother ever. She’s kind of a damsel-in-distress in the first film, but in the second she’s a warrior who saves the world.
▪ Chris MacNeil — Ellen Burstyn has portrayed a few memorable mothers, but Chris MacNeil, the increasingly desperate mother in “The Exorcist,” is unsurpassed. She’s always on the verge on completely losing it, and you get the sense that she wished she could. But she keeps herself (barely) together for her daughter and never gives up no matter how hopeless things appear.
▪ Marge Gunderson and Ed McDunnough — Two memorable not-quite moms from Coen Brothers films. Marge (McDormand, in her second entry on this list) is the no-nonsense small-town cop and mother-to-be who is pretty close to nine months pregnant when she solves and complicated case involving kidnapping and murder in “Fargo.” Ed (Holly Hunter) appropriates a baby from the unpainted furniture magnate in “Raising Arizona,” and then saves the baby from bank robbers, a biker bounty hunter and her husband’s suspicious boss.
▪ Mrs. Bates — Her moral compass was badly skewed, but she remained protective of her son Norman even after she was badly decomposed.