Mother’s Day means many different things, depending on who you are talking to. It may be a day of jubilant celebration, mournful sadness, or even extreme bitterness. Instead of writing a post dedicated to actual motherhood, we’ve decided to compile a list of some of our favorite on-screen moms, because pop culture cures all ails.
These women leave us laughing, crying, raging, and everything in between. Why? Because they’re really freaking good at playing the role of “mom”. Every woman knows that, no matter how great your relationship with your mom is, the mother/daughter dynamic is one of life’s most complicated phenomena.
Check out our favorite fictional moms, listed below in no particular order.
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, “Downton Abbey”, played by Maggie Smith:
Any role played by Maggie Smith will end up on a “best” list at some point. She is unmatched in nearly every way, but her take on the prim and proper, and also mercilessly honest and deliciously conniving, Dowager Countess was one of the best roles of her life. She was a mother and a grandmother, and though she was far from warm and fuzzy, she loved her family fiercely, and was always there to verbally slap some sense into whichever of her progeny needed it.
She was a strong, capable woman in an age when independence among the “weaker sex” was only just an idea beginning to take root, and she passed that strength to her three granddaughters, all remarkable women in their own right.
Nobody delivers a tongue lashing like Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess, and it was one of the great pleasures of my life to witness this magnificent woman in a role that lived up to her.
Lorelai Gilmore, “Gilmore Girls”, played by Lauren Graham:
No list of moms would ever be complete without television’s coolest ever mom, Lorelai Gilmore. Pregnant at the tender age of 16, Lorelai’s eternal youth shone through in all things, including her parenting style.
That is not to say that Lorelai would ever put up with any dumb shit, should the need arise, but seeing as Rory (her daughter) was the Earthly personification of an angel, she didn’t need to put her mom face on often. Lorelai was the mom that everyone wished they had. She was young, hip, smart, and eccentric in the most endearing way that it was almost alarming.
You also wished you could eat the amount of utter shit the Gilmore Girls ate and still look like a goddamned Victoria’s Secret model, but that’s neither here nor there.
Helen Parr (Elastigirl), “The Incredibles”, voiced by Holly Hunter:
Helen Parr was a superhero forced into suburban anonymity because the public couldn’t deal with the fact that superheroes existed. After settling in suburbia with her superhero husband, Mr. Incredible, she pops out three superhero kids and tries her hand at a normal life with a daughter that can create impenetrable force fields and turn invisible on demand, a son with super strength and speed, and a baby who, when his powers finally manifest, turns into suit of armor Mario and some sort of fiery red demon hybrid. Yeah. She’s got a lot going on.
And yet, Helen faces her daily life with optimism and gives her children the gift of her unconditional love, protection, guidance, and stability. Then her idiot husband who can’t let go of his superhero glory days finds himself abducted by some kid who he was a douchebag to years ago on an isolated island. She puts on her new supersuit and flies to that island, saving her husband and ultimately her entire family, because is an absolute BAMF.
M’Lynn Eatenton, “Steel Magnolias”, played by Sally Field:
“Steel Magnolias” is the best movie ever made. You can try and argue this fact. You will not change my mind. And while the movie was filled with extraordinary women, and mothers, none were better than Sally Field as M’Lynn Eatenton. Field’s turn as Shelby’s (played by Julia Roberts) mom is, in my opinion, the most riveting role of her career. Her unshakeable love and dedication to all of her children, but especially her ailing daughter, is one of the best on-screen portrayals of motherhood I have ever witnessed.
And–SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!– the scene of M’Lynn, surrounded by her friends Clairee (Olympia Dukakis), Ouiser (Shirley Maclaine), Truvy (Dolly Parton), and Annelle (Daryl Hannah) at Shelby’s grave after she died due to complications with a kidney transplant is one of the most heartbreaking and powerful scenes in all of cinema. Don’t believe me? Just watch:
Roseanne Conner, “Roseanne”, played by Roseanne Barr:
Roseanne was such a departure from the typical mom portrayed on screen. In 1988, when the show first aired, most people only saw moms that stayed at home, baked cookies, and kept house. To see a family in which both parents worked, and struggled with real world problems, was entirely refreshing.
Now, to be fair, I was only three when Roseanne first aired, but it was a show my mom and I always watched together. We enjoyed the realness of it.
They looked like real people, they struggled with real, gritty problems, and Roseanne reared her children with a healthy mixture of love and sarcasm. She wasn’t warm, but she loved her family deeply, and did whatever it took to keep them afloat.
Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, First of her name, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First men, Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Queen of Mereen, “Game of Thrones”, played by Emilia Clarke:
Whatever. She’s the Mother of Dragons, it’s right there in her (exceedingly long) name! Dany is one of my all-time favorite badasses, and I think a woman who is The Mother of Dragons, as well as the breaker of chains and freer of slaves, deserves a spot on a list about favorite on-screen mothers. Dany started as a withered ex-queen slowing dehydrating to death in a desert, and has since morphed into a queen in her own right, who has sacked cities, freed hundreds of thousands of slaves, and knows how to govern, lead, AND admit when she is wrong. Basically, she is perfect, and should be ruling the world by now, or at least Westeros.
Whether you’re celebrating or hiding out today, we hope you’ve enjoyed our list of best fictional moms. We’d love to hear who some of your favorites are!
Dani Strehle, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder, is hoping to reshape the narrative to leave behind a better world for her daughters, so that they may sustain, rather than battle and rebuild.