Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and a lot of moms will want to watch Mystic Pizza while their kids make underwhelming dinners and dad does dishes his one time per year. This is not a list for those moms. This is a list of movies for dragon ladies who demand hot sauce and a side of bullets with their breakfast in bed.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The last good movie in the Terminator franchise is also the best one for Mother’s Day (and maybe the best one in general). In the first Terminator, Kyle Reese is sent back in time to protect the mother of resistance leader John Conner from a hulking naked Austrian killing machine.
Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is certainly no damsel in distress in this movie, but she’s nothing compared to the hardened killer she becomes in Terminator 2. She’s so unhinged and awesome in T2 that Linda Hamilton beat the absolute hell out of one of her costars for real with a broom handle. Depending on which account you read of the incident, the take in the movie may or may not include the actor taking the beating getting his nose broken for real. Hamilton also suffered hearing loss from a scene where a gun was fired in an elevator. Even more awesome, she learned to pick locks for real so well that English censors requested the scene be removed for fear it would act as a tutorial to real life aspiring thieves.
Even aside from all the amazing behind-the-scenes trivia, this is just a really great movie about a mother who goes to incredible lengths to save her annoying turd of a son (sorry teenagers, you suck, but it’s not your fault). And the thumbs up at the end will make even the most hardened assassin robot cry.
The Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho (not the Gus Van Sant 1998 front-runner for the “Who Asked For This?” Oscar) is a movie about a boy who loves his mother.
Like many of Hitchcock’s works, it was a revolutionary film. I understand the aversion to black and white films–I really have to be in a special mood to watch anything that’s not a MCU explodathon–but man does this movie hold up. And if you saw it back when it came out, you would have been even more blown away by the fact that the actress who was top-billed is brutally murdered about halfway through the film. It would be like casting Sean Bean as the lead role of a TV show and setting him up as the main character then killing him off at the end of the first season. Can you imagine?!
Chinatown is a straight up great movie. Early Jack Nicholson at his finest. Faye Dunaway pulling off a wonderfully nuanced performance (not at all helped by the talented monster in the director’s chair). It’s an early century noir lit by the L.A. desert sun. It has one of the most memorable lines in cinema history (which was improvised because of problems on set). And unless you’ve seen the film, you have no idea why it’s on this list. Watch it. I don’t care if the movie is 45 years old, I’m not going to spoil it here.
I know I just said I’m not going to spoil a 45-year-old movie but I am going to spoil the heck out of this two year old one. Mostly because one of the spoilers is a trigger warning that will make some of even the most dragon of dragon ladies want to skip this film.
Mother! is the most recent film on this list and the latest movie by unrelenting psychopath Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, Pi). Ostensibly, this is a movie about a couple in a toxic, lopsided relationship trying to start a family. What the movie really is though is both a biblical allegory and an exploration of the nature of the Feminine versus the Masculine. Part stress dream, part horror movie, part movie where a bunch of people murder and eat a newborn as a religious sacrament (told ya).
I know I’m not doing a great job of selling this movie and that’s on purpose because, as I said up top, this film isn’t for everyone. But if the mother in your life digs what Aronofsky does then this is Aronofksy at his Aronofskyest.
This 2006 adaptation of the horror game series of the same name is highly underrated, in my usually wrong opinion. Silent Hill is one of the most celebrated long-running horror game series (second only to Resident Evil). I think this movie often gets lumped in with not great video game adaptations from this era like Resident Evil, Alone in the Dark, and Doom (which is also underrated and that’s another article but here’s my 6 word defense: Rosamund Pike The Rock Karl Urban).
Silent Hill is the story of a mother who literally goes through Hell to (attempt to) rescue her daughter. The scenes with the klaxon that brings on the evil will make you forever fear alarms. And the burning scene is brutal. Also, this is one of the few movies where Sean Bean lives to the end, although (spoilers) that still means he ends the film on a different plane of existence than his wife and daughter.
For my money, this is the best film on this list. Which makes sense because the Coen Brothers are the best filmmakers on this list (sorry James Cameron but at least you get two entries on here).
Fargo is a 1996 film by the aforementioned Joel and Ethan Coen. It follows the very pregnant Sheriff Marge Gunderson as she attempts to solve a grisly murder in her small town. Along the way she has to deal with a constantly befuddled Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) and psychotic assassins Carl and Gaear (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare). Obviously, being a Coen Brothers movie, that’s an insane simplification akin to saying The Big Lebowski is about a bowling tournament or O Brother, Where Art Thou is about a jailbreak.
One of the most ingenious parts of the movie is that Marge’s pregnancy is barely a plot point. And I think we often forget that yes, being pregnant is a big deal, but ultimately mothers live the same lives as the rest of us. Pregnancy is often just another thing a woman has to deal with. In the hands of most filmmakers, “Pregnant cop chases dangerous hitmen” would be the Alpha and Omega of your inherent conflict and comedy. But the Coen Brothers make Fargo a character-driven thriller with their signature darkly funny beats.
I believe Fargo is the Coen Brothers’ best movie. Which is like saying “Shakespeare’s best play” or “Beethoven’s best symphony.”
The first Alien movie is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It’s sequel, Aliens, is one of the greatest action movies of all time. I thought it would be fitting to bookend this list with James Cameron movies about strong women. Which is fitting because he was married shortly after this movie to one of Hollywood’s more badass women.
While Alien certainly had its motherhood themes, those were mostly aimed at subverting men’s fear of rape and childbirth. Aliens on the other hand really explored Ripley’s feelings about motherhood. A deleted scene that exists in the Director’s Cut shows us that Ripley’s entire motivation to both take the missions and protect Newt was that her daughter died while she was in stasis after fleeing the events of the first movie.
The villain of the movie is the ultimate mother: the Xenomorph Queen. And any mother who doesn’t get up and cheer at Ripley’s final line to the Queen is cold and dead inside.
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!
What are your favorite nerdy Mother’s Day traditions? Tell us in the comments below.
Billy is a freelance writer living in Indianapolis with his dog, BoJack. He enjoys TED talks, video games, sunny days, football, and the salty tears of his enemies.