Mother on Screen: Films about All Kinds of Mother Issues

There are some nice people in the world, you know, I just don’t happen to be related to any of them.” – Grey Gardens
“Personally, I think alligators have the right idea. 
They eat their young.” – Mildred Pierce
Special Mother’s Day Program, Mommy Issues launches Sunday, May 12, Criterion Channel

Whether your mother is your best friend (as Norman claims in Hitchcock’s Psycho), or you’ve got unresolved mommy issues, you can celebrate the hardest-working women on the planet with these films about the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly of motherhood.

Joan Crawford plays a dream mother with a nightmare daughter in the classic anti-family-values noir Mildred Pierce.

Debbie Reynolds personifies the mom you’ll never be good enough for in Albert Brooks’s all-too-real comedy Mother.

Margaret Wycherly inspires violent devotion in her gangster son (Jimmy Cagney) in White Heat.

Anne Dorval clashes with a teen Xavier Dolan in I Killed My Mother.

The inimitable Big Edie presides over the crumbling fantasyland of Grey Gardens.

These women may not all win the prize of Mother of the Year, but you’ve got to love (or love-hate) them anyway.


Mildred Pierce, Michael Curtiz, 1945

White Heat, Raoul Walsh, 1949

Onibaba, Kaneto Shindo, 1964

Grey Gardens, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer, 1976

Secrets & Lies, Mike Leigh, 1996

Mother, Albert Brooks, 1996

I Killed My Mother, Xavier Dolan, 2009

Tiny Furniture, Lena Dunham, 2010