Celluloid mothers

Terms of Endearment

By Julian Wise - May 10, 2007

A short list of Mother's Day film treats. Break out the Kleenex and curl up on the couch with mom.

"Terms of Endearment"

Shirley MacLaine and Deborah Winger set the bar for mother/daughter weepies with this 80s standard-bearer. Dramatic sparks fly between Winger and MacLaine as Maclaine's character learns to walk the line between control and letting go in the midst of tragedy.

"Steel Magnolias"

The film that introduced the classic line, "If you can't find anything good to say about anyone, sit next to me," Steel Magnolias follows a gaggle of women (Dolly Parton, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis) in a Louisiana beauty salon in preparation for a big wedding. M'Lynn (Sally Field) plays the mother of the bride and Julia Roberts is her daughter Shelby.

Steel Magnolias

"Stella Dallas"

Barbara Stanwyck stars in this classic weepie about a working class woman whose attempts to enter high class society come to naught. When she feels her working class roots are a liability to her daughter's social ascension, she makes a grand sacrifice for her daughter's future. Warning: skip the dreadful Bette Midler remake.

"Anywhere But Here"

Susan Sarandon plays Adele August, a Bay City woman who becomes fed up with her second husband and leaves for Beverly Hills with her teenage daughter (Natalie Portman) to start a new life. The differing goals of the two (daughter wants to attend college on the east coast; mom wants her to be a movie star) lead to comic clashes.


Cher stars as a single mother who relocates her two daughters (Cristina Ricci, Winona Ryder) to the east coast after a series of failed relationships. Charlotte (Ryder) copes with the confusion by wanting to become a nun. The film is a small, sweet time capsule set in the time of the Kennedy Assassination.


"Imitation of Life"

When aspiring actress Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) and her daughter board with Annie Johnson, a single African-American mother with a young daughter of her own, the four lives intertwine. Annie's daughter tries to escape her African heritage by passing as white, leading to mother/daughter strife. Meanwhile, Lana ignores her daughter in single-minded pursuit of her acting career. Serious drama here.

The Diane Keaton Triple Play

Diane Keaton's career has seen an up-tick in recent years as she's settled into the role of the offbeat matriarch. In "Something's Gotta Give" she banters with Jack Nicholson as the older man dating her daughter. In the comic weepy "Family Stone" she's the matriarch of a clan of grown children struggling with their own life transitions. "Because I Said So" finds her as a single mother rekindling her romantic yearnings while trying to keep tabs on a wild daughter (Mandy Moore).

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.