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10 Movies to Stream on Mother’s Day: Some Tender, Some Twisted

Fern Siegel

Familial relationships are always complicated — none more so than mothers and their children. The bond is tight, but the screen version of this union is nuanced — they can sometimes be funny, but often searing.

Here’s a list of 10 films and one current TV show that reveals the ties that bind.

1. The Farewell (Amazon)

A Chinese family gathers together, using a fake wedding as a cover, to bid farewell to their beloved grandmother.

2. Lady Bird (Amazon)

Senior year in high school is never easy. And Saoirse Ronan and and her strong, tough mother (Laurie Metcalf) navigate the turbulence. Directed by Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”), they clash, but as her mom tells her singular daughter: “I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.”

3. All About My Mother (Amazon)

Pedro Almadovar’s beautiful portrait of a bereaved mother recreating her life is compelling. Motherhood can take many poignant forms, as this Oscar-winning film proves. In addition to its multilayered narrative, it rolls in an exquisite tribute to “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

4. The Incredibles (Disney+) / The Incredibles 2 (Netflix)

In the original feature, the Parrs, caring parents who happen to be superheroes. Mr. Incredible is strong and sweet, but a bit clumsy. Mom (Elastigirl) juggles crime fighting and saves the day. In “Incredibles 2,” the Parrs try to restore trust in superheroes, but while Elastigirl is solely recruited for the big assignment, Mr. Incredible doubles as the sole stay-at-home parent.

5. New York Stories – ‘Oedipus Wrecks’ (Amazon)

There are three vignettes in the series – “Oedipus Wrecks” by Woody Allen — is the best. Allen plays a neurotic lawyer and his mother (the incredible May Quest) his stereotypic Jewish mother. She’s funny, intrusive — “He’s always shushing me!”— but her quirkiness also makes her adorable. And the premise is a scream.

6. Gypsy (YouTube)

Only the 1962 version will do. It stars Natalie Wood as the future stripper extraordinaire Gypsy Rose Lee and Rosalind Russell as the mother of all stage mothers. The Broadway songs are legendary, such as “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” and “Let Me Entertain You.” At heart, it’s the story of a fierce mother desperate to ensure she and her daughters succeed, giving rise to the immortal line: “I thought you did it for me, Momma!”

7. Steel Magnolias (Amazon)

Robert Harling’s moving off-Broadway hit about this sister was turned into an A-list Hollywood movie, starring Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field and Olympia Dukakis. Yes, it’s funny, but also a major tearjerker, so have the Kleenex on hand. The story is true, and it addresses mother-daughter unions, the enormity of female friendship, and what women will risk to become mothers.

8. The Secret Life of Bees (Amazon)

Set in South Carolina in 1964 and based on Sue Monk Kidd’s novel, “The Secret Life of Bees” is about Lily, a motherless white teenager (Dakota Fanning) and her black mother stand-in, Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson). The two escape Lily’s abusive father, finding refuge at the home of three black women, beekeepers who worship the Black Madonna. The inspiring story, with radical elements for the time, is about love and transcending bigotry in the racist South.

9. I, Tonya (Hulu)

This is not a feel-good movie, but the performances are sharp and memorable. The movie is based on the true story of acclaimed ice skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and her obsessive, emotionally cruel mother. (Allison Janney won an Oscar for her portrayal.) Harding was in Olympic competition with Nancy Kerrigan when her ex-husband hired someone to attack her rival. It’s a story of class, crime and the psychology of abuse.

10. Hairspray (Amazon)

The original 1988 John Waters’ movie, starring Divine as the mother to Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) is both campy and heartwarming. The teen wants to break the color barrier on a local teen dance show. And in 1962 segregated Baltimore that’s ballsy. The music, dancing and costumes are spot on — and the film helped propel the cult of Waters.

11. Mom (Hulu)

It’s not a movie but the sitcom “Mom,” starring Allison Janney and Anna Faris is atypical but funny. They are both recovering alcoholics. Janney’s character had a daughter at 17, and while she’s hardly mother of the year, they learn to reconcile, even live together, as adults. Who knew AA and recovery could be comedy gold?

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