By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published May 10, 2020 at 6:56 AM

You've made the breakfast in bed. You've given the flowers, cards and gifts. And now ... you've run out of ideas to help celebrate Mother's Day, and there's still 10 hours left. 

Luckily, there's a whole world of movies about moms to watch. Many of them are good! Many of them, however, are not exactly optimal for a day toasting the person who gave you life and raised you. So to help, here are seven Mother's Day picks to help you win child of the year – as well as seven to avoid unless you want to make your mom wonder if the family should've stopped at your older sister. 

(P.S. "The Meddler," a lovely dramedy starring Rose Byrne and Susan Sarandon as a frustrated but heartfelt mother/daughter duo, would easily make this list on the good side, but unfortunately it isn't streaming anywhere. However, you can rent it on YouTube or Amazon – and you definitely should.)

The good

"Terms of Endearment"

Now streaming on: Amazon Prime, Kanopy and Amazon with CBS All Access

Of course. You don't get to make a list of movies about moms and leave off this star-studded award-winner, which came away with five Oscars back in 1984.

Like most of the movies on this list, "Terms of Endearment" pulls off that tricky mix of honest humor and heartbreak – in part thanks to writer/director James L. Brooks working at his peak and thanks to the incredible cast of Shirley MacLaine, Jack Nicholson and Debra Winger. It's easy to want to resist a movie so eagerly plucking on the heartstrings, but when all of the elements work so well together, bah, let the waterworks flow. "Terms of Endearment" is evidence that tearjerker doesn't have to be a dirty word. 

"Bright Lights" 

Now streaming on: HBO NOW, HBO GO, Kanopy and Amazon with HBO NOW

Sadly Carrie Fisher's "Postcards from the Edge" is barely available on streaming (save for Crackle with ads, which apparently is another streaming service that exists). But if the fictionalized version is off the digital table, at least the real deal is around with "Bright Lights," HBO's 2017 documentary about life with the late great Fisher and her mom, the equally late and great Debbie Reynolds.

The movie pops around in time, documenting their individual journeys and struggles through Hollywood and through their personal lives. The real treat in "Bright Lights," though, is the sweet modern-day showbiz "Grey Gardens"-esque hangout footage of the two just living door-to-door, helping each other out through their careers' unfortunately final chapters. (Which, speaking of "Grey Gardens," you can find that iconic mother-daughter doc on Kanopy and The Criterion Channel as well.) Even with the added weight of their tragic deaths – both passed away just before the doc's television debut – "Bright Lights" is more pep than pain, a fitting tribute to the indomitable spirit of Fisher and Reynolds. 

"20th Century Women" 

Now streaming on: Netflix, Hoopla and Kanopy

As the title might suggest, there are a lot of important women in "20th Century Women," Mike Mills' terrific semi-autobiographical drama about being raised as a teen by several ladies in his life. There's Abbie, the punky photographer tenant who's got her own issues to cope with, and Julie, his (maybe) platonic best friend. Each are performed beautifully by Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning, respectively, and each are given full lives outside of just helping a little snotty teenage boy learn how to grow up into a decent man.

But the star of this show is the mom, played with incredible heart by Annette Bening. In a just world, Bening would've accepted awards for her turn here as a mother trying to raise her son right in a different world from where she came from. Hell, she deserved awards for just one sequence alone, a montage of a trip to the hospital where she runs through every emotional possible – fear, anger, relief, happiness, confusion, self-assurance – without overselling a single note.

If there's one thing "20th Century Women" is about, it's realizing the impact, the interweaving ripples throughout time, others make on our lives without knowing it. So maybe it's right the Oscars didn't notice Bening and this film back when it first came out. They will eventually – and so should you. 


Now streaming on: HBO NOW, HBO GO and Amazon with HBO NOW

What if your mom is an action movie fan and would rather some literal explosions on her special day rather than some emotional fireworks? Luckily, two of the greatest sequels – and greatest action movies, period – also happen to feature two of the most badass action movie moms in existence: "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" and "Aliens." 

Linda Hamilton's intense maternal turn in "Judgment Day" is hard to pick against (and you can find it on Amazon with a Showtime subscription) but "Aliens" is a movie all about growing into motherhood – even coming down to a sci-fi brawl between two moms as its epic climax. Then again, it's also a horror-dipped action spectacular about acid-spewing aliens with phallic heads, face-huggers that look like vagina spiders and bloody chest eruptions. So maybe take the temperature of the room before hitting play on this mother of all intergalactic battles.

"Lady Bird"

Now streaming on: Amazon Prime and Kanopy

In movie terms, a grace note is a small scene – or even just a single line or moment – that isn't about driving the plot or story per say but is just a nice moment that adds to the characters or soul of the film. "Lady Bird" is an entire movie of wonderful, hilarious and all-too-real grace notes as our lead (Saoirse Ronan) deals with high school and learning about love, friendship, the world and, most of all, her touching but testy relationship with her mother (an Oscar-worthy Laurie Metcalf) – which involves more John Woo-like rolls out of moving cars than you might imagine but even more laughs and tears than you could expect. It's the kind of lovely movie that feels uniquely personal yet also movingly universal – which may seem simple but take it from someone who's seen a lot of bad coming-of-age movies, it's a modest miracle when a film can pull it off. 

"Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again"

Now streaming on: HBO NOW, HBO GO and Amazon with HBO NOW

There's no reason for there to be a "Mamma Mia" sequel. The first movie is charming, but it's not what you would call, what's the word, good – and that's before Pierce Brosnan attempts singing – and even ABBA must've asked, "Are you SURE you want to use 'When I Kissed the Teacher?'" But then a strange thing happened: The sequel ... turned out kind of great? It's as cheesy as the original but without the crummy direction, an effervescent Lily James and company give their cheerful all so much that you don't even mind Meryl Streep's just a glorified cameo and I'm not ashamed to say that I cried near the end as mother and daughter bond across time as they both prepare for the next chapters in their lives. OK, maybe I'm a little ashamed. 

"Freaky Friday"

Now streaming on: Disney+ (both the original and the remake)

Young or old, there's a very charming Disney body-swap mother-daughter comedy for you – whether you're picking the original '70s starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster (just coming off the very not Mother's Day-approved "Taxi Driver") or the surprisingly charming and entertaining 2003 remake starring Lindsay Lohan (pre-lunacy) and an exceptionally committed and delightful Jamie Lee Curtis. Hold on: A Disney movie in which the mom doesn't die but actually gets to bond with her daughter over the course of comedic hijinks? Who knew that they made those?!

The bad


Now streaming on: Amazon with Starz

There's loving your mom – and then there's keeping your mom's mummified corpse in your basement, role playing as her throughout the house and murdering people in showers and stairwells to satisfy her bitter resentments. That's quite a commitment to Mother's Day, Norman Bates, though most moms are perfectly content with just a cute card and breakfast in bed. 

"The Manchurian Candidate"

Now streaming on: HBO NOW, HBO GO and Amazon with HBO NOW (both the original and the remake)

It's never a good idea to bring up politics around the holidays, so "The Manchurian Candidate" – both the classic 1962 paranoid thriller and the 2004 Jonathan Demme remake about brainwashed political pawns climbing their way through the ranks – is already not an optimal choice for Mother's Day. To make matters worse, in both films, the main villains – whether its Angela Lansbury or Meryl Streep – are power-hungry moms. At best, your mom will be mildly taken aback; at worst, she might get some ideas about how to get you to call more often. 


Now streaming on: Hoopla and Amazon with Showtime

What's the deal with horror movies and moms? First "Psycho" and its Oedipus Complex, and now "Carrie," which features one of the creepiest and craziest moms ever put on screen. Yeah, the bullies – featuring a baby John Travolta – ruin Carrie's prom and douse her in pig's blood, but anyone who's seen the movie knows Piper Laurie's insane religious fanatic mother is the true villain, making poor Carrie's every basic teenage feeling a sin against god and creation. It's OK, though; telekinetic Carrie finally rebels and crucifies her at the end. Uh ... happy Mother's Day!

"The Babadook"

Now streaming on: Amazon with Showtime and Amazon with Shudder 

But for real: What's the deal with horror movies and moms? If you want a fresher horror movie to terrify your mom with, how about "The Babadook," an indie chiller about a mom coping with having THE WORST CHILD EVER. Yes, they're haunted by a creepy spirit fashionably dressed in black with spindly hands and a terrifying voice that keeps puttering around the house, prank-calling and making you murder pets and vomit black ooze, but the real menace is the freaking nightmare spawn. Even Rosemary from "Rosemary's Baby" or the family from "The Omen" would be looking at a child swap. 

Anyways, if you want to treat your mom to a horror movie about the violent frustrations of parenting, "The Babadook" is your pick. Another good Mother's Day option? Literally anything else.


Now streaming on: Amazon with Starz

OK, so obviously horror movies make suboptimal picks for Mother's Day – or for just about any holiday for that matter. But you know what's even worse? Kids movies. That's right: movies for children. I mean, seriously, what's the body count on moms in Disney movies? I don't know, but I bet it's John Wick-esque. And somehow that's preferred to "Coraline," the beautifully macabre 2009 claymation fantasy story whose villain is the titular character's "Other Mother," who turns out to be an evil witch who imprisons children in mirrors, steals their souls, takes their eyes and replaces them with buttons. Jeez, even the mom from "Tangled" is like, "Hey, do you mind? You're making us look bad."

"Friday the 13th"

Now streaming on: Amazon Prime

Pamela Voorhees slays just about an entire summer camp of lazy, oversexed teenage camp counselors – only for her to get beheaded while her son Jason comes back from the dead anyway, gets all the fame and credit for her hard murderous work, and even earns a trip to New York City. Moms: They never get the respect they deserve, do they? Anyways, the only thing worse than watching this '80s slasher classic on Mother's Day would be accidentally watching the awful 2009 remake. 


Now streaming on: Amazon Prime and Kanopy

It's only fitting to end my list of anti-recommendations with one final horror movie – one with an all-time great scary movie mom performance from Toni Collette as a stressed-out matriarch trying to deal with her secretive mom's unexpected death, her peculiar daughter's strange affection for making clicking sounds, her older son's night out gone horribly wrong and, oh by the way, there's a bunch of naked cult members trying to hold a evil ritual in their treehouse. And if THAT'S not enough, she's gotta finish all of her creepy dollhouse artwork before her deadline. Have you ever tried to finish a job on time while a demonic cult keeps knocking at your door? It's enough to make you climb the walls!

Actually, maybe "Hereditary" is an ideal Mother's Day movie – because no matter what, her life will seem comparatively serene afterwards. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.