6 Must-Watch Movies If You Have Mommy Issues

6 Must-Watch Movies If You Have Mommy Issues

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I thought I’d channel my inner mommy-issue-plagued teenager to assemble a list of six films that depict very…interesting on-screen mother-son relationships. 

Whether you’re a fan of psychological horrors or coming-of-age dramas, these films are bound to keep you entertained if you're looking for movies to watch this Mother’s Day. Mentally ill folks with mommy issues…this one’s for you!


#6: When You Finish Saving the World (2022) dir. Jesse Eisenberg

Probably the most feel-good film of this list, American actor Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut feature film When You Finish Saving the World tells the story of Evelyn (Julianne Moore) and her son Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard) as they navigate their complicated relationships with each other and the people around them.

When Evelyn attempts to parent an unsuspecting boy at her shelter (Billy Bryk) and Ziggy tries to impress a politically-minded girl at his school (Alisha Boe), the mother-son duo have to reckon with the widening rift between them. Under 90 minutes long, this film is a comedic exploration of the generational gap and coming-of-age in an increasingly-online world.

While this film is far from my favorite of this list, its warm cinematography, surprisingly-decent original soundtrack, and quirky characters lends it a certain charm that’s hard to ignore, even long after watching it. If you’re a fan of only-semi-cringy coming-of-age stories or satires of the modern liberal American family, I recommend you give this “lift” film (sorry, had to sneak a Ziggy-ism in there!) a watch over on Netflix this Mother’s Day!


#5: Beau is Afraid (2023) dir. Ari Aster

Moving into much darker territory, American director Ari Aster’s (Hereditary, Midsommar) latest “black comedy” film Beau is Afraid tells the story of Beau (Joaquin Phoenix), a paranoid man who embarks on an insane journey to get home to his mother, Mona (Zoe Lister-Jones and Patti LuPone). Clocking in at nearly 3 hours long, this film is less of a film and more of a horrifying fever dream, as the viewer is given an up close and personal look into the depraved (and downright abusive) relationship between Beau and Mona.

While I certainly wouldn’t recommend watching this film with your own mother, Beau is Afraid proves to be a car crash that you just can’t look away from. In spite of its extremely triggering subject matter (including violence, mental illness, suicide, and death), if you’re a fan of Aster’s previously-horrific filmography, you might just enjoy (or at least be thoroughly captivated by) this disturbing epic.


#4: 20th Century Women (2016) dir. Mike Mills

Diving back into the A24 coming-of-age genre, American director Mike Mills’s drama 20th Century Women tells the moving tale of Dorothea (Annette Bening), a single-mother living in 1979 Santa Barbara, California alongside her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). With the help of Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a free-spirited 20-something artist, and Julie (Elle Fanning), a rebellious teenage neighbor, Dorothea learns to better connect not only with her son, but also with the strong-willed women around her. 

Through its nostalgic cinematography and memorable performances (looking at you, Greta “Menstruation” Gerwig!), this film allows the viewer to long for a time period they may not have even lived through. Touching and earnest in all the right places, 20th Century Women is an ode to motherly figures everywhere, making it a wonderful Mother’s Day watch that I recommend you check out on Max!


#3: Leonor Will Never Die (Ang Pagbabalik ng Kwago) (2022) dir. Martika Ramirez Escobar

In a weirder turn, Filipina director and cinematographer Martika Ramirez Escobar’s debut feature film Leonor Will Never Die follows Leonor (Sheila Francisco), a retired filmmaker who lives with her adult son, Rudie (Bong Cabrera). When Leonor falls into a coma after a Looney Tunes-style accident and reality and fiction begin to blur, she finds herself at the center of her unfinished screenplay.

Part action, part fantasy, and all comedy, this film is a unique blend of a psychological exploration of grief, a commentary on the criminalization of drug use in the Philippines, and an homage to Filipino action flicks of the 1980s.

In just under 100 minutes, Ramirez Escobar crafts a film like I’ve never seen before. Not only is this a creative and fun dive into a dying woman’s fever dream, it’s also a smart and beautifully-shot character study of a complex, yet loving mother-son relationship. While this non-linear, genre-bending (and sometimes meta) feature might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I highly recommend you give it a chance for free on Tubi this Mother’s Day!


#2: We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) dir. Lynne Ramsay

Delving back into psychological thrillers, Scottish director Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin follows Eva (Tilda Swinton) who reflects back on her complex relationship with her mentally-disturbed teenage son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), after he commits a horrific act. Tense, yet honest, this under-2-hour film is one woman’s non-linear quest through her own memories to figure out what went wrong with her first-born child. 

From its gripping performances to its symbolic use of color, We Need to Talk About Kevin is not only an exhilarating thriller/drama, but also a fascinating exploration of the power of nature versus nurture. Despite its many content warnings (including extreme violence reminiscent of real-life school massacres), I would highly recommend you give this watch (though maybe not on Mother’s Day) for free on Tubi.


#1: Anatomy of a Fall (Anatomie d'une chute) (2023) dir. Justine Triet

By far the most acclaimed (and my personal favorite) of this list, French director, screenwriter, and editor Justine Triet’s Oscar-winning courtroom thriller Anatomy of a Fall tells the story of Sandra (Sandra Hüller), a writer accused of murdering her husband, Samuel (Samuel Theis), after he’s discovered dead outside the couple’s home by their half-blind son, Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner). With the assistance of her lawyer, Vincent (Swann Arlaud), Sandra attempts to prove her innocence, all the while Daniel faces a moral dilemma as the case’s sole witness. 

In just over 2 and a half hours, Triet crafts a riveting portrait of a mother-son duo turned upside-down by an unexpected tragedy, an ambiguous mystery that only the viewer can get to the bottom of. From hot lawyers to Oscar-worthy performances (looking at you, Messi the dog!), Anatomy of a Fall is one of my favorites from the 2024 Oscars season and a great watch for any time of the year that I highly recommend checking out on Hulu!


No matter your relationship with your mother, I hope these films can provide some semblance of solace—or at the very least, a few hours of distraction and entertainment this Mother's Day!