Elaine Miller, Almost Famous Played by: Frances McDormand Marital status/occupation: Single/college professor Maternal quality: Rectitude. Showing her love in unconventional ways, she does her best to prepare her children for a tough (and, in her eyes, increasingly vapid and dope-addled) future — “I’m giving you the Cliff’s Notes on how to live life in this world!” With a carefree daughter having just flown the coop, she rather incredibly allows her teenage son to miss a few weeks of high-school and follow a rock band on tour across America.
On the phone with Russell Hammond, the rock star who has ‘kidnapped’ her teenage son: “Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid. Goethe said that. It’s not too late for you to become a person of substance, Russell. Please get my son home safely. You know, I’m glad we spoke.”
Molly Weasley, the Harry Potter series Played by: Julie Walters Marital status/occupation: Married/housewife Maternal quality: Warmth. Mother of seven children — eight, if you include Harry Potter, whom she practically adopts — Molly Weasley is first presented as the harried but highly efficient manager of a large household. As more details are revealed one understands that she, in fact, is a witch of exceptional strength. Author JK Rowling says that Weasley’s to-the-death battle with the evil Bellatrix Lestrange in the final book and film represents the triumph of maternal love over obsessive love.
To Bellatrix, as the death eater is about to strike Ginny with a killing curse: “Not my daughter, you b****!”
Sarah Connor, Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Played by: Linda Hamilton Marital status/occupation: Single/warrior Maternal quality: Ferocity. The scared and wide-eyed Sarah in the first Terminator movie is nothing like the Sarah 10 years later in T2 — this girl is a lean, mean fighting machine. Thing is, her fixation on averting a future apocalypse has led to her institutionalisation — and separation from the son whose life she is tasked with protecting. Okay, she’s probably not the mum you want helping with a bake sale, but if you’re ever in the need for someone who can kill a man in five seconds…
To a scientist whose work will result in the creation of skynet: “How are you supposed to know? F—ing men like you built the hydrogen bomb. You think you’re so creative. You don’t know what it’s like to really create something; to create a life; to feel it growing inside you. All you know how to create is death.”
Florence ‘Rusty’ Dennis, Mask
Played by: Cher Marital status/occupation: Single/biker Maternal quality: Humour. A depressed and drug-addicted motorcycle mama is hardly anyone’s idea of an ideal mother, and Rusty would be the first to admit that she’s less than ideal. But she’s funny, tough-minded, and has a threshold for bs — traits that serve her well in raising a son, Rusty, born with a severely disfigured skull. She encourages him to pursue his interests, fights for his right to attend a regular junior high school, and nurses him through heartache — things good mothers do.
To a doctor advising of her son’s condition: “First you told me he was gonna be retarded, then you told me he was gonna be blind and deaf. If I’d dug his grave every time one of you geniuses told me he was gonna die, I’d be eating f—-‘– chop suey in China by now!”
Helen Parr, The Incredibles
Voiced by: Helen Hunt Marital status/occupation: Married/housewife and ex-superhero Maternal quality: Adaptability. As wife and mother to brood of superheroes forced to live a ‘normal’ existence under a government relocation programme (due to the unacceptably high collateral damage of super heroics), Helen Parr takes the adjustment a lot better than the rest of the family. A mysterious villain compels them to reveal their secret identities and Parr has the added pressure of worrying about the safety and well-being of her super-children.
To her children, as they are about to confront a very dangerous threat: “Remember the bad guys on the shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys aren’t like those guys. They won’t exercise restraint because you are children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance.”
Stella Dallas, Stella Dallas
Played by: Barbara Stanwyck Marital status/occupation: Single/unemployed Maternal quality: Self-sacrifice. Small-town girl Stella — loud and coarse — attracts the attention of an emotionally vulnerable executive at the local steel mill. They wed and have a girl together. Shortly afterwards, he moves to New York and leaves Stella to raise little Laurel. Years later, when Laurel grows into a refined young lady, Stella realises that she is unable to provide any kind of life for her daughter and hatches a plan to drive Laurel away from her and into the family of her wealthy and soon-to-be-divorced husband.
Consoling a three-year-old Laurel after her husband threatens to take her away: “There, there. You’re here with Mummy and nobody in this whole world is ever gonna take you away. Nobody. Nobody.”
Lorri Morris, The Rookie
Played by: Rachel Griffiths Marital status/occupation: Married/housewife Maternal quality: Toughness. When Lorrie married Jim Morris, she didn’t know that her high-school science teacher husband could throw a baseball 98 miles an hour. When 40-year-old Jim is actually offered a chance to play in the major leagues — at an age most have already left the game — Lorrie understands what this means to him and encourages him to chase this opportunity (even if it leaves her with three young children and a growing stack of bills).
On the phone with her husband, who is concerned that his absence may be putting an unbearable burden on her: “Jim Morris, I’m a Texas woman, which means I don’t need the help of a man to keep things running.”
Sheryl Hoover, Little Miss
Sunshine Played by: Toni Collette
Marital status/occupation: Married/housewife Maternal quality: Perseverance. Life probably hasn’t turned out the way Sheryl Hoover once hoped. She’s married to possibly the world’s worst motivational speaker, her son has taken a vow of silence, her gay brother is living with her family after a failed suicide attempt, and her father-in-law has been booted from a nursing home for selling heroin. But through force of will, Sheryl holds this clan together — and even manages to get all of them to take a road trip when her young daughter decides to compete in a beauty contest.
Consoling a son who just found out he can no longer pursue a lifelong dream of becoming an air force pilot: “Dwayne, for better or worse, we’re your family…”
Mrs Parker, A Christmas Story
Played by: Melinda Dillon
Marital status/occupation: Married/housewife Maternal quality: Patience. The (mostly) calm pillar of the household, the long-suffering Mrs Parker, endures a string of calamities and indignities — from a fishnet-legged lamp her husband insists on displaying in a window to a pack of neighbourhood dogs that steal a holiday turkey — with a seemingly bottomless reservoirs of humour and good grace.
Elated, as she devises an ingenious plan to get her youngest son to eat his dinner: “This is your trough. Show me how the piggies eat. Be a good boy. Show mummy how the
Erin Brockovich, Erin Brockovich Played by: Julia Roberts Marital status/occupation: Single/law-firm researcherMaternal quality: Single-mindedness. Perhaps a questionable choice as Erin’s dogged work leads her to, for a time, abandon her children with a helpful neighbour. But, as the movie makes clear, her seemingly obsessive devotion to a civil action that seeks to punish a polluting corporation, comes from seeing a job through to its end and an intense emotional connection to the families whose lives are shattered.
Begging for a job, after a series of frustrating and disappointing interviews: “I don’t need pity, I need a paycheck. And I’ve looked. But when you’ve spent the past six years raising babies it’s real hard to find somebody who pays worth a damn. (Turning her attention to a staring onlooker) Are ya getting every word of this down, honey, or am I talking too