Every year on Mother’s Day, the world comes together to celebrate the day meant for the one person who is always there for us. The rest of the year, we have film and television to remind us of the most remarkable qualities in a mom. The mother can be part of the story’s narrative, like in “Lady Bird” or “Coraline,” or they can be the main character’s support system watching from a distance. This Mother’s Day, let’s look at 10 iconic mothers in film and television from the last 20 years and celebrate the multitude of qualities that make moms so great.
There will be spoilers ahead!
10. Carole Hudson (“Glee”)
Despite being one of the few recurring parental characters on the Fox series, Carole Hudson steals the show in every scene she appears. First introduced as the main reason that her son, Finn, had developed a passion for music, Carole evolves into a character who brings a sense of reality to the teen melodrama of “Glee,” especially when the time comes for her and Finn to move on after 15 years of mourning her husband. Carole’s independence does not come at the cost of her son; even when she finds love again, she is patient with his grievances and gives him time to cope with finally moving on. This theme is central to her character and is echoed later in the show when she mourns the loss of Finn and finds support from her second husband and his son. She is played by Romy Rosemont, who shows the strength needed to keep oneself together — something widely celebrated on Mother’s Day.
9. Moira Rose (“Schitt’s Creek”)
When this character graces the screen, your attention is demanded. Played by the enchanting Catherine O’Hara, Moira Rose is one of the most famous characters from the CBC show “Schitt’s Creek.” At the beginning of the series, she is wigs-deep in the aristocratic lifestyle, but following her family’s relocation to a small town, she learns about the more important things in life. Her commitment to a lavish lifestyle is passed down to her son and daughter, but as the show progresses, each of them learns what it means to be there for one another. Her loyalty to her husband as they adjust to their new life is only strengthened as the pair takes on projects, and Moira even puts herself out there to be voted for city council. This Mother’s Day, remember how characters like Moira show that being your authentic self and being a present mother are not mutually exclusive.
8. Theresa Russo (“Wizards of Waverly Place”)
While most of this list could be made up of mothers from the Disney Channel, Theresa Russo deserves a spot for her heart and her integrity. Portrayed by Maria Canals-Barrera, Theresa Russo exists as the only mortal in a family of wizards. While her husband is not a mortal by choice, it is revealed that he gave up his powers to marry her. Theresa, a character meant to be relatable amid the wild spectacle around her, is also a caring and loyal mother. One moment, she is delivering advice to her daughter after a breakup, and the next, she is accompanying her husband and son on a journey through the Caribbean. Theresa Russo is also the voice of reason for many of her family’s questionable decisions regarding magic but she never wishes for them to be any different.
7. Leslie Bennett (“Euphoria”)
A mother with a heart of gold and an iron fist, Leslie Bennett is first introduced in the pilot of “Euphoria” as a present and loving mother to Rue Bennett, the show’s main character. As her daughter suffers from mental health issues during her early adolescence, Leslie tries to support Rue and guide her toward a quality life. Following the death of her husband, Leslie’s life is tossed to the side, and even further when she deals with the aftermath of Rue’s relapse following years of drug use. Leslie’s commitment to keeping her family together is seen in the drug tests she gives to Rue and the watchful eye she keeps on her youngest daughter, Gia. Played by Nika King, Leslie Bennet earns her role as a hard-working and enduring mother in modern television even more in Season 2 of “Euphoria.” She epitomizes the idea of putting family first and above oneself. Here’s hoping her Mother’s Day will be peaceful.
6. Ming Lee (“Turning Red”)
As one of the central characters in Disney and Pixar’s 2022 film “Turning Red,” Ming Lee is a mother who reflects the generational trauma that can affect one’s progeny if not properly dealt with. Although the beginning of the movie captures how nurturing she is to her daughter, Mei Lee, the rest of the film shows Mei putting her mother before herself. Ming Lee also maintains a healthy marriage, so much so that the viewer discovers a fight broke out between Ming and her own mother over her husband. The climax of the film reveals Ming Lee’s own red panda being much bigger than her mother’s or daughter’s, illuminating the complexity of Ming’s suppressed feelings toward her daughter growing up. She is voiced by Sandra Oh, who succeeds in making Ming both headstrong and vulnerable.
5. Molly Weasley (“Harry Potter” Franchise)
After 11 years as an orphan, Harry Potter meets the parents of best friend Ron Weasley following a rescue operation from his aunt and uncle. Molly and Arthur Weasley become parental figures faster than Harry’s extended family ever could, and their relationship with him only grows stronger throughout the course of the series. Molly Weasley, played by the charming Julie Walters, provides a maternal role for Harry even in the first story, “The Sorcerer’s Stone.” From the moment she helps Harry enter the magical platform to get to Hogwarts, to protesting against Harry’s recruitment into the Order of the Phoenix, Molly is protective of Harry in ways he had not yet experienced. She is also the mother of seven children, all of whom she would risk her life for in a heartbeat (or rather, the flick of a wand). Her last defining moment of the series is moments after her daughter Ginny is nearly struck with a killing curse. Without a moment’s hesitation, she fires one back at her attacker — a standout moment in the series. Without a doubt, Molly Weasley stands for the fierce protection and love of a mother.
4. Joyce Byers (“Stranger Things”)
Speaking of protecting a child, Joyce Byers has quickly become a notable name when discussing mothers in modern television. From the moment her child, Will, disappears, Joyce is on the hunt to bring back her boy. Although her arc in Season 1 of the Netflix show followed more of the “crazy mom” trope, her actions are justified by her quest to bring her son back from the Upside Down. Winona Ryder portrays her, and her performance captures the character’s desperation to reunite with her son. Her madness could even be viewed as genius, such as when she comes up with the iconic idea to pair Christmas lights with letters on the wall to communicate with Will. As the show continues, Joyce proves to be a valuable asset to the ensemble, including in the second season when she manipulates the Mind Flayer’s parasite into leaving her son’s body, and in Season 3, when she delivers the final blow to a Russian machine, keeping the world of the Upside Down from further integrating with their own.
3. Aunt May (“Spiderman Franchise”)
In the 20 years since the very first “Spider-Man” film was released, fans of the young hero have come to appreciate the support system behind the iconic web-slinger, Aunt May. Played by Rosemary Harris, Sally Field and, most recently Marisa Tomei, the character is known for picking up the mantle of a mother figure for Peter Parker. Following the death of both his parents and his uncle, May becomes a figure in Peter Parker’s life who not only reminds him of his youth but acts as a voice of reason. As the years have gone by, May has become a more prominent character in the Spider-Man films, from being an old damsel in distress in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy to being a headstrong executive of a nonprofit in Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” The character has acquired quite an audience in the two decades since Spider-Man’s first silver screen appearance. Leading up to her unfortunate death in the most recent film, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” she cautions Peter Parker with the iconic words, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” a line historically given to her husband, Uncle Ben. She is still a light on the remarkably short list of good comic book parents.
2. Jean Milburn (“Sex Education”)
One of the very first things we learn about Jean Milburn in the Netflix show “Sex Education” is her faithfulness to her occupation as a sex therapist. Played by Gillian Anderson, Jean is a composed, loving mother to Otis (Asa Butterfield), the main character. As a divorced single mother, Jean has supported her therapy business from the comfort of her home and supplies a good life for Otis as he navigates his own unusual high school journey. Even her more questionable moments in the show — such as having numerous affairs with men or writing a book about her sexually repressed son — enhance her character and make her no less of a present mother throughout the series. Even throughout Season 3, as she endures an unexpected pregnancy, she plans on being there for her newborn and almost gives her life in the process. While she is one of the more dynamic mothers on the list, Jean Milburn is a well-written character and impressive mother.
1. Linda Belcher (“Bob’s Burgers”)
For 10 years, “Bob’s Burgers” has offered a positively twisted portrayal of the normal family trope. A member of the main five-person cast of “Bob’s Burgers,” Linda Belcher is a mother who reflects the most wholesome and genuine qualities in a mother. She is unabashedly herself and encourages her three children, Tina, Gene and Louise, to do the same. Linda is also very loyal to her husband, Bob, and their relationship is one where no one is ever in competition with the other. Her support for Bob’s restaurant is so unwavering that one could assume it was part of their wedding vows. Though she is voiced by a man named John Roberts, she is modeled after the actor’s own mother, right down to the well-crafted Brooklyn accent. Her happy-go-lucky attitude is also reflected in her random bursts of singing, often adding to the show’s musical creativity as well. Though she does make some mistakes, Linda Belcher is one of the more optimistically realistic moms on this list.