In Honor of Mother’s Day, We’re Honoring These Iconic Hollywood Mother-Daughter Duos

Mother’s Day is already upon us, which means it’s time for us to give our moms a little reminder of how much we appreciate and love them. In history and traditional storytelling, the image of the mother can often be viewed as this ethereal, caring, understanding figure in the protagonist’s life. But in modern pop culture, mothers are given a bit more versatility for character development, ranging anywhere from “best mom ever,” to surrogate best friend, to complicated basket-case.

Mother-Daughter Duos On-Screen

Donna Reed and Shirley Jones both coined the quintessential TV sitcom mom with the classic series “The Donna Reed Show” (1958-1966) and ABC’s “The Partridge Family” (1970-74), while the two-decade long popularity of the WB’s “Gilmore Girls” (2000- 2007) shows that the “hot mess” variety of mother (played by Lauren Graham) can be both endearing and somewhat realistic.

In film, James L. Brooks’ Terms of Endearment (1983) and Herbert Ross’ Steel Magnolias (1989) are considered the greatest “chick flicks” of all time and are centered on mother-daughter relationships. In Brooks’ classic, Shirley MacLaine plays stuck-up, old-fashioned Aurora, who is bewildered by the modern, grown-up choices of her daughter (portrayed by Debra Winger). In Ross’ movie, Sally Field tries not to worry too much about her physically vulnerable on-screen daughter, Julia Roberts, and her choice to become pregnant.




What makes both interesting is that the stories were not only directed by men, but the original sources were also written by male writers (Terms of Endearment from Larry McMurtry’s 1975 novel, and Steel Magnolias from Robert Harling’s 1987 stage play). The four males must have really been paying attention to the women in their lives, because not only were MacLaine, Winger, and Roberts nominated for Oscars—with MacLaine winning—but both melodramas still completely hold up over three decades later.




A longtime, personal favorite mother-daughter dramedy of mine is Richard Benjamin’s 1960s Mermaids (1990), starring Cher as the kooky but hip mother of Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci. Ryder’s the older, teenage daughter who becomes familiar with the opposite sex and wishes she had anyone else as her mom, while Ricci is the younger child with dreams of becoming a swimmer. Though a bit of a product of its time (and my childhood), Mermaids still has a lot of heart and charm, contemporarily.







Off-Screen Mother-Daughter Duos

Real-life mothers and daughters collaborating is always fun, and there’s plenty of this pairing to be found in show business. Both Liza Minnelli and Carrie Fisher got their big career breaks performing opposite their legendary mothers Judy Garland and Debbie Reynolds. Judy and Liza led their 1964 concert ‘Judy & Liza at the London Palladium,’ while Carrie performed opposite Debbie in a 1973 Broadway revival of the musical ‘Irene.’ In country music, Naomi and Wynonna Judd (aka the Judds) are an iconic mother-daughter duo with six albums and five Grammys to their name.

On camera, real mother-daughter pairs can be spotted throughout cinema and television. Priscilla Pointer & Amy Irving played mom and child in Brian de Palma’s horror classic Carrie (1976) as well as Jerry Schatzberg’s Honeysuckle Rose (1980). Diane Ladd & Laura Dern often appear together on screen, most notably David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), Martha Coolidge’s Rambling Rose (1991), and HBO’s Enlightened (2011-2013). Blythe Danner & Gwyneth Paltrow co-starred as mother and daughter in the NBC mini-series “Cruel Doubt” (1992) and Christine Jeffs’ biopic Sylvia (2003). Eva Amurri’s acting debut was as the daughter of one of the title characters in Bob Dolman’s The Banger Sisters (2002), played by Eva’s real mom Susan Sarandon.

Whether it’s spending time with your own mom on Mother’s Day or watching your fave mom-themed movie or show, there’s no limit to how much appreciation to motherhood can be discovered in real life or on camera.


Do you have any favorite movies or shows centered on mothers or mother/child relationships? Was it mentioned in my article? Tell us in the comments!

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