28 Heartbreaking Movies About Losing a Mother

Updated

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We know that readers searching for “movies about the death of a mother” may have different reasons for conducting such specific research. Unfortunately, some of you may be going through this heartbreaking loss right now and would prefer to escape for a few hours by watching a movie that has nothing to do with death.

Jump ahead to these sections:

On the other hand, some of you may have recently lost a mother and wish to watch a film where the characters go through a similar situation.

Regardless of why you are searching for this type of movie, please only peruse this list if you don’t care about spoiler alerts. After all, the death of a character may be intended to be surprising to the audience. So even glancing at our list of movies may uncover plot points that you may not wish to see.

Movies About Losing a Mother After a Long Illness

The loss of a mother is a significant moment in most people’s lives. Here are some movies about losing a mother after a long illness.

Some of the movies on our list are specifically about a mother’s death, while others may include the death as a subplot. We included both types of movies on our list. 

1. August: Osage County

Technically, the end of August: Osage County doesn’t show the mother’s death. However, this movie shows the complicated relationship of an ailing mother and her children. The film stars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. 

The movie is named for the setting – Osage County, Oklahoma, in the middle of August.

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2. Stepmom

Here’s another movie about the death of a mother that stars Julia Roberts. In Stepmom, Susan Sarandon plays a dying woman who forms a relationship with the woman who will become her children’s stepmom (played by Julia Roberts). 

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3. Other People

Here’s a conversation from the film that explains the title:

David: This all just feels like . . . something that happens to other people.

Gabe: Yeah, well now, you’re other people to other people.

David watches his mother, played by Molly Shannon, become sick and die in this film from 2016. Jesse Plemmons is also featured in the movie. 

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4. Acres and Acres

Acres and Acres is based on a best-selling memoir and tells the story of a dying mother’s list of instructions that she leaves behind for her husband and children.

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5. Pieces of April

Katie Holmes stars in this film about a young New Yorker who invites her family (including her dying mother) for Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, the family has a complicated relationship. 

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6. The Family Stone

While the trailer for this film portrays a family comedy, the matriarch of the Family Stone is dying of cancer. This movie features a lot of famous personalities, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Claire Danes, and Dermot Mulroney. 

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7. Terms of Endearment

The title of this film from 1983 has come to mean a “movie that will make you cry.” It stars Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger, a mother and daughter, who have a strained relationship. Winger’s character, who is dying, entrusts her mother to raise her children after she is gone.

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8. Sleepless in Seattle

We only see Maggie (Sam’s dead wife) in flashback sequences. However, the movie about having a second chance at love wouldn’t exist without this mom dying. 

Sleepless in Seattle stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In this movie, Hanks’ real-life wife, Rita Wilson, plays Hanks’ sister. 

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9. Beaches

While most would view this film as being about female friendships, it famously ends with the death of one of the main characters – who leaves behind a child for her friend to raise.

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10. Steel Magnolias

This movie and its all-star cast got a lot of attention when it first came out in 1989. If you are looking for a tear-jerker about friendship and grief, consider rewatching it. Instead of dying from cancer like many of the other characters on this list, Shelby (played by Julia Roberts) has diabetes.

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11. Les Misérables

One of the plot points in Les Misérables is the death of Cosette’s mother from tuberculosis. 

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12. Mr. Church

Eddie Murphy stars in Mr. Church, the story of a friendship that develops when a little girl and her dying mother retain the services of a talented cook. 

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13. The Eye of the Storm

An older woman with adult children hopes to control her own death, just as she has controlled everything else in her life in The Eye of the Storm.

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14. The Descendants

A mother dies in The Descendants. However, the grief is complicated because the woman had an affair before her tragic death. This 2011 film features George Clooney.

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15. Little Sparrows

Three sisters return home to Australia, where their mother is dying from breast cancer. This movie was released in 2010.

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16. 33 Scenes from Life

A Polish artist’s mother becomes ill with stomach cancer. After her mother dies, her husband can’t comfort her during the first pangs of grief. This movie was made in 2008, and both Germany and Poland are listed as the film’s countries of origin.

Stream it on Amazon UK.

17. Silent Heart

This movie from Denmark explores a mother’s desire to die before her disease worsens.

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18. Maria My Love

A young woman struggles to deal with her mother’s death and her father’s mistakes, so she reconnects with her half-sister. A true story inspired this movie

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Movies About the Sudden Death of a Mother

It seems as if Hollywood prefers to describe the story of moms who die of extended illnesses instead of moms who die suddenly. However, we were able to uncover a few movies that feature the sudden death of a mother

19. Harry Potter series

There’s a lot of death in the Harry Potter series. While most of the deaths were of males, Lily Potter’s sudden death was a significant plot point of the entire series. After all, it was her love that gave Harry protection from Voldemort.

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20. Bambi

Disney movies are notorious for killing off parents. One particularly jarring scene is from Bambi when the title character’s mother dies after being shot by a hunter. 

There has been a lot written about this cinematic death.

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21. Life Itself

There’s a lot of sudden death and tragedy in the movie Life Itself. However, it’s more than that. IMDB describes it as examining “the perils and rewards of everyday life in a multi-generational saga.”

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Movies About Losing a Mother as a Child

Many of the movies on our list are about children who lost their mothers. Here are some more films that would fit into this category.

22. Over the Moon

This animated movie is about a young girl who builds a rocket ship to the moon to find a Moon Goddess. The main character in this Netflix film is mourning the loss of her mother.

23. Frozen

Elsa and Anna’s parents die in a shipwreck at the beginning of the Disney movie Frozen

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24. Tarzan

No matter what version of Tarzan is your favorite, this classic tale begins when a young boy loses his parents. 

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Documentaries About Losing a Mother

The (mostly) universal experience of losing one’s mother is discussed in the following documentaries. Some of them explore what it is like to lose one’s mother during adulthood, and others are about what it is like to grow up without a mom.

Perhaps you might be interested in watching a documentary about real-life people who experience the death of a parent instead of watching a fictional movie about grief. 

25. The Club

This documentary was initially titled The Dead Mothers Club. It tells the story of three women who lose their mothers during adolescence. This film also features Rosie O’Donnell, Jane Fonda, and Molly Shannon. 

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26. Murder on Middle Beach

This documentary about the death of a mother has a different feel than most. In it, a son investigates the murder of his mother – even though the prime suspects included the filmmaker’s older sister and father.

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27. Beautiful Something Left Behind

This documentary takes a look at “Good Grief” groups, where children meet to understand the passing of a parent or a sibling. This film features children and their explorations of grief. The documentary is also known as The Elephant in the Room, and it was released in 2021. 

Watch it on Paramount+.

28. Time of Death

This Showtime documentary series is about people facing their own mortality and the people surrounding them. There are six episodes in this series that were produced in 2013. 

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Do You Wish to Avoid Movies About Death?

If you are new to grief, you might try to avoid movies about death. However logical this plan may be, you might be surprised by what movies trigger an emotional response after losing a loved one. 

Even the happiest movies may make you sad if they remind you of your mom who recently passed. Smells and tastes may also come with an emotional response. And, of course, certain songs will always remind you of your mom.

While you may be successful in avoiding movies that feature the death of a mother, you won’t be able to completely protect yourself from the raw emotion that follows a loss.

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