This year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress have an unusual amount of strong roles as mothers.  Each of them are fully realized and complex characterizations, not just comic relief or cartoon-ish.  They all explore the complicated relations between mothers and daughters.

Click here to see our curated gallery of images focused on mother roles in film.

Mother Daughter Pairs

Two of them are co-nominated with their movie daughters. Allison Janney in I, TONYA is the horrifying (riveting) LaVona Golden, mother of figure skater Tonya Harding (portrayed by Margot Robbie who is also nominated as Best Actress).  Laurie Metcalf is Marion McPherson, mother of Saiorse Ronan (nominated for Best Actress) in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, LADY BIRD. Mary J. Blige is Florence Jackson, the matriarch of a sharecropper family in MUDBOUND.  And Frances McDormand is nominated for Best Actress for her powerhouse performance as an angry and grieving mother trying to solve her daughter’s murder in THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI.

Other Actresses in past portrayals

Other actresses have won the Oscar for their portrayal of strong mothers: Shirley McLaine as Debra Winger’s fierce mother in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (1984), Sandra Bullock (2009), who fights against racism and for her foster son’s future in THE BLIND SIDE and Julia Roberts as an environmental activist in ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000).