Oftentimes, prominent figures in pop-culture impact us without us even knowing, only making themselves evident in the lens we see the world through. They inspire us, shape us, encourage us, and empower us. In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d make a comprehensive guide to some of the most badass moms in TV and film who left their mark on us.
Lorelai Gilmore (Gilmore Girls)
After becoming a teen mom at the age of 16, Lorelai never lets that hold her back. She moves to a small town in rural Connecticut to raise her daughter completely on her own. She works her way up at the Independence Inn all the way to owner, demonstrating that our hardships in life don’t have to doom us. Rather, they can motivate us to be better moms, friends, sisters, and daughters.
Helen Parr/ElastiGirl (The Incredibles)
There aren’t a lot of moms who also moonlight as literal superheroes, but that’s where Helen comes in. I’d argue that she’s one of Disney’s most underrated heroines. When she isn’t caring for and raising her family of three kids, she’s joining her husband Bob in defeating the evil super villain Syndrome. She fiercely protects her children’s lives once they join their mom and dad in the fight, while also helping them build confidence in using their own superhero powers. Lots of moms joke about being stretched thin, but Helen understands that term literally, and handles it with finesse and quick thinking.
Beatrix "The Bride" Kiddo (Kill Bill)
She’s a former member of an elite assassin group who left her boss and former lover Bill to live a normal life in Texas after finding out she’s pregnant with his baby. She changes her name and is moments away from marrying a new man and starting her new life when Bill shows up from her past to exact his revenge. After Bill shoots her in the head on her wedding day and kills her unborn baby, she falls into a coma. For four years an orderly trafficks and rapes her, until she wakes up on a mission to get her own payback. Kiddo represents the perseverance and will of a mom to do whatever it takes to fight for justice for their child.
Molly Weasley (Harry Potter)
Not only does Molly have seven children, but she’s a crucial member of the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society founded to take down Voldemort. She knits each kid their own Christmas sweater every year for goodness sake! She also acts as a mother figure to Harry, who never got to know a real family before. And let’s not forget her crowning moment: she fights and defeats the powerful dark witch Bellatrix Lestrange at the Battle of Hogwarts. Don’t mess with Molly’s kids.
Joyce Byers (Stranger Things)
Sure, she may be a little quirky, but who wouldn’t be when your son is abducted by paranormal forces and trapped in The Upside Down? Joyce is a middle-class single mom raising her two boys in Indiana. When her youngest son Will suddenly disappears, she risks it all, including her reputation, to find him. Even though the whole town thinks she’s suffering from a mental breakdown, she follows her mom-intuition and partners with Eleven to rescue him. Moms just know.
Clair Huxtable (The Cosby Show)
As the matriarch of The Cosby Show, lawyer, and mother of five, Clair was an inspiration to millions of young girls growing up who dreamed of having a career and a family. She was one of the first working mothers ever depicted on television when the show debuted in 1984. Clair is a multi-dimensional character as a loving but firm mother who is the main disciplinarian. She sets the tone for how to navigate the ups and downs of motherhood with a sense of humor and cool, calm demeanor.
Rebecca Pearson (This Is Us)
Might be my favorite mom on this list. After getting pregnant with triplets and losing one of them during birth, she and her husband Jack come across another baby in the hospital who was born the same day but was left at a fire station. They decide to adopt him, and they call the triplets “The Big Three.” Tragically, Jack dies in a house fire when their home burns down and Rebecca is left to start all over. She has to rejoin the workforce, raise three teenagers on her own, and navigate through the grief of tragically losing her husband. She is the very definition of strength through adversity.
Evelyn Abbott (A Quiet Place)
She literally had to give birth naturally and stay completely silent. Enough said.
Erin Brockovich (Erin Brockovich)
This real life mom changed history when she fought PG&E of California in 1993 over contaminated drinking water and won, despite having no education in environmental law. The case was settled in 1996 for $333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history. Since then, she’s become a TV host and works as an activist with several law firms when it comes to environmental issues. She’s now in her late 50s with four kids and is an inspiration to moms everywhere when it comes to taking action in their own communities to truly make a difference in their kid’s lives.
Maquia (Maquia: Where the Promised Flower Blooms)
Maquia is an orphan who lives in a clan separated from the rest of the world. Because she and her clan age much more slowly than humans (they're called lorphs), she was told never to have an emotional attachment to humans. In the middle of a war, Maquia finds a crying baby wrapped in the arms of his mother who died to protect him. Her heart breaks, and she adopts the baby as her own, despite being young and not knowing how to be a mother. While her son Ariel ages, Maquia has to go through the pain of him not accepting her as his real mother and the loneliness of watching him grow up before her eyes. Maquia is an amazing example of a selfless mother who risks heartbreak to love her son. She's selfless, kindhearted, and beautiful.
Olenna Tyrell (Game of Thrones)
She is older, but she is still a force to be reckoned with. She famously told Jamie Lannister, “I did unspeakable things to protect my family. Or watched them being done on my orders. I never lost a night's sleep over them. They were necessary. And whatever I imagined necessary for the safety of House Tyrell, I did.” She’s sarcastic and savage. After most of her family are killed in the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor, an event orchestrated by Cersei Lannister, Olenna's desire for vengeance leads her to pledge House Tyrell's forces to Daenerys Targaryen. However, when Daenerys sends her forces to take Casterly Rock, Jaime Lannister's army sacks Highgarden. Offering Olenna a peaceful end, he allows her to drink poison. But before she dies, she reveals that she was the one who murdered his son, Joffrey Baratheon, at the Purple Wedding. Truly iconic.
And finally, a two-for-one special for my last choice.
Jackie Harrison and Isabel Kelly (Stepmom)
Jackie not only has to come to grips with the fact that her kids are gaining a new mother figure after her divorce with Isabel as their stepmom, but she also has to accept that Isabel will literally be their new mom because she has terminal cancer. Isabel learns to be selfless and patient as she helps Jackie’s 12-year-old daughter Anna manage her young teen years and a dying mother. It ends up being one of the most hauntingly beautiful depictions of motherhood from two opposite ends and a passing of the baton from one mom to another.