Watching Movies With Mom

We’ve all done it.  You are spending the day at your folk’s house, and there is nothing on television to watch.  Your mom has fed you, so you do not feel like going anywhere.  Then someone has the idea to rent a movie.  Your mom doesn’t really watch movies, so you begin to run down a list of possible films that everyone might like.  You think of one of your favorite movies, and, of course, she has not seen it.  You rent it and hope for the best, but in the end you feel extremely frustrated for one reason or another. 

Of course, there are some movies you would never think of seeing with your mother.  Basic Instinct, and Fatal Attraction are far too sexual.  Predator is too violent. And, The Accused is both.  Movies like Animal House should also be obvious as they are too vulgar to watch with your mother. 

Sometimes, you start thinking about how great a movie is, and you give your mom the benefit of the doubt, thinking that she will be able to handle it.  You are wrong.  Mom’s are great, but they seem to have a knack for ruining a good flick.

I have organized some movies into categories that generally show some typical movie themes that will always cause head-throbbing pain if you try to watch them with your mother.


Complicated Plots with lots of Characters:

A lot mom’s have problems with organization and compartmentalization.  They have a lot on their minds and lots of responsibilities.  They often do not feel like they can devote the time required to keep up some movies.  As a result, movies with lots of stars or intricate plots are minefields for the person attempting to watch them with mom.  If you attempt this, you will probably find yourself answering a plethora of questions, and while you are answering these questions, your mom will be missing more plot points which will only add exponentially to the number of questions that will be asked.  Some examples of this are JFK, Goodfellas, and Blackhawk Down.  The Departed is another good example of this, especially, because the characters in this movie tend to blur the lines of good and evil.  The Godfather I and II also deserve special mention because they add the even more confusing element of moving backward and forward in time.  You might think you could sneak the Ocean’s 11 movies in on your mom, but remember they have a syncopated quality toward the end.  All of the technical planning- which your mom either did not understand, did not listen to , or did not have the time to devote her full attention to early in the movie- comes to a head.  Several characters are working to pull off the heist, and the camera is sometimes following several people at one time.  This type of sensory overload is too much for someone whose early exposure to the film medium included films with such complicated plots as The Sound of Music.


Good movies based on or involving Dark Themes:

You mom is not an evil person.  And often mom’s are not complicated people.  This is a good thing.  It is better to know that you have a mother who always takes the moral high-road.  For her, good is always good, and evil is always evil.  For this reason, she has trouble dealing with movies that contain dark themes.  Mom’s often have problems with the grey areas, and when a person does a bad thing, in her mind, that can never be good or lead to a good result.  The perfect example of this is Slingblade.

Another type of movie in this category is one that is Good or Interesting, but has a Plot Based on Evil Deeds or an Evil Person.  Good examples of this are The Shining, Fargo or The Silence of the Lambs.  Mom tend to want to protect their children from the evil of the world.  Having you sit in a room with them and being faced with this evil is often troublesome for them.

Still another type of movie is this movie that has a very ‘Good’ Hero, but Very Evil Situations that he must deal with.  Examples of this include, The Shawshank Redemption, Schindler’s List and The Mission.  My own experience with this is that my mom would get to a terrible scene in the movie- such as in The Mission when the babies are thrown out in the rain- and simply stop watching the movie.

A final subset of this group is the Anti-Hero Movie.  Movies in this genre would include: Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill.  A perfect example of a movie in this group would be High Plains Drifter.  Come on!  He paints the town red and calls it Hell.  I know that these are cool movies, but my mother will never think they are cool.  She is more likely tell me that I am ‘warped’ if I show her one of these.


Movie with Language Issues:

The first subset of this category is Foreign Language Films.

I have to face it, my mother is pretty jingoistic and cannot deal with anything that is not in good old English.  A good example of this is Life is Beautiful.  Another example that adds the mom-confounding element of fantasy to being filmed in Spanish is Pan’s Labyrinth.

A second subset of this category is Films that use Verse.  Movies based on Shakespeare works often employ this.

A third subset of movies in this category involves Movies with Main Characters who Speak in Dialects.  Movies based on Irish characters are popular in this category,


Movies that require some Preexisting Knowledge of the Plot or Characters or Memory of a Previous Movie: 

Very popular movies can fall into this category.  The Star Wars films, The Lord of the Rings series and the Harry Potter films are included in this group.  Few things can be more of a beating than repeated questions such as, “What’s a Muggle?” from across the room.


Movies Based on Allegories:

Anyone should read Heart of Darkness before attempting to watch Apocalypse Now in the first place, but expecting your mother to be able to comprehend a movie that is a visual story about searching the depths of one’s soul will only leave you frustrated.  Remember, this is your mom.  She has no depth to her soul.  Her soul is simple and pure, and you like it that way.

The Chronicle’s of Narnia may be surprising to see on this list, but this movie is an allegory that your mom knows is an allegory.  You need to be prepared for statements like, “The lion is God, right.”  So, so defeating.

Edward Scissorhands would fit here, but there is a fairly good chance she would get this one.


Movies with Fantastic Elements to the Plot:

There are lots of movies that weave a fantastic element into every day life.  Two good examples of this are Field of Dreams and Being John Malkovich.  Remember, your mom is grounded in reality, and you like it that way. 


Movies that You thought were Funny:

Always remember, your mother has a sense of humor, but it is not as the same as or as funny as yours.  There are lots of movies that fit into this category.  The best way to figure out if a movie fits this category is this: If it makes you laugh out loud, your mom will not think it is funny, and if it makes you smile politely, she will probably love it.

The list here could go on and on.  It includes Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Better Off Dead, Napoleon Dynamite, Talladega Nights (anything with Will Ferrell), Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles.

Anything that is funnier when you are drunk, is not as funny with your mom.  Dumb and Dumber is a good example of this.

I’m pretty sure that my mom thinks that ‘irony’ is an adjective that describes the relatively wrinkle-free quality of shirts.  Therefore, Oh Brother Where Art Thou and comedies like it are not for her.

I try to remember that my mom thought Father of the Bride and My Big Fat Greek Wedding were funny, so I don’t get too fancy with my comedy choices..


Movies with a Twist:

O Henry was on to something when he introduced the world to the ironic plot twist.  These twists often make a movie more interesting, and the longer the director can keep the audience in the dark, the better the movie often seems.  A great example of this is The Truman Show.  Do not watch these types of movies with your mom.  Because she does not have the time to pay attention to the movie, she will often need things spelled out for her.  She will probably not figure out what is going on in The Truman Show until shortly before Truman opens the door at the end of the movie, and then be ready for the plethora of questions that will come your way.

Other movies in this category would include The Others and The Sixth Sense (any M. Night Shyamalan movie would fit here).


Movies that Involve Scientific or Science Fiction Themes:

Most mom’s are not a rocket scientists or a brain surgeons, and they usually are not interested in any of that stuff.  Movies like Contact, Blade Runner, AI, The Matrix, Dune, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Come on, You don’t even understand this.) are out of their scope of interest.  They often have problems understanding and following them because she just doesn’t care about the subject.  Women in general are more interested in relationships.  This goes for movies also, and movies where the characters whole lives are lived in tube-fed bubbles are probably not on Dr. Phil’s recommended list.

2001 or 2010 a Space Odyssey: just don’t do it.  It does not matter if you get past the apes, she still won’t care.

A subset of this category is: Movies Set in Another World with a Different Set of Rules:

A lot of people follow the old adage, ‘when in Rome…’ when viewing films.  Not my mom.  She does not care very much about Rome either.  Most fantasy and Sci-fi movies fit in this category.  The Road Warrior, Water World and other post-apocalyptic movies fit here.

Still another subset of this category is: Movies that involve an Element of Time Travel:

The logical flaws that usually plague these films are hard enough for anyone to put up with, and mom’s distractability tend to make these movies not worth the effort.  I am not being paid to be a physicist, so I don’t try to be one.

Déjà Vu deserves special mention here.   Unless you want to spontaneously explode, do not watch this film with you mother.  It has a major time travel element which is surprisingly done well, but my mom, after not paying good attention in the first part of this movie, would be a question factory as she tried in vain to figure out what is going on near the end.

Donnie Darko is another great example.  As I stated earlier, my mom doesn’t get darkness.  She does understand characters that are as complicated as the title character in this movie.  She has a positive outlook on the world, and as a result has trouble identifying with people as depressing as him.  Add a horrifying bunny and the element of time travel, and she will probably remember some house cleaning that she has to finish before the end.


Forgotten Dialogue or Uncomfortable scenes:

There are many movies that you remembered being great because they were, but when you showed them to mom, there was the unfortunate nude scene or sometimes a repeated ‘F’ word.  Good examples of this are Braveheart and Dances With Wolves.  It is important to note that even though your mom might like a movie like this if she were to watch it with your dad or her friends, she may not be able to enjoy it with you in the room.  You are still her baby (even if you are 40), and she may have trouble getting by that fact.  It is best to allow these movies to come to her through other venues, as she will be tainted by the fact that it was you that recommended it to her.


Memento– I placed the movie in a category by itself.  This movie is a pretty genius murder mystery about a guy who has no short term memory told from his point of view.  It is hard enough for any person to keep up with it while paying full attention.  My mom doesn’t stand a chance.  Never, ever attempt to watch this movie with your mom.


When you watch movies with mom, play it safe.  Go with the tried and true.  The Princess Bride, Mr Mom and Mrs Doubtfire are great choices.  If you are lucky, she may not even remember that she has seen them before.


If youv’e had any fun experiences watching movies with mom, please leave a comment, or if you think of a movie that I left out, leave that also.