In gathering information for this article, I found that I had a much harder time choosing who to include than I thought I would. The last thing I wanted was to regurgitate the same lists that have been copied and pasted ad nauseum on every other site. I just cannot stomach one more list extolling the virtues of Claire Huxtable, Mrs. Brady, and June Cleaver. A mother should be able to love fiercely and unconditionally. She should know the benefits and consequences of selflessness and sacrifice (sacrifice of her wants/needs, not animals or neighborhood children—just to clarify). She does not need to be beautiful, have dinner on the table by the time dad gets home, and keep the house immaculate. She should be the kind of woman who would storm the gates of hell itself armed with nothing but a bucket of ice water, for her family.
10. Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones, HBO)
Now now, before you start getting your undergarments in a twist, let me explain myself. Despite her bad choices, lack of moral character, and the incest, not to mention the ever-rising body count of those who get in her way, one thing that cannot be said about Cersei is that she does not love her children. She even loved Joffrey, when no one else possibly could. She has sacrificed her hopes and dreams time and again, for her children’s sake and the ambitions of her father. I believe she would have easily given her life instead so that her children could live.
9. Catherine de’Medici (Reign, CW)
Disregard whatever you may believe to be historically accurate, and rely solely on what is known of this version of Catherine. Megan Follows portrays her with passion and conviction, following the prophecies of Nostradamus saying that her son, Francis, will die as a result of his relationship with Mary, Queen of Scots. Now, it is true that she was not the best mother to any of her four daughters, but when faced with the reality of an assault on Mary by those who sought to take their anger out on her because of Francis’s decisions, Catherine’s true character finally made itself apparent. A victim of sexual assault herself, she understood the things Mary was going through, and the things still to come. Without her guidance and compassion, things could have gone much worse for Mary.
8. Meredith Quill (Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014)
The mother of Peter Quill fell in love with a man she claimed was an angel, and filled her son’s head with stories about how he was special and that his father would return one day to take him away. No one ever believed her, though, thinking she was just making things up. She made mix tapes for her son, a bonding gesture that gave him a deep love of the songs she had chosen to share with him. On her death bed, she gave him one final gift, which he waited many years to open. Even in her final message, she reiterates how special he is to her, and refers to him by the name he prefers to be known as: Star Lord.
7. Natalie Prior (Divergent, 2014)
While her full story isn’t revealed in the first movie of the Divergent Trilogy, Natalie Prior isn’t like the rest of the people in the post-apocalyptic version of Chicago. Her daughter, Beatrice (“Tris”) never felt like she belonged in the boring, somewhat oppressive Abnegation faction; even as a young child she watched in awe even as the daring, thrill-seeking Dauntless would run past. Natalie, I believe, saw much of herself in her daughter, who later learns that her mother had once belonged to the Dauntless faction as well. When fit hits shan, her mother comes to rescue Tris, and ultimately sacrifices herself so her daughter can escape.
6. Sally Jackson (Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, 2010)
Like so many Greek mythology stories, this is another that hinges on the God falling in love with a human and producing offspring. Sally Jackson is that human, and she gives birth to Percy. The gods aren’t allowed contact with their demigod offspring, so to keep him hidden from those who would kill her son, she marries an abusive man whose body odor would hide Percy’s “scent.” She tolerates the way he treats her and her son, and then once danger presents itself, she whisks Percy away to Camp Halfblood. They come under attack once more before reaching the camp and Sally is taken prisoner by Hades.
5. Hayley Marshall (The Originals, CW)
Hayley’s story began when she was introduced as part of a werewolf pack on The Vampire Diaries. Later she became a werewolf/vampire hybrid on the spinoff, The Originals. She gets pregnant by Klaus, giving birth to the first naturally-born hybrid child, having werewolf, vampire, and witch heritage. Because of that heritage, Hope is at the very center of a war between the supernatural factions in New Orleans. This puts Hayley in the unenviable position of having to kill to protect her child, but it’s a duty she takes on quite willingly.
4. Aibileen Clark (The Help, 2011)
Aibileen is the focus of the movie, portrayed by the incomparable Viola Davis. She works as a maid to provide for her children, while she is employed to raise the child of her white employer. Elizabeth, whose maternal instincts never developed any more than her personality, basically berates her toddler daughter for not learning how to use the toilet quick enough. Aibileen is the perfect counter-balance for the situation though, teaching the little girl to believe in herself. Elizabeth begins to feel like Aibileen has more of her daughter’s love than she does and fires the maid, which pretty much breaks the little girl’s heart, as well as Aibileen’s.
3. Mrs. Jumbo (Dumbo, 1941)
We all know (or should) the story of Dumbo, the elephant born with abnormally large ears. Mrs. Jumbo doesn’t take too kindly to her fellow elephants making fun of her baby, and surely doesn’t tolerate it from a group of boys attending the circus. She snatches one of them up with her trunk and spanks him. Things go completely out of control then, as the Ringmaster orders her to be roped and chained, then placed in solitary confinement. Never does she make Dumbo feel bad or wrong for being different.
2. Carol Peletier (The Walking Dead, AMC)
You might question Carol’s motherly instincts, seeing as how her own daughter managed to get separated from the group when a herd of walkers happened by. But this is a woman who, after years of abuse from her waste-of-human-flesh husband, survived the loss of her child and has gone on to become something of a surrogate mother to a couple of other children and basically everyone in Alexandria. Carol’s problem is that she loves too much, too deeply, and because of that love, she feels she must kill to protect those she loves. Killing walkers is one thing, but the body count has taken chunks of her soul with them. Thing is? She’ll probably do it again. Because that’s who she is.
1. Molly Weasley (Harry Potter Series, 2001-2011)
Mrs. Weasley is another “Everyone’s Mom” kind of mother. She takes Harry into her care without even a question, looking after him with the same love and ferocity as she does her own children. In the final movie, she faces Bellatrix Lestrange, gloating murderer of Sirius Black. Bellatrix attempts to fire her wand at Ginny, Molly’s daughter, and the true power of Molly Weasley is realized: Molly completely disintegrates the evil wench. For someone who had been using her magic to keep up with the housework, seeing her true power unleashed was mindblowing.
Catelyn Stark (Game of Thrones, HBO)—I have my issues with Catelyn, given the resentment-filled way she treats Ned’s alleged bastard son, Jon Snow. You would think that raising a child practically from birth would spur some kind of affection, but that is not the case here. However, the love of her children cannot be denied. She joins with her eldest son, Robb, to rally their allies together in an effort to free Ned from the Lannisters. Attending her brother’s wedding to one of Walder Frey’s daughters, Robb and his wife are killed. Catelyn, spurred by the realization that all of her children are now dead, slits the throat of Walder’s wife before accepting her fate.
Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones, HBO)—Daenerys does not have actual human children, oh no. This woman is the widow of Khal Drogo, the last of her line, and the list of her titles goes on for at least a half mile. But she has one defining trait that not many women, if any, could ever claim: She has literally walked into a fire, and remained there, in order to bring her children to life. And her children are dragons. You just don’t find mothers more badass than that.