mommie dearest

Mama’s Boys: 6 films that explore the unique bonds between mothers and their gay sons

Image Credits, clockwise: ‘Blackbird’ (RLJ Entertainment), ‘I Killed My Mother’ (The Criterion Channel), ‘Other People’ (Wolfe Releasing), ‘You Should Meet My Son!’ (Kinonation)

For many gay men, our mothers are our biggest heroes, our strongest support systems, our longest-lasting bonds, and sometimes the first people we come out to.

Of course, those experiences are far from universal, and there are just as many who share a fraught or—to say the least—complicated connection with mommie dearest. Regardless, there are few relationships more impactful to the life of a gay man than that with their mother, so it’s perhaps not so surprising that there’s a long history of films that explore this thematically rich dynamic.

Take, for example, the 2022 documentary Mama’s Boy. The film follows Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black as he revisits his Mormon upbringing, specifically through the lens of his bond with his mother. There’s also The Inspection—a boot camp drama about a gay man who enlists in the Marines to impress his disapproving mother—and the sentimental romance, Spoiler Alert, which notably features Sally Field (who else?) as the loving mother of a gay man facing an uncertain future.

In that spirit, we thought it was the perfect time to take a look back at recent features that delve into the unique mother-and-gay-son dynamic, a thematic subgenre of queer cinema that includes sweet dramedies, tense character studies, documentaries, tearjerkers, and more. And while these special relationships have figured into a number of major motion pictures over the years, to qualify for the list, the films needed to feature both mother and son in primary roles, and be released in the past 20 years.

Blackbird (2014)

In this sensitive family drama, a gay Mississippi teen (Julian J. Walker) struggles to reconcile his sexuality with his strict Baptist upbringing, especially as his mother (Mo’nique) believes his sister’s disappearance years earlier is God’s way of punishing the family for his heretic ways. Though it may touch on many familiar gay coming-of-age tropes, director Patrik-Ian Polk (the creator of Logo’s groundbreaking Noah’s Arc) brings a real tenderness to the material. And, would you be surprised if we told you that the Oscar-winning Mo’Nique really delivers in this heart-wrenching role? Because of course she does!

Streams on Tubi and DirecTV. Available for rental on Amazon Prime Video, YouTubeTV, Vudu, and iTunes.

Related: Creator Patrik-Ian Polk on the ‘Noah’s Arc’ reunion, and the possibility of a revival

I Killed My Mother (2009)

French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan frequently explores complex mother-son dynamics in his work—a theme he established right out of the gate with his debut, I Killed My Mother, which he wrote, directed, and starred in before he turned 20 years old. Loosely autobiographical, the film’s title isn’t meant to be taken literally, but speaks to the fraught relationship between Hubert (Dolan) and his working-class mother, Chantale (Anne Dorval), as they brood and bicker. As toxic as their bond may be, I Killed My Mother finds thoughtful, nuanced ways to tug at the invisible string tethering them to one another.

Streams on AMC+, Dekkoo, Kanopy, SundanceNOW, and DirecTV. 

Other People (2016)

In another semi-autobiographical story, The Other Two co-creator Chris Kelly writes and directs this moving dramedy about struggling New York City comedy writer David (Jesse Plemons) who returns to his childhood home in Sacramento to help take care of his mother (a career-best Molly Shannon) who’s battling a rare form of cancer. Yes, this one’s a total weepy, but Kelly’s sharp script and stellar ensemble balance it out with a warm, idiosyncratic sense of humor. While things are strained between David and his father, Other People offers a welcome portrayal of the unshakeable, unspoken connection between a gay man and his dear mom.

Streams on Netflix, Kanopy. Available for rental on Vudu and iTunes.

Related: Moms open up to their adult gay sons about when they first “knew” in heartwarming video

Tarnation (2003)

Queer cinema vanguards Gus Van Sant and John Cameron Mitchell are among the Executive Producers of this bracingly intimate, DIY documentary from filmmaker Jonathan Caouette. Through Super 8 footage, VHS tapes, recorded voice messages, photos, and more, Caouette recounts the story of his life, particularly his relationship with his mother Renee, and her struggles with schizophrenia. Critic Roger Ebert was an early champion of Tarnation, hailing it as the new frontier of documentary filmmaking. Nearly two decades later, in an era where many share the intimacies of our lives online, it seems Ebert was right—but that doesn’t undercut the power of Caouette’s work.

Though not currently streaming, the film is frequently available to subscribers of The Criterion Channel.

Touch Of Pink (2015)

Ian Iqbal Rashid’s Touch Of Pink is a romantic comedy unlike any other. For one, it’s the story of a gay London transplant named Alim (Jimi Mistry), who is forced to pretend his boyfriend (Kris Holden-Ried) is his roommate when his Muslim, traditionalist mother (Suleka Mathew) comes to visit from Canada. Oh, and there’s also the fact that Alim’s imaginary friend is the spirit of legendary actor Cary Grant (played delightfully by Kyle MacLachlan), whose “advice” often makes matters worse. By centering QPOC voices with a dash of whimsy, Touch Of Pink stands out as a singular cinematic experience we can only hope to see more and more of.

Streams on Tubi and FuboTV.

Related: Fall in love with these 11 gay rom-coms while waiting for “Bros” to hit theatres

You Should Meet My Son! (2010)

This ultra-low budget indie is certainly the most raunchy and raucous of the bunch, but we couldn’t resist including it for its ridiculous spin on the mother-and-gay-son dynamic. For Brian (Stewart Carrico), coming out to his conservative mother Mae (Joanne McGee) and his aunt (Carol Goans) was the surprisingly easy part, as they soon come to terms with his sexuality. But things get complicated when the women take it upon themselves to find Brian a partner, diving head-first into gay culture to absurd results. If nothing else, You Should Meet My Son! proves that this sub-genre doesn’t always have to be such a tearjerker.

Available for rental on Amazon Prime Video, YouTubeTV, Vudu, and iTunes.

Related: You won’t believe what happened after this mom sent her gay son’s “smut photos” to her carpenter

Don't forget to share: