The portrayal of motherhood on the silver screen is diverse. Here are some of the most memorable movie roles of recent vintage in which an actress portrayed a mom. Drawing exclusively from the ranks of Academy Award nominees for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, here are a dozen Oscar-worthy "mom roles" that show mothers in a wide array of circumstances, from a stay-at-home mom fighting for her life in the wake of a disastrous tsunami, to a single mother working as a waitress and fretting about what she can do for her son's asthma, to an elderly widow learning tolerance in the twilight of her life.
Role: Naomi Watts as Maria Bennett in "The Impossible"
Oscar connection: nominated for Best Actress, 2013.
Empowering message: Raising her three sons was important enough to Maria Bennett that she stopped working as a medical doctor in order to be home for the boys. During a family vacation to Thailand for Christmas 2004, a killer tsunami separates the family. Despite suffering a life-threatening wound to her leg, Maria fights fiercely to keep her middle son alive long enough for the two of them to reunite with the rest of the family.
Role: Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in “The Blind Side"
Oscar connection: won for Best Actress, 2010.
Empowering message: Leigh Anne Tuohy is an affluent mother of two who runs a successful side business as an interior designer. When an enormous homeless boy joins the football team at her children’s high school, Tuohy can clearly see not just the teen’s athletic potential but also his need for stability and love. As a result of Leigh Anne’s maternal instincts, the Tuohys legally adopt the gentle giant Michael Oher — who will eventually go on to become a starting tackle for the Baltimore Ravens squad that wins the Super Bowl in 2013.
Role: Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada”
Oscar connection: nominated for Best Actress, 2007.
Empowering message: As the editor of a major fashion magazine, the Machiavellian ice queen Miranda Priestly embodies the notion that a woman can run a large company as well or better than any man. That said, despite her runaway success at the office the wealthy Priestly isn’t immune from the emotional rollercoaster that comes with raising her own children.
Role: Charlize Theron as Josey Aimes in “North Country”
Oscar connection: nominated for Best Actress, 2006.
Empowering message: In 1989, Josey Aimes becomes the victim of sexual harassment while working at an iron mine in Minnesota. Despite an uphill legal battle — opposing attorneys try to smear her in court proceedings as promiscuous because of a past that includes teenage pregnancy and a failed marriage — Aimes stays the course and wins a landmark verdict that sets the stage for present-day legal protections against workplace sexual harassment.
Role: Julia Roberts as the title role in “Erin Brockovich”
Oscar connection: won for Best Actress, 2001.
Empowering message: Erin Brockovich may not have a law degree, but the single mother and law clerk possesses sufficient street smarts, compassion and steely resolve to catalyze the big breaks in a class-action lawsuit that eventually yields a $333 million settlement from a power company that destroyed dozens of lives with its egregious pollution.
Role: Helen Hunt as Carol Connelly in "As Good As It Gets"
Oscar connection: won for Best Actress, 1998.
Empowering message: Carol Connelly is a single mother whose life selflessly revolves around the medical treatment and care of her severely asthmatic son.
Role: Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson in “Fargo"
Oscar connection: won for Best Actress, 1997.
Empowering message: Technically, Marge Gunderson isn’t yet a mother as “Fargo” takes place. But Gunderson, the smart and funny police chief of a small Minnesota town, is seven months pregnant when she solves a series of quixotic and grisly murders. In other words, Gunderson’s pregnancy doesn’t impede her from bringing justice to the bad guys.
Role: Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan in “Driving Miss Daisy”
Oscar connection: won for Best Actress, 1990.
Empowering message: Unable to drive herself anymore, the 72-year-old widow Daisy Werthan is forced to hire a chauffeur. The man Daisy’s son finds to drive her around is African American, which is significant because the film is set in Atlanta in 1948 — a time and place where racism runs rampant. Despite Daisy’s initial hostility toward the chauffeur (played by Morgan Freeman), with time she learns to accept him as a cherished friend.
Role: Dianne Wiest as Helen Buckman in "Parenthood"
Oscar connection: nominated for Best Supporting Actress, 1990.
Empowering message: Helen Buckman is divorced and completely fed up with her two rebellious teenage children. But by choosing to focus on the positive aspects of her family, she starts to display unconditional love for her kids. When Buckman makes that paradigm shift, life doesn't magically become perfect from one day to the next but every family member's happiness substantially increases as a result.
>>Dianne Wiest winning her first academy award for "Hannah and Her Sisters"
Anne Ramsey as Mrs. Lift in "Throw Momma From the Train"
Oscar connection: nominated for Best Supporting Actress, 1988.
Empowering message: Unlike the other entries on this list, this item is included not for the role that led to an Oscar nomination but because of the real-life courage demonstrated by the actress who played the part. During the 1970s, Ramsey gained notoriety appearing in TV series like "Little House on the Prairie" and "Young and the Restless." However, 1984 surgery for throat cancer removed part of her tongue and left her with slurred speech. The cancer would claim her life in 1988, but in the time between the surgery and her death, neither cancer nor a speech impediment could keep her from performing the two roles she's best remembered for today: Ma Fratelli in 1985's "Goonies", and her Oscar-nominated turn opposite Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal in "Throw Momma From the Train."
Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in "Coal Miner's Daughter"
Oscar connection: won for Best Actress, 1981.
Empowering message: Based on Loretta Lynn's 1976 autobiography, "Coal Miner's Daughter" is the story of a God-fearing woman who, despite being married at 15 and a grandmother by age 29, rises from dirt-poor poverty to become a country music icon."
Talia Shire as Adrianna
Adrian Pennino in "Rocky"
Oscar connection: nominated for Best Actress, 1977.
Empowering message: Adrian Pennino isn't a mother during the original "Rocky" but she still makes this list because in each of the five subsequent additions to the "Rocky" franchise, that same Adrian character is in fact a full-fledged mother. And at every step of the way, Adrian offers unwavering support to her boxer husband as well as a levelheaded voice of reason to counterbalance her chronically drunk brother, Paulie.