Bringing a child into this world can be a miraculous, life-changing event in a couple’s life. However, oftentimes, the circumstances involved in a pregnancy are far more complicated than this image of flawless bliss may indicate. The big screen depictions of pregnancy over the years certainly reflect that, wringing both drama and comedy out of the situation. Bridget Jones’s Baby — now out in theaters — is only the latest example of a filmmaker’s interpretation of how having a child can affect both the pregnant woman at the center of it all, as well as those in her life.
Inspired by the release of Bridget Jones’s Baby, we’re taking a look back at some of the most memorable pregnancies on film. For the record, we’re only including films wherein at least one central character’s pregnancy drives the narrative forward, regardless of whether or not the film’s runtime is comprised solely of the pregnancy itself. As long as the film explores the circumstances and ramifications of pregnancy, it’s fair game.
Here are the 15 Most Memorable Pregnancy Movies.
15. What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)
Based on perhaps the most popular pregnancy book ever published, this film applies a narrative approach similar to what He’s Just Not That Into You did just three years earlier. Both releases take the concepts addressed in their respective non-fiction source material and develop an interconnected web of separate storylines to illustrate their points.
While What to Expect When You’re Expecting wasn’t well-received by critics, it does manage to assemble a pretty impressive ensemble cast, including Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Cameron Diaz and a pre-Pitch Perfect Anna Kendrick. Moreover, the film offers enough for supporting players like Chris Rock and Rebel Wilson to do that even casual fans of this sort of light comedy should be able to find some enjoyment in it. As one might surmise, expectant mothers in particular will relate to its less-than-cheery view of the emotional and physical strife women face during their own pregnancies.
14. She’s Having a Baby (1988)
The late, great John Hughes is easily one of the most influential comedic directors of the past few decades, thanks to bonafide classics like The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Even though the director is best known for his explorations of the joy and angst of adolescence, he tried to move beyond that with this romantic comedy/drama.
Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern star as a newly married couple whose relationship is tested when they receive news that a baby is on the way (hence the particularly on-the-nose title). Though She’s Having a Baby is often considered one of Hughes’ lesser directorial efforts (and, in fact, was a box office flop), the film does center heavily on the psychological impact that impending childbirth can have on a couple, and deserves recognition for delving into some deeper themes that many films of this kind tend to overlook.
13. Look Who’s Talking (1989)
Years before director Amy Heckerling would deliver a modern classic in Clueless, she helmed this hit comedy about an accountant (Kirstie Alley) who finds herself expecting the baby of a married man (George Segal). However, Look Who’s Talking doesn’t center solely on the pregnancy — tracking baby Mikey (voiced by Bruce Willis) into his first year of life — but its story does hinge on the aftermath of that pregnancy and how it ultimately brings the characters played by Alley and John Travolta together.
In the decades since its release, Heckerling’s film has been the brunt of a lots of jokes, especially regarding Travolta’s dwindling career prior to his resurgence in Pulp Fiction. We blame this bad reputation more on the two subpar sequels that followed though, as Look Who’s Talking has far more heart than many of its harshest critics may remember. Believe it or not, the film even earned nearly $300 million at the worldwide box office back in 1989.
12. Nine Months (1995)
Back in the mid-’90s, Hugh Grant seemed to be everywhere. Following the success of Four Weddings and a Funeral, the actor — who, ironically, doesn’t appear in the Bridget Jones film that inspired this list — seemed to be everywhere, and Nine Months, an American remake of a French film, marked his entrance to a major Hollywood production.
The actor cements his foppish onscreen persona here as a child psychologist terrified of the change that a child will bring to his life. Though Grant takes center stage, director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) assembles a memorable ensemble cast that includes Julianne Moore as Grant’s pregnant girlfriend, Robin Williams, Joan Cusack, Tom Arnold and Jeff Goldblum. Even if it is ultimately yet another saccharine offering from Columbus, Nine Months has a sweetness to it that makes the film a worthy addition to the pantheon of pregnancy films. Plus, did we mention that Jeff Goldblum is in it?
11. Parenthood (1989)
Throughout the ’80s, former child actor Ron Howard began to establish himself as one of the most consistently solid filmmakers in the business. Films like Night Shift, Splash, Cocoon and Willow proved that he had a knack for capturing top-tier performances and deftly handling stories across all genres long before he claimed a directing Academy Award for A Beautiful Mind in 2002.
Parenthood — yes, the film that inspired the recently concluded NBC series — may have been the final time that anyone doubted Howard’s storytelling prowess. Steve Martin leads an extensive ensemble cast in this tale about the various branches of the Buckman family tree. The film has a lot to say about family dynamics, child-rearing and the responsibility that one must bear when they have kids, but it also involves a number of pregnancies over the course of the film, ensuring that the titular theme is covered from every angle.
10. For Keeps (1988)
Most mainstream films about pregnancy shy away from the difficult decisions couples are forced to make when they’re expecting. But For Keeps addresses these head-on, following a high school couple (Molly Ringwald and Randall Batinkoff) who are shocked to discover they’ve conceived a child.
Often considered one of Ringwald’s strongest performances, the film deals with heavier themes than most of her previous work and gives director John G. Avildsen (Rocky, The Karate Kid) the perfect canvas to explore the coming-of-age experience that accompanies an unexpected pregnancy. Though For Keeps itself hasn’t left as much of a legacy as other ’80s teen dramas, it dares to take a more raw look at teenage pregnancy — dealing as much with the aftermath as the pregnancy itself — and became a modest box office success in the process. It’s certainly worth a look for fans of Ringwald’s celebrated collaborations with filmmaker John Hughes.
9. Father of the Bride Part II (1995)
Steve Martin makes a second appearance on our list with this sequel to the 1991 remake of the 1950 Spencer Tracy film. While its direct predecessor tracks George Banks’ (Martin) mental anguish upon his daughter’s (Kimberly Williams) engagement and the subsequent wedding planning, this entry sees Banks set to become both a first-time grandfather and a late-in-life father of his own third child.
Director Charles Shyer returns to keep the tone and style of Father of the Bride Part II effectively in line with the first film, and Martin again nicely balances warmth with his signature “wild and crazy guy” routine, cementing his status as one of the best movie dads of all time. Although the film does lean too heavily on genre conventions at times, it provides a more distinct spin on pregnancy than many of its counterparts. Martin, Diane Keaton and Martin Short elevate the material far beyond what’s on the page.
8. Baby Mama (2008)
Despite her standout work on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, Tina Fey has had a rougher-than-expected time kickstarting her film career. Recent vehicle Whiskey Tango Foxtrot failed to earn back its modest $35 million production budget earlier this year, leaving audiences unenthusiastic about Fey’s future as a leading lady. Yet, whenever Fey is teamed with former SNL co-star Amy Poehler, moviegoers can’t seem to get enough, as evidenced by last year’s smash hit Sisters.
Baby Mama served as both actresses’ debut as headlining movie stars and earned more than twice its budget back during its theatrical run amidst mostly positive reviews. In addition, its story depicts a side of pregnancy that is rarely covered on the big screen, with Poehler’s character serving as a surrogate for Fey’s. Naturally, hilarity ensues, but the fact that writer/director Michael McCullers placed a spotlight on this alternative approach to modern pregnancy is admirable.
7. Saved! (2004)
Pregnancy can sometimes be a very controversial topic to tackle onscreen, given the moral and religious overtones that can be involved. Saved! not only addresses these directly, but makes them the central premise of the story at hand. This satirical tale of a submissive high-schooler (Jena Malone) who winds up pregnant with her gay ex-boyfriend’s baby divided critics with its blend of teen comedy tropes with more serious subject matter. Nevertheless, Saved! has a very distinctive point of view on pregnancy, and features memorable supporting performances from Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin and Patrick Fugit.
Co-writer/director Brian Dannelly has unfortunately not delivered a worthy follow-up to his auspicious feature debut, with the 2012 comedy/drama Struck by Lightning his only film credit since. That hasn’t stopped Saved! from developing a sizeable cult following in the 12 years since its theatrical release — despite earning less than $9 million at the box office in its initial run.
6. Waitress (2007)
Every hit film takes a different road to notoriety. Some are runaway box office phenomena, and others make a small splash that trickles into a far more substantive impact over time. Waitress is the latter. Writer/director Adrienne Shelly’s comedy/drama was initially only notable to mainstream moviegoers for the presence of fan-favorite TV stars Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion. However, the story of Russell’s pregnant waitress (duh) embarking on an impulsive affair with her married doctor (Fillion) soon grew legs, becoming a critical darling and box office success story.
In the years since, its reputation has continued to grow, especially following the development of a 2016 stage adaptation spearheaded by musician Sara Bareilles. Sadly, Shelly never saw her film take off in the way it has. Her distinctive narrative voice was silenced with her tragic death at the age of 40, just months before Waitress debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.
5. Away We Go (2009)
John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are so closely associated with their comedic work on The Office and Saturday Night Live, respectively, that most viewers may be surprised to realize that this under-seen gem doesn’t exclusively aim to inspire laughter. A thirty-something couple set to become first-time parents, Verona (Rudolph) and Burt (Krasinski) grapple with the news in an incredibly realistic way, granting Away We Go the distinction of being one of the most honest cinematic representations of pregnancy in recent years.
Yet, despite mostly positive reviews, two popular stars and an Oscar-winning filmmaker at the helm in Sam Mendes (American Beauty), Away We Go failed to earn back its $17 million production budget in theaters, in part due to its limited big screen run. Thankfully, the film has fared better on DVD and Blu-ray and is gradually getting the appreciation it deserves. Chances are good that most moviegoers haven’t seen it, but we’d encourage giving Away We Go a shot.
4. Juno (2007)
Unlike some of the other entries on our list, Juno is one of those films that we’re pretty sure most moviegoers are all too familiar with. One of the biggest Cinderella stories of the cinematic year, the Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking) film ascended from the Telluride Film Festival to become both a major Oscar contender (ultimately winning a Best Original Screenplay statuette for screenwriter Diablo Cody) and a massive financial success (banking over $230 million worldwide).
Ellen Page stars as the title character, a pregnant teen who decides to give her child up for adoption to a married couple played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. Along with veteran performers Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons, Michael Cera gives an endearing performance as Juno’s friend and father of her baby. While some may deride Juno for its efforts to appeal to the hipster crowd, its impact on the industry cannot be underestimated, nor can the strength of its incredibly gifted cast.
3. Knocked Up (2007)
In the same year that Juno brought pregnancy to the forefront in the world of indie film, this comedy from writer/director Judd Apatow did the same on the Hollywood side of things. A one-night stand leads to an unplanned pregnancy for Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl), but who are we kidding? The film’s role in making Rogen a household name, its $219 million worldwide gross, and the controversy surrounding Heigl’s subsequent bashing of the production likely make Knocked Up one of the most omnipresent entries on this list.
Despite its close adherence to rom-com standards, Apatow’s film sharpens his comedic and narrative voice and helped him blow past the sophomore slump following the massive success of his first directorial effort, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. In fact, Knocked Up still remains the director’s biggest hit nearly a decade later, hence the 2012 release of the spinoff/spiritual sequel, This Is 40.
2. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
In the best of circumstances, a pregnancy means a welcome addition to one’s burgeoning family, but director Roman Polanski was clearly more interested in exploring the worst-case scenario with this psychological horror classic. Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes play a young couple who decide to have a baby, but little does Farrow’s Rosemary know that she has been chosen by a Satanic cult as the woman to give life to the Devil’s child. Granted, this revelation isn’t unveiled until the film’s final moments (spoilers for a film that is already nearly 50 years old, we suppose), but in telling such a horrific pregnancy story, Rosemary’s Baby transforms into a dark allegory for parents’ fears about what their newborn bundles of joy could become once they mature. Its ominous ending has haunted moviegoers for generations and continues to be talked about, with talk of a big-screen remake increasing in recent years.
1. Children of Men (2006)
To some expectant parents, a pregnancy can represent hope for the future and the dream of a brighter tomorrow ahead. Alfonso Cuarón’s post-apocalyptic thriller — set in a time when humanity is no longer able to reproduce — is then the sci-fi extension of this concept.
When mankind experiences its first pregnancy is nearly 20 years, it falls to Theo Faron (Clive Owen) to protect the expectant mother (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and, by extension, the possibility that the human race may continue to live on. Based on the novel by P.D. James, Children of Men is often heralded as one of the best sci-fi films in recent memory and a landmark for Cuarón’s career. Yet, it’s also the unlikeliest film to tackle the topic of pregnancy. Among a sea of romantic comedies and comedy/dramas dealing with more realistic interpretations of impending parenthood, Cuarón’s film brings the emotional core of the experience to bear in a way that has yet to be matched.
As always, our look at the most memorable pregnancy films doesn’t include all the possibilities, and since cinema is a subjective art form, we’re anxious to hear which contenders you feel should have made our list. Specifically, we were making a concerted effort to avoid the many dreadful films out there that too heavily rely on pregnancy as a gimmick to attract audiences rather than telling a compelling or entertaining story. So — as much fun as it would have been to include a tongue-in-cheek entry on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1994 comedy Junior among this list — we’re pretty sure that its omission will be accepted by most readers. Likewise, director Phil Morrison’s 2005 drama Junebug fell short of making our ranking, as the pregnancy of Amy Adams’ character was not deemed central enough to the main storyline to warrant inclusion, and Fargo was disqualified since Marge Gunderson’s (Frances McDormand) pregnancy served more to develop her character than the story itself.
Which memorable big-screen pregnancies did we miss? Share your thoughts and let us know your picks in the comments section.
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