Stepmom Movie Poster Image


Contrived yet effective family weepie.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 124 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Two characters are shown living together without being married.


A family member dies of cancer.

Not applicable

An authority figure counsels a 12-year-old girl to call a boy at school "limp d---." There are a few other curses, as well.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes and drink cocktails, though not to the point of drunkenness. Susan Sarandon's character smokes marijuana to deal with her chemotherapy.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film tackles some very grim topics: divorce and death. Though the characters are shown grappling realistically with real problems and doing the best they can in bad situations, the mere fact that the mother in the movie is dying will be too much for younger and very sensitive children. There is some light swearing, drinking, and a character smokes pot to deal with chemotherapy.

What's the story?

Jackie Harrison (Susan Sarandon) is unhappily divorced from Luke (Ed Harris), who's now shacking up with fashion photog Isabel (Julia Roberts), with the two kids shuttled in between the two homes. At first Isabel and Jackie are bitter rivals, and the kids side with Mom. But when Jackie develops fatal cancer, Isabel has to start taking up the slack in the Mommy role.

Is it any good?


At every step of Stepmom, audiences feel director Chris Columbus pulling the strings. The plot twists are as contrived as the swelling strings that fill the soundtrack, engineered in some Hollywood lab to jerk the tears right out of you. And yet it works, mostly due to the stellar acting on display.

Julia Roberts is predictably glowing, Susan Sarandon is confident and real, and the little nippers (Jena Malone and Liam Aiken) are so genuine that it's easy to forget that you're being pulled this way and that by the filmmakers, like a puppet on a string. It's manipulative. But there's enough polish on the film that it works. Ultimately, this is depressing but entertaining, a solid choice for a rainy night when no one feels like laughing.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the characters cope with divorce and a death in the family. Do you think their reactions are realistic or too Hollywood? For kids who have experienced either event, what's missing in this movie? Is there a movie you can think of that's more realistic?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 15, 1998
DVD/Streaming release date:October 1, 1999
Cast:Ed Harris, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon
Director:Chris Columbus
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:124 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:language and thematic elements

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Adult Written byliefde1 April 9, 2008
Teen, 13 years old Written bypianocutie95 May 6, 2009

A sweet, sad chick flick!

This movie was sooooo good. It brings up the matter of children coping with divorce. The movie is extremely sad, but it also is very sweet. Definitely a chick flick, though!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written bymme May 20, 2010


Ready or not, Isabel (Julia Roberts) is about to find out what it means to be a mom, better yet, a step-mom, soon after her boyfriend Luke (Ed Harris) pops the question. What makes things more interesting is dealing with Luke’s un-accepting ex-wife, Jackie (Susan Sarandon). In addition, Luke and Jackie’s two children, Anna and Ben, are not fond of the idea of a step-mom. Isabel, a professional photographer consumed by her career, finds that being a mom is not as easy as she thought. Then the rivalry begins between Isabel and Jackie while the children struggle to adjust to new family dynamics. The plot thickens as Isabel learns that Jackie has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. This shocking news becomes the turning point where Jackie and Isabel learn to accept each other and focus on the children. Susan Sarandon does an excellent job portraying the slightly jealous ex-wife and the emotional heartache of not being able to watch your kids grow up. Julia Roberts does well portraying the naïve step-mom desperately trying to gain the children’s acceptance. The background scenes fit perfectly within the context of the characters lives. For instance, the busy city streets and photo studios depict well the lifestyle of Isabel. While, the serene southern style home filled with memories from wall to wall, depicts well the lifestyle of Jackie. The director/producer, Chris Columbus, keeps the continuity of the storyline moving forward through the entire movie. Overall, I think this is a great film that demonstrates some of the real life complexities of divorced families. It also demonstrates the ability people have to love, accept, and work together in the midst of challenging circumstances. Get your tissue box ready, this film is sure to make you laugh and cry.