In honor of my niece being born today, I present this list of ten memorable pregnancies and births. Pregnancies in movies tend to be like the gun on the mantle: every pregnant woman is expected to give birth by the end of the film, and preferably right at the climactic moment. It's not enough that the enemy is almost through the door and we don't know whether to cut the red or the green wire, but look! That lady over in the corner is about to have her baby!
(I tip my hat to Fargo (1996) for having a character whose role is not defined entirely by her pregnancy, and for not ending with the baby's birth.)
Movies have three possible happy endings: a wedding, a birth, or a bad guy pulling a gun on our hero at the last second (the fiend!) only to be hit by a train. Because births tend to happen at the end of movies, this list contains a lot of spoilers.
10. Where the Heart Is (2000)
Natalie Portman has a baby while trapped in a Walmart overnight, and, miraculously, it's as if she doesn't lose the will to live. She names her baby Americus. Having become a bit of a celebrity because of the circumstances of her child's birth, Portman's life begins to turn around for the better. Every scene of this movie plays like a sappy pulp novel at the check-out stand or one of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's many rags-to-riches short stories ("The Yellow Wallpaper" excepted), but it does make you feel fuzzy inside.
9. Naked Gun 33 1/3 (1994)
Priscilla Presley is at the hospital giving birth. Her husband, Leslie Nielsen, arrives late. Video camera in hand, he rushes into the wrong delivery room. With hilarious consequences.
8. Men in Black (1997)
Will Smith is charged with delivering a baby in the back seat of a car pulled off to the side of the road. The birth is complicated by the parents being aliens. As Tommy Lee Jones takes the foreground, talking shop with the father, we see Smith in the background being grabbed and then thrashed about by several long tentacles. Finally he is ejected from the car, covered in buckets of slime, holding an adorable little squid baby.
7. Juno (2007)
Ellen Page decides to carry her baby to term and give the child to adoptive mother Jennifer Garner. But what does she do once she actually gives birth to her child? Well, she gives the child to adoptive mother Jennifer Garner, just like she said she would. Sometimes the most rewarding thing in a movie is for things to turn out just as promised. We had our doubts that Garner might be too neurotic a mother, but the moment she holds her baby we know otherwise. And Page is greeted when she wakes by the baby's father, Michael Cera. Now that their child has been born, perhaps Page and Cera should date.
6. Enemy Mine (1985)
I don't remember much from this sci-fi parable of racial conflict, except that Dennis Quaid is trapped on a planet with an alien combatant (Louis Gossett, Jr.), who, though masculine, ends up being pregnant. Nothing helps escalate male bonding like one of the men being with child. Since I can't remember any other details, I'm going to make up the rest. Gossett's pregnancy, because he is an alien, lasts only a few months. Things are all happening too quickly, Quaid thinks, wondering if he's ready to be an uncle, and, being ignorant of his frenemy's sexual physiology, he can't be entirely certain that he didn't impregnate Gossett by punching him that one time. With only days to go before the birth, and fed up with Gossett's anti-human racial slurs, Quaid storms off, shouting, "You can have your lizard baby all by yourself then!" But when the time comes, and Gossett, drinking from a waterfall, doubles over in pain, Quaid swings in on a vine or a laser beam or something and helps deliver the seventeen pound, two-tailed Denni-Lu. A month later, a rescue ship is heard overhead. Just as it passes over their camp, Denni-Lu sets off their rescue flare, but accidentally drops it into her water bowl. Quaid and Gossett freeze for a moment, realizing they've just been stranded on the planet forever, but then they smile at each other, rub Denni-Lu's scaly head, and say in unison, "you little snarfletiggler".
5. Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (2009)
Precious has a terrible home life, but when her son is born, she has temporary refuge in the maternity ward. Her son is healthy, the doctor is nice to her, and her friends from school all come to visit her. Her son symbolizes a new beginning, one in which she takes a more active role in shaping her life and guarding her emotional health.
4. Dr. T and the Women (2000)
Terrible title; good movie (though not among Altman's best). Richard Gere plays a gynecologist. Throughout the movie we meet Gere's colorful clientele, but none promise to give birth by the film's end. Then, as if to say aha!, the movie whisks Gere away to a remote village where he must deliver the baby for a woman he's never met. The camera is up close and personal for this live birth, and let me tell you, it's quite a sight when projected onto an eighty-foot screen. Everyone in the first twenty rows had to wear scrubs.
3. Apache (1954)
Remember back in the days when white people took all the minority roles? If a minority was going to be portrayed in a film, then dagnammit a white actor was going to make sure it got portrayed right! Burt Lancaster is the eponymous Apache, on the run from the law. Lancaster eludes the army long enough to settle down and pass the winter with his pregnant wife at their cabin in the mountains. When spring comes, and the corn is growing tall, the army finally catches up to Lancaster. I recall a slow, tense chase through the corn fields, with Lancaster backtracking his footsteps to lead his pursuers astray. Then, when all seems lost, and the army is upon him, a baby's cry is heard from the distant cabin. To Lancaster, the chase no longer matters; he stands up and runs to the cabin beaming with pride. The army, similarly affected, give up the chase.
2. Children of Men (2006)Clive Owen escorts a pregnant woman to the coast of England. She is the first woman to become pregnant in nearly two decades, and as such is the most important person in the world. Her baby is born amid a brutal urban war, with bullets whizzing right and left. When the baby's cries are heard, the fighting stops, as if a guardian angel or Burt Lancaster had descended and commanded it so.
1. Home Fries (1998)
Drew Barrymore is rushed to the delivery room as her beau, Luke Wilson, tries to tag along. When asked if he is family, he tries awkwardly to explain that he is the baby's step-brother but wants to be the baby's step-father, to which Barrymore replies between wails that he can't be both, it's just not right. Once the baby is born, Wilson lays out the whole family tree to set the baby straight, but eventually gives up, saying to Barrymore, "I don't think he got all that." Barrymore and Wilson together are one of the sweetest couples I've seen on film, so them starting a family together is the perfect ending.