21 Dysfunctional Film Families to Make You Feel Better About Your Own

3 weeks ago 17

Image for nonfiction  titled 21 Dysfunctional Film Families to Make You Feel Better About Your Own

Photo: The Royal Tenenbaums/Touchstone Pictures

Thanksgiving’s coming astir again, and this year, we person nary excuses

. For many

, 1 of the (very) fewer upsides of the pandemic was that it provided a coagulated excuse to debar

toxic household vacation

gatherings—and if a reluctance to walk clip with your relatives is wholly alien to you,


If immoderate of america who experienced much fraught upbringings

don’t attack household gathering play with unalloyed joy, possibly we tin beryllium forgiven.

And if we similar to ticker movies astir breached families alternatively of spending clip with our own, well, possibly that’s OK too.

Sometimes they punctual america that we’re not alone; sometimes, it’s bully to retrieve that things could beryllium worse.

What makes a dysfunctional family, you ask?



families successful these films have

problems: dramatized

and sometimes exaggerated to marque for a good

film. They

aren’t atrocious oregon breached beyond repair

, necessarily


arsenic successful existent life, dysfunction tin beryllium a chronic information that manifests

from clip to clip (particularly during


holidays), oregon it tin beryllium terminal, and

yet rip a household apart

. And

besides arsenic successful existent life, sometimes dysfunction is hilarious.

These mo

vies feature

immoderate of film’s astir memorably messed-up


some charmingly troubled, others profoundly broken. They’re each reminders that each narration is fraught, and that we are not our families...at slightest we don’t request to be.

Note: Most of these movies (even the comic ones) woody with issues that tin beryllium triggering for radical with troubled household histories. If that’s you, I’d powerfully suggest doing a spot of other research—IMDb often offers keywords and contented warnings—before diving in.

2 / 23

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums works successful ample portion due to the fact that we tin each subordinate to the feeling of having peaked excessively early; the consciousness that beingness volition ne'er rather present connected its aboriginal committedness (and if you can’t relate: well, bully for you). As befitting a Wes Anderson movie, the Salinger-esque Tenenbaum siblings are each utmost examples of that idea—born into large wealthiness and identified aboriginal connected arsenic geniuses, not 1 of them has lived up to the tremendous unit placed connected them by their parent (Anjelica Huston) oregon by their circumstances. With each advantage, they’ve inactive failed, though the instrumentality of their long-estranged begetter (Gene Hackman, successful 1 of his last, champion movie roles earlier helium retired) forces them each to instrumentality caller looks astatine their lives, suggesting that, often, disappointment is lone a substance of perspective.

Where to stream: Digital rental

3 / 23

A Raisin successful the Sun (1961)

A Raisin successful the Sun (1961)

The committedness of a $10,000 beingness security cheque sets the Younger household astatine likelihood successful this 1961 classical starring Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier. Everyone has antithetic ideas astir what to bash with the money, reflecting not lone their ain idiosyncratic quality and dreams, but besides their competing visions astir however overmuch and however acold a mediocre Black household could spell successful 1960s America. Though the movie (as successful the Lorraine Hansberry play connected which its based) is astir the conflict, it feels much arsenic though we’re seeing a dysfunctional play successful the lives of a adjacent household that happens to beryllium filled with strong-willed individuals.

Where to stream: The Criterion Channel

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Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Not 1 of these radical is peculiarly well-adjusted. Steve Carell’s frank is simply a suicidal Proust scholar; Paul Dano’s Steve has taken a vow of silence; Alan Arkin’s Edwin is simply a heroin-obsessed nursing location evictee; etc. A hopeless cross-state travel to get Abigail Breslin’s Olive to a quality pageant is simply a unspeakable thought for each sorts of reasons, not the slightest of which is the information that these divers and damaged personalities person nary concern cramming themselves unneurotic successful a van for 2 days. Sometimes, though, a communal force successful the extracurricular satellite tin beryllium conscionable the happening to bring a household together.

Where to stream: Prime Video

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What We Do successful the Shadows (2014)

What We Do successful the Shadows (2014)

Much arsenic successful the TV series, the 4 New Zealand roommates who hap to beryllium vampires—Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr, on with their circles of friends and familiars—represent an improbable recovered household par excellence. As if the Golden Girls were immortal (I wish). Vampires person traditionally been solo creatures; here, Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement research the weird, awkward, sometimes violent, and besides charming things that hap erstwhile solitary creatures travel together.

Where to stream: fuboTV, Hoopla, Kanopy

Eve’s Bayou (1997)

There’s intersexual unit wrong and astir the Louisiana household astatine the bosom of Kasi Lemmons’ 1997 directorial debut, truthful it’s good extracurricular of the charmingly dysfunctional mode of immoderate of these different films. After 10-year-old Eve (June Smollett) witnesses her well-respected begetter (Samuel L. Jackson) having enactment with a household friend, helium manages to person his girl that she imagined the full thing, sparking themes of gaslighting arsenic good arsenic the unreliable quality of memory, and the ways successful which some tin signifier a family. The airy successful the movie is successful the narration betwixt Eve and her older sister Cisely (Meagan Good), and the thought that idiosyncratic familial relationships tin turn stronger, adjacent arsenic a household falls apart.

Where to stream: HBO Max

Knives Out (2019)

It mightiness beryllium a spot of a spoiler to accidental this, fixed that the members of the Harlan Strombey’s extended household uncover themselves lone gradually passim the film, but they’re each beauteous terrible. Passive aggressive, spoiled, backbiting, and mean-spirited...the lone happening they person going for them is their money. If you don’t hap to beryllium rich, Knives Out mightiness conscionable marque you gladsome you aren’t. (Sort of. I’d inactive similar to unrecorded successful that house.)

Where to stream: Prime Video

Mommie Dearest (1981)

Unintentionally hilarious campy classical oregon searing representation of puerility abuse? Maybe both? Though determination are plentifulness of disagreements implicit the precise details of Christina Crawford’s representation of her celebrated parent Joan (as a middle-aged cheery man, fto maine archer you: this remains a fashionable taxable of speech 40 years later), we tin surely hold she astir apt wasn’t the best parental figure—and the movie makes a beardown lawsuit that wealth unsocial isn’t needfully the champion qualifying criteria erstwhile it comes to adoption.

Where to stream: Paramount+, The Roku Channel, PlutoTV

The Wedding Party (2016)

Big weddings are stressful AF—throw 2 families unneurotic for a complicated, expensive, and high-pressure event, and adjacent the smallest interior issues are magnified. That’s besides wherefore the dysfunctional household wedding drama is beauteous overmuch a genre successful and of itself; there’s a crushed we don’t spot a batch of movies astir weddings going smoothly. The tropes are familiar, and they’re each connected show here: parents from antithetic societal classes with not overmuch successful common; fights implicit details; wacky uninvited guests, etc, but it’s each charmingly well-crafted, with a distinctively Nollywood look and feel.

Where to stream: Netflix

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Crazy Rich Asians dials galore of the household wedding drama tropes up to twenty: the groom’s household isn’t conscionable richer than the bride’s, they’re richer than conscionable astir everybody connected the planet. Constance Wu’s Rachel Chu comes from New York, a satellite isolated from the much accepted (in a sense) Singapore upbringing of Nick Young (Henry Fielding). Rachel’s societal presumption makes her instantly suspect, the specified facts of her beingness serving arsenic impervious she’s thing but a gold-digger. Nick’s household is casually cruel successful wielding their wealthiness and superiority—his mother’s likewise questionable inheritance seemingly not having taught her compassion.

Where to stream: HBO Max, Sling TV, TruTV

The Birdcage (1996)

Secrets are truthful often astatine the basal of dysfunction, and everything’s going well, much oregon less, for Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, and their lad Val (Dan Futterman) successful this Hollywood remake of award-winning French drama La Cage aux Folles—until they determine to enactment connected an elaborate ruse for the involvement of the profoundly blimpish parents of Val’s fiancee. Trust me, gays, going backmost into the closet is thing but trouble. Unless it’s funny. (This time, it’s precise funny.) A batch has changed successful the 25 years since this movie was released, thankfully; hopefully, queer folx tin consciousness much comfy being themselves with their in-laws successful 2021.

Where to stream: HBO Max, Paramount+, Epix

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

There’s a batch you could accidental astir the Griswold household and their familial challenged implicit the people of the six-or-so (depending connected which ones you’d attraction to count) Vacation movies, but suffice it to say: if you ever aftermath up connected Christmas greeting to find your relative Randy Quaid emptying an RV afloat of crap successful beforehand of your house, your household has problems.

Where to stream: HBO Max

The Ice Storm (1997)

Ang Lee’s ‘70s-set The Ice Storm is surely 1 of the all-time large movies astir Thanksgiving, provided you are chill with the information that it’s a immense bummer. Outwardly, the Hoods look similar a exemplary family, but Kevin Kline is cheating connected his wife, Joan Allen, with the neighbour Sigourney Weaver, portion girl Christina Ricci is trying to get thing going connected with Weaver’s son, Elijah Wood (this cast, amirite?). It each climaxes (pun somewhat intended) successful a precise ‘70s cardinal enactment that takes spot during the titular upwind event, which traps everyone successful unusual circumstances and forces them to look their issues, adjacent though determination are nary casual answers.

Where to stream: Digital rental

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The Lion successful Winter (1968)

The Lion successful Winter (1968)

You deliberation your family’s dysfunctional, oregon that household dysfunction, successful general, is simply a modern phenomenon? Watch The Lion successful Winter, based connected the precise existent communicative of King Henry II of England (Peter O’Toole) and his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katherine Hepburn). When Henry’s son, the aboriginal King Richard (Anthony Hopkins), and a mates of his brothers had revolted against the begetter years before, they’d been joined by Eleanor. At the movie’s outset, the household is reuniting for Christmas conscionable successful clip for a dowry combat involving the household of Eleanor’s ex-husband and the pistillate with which Henry has been having an affair. What follows is two-plus hours of exquisitely written bickering.

Where to stream: Digital rental

15 / 23

Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)

Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)

Based connected the semi-autobiographical play by Eugene O’Neill, 1 of the giants of the fucked-up household genre, this 1962 stage-to-screen adaptation has an unthinkable formed (Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards, Dean Stockwell), ensuring each veiled (and not-so-veiled) barb and passive-aggressive taunt lands perfectly. Over the people of a azygous day, 4 members of the Tyrone household hash retired their problems (the men are each alcoholics, portion Katherine Hepburn’s Mary is degenerating into psychosis pursuing years of morphine abuse) successful an expanding spiral of maltreatment and recrimination, leavened by sincere attempts to rebuild their relationships. It’s the worst household reunion imaginable—for them, anyway; watching it each spell down is beauteous great.

Where to stream: Hoopla, Kanopy

Raising Arizona (1987)

One of the Coen brothers earliest films, Raising Arizona remains, perhaps, the duo’s wildest. Nicholas Cage plays Hi McDunnough, a thoroughly incompetent robber who marries Holly Hunter’s Ed, a constabulary officer. With the couple, having trouble conceiving a child, Hi decides that a affluent household with quintuplets has much than they request of conscionable astir everything, and truthful a kidnapping seems to beryllium successful order. As messed up arsenic that is, it’s hard not to basal for Ed and Hi and their chaotic hijinks—but the benignant of emotion that justifies a kidnapping is, perhaps, a tiny spot unhealthy.

Where to stream: Prime Video, Paramount+, Hoopla

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The Skeleton Twins (2014)

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

Following years of estrangement, 2 siblings are brought unneurotic by communal near-tragedy and intelligence wellness crises—reluctantly confronting their full household past arsenic good arsenic the precise existent problems of the present. Despite the beingness of SNL besties Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, this 1 is simply a batch darker and much analyzable than you mightiness think, truthful don’t spell successful expecting thing cutesy—it’s much a laughing-through-the-clinical-depression thing. (However, it does see 1 of my favourite spontaneous philharmonic moments successful a not-a-musical movie.)

Where to stream: Prime Video

Frailty (2001)

As we participate the vacation season, I’m acrophobic it indispensable beryllium said: profound spiritual revelations are not ever a bully thing. Not astatine all. Here, the late, large Bill Paxton (who besides directed) gets a connection from God ordering him to termination those who’ve been revealed to him arsenic demons. What mightiness beryllium a much straightforward serial-killer communicative is analyzable (and made adjacent much disturbing) by the household dynamic involved: Paxton’s quality has 2 sons—one whose emotion for his dada makes him a believer, and different who is horrified but doesn’t cognize however to halt what’s happening.

Where to stream: Prime Video, The Roku Channel, Hoopla, Vudu, Tubi, Kanopy, Pluto TV, Plex

Parasite (2019)

Setting aside, for a moment, everything the Kim household reveals to america astir the authorities of modern capitalism successful Korea and astir the world...there’s immoderate alternatively mediocre decision-making going connected here. The ride-or-die closeness of the household would beryllium charming successful different context, and their willingness to enactment each different is admirable. Unfortunately, the extremity effect thing little than desirable.

Where to stream: Hulu, Kanopy

Almost Christmas (2016)

If we’re to judge the ads, it is astir Christmas (I don’t judge the ads, but present we are), and it’s surely the lawsuit that mid-winter gatherings of immoderate religion contented tin beryllium peculiarly fraught. This one’s connected the much charming extremity of the bickering-family vacation drama genre, but determination are inactive issues of cause addiction, infidelity, and divorcement successful play, each analyzable by the beingness of free-spoken Aunt May (Mo’Nique). There’s 1 astatine each household table.

Where to stream: fuboTV, FXNow

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The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Force Awakens (2015)

The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Force Awakens (2015)

Luke’s got a wee crush connected his sister which, successful immoderate different family, would beryllium much than capable to marque for an awkward Thanksgiving. Luckily for him, dad’s a genocidal fascist with a penchant for youngling murder—so cipher truly adjacent talks astir that clip helium kissed Leia conscionable to marque his champion person jealous. Leia, connected a akin note, has everything going for her until her ain lad misses the constituent of all the erstwhile movies and decides to get into the wide execution concern himself...in portion due to the fact that helium was neglected by his dada and disappointed by his uncle Luke.

It’s each highly messy, is the point.

Where to stream: Disney+

Ordinary People (1980)

Following back-to-back household tragedies, a teen attempts to reconnect with his progressively withdrawn and narcissistic parent and his profoundly anguished father. Fun. Ordinary People, Robert Redford’s directorial debut, works successful that it ne'er takes the casual route: it’s not a satire, nor adjacent peculiarly the critique achromatic suburban repression that you mightiness expect. Instead, it’s an understated survey of the ways successful which a household tin sometimes magnify alternatively than soothe our problems.

Where to stream: Paramount+, fuboTV, Epix, Kanopy, Crackle, Pluto TV, Plex