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Top Five: Worst Movie Families with Whom to Spend Thanksgiving

The Jarrets: A churning cauldron of anger, hurt, bitterness and guilt. Timothy Hutton and Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People
The Jarrets: A churning cauldron of anger, hurt, bitterness and guilt. Timothy Hutton and Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People

Thanksgiving can be the most difficult holiday to get through. It's a time for family to come together and experience all of the old resentments and hidden issues that drove them apart in the first place, but without the catharsis of a gift-giving session. If you're lucky, you belong to a family content to make idle chatter before gorging on turkey and falling into a tryptophan coma in front of the Aggies vs. Longhorns game.

But even if you belong to a family with an overbearing mother, disdainful dad, resentful sibling, and two or more junkie cousins, you can take some solace in the fact that you at least don't belong to a family like the following.

5. The Jarretts, Ordinary People On the outside, the Jarretts seem like just about any other American family, but of course like just about any other American family, they're hiding years' worth of seething anger and guilt. Their son, Conrad (Timothy Hutton), returns home after a four-month stay in a mental hospital following a suicide attempt. Conrad, it seems, is suffering from post-traumatic stress and survivor's guilt stemming from a boating accident that claimed the life of his brother Buck. Over the course of the film, it's revealed that Conrad's suspicions are correct: His mother Beth preferred Buck over Conrad and resents Conrad for having been the one who survived. Beth, played to perfection by Mary Tyler Moore, is a roiling cauldron of hate and hurt beneath a worn veneer of upper-class normality. Conrad's father Calvin (Donald Sutherland) is largely a pushover, so the only aid he gets in dealing with his mother's resentment is from his psychiatrist. The prospect of spending time with the Jarretts is worsened by the fact that their problems are extremely realistic and could occur in any home regardless of wealth or station.

 

4. The Corleones, The Godfather Trilogy Though rooted in a sort of populist vigilantism against a local tyrant and exploiter of Italian-American immigrants, Vito Corleone's familial legacy is ultimately one of violence and revenge. In essence, you can't be around the Corleones without putting yourself at serious risk. Various family members and friends are alternately shot, stabbed, garroted, and exploded, sometimes on a "professional" basis, and sometimes for the crime of simply being married to (or otherwise associated with) the family. When son Michael takes over the family, they only grow more ruthless as the heads of rival mafia families are butchered throughout the city on the day of Michael's daughter's christening. Any holiday spent on their villa stands an excellent chance of erupting into gunfire.

 

3. The "Johnsons," Pink Flamingos In John Waters' shock-schlock classic, Divine plays Babs Johnson (which is an alias), matriarch of a family that consists of her deranged mother Edie and delinquent son Crackers. Throughout the film, the Johnsons will engage in vandalism, drug usage, multiple homicides, cannibalism, castration, incest, shit-eating, and lovemaking in which a live chicken is crushed to death between the two participants. They do these things in order to retain their title as the Filthiest Family in America. If, like Waters, you think spending time with the owners of that title would be kind of cool, just think of the filthiest family you personally know, and then imagine someone worse. Funny in fiction, but we wouldn't want to try it in the real world.

 

2. The Sawyers, Original Texas Chainsaw Massacre series Leatherface is by far the most iconic member of his family, but he wasn't alone, not by a long shot. His household contained a number of equally homicidal relatives, including his younger brother The Hitchhiker, perma-fried Vietnam veteran Chop Top, partially mummified yet still somehow living Grandpa, and grinning, intelligent sadist Drayton Sawyer, the father figure of the family whose role is expanded in the underrated sequel. Yes, we said underrated; cheesy, sure, but your heart would have to be made of stone not to jump for joy at the sight of the climactic chainsaw duel between cowboy Dennis Hopper and Leatherface. In any case, the original film actually shows what happens when a visitor is forced to endure a family dinner, and it's not pretty. Picture Leatherface in drag domestically dishing out mashed potatoes and creaky old Grandpa trying to muster up enough strength for a pre-meal bludgeoning and you get the idea.

 

1. The Friedmans, Capturing the Friedmans Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki had originally set out to make a documentary about childrens' entertainers in the New York area, including popular birthday party clown David Friedman, when he discovered that David's brother and father had been convicted of child sexual abuse. While Arnold Friedman's confession and conviction appeared at first to be entirely genuine, the film raises disturbing questions about his guilt, along with the guilt of his son Jesse, who was alleged to have participated in the molestations of several neighborhood children alongside Arnold yet later claimed to have been coerced into admitting guilt and blaming his father by his lawyer. Jesse's case is currently under re-examination to see what, if any, misconduct was carried out in Jesse's arrest and trial. As for Arnold, he died in prison in 1995. Jesse was released in 2001, and one could imagine that any family gathering in the Friedman household would be...oh, let's say "awkward."


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