As the holidays inch closer, so do the inevitable awkward silences at the family dinner table, reminders not to mention long-simmering disagreements and, of course, political arguments where no one will win over anybody else to their side. (If you have absolutely zero family drama to fear this holiday season, you can stop reading right here.) Luckily, Hollywood understands that fear all too well, which is why for every White Christmas or Miracle on 34th Street, there are plenty of films whose Christmas music montages only highlight families' slow destruction.
To prepare you for the holiday season, we've come up with a list of those films. Some of them are forthright about their characters' screwed-up lives, while others seem to think that a few disturbing household dynamics are normal or cute. All of these movies will make you feel better about your own family's dysfunction.
The McCallisters are lucky that Macaulay Culkin's Kevin happens to be the most ingenious elementary school student ever, because otherwise Home Alone would have ended with his being murdered by home intruders and their being investigated by child protective services. Seriously, not only does this family forget Culkin at home when they leave for a Christmas vacation, but they do it again in the sequel. Hope they're ready to pay for Culkin's massive therapy bills.
While You Were Sleeping
A romantic comedy whose premise seems sweet until you actually think about it – looking at you, Sleepless in Seattle – While You Were Sleeping follows Sandra Bullock's shy fare taker as she saves her crush's life on Christmas Day. When he falls into a coma and his family mistakenly thinks she's his fiancée, Bullock just goes along with the charade. While the family members are more distant from one another than truly dysfunctional, the fact that they don't insist Bullock get a mental health evaluation indicates some deep-seated issues.
House of Yes
Without spoiling too much, this might be the most screwed-up family on this entire list. Not only is one of the family's children – who was recently released from a psychiatric hospital – obsessed with Jackie O to the point where she often re-enacts JFK's murder, but each of the other family members also harbors Lannister-level secrets that threaten their sanity when they gather together for Thanksgiving.
The Family Stone
Sarah Jessica Parker plays an uptight woman who clashes with her boyfriend's liberal clan when she comes to stay with them over the holidays. While The Family Stone is a fairly standard portrait of family dysfunction, it's elevated by its treatment of political differences as well as the cast's dedicated performances. Plus, though the film ends with everyone looking happy, some of the characters' eventual partners are a little…unsettling.
While the Peltzer family in Gremlins might seem like the average American family, son Billy and mother Lynn are actually held hostage by father Randall's broken inventions, failed dreams and poor taste in pets. When Lynn not only turns a juicer on a gremlin but then also microwaves another to death, it's clear that some kind of buried anger over her life as a long-suffering housewife has been awakened in her. She's the most terrifying character in the whole movie, and this is a film that features literal monsters.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
A pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. wanders around Los Angeles, trying to solve an increasingly labyrinthine murder involving his childhood crush's confusing family drama. (In this case, even the Lannisters would be disgusted.) The entire plot is set off by Downey's attending a well-known actor's Christmas party, and sparkling Christmas lights frequently twinkle in the background of this black, bloody comedy.
Addams Family Values
This sequel to The Addams Family earns a place on this holiday list thanks to one ingenious set piece where Wednesday Addams leads a group of misfits to brutally sabotage a camp play about the origins of Thanksgiving. (It does not end well for the pilgrims.) While the Addams clan certainly love and embrace each other, it's hard to argue that a family that encourages its children to electrocute each other isn't just a teensy bit dysfunctional.
When your long-lost son turns up claiming to be one of Santa's elves, you do not let him live with your family no matter how bad you feel about his mother dying. Instead, you help him get the psychiatric counseling he needs and keep him from eating candy for every meal. Sure, Will Ferrell's Buddy does actually turn out to be an elf from the North Pole, but he could have also easily been a Christmas-obsessed serial killer.
Even if you've seen this movie about London's Russian mob, you may not realize it's set during the holidays, as Christmas is mentioned only a few times. But the holiday celebrations seem to elevate the already-tense relationship between the mob patriarch and his son, whose prostitution side business leads a midwife into the middle of a brewing war. Though The Godfather occasionally makes living in a mafia family look cool, Eastern Promises pretty much shatters that illusion.
In case you've somehow escaped the Love Actually cult and its insidious insistence that airports are somehow enjoyable, the film follows numerous British couples and families in interlocking storylines in the days leading up to Christmas. While on the surface this movie may look like a wholesome celebration of love, plenty of plot points indicate some messed-up familial relations: Colin Firth's girlfriend cheats on him with his brother, Alan Rickman's infidelity nearly blows up his marriage to Emma Thompson, and, oh yeah, Liam Neeson regales his preteen stepson with details of all the sex he used to have with his (now dead) mother.
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